Month: March 2015

John Zmirak: On a mission from God to get people to stop reading writers he doesn’t like

This is one of the strangest twitter arguments I’ve been in for a while, going off of John Zmirak’s latest column in the Stream criticizing Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. Zmirak’s claims are so bizarre and detached from reality that I had to suggest that perhaps there’s a certain careerist imperative behind his constant mendacity toward anyone who won’t get with the tea party Catholic program. I (probably deservedly) earned a block for that, but it really must be said.

Zmirak claims Gabriel Sanchez, of all people, is aligned with the left because he read about Bruenig on his blog:

Nevermind that Sanchez and I have both been rather strongly critical of the Christian socialism she’s peddling. These integralists — I’m not one, for the record, but I find them interesting — are accused of allying with the left:

This isn’t even remotely accurate; a cursory look at their blogging home over at The Josias should yield plenty of evidence of that. Other than dissenting from unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism integralists more or less defend the type of order embodied in the old European monarchies, which leftism arose to destroy.

But if cooperating with the left is an offense worthy of permanent enmity from our brave correspondent, isn’t he guilty of the same thing, as a “liberal”? To say nothing of the irony that he argues in the same way Bruenig does; by hyperbole, smears, and anathemas.

He keeps digging. I think it would be news to every single one of these people that they are “integralists”:

I pointed out that the “Benedict option” and integralism are basically opposites; the latter built on the Aristotelian notion of the body politic, the former a kind of severance from it. That’s not important to him:

Later he calls Deneen a “leftist opportunist wannabe Clinton Vatican ambassador.” Sanchez has responded here:

Zmirak and Hilton’s inability to get a joke is secondary to the more troubling reality that Catholic neoliberals/libertarians seem largely incapable of making fundamental distinctions between principled positions which they happen to have no sympathy for. This became clear to me last night on Twitter when, after alerting me to his article, Zmirak proceeded to conflate Catholic integralists with so-called radical Catholics such as Patrick Deneen, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Artur Rosman. (Rod Dreher, despite being Eastern Orthodox, was thrown into the mix as well.) Had Zmirak taken the time to actually read my Front Porch Republic article, he would have noticed that I set forth all of the distinctions for him. Hilton should have realized it, too, though I have no evidence that she actually read anything beyond Zmirak’s article. Although it is true that integralist and radical Catholics are deeply critical of liberalism, their reasons are sometimes, maybe oftentimes, significantly different.

Pater Edmund Walstein, on the other hand, who blogs over at Sancrucensis, is an integralist, but his reading habits are off the reservation:

This is the defender of liberalism here, telling people who they shouldn’t be reading! Twice, in one conversation, he’s denounced people for their reading habits. I can dig the great books as much as anyone, but this is crazy. Also like Bruenig, there is no good-faith attempt to understand his interlocutors first.

The other big thing they have in common is their vociferous defense of the secular state, and I think it’s at the heart of why these two writers are so vitriolic all the time. Zmirak’s deal, the one he’s built basically his whole career on, is that he’ll police his own camp in exchange for the chance to win in the arena of democratic competition. If, like Zmirak thinks, we can ‘win’; take the White House, cut the corporate tax rate, overturn Roe, and restore the American empire to greatness, then this growing movement of doubters is worse than unenthusiastic, they’re faithless recusants. Of course, it never works out the way he says it will, and the main ones who benefit from this arrangement are the ones making the deal. Unfortunately for him it’s looking less and less fair and less and less appealing. That probably means we can expect the nastiness to get worse. Power, or even the prospect of it, seems to do that to people.

Readers probably don’t need me to tell them that I think the original recusants had the right idea.


It seems appropriate to leave this bit of Maistre here:

… when man works to restore order he associates himself with the author of order; he is favored by nature, that is to say, by ensemble of secondary forces that are the agents of the Divinity. His action partakes of the divine; it becomes both gentle and imperious, forcing nothing yet not resisted by anything.  His arrangements restore health. As he acts, he calms disquiet and the painful agitation that is the effect and symptom of disorder. In the same way, the hands of a skilful surgeon bring the cessation of pain that proves the dislocated joint has been put right.

Frenchmen, it was to the noise of hellish songs, the blasphemy of atheism, the cries of death, and the prolonged moans of slaughtered innocence, it was by the light of flames, on the debris of throne and altar, watered by the blood of the best of kings and an innumerable host of other victims, it was by the contempt of morality and the established faith, it was in the midst of every crime that your seducers and your tyrants founded what they call your liberty.

Guys like Zmirak are all Vendee, no King. And we know how that ends.

Update: Zmirak seems to have deleted all these tweets. Good thing they’re saved here!

There is no freedom in being uncomfortable within your skin

It was only a matter of time before libertarianism jumped the shark.

The childishly optimistic sect of the liberty movement is moving past pot legalization and gay marriage. Their detente with liberals resulted in a massive culture victory. Pot and sodomy are de rigueur in mainstream American culture, whether you agree with them or not. Those troglodyte conservatives can wipe their tears with white flags!

The next fight for libertarians lies in the traditional gender spectrum. Not content to keep politics within politics, the loud-mouthed revolutionaries are moving into the messy world of transgenderism. This is a huge jump from the philosophy associated with Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek. Ayn Rand would be frowning in heaven if she didn’t think God put a damper on her ego trip.

In a recent Daily Beast column, Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie praises the latest American hero: Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner. Wait a second, you may say. Didn’t Jenner trounce the Soviets in the decathlon almost three decades ago?  Why is he now the latest emblem of liberation?


Guest hosting The Mike Church Show Wednesday 3/18

Mike’s been kind enough to have me back on to fill in for him Wednesday, listen in if you’re a Sirius XM subscriber. The show runs from 6-9 AM, on Patriot 125. I will update this post with a schedule of guests as I firm it up.

Update: The guest list for Wednesday, starting at 6:30, will be attorney Ian Smith on the state of challenges to Obama’s executive amnesty, Betsy Woodruff and Ellen Carmichael on the Glenn Beck/Grover Norquist feud and the Catholic vote, Phil Magness on he and Bob Murphy’s much-heralded debunking of Piketty, Trevor Burrus on the raisin cartel, closing out with a half-hour jaw session on Hillary Clinton’s various scandals with TheDC’s own Vince Coglianese and Chuck Ross.

Secession lagniappe

Apologies for any paywalled links, I’ve tried to double-up sources where that occurs.

Local law enforcement teamed up with the FBI to raid a meeting of The Republic of Texas, a group that believes they never legally joined the union. More here.  And a RT documentary on the group from last year:


A group of Southern Tier towns in New York are threatening secession due to their state’s fracking ban.  The Economist picked up the story in its last issue:

The Southern Tier used to be called the “Valley of Opportunity”, with companies like IBM employing thousands. But the area’s big employers left or downsized long ago. The economy is stagnant, with houses for sale everywhere. Windsor cannot afford a police department. Even its funeral homes are long gone. Meanwhile, just yards away in Pennsylvania, Great Bend is thriving. The neighbours have new cars, freshly painted houses and jobs, and all from shale.

In Oregon, a petition to split off East Portland was shot down and “would need to be rewritten.”


Independence movements are alive and well across Europe, according to Peter Geoghegan at The Irish Times:

European borders have shifted only a handful of times over the last two decades: the dissolution of Serbia and Montenegro; Kosovan independence in 2008; Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year. But the boundaries are unlikely to remain so static.

In Belgium, the divide between French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders has long stymied attempts to foster national unity. The largest party in the whole of Belgium is the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA). The N-VA has previously called for the more prosperous Flanders to leave the Francophone south. With the European Commission in Brussels, the break-up would have EU-wide ramifications.

Independence movements are riding high elsewhere on the continent. At nationalist gatherings from Edinburgh to Barcelona over the last 18 months, I have met gaggles of people carrying the Venetian flag. Last year, 89 per cent of Venetians voted for independence in an online petition.

Spain’s highest court ruled that the Catalan vote in November was unconstitutional, not surprisingly.

Elsewhere in Spain, in a negative development for Podemos, the Catalan Ciudadanos party is rising rapidly. The anti-independence party has already polled at over 18% by some tallies.

As the chances of Grexit recede, will Brexit be the new focus for the EU?

Lithuanians are worried Putin will turn his annexing eye to the Baltics next.  A very interesting Foreign Affairs article explains. The government has diversified energy dependency away from Russia and is attempting to bring back conscription.  Here’s a more in-depth take.

Is autonomous Somaliland making any progress towards formal independence?  Officials are looking to capitalize on its relative stability by attracting tourists.

China is staying busy in the South China Sea.

Rand Paul boldly calls for a Kurdish state.

Secessionist support is enough to get you arrested in Malaysia.

Honduran ZEDEs, debated.


Patri Friedman likens progressivism to the second law of thermodynamics, which is not a complement:

One of the things life has taught me this decade is the importance of exclusion and boundaries, which are highly relevant to this metaphor. A thermodynamic system with poor borders (less insulation), will have greater thermal conductivity. It may do more work initially, but it will also move at maximum speed towards that final resting state where all energy is evenly distributed. Such a state is peaceful in precisely the same way as death; for without flows of energy, there can be no life (in vivo or in silico – as no computation is possible). I suppose those who think human extinction is fair or just will consider this the state of ultimate fairness. I don’t particularly care for that final solution.

So if you even care about life existing – let alone the infinite diversity possible therein – then (contra Caplan), boundaries (such as national borders) are an absolute necessity. No differences, no energy flow, no (thermodynamic) work, no life. As in the stars, so on the earth: romance flows from polarity; trade from comparative advantage; thermodynamic work from heat differences; evolution from variation; economic competition from competing alternatives. All progress is driven by differences; so to erase differences is (counter-eponymously) to end progress.

Can devolving more power to major cities save fragile states?  The case of Nigeria.

Will Venezuela be the next Ukraine?

Tyler Cowen on where to head if you’d like to vote with your feet.

Status quo bias as the main barrier to border flexibility.

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The problem with TNR’s Pope Francis cover story

Here’s a very long piece at the Daily Caller disputing points factual and theological:

As a “vertically integrated digital media company,” the investment fund known as the New Republic still produces dead-tree editions to keep up appearances. Once the flagship magazine of American liberals — the white ones, anyway — it also must keep up appearances in an ideological sense despite the billionaire CEO Chris Hughes, the spouse of a failed Democratic congressional candidate, taking the company in a more capitalistic direction. For example, the cover story in this month’s issue is a tissue of misrepresentations by a self-styled Christian socialist about conservative and traditional Catholics.

Read the whole thing here.

Death and taxes

I violate the libertarian code by calling for a war tax in my latest piece for Taki’s Mag. Here is an excerpt:

“What is taxation but theft on a gigantic, unchecked, scale?”

Murray Rothbard’s question doesn’t have an answer. The coercive taking of money is theft. No exceptions. Mental masturbation on the “social contract” or necessities of public action don’t eliminate that fact. The duties and obligations of society shouldn’t translate into pickpocketing folks to pay for a myriad of welfare goods.

That said, I’m ready to do the philosophically impossible: compromise. Call me a squish; I’ll own it. But the matter is of high importance. Bickering over marginal tax rates is a debate for DC talking heads. I’m talking about the most important topic: war. It’s a topic of such importance that serious folks in the news glide over it like it were a peaceful outing in the country. Americans treat war as a state of being. We’re stuck with it, we’re told, because danger lurks behind every corner.

If that’s the case – and it very well is – then I propose an unorthodox idea: let’s pay for war. I don’t mean rack up deficits and debt to foot the bill now. I mean have an actual tax that pays for sending soldiers and weapons over to foreign lands. Whether it be a tax on income or the final sale of goods is no matter. Tax, baby, tax!

Read the whole thing here.

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