About a month and a half ago, in Atlas Shrugged movie finally filming?!, Jacob Huebert updated us on the Atlas Shrugged movie. Now, thanks to Reason Magazine and Reason.tv, we are privileged to see behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.

I’ll admit I was leery of the current iteration of the project, but I am somewhat reassured to hear that Atlas Shrugged will be made into three movies, not one, which is more doable. I’m also reassured that the director and the actor playing Henry Rearden seem to have a decent handle on Ayn Rand’s vision and characters, though I was a bit disquieted by the director mispronouncing Rand’s first name.

From Reason.com’s Hit & Run blog (video below):

Many actors and producers have talked about adapting Ayn Rand’s classic Atlas Shrugged for the big screen, but 53 years after its publication no one has dared tackle the ambitious project—until now.

Reason.tv heads to the set of Atlas Shrugged Part One to offer viewers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of this most anticipated film.

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From Wired.com comes news of the US Army’s latest spy mobile — a high altitude, long-duration flight, combat airship, ominously nicknamed “The Unblinking Eye.” This sweet ride and its two sister blimps will cost taxpayers upwards of half a billion dollars. The 5-year contract calls for mere $517 million, and we all know military contractors never experience cost overruns.

I love Noah Shachtman’s analysis of the propagandistic publicity poster by Northrop Grumman, the maker of the Army’s latest war toy:

God smiles when the Army spends a half-billion dollars on spy blimps the size of a football field. I believe that’s the message Northrop Grumman is trying to convey in this illustration. . .

The first airship is supposed to be inflated around 10 months from now. Eight months later, the Army hopes to have the first LEMV flying over Afghanistan. On that day, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and the cherubs will sing as the unblinking eye begins looking for Taliban.

God bless America indeed.

The Unblinking Eyes of Sauron are intended for use over foreign soil. But with the increasing militarization of US borders and police, I wonder how long until they or their successors are deployed over our own heads? looking for brown-skinned interlopers, pot growers, and terrorists under every rock.

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It is a common mistake, made even by some libertarians and former libertarians, that libertarians reject the idea of unchosen obligations. Gene Callahan, apparently a former libertarian turned communitarian, is the latest to make this mistake. He says:

Obligation . . . is the crucial idea denied by libertarian political theory.1

Well, this is just patently absurd. Libertarians, of course, do not deny that individuals can have obligations to others, including non-humans.

Fortunately, Callahan goes on to clarify what he means:

We can have obligations that we did not agree to take upon ourselves.

But this is something that not all libertarians deny, as a wide and deep enough perusal of libertarian literature will demonstrate.

At the very least, libertarians recognize the unchosen obligation not to threaten or use initiatory physical force against other rational beings (i.e., to refrain from what we call aggression).

Libertarians generally make two important sets of distinctions regarding obligation: that between negative and positive obligations and that between enforceable and unenforceable obligations. One can go further and recognize that obligations can have different weightings relative to one another such that one obligation can override or delimit the legitimate means of fulfilling another.

Rights, at least as I define the term, are legitimately enforceable2 moral claims against another’s prior obligation not to threaten or use initiatory physical force. The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP)3 and corresponding rights4 are unchosen, enforceable negative obligations.

Can we have unchosen positive obligations? Libertarians need not deny this, and not all do. It should be easily recognized that unchosen, unenforceable positive obligations are strictly compatible with the NAP/rights.

What about unchosen, enforceable positive obligations? Provided they are compatible with the NAP/rights, if there are any that meet this description, then libertarians need not deny unchosen, enforceable positive obligations outright. I’ll leave it up to the reader’s imagination to come up with possible examples of unchosen, enforceable positive obligations that are compatible with the NAP/rights. If you take the challenge, bear in mind what I wrote about how one obligation can override or delimit the legitimate means of fulfilling another.

Suffice to say that it is a myth that libertarians (need to) deny unchosen, even positive, obligations. Callahan is attacking a straw man.

To criticize libertarians in general for denying unchosen, enforceable positive obligations, or just certain of them, would be more accurate. But to do so would be to take the position that the threat or use of initiatory physical force (i.e., aggression) is at least sometimes justified — that, for example, what is usually thought of commonsensically as theft or trespass or murder in everyday life, is not theft or trespass or murder in the “political” sphere, i.e., when the state or the “community” does it.5

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  1. It doesn’t help interpretation that Callahan started this sentence in the title of his post. 

  2. The presence of the term ‘legitimately’ here but not elsewhere in the post should not be taken to imply I am making a different claim here. I add it here in a definition for greater clarity. 

  3. It’s not an axiom. 

  4. Most fundamentally, the life, liberty, and property triad. Of the three, I think liberty is the most fundamental (at least at the individual level of analysis, from the perspective of moral theory; at the structural level of analysis, that of political and legal theory, the right to property may be the most fundamental; rights cannot be fully understood exclusively from either perspective, but rather must be conceived from a dialectical perspective that encompasses both as well as the cultural level (see Chris Sciabarra’s Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism for more on these three levels of dialectical analysis, which I adapted to conceptualizing rights chapter 3 of my dissertation) ) but it cannot be exercised or properly understood without the right to private property. 

  5. In chapters 6 and 7 of my dissertation, I deny that this is truly the political sphere. I conceive of genuine, immanent politics as discourse and deliberation between equals in joint pursuit of eudaimonia (flourishing, well-being). By ‘equals’ I mean ‘equality in authority’ as in Locke’s state of nature, though I do not conceive of ‘nature’ in Lockean, social-contract theory terms but rather in Aristotelian terms, i.e., of teleological completeness or perfection. In short, politics presupposes liberty. Hence, the term ‘vulgar politics’ (or vicarious politics) used as a category on this site as a synonym for statist “politics.” 

A couple of days ago David mentioned on The Libertarian Standard that the Mises Institute providing its entire online media and literature library as a set of free torrents can be seen as part of a distributed or grassroots intellectual guerrilla resistance against the state.

This is just one aspect of the Mises Institute’s effort to be completely open source. All of the intellectual eggs of the Austro-Libertarian movement are no longer being kept in one basket. The more people who seed those torrents, the easier the burden on the Mises Institute.

But more importantly, should statist or natural disaster strike, the world won’t lose the vast wealth of information hosted by the Mises Institute. Indeed, not only will the information not be lost, but there will be no downtime in its worldwide online distribution. Should states decide to actively move against us, they’ll be in for one hell of a game of ‘whack-a-mole’. They’ll face the same problems the RIAA, Hollywood, and others are facing in their War on Piracy Copying.

Austro-Libertarianism has gone viral, folks.

All this is to set the context for another example of open source anti-state resistance that I recently discovered. WordPress is an open source website and blogging platform. It’s an easy to use, yet powerful, tool for getting our ideas online where people around the world can access them. It’s free, as in speech and beer. This site is powered by it. The Libertarian Standard is powered by it. The Mises Institute’s site is powered by it.

But some countries like China and Australia censor the internet, blocking access to unapproved sites like YouTube and Twitter, filtering or blocking or shutting down or otherwise regulating websites and blogs.

There are ways to get around this censorship, however. Here’s one: The good folks at Global Voices Advocacy, an organization defending free speech online, have heroically created a guide to mirroring a censored WordPress blog. It’s covered by a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, just like this site and The Libertarian Standard. Get it. Share it. Even if you don’t need it yet, someday you might. Others already do.

In the spirit of the Mises Institute’s torrented online library, I’m hosting the guide here as well.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Standard.

Apropos Jacob Huebert’s excellent post a few days ago on the time Before We Worshipped Presidents, our lesser rulers are getting increasingly used to their special, above-the-law status as well. Watch how Democratic Congressman Bob Etheridge responds to being peacefully asked a simple question by a well-dressed student on a public street:

Congressman Etheridge thinks he can interrogate and assault someone simply for having the temerity to ask him a question in public, apparently without fear of retaliation or legal consequences, despite being recorded. He has a right to know who the student is? I don’t think so. He’s not police. I don’t think even a police officer would have cause under positive law to demand identification and assault the student simply for video recording and asking a question in public. In any case, their authority is illegitimate and what we have here clearly is assault even under current positive law.

What’s more disturbing is that this incident is indicative of just how much our petty tyrants view themselves as being above us and the law — though I suppose assaulting one person on the street is an improvement over assaulting millions through his legislative acts; if only he and his fellow control-freaks would cease the latter, the world would be a much better place and their private crime manageable.

Update: Congressman Etheridge and the establishment news media go into damage control mode.

Update II: Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com agrees that this is “a clear case of assault and battery” and that Etheridge is “obviously inebriated with an extreme sense of entitlement.” He’s not impressed with Etheridge’s public apology after being outed online. Greenwald says in an update that he expected Democrats would try to defend Etheridge’s actions, but even he was “surprised by the extent of the eagerness to defend a clearly illegal and indefensible assault based on the political ideologies of those involved.” Follow the link to read more.

Unedited video from the first camera:

Update III: Digby reminds us of other similar incidents (with video) and points out that the state’smen and/or their security detail are never prosecuted, whereas a private citizen doing the same thing generally would be.

Cross-posted at The Libertarian Standard.

A common retort that libertarians, even minarchists, hear when criticizing ‘their’ government is “If you don’t like it, then just leave.”1 Indeed, residency is perceived to be one piece of evidence (among others, like voting, paying taxes, etc.) for one’s implicit consent to the state and its rules. Just leave. As if there are better alternatives. Or, as if ‘their’ country being the least bad option somehow justifies its government. Just leave. They make it sound so simple, don’t they? If only it were. Unfortunately, states are not so keen on letting their slaves get away so easily, free and clear.

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  1. Thanks to Stephan Kinsella for reminding me of the especially vulgar “AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!!!” He tells me he typically responds with “No, if you don’t like it that I get to stay here and bitch about it, then you leave.” This works in the United States, but not in every country. 

There’s a new anti-war rock/hip-hop song hitting the air waves lately. It is called White Flag Warrior, from the album Survival Story, by Flobots and featuring Tim McIlrath of the punk rock band Rise Against. It’s a catchy tune with good lyrics, melding both rock and hip hop elements. The song has a definite non-violent resistance ring to it. The oft repeated line that “we’d rather make our children martyrs than murderers” reminds me of the Socratic position that it is better to suffer injustice than to commit it — truly libertarian sentiments.

Music video and lyrics below:

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