Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mayor wants us to all "go along" with her

I wrote this as a Clovis News Journal column, but it was rejected. So, I am now free to present it here.

Clovis’ mayor, Gayla Brumfield, was recently quoted in these pages as saying "I believe it is time that we all worked together as citizens of Clovis to move forward with all the exciting opportunities that lie before our growing community, and become one voice — the voice for
the betterment of Clovis, New Mexico."

She was speaking about the controversy over the Hotel Clovis deal. I smell politics.

What the mayor sees as moving "forward", I see as regression to failed collectivist policies of socialism. Collectivism still isn't a good idea, no matter which flag you wrap it in.

I do agree this is an opportunity, but not all opportunities are a good thing. A lost and confused elderly person in an alley is an opportunity for a mugger, and government-subsidized housing is an opportunity for collectivists; those who believe they have a "right" to your money and property. How does an increase in collectivism and dependency qualify as "betterment" of the community?

Nor is all growth positive. Good growth is self-generating and self-sustaining. Bad growth is parasitic and dependent on subsidies.

That "one voice", calling for collectivism which will ultimately harm individuals, is not a chorus to join. It seems to simply be a tactic to silence the critics. Contrarian opinions need to be expressed. Especially since there is nothing that is "good for everyone".

Where Clovis or any other community is concerned, there is a smart way to grow, there is a true "forward", there are real opportunities, there is a more honest appraisal of "betterment", and there might be a time for "one voice". This is none of the above.

If an idea is good there is no need to tell people to speak with "one voice". They may join you anyway, but if not it is their loss. If an idea is bad or controversial you should welcome dissent as an opportunity to make your case, reach consensus, and examine your premises. Either way, you need to let people opt out of financially supporting anything they don't want.

My suggestion, as a libertarian, is to get government out of the way. Stop interfering with Hotel Clovis and simply stand aside. This is complicated by the fact that the city believes it owns the building, but this complication could be solved by signing Hotel Clovis over to the prospective developer. No red tape, no zoning issues, no taxes or tax credits or subsidies, and no stipulations or conditions. Sure, this sounds scary to people who aren't accustomed to seeing freedom and the free market at work, but it would be the best solution in the long run.

Added: It has been pointed out that the NM constitution has an "anti-donation" clause so that the city can't sign the building over to anyone. When has a constitution stopped any government? Anyway, they could probably bend the law to sell it for a low price.

Voluntaryists, What’s Your Story?

Debbie Harbeson asked this question, and here's my long answer. I have taken previously written stuff and combined it with new stuff to come up with this, so yes, some may be familiar.

As a kid I loved freedom. I roamed whatever wild places I could find and really wasn't very sociable. I didn't really think about politics since I didn't think about interacting with people much, and that's what politics misguidedly tries to be about.

There was no horrible event to make me dislike the externally-imposed form of coercion commonly known as “government”. It was simply a lifetime of observation and an inner need for peeling away the inconsistencies I discover. The more I saw and the more I learned the less I bought into the lie that government was “necessary” or “good”.

As a young teenager all I wanted was to walk away from civilization and never look back. I once expressed this to my parents who then said if I wanted to do that I would need a lot of money to buy land, and then would need a constant stream of money to pay "property taxes". I was astounded that you could be forced to keep paying for something which you had bought, but they assured me that if I didn't pay the tax my land would be taken from me. I knew this was nothing but theft dressed up and made to look legitimate. It made me angry.

I still didn't think too much about The State although I knew that I probably wouldn't be able to live the way I knew would be right for me, so I had better adapt my plans. Still working unsuccessfully on that.

I began to see that every excuse for having “government” was based upon a trained helplessness, and every justification for The State necessarily ignored both solutions that were known and within reach, and the demonstrable harm that comes from relying upon coercion to get your way, rather than working toward unanimous consent. I also saw the damage done to individuals on the basis of a majority vote, or society’s wishes.

Along the way there were influential people who taught me to think for myself, and one of them was probably, secretly, similar in his outlook to my current view. His role as a high school physics and chemistry teacher in a government "public" school would have probably been jeopardized had his bosses heard some of his off-hand comments. For example, he once mentioned, in passing, that no one should ever accept a plea bargain since this would help bring the courts to a stand-still. It took me a little more thinking and a couple of decades to see that one benefit to this would be that it would encourage The State to stop enforcing laws against things that are not government’s business in the first place, those “mala prohibita” acts, and focus on the real “mala in se” crimes. You know- the real laws which are based upon the recognition that it is wrong to initiate force, to damage other people’s property, or to steal.

Around this same time I did campaign for Reagan even though I wasn't old enough to vote, simply because he claimed to be for smaller government and less government interference in our lives. So, he lied. More data to process and another lesson eventually learned, even though it didn't register for years.

Then came college. Ugh. Government class taught me a lot that The State would probably rather people not think of. I also enjoyed the look of discomfort in the face of the minor state-level tyrant who came to speak to us about his "job" running our lives. You'd think he had never seen a guy wearing buckskin clothes and a coonskin cap before from the way he kept nervously looking out of the corner of his eye at me sitting there in the front row.

An acquaintance from that same class (who later became my brother-in-law for a few years and who went into government "work") once informed me that I was "conservative" because I did not like or trust government "solutions". For years I accepted this without really examining his contention. You'd think Reagan would have taught me a lesson. I did keep noticing that "conservatives" acted no differently than the "liberals" once they had been elected. They were just as quick as the "other side" to stab me in the back with their every action. This kept me confused for several years.

My observation eventually made me forget about looking for solutions from any political party or politician. All my adult life I have been characterized by those who knew me as "anti-government". I didn't make an issue of it, but I wouldn't always keep my mouth shut when confronted by "governmentalism", either. Mostly I just went about my own business of living as free as I could and kept my opinion to myself unless pressed. I was content to ignore the world of politics, except when a new "law" injured liberty in some way that I noticed. I would be irritated, but not surprised. Through it all, and involved in my own little world, I stayed quiet. My attitude was "Who would listen to me anyway?"

Years passed and life happened. I didn't pay much attention to the world beyond my own life. During a particularly hectic phase of life I found L. Neil Smith's book "Lever Action", which put a label on my increasingly deep-seated sentiments. I did get online eventually (in 2001), and discovered a few libertarian websites to read. Interesting but not anything I really obsessed over.

For me everything changed in late December 2003. Without going into painful details, my life (which was already barely balanced on a worn tightrope) fell apart when my Significant Other left me. High, dry, completely alone, and in a very bad situation. At this point I had nothing left to lose. In my grief (and while drunk) I jumped feet-first into the first online libertarian group I ran across. And promptly stuck my foot in my mouth. Fortunately I sobered up and was forgiven. The internet allowed me to find, and interact with, people who felt the same basic way about individual liberty that I did. It made me feel somewhat less "alone and lost".

For a couple of years I tried to hang on to my comforting online anonymity, until my presidential campaign made that impossible. Now I am "out". I am no longer anonymous, and am easily found. I am "on record" with a lot of very unpopular statements and opinions. I have gotten more "radical" over the years as I learn more, as I think things through more completely, and as I pare away any inconsistencies that remain. I have come to see that when you strip away all the non-libertarian inconsistencies, libertarianism becomes anarchism. Or you can call it voluntaryism, or being a sovereign individual. Whatever you call it, it is the best way a human being can interact with those other human beings around him. I'm glad I finally figured it out and look forward to continuing the journey.
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