Libertarian Ramblings

Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

Posted by gravisman on November 11, 2012

One of the ideas I find myself most often thinking about and evangelizing is the general philosophy of non-aggression ethics in creation of laws. That is, the idea that any law that aggresses against citizens, or takes liberties from the same, is unethical. By far the most typical form of aggression is that which steals from the citizens – i.e. through income taxes.

I find that virtually every argument in favor of the modern governmental system which steals 1/3 or more of citizens’ income is, rather obviously, centered around bragging about the wonderful services rendered with the plundered coin. Moreover, proponents of large government like to make a counter-factual argument by supposing that if we did not have a large government, surely we would not have anything that is good like health care, electric service, roads, or any other necessities of life. That might be true or it might not be – none of us can know because do not live in that world. That is precisely why the counter-factual argument is a fallacy, but that’s the beside the point for the moment.

The more important idea, philosophically, is that even if it is true that without government, society would lose a lot of great things, the government is still unethical. We would not have a good highway system, health care, or (god forbid) even the internet itself. Even if all of that is true, a government funded via income taxes is still not justified. The issue is that income taxes are simply stealing, even if the masses tacitly consent. If all the voters but me believe taxes are good, but I would rather keep my earned income, the masses use their strength via the “legal” system to steal of my income without my consent. Therefore any income tax which lacks 100% agreement from the citizenry is certainly stealing from some.

Returning to thoughts of the wonderful services provided to us by the government, of which there are arguably many (with trillions of dollars in operating budgets, there ought to be). Problem is, no matter how great the services provided, they are all stained with the red hands of the thief, and therefore none of them can be considered ethical. They are all fruit of the poisoned tree, so to speak.

What I say to those who justify taxing people like me against our will is that your argument boils down to this: “Look at all the cool stuff we can build by stealing from people.” I have no doubt you can do great things by stealing great amounts of wealth. Stealing is still wrong.

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Resisting arrest

Posted by gravisman on December 19, 2008

For a few years now I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of resisting arrest as a crime. On a regular basis I find myself coming across stories of individuals who are wrongly attacked by police officers, and despite being cleared of any wrong doing prior to the attack, are still charged with resisting arrest. Since this is a felony, people can do jail time and have their lives severely thrown off track by something clearly caused by police error.

While many stories of this nature have come across my desk, the one that gets me thinking today this one. It’s beyond me that anyone could find it logical to call resisting a kidnapping at the hands of men who do not identify themselves a crime. That’s exactly what Galveston police are doing, though, charging a girl with resisting arrest for fighting back against unmarked police officers who jumped out of a van at her.

I would actually consider this a mild case, and one where the girl will probably get off. There are many more horrific stories. Another that comes to mind is this one where people are arrested seemingly because they resisted arrest (don’t ask me to explain that) and because they attempted to run away from a situation.

I see two problems in logic here. First, every person has the right to defend his or her self against unwarranted aggression. Second, we all have the right to flee a threatening situation.

Consider the following situation: you walk down the sidewalk and men jump out of a car and tackle a man walking near you. Scared for what might happen, you start running. Upon seeing you run, the men start chasing you. You throw things back at them as you run, and flail at them when they finally catch you and tackle you. You soon discover they are police officers. It doesn’t take long before everyone figures out that you were not at all involved with the man the police wanted – you are innocent. Good to go, right? Wrong. You will still be charged with resisting arrest. The only reason you were ever arrested in the first place is because you were scared and ran.

I propose two legislative changes to rebalance the power of the people and restore basic liberty. The first is to mandate that simply running or attempting to flee an area should not be considered probable cause for an arrest. The second is that resisting arrest should not punishable unless a suspect is convicted of another crime. That is, if you were falsely arrested in the first place, you cannot be charged with resisting arrest. We can still have our go at the real criminals who are rightly arrested – we just don’t need to be ruining the lives of people who are proven innocent.

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An abortion dilemma?

Posted by gravisman on December 7, 2008

Jane has become pregnant and wants an abortion, which is perfectly legal. She goes to her doctor and he says he will not treat her because he is ethically opposed to abortion.

Jill is becoming sexually active and wants to use birth control pills. Her doctor prescribes them for her, but when she goes to the pharmacy, the pharmacist refuses to fill her prescription because he is also ethically opposed.

If you’re reading LR, there’s a decent chance you’re pro-choice as I am, and the actions of the doctor and pharmacist above are probably appalling. The question is, what do we do about it?

If you’ve read LR more than once before, you should already know the answer. Say it with me…..

Nothing!

That’s absolutely right. Without consistent ideology, we don’t really have anything. Being a libertarian – or simply being an ethical human being – is all about abstaining from the use of force to get others to live how you want them to live. If we force the doctor to give girls abortions, then we have enslaved that doctor. If we force the pharmacist to fill all prescriptions, we have enslaved that pharmacist.

Choice is the golden egg that life has wrought humanity. We must protect it at all costs.

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Consistent ideology

Posted by gravisman on November 27, 2008

One of my greatest complaints against contemporary American politicians is that they lack consistent and coherent ideology. Political campaigns, to me, are largely irrelevant because they focus on people and issues – they never focus on ideology.

Observers frequently complain about rampant mudslinging and cry out that campaigns should focus on “the issues.” A point that is never heard, and that I would like point to make, is that “the issues” are hardly the issue at all. US senators are elected to six year terms, and presidents to four years. Despite this, their campaigns typically focus on issues that will only affect their first year in office. The reason we’re stuck in this situation is because many of our politicians and most of our political campaigns fail to even speak of ideology.

Ideology is about abstract ideas. Ideology is about ways of thinking. Sure, it’s much easier for voters to grab onto concrete issues and form opinions about them, but in doing so, they sell themselves short. I, as a voter, don’t care just about whether I agree with my representatives on issues that are in the lime light today. I care also about whether we agree on unforeseen issues that have yet to even arise.

I believe that force should only be used in self-defense and that force in any form is not an acceptable means to political ends. This very simple belief affects my opinion on a myriad of issues from foreign policy to domestic health care. It is many times more useful to me to know whether a representative shares this belief than to know how they feel about the Iraq war. I don’t want to only know that my leaders are opposed to the misguided war we fight today; I want to know that they will stand against the stirrings of another superfluous fight that may come two or three years from now.

I was inspired to write this post to commend Congressman Ron Paul for his legendary ideological consistency. What refreshes me the most is that even though I agree with Dr. Paul on nearly every issue, on the one major issue where we disagree, he remains stunningly true to his philosophies and resists the temptation to be politically over-aggressive.

The issue to which I refer is abortion. When I first learned of Ron Paul’s staunch Pro-Life beliefs about a year and a half ago, I was crushed because I thought it was a deal-breaker since I may be the most hard-core Pro-Choice supporter in the country.

I was reminded of what makes Dr. Paul great recently as I read his book, The Revolution: A Manifesto and he expresses that despite his deep opposition to abortions, he believes the government in Washington should have nothing to do with the issue, because he is a Constitutionalist. That’s amazing. The ability to stick strongly to an ideological belief, such as the Constitution, even in the face of an issue that holds strong emotional significance is exactly what we need from our leaders. What makes this great is that we know exactly what to expect from Ron Paul. We know that no matter what happens, he will stand on the side of the Constitution, and so all we need to do is read it to predict how he will vote.

With so many of our other so-called leaders, guessing how they will react to an issue that hasn’t yet reached public consciousness is a crap shoot. Those things are generally determined by combinations of political expediency, party politics, and the winds of public opinion at the time. Look at G. W. Bush, if you need an example, a man who campaigned on humble foreign policy and has lead huge military efforts into the Middle East. Long story short – we have no idea what most of the people in power will do until they actually do it. That’s a very dangerous way to live.

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Why Obama doesn’t get it

Posted by gravisman on November 6, 2008

Change.gov – Civil Rights

The above page details the Obama administration’s attitudes toward, and plans for, dealing with civil rights. There are two fundamental problems in thinking that pop out at me when I read it. First, when talking about “the problem” they don’t really address civil rights. Second, when talking about “the plan” they quickly show that they think civil rights can be achieved by force, which is exactly the opposite of the right idea.

The page points out four current problems relating to civil rights.

1. Average pay inequity relating white men to women and racial minorities.

2. Hate crimes

3. Vote suppression against minorities

4. Criminal justice inequities

The first three are simply not civil rights. You don’t have the right to get paid any certain amount, and you certainly don’t have the right to get paid an amount simply because someone else does. Every person’s pay is determined on the employment market by factors of supply and demand as well as their personal ability to market themselves and negotiate. Anyone who accepts a job for a given wage has done so under his or her own free will. If he or she believes his or her self to be undervalued, the option is always there to seek alternate employment, or stake out an independent means of survival.

As for hate crimes, this is a fine line. Crime is a problem. From the perspective of pure civil rights, the motive of crime is irrelevant. To single out hate crimes as a civil rights issue is to miss the point of non-aggression. 

Vote suppression is sad and unfortunate, but it’s also a part of the political game. Yes, physical threats of intimidation are bad, but efforts to mislead or discourage voting (as long as they come from non-government entities) are not a violation of civil liberties. Just as much as you have the right to vote, I have the right to try to convince you not to vote. This is almost exactly the same scenario as is played out between a criminal suspect and police. Just as much as the suspect has the right to remain silent, the police have every right to attempt to convince him or her to talk. Giving up his or her rights is the responsibility of the individual.

The final problem noted is the only one that counts as a real civil rights issue, and the reason is because it deals with a direct relation between citizens and the government. What Obama seems to fail to realize is that the entire premise of civil rights is to protect people from government. Civil rights are not about protecting people from people. Yes, the government exists to protect people from being violent toward each other and stealing each other’s property, but it’s not meant to be an arbiter of every human transaction. Since judicial inequities and racial profiling is about government treating different people differently, this is something that must be stopped and people’s civil rights are on the line. The right in question is equal protection under the law, which every citizen should expect.

One out of four is not impressive. I call that luck.

Perhaps even more alarming than Obama’s obvious failure to recognize the very nature of civil rights is his completely wrong attitude toward protecting them. If we read down the page to see the plan for improving things, the theme quickly becomes clear: let’s pass more laws. Laws do not expand rights. Laws contract rights. That is their nature (there are, of course exceptions, but this is a fairly reliable generalization). The way to expand civil liberties to repeal laws and policies that restrict them. It is insanity to go around setting more rules and expect that people will be more free with all the rules you’ve placed on them.

Some people just don’t get it….

Let us not forget what real change is.

UPDATE: The link supplied above is now broken, and the page that has replaced it has been largely overhauled. You can read the new page here.

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Free Market Government

Posted by gravisman on October 28, 2008

Link – Dealing with Police

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A bailout would be unethical

Posted by gravisman on September 28, 2008

I’ve already posted on the logic of why a federal bailout of wall street firms is a terrible idea economically. That should seem obvious to anyone. Government management of economic matters only ever does one thing: artificially affects prices. Printing money inflates the system artificially and drives up prices of everything. Using the Fed to set low interest rates artificially drives down the price of money (more precisely, the price of debt). Purchasing insolvent “illiquid” assets drives up the prices on those assets in the sense that it keeps them from falling down to a level where the market would actually be interested in purchasing.

Artificial pressures on prices are unfair and unethical to the players in the economic system. They always result in bad investment, because goods are being traded for something other than a real market value. An accumulation of bad investment always ultimately results in an economic bubble that must burst to correct itself. That is the nature of economic systems – people must pay the price for poor investment.

Just as much as the initial government pressures that influenced and supported poor investment were unfair to the market, so too is the action of propping up that failed system with an artificial bailout. This prevents the market from draining the bubble, as needs to happen, and course-correcting so that prices and investments can return to a sound state.

In addition to all this economic logic, there is one overriding reason why bailing out ailing investment firms with federal money is completely and entirely unethical, and it has nothing to do with whether doing so will fail or succeed. The simple fact is that the mob (some people call it government) has no right to decide that it needs $3000 dollars of my money (probably more than that, but a rough estimate based on the taxes I pay and the budget for the bailout) to help some private companies that have nothing to do with me, and do this without my consent.

If the bailout plan passes congress and I attempt to withhold $3000 of my tax money, men with guns will certainly come for me and throw me in prison. That is insane! Our people must wake up and recognize that there is an ethical element to government and how it spends its money and how it takes money from the people that cannot simply be ignored. Just because we have the infrastructure in place to take money from citizens whenever we want and spend it on whatever we want does not make it right.

Government should be allowed to collect some taxes and spend them on courts, transportation, non-aggressive defense, and other matters of reasonable infrastructure. The mob cannot take my money just because it paternalistically thinks it knows how to spend it to help me better than I can spend it to help myself. That is truly insanity.

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The government’s most blatant act of slavery

Posted by gravisman on July 1, 2008

I was reading this argument against the Supreme Court’s recent decision on D.C.’s handgun ban when I felt it necessary to comment on one of the laws I’ve always found most perplexing: it’s illegal to commit suicide. WTF? 

If I own a television set, I’m perfectly within my rights to break it. If I own my refrigerator I’m perfectly within my rights to unplug it. If I own a pig I’m perfectly within my rights to kill it. If I own my own life I’m perfectly within my rights to break it, to unplug it, or to kill it, right? The answer is, unequivacably, YES. The problem is, the government has never been of the belief that you own your own life!

You are a citizen, and as such the government views you as a piece of its property – a pawn in its games, both international and domestic, for power. You may notice that it can be perfectly legal for the government to kill you in different scenarios, whether at the hand of police or the courts. Since the government thinks it owns your life, that seems perfectly reasonable. Any attempt to end your life by anyone other than the government – including yourself – is seen as an attempt to steal the government’s property, and thus it intervenes with its legal forces.

The idea of the government claiming ownership over people’s lives in this manner is horrendous, especially when viewed with the realization that we are born into this country and this government without ever having a choice about it. We could not be given a chance to consent to a life of citizenry and governance before we are thrust into this life, and yet even after the choice is made for us and we are capable of choosing for ourselves, the option of revoking consent is deemed illegal.

It is clear what is going on. We are slaves to the government toward the end of continued economic production, military power, and physical reproduction so that the government maintains a steady supply of slaves. Couple this with the illegality of vagrancy and we see the full circle: it’s illegal to leave life, and it’s illegal to do nothing with it. In this way the government drives its slaves toward continued achievement of its ends.

Posted in philosophy, Rants | 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.

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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.

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