Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Now is best time to do right

Now is best time to do right

(My Clovis News Journal / Portales News-Tribune column for December 30, 2011)

The end of the old year and the beginning of the new gives some people the feeling of a rite of passage. For them it represents a chance to clean the slate; they get to start fresh and try to do better next year than they did last year. Birthdays can provide the same opportunity, but almost everyone shares the same new year, while you share a birthday with fewer than three-tenths of a percent of humanity- if my math and assumptions are correct. That's not enough to get much momentum going.

Whatever excuse you use, the best time to start doing the right thing is always now.

In the coming year will you be responsible for your own actions, for your own safety, and for your own property? Or, will you attempt to delegate that responsibility to someone else? Notice I say "attempt" since you can never truly get away from the responsibility being yours.

In the coming year will you oppose all theft and coercion, unless it is done by people you believe are exempt from Natural Law, particularly if their theft and coercion brings you something you really, really want? Can't you think of a better way to get what you want and need- a way that doesn't violate anyone?

Next year will you be the kind of person who acts as a good neighbor regardless of who's watching, or will you be the kind of person whom others will point to as a reason they believe government is necessary? Someone is always watching, and your actions, even when "legal", speak volumes about your character. You never really "get away with" anything.

Will you be the kind of person in 2012 who sees a need and thinks of voluntary ways that need can be met, or will you instead believe that if something is important it justifies putting government in charge of it? No matter whether government does it well or bungles it beyond hope.

Will you make this the year you help build new tracks, for America and for the world, that actually change course, or will you let society keep being driven over the edge of the cliff by government, while you join in the rather pointless debate over who gets to control the throttle?

You may believe you have a choice, but that's a trap. If you believe you have that choice, and leave the options open depending on how you feel or believe, you have already lost. We are in this together and we can't afford to lose.


Why "Why Libertarianism is Wrong" is wrong

How's that for a confusing title?

I was watching the video "Why Libertarianism is Wrong" and since the video's maker has disabled comments and ratings, I thought I would give a little commentary and rating here.

First, the rating. Thumbs down.

We go through the same ridiculous things every time some anti-libertarian decides he just has to find a way to justify theft and attacking the innocent (or the other authoritarian "oomox-inducing" activities). But it's worth it to address this nonsense again.

So here goes:

First off Video Guy says that "what's right and what's wrong" are value judgments and that if people have different values they will never agree. That might be true for minor things like smoking pot, but not for big things like theft and murder. That is a strength of libertarianism. It leaves you alone on the minor points to debate endlessly. Now, you might disagree about what constitutes theft or murder, but not about whether or not they are wrong. Libertarianism takes away your "authority" to use force against people who are doing those minor things, things that you consider to be "wrong", that they do not.

Then, Video Guy claims that libertarians would force him to "submit to the free market for everything". No, we wouldn't. We simply refuse to allow him and those like him to impose his socialism on us without our consent. There is a difference. If he wishes to live in a communist enclave, completely free of market "pressures", we would support his right to do so, but we would not help him force others to be a part of his Socialist Utopia against their will.

Next he goes off about "democratically-elected representatives" spending "public money" on "public projects". There is no such thing as "public money" unless it comes from those "public officials'" pockets (and then it is still tainted by theft since that is how the money ended up in their pockets) and from the pockets of people who donated it voluntarily. Otherwise you are talking about spending stolen money, not "public" money. Which gets right back to those "always wrong" things, that even he would agree were wrong if he didn't try to hide behind the word "taxes".

As a part of this rant he talks about how private enterprise is claimed to be the "most efficient" way to allocate funds, but that asks "what if you don't value efficiency?" Well, then libertarians would once again allow you to go set up your own communist society as long as you leave the rest of us out of it. You don't even have to move to your own island to do it. Baptists and atheists can live side by side in the same neighborhood without forcing each other to participate in each others' group or non-group. Libertarians and communists could do the same- at least from the libertarians more ethical perspective.

Still riffing on the free market, he says libertarians claim the free market automatically justifies its outcome. "If a product or service can not be sustained through market forces, then it doesn't deserve to exist". Wrong, again. You are completely free to fund anything you want, no matter how unwanted it is by the market- all your friends and neighbors- as long as you don't steal from those who don't want it in order to finance it. Ask for donations; have a bake sale; start a religion and funnel all the "profits" to your cause. Just. Don't. Steal. Why is that so hard for him to grasp?

He makes a big deal about "intrinsic value" versus "market value". He says libertarians don't believe in intrinsic value. He is, once again, wrong. (How can so much wrongness fit in a 9.5 minute video?) Liberty- the freedom to act within your human rights- has intrinsic value. Without it you can't even choose to be a socialistic slave, as, apparently, he would. The individual's life has intrinsic value. Paving a particular road, on stolen land, with labor and materials paid for through theft from people who will never benefit from that road enough to make it worth their money to voluntarily pay for the road, is NOT of "intrinsic value". Yet this is the kind of things these thieves would "selflessly" support killing you over. How "nice" of them.

Next he makes a big deal over how logical libertarians are, and how others may prefer faith over logic. How cute. He then harps on how libertarians like to bash on anyone who believes in religion. So, are we now getting to the heart of his objections? Maybe not, since he says he is an atheist (he isn't since he fawns over the 21st Century's most popular god).

I know lots and lots of very religious libertarians. I disagree with their claims for the veracity of their beliefs, completely, but I support their right to believe anything they want. Faith and religion have nothing to do with libertarianism. It's like preferring blue over red. It might affect how you explain why you are libertarian, but you can be just as libertarian with or without it.

Logic will show you how the world really is. Faith may give you a mechanism for dealing with that reality. I don't care if you value faith over logic, but what I do object to is if you try to make up rules, based upon your faith, that you will impose on the rest of us who may not share your particular faith. Religion is the same. You can impose Sharia Law on all those who share your faith, but the moment you try to extend your "authority" beyond those who have the same faith, you are being evil. You can prefer faith over logic, or even insanity over sanity, as long as you keep it in your pants. Your personal views are your own, and not my concern until you use them to attack me or steal from me. Or from anyone else. Got it?

I'm so embarrassed for Video Guy. Had to put that in there because he just keeps going off on this tangent about faith, which he is completely wrong about, but doesn't recognize it. I had to look away from his shame.

Now he's blathering that "equality is not high on the list for libertarians...". Depends on your particular type of "equality", doesn't it? All people have exactly the same rights. Exactly. You can't get more equal than that. But socialists like Video Guy don't mean real equality when they use the word. He means that "it isn't fair" that some people get rich while most people stay poor. Boo hoo. Guess what. I am on the poor end of the scale, compared to most Americans, at least. Government meddling and welfare (not for me, personally) has made that more difficult to escape, but the market gives me the opportunity to change that. I don't want government to steal from Bill Gates to "give" me anything. Video Guy's opinion on "what's right", according to his own implicit admission, is to steal from people he deems to have "too much" to give to those he thinks have "too little". Isn't that special.

He says libertarians want to convince you of their rightness and that even their logic depends on having a common starting point. OK. So, he didn't make this video in order to try to convince people that his view was right? Why did he make it then? And there is a common starting point. Wouldn't he probably agree that theft is wrong? It's just that he equivocates when the thieves wear the silly hat of government and claim to be doing "good" with the loot.

He also whines that libertarians make a big deal out of being consistent. So? Consistency doesn't necessarily mean you are right, but inconsistency does mean you are wrong somewhere. It is a big deal- if the truth matters to you. If it doesn't- if you'd rather operate on faith- then why worry that someone points out that you are being inconsistent? Just smile and go on. Unless you know it shows the holes in your thinking and that bothers you...

Then he gets down to business and issues the first of his "challenges" to libertarianism, with the assertion that "coercion is not wrong". He claims it is not wrong to ensure justice through coercion or to enforce contracts through coercion. Well, now, many libertarians would agree with him. If someone has gone into debt, by initiating force/theft, or by breaking a contract, there are plenty of ways to deal with that, and some could be considered "coercion". However, what he fails to address is that the coercion is only excused by a prior violation of "libertarian principles"- and that's not even the only way to deal with it, or the best way. Just a possible tool. And, of course he whips out the socialist's favorite myth: "The Social Contract". I could at this point say "automatic loss by default", but that might hurt his feelings. I'll address this silliness a little later.

Next he tries to quibble over "initiation of force". It is very simple, really, and has nothing to do with "semantics". If you were the first to threaten, delegate, or use physical force- a very simply demonstrated thing- you initiated the force. You started it. You can weasel-word around the truth all you want, and claim "it depends", but you are only lying to yourself. It really has nothing to do with retaliatory force, either. If you are retaliating, you are probably initiating force. If you are using force to protect yourself or your property right now from an imminent threat, you are not initiating force. If you are retaliating, you are on shaky ground and may be seeking revenge. Understandable, but still probably not right.

He also is confused over what constitutes "force". Trespassing and theft aren't necessarily force. He uses the example, loved by statists, of "race" when he says a libertarian would claim that a black man drinking from a privately-owned "whites only" water fountain would be initiating force. No, he wouldn't be. He would be trespassing and stealing. I see no sign of force anywhere in his scenario. The Zero Aggression Principle is essential, but not sufficient. There are wrongs which involve no initiated force. Would I believe a "whites only" water fountain is wrong? Yes. Would I support the owner's right to make that rule? Yes, but I would shun him. Would I rule in arbitration against a "black man" who drank from that fountain? Sure- I'd impose a penalty of one zinc penny (or the market value of the water he drank, whichever was higher), then offer to pay it on his behalf. And I'd do the same if the "race" roles were reversed. And, if the owner of the fountain used force to stop the guy from getting the drink, then I would say the water and trespassing debts were cancelled by the used force- unless the force used happened to be excessive in my view- then the debt would rest on the fountain's owner.

He goes off on the fact that libertarians will use coercion (I thought he just claimed we thought it was always wrong- there's some of that inconsistency in his claims that he wants to make off-limits for us to point out) to uphold our ideas of property, but think it is wrong when others uphold their ideas of "rights and laws [we] don't believe in". So where is the difference this guy claims makes a big deal? If, as he claims, I will use force to protect X (which he doesn't believe in), and he will use force to protect Y (which I don't believe in), why not just leave one another alone? Libertarians are willing. Is he?

Now he gives the "Social Contract" its own special attention. Goody. So he uses a Stefan Molyneux video as an illustration. OK. In it, Stefan gives the example of buying a car on someone's behalf, and forcing them to pay for it, if they live in a place you own. Then Video Guy talks about how libertarians will say if Stefan owns the apartment complex he is free to do whatever he wants (I don't buy into that, since murder and slavery aren't right even if "you only do it on your own property", but we'll pretend for a moment) and people can accept the deal or leave. Sure. In a free world where leaving is a realistic choice, that would work. In the real world, however, the agreement gets altered without your consent on a daily basis (so that you can never know all the rules, and neither can those who will enforce them), and you can only leave if you obtain the apartment owner's permission, and only if you leave a big chunk of your property behind to enrich him. And you are still expected to report all your property to him after you leave so that he can continue to bill you for "services" you no longer can even possibly "benefit" from in any way. His claim is that The State can prove ownership of the land we live on through means any libertarian would accept. No. Sorry. A thief doesn't own what he possesses. And no documentation from the government's own records changes that fact. (Would I be allowed to write up, archive, and interpret all my own documentation for extraordinary claims of this sort that benefited me? If not, why not?) All government "property" was stolen from someone in the past, or was "purchased" with stolen money, and is only maintained by continued theft. That isn't "ownership" and any claim based on that smoke and mirrors is a lie. He "insists there is no difference" between that and private ownership. Fine. Then why "buy" any property if the government can "prove" its ownership of it, and why pay property "taxes" if you don't own it? Let the real owner pay property "taxes" to himself. I agree that no one really owns any real estate as long as The State can steal it back and murder you for not paying your land ransom, but that isn't proof of anything but that the government is numerous and belligerent and has more guns.

Then he explains that "redistribution of wealth is not wrong" in his eyes. He says it is not wrong to take property from the rich and give it to the poor. If that were true, then it would also not be wrong to take the property of the poor and give it to the rich. You can't have it one way without having it the other as well. No one has any rights that others don't also have- identically. Why would "rich" or "poor" have any bearing on this at all? It would have to be OK to take the property of any random person and give it to any other random person without regard for what each of them had before you "redistributed" their property. Sorry, dude. That's theft and theft is wrong. Now, if someone obtained that property by theft or fraud (no difference really), then giving it back to the rightful owner is wonderful (that's is what Robin Hood really did, not the modern "rob from the rich to give to the poor" nonsense), but it is NOT "redistribution of wealth" in that case. And, once again, the relative wealth of the concerned parties has nothing to do with the situation. Except to people like Video Guy, there.

His "reason" for this is that The State has an obligation to make sure no one is starving, homeless, or naked, and that stealing from some to give to others is how to solve this problem. How about removing the "laws" that create the situation in the first place? Let people make money without burdening them with licenses, permits, regulations, "taxes", zoning, "laws", and every other "Act of State" that makes it harder for people to earn money. And, then get out of the way of private charity to take care of those who still can't make it. Deflate the excuse of "I don't have to help; that's the government's job". Once again he appeals to "fairness". (I love the quote by Scott Adams: ‎"[F]airness... is a concept invented so dumb people could participate in arguments.")

Next he asserts: "You cannot keep everything you earn". Well, duh. You must spend money in order to earn it, in most cases. And you will be spending it to buy things you need to stay alive, and for things to make you more comfortable and happy. Keeping your money would be pointless, but if you want to keep it all and starve to death, that is no one else's business but your own. Why does Video Guy have such a problem with this? Because it isn't "fair". LOL.

"If you own a company, you have benefited from the education of your workforce". Yeah, and your workforce has benefited from you paying them for their work. Why is this such a difficult concept for socialists to see? No one is claiming that one gets rich in isolation. It is a web- all parts benefit all other parts, until you allow a State into the mix.

He says he thinks it is reasonable to be made to pay for things the government "provides"- things like firefighters, reavers, courts, roads, etc. Yes, that is reasonable. What is not reasonable is maintaining a monopoly where I am forced to pay for things I don't want, from people I don't want to do business with. Let me hire who I want to provide the services I want. That, my dear Video Guy, is reasonable.

Then he ends by pointing out the obvious: The State is not perfect. He makes the bizarre statement that if he "chooses" to live in a State-run society... wait... you had a choice? Where was I when that choice was offered? Oh well, back to reality. If he "chooses" to live in a State-run society it doesn't mean he believes everything the State does to be right or justified. No one ever said he did. After all, he is apparently intelligent enough to put food and water into himself, and to believe The State is perfect would indicate a fatal disconnect from reality. And, libertarians also never claim that everything The State does is completely evil or unjustified. We just claim there is a better way. One that scares the panties off socialists.

He says his personal preference is still for such a system, and that there is no debate on this; that it is his personal choice. He's right. But his choice ends where someone else's choice begins. He admits that if one of us wants a stateless society and the other wants a state-run society, one of us is going to be disappointed. But that's only true on his side of the equation. I would let him form a State and live next door to me, as long as he kept his little club exclusive and didn't make non-members contribute or support it. I wouldn't prevent him from doing his own thing. But, he gloats at the end that the disappointed one isn't going to be him. Nice. I guess in his eyes, might makes right.

What it comes down to is that libertarians would allow this guy to live however he saw fit, only drawing the line at his ability to use coercion and deceit to make others go along, while he would not extend to others the same courtesy.

Watching videos like this is difficult. Painful, even. It's embarrassing to watch someone saying the things that Video Guy was saying. I want to protect him from himself. But that would require coercion since he obviously has been corrected so many times that he turned off the comments so he could ignore the truth. He is satisfied in his ignorance. And, as a libertarian I respect his choice while insisting that he not force his brand of ignorance on others.

Because it is painful to expose myself to crap such as this, why not just let examples like this video go unanswered? Because I care too much about people, and the truth, to just ignore things of this sort. Truth matters. Why does it matter? Because, if someone believes the right way to clean a gun is to look down the barrel while pulling the trigger, I'm going to try to correct him before he hurts himself or anyone else. He can believe it with all his heart. He might have been told this from the day he was born. He may think anyone who tells him otherwise isn't being "fair" to his beliefs, values, and feelings. He would still be dead wrong. And, if I see him telling others that his way is the right way to clean a gun, I am going to speak out, even at the risk of hurting his feelings, to try to limit the damage he does. The truth matters- reality matters.

Added- A day has passed since I wrote all of the above. And I now have a slightly different perspective. The agony of wading through that sludge has worn off and has been replaced with elation. I would sincerely like to thank Video Guy for posting that video. It reminds me how weak the arguments of the anti-liberty people really are. And that makes me really happy. Like Malcolm Reynolds, I'd rather be right than on the side that appears, at the moment, to be winning.