Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simple Truth: Additional Laws will not Sway the Lawless

Illustration:  It is well known that students on the Virgina Tech campus are not allowed to posses or carry weapons.  It is a "gun free zone."  And yet, in 2009, and, more recently, just in the beginning of December 2011, gunmen terrorized the campus. 

Explanation:  This is not a defense of gun ownership, or a tretise on the Second Amendment.  Though those are parts of a valid topic, they are not the point here.  The point here is that, in both cases, the criminal knew he was breaking the law.  The law did not prevent him from doing what he wanted.  He chose to violate the law by carrying a weapon on campus, and again to violate the law by murdering someone[s].

The same is true of the Mob, or some gas-station robber, or a man who beats his wife and/or children.  These people all know the law.  They know they are in violation of it.  They know, and they don't care.

Given that criminals know they are criminals: indeed, most of them consciously choose to break the law, we must ask ourselves, "why do we need more laws?"  It is already illegal to murder, why should we also restrict gun ownership?  The "results" of drug use (theft, property damage or destruction, and so forth) are already illegal, why do we need additional laws against what we see as the seed of those behaviors (this is not to say there aren't good reasons to outlaw certain drugs- those just aren't them)?  You are already liable for any damage done when you cause an accident in your car, why should you be criminally liable for talking on your cellular phone?

Across the spectrum, Government's first reaction to someone breaking the law is to add more laws.  And, as previously discussed, any time Government expands, it does so at the cost of your Liberty.  When Lehman Brothers failed, and the whole crash of October 2008 occurred, we were told we needed more regulation.  More Government, we were told, would have stopped the catastrophe.  Nevermind the layers upon layers of regulation that already exist.  Never mind that banks were only doing what was in their best interest, in light of things like the Community Reinvestment Act and other Government mandates.  Never mind that fraudulent accounting practices, and purjury are already crimes: we needed more regulation.

And, at the end of the day, our banking system is no more secure, our economy is not substantially better off, and banks are suffering financially because of "more regulation."  Moreover, the regulations are harder to enforce, as they have become yet more byzantine.  A prime example is the tax-code.  Tax enforcement is anything but standardized, and three different IRS agents will give you four different answers to the same question.  They are no more "sure" of the law than you are.  Yet we need more regulation.  We need more laws.

At the end of the day, we need fewer laws.  We need to gut the current system and return it to the minimalist system which worked for over a century.  Outlaw specific acts, and then enforce those laws.  From illegal immigration, to fraud, to money laundering, to property destruction or murder.  Outlaw the act, enforce the law.  By maintaining as minimalist a government as possible, we will begin to regain our Liberty.

UPDATE: Thanks, AoSHQ, for the link!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple Truth: Liberty Exists in Inverse Proportion to the Size & Scope of Government


Explanation:  I actually had a hard time coming up with an illustration for this topic.  Not because there were too few examples, but because there were so many it was hard to pick one.  It is almost axiomatic that More Government leads to Less Liberty.  Liberty is about not being told what to do.  It is about being free to choose your own path, and responsible for the consequences of those decisions.  Liberty is a cross-roads where only your choices determine the destination.

Any time Government expands its power, it can only do so at the cost of some of your Liberty.  The absolute of Liberty is Anarchy- which is Liberty gone so amok that it no longer even resembles Liberty.  The absolute of Government is Despotism.

We gave up some of our Liberty (like, Liberty to shoot one another over a fence-post, for example) to our Government to allow it to enforce the societal contract.  It, in return, was supposed to protect us, and to make itself as little a burden as possible.  That was the entire part of the Republican Federalist system the Founders Established.  Instead, it grew.  It grew slowly, at first.  People who were alive for the Founding kept things in check.  Their children as well.  Then, everything changed.  First, the Civil War effectively abolished the 10th Amendment.  Without discussing the "reasons" for the war, it is undeniable that, until that point, it was accepted by virtually all parties that States had the power to remove themselves from the Union.  The Civil War changed that.  From that point over, we have had an ever growing Government, and ever less Liberty.

Now, Government tells us what we can and cannot eat.  It tells us where we can and cannot build homes, or businesses.  It decides if we are worthy of self-protection in the form of gun ownership.  It restricts our movements, it mandates certain purchases, and all the while it grows larger, ever larger.

One day, it will be to late to kill the Leviathan.  This beast we have created and allowed to run amok will, one day, strangle the last of our Liberties.  That can be stopped, but we must first accept that is happening, we must understand the reasons, and we must stand up and shoulder the Responsibilities that Government has oh-so-generously taken from us: at the cost of our Liberty.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Simple Truth: Privilege is the Antithesis of Liberty

Illustration:  Consider two families living in the same country.  The first family can only work where the government allows, they can only go where the government allows.  The phrase "Papers, please" is something they hear, or expect to, regularly.  The second family can do more-or-less whatever they want.  The work where they want, or not at all.  They go where they please.

The second family does not have Liberty, they have Privilege.  You can see it today in North Korea and China, as the Government's lackeys have wealth, and power, and status, and the normal people have nothing.  You could see it in the old USSR.  You can see it in Viet Nam.  More and more you can see it in European nations which seem Hell-bent on embracing neo-Marxism.  You see it in our own Governing class.

Explaination:  Privilege is not Liberty.  Liberty is a state of being in which no one has any claims on you.  This state can exist in more or less absolute forms, until it even reaches pure anarchy- which loses any semblance of true Liberty.  Privilege is when some have what is disallowed to others.  It exists when the majority are not allowed to have a certain thing, or do a certain thing, but that a special class can.  This mostly exists in government: our Congress regularly exempts itself from its own laws, for instance.  In a Socialist State it can exist at the bottom as well.

When those who do not make enough, on their own, to support their families reject jobs which pay more- because the increase will be enough to remove them from welfare eligibility, but not enough to sustain them at the lifestyle to which they have become acustomed, that is an instance of Privilege.  When those who do not produce anything of value are given the fruits of my produce.  When they are allowed, even encouraged, to consume without contributing, that is Privilege.

At every turn Privilege clashes with Liberty.  Privilege says that some can take without giving; Liberty says that some will give at the risk of no return.  Privilege gives security to few; Liberty promises the chance for security, but the chance of privation, to all.  Only in a land without Liberty can Privilege truly flurish.  That is why its existence here is so much harder to detect than in despotic countries.  Here it must hide.  It must take less for itself, because, at root, we still believe in Liberty and Justice.  We believe that what one man has, another should have a legitimate chance at obtaining.  In those countries, the people believe- or are said to believe- that what they have is only due to the beneficence of their government, and that those in Government should have more so they can take better care of The People.  Privilege does not have to hide: it comes out openly and brazenly.  It masks itself as Nationalistic Pride, and snears at those who would question it.

The quote: "Give me Liberty or give me death," is not a call to freedom.  The Colonists were largely free.  It was a cry against privilege.  It was a cry against a consuming class who produced nothing of value.  It was a cry against Tyranny.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Simple Truth: Responsibility is the Inverse of Liberty

If you want Liberty, you must shoulder the burden of Responsibility.  The two cannot be separated- Liberty without Responsibility is Privilege (to be discussed in a future post), Responsibility without Liberty is slavery.

A man drives his car late at night.  It's been a long day, and he's tired.  The light is bad.  It's been raining, so the roads are slick.  He loses control of his car and crashes into a home.  Who is responsible for repairing the home?

With all the words I've written on Liberty, I would be remiss if I did not mention that even Liberty comes with a price.  That price is Responsibility.  The two are inseperable.  In our example, of course the driver is responsible for repairing the home.  He may have insurance which pays for the damage, or he may have to pay himself.  If the loss of control was not due to any error on his part, it is possible that he could hold the company which made the vehicle responsible. 

Our Liberties require that we accept Responsibility for our actions and for their consequences.  A man who uses his Liberty of gun-ownership to commit murder should be held responsible and punished appropriately.  A man who uses his Liberty of free association to hang with gangsters and hoodlums, or to become a member of the KKK, or pal around with anti-Semites, must be held responsible for the company he keeps, and be ready to accept any consequences of that choice.

People who smoke should be held responsible, and should be willing to shoulder the consequences thereof: from cancer, to emphysema.
People who drink should be held responsible, and should be willing to shoulder the consequences thereof: whether a DUI, or Drunk-and-disorderly, or other, non legal consequences.

Anyone who would have you believe that Liberty comes without responsibility is lying to you; so is anyone who suggests that Conservatives believe that.  Indeed, that is why we believe in harsher justice than Liberals- we believe that people make choices because of the Liberty, and must take Responsibility for those choices.

Indeed, only if Liberty was removed, could Responsibility also be removed.  If I do not have liberty, if I cannot make choices, then how can I justly be held accountable for my actions?  They weren't "my" actions any more than the car drove itself off the road, or any more than the gun aimed and fired itself.

So, on the one hand: beware of anyone offering you liberty without Responsibility.  On the other, beware anyone who tells you they will relieve you of your Responsibility- the only way they can do that is to relieve you of your Liberty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Simple Truth: Private Property is one of the pillars of Liberty

A man who works to no gain, no matter how free his actions, is still a slave.  A man coerced into a line of work who sees a gain from his labor may well be free.

Consider two men.  One chose his profession.  He was free to make any choice he desired.  But now he works only for those over him.  Whether the government, or some private employer, he spends his labor, but sees no profit.  He produces, but his employer gains.  The other man was "forced" by circumstance, or law, or tradition into some form of work.  He had no real choice in the matter.  However, he works and sees a profit from his labor.  What he makes is his, and he disburses it as he sees fit, in exchange for whatever he agrees.

Which of these men has Liberty?

In many ways, the right to accumulate property- the right to work for oneself- is the essence of Liberty.  Once I can work for myself (say, by starting up a blog and running Ads on my site.  Or by selling my labor to an employer), I am the master of my own destiny.  My decisions, and even happenstance, may make my life less than perfect, but I always have the choice of doing something differently.  If I cannot work for myself, if I must work only for another's gain, then I am a slave.  My life is not my own, because I cannot work for my own property.  This applies to money as well as other forms of wealth.

When we seek to restrict private ownership of any kind of property, we are restricting Liberty.  Sometimes, in the case of illegal drugs, for instance, Society has made the choice that this particular Liberty-for-Security trade is worth it.  Only God and Time will be able to tell for sure.  Other times, those restrictions are forced on us without explanation, or without our having a voice.  When that occurs, someone is usurping, or attempting to usurp, our Liberty.  From gun ownership, to land zoning, to mineral rights, to HOAs, to any number of other things: these are all restrictions on our Liberty.

Not all of those are unreasonable, or unnecessary.  But you must remember, whenever you say, "There ought to be a law!" that you are advocating for the reduction of Liberty.  That reduction, once made, is hard or impossible to reverse.  We should be very careful about under which circumstances we will agree to such reductions.

When you advocate for higher taxes "on the rich," you are advocating for reduced Liberty.
When you ask that your HOA stop someone from building a tool-shed, or erecting a flag-pole: you are advocating for reduced Liberty.
When you request that the Government set prices for Health Care, and for increased regulations on how doctors and hospitals may practice: you are advocating for reduced Liberty.

When you want that Liberty back, the price may be terribly high.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Simple Truth: No Government can show Compassion.

Compassion is a unique trait.  It must be voluntary, or it is not compassion.

Imagine a family, poor by American standards, seeing before them a bleak Christmas.  Few if any gifts, an old, sad-looking plastic Christmas tree.  Mom and dad both work long hours, the kids are what we used to call "latch-key kids."  They live a very humble life.  Very few could look on these people with anything other than sympathy.  Those of us who have been blessed want to help them; especially those of us who have seen similar hard times.  "They need help!" we think.  And they get it.  They get it from private organizations, but they also get it in the form of WIC, Food-Stamps, and other government assistance.

Down the street is another family.  This one somewhat more prosperous, but looking at a similar christmas.  Mom got sick this year, and the car died.  The furnace went out, and the refigerator, too.  They make plenty of money, on paper, but unexpected costs have killed them this year.  We look at them, too, with sympathy- yet they get far less help.  Large organizations, as well as the government, look at income to determine if someone qualifies for assistance.  They have limited resources, after all, and must prioritize.  Individuals and smaller organizations, such as their local Church, may help some, but their resources are even more limited.

Considering this, why is it "compassionate" to provide tax-payer funded assistance to the first family, and deny to the other?  That isn't compassion, especially since the second family is partially responsible for that tax-payer funded assistance the first family receives.  We are literally taking from those in need to give to others in need.

When someone in the Government starts talking about "compassion" your best bet is to cover your wallet and run the other way.  No bureaucracy, and especially not one which can demand funding, can be compassionate.  They must, by definition, take from someone to give to someone else.  It is not compassion if I take ten dollars from you, and give it to some homeless guy.  It is, and can be, compassion only when you- knowing the cost to yourself- make the decision to give the ten dollars.  Compassion, in fact, must be voluntary.  It must be an individual choice.

George W. Bush, as much as I admired him for many things, made this mistake.  He believed that we needed a "Compassionate Conservatism."  This is quite the wrong track.  "Conservatism" as a philosophy is completely independent of "Compassion."  Neither is required for the other, nor are they mutually exclusive.  I, as a Conservative, am compassionate.  Conservatism itself cannot speak to "compassion" at all.  Any given Liberal may be compassionate (if, statistically speaking, less so than any given Conservative).  Liberalism itself cannot speak to "compassion" at all. 

When we allow the Government to cloak redistribution in the rhetoric of "Compassion" what we are really doing is allowing them to steal from the productive and give to the unproductive.  There are many fine people who rely on Tax-payer-funded assistance of many varieties, and my heart weeps for them.  But they do not have the right to coerce me to pay for their upkeep.  If you are working, and trying to get by, then any number of local, private organizations exist to help you.  Indeed, if less of our money was being stolen to pay for those who are milking the system, they would be both willing and able to help you more.  As long as Government remains in the business of wealth redistribution, whether in the name of "fairness" or "compassion," or anything else, true compassion will be limited and- ultimately- snuffed-out.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Simple Truth: Distrust of Government is not 'anti-government.'

The fact I do not "trust" the government does not mean I question the necessity of its existence.

In the 1990's, Congress "Fixed" Social Security by placing the funds from your FICA taxes in a "Lock Box."  This let everyone feel nice and safe, and believe that Social Security would exist for them 25, 30, or even 50+ years later.  However, those paying attention at the time knew there was no "Lock Box."  There was a special account, as such things go in Washington, but all funds were going first to the general fund, and then IOUs were being placed "in the account" for Social Security instead of actual money.

It is this kind of obfuscation of the facts that make conservatives distrustful of government.  We do not believe that government is not necessary.  We do not believe in anarchy (indeed: most anarchists are socially very liberal).  We do believe that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  We believe that man's fallen nature makes him predisposed to do things for his own benefit with little or no regard for the harm it causes others.

That is why we advocate for smaller government.  A government which is relatively small and weak is a government with less power to enrich itself at the cost of the citizenry.  A limited government is one that has less (ideally: no) power to "pick winners and losers," or skew the marketplace.  A limited government is one that cannot lie to the people, because it is governed by them as much as they are governed by it.

This is also why we advocate for Federalism.  A fragmented government, not just among three branches, but also among several levels, is easier to keep in check.  A citizen, just trying to live his life, often doesn't have the time or inclination to keep an ever-watchful eye on Washington DC, their State capitol, and their local city hall.  So, with true federalism, and strong States, this responsibility is cut by a third.  We still have to mind both our local and our State governments, but the State government then becomes a check on the Federal government- and the semi-antagonistic nature that is inherent in 50 (or even 13) states each preventing the others from getting some "unfair" advantage makes it relatively easy for a citizen simply to check occasionally.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Date which will live in Infamy

Seventy years ago today, the Empire of Japan "suddenly and deliberately attacked" the United States military installation in Pearl Harbor.  They did considerable damage to our fleet there, and brought the United States into World War II.

Many brave men died that day; fighting back, attempting to rescue their comrades, or simply at rest.

After that, the World War was not the same.  The American giant had awoken, and its wrath was terrible.  Fighting one enemy virtually alone, and assisting our allies in dealing with another, the United States mobilized a fighting force the likes of which had never been seen on this planet.

And when the fighting was done, we stopped.  We helped rebuild those same countries we had just destroyed.  After the fighting, we put down our weapons, scuttled many of our ships, and clipped the wings of many of our airplanes.

Today that tradition continues.  Our brave Airmen, Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers (and Coasties) continue to safeguard our way of life- and yet, almost uniquely in the history of the world- our military seeks peace.

For you, Warriors of America, I give thanks.  I will never be able to express enough how much I owe to you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simple Truth: Inequality does not exist because of Liberty. Liberty exists to minimize inequality.

The ones at the top always have Liberty.  The only question is if those at the bottom do as well.

Consider two men of middle stature.  Both are professionals; both have wives and children.  Both have houses and food.  Above both men, in society, are "the rich and powerful."  Politicians, successful businessmen, kings, and queens.  He knows they wield money, and therefore power and influence.  The first man, however, has no hope of ever joining that elite group.  He is told where to live, what to eat, and what to do.  He has no choices, or they are so limited that he may as well have none.  The other man has hope.  He could, tomorrow, if he chose, sell his possessions, go into business for himself, and possibly enter the rolls of the Rich and Powerful.  Which of these men would you rather be?

Consider two more men.  Both are considered "poor" by their respective societies.  The first eats a subsistence diet, going hungry on many days.  His clothes are old.  He has no heat or air conditioning in his domicile.  He relies solely on his feet or public transportation to get from point A to point B.  The second man eats at least two, and probably three meals a day.  He has a car, a television, and complains when his AC or Furnace need repair.  He consumes more information in a day than most people throughout human history would have been able to consume in a year.

In both of these cases, the difference is Liberty.  In the first case, the second man has the Liberty to chart his own course; to decide his own destiny.  Certainly, he may fail, but it is only because of the possibility of failure that the possibility of upward mobility exists.  They are opposite faces of the same coin.  In the second case, the second man benefits from the Liberty he shares with those who are more successful.  Because he lives in a society of Liberty, goods are more plentiful and, therefore, less expensive.

In every society there will be those with wealth and power.  It is simply a fact of human existence that the majority of society's wealth will belong to a relatively small group of people.  Nothing in Man's history has changed this, and nothing suggests it can change.  To complain about that fact is the same as complaining about gravity or the tides.  Even in Communist Russia and China, those at the top had power and wealth.  So the question of Liberty is not whether those men will exist, it is whether it will be possible to join their ranks.

In a society with Liberty, where I can enjoy the fruits of my own labor, I can choose to take risks and reap any rewards.  It is in a Liberated society that a college drop-out can decide to start the most ubiquitous computer company in the world.  It is in a Liberated society that poor black man can feed the south by discovering the vast uses of a native legume.  In a controlled society, in a society without that liberty, no incentive exists to do those things.  One cannot keep the rewards of their endeavors, so why take risks?

Remember when one is offered "comfort" and "equality" at the cost of liberty- you will not be equal with those on top.  It will not happen.  And your comfort will depend on the benevolence of men with means greater than yours.  However, at the cost of guaranteed, if minimal, comfort, and at the cost of the trivial equality of shared misery, you can have the chance at the rewards of true comfort- comfort from your own labor, and guaranteed true equality- the equality of opportunity, and self determination.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kids are People, too.

I wasn't planning a post for today, but I heard something on the radio that made me angry.  I have to vent.

It appears the Fort Worth Independent School District is prohibiting students from exchanging gifts or "personal holiday messages" during class, but they are still (yep, this is a quote) "allowed to say Merry Christmas."  Allowed.  They won't get in trouble for making a traditional greeting of good will.  Wow.

Now, I'm a Christian, and the demonization of Christianity in general and Christmas specifically irks me, but that's not the point of this post.  My point is that word "allowed."  Why are we at the point that students have to be "allowed" to say anything?  Granted we don't want them cursing each other out in the halls, we already have ways of dealing with those situations.  I may detest the idea of "verbal assault," but laws against it exist already- why add more?

So, I'll delve into how we got to the point that children must be "allowed" to say "Merry Christmas."

It's because we don't treat school children as humans, let alone American Citizens.  Think about it, school children have no Rights.  No Rights of free speech, assembly, or self defense; no protections against unreasonable searches or seizures, or self-incrimination.  No Rights.  And yet, every year, parents are outraged- outraged, I say- at the additional creep of Statism in our schools.  We not only don't raise a fuss when some random search of lockers occurs, we defend the School's (the Government's) right to do so because someone might possibly have something illicit in their locker.  Maybe.  On the other hand, if a cop were ever to try to search your home, just because, you'd probably be on the phone to the ACLU (or some less scummy lawyer) before the cop had gotten all the way into your house.  We defend the school's right to suspend (or expel) kids for taking a pocket-knife to school, but (Conservatives, at least) decry and bemoan any restrictions on gun ownership, and most restrictions on where we can carry.  We don't bat an eye when a kid is suspended for refusing to talk about an incident (say: a fight) at school, but scream "I plead the 5th" ourselves.

If you want Christmas back in the classroom, you have to realize the root of the problem:  our children are people- they're even US Citizens, and the same protections all citizens have against the government should apply to them, too.  If you won't fight that fight, you have no ideological or philosophical grounds to complain about "Christ being kicked out of the classroom."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple Truth: Liberty is hard, and subjugation is easy.

There is a cost for everything.  The cost of Liberty is the shouldering of personal responsibility.  The cost of subjugation is your humanity.

Imagine a man faced with two choices.  On the one hand is a life of plenty.  A job, a house, food on the table, everything he "wants" is his for the taking.  All he has to do is give up the ability to make some of his own choices.  He will be told where to live, he'll be told where to work, and he'll be told what to eat.  On the other hand is a life of hardship.  He'll have a chance for a house, but it won't be guaranteed.  He'll have a chance to be richer than Croesus, but he may instead live in poverty.  He might have so much food he'll have to give it away before it goes bad, but he might live in hunger, little more than a beggar.

This is the choice between subjugation and liberty.  The first man is a subject, at best.  At worst, he is a slave.  He may have plenty to eat, a warm bed, and relatively useful employ, but he has no choices, no chances, and no future.  There is no chance for him to grow; no chance for him to become "the next..." anything.  The second man is a free man.  His life and path are his own to choose.  He may not have food, but then again, he may.  He may live in a cheap apartment, or he may live in a lavish mansion.  He may be unemployed, or may be the owner of his own, successful, business.

Today's neo-Marxists would have you believe that the first man is better off.  "See?" they say, "Come with us, and you will wont for nothing.  We will feed you, clothe you, house you."  But there is a cost for everything.  It was not men with nothing to gain who invented the automobile, the electric light, the telegraph and telephone, the rubber tire, penicillin, acetaminophen, nylon, Teflon, or those little dangly air fresheners you hang in your car.  Or fuzzy dice. Whatever.  It was men who could determine their own destinies.  It was men who knew that they would be rewarded -that they would profit- from their discoveries and inventions.

Even explorers did not explore for some love of country, or some form of altruism.  They explored because they believed they could become rich, or that they would be rewarded.  Sometimes they explored because they believed they could gain something- that same Freedom that would let them starve.

It may seem that the way of ease is better.  Indeed, many would choose it freely.  But the world has been made better by those who chose Liberty, and only those with Liberty are ever able to become successful.