Radley Balko asks some honest questions that all honest republicans ought to reflect long and hard on.
Archives for October 2005
A fiercely persuasive warning the ‘the market’ is destroying our society. Stiles desperately hopes we can heal our perspectives before it is too late.
— Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale, and author of The Western Canon
A powerful and disturbing look at the remaking of American life by a new, harsher form of capitalism. To read this eye-opening book is to grasp how the free market’s cold logic is eroding our most cherished human values–and to see clearly what must be done to save America’s soul.
— David Callahan, Senior Fellow, Demos, and author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead
What am I going to do with my old friend? I really have to twist and turn to imagine a context where the above quotes don’t mean what I think they do, and Paul’s book is not what I think it is. Well, I have it in hand, now, so I guess I’ll see.
Hit & Run has an interesting juxtaposition regarding the Miers appointment.
23. I would feel better if there were video cameras on most street corners, to prevent crime.
I’m taking it to mean that they’re Big Brother video cameras. Of course, I don’t want Big Brother to do anything, which would include surveillance of myself or anyone else. I want it to get out of the way so that I can more effectively provide for my own defense. Nonetheless, given their existence, do I feel better, which I generally take to mean: safer? No, and neither should anyone else. All this nonsense about cameras and security screening, ad nauseum, is nothing more than a grand exercise in keeping the public in line by making it difficult for anyone to realistically assess the risks to themselves and loved ones. Big Brother plays the role of a parent who shields its child’s view of some horrifying image while uttering the words, "don’t worry, everything’s going to be all right."
London is the most surveilled city in the world, with 400,000 cameras. A lot of good it did them in the recent train bombings, eh? And how many pedestrians and commuters are less vigilant because they’ve bought into the lazy fantasy that Big Brother will defend them? The U.S. military defends us. Police pick up the pieces after a mugging, a burglery, a rape, a kidnapping, or a murder takes place. Cameras serve only to help law enforcement gather evidence after the fact, in order to aid in their pursuit of job promotion through capture and prosecution. I’m not saying that prosecution of objective crimes is bad, it’s just very necessary to understand that it is not any sort of defense, and it’s role as deterrent is dubious, at best.
Owners of homes, properties, and business establishments have the right to put up as many cameras as they want. You have the right to associate, or not.
24. It should be legal for two consenting adults to challenge each other to a duel and fight a Death Match.
It’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where such behavior would be anything but childish and stupid. But freedom is a principle with me, and even if this sort of thing was happening every day of the week, I wouldn’t think of intervening. Ever. Period.
25. Since parents can’t be trusted to monitor what their children watch, TV content needs to be more regulated.
Parents can’t be trusted by whom? You? Are you the world’s authority, from whom parents must win trust? No? Ok then, if not you, who? Who is this person? You see, neither you, nor I, nor parents, nor anyone has any obligation to anyone else to behave in a manner that such other would deem trustworthy. I think that parent’s should monitor and regulate what their children are exposed to, not just on the TV. Others may disagree. This sort of question is a clever way to pretend as though there is some single standard of appropriateness. There’s not, and since there’s not, it can only mean that some people get to conjure up standards they agree with and impose them, by force, on those who don’t agree. But, that sort of tyranny would just be too hard. We can’t "trust" parents to abide. So, let’s just go and steal airtime from the producers and broadcasters and do it that way, shall we? You see, once you allow theft as a solution, it’s only logical to steal in the most efficient way.
26. If a company invents a pill that cures cancer, they should be allowed to charge whatever they want for it.
Because it’s nobody else’s business. Ever. But again, a premise gets smuggled in, which is: license or permission required. And again, as usual, it comes down to theft. All democrats, all socialists, all communists, almost all republicans, and most libertarians are thieves. But most don’t like to get their hands dirty. So, they become downright masters at theft-by-proxy. Everyone has their favorite Robbin Hood. Most of you are thieves because most of you accept the premise. That’s where the theft is. It doesn’t matter whether you believe that "we should allow" the drug company no profit, some profit, a lot of profit, or whether you would allow them unrestricted pricing. As soon as you accept "allow" as a premise, in the context of granting license, you’re a rotten thief. The only "allowance" that rightly enters into this is that you allow yourself to mind your own business and leave others to theirs.
27. The fact that many people starve to death is unfortunate but unavoidable.
Other than the rare exception where a human being is literally incapable of sustaining himself, there will likely always be people who starve to death because their capacity to reason through difficulties has not been cultivated. Prior to technology, humans were on a level similar to animals: either their knowledge was sufficient to their environment, in which case they prospered, or in wasn’t, and they perished. Even with technology, there are instances where circumstances make survival impossible in spite of every rational effort. Starvation is usually avoidable, but stealing from some people in order to help others is neither a moral or a long-term solution. Rather, the long-term solution is in getting rid of state redistribution, which shields people from the natural consequences of their actions, such as living in volatile areas. That said, humans are imperfect, and so even their best solutions will sometimes fall short, even in an environment of complete freedom to act rationally.
28. It bothers me that many American companies have moved jobs overseas.
I certainly condemn all actions by the state to either outright prevent "outsourcing," or to manipulate economies via tariffs and quotas in order to create false incentives for companies to hire onshore. Companies are rightfully as free to do whatever they want with their property as you are to take a vacation to France instead of to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in order to "support American jobs." Companies who seek to get the best bang for their buck are not a wit different that you are for doing the same, and I applaud the efforts in both to always strive to do more with less. It’s a big part of what drives our prosperity. The fact that this activity also helps local economies overseas, trains their workers, infuses capital, and puts them on their way toward industrialization is a dandy side effect. It’s not a primary consideration, but I’m quite pleased it works out that way.
29. It’s wrong when environmental regulation puts people out of work, like when limits on logging make it harder for loggers to log logs.
It’s wrong to steal the property of others under any pretense. The ends don’t justify the means, and I don’t mean to imply the desired ends aren’t dubious. It’s not that such regulations put people out of work that makes it wrong: it’s that it’s wrong to steal. That holds even if the environmental regulations resulted in nothing but good consequences.
30. Most people are too stupid to know what’s best for them.
In fact, most people do have a good idea of what’s best for them, which means that they know what their values are. It’s the religious right and the elitist left that think otherwise, and believe themselves competent to know what’s best for everyone else. The authoritarian conservative wants to maintain the old taboos. The authoritarian liberal wants to introduce some new ones. But even if it were largely true that people are too stupid to know what’s best for them, it doesn’t mean that I, you, or anyone else does, and we certainly have no right to impose our will on them. Besides, one of the most effective cures for stupidity is to leave people to their own.
31. A person has the right to claim the Holocaust never happened, if that’s what he believes.
The most frightening thing about this question is that there are no doubt many who answered "Strongly Disagree." The thought police are never far off. The Holocaust happened, and there is no God. Those who believe the opposte, in either or both cases, have a right to their fantacies.
32. Books with potentially deadly knowledge (like instructions for making awesome bombs) should be regulated.
There are certainly considerations in an area like this that make blanket statements of principle — like the right to free speech and the press — difficult. But, luckily, there’s another handy principle: everything is limited. The fact is, you cannot forceably regulate such information in a free society and remain a free society. If you accept freedom, you accept its limitations and risks. That said, I think that intelligent and responsible people in possession of such information should take all prudent measures to keep such information closely held.
33. Being poor and black is an advantage in getting into college.
It seems to be the case, and I’m sure it isn’t doing them any good in the long run. That said, all colleges should be private, and all private institutions should rightfully set whatever admission rules they want, on any basis they want, including on the basis of race, gender, religious affiliation, or whatever floats their boat. And, yes, that means that any and all business establishments would rightfully be able to discriminate in hiring, or fire black people — because they’re black — if that’s what they want to do. If I want, I can be so stupid with respect to entry into my own home (for how much longer, I don’t know), and any distinction between personal and commercial property in this regard is completely meaningless and logically untenable. Freedom means letting people be stupid. It also means letting them face the consequences of their own stupidity.
For the record, my company actually has a disproportionate number of blacks and Hispanics. I didn’t hire them and keep them on board because of their race, but because they’re very good at what they do. I would be doing them an extreme disservice to keep them around for any other reason, unlike the race[ist] racket, where the spokesmen, the evangelists, and the hangers on seek to keep minorities down in order to keep themselves "relevant" and prop up their bogus livelihoods.
Update: Here’s Part IV (final)
I’ve made a few rounds this morning since hearing of Bush’s SCOTUS nomination. There are good summary and analysis pieces both here and here.
Setting aside my own anarchist tendencies for a moment, Bush’s move strikes me as more of a businesslike move than a political one. It is in business (medium to large, but not usually gigantic) where you most often see this sort of thing. Rather than install some cloistered elite with all the right things on their resume, he’s going with someone he trusts, and who he believes can do the job. By what standards constitute a good job with him, I have no idea.
The only thing I know is that no one is going to be able to predict whether she’s going to be an activist for the right (push all the old taboos), an activist for the left (push for a bunch of new taboos), a judicial conservative (limiting the power of government), all over the map, or just go with the flow, whatever it may be.
I guess we’ll see.
I am entertained that so many on the right have their panties all up in a bunch. All the pundits were just licking their chops over what was sure to be a grand fight, where everyone could haul out their non-sequitur talking points and drone on and on and on.
This post was formerly and boringly titled: Supply and Demand
Here’s a data point that serves to explain why it’s far too frustrating for me to engage democrats in a discussion over politics or economics. Forget the fact that I’ll never convince them that it’s wrong to steal one person’s property to "help" another. I can’t even get them to understand a trivial economic principle.
1) The government needs to do something about high gas prices and "price gouging."
2) The government needs to do something to force people to conserve gas, and save energy.
Update: I retitled the post shortly after writing it and stumbling across this, via Balko.
12. Professional athletes are paid too much money.
Since such judgments depend on one’s personal subjective value hierarchy, it’s hard to see what that has to do with politics. So, I take the question to mean something like: professional athletes should be paid less and teachers should be paid more, and the government should regulate such levels. But athletes are only paid what you, as fans, are willing to pay them in the form of ticket purchases, trademark apparel, products they endorse, and so on. If enough of you quit buying those things, athletes will be paid less, much less. Since I believe in freedom, I can only answer the question for myself, which, whether I think athletes are paid to much, not enough, or just right, my only valid action in the matter is to decide my own level of spending, if any. What you choose to spend your money on is none of my business, and so this cannot rightly come under the purview of "public policy," assuming there should even be any such thing.
13. Tradition is a reliable guide in deciding what’s right.
This was a tough one, because some of the stupidest things you’ll ever see in your life are done in the name of tradition. It’s the chief refuge of the robotic and unthinking: we do it that way because we’ve always done it that way. Still, I must acknowledge the value, to an extent, of settled knowledge and wisdom. In other words, it’s impractical to spend one’s life continually reinventing the wheel. But I don’t strongly agree, because there should always be room to question such settled knowledge and wisdom and there should always be an emphasis on improving the status quo. In a more political context, we live within a macro tradition called western civilization. I consider it a reliable guide for advancing civilization, in part, because contained within it is the seed necessary to take us to the next level of individualism and rationality.
14. When I’m talking to someone and I find out they’ve served in a war, I respect them more.
As the test says, it’s designed for Americans, and so we’re talking about American wars, which I consider predominately just wars. In spite of the fact that they are conducted by the state, as Billy Beck says, "sometimes it’s just necessary to kill the bad guys." Whether or not it was the state that took on Hitler, for example, and the communist outbreaks that followed, these guys needed to be dealt with and I respect the man on the ground who takes up that charge. I served, though not in wartime. But I was prepared for that, if the need arose, and I have no regrets. That said, I would never support the draft in any context whatsoever.
15. If I’m dating someone I like to know where they are and what they’re up to at all times.
I don’t know what this has to do with politics, other than that a person insecure enough to have to keep tabs on someone else at all times is likely to want to keep tabs on what you’re doing in your own bedroom, in the privacy of your own home, with other consenting adults.
16. It bugs me when somebody names their child something like ‘Sunshine’ or ‘Charm’.
Here, I just take the question as given, without really any political implications. I find it distasteful when people try to make some ideological point in naming, dressing, or coiffing their children. Leave the kids alone. That said, I’d never think to forcibly impose my preferences on others.
17. Only literate people should be allowed to vote.
This requires accepting the premise of a democratic state in order to answer the question. So, yes, given that there is that silly "franchise," please limit it to competent people. I’d go several steps further. Given that it’s here, as far as the eye can see, I’d prefer people not only be literate, but intelligent. Owners of land and businesses would almost certainly be an even better standard. I doubt any of this would do much good, but I was always somewhat fond of the suggestion contained in one of Heinlein’s novels: that in order to unlock the voting machine, the citizen had to first solve a polynomial equation. I can’t see how we could be any worse off for it. Then again, there’s an awful lot of commie intellectuals… See how impossible it is when you have to accept an invalid premise from the start?
18. People raising children have a responsibility to live up to society’s standards.
People, whether raising children or not, have a responsibility to live up to their own standards. There is no such thing as "society’s standards." All standards originate with and pertain to the individual. There’s no way to establish a set of standards that non-contradictorily subsumes the individual standards of everyone, so the only thing that can be meant by "society’s standards" is those standards agreed to by some and imposed upon all the rest. There is but one objective standard that applies to all individuals everywhere, at all times: the prohibition of initiating force against any one or group for any reason, at any time; no exceptions, ever. Period. This would apply to initiating force against children that is outside the scope of protecting them and teaching them to become responsible adults.
19. The separation of church and state has demoralized our society.
The church, like the state, is an authoritarian institution. It has also proved itself to be totalitarian when it can get the chance. Getting the church out of the state hasn’t improved the state, per se. It has improved the church. Though it baffles me that people can’t seem to reason through right and wrong exclusively through the brain power in their own heads, I understand that many look to their churches for moral guidance, and I agree with the wholesome nature of at least some of that moral guidance (and vehemently disagree with a whole lot of the rest of it). Since the church no longer has the power of life & death over its flock, it seems to me that to what extent its congregations are morally guided, they are choosing to do that under no threat of violence, and this was not the case when the church was the state.
20. The ‘Word of God’ exists only as human beings interpret it.
Of course, I don’t believe in God. To the extent he exists, he exists as a figment of people’s imaginations. So, likewise, his word is a product of human imagination and there are any number of interpretations for what that word actually is. Even if God actually existed, there would still be plenty of disagreement as to his intent and purpose. To wit: the U.S. Constitution.
21. Blind patriotism is a very bad thing.
Blind anything is a very bad thing. Blind patriotism is just another form of blind obedience, and of course, commanding such obedience is the supreme wish of every state and every politician. Politicians, and some religious leaders, want to think for you; they want to make your decisions for you and believe themselves fully and completely more competent than you to attend such matters. Falling into that false-authority trap is to suspend your own capacity to reason, the natural result being incompetence at life, which is a bad thing. A very bad thing.
22. We need stronger laws protecting the environment.
We need no laws protecting the environment because we should have no laws protecting the environment. Each and every environmental law that now exists is a theft of someone’s property, no less so than if you went down to your local Wal Mart, surrounded it with agents and guns, and dictated its business affairs and operations. I love a beautiful and wholesome environment (I go camping), and with the single exception of untouched nature, I find the best-cared-for environments exist on private properties. Humans take care of and usually improve what’s theirs. I’m all for conservationist movements, and could even find myself supporting some of them, if: 1) they cut out the steaming piles of bullshit they call "science," and 2) their aim was to first purchase the land they wish to preserve.
Coming soon: Politics Test, Part III, 22-33.
Update: Here’s Part III.