Clear libertarian principles

The 1972 Libertarian Party Statement of Principles is far and away the best such presentation anywhere today. But the clearer we make it the less chance there is for regrettable misinterpretation. The fallacy of equivocation is the assignment of different meanings to a term, usually by accident or oversight. The word in question, however, is the noun form of “right” or “rights” the thing we seek to defend. Here is the correct usage, in which a right is an ethical claim to freedom of action: 


We hold that each individual has the right to exercise sole dominion over his own life, and has the right to live his life in whatever manner he chooses, so long as he does not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live their lives in whatever manner they choose.

Compare that with Thomas Jefferson’s phrasing: 

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

Jefferson makes a clear distinction between rights and powers. Here is an LP rendering Jefferson could improve by editing: 

Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the life of the individual and seize the fruits of his labor without his consent.

Clearly, this version of a “right” is at best a legitimized power or a deontological arrogation of coercive privilege, and conservatives, fascists, socialists and communists delight in misattributing those meanings to “rights,” just as gleefully as they blur the distinctions between freedom and coercion.

A right is a moral claim to freedom of action was drummed into our UTEXAS Ethics classes by tenured Prof Tara Smith, who dared us to refute it. The definition is consistent with most of our criminal code, Constitution and Declaration. If a right is a claim to freedom (absence of coercion) it can hardly be retasked into a political provision for the execution of convicts, belligerent criminals or enemy combatants, all of which mean the exercise of political power. Even in classical terms, political power in social sciences is the capacity to see to the physical restraint of men, hopefully men who have abdicated their claim to freedom by aggressing against others.

Physics according to the Hog of Steel

Prof. W. Warthog, PhilbertD.


By analogy with freshman physics, where force times distance is work, and the rate at which work is done is power, political power is the same, with the caveat that since the exercise of physical restraint typically involves harmful and often deadly force, the rate at which that sort of work can be done is people incapacitated/killed per unit of time. Look at comparisons of military force and they are measured and expressed in those terms. So if we want to keep clear the distinction between the exercise of individual rights and exercise of the physical restraint States are tasked with using to secure those rights, we ought to resist blurring the distinction.

On the practical side, the change ought not to cost us any votes. I expect that the added clarity will better attract the support of anyone we could ever hope to attract. Even if the suggestion undergoes defenestration, I would then turn to attempting to replace the equivocated “right” with “legal standing”, “authorized authority” or some other, more appropriate construction. Even the “right” to kill in self defense is only a sloppy expression of the special, often regrettable, unintended and unfortunate case of the freedom or right to act in self defense in situations so fluid and dangerous that a jury might agree that the fatal outcome could be justified in a court of law or court-martial. Nicholas Sarwark is more qualified to expound on that collocation.

Suppose the original idea was to deliberately misuse “right” as a venomous barb on what amounts to a criticism of (imputed) wrongs we hope to right. Then I beg leave to suggest the barb was way too subtle for the opening statements intended to enlist support for us. As a joke it does not translate well. Right this minute there are 20 other countries looking to us as exemplars for the drafting of platforms for advancement of rights and minimization of coercion—even if less than instantaneous. Examining just a few of the “constitutions” those people have to work under makes one appreciate the advantage of a Constitution smaller than 8000 words.

This language is in the original platform, which I cherish and defend, yet would not hesitate to rescue from error. I have always admired Hospers and Nolan and would argue the same point to them. This is something no later platform committee can be blamed for, yet its importance is so fundamental (especially when you contemplate expressing it in other languages), that I feel obligated to advance this suggestion. I of course welcome the most vigorous attacks on its supporting logic and rhetorical usefulness.

I move that the expression be reexamined and incorrect iterations of the word “right” be replaced with “political power” something more appropriate for the description of even the most salutary government coercion. If that motion fails, I would move that the incorrect specimens be placed in quotes. 

Find out the juicy details behind the mother of all economic collapses. Prohibition and The Crash–Cause and Effect in 1929 is available in two languages on Amazon Kindle, each at the cost of a pint of craft beer.

Brazilian blog

Houston Translator Association Irregularities

The Houston Translators and Interpreters Association has in recent years been a model of competence in the industry. Yet the current bylaws amendment ballot looks more like a model of practices to avoid. The online bylaws dated April 14, 2010, define members as follows:

Article III – Membership…

Section B – Classes and Qualifications

The Association has three (3) membership classes: individual, corporate and institutional.

  • Individual: An individual who is engaged in translating, interpreting or related work (and may include students)

  • Corporate: A business with an interest in translation or interpretation

  • Institutional: An institution with an interest in translation or interpretation.

Directors elected in single-candidate elections now propose to change those member classes by creating a special class of students who at this time would not be allowed to vote to elect their teacher nor be listed in the online members directory (where the public expects to find professional linguists). To propose the change, voters were told that “new text is indicated by underlining, deleted text by strikeout.” But for the ballot proposal sent to members to change the bylaws, the board of directors approved the following:

Section B – Classes and Qualifications

The Association has four (4) membership classes: individual, corporate, institutional and student.

The above introductory sentence (followed by four, not three bullet items) appeared with no underlining for the new text nor strikeouts for deleted language. It gives the incorrect impression–instructions elsewhere to the contrary notwithstanding–that the student category already exists whether one likes it or not, and that there is mere quibbling to be decided on some trifling point of verbiage in the last of four preexisting bullet points.

In an association of quilt-makers, brewers, basket-weavers or kickboxers, the omission might be brushed aside as simple incompetence, the result voided and new ballots produced. Indeed, one such error in ballot translation into Spanish for the Texas State government had precisely that outcome and cost taxpayers about $100,000 to reprint.

The bad ballot language at issue, however, is presented as approved by the very people immigrants depend on for legal defense of their individual rights in courts that order execution by letal injection. Credible fear reviews can shield dissenters or whistleblowers from extrajudicial execution or torture by junta-style dictatorships, and HITA hosted a presentation on those. Professionals educated abroad want their syllabi competently translated with all legalities accurate so they may exercise a profession despite entrenched lobbyists erecting barriers to entry.  Our newsletter and web tips just now alerted linguists of at least a dozen different fraudulent scams. But more perfidious scams are perpetrated from within the profession. Must we circulate ballots that are an indictment of the board’s competence to frame and edit a simple bylaws amendment proposal?

For over a decade beginners were advised by prominent HITA and AATIA members not to bother to apply for municipal and county court interpreting in Texas. From a position of public trust they emphatically proclaimed that a license was required as a prerequisite. Nevermind that this was a law urged by three individuals claiming to represent the profession without their lobby efforts appearing in our trade publications. The persistent lie was finally exposed at a regulatory meeting at which a government regulatory attorney explained on the public record that the law meant nothing of the sort.

The old law merely formalized a procedure for showing an incompetent interpreter the door and ordering up a substitute, typically someone grandfathered in irrespective of real credentials or ability.  The dissembling was a sales platform for quickie diploma mill courses pushing test answers, podiums for grandfathered insiders to talk down to aspirants, and a loophole enabling agencies possessed of counsel to quietly and without fanfare exploit inexperienced youngsters at pauper rates. The law was only repealed after a libertarian interpreter put up a website playing a recording of the regulatory lawyer’s explanation in language too clear and simple to falsify.

If sidetracking students from earning a degree liable to make them employable is deemed a good idea, it ought to be passed by honest vote of fully-informed members using a ballot prepared in conformity with its own instructions and specifications.  Leaving out the underscores and strikethroughs is a demonstration of lack of competence or subterfuge that can only lead to the outcome being challenged. That is not the sort of attention the board needs to be focussing on the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.

Any association of actual linguists can raise revenue and provide a public service by hosting interpreting contests. Winners selected by the attendees could thereby earn credible credentials by live testing. A similar competitive approach is used to select and rank athletes, speakers, dancers, writers–even tire-changers or jugglers performing at association events. An interpreting contest need be no more complicated than a live debate or a spelling bee, and its results would carry weight with the membership, judges, attorneys, doctors and honest regulators interested in an objective assessment of competence in performance.

If you are an interpreter or translator interested in the honest defense of individual rights, by all means do get in touch.

Find out the juicy details behind the mother of all economic collapses. Prohibition and The Crash–Cause and Effect in 1929 is available in two languages on Amazon Kindle, each at the cost of a pint of craft beer.

Brazilian blog