Monday, October 3, 2016

Re-reading The Shipping News

Voluntaryist View -- The Shipping News

It has been 25 years between my readings, but The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx, has gained considerably, surviving a good but inadequate movie, and becoming a How-To manual on pushing through the obstacles toward a voluntary life.  The protagonist, Quoyle, moves from a trailer park life in a desolate part of NY State, back to his ancestral home (that he has never before seen) in a remote part of Newfoundland in the environs of a fishing town named Killick-Claw.  In Killick-Claw, Quoyle lands a job as a newspaper man, with the local paper called The Gammy Bird, writing the column called "The Shipping News."

But enough about the surface detail.  This book is layered, entwined, densely textured from any view. To me, however, the thematic substance is clear.  Throughout the book, Proulx makes casual reference to knots, nets, moorings, connections, tethers, and webs.  Quoyle escapes one web, wherein he is a wrecked man-child with very few prospects, then over a complete cycle of Newfoundland's annual weather cycle, he becomes a man who learns that all of his choices are voluntary, and given time, are mostly to good effect.

There is a subplot in which Newfoundland is going through a similar mid life crisis.  There is a strong anti-big government and anti-crony capitalism vein here.  Proulx wears her heart on her sleeve.  See the following passage spoken by one of her characters, Jack Buggit:
"This business about allocating fish quotas as if they was rows of potatoes you could dig. If there’s no fish you can’t allocate them and you can’t catch them; if you don’t catch them, you can’t process them or ship them, you don’t have a living for nobody. Nobody understands their crazy rules no more. Stumble along. They say ‘too many local fishermen for not enough fish.’ Well, where has the fish gone? To the Russians, the French, the Japs, West Germany, East Germany, Poland, Portugal, the UK, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria—or whatever they call them countries nowadays. ... And even after the limit was set, the inshore was no good. How can the fish come inshore if the trawlers and draggers gets ‘em all fifty, a hundred mile out? And the long-liners gets the rest twenty mile out? What’s left for the inshore fishermen?”
If you're like me, you just wonder how can anyone in Ottawa, Ontario know anything about fishing in the North Atlantic?  The answer, regulate the inshore fishermen some more.  Persecute those you can reach.  Pretend as though the outlaws are not there beyond your puny state.  Instigate programs that will have nothing to do with positive outcomes, but will perpetuate the bureaucracy.  And, by the way, when I use "outlaws" above, I do not refer to criminals, only to those being outside the regulatory fictions.

Monday, August 22, 2016


The word combinatorics is a fancy way of recognizing that we do not live in a single-cell universe.  We live among an infinitely large number of things.  And who is to say where between one thing and another the association stops?  Can you say that you are unconnected with a fortuneteller in Mongolia, or a cloud on Venus, or a rock in the Alpha Centauri System.

I was reading exchanges among NVC (nonviolent communication) students this week, where I ran across some interesting ideas.

The first was that when there are 3 nodes in the communication environ, all agreements take the form of 2-to-1 or 3-to-0.  There is no opportunity for disagreement (absence of agreement), unless 1 of the 3 exits the structure.  I have frequently written here that the only manageable associations are 1-to-1, between 2 members of an association.  But I can reconcile that with the combination of 3.  The proponent of the threesome idea drew a diagram similar to this:

/   \
/      \
/         \

There are 6 ways in which an agreement can reach a majority between two,  A can sway B or B can sway A.  A can sway C or C can sway A. C can sway B or B can sway C.  But if any of these combinations occur, the third node can opt out or in, 1 agreement or 2.  But the one agreement, or the two separate agreements, are all 1-to-1.  In a voluntary arrangement, A cannot dictate what form the agreement between B and C takes -- in other words A cannot control the interaction between B and C, cannot intervene in any practical sense.  The 3-way arrangement can only survive, as voluntary, if each participant refrains from intervening between the 2nd party and the 3rd.  In my opinion, it is very hard for humans to do this.  Rather humans will almost always gang up 2-against-1.

This brings us to the second idea -- nonviolent communication (NVC) is composed of 
  • Observation free from evaluation,
  • Feelings free from judgment,
  • Needs free from strategy, and
  • Requests free from demand.
Viktor Frankl wrote, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."  A friend insisted that we have our filters in place before we get to that space, but it seems unlikely that we do not also have the choice of which filters or no filter or the need to build a new filter in that space.  To the extent that we can keep an open mind, delaying evaluation, that is the extent to which we can optimize non-violent communication and keep our filters in good health.

Feelings and judgment also have a space.  Feelings don't just demand judgment, they demand analysis.  What is causing our feelings?  What, objectively, will resolve the emotional tension?

The same can be said of needs.  We often confuse needs with wants, and thus with emotions.  We often spend huge amounts of time with strategies which are attempts to escape the emotions surrounding true needs and false needs (wants).  Our tendencies is to be content, to know where our next meal is coming from -- maybe our next meal does not need to come from our enemy's table, maybe there is no need to consider another as an enemy because they appear to have a full table.

Lastly, we most often do not need coercion to satisfy our needs.  Coercion turns the simple existence of a need into the strategy of satisfying a need by impairing another's satisfaction of of their need.
In all of these, the trick is expanding the space in which our learning and wisdom can affect the outcome, avoiding externalities that can corrupt wisdom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Words Poorly Used #75 -- Problem

" ... there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."  -- H. L. Mencken

Why is this true?  Firstly, we have to recognize that this may not be true in all cases.  After all, it is a simple solution for explaining human error -- a persistent problem underlying other problems.  So, Mencken's observation may not be absolute, but it is a powerful demonstration of what is practically true.  Any one of us may live a lifetime without seeing a "neat, plausible, and correct" solution.  We also may never see a neat (standalone, uninvolved) problem.  Problems come in squadrons entangled in wires, webs, nets, tendrils, embedding goo.  A simple solution tends to render the rest of the mess more impenetrable.  Humans, particularly politicians, exploit problems -- even making them up when no real difficulty is at hand.  More on this elsewhere at EVC.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Tom Woods Show as a resource for your freedom education

A good while back, I shared what I thought were some excellent libertarian and voluntaryist podcasts. This time I will go further, writing about how The Tom Woods Show, and its web pages are a resource, of resources, for the ages.

Let's take a web tour --
  • Go to -- There you will find the motto, "YOUR DAILY SERVING OF LIBERTY EDUCATION" and that is the very least you will get!
  • Click on the phrase "CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST EPISODES!
    • You may need to click through an ad here, or view the product in another window or tab, if you like.
  • Click on an episode.  I'm clicking on "Ep. 694 After Brexit, American Secession?"  Directly on the caption.
  • On this page you see important information about the guest and the episode and links related to Tom's enterprises, and most critically, links to Internet information that are relevant to the content of the show.
~ ~ ~
    • Free Resources! (I have no commercial interest in these endeavors.)
      1) Free eBook on how to start your blog or website. Click here to get it. Plus, check out my step-by-step video taking you from no blog to a blog in about five minutes!
      2) Free publicity for your blog. As a special thanks if you get your hosting through one of my affiliate links (this one for Bluehost, or this one for WP Engine), I’ll boost your blog. Click here for details.
      3) Free History Course: The U.S. Presidents — Politically Incorrect Edition. Get access to this 22-lesson course: 22 videos, 22 mp3 files for listening on the go, and a bibliography of reliable books on the presidents. Click here!.
      4) $160 in Free Bonuses. Free signed copy of my New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, plus a free 10-lesson bonus course on the foundations of liberty, plus a free year’s subscription to, when you subscribe to the Ron Paul Curriculum site through
Wow!  Just wow!  Not only is Tom Woods a prolific writer, a gifted teacher, and a prodigious podcaster, he is a treasure trove of connected resources for the new (and veteran) seeker of information about Libertarianism (big L), libertarianism (small l), voluntaryism, free market capitalism, and classical liberalism.  Enjoy.  There will soon be more than 700 episodes with similar breadth and depth for the lifelong learner.

NOTE:  Your mileage may vary because of your device of choice.  Please look for the target, if you don't see the launch sign.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

EVC: Free Will #2, Rothbard, Movie View: Escape Artist

EVC: Free Will #2, Rothbard, Movie View: Escape Artist

We can only see what we now see until we devise a way to see
something new. Cartesian physics gave way to Newtonian physics which
led to relativity and further to probabilistic ideas from quantum
physics. But we will never know if that which is now a mystery will
always be segmented into new knowledge and further mystery. I suspect
that mystery is less quantifiable and more expansive than the
theoretical universe.

-- Verbal Vol

Wednesday, March 4, 2015



Not mobs, not kings, not august-seeming bodies of solons.