Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Three for One: Robbing Banks and Being Robbed by the Banks

I stumbled upon The Great Taos Bank Robbery at some point last year. What road led me to it I can't say, but it is a most interesting little book -- a combination of folk history, humorous stories, and archaeology.  The subject is New Mexico in general, the quirky characters touted off as exemplars of New Mexico's eccentrity. Some of the stories are so entertaining and weird that I presumed them fiction, like the title piece about two men who patiently stood in line to rob a bank, only to discover it was a bank holiday. Absurdity ensues, especially as one of the culprits is wearing a dress and a small mound of pancake batter on his face.   There are several serious pieces of archaeology and anthropology in here, though even these have a few lines delivered with the literary equivalent of a straight face. ("The only problem with the report was that it was absolutely wrong.")

Over the weekend I read Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff, which proved entertaining if disappointing. It is less a fulsome introduction to the nonaggression principle and classical liberalism, and more a kick in the teeth of a corrupt and ineffective bureaucracy.  It was written in 2013, with the campaign promises of 2012 already unfulfilled and stale; the author anticipated another round of calming lies in 2016 and wanted to wake readers up to the possibility of a third option.  He champions freedom and creativity, loathes the administrative state (full of "gray suited soviets"), and mixes the political feistiness with affectionate rambling on the Grateful Dead and Rush. (The band, not the blowhard.)  Kibbe has a libertarian since high school, so while he's passionate he doesn't have the experience made from traveling in other camps that would allow him to connect other views with his arguments.  Still, in political season marked by sneers and street brawls, being reminded of a political philosophy based on peace instead of ambition to control  is refreshing.   The libertarian candidate this year is Gary Johnson, retired governor of New Mexico.

Relatedly, a few weeks ago I read Ron Paul's Liberty, Defined, which works out what liberty entails in the 21st century. For the author, it is nothing less than the golden rule applied to politics, and he uses fifty issues floating around in the sewage tank of American political debate as examples. These range from abortion to Zionism, with less controversial fare in between. The subjects are alphabetical, without any other structure, which makes it less a definitive argument for liberty and more a collection of policy papers. There are no surprises for someone who is familiar with Ron Paul's reputation as a staunch libertarian:  naturally, he is against an over-mighty executive, against constantly deploying the military to police other nations, and against  burdensome taxes and irresponsible legislation. Because of the arrangement, it's hard to imagine a man off the street  picking up the book and reading it through -- what's the hook? I went for it because I knew the author, but because I was familiar with the author, nothing in here was really new.


  1. Oh, another left wing politics book review on Thursday. Actually come to think of it the author is a long time member of the Socialist Workers Party which even we think is pretty far out there on the Left. What it would be in the US is anyone's guess. I don't actually think your political range goes that far! [lol]

  2. There are some in NY and San Fran, but we don't like one another enough to have a mass movement like that. The politics of contempt reins here. If anything the number of vitriolic interest groups is multiplying.

  3. Stephen said: we don't like one another enough to have a mass movement like that.

    I suppose that its a natural hangover from the Frontier and the whole idea of rugged individualism. No real surprise that Socialism never really took off in the US despite the reasons for its very existence in Europe.

  4. I think it's more a holdover from being an immigrant society rather than frontier one -- you've got the English, Irish, Italians, Jews, Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, etc, etc, all coming in and they bring old divides with them. Formerly there was a broader generic culture everyone was brought into, but in the days of identity politics people worship smaller and smaller groups. If one group is constantly beating down the other, there is no filial attachment whatsoever. I have as much in common with a lot of the people I see on TV as I do with the Chinese.

    One of the reasons I like localism is that it gives people something coherent to bond around. We don't have to come from the same country in Europe, or even the same hemisphere -- if we both live in a particular community, we can invest in it and enjoy it together.

    (Additionally -- this fragmentation is one of the reason I've started erring on the side of libertarianism. If we can't get along, let's agree to leave each other alone.)

  5. England has a long history of immigration - even before the Normans! - and I'm part of that as my father was Irish and my mother's family is Irish too. Socialism was the result of a reaction to the inherent injustices of early Capitalism. I suppose that by the time the US Industrial Revolution got going the pattern of your politics was already set so there was no available niche for Socialism to colonize....? [muses] I know that US intellectuals - like the rest of the worlds apparently - flirted with Communism in the late 20's early 30's but presumably it never put down any strong roots in the working class...? But it's not something I know much if anything about so I'm very much speculating here.


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