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.