1945 marked the end of the greatest conflict man has ever known. Vast armies marched across Europe and Asia, destroying everything in their sight. Nuclear weapons were used for the first, and thankfully only time (KNOCK ON WOOD), against human populations. Inhuman genocide was practiced, and tens of millions of civilians perished in what is now known as 'World War II'.
It is tempting to succumb to the notion that this was the war to end all wars. In our comfortable living room chairs, it is easy to forget that the history of the world is a history of war. It is tempting to believe that we are at peace - but the truth is man has never been at peace, and perhaps never will be. As we speak, a million have perished in the Second Gulf War. Almost two decades ago a conflict erupted in the Congo, claiming some 3-4 million lives. Vietnam took at least that many. In the aftermath of U.S. bombing in Cambodia, the savage Marxist Khmer Rouge with their barbaric drive to the country side slaughtered several million Cambodians. In the death camps of Soviet Russia and Maoist China, tens of millions perished, the victims of a sick and twisted ideology. In Nicaragua the civilians there were the victims of the Contra terror campaign - funded by Washington. As we speak a civil war is tearing Columbia apart - again, funded by Washington.
It was said that the United Nations would put an end to global conflict. Perhaps the folly here was the thought that government, be it world government or the government of a nation state, could end war - when it is government ultimately that causes war. Whatever the case, it is clear that if this was it's mission it has failed - today the United Nations is used as a tool to legitimize warfare. One must not forget, that the War in Iraq was justified under U.N. mandates - and U.N. sanctions against Iraq were the precursor to the conflict.
And yet, I do not believe a pessimistic outlook is justified. It has been said that we can have civilization or we can have war but we cannot have both. War is not the curse of a fallen people but rather the consequence of individual choices. It is not unavoidable. The War in Iraq was noteworthy for many reasons, but perhaps the most remarkable was that it is the first war in human history that had widespread popular opposition before it began. Slowly it seems we are learning.
Liberty and war are in direct opposition. The very essence of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle and war is the very essence of aggression. What we must understand is that the violence of conflicts between countries or states is not altogether different than any other form of coercion, such as taxation. When we accept the principle that it is justified to use force to achieve ones ends, when we accept that might makes right, we accept it in all cases - or, as Dr. King once said, justice denied anywhere is justice denied everywhere. It should come as no surprise then to see that the most coercive of institutions - the state, is also the prime (if not sole) cause of war.
Barack Obama in a campaign speech recently said that "change comes from the bottom up". A minor rhetorical flourish from a generic politician, to be sure, but that statement contains within it a world of meaning. If we are ever to end the most coercive of behaviour, war, we must first seek to end the minor coercions we are forced to endure. Opposition to the use of force must begin at the ground level, through civil disobedience we must speak out loudly - the age of violence has come to an end! The age of reason is here. It is time for a new era - an era where voluntarism is not a dream but the law of the land. Where no man is allowed power over another. Through understanding and communicating the principles of liberty we must put an end the age of war - before the age of war puts an end to us.
Online poker is a recent phenomenon. The first poker site was, I believe, Planet Poker which is now merely a bit player in the market. The largest market share currently is Poker Stars - market share being measured in terms actual players. This is slightly deceptive in that Poker Stars has a vast number of micro stakes players where as other networks seem to attract some of the bigger players. The biggest games seem to be played on Full Tilt Poker, games where players have upwards of $50,000 or $100,000 on the table.
While the merits of the free and unhampered markets need little trumpeting, it is refreshing to see it in action within my lifetime. There are precious few free markets in my province of Ontario, but plenty of rackets. The taxi industry for example is plagued by ridiculous licensing costs and a floor price on the taxi charges. Foreign medical doctors are essentially forbidden to practice, you need several pieces of state issued I.D. to do anything and alcohol in bulk is available only from the LCBO - a "crown" corporation. So like I said, it is nice to see a free market in action.
Online Poker is superior to "Brick & Mortar" casinos for many reasons. At any given table you get 2-3 times as many hands per hour. A 6 handed table online will frequently see around 100 hands per hour and a 10 handed table online will get you around 50-60 hands an hour. At a casino you will be lucky to see 25-30 hands an hour at a 10 handed table and there are no six handed tables. And then there is choice. Online you can choose basically whatever limit you want to play at. Some of the most extensive live poker rooms have a wide variety of games, but none compared to what even a mediocre online poker room can offer, especially in the low stakes limits. The vigorish is much lower as well. And there are tournaments, alternate forms of poker and bonuses / rakeback for playing. So where are these online poker rooms developed? Perhaps in Las Vegas, the world capital of gambling (or is that Maccau?). Maybe in high-tech silicon valley?
Nope! While I'm not sure where the software was developed, or who did the developing, the poker sites seem to be located primarily in the Carribean. But rest assured - the government was there to solve the problem of the free market of online poker. After being lobbied by the Brick & Mortar casino industry congress enacted a bill which is looked at as the first step to criminalize online gambling. Out of fear of state intervention, the largest poker site at the time, PartyPoker shut down to American players. Congress is hard at work drafting up new legislation to "cure" this problem. A few have railed against it, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Ron Paul voted against it, and Barny Frinx in particular has lead the charge to reverse the prohibitionist trend, but without particular success so far.
Even with these set backs, the online poker industry thrives - as markets left to themselves are apt to do. They are a glimpse into what is to come for global online industries, a mirror perhaps of mises.org's own success. No longer must a few advocates urge tirelessly to attempt to push the boulder of public opinion out of the marxist swamp it has been dragged into - through the miraculous technology of the internet there is now an unlimited market for the communication of ideas, and as the elements of capitalism and the division of labour society continue to bring prosperity more individuals than ever before will have the time and the inclination to answer the basic questions of politics and economics. With millions of customers world wide there is no real regulatory control, yet few seriously question the honesty of the major poker sites and vast databases report consistent expectations from RNGs. There was no need for a Federal Department of Online Poker Sites to ensure honesty - competition on the free market is all it took. Communities of poker sites keep the companies themselves from any rough treatment of a customer. Certainly there were a few fly by night sites but this is true no doubt for any industry, and the reputable websites with any sort of market share have impecable customer service - even going as far as to send 'representatives' to various online forums. Financial transactions, both buying in and cashing out, go smoothly. Amongst the benefits I listed at the beginning, one major benefit is available for serious players - the ability to play multiple tables at once (live casino frown on this generally). The very act of starting a competing online casino in Canada or America seems quite unrealistic - indeed in my country at least it would be a serious felony. Gambling is strictly regulated here - forbidden, aside in state run casinos and home games which do not take a rake. Needlessly, some brilliant entrepreneur is being denied millions, perhaps tens or hundreds of millions as in the most popular poker rooms, of profit.