Libertarian Ramblings

Archive for June, 2008

Can energy be free?

Posted by gravisman on June 25, 2008

I mean, isn’t this supposed to be a free country?

Posted in Videos | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Should opposite-sex marriage be legal?

Posted by gravisman on June 22, 2008

Same-sex marriage is up there on the list of current hot political topics. If the legality of same sex marriages can be questioned, why does nobody ever question the legality of opposite-sex marriages? This seems especially weird since our culture spends a great deal of effort trying to ensure that children and teens of the opposite sex never sleep in the same place, but once they hit the 20s, we change gears and do whatever we can to prevent those of the same sex bedding together. That’s just plain weird.

I digress, though. The real issue is about rights (i.e. special privileges) given to married couples by the government. For whatever reason, there is a large group of the population that is concerned with giving these same special privileges to couples of the same sex. I think I have to agree. We should not be giving out special privileges to same-sex couples. Just the same, though, we shouldn’t be giving special privileges to opposite sex couples.

The entire idea of marriage rights in the first place is discriminatory bullshit. It enacts legal favors to those who marry, which as a consequence discriminates the very ugly, the severely handicapped, and those who are just really bad at relationships. More than that, it discriminates against those who simply choose not to marry. Why should the class of married people have any rights not conferred to the class of unmarried?

As far as rights of joint ownership and property transfer following a death, and anything related to that, there’s no need for marriage for people to enjoy these rights. Two people (or even three or four!) can form any private contract they wish. Whatever contract people wish to form should then be honored by the courts and the government.

Same-sex marriage is not the issue. Marriage is the issue. The word marriage should mean nothing to the government, and the people can go about their business.

Posted in libertarian, philosophy | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

A reminder to be sane about net neutrality

Posted by gravisman on June 20, 2008

As an internet geek, it’s very easy for me to fly off the handle at any rumor of Comcast or any of the other major ISPs limiting my ability to freely and fully access the internet. The internet is a precious commodity, and its openness is what makes it so great. Thoughts of anyone tampering with the openness of the network don’t sit well in my heart.

The last year or so has seen increased debate on the issue of net neutrality as alarmists fear that ISPs will try to take part of the internet away or lessen its efficacy toward the end of their own monetary gain. The most basic fear is that ISPs will implement technology that allows them to prioritize certain kinds of traffic on their network, and then extort money from the websites that wish to be prioritized. With that done, small websites and anyone refusing to pay ISPs a ransom for the bandwidth to reach the customers on the ends of their connections would have a distinct disadvantage and possibly fade away. An even more alarmist idea is the ridiculous notion that ISPs would and could turn the internet into a television-like subscription service where the customer has to pay extra to access any sites not in a pre-selected package of sites. For those who haven’t heard that craziness, check this out:

I don’t think I even need to comment on how insane this idea is. Anyone who understands how market forces (and the internet itself) work knows this is entirely impractical and you probably wish you had your five minutes back from watching that video.

There still remains, however, the more general issue of net neutrality, relating to preferential treatment of traffic. Many people are so afraid of what could happen that there has been a major movement to pass legislation guaranteeing the idea that the internet will remain entirely neutral in the traffic it servers for years to come. Many big guns including our friends at Google support such a law. It sounds like a great idea on the surface. After all, who likes the idea of the evil ISPs controlling what traffic we can get through our paid for internet connects, and how effectively we get it? It’s enough to scare any nerd into activism.

Reality check time. When did we start thinking government regulation is the solution to internet problems? Especially hypothetical internet problems (ok, bit-torrent throttling is a real issue today, but that’s not the same as prioritizing web-sites, and that’s a problem that will likely get worked out as ISPs grow up to the modern internet). We nerds have a mostly great track record for shunning government intervention in our affairs – especially when it comes to our beloved internet. Somehow, though, we have been scared and duped en mass to supporting a piece of legislation that would have far reaching effects on our favorite toy now and into the future. One of the biggest problems with government regulation of just about anything is unforeseen consequences, and with something that grows and evolves as fast as the internet, unintended consequences aren’t a possibility – they’re a guarantee.

I can already imagine circumstances in which I might be hamstrung by a government decree that all traffic must be treated equally. Suppose I’m interviewing for a job over a video phone call on IP, and suddenly a few roommates start downloading movies they’ve decided to buy. The technology could exist to correctly shape the traffic so that my video phone call stays working at the bandwidth it needs, setting the downloads at a lower priority. Since that would be illegal, my call drops and I lose the job. With the future of HD television very possibly being delivered over IP, that too clouds the situation – I want my tv to just work, right?

The point is simple: we should all be smarter than to think that government is the answer to the internet. The very thing everyone is afraid of is losing their ability to be completely free online. Since when does more government equal more free? Let us please keep our heads and let the market work it out.

Posted in Rants, Videos | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Abortion: A libertarian perspective

Posted by gravisman on June 17, 2008

To expand upon my previous post with a practical example, I’d like to cover an oft-discussed topic with a somewhat less common argument.

Many people say that it’s inherently wrong to end an innocent life, so the abortion discussion often revolves around the definition of life and when it begins. Other arguments can mix in ideas of ownership rights, both over the mother’s and the child’s body. In this case, pro-lifers sometimes argue that child rights are shared between mother and father, while pro-choice arguments center on the woman’s exclusive rights to her body and related decisions.

Let us imagine a situation where a pregnant woman does not wish to carry her fetus to term – she wishes to abort the pregnancy, for whatever reason. If this is the case, the only way any other person can prevent this outcome is by imposing their will on the woman by force. In other words, they must claim greater ownership of the woman’s body and life than herself. This, of course, violates the fundamental principle of liberty

So far, I have not varied too far from the basic pro-choice argument. That is, nobody is more qualified to make the decision for the woman’s body than the woman herself. The typical pro-life argument, however, focuses on the ignored rights of the fetus if the woman chooses to abort. Let us, then, go at that argument more directly and focus on the rights relationship between pregnant mother and child.

The fetus has a very important tie to the mother – it needs the mother to live. Without the mother’s active support, the fetus will die. This dependence relationship means that in order for the fetus to claim a right to life, it also must claim a greater right to the mother’s life and body than the mother herself. To claim the right to life, it must force the mother to carry it through pregnancy to birth (or some agent acting on the behalf of the fetus). This assertion of a positive right cuts down the mother’s liberties (as is always the case with positive rights) and makes a slave out of her. Let me be very clear about this – forcing a mother to carry a child against her will is putting that woman in slavery.

The mother, on the other hand, has a negative right to life without a child inside her, and all to take away this liberty is no more justified than taking away her very life. Imposing will by force on someone’s life is taking a part of their life, and theft of life is murder, whether it’s the whole life or merely a part. Therefore, any attempt to save the life of an unborn child by imposing mob rule on the pregnant mother is simply exchanging one supposed murder for another.

Posted in philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Non-Aggression Principle

Posted by gravisman on June 15, 2008

The foundation of liberty theory, to me, is very simple: everyone should be able to do whatever they wish so long as it does not infringe on others’ right to do the same. This is sometimes further simplified to “live and let live.”

Doesn’t that sound beautiful? You don’t tell me what to do, and I won’t tell you what to do! What I definitely won’t do is send men with guns after you to systematically extract a large portion of your earnings throughout your life and spend that money on whatever I wish.

I talk about rights a lot and how I believe in people’s rights, but at the same time I speak out against universal healthcare, something that some people label as a right. So, what gives? How do we decide what’s a right and what’s not? 

I prefer to go a little different direction than answering that question directly, and instead ask, how do we determine what rights are worth while, and what ones are not?

The key to understanding this and how we can all live freely in a non-aggressive fashion is dividing rights into two categories: negative rights (what I like to call liberties) and positive rights. Don’t be alarmed by the adjective – negative does not mean bad in this case.

Positive rights are those rights which require something from someone else in order for you to claim them. For example, if it were decided that every child had a right to have a laptop, then that would require people to build those laptops and people to pay for those laptops. Positive rights can be considered enslavement rights because they must enslave some people in order to provide for others. In the case of the laptops, the people who build laptops could possibly be considered enslaved because they must build those for the children to have them. More realistically, though, it’s the entire population that is enslaved to provide for the children, because it’s their money that is siphoned through taxes to pay for the laptops. That means a certain portion of each person’s work is enslaved service to purchase those laptops. 

Universal healthcare falls within this same category. If everyone is entitled to it, that mean all of us, regardless of our needs, wants, or beliefs relating to medical care, would be forced to give of our income to support the medical care of others. Doctors would be enslaved to treat anyone and everyone – a medical professional loses all rights to say no, and their skills are used against them as they are made slaves to society’s will.

Negative rights (liberties) on the other hand, are those rights that require nothing from anyone else to be utilized – you only need people to not get in your way or prevent you from exercising the rights. Liberties are great, because it is easy to see that they are natural and engrained in human existence. To take away another’s liberties is unethical – who has the right to take away another person’s liberties when that person has done nothing to them? Liberties can include things as simple as the right to run. We all have the ability to run by virtue of being human. All we need to exercise this right is to do it and not have someone tell us we cannot.

Owning a gun is another example of a negative right, or a liberty. Property ownership is a pretty natural thing, and all a person needs to be able to keep a gun is to go buy one and not have the government prevent them from having it (naturally, if the government chose to intervene, they would do so with guns of their own in support – mobs are great).

The truly important concept with positive and negative rights is the understanding that in a society, the existence of high amounts of positive rights and high amounts of negative rights are inversely correlated. That is, the more negative rights you have, the fewer positive ones you have, and vice versa. This is easy to see when we realize that positive rights enslave people, and people who are enslaved lack liberties. Enslavement through positive rights like universal healthcare is undeniably an uncalled for aggression of the mob government over those people who want no part of such a system.

If we could all live and let live, nobody would have to take from me to fill their own desires, but the mob government feels it has the ability to do that, and since they have lots of guns on their side, the reality is they probably can…. I just wish I had a say in my own life. Slavery sucks.

Posted in libertarian, philosophy | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Real Change 2

Posted by gravisman on June 12, 2008

Campaign for Liberty

The above website is the web headquarters for Dr. Paul’s great new effort: Campaign for Liberty. I have long believed that change is something that must be enacted over time, moving society section by section to a long-term goal. It is not possible to change things overnight.

Before I learned about Ron Paul and his revolution I felt that even long term change was out of reach because it seemed that I was so alone. I now see that not only is there a large contingent of people in this country who believe in liberty as I do, but we are growing! As a member of the 20-something crowd among whom this revolution is particularly popular, I see our ideas as the thing of the future. As we grow in age and in numbers I am confident we will become more and more a force to be reckoned with in American politics.

The Campaign for Liberty is just the beginning – we will be heard!

Posted in Campaign for Liberty | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Real Change

Posted by gravisman on June 12, 2008

I applaud Mr. Ron Paul in this video for hitting on the fundamental issues that need to be addressed to effect real positive change in our political environment.

It is important that we remember to take a step back from things and look at our situations as a whole. Many politicians talk and talk the rhetoric of “change” but we must learn to recognize the context. The context is often setup to narrow our thoughts to relatively trivial details of policy implementation. In doing this, they trick us into forgetting about larger, more fundamental issues as we implicitly take them for granted. These are issues like electoral systems (discussed in previous post), fiscal and monetary institutions, and the role of the US in the world.

We should remember that the way things are now is a result of decisions made over time by people who are plenty capable of making mistakes. These are some things to think about when we think about what “change” really means.

Posted in Videos | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Election 2008 – No Three Ways About It

Posted by gravisman on June 8, 2008

Today the 2008 presidential campaign became effectively a two person race. While I am greatly relieved that neither of them is named Clinton, I still feel a great sadness in the number two. It is the very fact that we are forced into this position of choosing between two candidates for each election (in very rare circumstances, there are three candidates with enough power to hope to win) that undermines our our entire political system.

If we were given a choice between living in New York City or Mobile, Alabama, I think a great number of us would be completely unrepresented by those choices and happy with neither. Few us would accept choosing the color of our house between black and white, would live with choosing to be a slave or slave master, or would fail to complain if our transportation choices were only walk or fly; how is it that we accept only Republican or Democrat?

Many of us will claim that this is just the way the system works and it is not our fault, and to some degree that is true. The system is setup to destroy all options but two. The root of the problem lies in Congressional elections, rather than Presidential. All members of Congress get their jobs through elections where the people can only choose one person to put in office. Taking into account that we have many election districts, this leaves us in the following state: if there are two parties each of which is supported by approximately 40% of the people, and there is a third party which is supported by 20% of the people, the third party will be left completely unrepresented. This is because the two powerful parties will battle it out in each district, and each will end up winning about half of the districts. The third party, though supported by about 20% of the total votes (no small number!) will get zero representatives, because they don’t have enough to win any one district. Unable to fill any congressional seats, this third party is left with no legs under it to even attempt a real presidential bid. The futility of its existence will ultimately erode its support base and it is through these forces that the election system makes it virtually impossible for any parties except for the two most powerful to exist.

Despite this fatally flawed system, it is important that we remember not to be funneled into only one of two directions of thought. The media and cultural forces around us have made everything seem like Obama, Clinton, or McCain, and in the future they will be sure to make everything seem like Obama or McCain, but there are most certainly other ways of thinking.

Obama is a charismatic leader with promises to shake up Washington. He also promises one of the disastrous possibilities for American politics: universal health care. As much as I cringe at the terrible thought of the US as a police state both inside and out with its homeland security and foreign relations policies, I am comforted by the fact that these things can be undone in the future. The scary thing about universal health care is that an entitlement program of that nature will never go away once implemented. Forever will we as taxpayers be committed to spending our money on inefficiencies inherent in huge government-run programs and will be forced by men with guns to pay for other people’s drugs. If you don’t believe me about the “men with guns” try not paying your taxes.

McCain, while maybe not as much of a long term threat as our friend Obama, is nevertheless a man who seems determined to continue on the road of foreign policy that has so much angered our world neighbors in the past as to bring mass hate and terror to our soil. Worse than that, his campaign has openly acknowledged that he would continue (and likely expand, as that is the nature of the executive) domestic surveillance programs. To that I simply say, while many remark that if you are innocent you have nothing to hide, I say that if I am free, you have no reason to watch me.

I wish there were a solution I could give to make things better today. There is not. Those who embrace freedom, or even embrace free thought, not tethered to one of two ideas, should work to over time educate and enhance support for an improved electoral system. In the mean time, I think Mr. Ron Paul has tapped on a growing group of Americans who believe that this is, and should be, the land of the free. I believe that group will continue to grow over the next decade or two. I believe that if we continue to remember we can think whatever we want to think that there will come a time when our numbers and our power can force a change even in a system as flawed as this one.

Posted in Elections | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »