Archive for the ‘Individualism’ Tag

How Is The Law Perverted?   1 comment

Frederik Bastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

Series Table of Commerce available here.

Image result for image of the law pervertedBastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

How was the perversion of the law accomplished and what has resulted from it?

Bastiat named the perversive forces boldly:

  • naked greed
  • misconceived philanthropy.

Self-preservation and development are normal goals for humans. Intelligent active people enjoy social progress and that’s a net good. Unfortunately, it’s also fairly normal for humans to be greedy. We can look to history to see the wars, migrations of races, sectarian conflicts, slavery, trade frauds and monopolies which emanate from greed. It’s part of the character of humankind.

Man can only derive life and enjoyment from a perpetual search and appropriation; that is, from a perpetual application of his faculties to objects, or from labor. This is the origin of property.

But freed aimed at the seizing and appropriating the produce of others is the origin of plunder. Labor is hard, so people naturally want to avoid the difficulty, so plunder seems as a logical alternative.

Plunder ceases when it becomes more burdensome and more dangerous than labor. The proper aim of the law is to oppose plunder with the collective force to protect property from plunder.

Unfortunately, legislators are no less greedy than other people. This explains the “almost universal perversion of law.” Instead of being a check on injustice, the law becomes its most invincible instrument, as the legislature turns personal independence into slavery, liberty into oppression and property is confiscated by plunder.

It’s also natural for people to fight against injustice that victimizes them.

When, therefore, plunder is organized by law, for the profit of those who perpetrate it, all the plundered classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary means, to enter in some way into the manufacturing of laws.

What these classes seek through the exercise of their political rights is, either:

  • to end lawful plunder, or,
  • take part in it.

When the second one becomes the goal of the collective, the nation is in serious trouble.

 

Law Perverted   1 comment

Frederik Bastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

Table of Contents for the series can be found here.

The law perverted! The law—and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation—the law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish! Truly, this is a serious fact, if it exists, and one to which I feel bound to call the attention of my fellow citizens.

One of the things I enjoy about Bastiat is that he was an entertaining writer.This is how he started his essay, immediately setting the tone of urgency that he wanted his readers to feel.

God gave humans physical, intellectual and moral life, but life cannot support itself, so God gave us brains and abilities that we are meant to use to sustain ourselves.

Bastiat called these abilities “personality, liberty, property” and he said these are inherent to being human. Apart from anything else, they are “superior to all human legislation.” They precede any act of man because they are the source of mankind’s acts.

What, then, is law? … [I]t is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Whether you call it Nature or God, humans have been endowed by what makes us human with a right to defend their persons, liberty, and property because these three are essential elements of life, supported and completed by each other.

If an individual has a right to defend himself, even by force, that a group of people have a right to join together to “organize a common force to provide regularly for this defense.”

Collective rights are an extension of individual rights, so collective forces can only do what individuals are permitted to do. Individuals may not lawfully touch the person, liberty or property of another individual, so individuals formed into a common force cannot lawfully touch the person, liberty or property of individuals or classes. Acting collectively does not give us the authority to annihilate the equal rights of others.

The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense; it is the substitution of collective for individual forces, for the purpose of acting in the sphere in which they have a right to act, of doing what they have a right to do, to secure persons, liberties, and properties, and to maintain each in its right, so as to cause justice to reign over all.

If a nation was established on this basis, there would be order in their activites – they would have the “least oppressive, … most restrained, most just, and, consequently, the most stable Government that could be imagined.” The function of the State (collective) would be to protect prosperity and ensure personal safety so that individuals would be free to buy and sell, work and employ as they see fit.

The State would stay out of our private affairs, so our “wants and their satisfactions would develop themselves in their natural order.” What did that mean?

  • Poor families wouldn’t seek education before they were able to feed themselves
  • Towns wouldn’t operate at the expense of rural districts
  • Rural districts wouldn’t operate at the expense of cities.
  • We wouldn’t see great displacements of capital, labor, and population.

Unfortunately, the law has broken lose of its proper sphere. It has placed the collective force in the service of those who wish to traffic in the persons, the liberty, and the property of others.

It has converted plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defense into a crime, that it may punish it.

 

Bigots Exist   Leave a comment

Bigots exist. They come in all shapes and sizes, all walks of life, and all skin colors and cultures.

Some are easier to spot than others. The Alt-Right has some scary websites. The Ku Klux Klan still exists. Racism isn’t only ugly when it wears a pointy hat and talks with a hillbilly twang.

It’s also ugly to me when it wears fashionable togs and has a college education.

There was never a time, except for a 30-second moment of hesitation in the voting booth, when I was going to vote for Donald Trump, but that moment of hesitation was courtesy of Hillary Clinton calling my husband and a fair number of other people I know “deplorable”. If I’d ever been planning to vote for her, that would have been when I decided not to.

Racism doesn’t just come from rednecks and neo-Nazis. It can be found in black neighborhoods and political offices. Racists lump individuals together into identity groups and ascribe common negative features to that group rather than deal with them as individuals. That collectivism bridges all cultural, social and economic differences. Racist have one unifying quality in common … they reject people as individuals.

Collectivism has been the root of just about every terrible idea in history. It has rationalized wars and harm to one’s neighbors throughout time. It doesn’t change its spots just because it issues from people who have college degrees or law licenses or have worked for the government.

Today’s social justice warriors may share nothing with the Alt-Right besides this collectivist urge, but because everything in their orbit is judged through the lens of collective identity, anyone they lump into a category with negative features becomes irrelevant to them.

Thus it’s fine to say that anyone supporting Donald Trump is in a “basket of deplorables” that needs to be kept away from the reins of power because “Oh, my god, you know how those people are.” Those people have less worth than other people because they don’t belong to one group, but belong to another. There is some superficial scale for measuring oppression based on skin color or gender and those people are not deserving of sympathy or empathy.

Identify politics is a root-source evil. It creates division in society and tons of misunderstanding because it deals in stereotypes. Bigots can come from rural Georgia, but they also emerge from Chappaqua New York.

Collectivism is a societal poison and the antidote is to abandon identity politics and start treating all people as individuals deserving of dignity and respect.

Posted December 15, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Lela on Slavery and Individual Rights   1 comment

Thom StarkLast week, Thom Stark expanded upon his centrist views. And, I’m still hung up on the idea of government being obligated to pursue policies for the greatest good, while also protecting the rights of minorities. I still don’t think it’s possible.

Again, we agree on quite a few points.

Slavery and US slavery particuarly are huge topics we could discuss. How a country could claim, on the one hand, that all men are created equal but allow some men to own others is incomprehensible. It’s tempting to say the Civil War was fought for wholly moral reasons and therefore was a “good” war, but I know too much about what was also going on besides the issue of slavery to agree. Just the fact that Lincoln didn’t free the slaves until halfway into the war suggests there was something more going on than slavery.

And, then you also have to deal with the repression that grew from the Union victory in the Civil War. Reconstruction was a brutal and immoral period that raped the South economically, forced it into a subservient role for the next century, and led to Jim Crow and the eventual need for the Civil Rights movement, but worse, the abrogation of states rights has had profound negative effects on individual rights throughout the nation in subsequent years. It has been used as an excuse for repression of regionalization ever since. In effect, the moral crusade to end slavery empowered the federal repression of states and gave structure to Plato’s Republic in modern America.

But that would be a later discussion, I think.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI still believe strongly that the individual is the smallest and most powerless of minorities and that government generally is the antithesis of protecting the rights of the individual. We could certainly delve into how various minorities groups have banded together to create a statistical majority bent on forcing others to fall in line with what they want. A case in point would be the Masterpiece Cake Shop, which shows that minority group power overrides the individual right of freedom of faith.

Or we could tear an example from the headlines.

Eric Garner was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island — coincidentally only blocks from one of the neighborhoods my husband grew up in. First a single police officer confronted him with the victimless crime. I’ve seen the video. He was agitated and loud, but never violent toward the officer, but it quickly escalated into four officers holding him on the ground, one with his knee in Garner’s back and another with his hand pushing Garner’s face into the concrete. Yes, very much police brutality, but while we’r freaking out over a symptom of government repression, I want to look at the cause.

I hate cigarettes. They’re stinky, unhealthy and produce trash that I usually end up having to clean up.  I hold similar attitudes toward marijuana and alcohol. I do not see these things as societal goods. I can understand why folks would ask their politicians to regulate them for the “maximum good”. I also think all such attempts at prohibition are stupid ideas.

That “societal good” zeitgeist and desire to prohibit or regulate individual liberty is the root cause of Eric Garner’s death. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — vices like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs fall under either the liberty or pursuit of happiness clause. When society tries to tell individuals they can’t do something (usually because it’s unhealthy), individuals find a way to continue doing it. Unable to prohibit tobacco, people who hate cigarettes asked their government to do something to curtail its usage — make it difficult for individuals to smoke by increasing taxes. Sounds good. You let those individuals continue to smoke, but you give the do-gooders a warm-fuzzy feeling of having done something to discourage them. Except ….

Every time they walk by a group of smokers and get their panties in a knot that their efforts have not made everyone stop that vile unhealthy habit, they lobby their legislators to raise the tax a little higher … which led to a market for untaxed cigarettes. Had there been no market for “loosies” the New York Police Department would have had no cause to harass Eric Garner that day and he might be alive today (I say “might” because he was obese and that’s another do-gooder target for societal improvement). Yes, you can blame Garner’s death on lesser causes like police brutality and racism, but if government had not been given the power to restrict individual liberty for “societal good”, any racism in the hearts of the cops would have been moot because they would not have been given permission to deal with Eric Garner.

I think it’s these little compromises with individual liberty — usually under the guise of something good for society as a whole — that lead us toward full scale repression. It happens gradually and so we don’t object until we see it working to kill citizens, but far too often when we seek to fix what our policies have wrought, we don’t acknowledge the cause, but try to fix the symptoms while leaving the cause in place. You can modify police training and try to modify police racial sentiments, but those efforts will be of limited effect because the real cause is inherent lack of respect for individual rights that is part and parcel with majority rule. When a societal consensus has been reached on any given issue, government feels it has a mandate to repress the individual for the greater good.

I wanted to talk about capitalism here, but I’m hitting my 1000-word guideline, so I may post something about it later.

Uniqueness of Man   2 comments

“Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; … his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs,  are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms …. No fire, no heroism,  no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; … all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.” (Bertrand Russell)

Man is different. We’re unique in this world. Our moral character, creativity, love, heroism, intellect and devotion to other people set us apart from every other living organism. Bertrand Russell acknowledged that, but could not explain it. Other thinkers of his ilk try to deny the uniqueness of mankind and insist that our only difference is in our complexity. For them, we are only a piece of complicated chemistry, not really different from a mouse or mosquito, but so complex we can be compared to a super-computer.

American psychotherapist Perry London appeals to this model for man. Man is as completely insignificant as the computer, for mechanical apparatus have no responsibility for what they do. In the end, man’s difference is illusion. Love, commitment, choice, creativity, rationality … none of it has any meaning in the end because they are merely tricks of the complicated human brain.

Are you depressed?

I would be depressed if I fell for the existentialist crap.

The Christian faith gives us an explanation for our uniqueness. Humans – believer and non-believer — are made in the image of God. We are reflections of God’s nature.

  • “God is love,” the apostle John wrote. God made us in love to love Him and to love one another.
  • God is righteous. We were made to distinguish between good and evil, to judge what is right and to choose the good and live it.
  • God is Creator. We are made to create life, beauty, order.
  • God is a communicator. Scripture speaks of communication between the Father, Son and Spirit both in this age and before the world was made. We are made to communicate in language with one another and God.
  • God is a God of order and not chaos, sense rather than nonsense, reason instead of absurdity. We are made as rational people, called to reflect on our lives and the world in which we live.

All of the aspects of our experience that set us apart are the characteristics of personality. Instead of being depressed that our experiences are merely illusions in an impersonal universe, Christians can rejoice that we are at home in a universe made by the personal God.

Cultural Violence   Leave a comment

I’ve been a little caustic in my taking of the nation’s inventory. I hope not to disappoint in this posting.

America has been a violent culture for most of our history, but it’s usually been one-on-one violence of a personal nature. Someone got angry at someone over something trivial or important and violence seemed like the answer at the time. As a rule, violence did not take the form of a disturbed young man marching into a school, mall or movie theater to kill large numbers of people he didn’t know. That’s changed. Sandy Hook, Columbine, Nickel Mines, Aurora … there’s a long list of evidence that something has changed.

Oddly, statistics show that American society has, by and large, become less violent in other areas. For example, the gun-related homicide rate has dropped precipitously at the same time that gun ownership and concealed carry have increased phenomenally. And America is not alone in mass shootings (Norway and Cumbria England are just recent examples). If guns in the home are the problem, Alaska and Switzerland should have a mass shooting almost daily. We don’t. Look somewhere else.

To look for simplistic solutions is ridiculous. To see Sandy Hook as unique to its circumstances, apart from all the others, is to avoid the uncomfortable topic that this madness is fed and enabled not by the “gun culture” (who are overwhelmingly law-abiding people who don’t frequently shoot one another), but by American culture.

This is the American culture that has cheapened human life, snuffing it out when it is helpless and inconvenient and (in three states) old, infirm and burdensome. Nihilism permeates our popular entertainment; it’s everywhere in movies, television and song lyrics.

Evil is glamorized. Dexter is an extremely popular television series about a serial killer cleaning up crime. Thrill-kill video games feature barbaric violence and we think nothing of slipping them under the Christmas tree. Ever listen to the music thumping in your middle-schooler’s earbuds? Do we seriously believe that this stuff has little influence on attitudes and behaviors? Maybe in earlier generations it wouldn’t have, but in a generation of children largely raised by electronic media, how could it not? According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, the average American 18-year-old has seen 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders on television (not including video games).

Oddly, while we resist libertarianism politically, we Americans have trended that direction in matters of culture. Maybe we don’t consume violent entertainment ourselves, but if our neighbors do, that’s their business. We consider it intolerant to call out someone for allowing a group of kids to watch movies with R-rated violence at a sleepover. Maybe we’d keep our kid home from it, but we’d never say it was wrong for another family to show it. Judging someone else’s “choices” is apparently the worst sin one American can commit against another.

Do we think that if we hunker down, the culture we’ve created will leave us alone? These mass shootings suggest it won’t. It’s going to follow us into the movie theater, the church and the mall. It has already.

The fake debate over gun control avoids the real debate about the lurid culture that stokes the insanity of these shootings. We can’t hire enough guards to protect our kids, our movie theaters, our churches, and our malls from the effects of a culture that cheapens life and expects it not to affect our children.

Because I am a civil libertarian conservative constitutionalist, I don’t advocate for laws to address our cultural problems. I will submit that Congress cannot fix what’s wrong with us. Legislating morality doesn’t often work. See the history of Prohibition and the War on Drugs before you argue otherwise. The answer is not making entertainment I find objectionable illegal. For one thing, today I am disgusted with movies that glorify violence, but tomorrow I may be in the mood for a good shot-em-up. I don’t want someone in DC limiting my choices. I don’t think restricting liberty is the answer.

So what is?

I think we are the answer to the problems we have caused. We, individually, need to examine ourselves in a searching and moral inventory to discover were we individually have screwed up and need to make changes. Each of us in our own homes needs to that our kids don’t need to fill their impressionable heads with unfiltered and unexamined simulated violence. Each of us needs to have uncomfortable conversations with our kids about their attitudes toward human life and violence because, trust me, they’ve already seen plenty of simulated murder in entertainment and “not my kid” is no longer an acceptable default position to take. I know my 14-year-old son’s attitude toward human life because we’ve talked, sometimes after watching violent movies together just so we could have the conversation. But if you’re letting X-Box raise your kid so you don’t have to, you don’t know what they might be thinking and you should.

Once we’ve addressed ourselves and our families, we each need to start having uncomfortable conversations with our extended families and friends about their attitudes toward violence and parenting, not to force them through governmental tyranny to change their behavior, but to encourage them to examine their lives and make changes appropriate to them. From there, we may also need to converse in our communities about our collective attitudes toward abortion and euthanasia that makes life seem cheap and disposable rather than precious and worthy of protection.

This isn’t a new idea. There was once a time, not so far in the past, when individuals, families and small groups (churches, neighborhoods, towns) lived lives of self-control and interconnectedness where violence was far less common than it is today. We need to honestly ask ourselves why kids in past generations could frequently bring guns to school to shoot rabbits on the way home and never feel compelled to turn those guns on their classmates. The past may be the only dead thing that smells sweet, but it’s also the only proven pattern for success.

What have we thrown out in our rush toward modernity that might have prevented these tragedies?

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