A House United


A castle which stands upon nothing at all
Seen by those walking quickly by
In a shadow of its great monstrance
They dare speak not ill, but fully serve
A meal given of our last substance
To the hungry birds, poor and ravenous
Men in lines and cues, black and white
Given without measure, Given without measure,
Men in lines and cues, black and white
To the hungry birds, poor and ravenous
A meal given of our last substance
They dare not speak ill, but fully serve
In a shadow of its great monstrance
Seen by those walking quickly by
A castle which stands upon nothing at all.

Image credit: Justin Brown (flickr).
Cross-posted at A Spy In The House of God.



Put down your phone and stop and smell the flowers

How I admire Andy Crouch. The Christian author recently took a vacation from the hardest thing to escape: the digital realm. For two months, he eschewed the screens that keep us permanently attached to the internet. He didn’t succumb to the fear of “missing out.” Rather, he was able to live more fully in the moment, enjoy himself, and focus on much-neglected hobbies. He even experienced a real rarity in the hyper-connected world: “just quiet and an absence of hurry to get to the next thing.”

I thought about Crouch’s sojourn away from modernity while paying visit to D.C.’s annual blooming of the cherry blossoms. Situated around the Tidal Basin, the springtime event is a tradition that goes back over a century when Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted our country with prunus serrulata (Japanese cherry) trees to signify improving relations between the U.S. and Japan. Clearly, Franklin Roosevelt didn’t get the memo when he interned nearly 100,000 Japanese citizens and non-citizens following the Pearl Harbor attacks. But that’s neither here nor there.

Visiting the cherry blossoms trees is a pleasant experience if you can ignore one thing: rude, absentminded crowds. I can’t stand them. Running around without regard for rules, or basic decency, the typical tourist to the National Mall is the embodiment of modern America. Crude, self-centered, and wholly unconcerned with the well-being of everyone around them – this is the American ethos. Some call it a “me me me” pathology. I call it mass consumerism and individualism run amok.


Secession lagniappe

The Economist thinks Kurdistan draws near and defends their right to secede while recognizing their already near-independent status.  Here is the bottom-line:

Iraqi Kurdistan exists, in whatever form, in dangerous and shifting surroundings. But that has been the case since 1991, when it first got extreme autonomy, thanks to the no-fly zone imposed by America and its allies. Since then, it has steadily entrenched itself as the rest of Iraq has fallen apart, especially after IS grabbed a chunk of it. Never before has Turkey been so friendly to Iraq’s Kurds. Never before has the government in Baghdad needed the co-operation of the Kurds in Erbil so badly. Now, surely, is the Kurdish moment.


The Kurdish distribution

“If we don’t decentralize, the country will disintegrate.”  Iraq.

Quotes from Artur Mas on Catalan independence.

Poroshenko thinks federalism for Ukraine is a terrible idea, but willing to put it to a vote.  Decentralize or perish.

SNP not ruling out a second referendum.  Cameron says no-go.  Is the SNP now trying to turn Brits against the Union?

The U.K., Spain, and Gibraltar

Do immigration and demographics put a time limit on Quebec separatism?

Secession talk in Western Australia is picking up.

Fantastic satellite photos of China’s continued island-building and Foreign Policy reports their airstrip is almost completed.

More Chinese warnings to Taiwan to stay put

Top Chinese official in Tibet wants temples and monasteries to spout propaganda, raise Chinese flag.

Vice with a great piece on the Yemeni conflict and with a focus on the southern secessionist role to-boot.  Recommended.  A piece:

This version of events fits into a popular narrative of a war in Yemen made up of two neat coalitions: on one side the Houthis, an Iranian proxy backed by Saleh, who hopes he can use the current conflict to restore his family to power. On the other, Sunni Yemenis from the north and south rallying around Hadi who are backed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and intent on restoring Hadi to the presidency. It’s a story that helps make a complex country easier to understand. The problem for the Saudis is that many of those doing the fighting in the south have long shared a single goal — one that Hadi has said, explicitly and repeatedly, he does not endorse: independence from the north.


Mike Gibson thinks technology will render governance models optional in the future:

The next 15 years will not pit the Washington Consensus against the Beijing Consensus — or other authoritarian models — but both of these against the Nakamoto Consensus. The diffusion of the smartphone, strong crytpography, and peer-to-peer decentralized public ledgers will weld individuals, networks and voluntary hierarchies into single units of sovereign power capable of opt-out and opt-in governance without precedent

Mark Lutter disagrees.  He is, however, bullish on competitive governance: The age of exit has arrived.  Some qualifying comments here

Thiel’s comments on peaking globalization from his conversation with Tyler Cowen:

If you want a long/short blue-state trade you want to be long California, short New York.  The long/short red-state trade by the way is you want to be long Texas and short Virginia…   Both Texas and California are actually sort of very inward-focused places.  California, both the Hollywood version and the Silicon Valley version are sort of very focused in on themselves and Texas is also a very inward-focused place.  And what D.C. and New York City have in common is they are centers of globalization.  Finance is sort of an industry that is fundamentally leveraged to globalization and D.C. is fundamentally leveraged to international geopolitics.  I would bet on globalization sort of slowly being in abeyance.  With the benefit of hindsight I think we will realize that 2007 was not just the peak year of the finance boom but also the peak year of globalization.

Arnold Kling on Thiel.  The Economist weighed in last December.  Trade as a % of world GDP has indeed stalled at 60% the last five years or so, although this has occurred a few other times in the post-war era.  Here is a chart I made using World Bank data.


Charles Murray’s new book thinks rolling back federal power through traditional means is futile and advocates civil disobedience and legal defense funds to litigate legislation to death.

Speculative thoughts on shareholder cities

Check out the Voice & Exit conference in Austin, TX in June

Musings on nations and national identity

Spontaneous order and traffic lights.  Video on the town of Poynton implementing a shared space intersection, as mentioned in the article:

How socialist were the Incas?

Anti-immigrant attacks are spreading in South Africa.


Newsflash:  The Southern states are still distinct.

Libertarian defenses of Confederate secession are incoherent.

Liberty Cities” in Texas

Tiny Caribou, Maine is making progress on a split

Independence or statehood for Puerto Rico?

(Image source)

Bootleggers and Baptists: cannabis edition

Last month in Garden City, Kansas, an 11-year-old boy was detained by police after speaking up during a talk by a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) police officer about cannabis. His mother, as it turns out, is one Shona Banda, who has spent years advocating for the medicinal use of the drug, and after her son was detained, her home was raided and a judge recommended she lose custody of him:

As Shona’s son listened to the misinformation given by authorities to his class during the drug education presentation, he courageously spoke up and informed them that the information they were relating was incorrect in regards to cannabis.  He was pulled from class and sent to the office for questioning by authorities without his mother present.

When he failed to return home from school, Banda contacted the school only to be told that her son had be detained by authorities.  She went to the station, where she was informed that she was not being detained, but that they were obtaining a search warrant on her home and that she would not be permitted to enter the residence until the search was executed.

During the raid, authorities confiscated an alleged mere 2 ounces of cannabis flower and 1 ounce of cannabis oil. Banda has yet to be charged and was able to go home after the raid.  Shona had a hearing, which seemed to be going her way until the judge spoke up about how many charges she was going to be facing as a result of the raid on her home.  It was recommended that her son be placed into the custody of her ex, the boy’s father.  Luckily, he lives very close-by and she has not been denied visits with her son.  Shona’s next court date, is ironically schedule for 4/20.  She has no idea what will ensue next as a result of her son’s courageous words, but says, “they don’t have a clue that I’m walking in with [my] head held high, proud of who I am and what I do.”

This incident isn’t egregious simply because cannabis is “merely a plant” or has health benefits. Aside from any such benefits cannabis may have is the fact that the resources spent on its prohibition, and the very question of whether to prohibit it, are managed at levels of jurisdiction which are too high to accord very well with the cultural exigencies of people “on the ground”. Prohibition creates a boundary of legality that matches poorly with local and regional boundaries of culture (Garden City, it is to be noted, is only a few towns away from Colorado, where cannabis is legal).

Not only are there perhaps millions of cannabis users like Shona Banda, but those who go to prison for possession or sale of the drug are not actually having any possible underlying problem of criminality in their community addressed. They are being swept into a larger system of administration, which outsources the task of handling criminality—and indeed that of determining what constitutes crime—from the local or regional level to that of three hundred million people.

The channels through which $8.7 billion are spent each year on cannabis prohibition do not distinguish between a mother who uses cannabis oil medicinally and a delinquent for whom cannabis use is simply an easily targetable offense—or the many shades of respectability therebetween—nor do they provide solutions for the root causes of delinquency in particularly crime-ridden areas. Could the case ever reasonably be made that Detroit, for example, would see a massive drop in violent crime if cannabis ceased to exist?

You may have heard the tale of the bootleggers and the Baptists, in which groups who would never otherwise interact, and are in fact at cross purposes, join together to promote regulation:

“Arkansas liquor stores have allied with religious leaders to fight statewide legalization of alcohol sales. The stores in wet counties don’t want to lose customers. The churches don’t want to lose souls. Larry Page, a Southern Baptist pastor and director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, which traces its roots to the Anti-Saloon League of Arkansas in 1899, [also recalled]. . .when his group joined with feminists to oppose pornography and cooperated with Mississippi casinos to fight gambling in Arkansas.”[14]

The lesson here is twofold: first, that the prohibition of a given substance or activity will be to the benefit of both moralists and those who make their buck by taking advantage of the prohibition; and secondly, that the maintenance of local norms in a given area may be helped by ad-hoc alliances with outside groups.

Note, however, that the very fact that Arkansas liquor stores make money on sales to residents of dry counties is an indication of dry ordinances not matching real-life norms. In other words, the boundaries we set between groups are not always to the good of those groups; they limit agency in unhealthy ways, not only on the individual level but more importantly on the level of small groups. Drug prohibition is one example of such a boundary:

One pathological boundary that has been imposed top-down by our democratic system is drug prohibition. Total prohibition, in the form of the drug war, drew a boundary that created a very lucrative niche that only the most ruthless, violent actors could fill. The drug war prevented small-scale, non-totalitarian solutions to drug problems from ever being attempted, including the kind of small group rituals that allow people to use drugs in healthy, prosocial ways. The drug war hampers small group agency even more than individual agency; individuals may use drugs underground, supplied by those violent niche-fillers, in isolation or among the dispossessed, but if groups attempt to use drugs in healthy ways, a raid is almost guaranteed.

So for a conservative who values the formation of stable families and communities, as for a proponent of exit, to uphold such boundaries as drug prohibition is to harm one’s own interests—assuming that one does not live in a high-crime area whose safety would only be further endangered by the release of delinquents who happen only to have been busted for drug-related offenses, of course. But even then, no solution is being provided, only a temporary fix which must be continually repeated.

As we see in the case of Shona Banda and her son, this temporary fix also creates new problems of its own. It prevents healthy, semi-permeable boundaries from forming between different groups and areas, and thus diminishes local autonomy.

The age of exit

I wrote a piece for the Freeman arguing that we are in The Age of Exit.

Instead of ideological battles, the 21st century will be defined by political decentralization. Rather than enforcing a single political model as ideal for all of humanity, people will instead choose from a sort of political menu. Political decisions will be made on a more localized level, encouraging experimentation and innovation.

I think my thesis is broadly true. However, for a short article I was unable to discuss several challenges, namely, China, Russia, the Middle East, and the EU. China has SEZs, however they are unlikely to allow the same amount of political autonomy as European nations facing independence movements. China is also pursuing assimilation policies to wipe out the Uyghur population in Xinjiang that would be untenable in Western countries. Russia is recently aggressive, however the drop in oil prices makes them less dangerous. The Middle East is having their borders redrawn. They are largely tribalist but have a unifying element in the Muslim faith. The EU has centralized some functions lowering the cost of independence movements in Europe. My thesis is overstated to the extent I do have not accounted for these counter trends.

Ultimately changing geo-political trends are very complicated and will remain so. Humans will try to draw patterns out of limited data and extrapolate into the future without fully understanding the causes of the changes. I am certainly guilty of it. However, the mainstream narrative is currently missing an important trend, one that should be included in discussions of geo-politics, that of the increased power of political autonomy on a local scale.