RW192 - The Libertarian Knife

This week, Dan and John talk about:

The show title refers to Libertarianism being one of the knives in John’s arsenal, alongside other political ideologies, that he will take out and look at and wonder if he needs them in this particular moment.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John kayaking and canoeing (RW192)

John is reading about the Kennebec birch canoes. He loves to canoe and he bought an inflatable kayak at the beginning of the summer because had one of their specials, a two-person kayak with paddles and all the rest for $85 or something, and what is the worst that can happen? John bought this thing, one for his little family and his sister had one, so they now have a flotilla of three and they go pump them up and go kayaking in the Pacific Northwest’s waterways, both fresh and saltwater.

Yesterday they went out in Puget Sound and John kayaked his way down, a friend had an inflatable paddle board too and they went out into the ocean and circled the wagons and sat gossiping in the ocean, but John wanted to get out of there and paddled off into the middle distance and according to them he was no longer visible over the horizon. That might be true and he probably didn’t see them either and he had a wonderful day.

These are surprisingly useful little craft. John thought that it was going to be kind of a toy, but it allows him to go out on the ocean and get pretty far away. He is never more than a quarter mile offshore, but he really loves being on the water.

A canoe is such a different animal and John loves a canoe, but a Kennebec built-in-Maine Cedar Canoe is probably not where he should be focusing his attention because the one he is looking at is from 1922 and it seems that it probably will be purchased and put on the wall of a sports store. It is a beautiful thing and it will probably end up at a Filson store somewhere up on the wall, rather than just being used by John to go putter around in the marshes.

A kayak is a different animal and something that John doesn’t have a ton of experience with. Some people in this region are very serious about kayaking and they go long distances, they go multiple days on long adventures, and there is a culture around it, there are techniques, there are moires. The first time John was ever in a kayak, he rolled it in the Knik River and he lost his glasses. He used a big oceangoing kayak in a river, which was already not exactly how these things are designed and he rolled it like a dummy.

He spent a lot of time in canoes and knows how to enter a moving waterway in a canoe without tipping, but he just ignored what he knew. Somehow being in a kayak he suddenly just disobeyed the rules, rolled it instantly without even a second of hesitation, and he couldn't get it back up, which is a thing that you have to practice, and he fell out of it and all of a sudden he was the guy who was clinging to the upside-down kayak like a wet dog as the kayak hurtled down this river and everybody else had to haul ass. They were in boats, in inflatable zodiacs, and they were all doing that special forces paddle where four people are paddling their zodiac really fast to try and catch John as the river took him away.

They had to go over to the side of the river and build a campfire and get John warm and it was just embarrassing. That was 20+ years ago and since then John had a kind of a kayak-phobia. But this inflatable kayak has a really wide bottom, it doesn't feel tippy, but very stable. But you sit in a canoe differently, you paddle it differently, you have a paddle instead of a whatever those kayak-double-end paddles are, you don't sit as low in the water, it is just a different craft.

The Northwest and Seattle being very connected to the ocean (RW192)

The Northwest is so oriented toward the water, at least it used to be. John was growing up before there was a tech industry and the industries in the Northwest were timber, fishing and airplanes. You couldn't help but think about the ocean every day because the whole region interacted with the ocean and was integrated with the ocean. If you were in Downtown Seattle you heard bells on boats.

You heard foghorns, the ferry boats used to honk their horns every time they arrived and every time they left their dock, boats were honking at each other all the time. It was before boats all had radar, so they were communicating all the time. Anywhere you were in Seattle, you were aware that this was a port town. It was true all through Puget Sound: Anywhere you went there was some boat dinging a bell or honking a horn.

Boats were louder, too. John spent the night on the coast last year on a beach, and there was a Foss tugboat, a company that both makes and operates tugboats that could pull an aircraft carrier and this Foss tugboat was headed probably from Tacoma to Bellingham and John was sleeping on the beach up around Kingston and he heard this boat for over an hour as it went up the channel because the motor was like drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, and you could hear it for fucking ever!

John watched the boat that was making good progress, but it is such a sea tractor and a lot of boats used to sound like that. Everything was louder when John was a kid: Cars were louder, horns were louder, buses were louder, everything was just loud! There was a movement to quiet down cities some time in the 1980s or late 1970s where it was recognized that noise-pollution was a thing (John is talking himself into an Omnibus episode), but there was an effort to quiet down car horns and to muffle engines because it had become unbearable for people in big cities.

John remembers being in Downtown Seattle and it just felt like such a kinetic urban environments, so different from anywhere else. If you went a mile outside the city, you just weren't experiencing the same cacophony: Horns all the time, ambulances, and now the ambient noise level Downtown is probably higher than it is in the suburbs around a mall, but not that much higher. The boats are quiet these days. They don't have bells anymore, they don't honk their horns, the ferry boats don't honk their horns. They got radar and everybody knows where everybody else is. Maybe the fact that they don't honk their horns coming into the dock was a thing that people complained about.

John’s mom and dad’s scheme with the ferry and their cars (RW192)

Around the time that John was born his dad worked in the city, but they lived in Kingston up on it on a cliff on the water and when the ferryboat would come in his mom would hear the ferryboat honk, she would go to the window with John as a babe in arms, and she would look out the window and watch the ferry come in and the foot passengers as they got off the boat, because the ferries also bring in cars.

John’s mom and dad had a whole scheme, they had something like four cars and they kept one at the house, one in Edmonds, one in Winslow, and one in Downtown Seattle, and they had a routine where on Sunday nights they would drive around and stage all these cars in all these places. John’s dad could drive to the ferry and walk on the ferry and leave the car in the parking lot and then in the morning he would walk on the ferry and get in the car and drive to Seattle and have this whole ballet.

John’s mom would watch the people get off the ferry, and if it was John’s dad he would raise lift his arm in the air or give some kind of signal and she could see him as he walked off the boat and she would get in the car, drive around the bay and pick him up. That story seems like the romantic Pacific Northwest lifestyle, the dream you imagine, and it feels so bucolic. The ferry boats were smaller, everything was smaller and louder.

People in Seattle losing the connection to the ocean (RW192)

During his lifetime John was watching Seattle and the Northwest gradually but very noticeably turn its back on the water. There are people that live in Seattle now for whom the Puget Sound and the lakes are just backdrops. They never go on the water, they don't feel connected to the water, and they have just never been on a boat, let alone swimming. The water is very cold, but when you are a kid you don't have any brains and he swam in the ocean every chance he got. If you never swum in Puget Sound, John doesn’t know how you could feel that connected to it. Lake Washington is wonderful, and people go swimming in it all the time. It is right in the middle of the city.

There are so many opportunities to boat. There is like the Center for Wooden Boats, you can go down to the University of Washington and rent a canoe and take it out all day, do whatever you want with it and rent it for just pennies. It happened to John, too: He was living in Seattle, having all his city problems, having to get from here to there, looking out at the water and it is just: ”Oh, isn't this beautiful? We really live in a beautiful place! Anyway, back to the movies!” Every once in a while he will spend some time with somebody that is more connected to the water and he is reminded, like: ”Oh, fuck!”

John watching seals and having dinner at a campfire at the beach (RW192)

John was out in his little kayak yesterday, and all around him there were seals bobbing their heads up. They are down on the bottom, eating octopuses or whatever they do, grabbing clams, and they were popping their heads up and although they were keeping a 20 foot distance from him he had seals all around him and they were not barking or goofing around because they were busy, but they pop up. All of a sudden there was a sea dog over there looking at him and whenever an animal looks at John, he always starts talking to it, so he was talking to these seals.

It had been a long time since John was in a position where it was just him and the seals, and it was super-easy, it cost $80 to buy this thing, it took 20 minutes to pump it up and get situated and get out on the water. He could have brought a package of hot dogs and he would be feeding these seals hot dogs if he came out there every day.

The quarantine has been wonderful and John is trying to find ways to stay interested and engaged, make some new habits. Last night and the night before he cooked his dinner over a campfire, not because he was camping, but you can just light a fire on the beach, put a weenie on a stick and cook it. You can make some s'mores. John didn't need any camping equipment, he didn't have to go to REI, it didn't cost any money, and you watch the sun go down in the ocean and this has been available to him all the time! For the last 25 years he could have been doing this every day! His hair smelled like campfire, which is like his hair used to smell like all the time.

John is excited about it and more than anything he is just excited about the idea that simple pleasures are really accessible. All of that stuff: the kayak, the hot dogs, it all turns on just a moment where you stand there and go: ”Ah, do I really want to pump up this boat and go out, or do I just want to hang out here by the fire?”, but: ”No! Pump up the boat!” - ”Okay!” and 20 minutes later you are feeding hot dogs to seals. Why was it ever a question? Why did he sit on the shore and even for a moment wonder whether or not this was going to be worth it?

When you are sitting at home and you say: ”Let's go down to the public beach and build a fire and make some dinner!” - ”Oh, yeah, or we could just microwave something. Is it worth it? We are all sitting here, reading, do we really want to go down and watch the sun go down into the ocean and cook our food over a fire? It is so much trouble!” It is no trouble at all, really! It is as much trouble or less than it used to be to go to a restaurant and wait for a table. The risk is that you feel like it is a lifestyle and you need to transform yourself and this is how you are going to live from now on and that type of thing, and it becomes an emotional burden.

John working in the ravine behind his house (RW192)

John has been working in his ravine for the last few months and he is so grateful for it, even though he is not living in his house yet. He has gotten so much from his yard and pretty much every day he pulls on his rubber boots and goes down there. Yesterday he was trying to build a bridge, and building a shitty bridge is pretty easy, but building a bridge that will last five years is more involved, and building a bridge that will last 10 years you have to buy some materials and you have to know what you are doing. It is harder work, but it is also hard to build a shitty bridge.

John spent several hours yesterday, sitting on a log, looking at a place, and moving 4x4s around to get a picture of a picture of a bridge that he is capable of building by himself. He was endlessly, mindlessly just focused on a task and it is wonderful! John is not a bridge builder or even really a carpenter, but he has this wonderful opportunity and got really lucky that he bought this piece of property that no-one else bid on because it looked like a shit jungle, and that is in a housing environment where a lot of houses have six bidders in competition for one another.

John’s house was dramatically underpriced, even for what it was, because it had this shit jungle attached to it. There were other houses that he tried to buy and he bid way over the asking price and he still lost. His mom's house sold for 20% over asking and there were five bidders, the top three of whom made cash offers, the other two wanted to put 75% down and had to finance the remaining 25%. Who the fuck can buy a house in cash? How are there multiple people that can walk in to Downtown Seattle and buy a full-sized house in cash money?

But John’s nobody wanted and the reason is that nine months after he bought it he is still not living there because he is doing all this work. If he had had the money and the wit and wisdom, he could have had this work all finished a long time ago. Every time they say: ”You need to pick showerheads!” - ”Okay, well, let's not be in a rush!” and 10 days later: ”What kind of showerhead do you mean?” John is not a very good contractor or project manager. It is still like he has been living there because he is on that property every day and has been doing really hard work.

He has also given his mom a purpose and she is down there in the ravine in her overalls and said that six months ago she started to feel like she was losing her balance at the age of 85, but ever since he pointed her at a job in the ravine and said: ”Here is what I need: I need all this taken out and put either over here or in a bag or in a pile or whatever!” she started after it and six months later her balance and her strength is back. In the quarantine she is not somebody that would sit in a chair, but she would have been out every day walking around for an hour to get her exercise, but it is so different to have a purpose. It has also given John a purpose and exercise. He comes out of there just thrashed every day, covered in cuts.

John talking to the wetland people at the city government (RW192)

John wrote a letter today to the to the county because there is a woman at the county that he contacted a long time ago for help, trying to restore his habitat, and that is not a euphemism. There are a lot of people in the West, and also in Austin because John has done a bunch of research on watershed and has found some websites of the people in Austin that are really passionate about restoring creeks and of course in Texas those creeks are dry and then all of a sudden they are totally alive and there is a whole squad down there.

Up in Seattle wetlands and creeks are just five different layers of people before you even get to the government, which has five different super-lame levels of government. John appreciates them because they are there to keep a developer from buying 50 acres and just bulldozing dirt into all the ponds, but like all regulatory agencies, they are also really ready to bully you if you reveal your existence.

John talked to this woman six months ago and they had a really wonderful talk and she said she can't come out and look at John’s property because of COVID-19, but maybe in July and they have been trying to set up an appointment, but now John doesn’t want her down there because he doesn’t know what her regulatory role or duties are. He doesn’t want her to come down there saying: ”Whoa, wait a minute! You are not allowed to do this! What the hell do you think you are doing? I have to shut this all down!” or if she is going to come down and go: ”Oh, okay, well, you fucked it all up, but it is amazing! Good job! Let me use my authority to shield you from the man and together the two of us can work on a scheme!” There are people in government that are nice and smart.

John sent her a letter right before Dan called that was like: ”Hey, I really want you to come to my house and you can explain things to me and we can look at stuff and I really want to do the right thing and I want you to tell me what the right thing is, but I really, really, really don't want you to come out here and be bummed at me and even worse tell me that I have to stop doing what I am doing, because that would crush me!” and he is waiting this afternoon to hear what she is going to say, or what she can say.

She probably can't say: ”Oh, don't worry, you can do whatever the fuck you want! I am just working my job and I want to come, clock my hours!” John hopes that she registers his sincerity and says: ”I am used to working with people who want to fight restoration. I am not used to working with people that want to work all day ankle-deep in mud, to recreate the environment. I like you, I want you to do what you are doing and let me just let me just guide and shape your work!”, but John also doesn’t know whether he is a fool. It just depends on how much of a libertarian he is today.

Libertarianism (RW192)

John doesn’t generally take the libertarian path. He understands and appreciates it, he always considers it when he lays out his options in interpreting a political situation, like when you pull out your Ginsu knives and the big knife is Libertarianism and you put it there on the on your unfolded leather apron, and there is Big Government Liberalism and Laissez Faire Capitalism, and you lay them all out. He will pick up the libertarian knife, turns it over in his hands, and asks himself: ”Does this does this situation really require this?” Usually it doesn’t. Libertarians usually get a bad rep and Dan is here to say that it is not fair.

There are a lot of dummies that wrapped themselves in libertarian flag, but they don't have the worldview and libertarianism is an encompassing worldview, like any ideology. If everybody agreed that that was the best path, then it would work great and life would be fine if everyone. Libertarianism is like a lot of utopian philosophies: It presumes that people are responsible, and that is the biggest thing that Dan had trouble with. being a libertarian himself. It requires that other people also are libertarians and also have the same sense of their own responsibility in order for it to work. If everybody is not on board, if everybody doesn't agree, it is not going to work.

There is no system that works if it doesn't have a contingency plan for people who either completely disagree with it or do not have the moral and ethical foundation that the best people have. The problem with libertarianism, like a lot of ideologies, is that people say: ”I am capable of governing myself, therefore I do not want to be governed, therefore government should basically be ordered around the best of us, and the people that are not interested or not capable or are vehemently opposed are not my problem, and they should be take care of themselves or maybe they will disappear!” The wonderful thing about most economic and political philosophies is that they just presume that people will either be converted or will disappear.

How is it possible that so much of American government and the philosophy of government as put into practice in people's imaginations just has no contingency for human beings that are going to either really disagree and want to fight you or have no interest in managing themselves or even the basic level of: Hey, don't throw your garbage over my fence! What? I thought the fence was like the end of the world! No, I live over here. We talk every day. Oh, right, right, right!” You drive down the road and you have encounters with people all day where you are like: ”That person gets it. Oh, that person gets it. I'm not sure if that person gets it, but at least they are not in my way!”

Then you are like: ”Wait a minute, you are in a supermarket and you are playing music on your phone because you can't go shopping without music and you do not comprehend that that is incredibly disruptive and annoying? You don't understand how annoying you are right now that you pulled up to a public campground and the first thing you did was open the doors in your car and crank your stereo? There are 50 other people at this campground that are trying to have some time with themselves and now you are like <making music noises> What the fuck, really?”

How does your system of government make an allowance for that person? A lot of libertarians would say: ”Well, he is on his property and he can do what he wants and I am on my property and I can do whatever I want”, but that requires that you harden your heart and put headphones on. It requires that you put your philosophy above your own basic needs, and if you are going to do that, why not have it be a liberal philosophy where you help other people, rather than just one where you sit and chew on bullets while people all around you are fucking animals?

John gets everybody's philosophy, he has read all the books and gets where everybody is coming from, but how do you not have any allowance for the people that are just going to fight you? Let's put aside the people that have a competing philosophy, let’s just talk about the Scots Irish who are just going to fight you, no matter what you say. The people that are: ”Oh, the sky is blue?” - ”No, it is not! Fuck you!” For 15% of the people that is just their instinct. There are people right now drinking bleach to own the libs. How are you going to deny that they are there and how are you going to put together a form of government that just imagine that they are going to disappear. They are not going to disappear, but they are going to stand on the front of the courthouse steps, drinking bleach.


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