Thursday, April 07, 2011

All Politics is cheating

(Please read the note at the bottom)

Nobody likes a cheater. We prefer that other people live up to their agreements; usually even when we have already broken our end of the deal. But many people don't recognize that using government to get your way is cheating.

There are only two ways to get something done between two or more people. You can convince the other person to go along and cooperate for your mutual benefit. This is referred to as the "economic method". Or you can force them to go along against their will, regardless of whether or not it is in their best interest. This is called the "political method". If others agree in going along with you, there is no excuse to govern them; if they do not, many people think it's OK to skip straight to the "forcing them" step rather than continuing the attempt to convince them.

"Forcing them" can be a legitimate action IF the other person is attacking the innocent or stealing. A libertarian recognizes this as a legitimate use of force since force was already initiated by the other person. If the other person is neither attacking nor stealing, then resorting to force makes you the one in the wrong. Even worse, if your actions consist of aggression or theft, while their actions are merely intended to resist your abuse, then you are doubly wrong.

Bringing this down to the local level, what is the solution to this area's water issues? Does it involve working together in a consensual manner to work out a solution? Or does it involve using confiscated money (and other property) and imposed laws, with their inevitable enforcement, to force everyone into a "one size fits all and everyone pays, regardless" box? If no one is allowed to opt out, it is not consensual. Stirring up another hornet's nest, what about "blight"? Do you try to convince or do you simply violate the other person's property rights because you don't like the way they choose to use their own property? If you think you must resort to the government solution in either case, you are cheating.

Not every problem has a solution. That is just reality. Of those problems which can be solved, some have a solution that isn't implemented because of the eager willingness to resort to the political method instead of doing the hard work of thinking and finding a consensual solution. After all, if you believe you can simply grab the magic wand of "the law" at the first sign of an impasse, you are less likely to keep thinking and working toward a real solution. Sure you can "get things done" by cheating, but at what cost?


(This was to have been my Clovis News Journal column for this week, but was rejected by the publisher because he says not all politics is cheating. In saying this, he gave me the idea for my headline.

This difficulty I keep having prompted me to ask the editor for some clarification. I asked if my columns are supposed to represent my opinion, or the editorial opinion of the Clovis News Journal. If my column is representing the editorial opinion of the paper, then I can totally understand why I have so many problems getting published (and I probably should be paid more), but if it is supposed to represent my personal opinion, then I don't get it. Surely the other columns that get published express opinions that are not in line with the paper's editorial positions- at least it seems that is the case to me when I read them. In any case, the editor answered that the columns are supposed to represent my opinion only. So how do they justify rejecting my columns on that basis?

Since this means I am out my pay for this week, please donate to help me make up the shortfall, or buy some stuff from me.)


  1. What I call the 'hypocrisy circuits' and what Hanson calls 'Homo Hypocritus' strikes.

    Your columns are part of a game, a delicate dance, and you're supposed to show you're good at the game.

    Your editor feels confident rejecting them because they're not good at that game. He gets the idea to reject them because he feels they embarrass him in some way.

    When he says, "Not all politics is cheating" he means among other things that the game demands you don't say politics is cheating. You're supposed to imply it so as to distinguish the sophisticated from the gauche. Exclusivity is always its own reward, but this particular one is chosen so that if someone needs to ignore the principle to gain material benefit, they can claim ignorance, error, or pretend they're not violating the principle at all.

    You can't say politics is cheating because you won (perhaps by accient) a political game to get columns accepted in the first place, and because you have to continue to do so to continue to get published.

  2. The odd thing is, it's not the editor who has problems with my columns; it's the publisher. In fact the editor has expressed frustration that I am doing exactly what he asked me to do, and the publisher keeps balking.

    The only guideline the publisher gave me was "Don't piss off too many advertisers in one week."

    They have told me which topics are off-limits for me, the air base and the water pipeline, and I figured they might delete my "water" reference from this column. Yes, I often push the limits a little to see if I can get away with a roundabout mention of one of the forbidden topics in order to get people thinking. They also insist I am "fair" with cops and other government tools, and when I express opposition to them, I should explain exactly why and on what principle. Of course, most of those subjects get edited out anyway.

    I didn't ask to write for the paper; they approached me and asked if I would write for them. I wonder if they regret it yet.

  3. My apologies for your editor, then. Nevertheless, everything I said now applies to the publisher. :P

    "I didn't ask to write for the paper; they approached me"

    Ha! Winning politics by accident indeed.

    Which incidentally shows that having a political process is a vulnerability that can be exploited, not anything like a necessity of human life.

  4. I submitted Friday's column yesterday and now comes the waiting to see if it passes or not.