Archive for the ‘#politicalphilosophy’ Tag

Democracy Doesn't Work for the Minority   Leave a comment

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” ― James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty.


Link to Medium article

The Problem

What is up with democrats who don’t understand why “majority rules” voting is dangerous to individual liberty and diversity?

At its root democracy is when a majority of lemmings vote to run off a cliff and expect all the lemmings to follow them, even if they don’t want to.

Through the whole of this article, I use the terms “democrat” or “democratic”. It doesn’t mean the Democratic Party, but people who believe in majoritarian election processes. This is a discussion of principles, not politics.

I recently had a Facebook conversation about why the Senate is composed of two seats from every state and a European tried to convince me this was voter inequality — that it makes the rural areas more powerful by “overrepresenting” them. In his opinion, this is discriminatory, evil and just plain wrong.

Democracy vs Republicanism

“One man, one vote” is an amorphous concept. What does it really mean when about 25% of the voting-age population bothers to register to vote and only about 30% of them actually show up at the polls? Still “one man, one vote” is often cited as a reason to oppose legislative schemes used in federal political systems. In the US Senate, each state is given an equal vote to balance out the interests of small states against the interests of large states. Large states dominate the US House of Representatives which is a population-based representation system.

The US is not the only country to use some version of this method. The Australian Senate has 12 members to each state. The Senate of Canada is composed of appointed members who represent regions rather than individual provinces, but regional representation is not based on population size as in the House of Commons. In the Swiss Council of States, each canton is represented by two members, regardless of size.

While the US Senate is now subject to criticism and discussions of reform, the American Electoral College system seems to really piss off democrats. I wonder if they’re also incensed by the Swiss method of “double majority,” in which some legislation requires approval by both the overall Swiss population, which is a process of direct democracy, and also by a majority vote in a majority of the cantons, which is more like how the US Electoral College works.

Naturally, systems like these give power to a relatively small number of voters from small cantons in an election. If a double-majority system was employed in US presidential elections, a coalition of small-state voters could deny the needed majorities from twenty-six of the fifty states even if a presidential candidate won an overwhelming majority in the popular vote. Committed democrats oppose this sort of system because they think straight-up majorities should have the final say in every legislative matter.

Switzerland

I’m going to take it out of the realm of the US government at the moment because it is sometimes helpful to look at other countries. Switzerland, which has a much smaller population than the United States (8.5 million to 340 million), provides insight into why simple majorities tend to be a problem. The Swiss confederation is a conglomeration of regions and cities with varying interests depending on the linguistic, religious, and cultural preferences of the population in each area. Some areas are Catholic and some are Protestant. Some areas are French-speaking, and other areas are German or Italian speaking. There’s also a region that speaks Romansch. At one time, all these areas had distinct cultures, although today the different cultures have mingled more.

These differences were more significant in the past, so the confederation was designed with some anti-majoritarian measures to prevent any small number of highly populated regions from steamrolling over the rest of the country. If the German-speaking cantons became very populous, a system based on majority vote would mean that the German-speakers could ram their preferences down the throats of everyone else. The same might be said if one religious group gained a majority.

Cultural differences have been historically undeniable in Switzerland. Italian-speaking Catholics in the south don’t agree with northern German Protestants on all important matters. Differences are real, and a healthy respect for self-determination and human rights suggests that local cultures shouldn’t be subject to the will of a distant majority.

The democrats want us to believe there is no need to balance these interests. If there are more pro-French voters in Switzerland, everyone must do what the French-speaking majority says. That’s fair … unless you’re a German-speaker and then it probably wouldn’t feel fair at all.

Applied to the US, the federalist measures designed to provide additional voting power to smaller states are denounced by progressives as “undemocratic.” If Californians and New Yorkers have an overwhelming number of votes, then so be it. The minority must do what the majority says, even if those people have very different interests from the majorities in New York or California.

Many on the left will insist there aren’t any real differences between people in, say, Alaska and people in New Jersey. If there are differences, it is because people are South Dakota are intellectual troglodytes and their opinions shouldn’t matter. This problem will be solved by forcing democracy on everyone so North Dakotans’ unacceptable political views are neutralized by far larger majorities in faraway cities.

Historically, that argument was considered disingenuous if not stupid. The United States has always been a large and diverse country. Americans recognized significant cultural differences between the Congregationalists of New England and the Catholics and Lutherans of the Great Lakes region. It was understood that the various regions of the nation had very different economic needs depending on what industries — agricultural, maritime, or manufacturing — were dominant in the region. It was recognized that agricultural areas ought to be able to offer legislative resistance to new laws designed to favor manufacturers at the expense of farmers. If one area became more populous than the other, it just seemed wise to put safeguards in place to prevent one region from dominating another.

Alaska vs California

Switzerland is a fairly small country compared to the United States and, in recent decades, it may have become less diverse. Living in a spread-out community of 100,000 in Alaska, I have almost nothing in common with people living in Los Angeles. We both speak English and presumably read the same Constitution, but our life experiences are very different. Alaskans tend to come from other states, to attend college at a much higher rate than Californians, to travel outside of Alaska more often than Californians travel outside California, and to be more libertarian in our mindset. In terms of diversity, Hawaii is the most diverse state, followed by California, followed by Alaska, which outlawed racial discrimination in 1945. When we disagree on subjects, Californians try to make the provincial troglodytes argument, but Alaskans don’t fit the profile, which throws the entire argument into question.

But just think of this in terms of fairness. In a majoritarian democracy, Alaska would need to band together with the other 15 small population states to veto a pro-California measure. Why does that matter?

Imagine if you will — California — the land of fruit trees and beaches. My daughter lives inland in the mountains and it snows there — for about a week every winter. Central heating matters, but not so much because it never gets really cold there. In the rest of California, home heating is optional. Just wear a sweater and put another blanket on the bed.

Contrast that with Alaska. The coldest I’ve seen is -76*F. Yes, that’s 108 degrees below freezing. It’s not year-round (or who would live in this place?), but for about five to six months out of the year, you must heat your home or it will freeze and you will die. It costs me about $300 a month to heat my home (about $1,500 a winter). We wear a lot of sweaters and blankets are required attire for watching television. What do most Alaskans heat our homes with? Diesel fuel. We’d love to use natural gas, but there are all sorts of barriers to that (many of them set up by Californians), so we’re shipping in diesel.

Now, let’s consider that Californians reject fossil fuel use by a large margin. That’s not made up. That’s a true statement. They want high taxes on fossil fuels. They want the elimination of fossil fuels. They want homes to be electrically heated — if heated at all — through the use of solar and wind energy.

It’s dark (or we have very short days) six months out of the year in my community and one of the advantages to living in Fairbanks is that it gets almost no wind in the winter. Solar and wind aren’t going to work for us unless we figure out a way to store the summer sun into the winter — which the technology does not exist as yet. Our electric generation plants are fueled by diesel and coal. Our local energy cooperative does have some wind turbines in the mix. Our bills increased when the wind-farm came online. I’m sure it gave someone somewhere a warm, fuzzy feeling to know we’re using renewable energy, but from a practical standpoint, it just meant we sit in the dark more because we can’t afford the electricity.

Heating our homes is not optional in Alaska. I currently pay about $250 a month (at 27 cents a kilowatt-hour) to power my home, absent heating it, in the winter. Back in 1974, my brother electrically heated a home here and it cost him $350 a month. By contrast, our mom was paying $40 a month to heat a conventionally-heated home in the same town in the same winter. Factored for inflation and that electric home heating bill would now be about $1700 a month. That’s $8,500 a winter.

That’s a $7,000 annual difference in home heating.

Can you perhaps understand why I wouldn’t want Californians deciding home heating policy in Alaska? I don’t want them to be able to decide how we’re allowed to heat our homes, what the price of diesel should be, or that we will be required to go 100% renewable by 2030, as some have suggested. They don’t live here. They have no idea of the impossibility of their statements. Artificially increasing the cost of home heating sounds great if you live in California. To Alaskans, it sounds like a death sentence to our way of life, if not to us personally.

That’s just one of many issues where Alaskans and Californians disagree on fundamental life issues. If California wants to price its energy beyond the point of affordability for its residents, I’m fine with that (though my daughter might not agree). So long as we have no power over each other, it’s okay if we disagree. The issue arises if we continue to down the path of a national democratic system to the point where Californians would be able to overrule Alaskans whenever we disagree, even though they know nothing about life here.

Democracy is a vaunted ideal on paper, but it doesn’t often work out in practice. History records democracy’s failures. It leads to a tyranny of the majority and that harms the minority. The United States Constitution was a compromise document between large-population states and small-population states and it never would have been ratified if the small-population states’ concerns over being steamrolled by the bigger states had not been taken into account. It assured that the residents of populous New York could not vote against the interests of the residents of sparsely-populated Rhode Island without any resistance. The Constitutional Framers created a federal system to assure that all voices in the United States could be heard if they wanted to be heard.

The fundamental reasons behind the federalist system created 240 years ago remain today because this is a diverse nation of 340 million people who live very different lives from one another. The democratic argument that the majority is always right runs up against the reality that the majority doesn’t always know what the hell it is talking about.


Maybe the minority are the smart lemmings that don’t want to run off the cliff.


Lela Markham is an Alaska-based novelist and blogger who is interested in a lot of topics. She’s also a registered non-partisan libertarian.

Posted January 29, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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A 2020 Citizenship Questionnaire for Millennials   Leave a comment

By Tom DiLorenzo (found on Lew Rockwell)

Source: A 2020 Citizenship Questionnaire for Millennials

The following is a set of propositions about the nature of government and its relationship to the citizenry that I think should be of special interest to the younger generation, whether they are “millennials” or one of the other nicknamed younger age groups.  Look at it as a quiz, with each answer either “agree” or “disagree” and see how you do.  Here we go.

  1. It would be better if we had a unified country. Disagree. I think we should dissolve into regions or constituent states.
  2. We should have equal rights with respect to other nations. I suspect I disagree with this. What does the question even mean?
  3. Any person who is not a citizen will be able to live in our country as a guest. Disagree, kind of. Guests have obligations to not mess up the place and in my home, if  you want to stay a long time, you will be given chores to do.
  4. Government has a duty to provide employment for all of its citizens. Disagree.
  5. All citizens should have equal right and duties. Agree – emphasis on EQUAL and with rights comes duties. If you shirk on the duties, the rights aren’t automatically yours.
  6. The economy must be carried out within the framework of the general good of the community. Disagree. Sure, you shouldn’t poison your neighbors, but businesses exist for their owners and shareholders to provide goods and services to their willling customers. It’s none of the community’s business what I do with my company, so long as my activities are not directly harming them.
  7. War profiteering should be a crime. Agree and disagree. War profiteering through the US government should be a crime. What a manufacturer of armament does in other countries is none of my business.
  8. Large corporations should be nationalized so that they serve the common good and not private interests. Disagree. Government should stop favoring some companies over other companies and then get out of the way.
  9. Corporations should adopt profit sharing. Agree and disagree. I think corporations that want to adopt profit sharing should, but they shouldn’t be forced.
  10. Government should provide old-age pensions to all retirees. Disagree, because of reality.  I’ll get a government pension that you can’t afford to live on. My private retirement investments will provide me with something I can live on.
  11. Government should cultivate a sound middle class. Disagree because government should just get out of the way and let people live their lives.
  12. Government should have a right to expropriate land for public purposes without paying for it. Disagree.
  13. Government should use tax dollars to educate all children. Disagree.
  14. All children should be educated about the state by the state as early as possible. Disagree
  15. All college education should be “free” and paid for with tax revenues. Disagree
  16. Child labor should be banned. Agree, except we need to define what constitutes child labor.
  17. The army should be a national army controlled by the central government. Disagree.
  18. Spreading false “news” should be illegal. Disagree. One man’s false news is another man’s facts.
  19. There should be religious freedom for all, as long as it does not endanger the existence of the government. Disagree. True faith is probably the largest danger to the government that could exist and that’s a good thing.
  20. Excessive materialism should be condemned and outlawed. Agree and disagree. Excessive materialism is a moral sin, but it shouldn’t be outlawed. Maybe ostracized.
  21. Government policy should be guided by the dictum of “Public Interest before Private Interest.” Disagree. What the heck is “public interest” and why is that somehow better than what individuals want?

If you answered “agree” to at least eleven of these statements, then you would have made a good Nazi.  They are all taken from the February 24, 1920 Platform of the Nazi Party, formally known as “The Program of the National-Socialist German Workers’ Party”.

Our good friend, the late Professor Butler Shaffer, used to present a version of this questionnaire to his first-year law students at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, generations of which must have been very surprised at how the previous sixteen years or so of public school indoctrination in collectivism had turned them into ideological soulmates of Adolf Hitler.

Posted January 3, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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A Plethora of Two Cows   Leave a comment

I have loved this explanation of Political Philosophy since the first time I read an example, which was considerably shorter than this version of the list. Which, I have tweaked where I felt it was needed.

All examples of the Two Cows Scenario of Political Philosophy begin with two cows.

FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

PURE SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

BUREAUCRATIC SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else’s cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.

Image result for cows

FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk. You join the underground and start a campaign of sabotage.

BUREAUCRACY:You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

PURE COMMUNISM: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

APPLIED COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

MILITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate”.

BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You feed them sheeps’ brains and they go mad. The government doesn’t do anything.

SINGAPOREAN DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed farm animals in an apartment.

ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors will stop buying your milk and you will be forced to sell them the cows to someone who understands how capitalism works.

CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. You expand it to a herd, selling the milk, buy more cows, sell more milk, causing the economy to grow. You then take your dairy herd public as a Fortune 500 company. People will then complain that you are exploiting whoever is buying the milk.

HONG KONG CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly-listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt / equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows’ milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the fung shui is bad.

ENVIRONMENTALISM: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

TOTALITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

THERAPYISM: You have two cows. One is a metaphor for your inner child. The other is the manifestation of anger toward a parental figure. You take one of the cows on walks through grassy fields by the gentle ocean waves. The other you beat with an anger bat.

INSURANCISM: You have two cows. The Federal regulator requires you to hold one cow in reserve because they predict a shortage of milk. The Provincial/State regulator requires you to drop the price of milk because they predict a surplus of milk. The courts deem your cows inherently dangerous and order you to provide free milk to anyone who has ever been frightened by a farm animal. The marketing people are promising chocolate milk at an enhanced commission and you discover your own actuaries have been building pricing models assuming goats instead to save on the expense line.  (©2007 Mike McLoughlin, Executive Director, Memphis Recovery Centers)

Image result for cows

CORPORATISM: You have two cows. You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows and then act surprised when it drops dead. You blame the startup venture that is pressuring your profit and demand the government regulate the milking of cows and the selling of milk. You help to write the regulations which assure you will remain the largest producer of milk.

PROGRESSIVISM: You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point that you must sell them both in order to support someone else who already got a free cow from the government.

REPUBLICAN PARTY: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?

DEMOCRATIC PARTY: You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous.

FRENCH CORPORATISM: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

JAPANESE CORPORATISM: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.

GERMAN CORPORATISM: You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

ITALIAN CORPORATISM:

You have two cows but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch.

RUSSIAN OLIGARCHY:

You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

SWISS CAPITALISM: You have 5000 cows, none of which belongs to you. You charge for storing them for others.

Image result for cows

TALIBANI CORPORATION: You have two cows. You turn them loose in the Afghan “countryside” and they both die. You blame the godless American infidels and the Jews.

CHINESE STATE FASCISM: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the hell out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a democracy.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITALISM: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

Posted November 23, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Snippets of Wisdom   Leave a comment

This thought didn’t come from me, but from a college-aged young man we know. He suggested the presidential candidates for 2020 need a “Bastiat for Beginners” course.

It started out with him asking me to remind him of my slogan for 2016 —

Crooks on my left, clowns on my right.

I’m not voting for either of you.

Toby explained he was really too young and immature to understand what I meant when I said that three years ago, but when he argued with me, I suggested he go read some intelligent discourse and come back to me before the next presidential election.

Image result for bastiat parasitic and voracious intermediary meme

He remembers being angry that I didn’t listen to him. After all, I haven’t been in a classroom for over a decade and times change and what do I know anyway? Of course, I didn’t stop learning, not when I graduated high school, not when I got my BA, and not when I got my Masters. I just gave myself permission to study books I’d never had time to study before — books that teachers find subversive because they suggest government employers are not all that good for society. Let us remember who most teachers work for.

I thought the conversation was over because I certainly don’t feel like I have more than an hour to waste on a stubborn 17-year-old, but my son (also 17 at the time) emailed Toby a pdf of Frederic Bastiat’s That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen and Toby took it from there.

Now, at 20, he thinks Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump and the other myriad candidates should be forced to sit down and study Frederic Bastiat’s writings before they continue forward in this race. He also suggested Lysander Spooner, Randolph Bourne, Milton Friedman and John Locke, but I doubt they’re ready for the full monty treatment. For the record, Toby found those authors all on his own because Kiernan opened a door of reason for him. The kid plans to tackle Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty this winter. Toby’s a Political Science major so he could actually do something with this besides just chatter on the Internet.

I don’t think we’re going to get the 30-odd people who are running for US President for 2020 to get together in a classroom and study Bastiat and even if they did – well, yeah, they would refuse to absorb most of it (Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are all about on the same intellectual level and not amenable to learning). They already know everything they need to know to force me to live the life they believe I should live and want to live because they know better than me what my life should look like. Most of them don’t want to reason out what is good for society. They’re all about the feelings and virtue signalling. They don’t really care if their programs enslave people.

But hey, that doesn’t mean I can share some of the wisdom of Bastiat with willing readers. As you read the snippets, think about how that applies to 2020 and the US Presidency. I think if you do it right, you’ll never quite see the nanny state in the same way you did before.

Snippets of Wisdom

  1. “The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”
  2. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference: the one takes account only of the visible effect; the other takes account of both the effects which are seen and those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil.”
  3. “[The socialists declare] that the State owes subsistence, well-being, and education to all its citizens; that it should be generous, charitable, involved in everything, devoted to everybody; …that it should intervene directly to relieve all suffering, satisfy and anticipate all wants, furnish capital to all enterprises, enlightenment to all minds, balm for all wounds, asylums for all the unfortunate… Who would not like to see all these benefits flow forth upon the world from the law, as from an inexhaustible source? … But is it possible? … Whence does [the State] draw those resources that it is urged to dispense by way of benefits to individuals? Is it not from the individuals themselves? How, then, can these resources be increased by passing through the hands of a parasitic and voracious intermediary?”
  4. “It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”
  5. “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
  6. “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
  7. “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
  8. “It is not true that the function of law is to regulate our consciences, our ideas, our wills, our education, our opinions, our work, our trade, our talents, or our pleasures. The function of law is to protect the free exercise of these rights, and to prevent any person from interfering with the free exercise of these same rights by any other person…The existence of persons and property preceded the existence of the legislator, and his function is only to guarantee their safety.”
  9. “Leave people alone. God has given organs to this frail creature; let them develop and grow strong by exercise, use, experience, and liberty.”
  10. “Misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe.”
  11. “The real cost of the State is the prosperity we do not see, the jobs that don’t exist, the technologies to which we do not have access, the businesses that do not come into existence, and the bright future that is stolen from us. The State has looted us just as surely as a robber who enters our home at night and steals all that we love.”
  12. “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.”
  13. “You who think that you are so great! You who judge humanity to be so small! You who wish to reform everything! Why don’t you reform yourselves? That task would be sufficient enough.”
  14. “The mission of the law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its purpose is to protect persons and property…. If you exceed this proper limit—If you attempt to make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, or artistic—you will then be lost in uncharted territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or, even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize the law and impose it on you.”

Just read each one at a time and pause and think about the implications in our present society and the election of 2020.

Oscar Wilde on Why Wanting to Be Left Alone Is Not Selfish | Jon Miltimore   5 comments

Individualism involves allowing people to flourish and think as they see fit, mainly by leaving them alone.

Source: Oscar Wilde on Why Wanting to Be Left Alone Is Not Selfish | Jon Miltimore

 

Confession: Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite writers. Though he was what Dostoevsky would have described as “a dedicated sensualist,” Wilde possessed a true creative genius perhaps unmatched among his literary contemporaries.

His essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” is not, in my opinion, his best work. Written in 1891, it’s largely a stream of consciousness detailing what Wilde thought about art, capitalism, socialism, and—most importantly—Individualism.

Individualism is Wilde’s primary concern. What is it? Here’s what he had to say:

Art is Individualism, and Individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.

Wilde’s ideas on government in the essay are a strange hodgepodge. He basically rejects both capitalism (too vulgar) and socialism (too authoritarian).

Still, the endgame of his philosophy soon becomes clear. Individualism involves allowing people to flourish and think as they see fit, mainly by leaving them alone.

Is wanting to be left alone selfish? Not at all, Wilde argues:

[U]nselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself.

The tyrants, Wilde says, are those who demand of others to think as they do:

It is grossly selfish to require of ones neighbour that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.

One could easily apply Wilde’s metaphor to the desires of many Americans today. Unfortunately, there seem to be legions of red roses demanding all flowers become red roses.

Knowledge Illuminates   6 comments

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

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Good heavens! Just ONE? The world is way more complicated than that and you never know what long-term negative consequences even one small change might have.

It’s tempting as a Christian to say I would go back and have Eve not believe the Liar in the garden. Think of the untold pain we would have avoided if she’d chosen to listen to God instead of Satan. But if she hadn’t of disobeyed God, Adam would have … or one of their children. That’s the thing about free will — it is the capacity to do really stupid things and sooner or later, someone would have disobeyed God because it was the only choice (obey or disobey) they had under freewill, so we’d still be exactly where we are. So, I’m not going to waste my fairy wand moment on betting against humans being humanly stupid.

So, I googled the question and found this is a topic and people have a lot of ideas about what “one thing” they think would fix the world. And as I scanned through those lists most of them were either ridiculous (fix time and gravity, really?) or tyrannical (get rid of guns, free speech, political parties, parents raising children, force everyone to send their kids to public school, etc.) or they had severe unintended consequences that immediately leaped into my mind. These are the sorts of ideas that alternative speculative fiction writers eat up – the stuff of shows like “Sliders”. Change one thing and the world we live in might be utterly different. The difference might be good, and those proposing the change always think it will be, but some of us become speculative fiction writers because we can see the negative consequences nobody else wants to acknowledge. Even if things remain pretty much the same, that’s not a beneficial change, so why do it? Because you can and you’d like to control a few billion people? That’s not a sufficient reason to me. And, then there’s always the reminder that the Alaskan butterfly moves its wings and it causes a hurricane in Puerto Rico. I learned there were a lot of tyrants thinking tyrannical thoughts believing they would make a better world if they could just coerce others to their way of thinking, but I really didn’t come up with what one thing I would change if I could.

I made my own list and I kept crossing things out as unworkable, fraught with unintended consequences or tyrannical. As a freewill and natural rights advocate, I kept running up against the notion that I was violating my own principles with this list. I can’t force other people to do what I want and unless I know what the butterfly’s wings will wrought, I have no business with the power to change the universe. I can play around in my fictional worlds as much as I want, but where there are real-world consequences – take the fairy wand away from me and don’t give it to anyone else.

Still, I agreed to write this topic, so …. If there were one thing I would really want to change in the world it would be ….

I’d turn on the intellectual light bulb for people. I’d make them aware of a few simple principles – actually understand them.

  • There is a higher power above your own personal desires – call Him Jesus-God as I do, or something else, but Man (individual and collectivized into governments) is not the highest order in the universe. We will one day be held accountable by the higher power.
  • Only individuals make decisions and, therefore, are responsible for their actions. We exercise rights and have responsibilities. These are not granted by groups. They belong to the individual. Groups are merely a collection of individuals. There’s nothing special about an idea just because more than one person at a time agrees with it.
  • Order does not need to be imposed by a central authority (individuals acting in groups). Groups have no greater rights than the individuals that compose them. The only rules (as in rule of law) we need are those that protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way so long as they are not injuring others. (This is termed “the non-aggression principle” for those who would like to study it further.)
  • Recognize that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. Yes, there will sometimes be conflict among individual choices that will require individuals to adjust their plans so as not to aggress upon their neighbors. Individuals in conflict can work that out among themselves with reference to a higher power and the rule of law and so long as they are working it out peacefully, it’s none of their neighbors’ business.
  • Individuals must consistently apply these principles in order for a peaceful and just society to work. You can’t hold two principles to be correct at the same time and you can’t force other people to agree with you simply because you believe you’re “right”.

Okay, so that sounds like five things, but they all five must work together, so they’re really one thing. And I merely propose to turn on the light bulb – to grant the knowledge. The knowledge of those principles doesn’t force anyone to follow them, but once the light illuminates your interior spaces, it’s hard not to see the natural outcomes of tyrannical and inconsistent thinking and start acting to adjust your behavior. I’m speaking from personal experience here. It’s how I moved from political moderate, to conservative, to libertarian, to admiring voluntaryists/anarchists. When you become aware of your cognitive dissonance, you modify your behavior to align with the reality you’ve become aware of.

And, that knowledge, without any coercion or force required, I believe, would make a huge difference in our world without a lot of unintended negative consequences. People with the knowledge that they act as individuals and are personally responsible for their decisions and cannot rely on groups to enforce their wills on the unwilling would change their thinking and that thinking would change their actions and those actions would be peaceful because the initiation of aggression is disallowed. And right there – everybody refraining from acts of aggression (even the ones we currently don’t acknowledge as aggression) would change the world completely and for the better. It wouldn’t stop all conflict, but it would require us to negotiate compromise rather than force it.

Ah, can you feel the stress lifting from the world? I sure can!

Now, I’m really curious about what “one thing” my fellow blog hoppers would change.

Double Standard   Leave a comment

During WWII, ex-Ku Klux Klansman, now U.S. Senator, Robert Byrd vowed never to fight, “with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.” Just a couple of years ago, Senator Byrd lectured us on the floor of the Senate that, “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time.” I wonder whether he was talking about whites who act like blacks.

Walter WilliamsSan Francisco’s esteemed mayor Willie Brown once described a successful legislative battle this way, “We beat those old white boys fair and square.”

Spike Lee said in disapproval of interracial marriages, “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”

The National Association of Black Social Workers drafted a position paper calling white adoptions of black children “cultural genocide.” They warned against “transculturation . . . when one dominant culture overpowers and forces another culture to accept a foreign form of existence.”

Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s presidential campaign manager called Republicans “white boys” who seek to “exclude, denigrate, and leave behind.”

At a celebration for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond (R. SC), Senator Trent Lott (R. Miss) said that Mississippians were proud to have voted for Mr. Thurmond in his 1948 presidential campaign “and, if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

Which among the above statements are the most racist, which have received the most media coverage and which caused the most angst? Clearly, Trent Lott’s statement received the most media coverage and created the most angst but it doesn’t begin to qualify as the most racist. You say, “Williams, that’s different. High officials shouldn’t honor and praise racists or ex-racists.” Then what about Bill Clinton’s acknowledged political mentors – former Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright and former Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus – who were both rabid segregationists, yet former President Clinton highly praises Fulbright and bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. By the way Fulbright was one of 19 senators who issued a statement entitled ‘The Southern Manifesto’, condemning the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, and defending segregation. That’s a bit more recent than Thurmond’s run for the White House. Does Bill Clinton’s praise of Fulbright, mean that he supported “The Southern Manifesto” just as the assertion that Trent Lott’s praise of Thurmond means he supports Thurmond segregationist stand in 1948? If so, why not also condemn Bill Clinton?

I have several possible theories on the responses to Senator Lott’s rather stupid remarks – stupid in the context of our politically correct world. My first theory is that conservatives are held to higher standards of decency, conduct and decorum than liberals. In other words, it’s like behavior that’s tolerated in the case of children but ostracized when adults do the same thing. That theory might also explain why racist statements made by blacks are excused. Another theory is that since 9/11 and President Bush’s public popularity, both appointed and unappointed black leaders have had no platform and been paid no attention. Senator Lott’s guffaw gives them platform, voice and mission. Finally, the Democrats, having lost all branches of national government in the recent elections, are desperate to get something on Bush and the Republicans and Trent Lott’s statement is the answer to their prayers.

Walter E. Williams

December 16, 2002

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