mind your business

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Lie of the 21st Century

I'm tired of hearing all this talk of a "21st century regulatory framework" that Barack Obama and others so ceaselessly promise to create. Such people speak as if there is something special about the new century, as if we know something about human beings and politics that people in the twentieth century did not. This claim that there is something superior about the knowledge of the 21st century is not a particularly odd claim, though it is perhaps false. There is a further claim smuggled into it, however, that is plainly ridiculous. The more ridiculous claim is that the 21st century is, simply by virtue of the passage of time, morally superior to the past. Certainly we have advanced scientifically. We have bigger and better computers. And for reasons such as these I can understand the origin of the misguided claim that such technological advances constitute more knowledge. But even with that understood, I cannot understand what sort of foolishness it is that leads people to think that we are making moral progress. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the fashions of the twenty-first century are better than the twentieth.

What is most worrisome about this way of talking is that we talk of moral evils as if they are merely a matter of the whims of a later age, rather than of an objective standard. Behavior, this way of talking suggests, should be condemned simply because it is outdated. Some speak in this manner, for example, about treatment of women or of racial groups. There was a time, such people say, that we thought women lesser, or that we enslaved people, but now we've matured past such behavior. This talk is just as degrading as sexism and slavery. Such talk says not that the past behaviors are wrong in terms of some objective standards, but instead merely acknowledges that such behaviors have gone out of style as human beings have moved on. Such talk is akin to talk about fashion in clothes. One hopes such moral fashions are not as susceptible to vintage trends as clothes are.

A century or so ago G.K. Chesterton said this of such foolish talk:

Some fall back simply on the clock: they talk as if mere passage through time brought some superiority; so that even a man of the first mental calibre carelessly uses the phrase that human morality is never up to date. How can anything be up to date? -- a date has no character. How can one say that Christmas celebrations are not suitable to the twenty-fifth of a month? What the writer meant, of course, was that the majority is behind his favourite minority -- or in front of it. Other vague modern people take refuge in material metaphors; in fact, this is the chief mark of vague modern people. Not daring to define their doctrine of what is good, they use physical figures of speech without stint or shame, and, what is worst of all, seem to think these cheap analogies are exquisitely spiritual and superior to the old morality.

The fact of the matter is that the 21st century has no character. What we need is not a 21st century regulatory framework, nor a 21st century anything else. What we need is the regulatory framework that is simply right. We need a regulatory framework that accords with the good of human beings as human beings, regardless of time and place. It is my contention that such a regulatory framework regulates only one thing: the use of force by some citizens on others. You may, of course, disagree with my advocacy of minimal government. I must insist, however, that in doing so you make claims about what is objectively right. Whatever we conclude, we must abandon the popular sophistical foolishness about the 21st century.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

G.K. Chesterton on Practical Politics

When the business man rebukes the idealism of his office-boy, it is commonly in some such speech as this: “Ah, yes, when one is young, one has these ideals in the abstract and these castles in the air; but in middle age they all break up like clouds, and one comes down to a belief in practical politics, to using the machinery one has and getting on with the world as it is.” Thus, at least, venerable and philanthropic old men now in their honoured graves used to talk to me when I was a boy. But since then I have grown up and have discovered that these philanthropic old men were telling lies. What has really happened is exactly the opposite of what they said would happen. They said that I should lose my ideals and begin to believe in the methods of practical politicians. Now, I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics.

As a young man, the above passage, from Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, was encouraging to read. I can't count the number of times I've been told that I'll soon abandon my ideals for something more practical. Yet, every time I'm told this all it does is convince me further that political philosophy must precede practical politics. The reason many people abandon their ideals with time is that their ideals were visions of things they really wanted to see happen, rather than developed convictions about what ought to happen. When idealists of this more shallow sort are confronted with the real world, where their vision will never be realized, they are left hopeless. Such idealists have ideals so shallow that it is believable that they might be enacted. The idealist who does not falter, however, has ideals grand enough that he would never be so foolish as to expect that we messed up human beings would actually live according to them.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review - Human Rights: Fact or Fancy

This week I finally finished reading what has been perhaps the most formative book for me, in terms of my political philosophy, I’ve ever read. I’ve been working slowly through Human Rights: Fact or Fancy by Henry Veatch for some time now, and with my semester ended I finally had time just to sit down and finish it. And I’m so glad I did. It has been an immense pleasure. As with everything else in life, this book is imperfect and I don’t agree with every word Veatch writes, but he has continued to confirm and clarify my conviction that any ethical justification of liberty must be of a distinctly Aristotelian sort.

Veatch’s argument is subtle but not terribly complicated. Veatch categorizes most attempts to justify ethics into two categories: teleological or deontological. And both of these fail. Teleological ethics pursue a goal, some desired end. The structure of such ethics makes perfect sense. There is a goal, whether the greatest good for the greatest number in the case of a utilitarian scheme or one’s own satisfaction in the case of an egoist scheme, and good actions simply pursue these goals. Veatch argues, and rightly so, that such ethics have no basis in reality. There is no reason to decide what ends to pursue. The ends pursued by such teleological systems aren’t pursued because they are really good in themselves, but because they are desired, and this cannot be the foundation of any real ethics rooted in reality. Deontological ethics, on the other hand, firmly reject desires and say that we simply ought to do what we ought. We have duties, regardless of our desires. But deontological systems, so bent on the importance of duties, never seem to give a workable account of why such duties exist or are binding. Deontological systems refuse to ground duties in some pursued ends, but as a result fail to ground to duties altogether.

Veatch goes on to suggest that a natural law ethic of an Aristotelian sort escapes the problems of the other ethical strategies he criticizes. Such an ethics is teleological in form, that is, it has an end the pursuit of which is virtue, but, unlike most contemporary teleologies, the end is grounded in more than mere desire. The end pursued by such an ethics is the flourishing of a human being according to its essential nature. A good human does well the things human beings by their nature do.

Furthermore, such a task, of acting to fulfill one’s natural function, is what Veatch repeatedly describes as a “do-it-yourself job.” No one can make anyone else fulfill his own duty to act according to the essential rational nature of human beings. From this fact, that virtue is a do-it-yourself job, it follows that one ought not to act in such a way as to interfere with another’s duty to actualize his own potential to fulfill his human function. And this is the basis of the only rights we have, rights against interference. Such negative rights are the facts of the book’s title, while other rights, so-called positive rights, are the fancy of the book’s title.

I will make it no secret that I think that Veatch is simply right. The correspondence of Veatch’s claims to reality, however, is only one of many things I appreciate about Veatch’s writing. Perhaps most of all, I enjoy Veatch’s constant attention to potential counter-arguments. His habit is as follows: Make an argument at length. Constantly subtly highlight a particular claim in that argument. Conclude argument. Point out that the highlighted claim, essential to the previous point, is in some way questionable or still needs support. Support said claim. Rinse and repeat. Several times while I went on for several pages, angry that Veatch’s arguments were built on an unsupported premise only to find that the next section addressed precisely my concerns about unsupported claim. He is quite aware of the problems and tensions in claims he makes and does his best to deal with them. And such self-awareness is perhaps the greatest virtue of good philosophical writing, and one of the primary reasons I strongly recommend reading this book.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bush's Auto Bailout Is Illegal

Photo from

The recent White House decision to give over $17 billion in loans to GM and Chrysler is monstrous. It has extended this money from the $700 billion in TARP money that was passed by Congress to bail out the financial industry. For all of the reasons listed in this blog's previous post, an auto bailout is immoral and will be ineffective, but extending it from TARP is the icing on the proverbial "crap sandwich" -an illegal, unconstitutional slap in the face to Americans, their freedom, and rule of law.

The Troubled Asset Recovery Program passed by Congress to bail out the financial industry set very clear guidelines for its money's use and the White House has blatantly violated those guidelines: "The bailout statute defines 'financial institutions' eligible for the bailout as 'any institution, including, but not limited to, any bank, savings association, credit union, security broker or dealer, or insurance company.'" Does it sound to you like automaking companies qualify?

Bush's action shows a disrespect for the rule of law and an unabating height of arrogance that you would think the last eight years might have done something to correct. It represents a giant middle finger to America, its Constitution, its liberties, its carefully crafted separation of powers. It is an autocratic order from a runaway executive branch drunk with its own power and bloated with its false sense of self-importance. Congress should be taking bold action to deal with this blow to American liberty and the Constitutionally-mandated balance of power between the branches of government, but I guess they're too busy giving themselves a raise to care. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Six Reasons Not To Bailout The "Big Three" Auto Companies

Photo by

1. Bailing Out GM, Ford, and Chrysler would be morally wrong.

The proper role of a government is to maintain a civil society, meaning a society free from aggression, a society in which no human being can threaten any other by aggressing against them to destroy, diminish, or expropriate their lives, or their liberty or property- which are necessary preconditions of and corollaries to a human being's right to his or her own life. When government forcibly takes from some in the form of exorbitant taxes (or inflation) to give to others, it does the very thing it exists to safeguard against happening. When it takes such an action, it becomes an aggressor. It ceases to be an impartial arbiter between free and equal citizens to ensure their liberty, and it becomes a biased, partisan advocate for some people, using the legal power and force of its laws to favor them at the expense of the lives, liberty, and property of others without their consent and voluntary cooperation, which is morally outrageous.

2. Cash flow problems aren't fixed by more cash.

If water is draining out of a container, you don't fix the problem by pouring more water in- it'll just drain out like the rest of the water. If the government wants to give more money to "the Big Three," it might as well just throw the money in a hole and burn it. This is the reason why many lottery winners are notorious for blowing through their millions of dollars in winnings, because no matter how much money they win, if they spend more than they make, they're going to start losing money until it's all gone. Likewise, no matter how much money we give to these companies, as long as they're posting major losses each month, they're just going to lose it all until it's all gone.

3. The idea that government can attach conditions to the money that will solve the cash flow problems themselves is misguided and wrong.

When a group of automobile industry executives who are intimately acquainted with the particulars of their own industry are apparently not able to return a profit on their operations, it is downright absurd to think that a group of politicians (who are hardly exemplars of efficient spending or financial management themselves) can dictate operational policies that will return profits from these auto companies. Additionally, if the "Big Three" automakers get the cash they want by agreeing to Congress' conditions, when their companies continue to lose money, they'll a have great excuse for American taxpayers to fork over more money to them. They'll say, "We followed your guidelines and lost money. Now it's your fault and you have an obligation to bail us out again."

4. It's either worth it to bail them out, or it's not.

By "worth it" I mean that it is either economically worthwhile to invest capital in these companies, or else it is not. They either create value, or they don't. If they are economically worthwhile to invest in, then private investors looking to return a profit will invest in these companies. They will do so on a private and voluntary basis of mutual consent for mutual benefit (i.e. they will do so on a moral and civilized basis, which is proper to human beings). If this is the case, then government does not need to bail them out; private capitalists will give them the financing they need to stay in business. If, on the other hand, it is not economically worthwhile to bail them out- if they do not create value and are not worth it, then why on earth would the government do so? It would be a waste of money. So if either one of the two possible alternatives is true, government should not bail out these auto companies.

5. Trying to save people's jobs is not a valid justification for subsidizing mediocrity and mismanagement.

While the desire to prevent people from going through the pain and stress of losing a job is a natural one and springs from a healthy, caring disposition towards other people, it is not a moral blank check or a justification to use whatever means to accomplish that end. For all the reasons given above, regardless of anyone's best intentions, implementing this policy would be morally wrong and practically disastrous. If we save some people's jobs (for now) with such a policy, we can then drive their cars straight to an economic hell on the road we paved with all those good intentions. On a more practical level, letting the market operate is the best thing to do for people working at these struggling companies. It will help redirect their work to stable jobs at more productive, value-creating alternatives. Last century, when people decided that automobiles were better than horses and buggies, manufacturers of buggy whips likely lost a ton of business and had to lay off a ton of workers. Should the government have bailed out the buggy whip industry to save the workers the pain and stress of losing their jobs? No! Did the world fall to pieces when the government didn't? No. Did people find more productive jobs making better money at companies that created more value for everyone? Yes. Was it actually a good thing that buggy whip companies lost business and jobs? Absolutely.

6. There are other non-statist, non-immoral, non-insane solutions to help "the Big Three."

Congress doesn't even seem to consider that less legislation might do more to help ailing companies than more of the same. Their solution is passing more laws instead of repealing the bad ones that got us here in the first place. What could Congress do to help these struggling auto companies without spending the rest of our money? They could try repealing all the expensive and unnecessary laws and regulations that cost these companies millions in compliance costs. They could try lowering their stifling taxes (with a concurrent and equivalent lowering of unnecessary federal expenditures). They could try repealing their intrusive labor laws that force American auto companies to meet the economically unviable wage demands of the United Auto Workers labor union. Instead of making these three companies (and the rest of us) less free, Congress should help them by making them more free.

Take Action:

It's not too late to tell your representatives in Washington what you think about the auto bailout and any future attempts to bailout the "Big Three." Make your voice heard! Follow this link, click your state, and scroll down for a list of your state's Senators and Representatives with their contact info. I called my Congresswoman and let her office know that I am opposed to any bailouts and it took just a few minutes of my time. Thanks! PS: Tell the White House too!

Spread The Message:

Anti-Bailout Merchandise

Too Big To Fail Merchandise

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What is Socialism? Is Barack Obama Socialist?

White House photo by Eric Draper

Using the four definitions of socialism provided below, even a cursory glance at Barack Obama cannot fail to yield the conclusion that his political framework for viewing the proper role of government in society is socialism. There can be little argument that Barack Obama is a socialist. But Republicans like John McCain and George W. Bush would do well not to apply this term as one of derision- they are socialists too. More on that later. The following list of definitions includes corresponding explanations as to why Obama fits each of them.

Socialism has been variously defined as:

  • Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. [1]

Any Americans paying attention during the 2008 Presidential Campaign or to any of Obama's rhetoric in the aftermath of his electoral victory should be able to recall that the solutions he is proposing take for granted that it is the proper role of a centralized government to plan and control the economy in order to strengthen and improve it. Can anyone argue that Obama, McCain, Bush, and most contemporary politicians have not assumed it as their proper role to plan and control the economy? Just read the economics issue page at Mr. Obama's website. It is filled to overflowing with "tax this... subsidize that... invest here... fix that."

You may object that the definition above implies total government ownership of property and the means of production, and that Barack Obama does not advocate this. If you do so object, then I must ask what it means for us to own our property. When a government can control, appropriate, distribute, and dispose of a very significant amount of its citizens' property without their individual consent, is it not the operating premise that government owns everything and that you use your property only with government's tacit consent, and only as long as government doesn't presently wish to revoke your rights to this or that portion of your property? In such a society government presumes to be lord of all and the law of the land is "render unto Caesar whatever he says is his."

  • The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved. [1]

This definition is another, quicker answer to such an objection as that above. The word "socialism" does not necessarily imply explicit, total ownership of property by the state, but a society in transition from capitalism to communism, an economy increasingly controlled and governed by the laws and policies of the state. An entirely controlled economy would be more like true communism in action, an entirely free and uncontrolled one would be more like capitalism. The much-pined-for "middle ground" of a mixed market economy with the productive power of capitalism, but also plenty of government controls and intervention, is more akin to socialism. Obama and his political allies on "the American Left" are not alone in supporting such a state of affairs.

  • An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists. [2]

Here is another definition which serves as an excellent rebuttal to any objections that Barack Obama is not a socialist because he does not support an explicit and total government takeover of all the major industries and means of production in America. This definition really helps to clarify the nuances behind the meanings of the words "socialism" and "communism." Again, a quick reference to Obama's issue pages shows that he is categorically a socialist. It is not only in terms of policy, but in his broader approach to the role of government that Obama is clearly a socialist. For him, change means for government to change things. Fixing the economy means for government to fix the economy. Leading means leading from the Capitol Building and the White House. To Obama and most other politicians, a necessary precondition for prosperity is direct government involvement in the workings of the economy, as opposed to government acting only to maintain a civil society (i.e. one free of aggression).

  • A theory or system of social reform which contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor. [3]

Imagine conducting this survey:

Circle yes or no: Does the following statement accurately describe Barack Obama's message and self-portrayal?

A social reformer who seeks to fundamentally reconstruct American society to create a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor.

How many of the respondents do you imagine would circle "yes?" It's practically the bite-sized version of Barack Obama's entire campaign platform. And the key means of this reconstruction of American society that Obama envisions is government control and manipulation of the wealth and property created by its citizens. Can there really be any argument over Obama's socialist agenda? I don't think so because it is categorically true, it's a necessary conclusion based off of our definition of the word "socialist." It's also true that George W. Bush and John McCain are socialists. The three of them are more alike than they are different in their view of government, as few of their passionate supporters as there are who would be willing to admit it.

Now if you want, you can argue that it's not a bad thing to be a socialist. That's a great discussion to have, and I will say up front that one of the main focuses of this blog is why socialism is a bad thing, it's just not the focus of this particular essay. For that, allow me to refer you to the following:

Barack Obama's Victory and the Nature of Change
What is Capitalism? The Nature and Advantages of the Free Market
Libertarian Books: The Humble Libertarian's Recommended Reading

End Notes:

1. socialism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from website:

2. socialism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from website:

3. socialism. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from website:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More on the Moral Impotence of Democracy

I read this quote today in John Locke's Essays on The Law of Nature and it reminded me of my election day thoughts:

'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' Surely, we have been taught a most unhappy lesson how doubtful, how fallacious this maxim is, how productive of evils, and with how much party spirit and with what cruel intent this ill-omened proverb has been flung wide lately among the common people. Indeed if we should listen to this voice as if it were the herald of a divine law, we should hardly believe that there was any God at all. For is there anything so abominable, so wicked, so contrary to all right and law, which the general consent, or rather conspiracy, of a senseless crowd would not at some time advocate?

Democracy, when it is seen as an end in itself, rather than as a means to the end of liberty, becomes little more than the rule of a mindless mob. The mob that Locke dismisses in the above quote as a possible source of natural law is also entirely incapable of ruling with the unfettered power we seem not to mind investing in the electoral process today. The fact that most people want something is not a justification of its being law. It's that simple.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Irony: Bush Defends Capitalism

No, it's not an Onion story or some other parody- it's real news:

President George W. Bush today urged leaders of the world's biggest economies not to abandon free- market capitalism as they seek an escape from the financial crisis, calling it the "best system'' for delivering growth.

It'd be like Arthur Andersen defending sound accounting principles and squeaky clean business ethics practices. Here's a man who has spent eight years poo-pooing all over the free market, expanding government power, spending, influence, and intervention in our lives to unprecedented levels in United States history, and who recently signed the $700 billion finance industry bailout bill... and he's speaking on behalf of free market capitalism? Get real!

This is either an example of political posturing or he's being earnest. If it's political posturing, then I'm not too shocked- he's just lying like most politicians do (but that is still rather brazen). If he's being earnest, then I'm actually a little surprised. That would mean that even the President of the United States of America has no clue what capitalism really is or what free markets really look like. The level of ignorance regarding economics is really that bad- a depressing thought. We've got work to do!

I also want to add that I'm a little irritated at President Bush over this. Speaking out in defense of capitalism might give people the impression that Bush's policies are representative of it, which will make them abhor capitalism, when what they really abhor is Bush's mixed-market, quasi-socialistic, economic interventionism. This is just one more thing to confuse an already very confused electorate about what free market capitalism really is. Putting his name on anything is not a good way for George W. Bush to sell it these days. Crap.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Regrets as Bush leaves office

This article confused me. Bush has apparently come to regret saying certain things he said during his presidency. But why exactly he regrets it I’m not sure. Bush says he wishes he hadn't said “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on.” Bush regrets these words. But he doesn’t seem to regret acting in ways consistent with these words. He wishes he hadn’t talked like some sort of trigger happy cowboy. But what about acting like one?

But enough with Bush’s regrets. I want to talk about mine for a second. I can’t judge what’s going on in Bush’s head, but I know what happened in my own. I was wrong too, and I want to talk about why. You see, when 9/11 happened I was a typical “conservative Christian.” I was a walking stereotype. And I supported the war. No, I didn’t vote for Bush. I was too young, so I did worse. I supported him as obnoxiously as I possibly could. I spent all my time yelling at those “liberals” who just didn’t get it. I talked constantly about politics. I made crazy statements about how Christians like me must be out of their minds if they weren’t conservatives.

And now I regret it.

And I don’t just regret the strong language. I don’t just regret being a jerk. I was wrong and I regret that. But it’s not that I was wrong intellectually that bothers me. What bothers me is that I was morally wrong. My view embodied a deep, abiding lack of love. The government I wanted see was one of hatred and manipulation. I wanted a government that tries to use force to make people get their moral act together here at home and a government that intervenes in foreign affairs to try to make other nations get their political act together. I wanted war. I wanted to fight. I wanted to make people get it together.

But that’s not a civil society. A healthy human society can only be built on love. And love doesn’t manipulate. Love doesn’t demand behavior change at the point of a gun. Love asks. Love persuades. Love prays. Love waits. Love pursues changes of heart and mind, not changes of behavior. Government in a society built on love is one that does nothing but protect people from forceful manipulation by others. As soon as government steps beyond this it becomes the very sort of manipulator that it exists to prevent.

So, as someone who supported Bush when he was elected, and has since grown up, both literally and figuratively, I’m sorry. And I’m sorry for more than just banners and words. I’m sorry for trying to change behavior by force, instead of changing hearts with truth.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barack Obama's Victory and the Nature of Change

Change is what the American electorate have clamored for this election season, and Senator Barack Obama was elected the next President of the United States because he was able to convince American voters that he would bring change to America. As far as I know, the wisest and most widely-referenced quotation addressing the issue of change comes from Mahatma Gandhi, who encouraged us to "Be the change you want to see in the world." A true revolutionary who brought lasting change to his country and people, and a compassionate voice of love, peace, and spirituality, Gandhi was and continues to be a model of an exemplary human being. His ideas also reverberate with libertarian attitudes and premises. He once wrote, "The ideally non-violent state will be an ordered anarchy. That State is the best governed which is governed the least."

There are few who would disagree that change is necessary in America today, but we must ask ourselves what means are appropriate to affect that change. Is it okay for us to use government to help the poor and less fortunate? Or do we need to find alternatives to government in shaping our country to be a better place? To answer that question we must determine what kind of thing government is and whether its nature makes it an appropriate avenue for the kinds of change we are seeking. The thing that distinguishes government from other human institutions is that it has the sole power to levy force in order to carry out its activities. No other institutions can use force to accomplish their ends. Grabbing someone and detaining them against their will is kidnapping, taking someones property without their explicit voluntary consent is stealing, and killing someone is, with the exception of self-defense, an act of murder or manslaughter. All of these activities are prohibited and not at the disposal of private institutions. When the government carries out these functions to maintain a civil society, however, they are (ideally) legitimate acts referred to as arrest, taxation, and capital punishment, respectively.

Because government has the power of force behind its activities, any question regarding the legitimacy of government action must address the legitimacy of using force to accomplish the end in mind. This is why as a pacifist and believer in non-violence, Gandhi was astute enough to write: "That State is the best governed which is governed the least." Taking care of the poor and providing for their needs is a good and noble end. I can only imagine that few Americans would disagree. Using the force of government to accomplish this end, however, is inappropriate. Because government carries out its activities through the use of force, this is not an act of love, but one of aggression. Well-intentioned though it may be, it is not a humble act of service, but an arrogant act of forcible expropriation from others to accomplish our values. I agree that we should provide for the needs of those who are unable to do so themselves, but I would not be able to live with myself if I voted to take the money of others to accomplish these ends when I have not yet given everything that I can of my own money.

Instead of voting to forcibly accomplish the change we want to see in the world, it is imperative for our own good and for the good of others that we be the change that we want to see in the world. Take as an example, the record-breaking fundraising of the Obama campaign. According to the Federal Election Commission, Barack Obama's campaign for President raised $521,869,310 in the 2007-2008 election cycle. His supporters are energized by his promise to make health care available to all Americans. Just imagine what would happen if they had pooled all of this money to accomplish that goal with their own voluntary contributions, rather than using the money to elect someone to make everyone else embrace their vision for change. If that money had been invested and managed by a charitable trust, at a six percent interest rate, it would accrue $31,312,158.60 in interest every year... forever.

Half of that money- fifteen million dollars- could be spent each year to provide health care to deserving families in need. The other half could simply be added to the total to make it larger so that it accrues more interest the next year. Each year the principle and the interest payoffs would grow. It wouldn't take long to accumulate enough wealth to cover a significant number of Americans' health care needs. All the while, that money would be earning interest by supplying credit and investment capital to fuel more economic growth, creating more jobs and wealth for Americans, reducing the number of people who need to draw on this fund for their needs- just more icing on the cake. That is an example of being the change we want to see. That is a way to humbly create change and help others without forcing anybody to participate who doesn't want to (even if they should). If Americans did more things like that, we wouldn't need to elect politicians to change things because we would be changing them ourselves.

We must not force our values on others, especially when we are not consistently living out those values ourselves. We must change ourselves and watch as genuine personal change affects our country for the better instead of voting change into the highest offices of our country and hoping for it to "trickle down." Such behavior does not exemplify true hope and love, but cynicism and authoritarianism. That is why Gandhi was correct to say that, "In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place." Though the majority has voted for Obama and his means of change, I believe the alternative means are morally superior.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Thoughts

Alexis de Tocqueville said:

Our contemporaries are ceaselessly agitated by two conflicting passions: they feel the need to be directed, as well as the desire to remain free. Since they are unable to blot out either of these hostile feelings, they strive to satisfy both of them together. They conceive a single, protective, and all-powerful government but one that is elected by the citizens. They combine centralization with the sovereignty of the people. That gives them some respite. They derive consolation from being supervised by thinking they have chosen their own supervisors. Every individual tolerates being tied down because he sees that it is not another man nor a class of people holding the end of the chain, but society itself.

Under this system citizens leave their state of dependence just long enough to choose their masters, and then they return to it.

At the present time, many people fall in with this type of compromise between a despotic administration and the sovereignty of the people and they think they have sufficiently safeguarded individual freedom when they surrendered it to a national authority. That is not good enough for me. The character of the master is much less important to me than the fact of obedience.

Dear American voter,

Know this: voting has no moral value. Sure, it has practical value. Votes get added up to decide who gets power. But voting does not justify any use of that power. Voting is only a system of choosing leaders. It cannot justify what those leaders do. Democracy is morally impotent. No doubt voting is practically necessary, but when did we delude ourselves into thinking that the practical means of putting someone in power has any power to justify the actions of the people who win?

What will or will not justify actions of rulers is the more fundamental question of what is the proper role or function of government in society, a question we've long since abandoned in favor of discussing the "issues" devoid of any deeper considerations of a grand scheme in which individual issues are all related parts. Voting is perhaps the least important political action you can take. Real change doesn't happen in the ballot box. Real change happens in workplaces, in homes, in classrooms, on the phone, and on the internet. Real change is changing minds and hearts, not changing regimes. Real change happens in conversations that go deeper than individual issues, deeper than pandering sound bites, deeper than the noise of media coverage, and delve into the real questions. Real change takes time. Real political activism isn't holding a sign, putting a bumper sticker on your car, and voting. Real political action is having a conversation with your friends that steps outside of the partisan bickering, leaves behind the petty talk of current events, and asks fundamental questions about government and what it is and should be. Real political action is about talking not yelling, about reaching truth together not making the other side look foolish.

Some folks will stay up all night worrying about who will be elected. I've got more important things to do. I've got classes to attend, blogs to write, music to create, people to talk to, papers to write, a blog to contribute to, and a billion other things to do. I'm too busy with real change to pay attention to election coverage.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Join The Humble Libertarian

Time for Action

Ideas don't have consequences.
Actions do.

It's time to do something. No more complaining on the Internet. No more feeling helpless as you watch Congress take over and destroy another entire industry. Do something about it right now!

Join The Humble Libertarian and
you will get exclusive e-mails with:

  • Valuable training to make you a more effective storyteller. Just imagine your friends, families, and co-workers all fired up about liberty, complaining about the latest scheme Congress is trying to foist on us, and enlisting their friends, families, and co-workers in the fight for liberty!
  • Time-sensitive calls to action that will help you combine your voice with hundreds of other libertarians to influence Congress and the media at pivotal moments when it matters most. No more feeling like you have to shout to be heard.
  • Special projects that will help to disseminate the libertarian narrative in creative and powerful ways. Working together, and using the miracle of information age technology, we can ensure that our message takes root.

Joining is absolutely free.

Together we can make a difference.

Click Here To Join

And don't forget to donate!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Wes Messamore

We are unknown, we knowers, ourselves to ourselves: this has its own good reason.

We have never searched for ourselves— how should it then come to pass, that we should ever find ourselves?

Rightly has it been said:

"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Our treasure is there, where stand the hives of our knowledge. It is to those hives that we are always striving; as born creatures of flight, and as the honey-gatherers of the spirit, we care really in our hearts only for one thing—to bring something "home to the hive!"

As far as the rest of life with its so-called "experiences" is concerned, which of us has even sufficient serious interest?

or sufficient time?

In our dealings with such points of life, we are, I fear, never properly to the point; to be precise, our heart is not there, and certainly not our ear.

Rather like one who, delighting in a divine distraction, or sunken in the seas of his own soul, in whose ear the clock has just thundered with all its force its twelve strokes of noon, suddenly wakes up, and asks himself,

"What has in point of fact just struck?"

so do we at times rub after-wards, as it were, our puzzled ears, and ask in complete astonishment and complete embarrassment, "Through what have we in point of fact just lived?" further,

"Who are we in point of fact?"

and count, after they have struck, as I have explained, all the twelve throbbing beats of the clock of our experience, of our life, of our being—ah!—and count wrong in the endeavour.

Of necessity we remain strangers to ourselves, we understand ourselves not, in ourselves we are bound to be mistaken, for of us holds good to all eternity the motto,

"Each one is the farthest away from himself"—as far as ourselves are concerned we are not "knowers."