In political discussions, I generally identify myself as a small (el) libertarian, since it is too time consuming to explain what I mean, when I say I am an objectivist. There are, however, profound differences between some of the various schools of libertarianism, and the specific philosophy of Ayn Rand, which she named objectivism. This will serve as a succinct introduction to the subject, to which I can link in future discussions here and elsewhere.
The Ayn Rand Institute has some superb interactive online courses. They just added a short 15 minute introductory course on objectivism, narrated by Ayn Rand herself. It is very well done, and I highly recommend it. However, although it is free of charge, one must enroll in their online university to watch it. While safe and painless, few would probably bother to do so. Thus, the following is the transcript of Ayn Rand’s voice-over, without the visuals:
At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did, as follows:
1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism
If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: Read the rest of this entry »
I am well aware that we are rapidly approaching the demise of America. If the last five years have not inspired the ruling class to do something to prevent the coming total crash of our economy and bankruptcy of the Federal government, nothing will. It is only a matter of (a short) time before we devolve into civil war/revolution (same thing) and the chances of holding it together until the mid-term election in ’14, much less the chance for a reset in ’16, are almost nil. Thus, wasting any time on anything other than preparing for the inevitable martial law looming on the horizon, is precisely that – a waste of time.
However, I am as prepared as I need to be at my age, so permit me to waste some time (as if we had a viable future), on a rather insignificant issue. On the other hand, if pondering it causes others, who may not be as psychologically prepared for what is coming as I am, to grasp the implications of Obama’s promised ‘civilian security force,’ then perhaps it is not such a waste of time, or so insignificant. I would like to suggest that we start a movement to totally defund and eliminate the National Park Service (NPS).
I am by no means the only one who has been outraged at these wanabe petty tyrants. The obvious relish with which they have been executing their egregious orders, to ‘make it hurt’ the taxpaying citizens, during the quasi-shutdown of the Federal government for the past couple of weeks, is truly disgusting. Somehow, they have lost sight of the fact that our national parks belong to the people, who are only paying them as caretakers and janitors to keep them tidy.
Read the rest of this entry »
After some fruitful discussion on my “Natural Rights Explained” essay, posted here and elsewhere, my blogging partner, Troy, posted his “Natural Rights Refuted” post, neatly dismissing the whole concept. This is my rebuttal to that.
We may be twisting ourselves into semantic knots here, Troy. Suggesting there is no “such thing,” comports with the understanding we had already developed, which suggested that natural rights are ideas, akin to opportunities, rather than things. Yet, as Chris pointed out, ideas are ‘things’ too.
I had been working on the notion that it was sovereignty itself, which was the primary, and the concept of natural rights were mere corollaries of that proposition. Then, the Enlightenment era treatise by Quesnay, suggested that it was the right to pursue one’s own pleasure, which was fundamental and gave rise to the notion of sovereignty, and the other so-called natural rights.
In any case, I entirely agree with your assessment of the intention of Jefferson, et al. That was precisely the point I was making in my original “Sovereign Rights” essay back in ’07, when I interpreted and restated his most famous line about self-evident truths, in the Declaration of Independence, thusly:
“We freeborn Americans are sovereign individuals, each on par with King George III himself, with the inalienable right to live our lives as freemen, pursuing our own happiness, subservient to no one.”
Do natural rights exist? As ideas, they most certainly do. The meaning, validity, and/or effect of those ideas can certainly be fairly challenged; but their existence cannot, and more importantly, probably should not. I think we need to back up and look at the big picture, to assess the whole point of this discussion.
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A typical comment directed at me elsewhere, inspired some cogitation resulting in the following explanation of ‘natural rights’:
“What is the point of the constitutional phrase right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you can murder babies in the womb? We only have a right to life if we are already born? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
That phrase is found in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, and it was part of the sentence declaring the equality and natural rights of all ‘men,’ not babies, or children, and certainly not fetuses. In our Founder’s time, it probably did not even include women, and for an embarrassingly significant percentage of them, it excluded the entire negro race. Allow me to offer another way to look at this business of natural rights, which may help you make some sense of them.
When Enlightenment thinkers developed the philosophical concept of natural rights, it was in the context of individual sovereignty. The extant paradigm for Western civilization at that time, was that one was necessarily born into servitude, to the sovereign potentate claiming dominion over the territory in which one was born. There were different classes in society, enjoying differing levels of privileges; but all were born subjects of their king, whether serf or gentry. Supported by the clergy, the king had the divine right to rule over his subjects. He could order a subject’s head detached on a whim, and a serf was not permitted to relocate or change occupations without permission.
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I am involved in an interesting discussion on a conservative site frequented by Christian fundamentalists. This morning, a fellow named Rich made a comment suggesting that the Left is waging a “war against Christians,” and that political activism by the religious Right, is “most always” to counter that. It inspired me to share a unique perspective I have, as a non-combatant in the culture war raging across our land, who has communicated extensively with participants in both camps. I think it is worth sharing with a wider audience, so it follows:
The tragedy, Rich, is that most of those on the Left think they too, are playing defense. I spent a couple of years back in ’07 and ’08, frequenting freethinker forums, which were mostly populated with insufferable ACLU type atheist activists. There, I essentially played the opposite role that I have here. I referred to myself as a godless redneck heathen, and defended the traditional American culture extant in flyover country. I was as much an enigma there as I am here.
Here, my patriotism and more or less conservative political views, generally resonate; but my lack of faith, and unabashed willingness to challenge Christian dogma, is confusing and consternating to most. There, I passed their godless test; but my unabashed willingness to defend Judeo-Christian culture, and challenge their equally dogmatic Politically Correct ideology, drove them nuts. Thus, I can report with some authority, that they are irrationally afraid of the Piously Correct agenda.
While flawed in their support of government coercion, for the purposes of redistributing wealth for ‘social justice,’ they are fulsome in their support for civil rights for all mankind, and adamant in their insistence that government stay the hell out of their personal lives. In this, I was in full agreement, although I took pains to point out their inconsistencies, and insist that I wanted government to also stay out of my personal pocketbook.
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I may be missing something by never watching TV for entertainment. A truly profound observation:
“Anarchism . . . stands for liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from shackles and restraint of government. It stands for social order based on the free grouping of individuals.” The father’s voice returns: “The concept was pure, simple, true. It inspired me, lit a rebellious fire. But ultimately I learned the lesson that Goldman, Proudhon, and the others learned: that true freedom requires sacrifice and pain. Most human beings only think they want freedom. In truth, they yearn for the bondage of social order, rigid laws, materialism. The only freedom man really wants is the freedom to become comfortable.”
For we news and politics junkies, much of our web surfing is in pursuit of interesting articles to read. We are interested in the text itself, not all the distracting animated graphics, advertisements, photo albums, and other inducements to keep one clicking up advertising revenue for the site. I do have sympathy for their motive, and understand why they tend to break up longer articles into several page views; but I just don’t have time for game.
One of the reasons I came to prefer my iPad for news and commentary surfing, was the availability of popular apps that allowed one to create a reading list for later viewing offline, and a ‘text’ mode, which combined multiple page articles into just one continuous single column text file, without any extraneous graphics (although some can be configured to include inline pictures, graphs, and videos that were part of the article itself). The colors, font type and size, the margins to establish column width, and day/night mode, etc. are configurable. I couldn’t live without them.
The two most popular were ‘Read-It-Later’ (now called ‘Pocket’) and ‘Instapaper.’ I have both; but generally settled on Pocket, because it had a add-in for Firefox on my Windows machines, which is kept in sync with my iPad by their server. I can trash the article after reading it, or save it in my archives. These utilities are so popular, that a native reading list and text view are now part of mobile Safari and some other iPad browser apps.
When on the first page of an article, all one need do is tap the ‘text’ button, and the rest of the site disappears, leaving only the complete text of the article in an easily scanned, newspaper-like, column down the middle. This, of course, could be zoomed to full screen width for tired old eyes, by simply double tapping on it. Marvelous! For those articles I wanted to read right away, and doubted that I would wish to archive, this became my standard procedure. I have been spoiled by Safari having it, and wish Firefox did too.
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I have long thought about prices, wages, and values in terms of gold, as in my post on Money. Trying to track down an article Troy suggested we read in a comment, I stumbled across a useful website, pricedingold.com, which has various financial charts plotted in grams of gold, rather than U.S. Dollars. This takes the currency inflation and manipulative volatility out of the picture, allowing real long-term values to emerge. It is remarkable how relatively stable prices remain when measured in gold, instead of a depreciating fiat currency. The site is a very useful resource. If one thinks in ounces, instead of grams, just multiply oz. by 31, or vice versa, to convert.
It prodded me to think again about how it is only wages that have not kept pace with the deliberate inflation, which the oligarchs (bankers and lawyers/politicians) use to steadily steal our wealth. I have thought of a couple more examples to add to my part time job in high school, which I offered in the Money post. When I was discharged from the Army in 1966, my final pay scale as an E-5 over 2 years of service, was $246 per month, plus room and board, full medical and dental coverage with zero co-pay, cheap discounted prices in the PX, 30 days of paid leave a year, the GI Bill for post-secondary education (usually college, but I used mine for a pilot’s license), and a very lucrative fully funded pension plan, if one wished to make a 20 year investment in an Army career. I was in a critical MOS, so they offered me E-7 stripes and an $8K reenlistment bonus, if I would re-up. Since a brand new car averaged $2,400, and a gallon of gas averaged 32 cents, that was a lot of money; but I knew I could do better in a civilian job, and took a pass.
Now, let’s convert those numbers into gold. At $35 an oz. at the time, setting aside all of the valuable benefits, my paltry pay scale was almost precisely 7 oz. of gold a month. At the current price of gold ($1,340) that is the equivalent of a monthly salary today of $9,380. Yet, an E-5 with two years of active duty today, is only paid $2,304; ten time what I earned in dollars, but nowhere near what I earned in gold. The $8K reenlistment bonus, would have bought 228.5 oz. of gold at the time, which equates to $306,286 today. I wonder how much they are offering these days? Yet the car at 68.5 oz. of gold, is not that far off from what one would have to pay for a full-sized full-featured American car today, when converted back to $92K at the current price of gold. Similarly, a gallon of gas at 32 cents, equates to 109 gal. per oz. of gold, which at today’s gold price would be over $12 per gal. So, the cost of producing automobiles and gasoline has actually gone down. If wages were keeping up with inflation, and everyone was making at least a lowly sergeant’s pay of $9k+ a month, perhaps we could all notice that. Then, perhaps folks would be appreciative of ‘Big Oil,’ for their efficiencies at reducing prices on a necessary commodity.
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The longer I contemplate it, the more I find myself inclined to agree with much of the anarchist wing of libertarian thought. The notion that coercive government is a necessary evil for civilization to flourish simply isn't accurate, and the history of the world is replete with anecdotal evidence to the contrary. One such example, is our own history of the 'lawless' Frontier, as we settled the West. If one strips away the revisionist rhetoric, and particularly the sensationalized Hollywood characterizations, one finds a remarkably cooperative, productive, and yes relatively peaceful libertarian society of rugged individualists.
I just read an awesome essay on mises.org, which is very thought-provoking. Entitled, “The American West: A Heritage of Peace,” it is not short; but it is profound and well worth the read. I guarantee it will rearrange what you think you know about that period of our history, and the implications for libertarianism found in the unvarnished truth. Please do invest the time, it won't be wasted. ◄Dave►
I find myself weary of trying to awaken sheeple, to the perils facing our nation. Most don't want to hear it. I am bored with reading about and commenting on the latest outrageous corruption and scandals emanating from Sodom by the Potomac. They are now coming so 'fast and furious' that it is impossible to keep up with them in any depth anyway.
Yet, I find it impossible to just give up and let the
Pro Retrogressives win a total and final victory, which would bind our posterity in the ancient chains of serfdom, in the land our forefathers fought and died to keep free. I think we need a positive project to focus our energy on, which would at least attempt to save our country for our grandchildren.
It is they, the children, who are the future of America. Yet, presently they are ever increasingly and deliberately being dumbed down. They are indoctrinated in our public schools, to be ashamed of America's past, and view a Marxist utopia as its inevitable future. If we really want to save America, first and foremost this trend must be reversed. Read the rest of this entry »
Getting back to the subject of your “Unable to Cope” post, Troy, another thought it engendered was the problem of expecting others to think like we do. Remember when we got tangled up with that freethinker forum, where we first met? Expecting it to be a place where ideas were freely discussed, we were somewhat taken aback to find it dominated by ACLU type atheist activists, who were as rigidly dogmatic as the Christian fundamentalists about which they obsessed.
To your credit, you were the first to flee those stultifying groupthink environs in horror. Several more of us soon followed, and we created a new forum, which we called 'Reasonable Rationals' (as opposed to 'Atheist Activists'), where we thoroughly enjoyed daily kicking around interesting ideas for over a year.
As an exercise in comity, early on we explored David Keirsey's work on innate temperament differences, derived from Jungian personality types, identified by Meyers-Briggs type personality tests. He describes the four basic temperaments, out of the 16 possible Jungian combinations, which are not evenly distributed in the population. He briefly explains them here, and then elaborates a bit on each:
'SJ' Guardians 40 – 45%
'SP' Artisans 30 – 35%
'NF' Idealists 15 – 20%
'NT' Rationals 5 – 10%
You are right, of course, Troy; but I am not so sure a war on 'us' is such a bad idea. 'I' for one, am sick and tired of 'us' and all of the perpetual wars, real and phony, used to keep American sheeple bunched up in collective herds, bleating for wise and kindly shepherds to protect them from rumored wolves.
Without an external enemy, there would be no need of a Federal government. Without natural enemies, they have to create them to justify their existence. Without a Federal government, there would be very little use for competing State governments.
The only reason folks in Texas give a damn about how the folks in New York organize their lives, and visa versa, is our predisposition to consider each other fellow Americans. That, and the propensity of each, to desire the establishment of their own societal preferences, as universal for all Americans.
I just stumbled across an incredibly lucid post, by the ‘Administrator’ of a blog I had never heard of called, “The Burning Platform,” which I look forward to perusing further. It is simply entitled, “Available,” and I would implore anyone with the slightest interest in (and ability to handle) the stark truth, regarding the condition and future of our economy, to read it. Although lengthy and chock full of facts, figures, and charts, it is easy reading, and anything but boring. The author (I couldn’t find his name) uses some quotes that are keepers, starting the article with:
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
He then proceeds to offer them in abundance, during his sobering analysis. Along the way, he injects another keeper:
The mainstream corporate media that is dominated by six mega-corporations (Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Comcast, Viacom, and Bertelsmann), has one purpose as described by the master of propaganda – Edward Bernays:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
More hard cold facts and cogent analysis follow, leading to his closing quote, by one of my favorite sages:
Much is made in conservative political discussions, of our inalienable natural rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. The right to Property is central to our conflict with the Politically Correct altruists on the Left, over their egalitarian ‘social justice’ agenda. They claim the moral authority to employ coercive government agents, to confiscate what they regard as ‘excessive’ earnings of producers, for redistribution among their celebrated victim class mooches. The right to Life, of course, underpins and defines the anti-abortion issue, central to the Piously Correct altruists on the Right. They regard the unborn as the more compelling class of victimhood, and claim the moral authority to employ coercive government agents, to compel a woman to give birth to an unwanted child.
Yet, in the strident Left/Right culture war raging across our land, one finds little discussion of our natural right to Liberty. Is this because few among these authoritarian-minded combatants understand what Liberty actually means, or because it so fundamentally conflicts with their political agendas? Either way, they effectively reject the premise that Liberty is an inalienable natural right, common sense and our Founders assertion notwithstanding. One cannot coherently, at the same time champion Liberty, and advocate employing the coercive powers of government, to regulate the wealth OR social mores of its individual citizens.
Liberty is essentially the antithesis of coercive government. To our arguably libertarian Founders, the primary purpose of our experiment with self-government, was to defend the natural rights of free sovereign individuals, from the threat of tyranny of any sort. They dismissed as incompatible with their thesis of individual sovereignty, any statist form of government lacking the consent of the governed. Not just despotic monarchy, dictatorship, oligarchy, et al, failed that test; they also specifically rejected the tyranny of what they called ‘mob rule’ democracy. Read the rest of this entry »
Jim Geraghty, over at National Review, makes a powerful argument in a piece entitled, “The Demonization of the Iraq War Ensures No Syria Intervention,” which deserves international attention:
No, World, We’re Never Going to Militarily Intervene in Syria.
Everybody knows we’re not going to intervene in Syria, right?
Part of this is because we have Obama as president, part of this is because Americans consumed with our own domestic issues right now — a consistently floundering economy, immigration — but mostly it’s because of Iraq.
Dear world . . . do you remember how you greeted the invasion of Iraq?
The invasion of Iraq was treated as the greatest crime against humanity in the history of the world, denounced far more frequently and loudly than any act by Saddam Hussein, Bashir Assad, the Iranian regime, or North Korea.
Giant protests in lots of American cities. Giant protests in every foreign capital. The 2004 Guinness Book of Records described the anti-war movement around the globe as the largest mass protest movement in history — eclipsing any popular opposition to any act of the Soviet Union or any other totalitarian regime around the globe, ever. Among the elites in Paris, Berlin, and most corners of London, the Iraq War was the single-most important issue, and denouncing the evil of George W. Bush was the most important goal, not building a stable and peaceful Iraq. You recall Kofi Annan denouncing it, and the United Nations delegates scoffing when Hugo Chavez called our president the devil. Read the rest of this entry »
…for Re-founding the Original American Republic
Incumbrepublocrats: n. The sham duopoly of incumbent ruling elites, tricking complaisant sheeple into believing they need frequent sheering for the welfare of the herd, and have a choice of shepherds promising, yet never quite providing, eternally green pastures in wolf-free zones. See: Incumbrepublocrats
Those of us who are political junkies, and/or passionate about an issue or ideology, tend to lament so-called voter apathy and how uninterested so many of our neighbors seem to be, about political matters we regard as critically important to the future of our country. These sheeple are content to blithely follow any glib demagoging bellwether, and foolishly trust their shepherds to keep them in clover. While we spend an inordinate amount of time and effort attempting to awaken them from their indifference, they cavort blissfully through much simpler lives, oblivious to any good reason to allow political squabbling to complicate them.
Perhaps we should be noticing what so many of them do, which enables them to tune out obsessive political debate. It seems to matter not how actively engaged we become; our prodigious efforts rarely make much difference in the end. The inexorable slide into the pits of tyranny is continuously advanced by ambitious oligarchs, in both wings of the Incumbrepublocrat duopoly. For the most part, after a busy year of selecting, campaigning hard for, and even electing worthy candidates promising reform, little actually changes in Sodom by the Potomac. Alas, power corrupts… rather quickly, and nearly always.
Whomever we might vote for, the entrenched bureaucracy effectively wins every election. Perhaps we should rethink the Civil Service system, which was supposed to be an improvement over the ‘Spoils System,’ of patronage jobs for government servants. At least before, we could throw ALL the rascals out with a change election. Now, this unelected, under-worked, and grossly overpaid cabal of bureaucratic busybodies merrily carries on, growing their budget and micromanaging our daily lives. Once again, they bemusedly watch our freshly elected reformers being schooled by the old Pro’s, in the art of maintaining incumbency – job one for a career-minded Incumbrepublocrat.
I haven't thought this through nearly enough, as it only just popped into my head while reading a comment to a post about reforming the Federal Income Tax, so I decided to blog it so we can kick the idea around a bit. It just might be an elegant solution to funding a properly limited Federal government. A basic truth is that taxes are often more about control than revenue. To encourage behavior, governments subsidize it; to discourage something, they tax it. Punitively taxing income and savings is counterproductive to a free market economy; if anything we should be taxing consumption. This is why I have long been an advocate of the Fair Tax; but even that is convoluted and messy in its implementation.
I would like to do away with the IRS, or at least its interface with individual citizens in any way. How much income we have, how we earn it, and how we choose to spend it, is none of the Federal government's business. What if we were to fund it entirely with excise taxes instead of income taxes? What if banks and all other financial institutions that provided banking services, were charged a small excise fee as a percentage of every transaction on the debit side of their ledger, and permit them to pass that cost on to their customers as a transaction fee? That way, depositing earnings and other income from whatever source would not be taxed. Only the act of withdrawing funds, one way or another, to spend them for whatever purpose, would be effectively taxed. No exceptions or deductions would be necessary or desired.