Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Need to Talk, Really. Generations Talk Past One Another on Liberty

Buy the book.

In my state, the decision whether it is legal to make retail sales of (not possess or use) alcohol is decided at the county level.  In practice, this has resulted in half of the counties which are smaller and more rural staying "dry" while the larger more urban counties turn "wet" one by one.  My own county became wet a few years ago.  The general trend is not always true though, a county in the middle of the state containing one of our larger cities just voted down a proposal to go "wet."

What has happened behind the scenes is that the large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, want to sell everywhere and have grown tired of waiting on the citizens of each county to make that decision on their own.   These interests have arranged to send to the ballot a state-wide proposal which would take this decision out of the hands of each county and make the whole state "wet."

I am a member of a good state-based Liberty-friendly Face Book political discussion group and this issue produced a sharp difference between the majority of members- mostly older limited government conservatives, and a smaller and younger contingent that is libertarian, maybe even anarchist, in their outlook.   As a localist I of course argued for letting the citizens of each county decide where they wanted the rules while the young libertarian/anarchists applauded centralizing this decision on the grounds that it was absolute tyranny for others to tell them what they could or could not sell in their own business.

The dispute was sharp, but I am on good terms with the L/As in our other Face Book relations and nothing we were saying to one another changed that or was going to change it.  Still, the older conservatives who ran the group deleted the whole discussion.  The argument between the two groups troubled them.  By deleting it, I suppose they were hoping that this display of disunity could be swept under the rug and we could all stand together for liberty in general.

The thing is, it isn't going away.  The young liberty minded people have a philosophy of government, one which will cut across many issues in a way which will be objectionable to old school limited government conservatives and localists alike.  The moderators may sweep this one issue under the rug, but it will come back on another issue.   That is because the older limited-government conservatives (LGCs) and the younger libertarian/anarchists (L/As) use different means to evaluate public policy issues and they are talking past one another mostly without realizing it.

The LGCs tend not to have an interconnected philosophy of government.   They mostly make their decisions from their gut and use 'common sense' about when government has gone too far.   They look at issues one at a time and don't connect them to some over-arching principle.     I can understand that, because it takes a lot of work to develop a comprehensive and coherent philosophy about anything.   Most of the LGCs don't like government enough to want to put in that kind of effort on a philosophy of government.  They just want, in most cases, it to be smaller and less expensive.

This is also one big reason why LGCs keep losing.   When a minor policy change occurs they often don't even understand that they are under attack until the left, which obsesses on government and often actually does have a well thought out philosophy, has advanced their goals until the outcome is almost a fate accompli.  They don't get stirred up until it starts to step on their toes, and thus LGCs are often reactionary.  The left initiates a change, then the LGCs get up in arms about it.  But you can't win by playing defense all the time.   You have to understand what your aim is if you want to achieve it, and you need a filter to help you understand whether or not each idea or politician who comes down the pike is going to help or hurt in achieving that aim.

This lack of a comprehensive philosophy also explains why LGCs are disappointed so very often by politicians.   The establishment can just pick one of their own to make a few belligerent statements which sound good to LGC and they will trip over themselves to support them.   Nevermind that the politicians has made some policy changes in other areas which ought to be red flags for the LGCs, or that they make establishment hires.   Without a comprehensive filter the means of catching the early warning signs that candidate X is a fraud simply does not exist.   No wonder LGCs have spent so much of the last 20 years dashing from one would-be champion to the next, only to be disappointed each time.

But my main point for this article is that the younger generation, the L/As, have an integrated philosophy of government.  They have a filter to which they apply all policy proposals and screen all candidates.  Their philosophy centers around the non-aggression principle.  This is the idea that it is wrong (even for the government if there is one) to initiate force or fraud.  This is based on the principle of self-ownership, that each person is their own sovereign and thus there is no magic being called "government" with any more power or moral permission to use force than the individual.  By this standard, laws which to LGCs seem to be trivial irritants or even desirable restrictions which reasonable people agree to because certain activities have a long history of resulting in public harm, are to the L/As unbearable tyranny, and gross infringements of what they declare to be their "rights".

The root of the conflict is this, the LCGs have no filter which permits a systematic evaluation of policy, and the L/As have a flawed filter which cannot distinguish between true government violations of fundamental rights and minor inconveniences over regulations which are commonly understood to be part of the price of living together in a civilized society.

As I said before, it is hard work developing a valid philosophy of government.  Humans take the easy way out whenever they can.  For LGCs, this means pretty much ignoring the subject entirely, for L/As this means picking up a truncated, simplistic and incomplete philosophy of government which is too brief to really contain all of moral reality as it pertains to government.  Albert Einstein once said "Everything should be a simple as possible, but no more so."   It is likely that the libertarian position, and certainly the anarchist position, is simpler than is possible.

While it may be too simple to serve as a workable and just philosophy of government, it serves well at giving the younger generation a superficially plausible basis to feel morally superior to LGCs and true statists alike.  Too be fair, the younger generation has been put into a very difficult spot by their elders.  They have been handed an economy crippled by debt, a political landscape controlled by two corrupt and big-spending party machines, and a government which is moving aggressively against more and more of our true fundamental rights each day.  In such an environment, a philosophy which the younger generation can throw in the face of their elders and say "who are you to tell me that I can't smoke pot" from a nominal moral high ground is very appealing.

It is so appealing that I am telling those of you in my generation and above that avoiding the subject is not going to work.  Hoping it will go away will not work.  Trying to charm your way around it won't work.  If that is your plan, or if you have no plan, then you are going to lose the next generation, because even though what they have in terms of ideas is flawed, if you don't have anything better to offer them you will lose them.  You can't beat something with nothing.

It does not matter that they are getting it wrong.   A philosophy which lumps having to drive to the county line to buy your whiskey in the same category as suspending the 2nd amendment is obviously too coarse in its categories.   That they could support the idea of taking a decision to make alcohol sales legal from the county level, closer to the individual, and moving that decision to a central location, farther from the individual, is clearly the wrong direction almost no matter what the decision.  Supporting the expansion of the central state's power when it does as you wish will leave us all with an oppressive central state.   Especially for the anarchists among them, if they are counting on the central state to promote their version of "liberty" on people in counties against their will, they are doing "liberty" wrong.  They become exactly what they preach against, and I have coined the term "liberauthoritarians" to describe them.

None of that matters though, if limited government conservatives don't finally make the decision to do the hard work which should have been done many years ago and adopt a more comprehensive philosophy of government.  A philosophy against which we can measure any proposed government policy and any candidate for public office.  Naturally, as the author of the work "Localism, A Philosophy of Government" I hope you will make Localism your standard.   If you find one more to your liking, use it instead, but by all means adopt one.  Its the only way we can start talking to one another, not just past one another.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Print Version of Localism, A Philosophy of Government is Out!

Buy the book.

Until now, Localism had only been available as an E-book, except for a few rare hard covers of an early edition.   The fourth edition is the best yet.  In the end, it is going to be either globalism or localism. If for no other reason than because no other philosophy of government can defend its society against globalism. For those who believe government should be limited but notice we are losing and don't know why or what we should work toward to stop it, this book is for you. Click the picture above to buy the book.

We Need to Take Your Freedom to Protect You From the Monster We Created

Buy the book.

Most knowledgeable people know that Al-Qaeda was, and is, funded by the U.S. and its allies in the mid-east.   It started as a loose coalition of Jihadi groups which took aid from the Saudis and the U.S. and they have been getting aide from the U.S. and the Saudis ever since.    It appears, depending on your view, that 9/11 was a case of Dr. Frankenstein losing control of the monster he created.  Since then there has been a conflict between that Al-Qaeda and the "good Al-Qaeda" that our state department still wants to fund.  Not that any faction of them are really good, it is just that our state department imagines that they control some factions because they will cash our checks.

Once Obama made it clear that Malaki had to go, Putin gave Malaki is full support.  Two months later, Sunni terrorists show up and seemingly out of nowhere with U.S. equipment and take over a third of Iraq.   Only when they attack the Kurds does Obama order a very limited attack.

ISIS is a spin-off of Al-Qaeda, and its members were trained by the United States and funded by the U.S. allies Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.   It increasingly looks like our government itself is the one creating the boogieman that they use as the excuse to take away our freedoms.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Fatal Conceit of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the last of Rome's "Five Good Emperors."   As a Stoic philosopher, he lived a simple life with (for an Emperor) few pleasures.   His creed as shown above dictated a life of virtue, but not devotion to the gods.    He was what we would call today a "salvation by works" kind of guy.  He reasoned that if he lived a good enough life, then just gods would allow him to be welcomed into their company.  If they were unjust, then being admitted to their company was not desirable.  If no gods existed, then hisr noble life would at least inspire his loved ones who lived on.

The man was a fabulous and just emperor all the way to the end of his reign.   His highest pleasure seemed to be ruling wisely and justly.   Examining his performance, and those of his four  predecessors, could almost convince one of the virtue of the central state left in the hands of virtuous rulers.

Aurelius though, had a fatal conceit.  Fatal to the Roman Empire and the ideas of justice he cherished.  He did not understand his own nature. Men are not good, except when compared to one another.   None can be trusted with great power over others indefinitely.   It goes to their heads, in most cases in ways that are obvious, and in other cases ways that are more subtly but just as vainglorious and destructive.

In the Christian view, the religion that was sweeping through the empire during the reign of Aurelius, devotion to God was not just another way to earn points to get accepted into God's company.  Rather it was a heartfelt response to the knowledge that though we are not virtuous, God Himself provided a way into His company which we could not otherwise earn.  By the tenants of this faith none are righteous, none are worthy, on the basis of our own virtue, to sit in the presence of God.  Indeed, in the course of time the great thinkers and theologians of this faith concluded that none but God alone are worthy, on the basis of their own virtue, to sit on a throne over the rest of mankind.   The rulers need restraints on their behavior as much as the ruled, perhaps more so.  The law of heaven, whatever it may be, was above both and if the laws of man did not reflect its heavenly ideal then it was the rulers who made them which were unjust, not the citizens who might demand their abolishment.

None of the previous "Good Emperors" had a son of their own blood.  Each of them adopted as sons someone who was responsible and as virtuous as humans can be.   Though sitting on the throne would in time reveal the corruption present in any man, they wisely picked men who had already shown an aversion and resistance in corruption and in whom the habits of moral living were deeply ingrained.   The mortality of man would take them from the earth before the corruption of the throne had greatly marred their character.

Not Aurelius.  He had a son of his own blood, Commodus.  He was determined to make his own son the next Emperor rather than to continue the tradition of adopting someone who had shown themselves worthy, at least for a time, of holding such power.   Commodus loved corruption as much as his father loved justice.   Commodus had a close-up view of his father's sanctimonious living and self-righteous attitude.  Rather than being attracted to it, as Aurelius assumed his loved ones would, he was off-put by it.  He went the other way with reckless abandon. He denied himself no pleasure, and he took no delight in justice.  It was a pagan version of the "preacher's kid" syndrome, which is to say, a consequence of an excessive pretense of self-righteousness in parents, whatever one's faith.

The rule of Commodus was a disaster.  That was the beginning of the end for mighty Rome.   The wilful decision of Marcus Aurelius to make Commodus his successor rather than adopt someone who had demonstrated a life of virtue was an outcome of his fatal conceit which dominoed into the destruction of the Roman Empire.  Despite his philosophy and life of good works, with such a great blame laid at his feet one can imagine that even were the Roman gods just, they might justly ban him from their company.

New Edition is out in E-book Form, Print Version Due in Two Months

The fourth edition of "Localism, a Philosophy of Government" is now out in E-book form.   A print version is also in the works, but it will be about two months in the making.   The new edition contains about twenty total new pages of content which clarify and amplify several key points.  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crimea Uproar: Why Shouldn't Regions Be Able to Change Sovereigns?

The governments of the West seem to be in an uproar over Russia's recent annexation of Crimea.  The Western Media, which is to say the establishment media in the West, is trying hard to stir the pot.  People should not be fooled by this fear-mongering and propaganda.

Here is what is really happening in the Ukraine: The population was very evenly split between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians. The government of the United States and other western governments have pumped billions of taxpayer dollars into Ukraine in an effort to influence the outcome of their elections.  How would you feel if you discovered other nations where doing the same to us?  In addition to being seen as a tool of the west, the party the U.S. government was backing turned out to be corrupt.  Because of all of this the swing voters in Ukraine gave the pro-russian party a chance.

When the pro-Russian party, who won the election after all, expressed a preference for a partnership with Russia over the EU, the western-backed party protested and more until the government fell.  The government was in Kiev, where the local population was very pro-western.   The pro-Russian voters were all in the east.  In other words, just because those who supported the government were not handy to counter-riot in the capital, the results of the democratic election were overturned in a coup.

Just like we have treaties with other countries allowing us to keep troops in them, Russia had a deal with the Ukraine which allowed them to keep up to 25,000 troops there.   In response to the coup, they sent in 16,000 to protect the rights of the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea.   The Crimeans held a vote, and 96% of them voted to leave the Ukraine and join with Russia.  They voted to change state affiliations.  This returned Crimea back to Russia, where it was prior to some communist changing lines on a map in 1954.

We should have never spent billions trying to meddle in who the Ukrainians elected to their government in the first place.  It is not our business.   We should not have supported the recent coup over a democratically elected government.   And we should respect the desire of the ethnic Russians in Crimea who want to be ruled from Moscow rather than the rioters in Kiev.  Why are we the ones going around now telling people that what they want does not matter, that they have to be chained together in political union with people they don't like and who want to take the country in a different direction?  Because some communist redrew some lines on a map in 1954 and moved Crimea from Russia to Ukraine?  Why is that so binding?

If there was ever a time to mind our own business, this is it.  Unfortunately our state department seems to be incapable of restraint.   The same out-of-control federal government which goes around meddling in our lives and making us angry with it is also using our tax dollars to meddle overseas and make people around the world angry with us.  There is no reason why foreigners should be any less irritated than we are with our federal government. It is going to be at least as tone-deaf with them as it is towards us.  What happens when we finally realize that we are broke and facing a world full of people that we hacked off with our constant interventions?

Ironically, it is in our best interest for Crimea to go to Russia.   Maybe now that the pro-Russian parties have all the votes they had from Crimea, the rest of the country will elect pro-western leaders.   With Crimea gone, they won't have to foment a coup to get a pro-western government in Kiev, one can be legitimately elected.  We don't need to intervene to save Crimea.  The Crimeans consider that they have already been saved by Russia.

Of course there have been hysterical claims that this is just like 1938 and Hitler, with Crimea serving as the Sudetenland.  I have heard people say if we "let Putin get away with it" we are like Chamberlain and have not learned that you cannot appease tyrants.  They forget the most important part.  Hitler taking the Sudetenland was not the problem.  The problem was that he had no intention of stopping at the Sudetenland.  Anyone who read his book knew that his goals were to seize not just lands full of Germans who wanted political unity with Germany, but a great swath of Slavic and other lands as well.

Hitler did not stop at the Sudetenland.  If he had, World War II would have never happened.  He quickly took the rest of Czechoslovakia as well.   This demonstrated that he was not after merely in favor of allowing local German populations political self-determination, but in denying those rights to neighboring peoples.   After that the world was wise to him, but of course they should have seen it coming.   He rose to power on a platform which included taking land from the Slavs and giving it to the German Master Race.

Where is the evidence that Putin wants to do the same?   It is very likely that he wants Russia to have a lot of influence in countries that were a part of the former Soviet Union.  We also want influence in those nations. That is why we have filled many of them with our military bases and give them "foreign aid" (taxing the middle class in our country to provide bribes for the rich people in other countries).   I am sure he wants Ukraine to pay the billions of dollars they owe Russia for the Russian gas they took. If someone owed you that much money, wouldn't you be interested in getting it back too?  That is not the same thing as imperialism.  Putin is no sweetheart I am sure, but he is not Hitler.

This brings us to the larger issue.  Why is it "bad" for people to vote to move from affiliation with one political entity to another?   Why are the lines drawn by some political appointee on a map in the past more relevant than the wishes and desires of the people who are alive right now?  Why can't a group of people, especially when the vote is a 96% super-majority, move from one political unit to another without bloodshed?

I am a localist.  Localists have a principle, it is one of the seven pillars of localism, that affiliations between political entities should be voluntary, not coercive. For every political union, there should be a means spelled out to legally dissolve that union.  It is helpful if they are laid out in advance, but even if they are not, the principle is still a just one.   An example of this principle would be a state deciding to leave the union, or a county or group of counties within a state either joining another willing state, or if they are of sufficient size, becoming a new state themselves.

Localism believes that hierarchy and collective are inherently untrustworthy.  Government is both. A political union sustained only by force will not serve people well.  The easier a government is to get away from or alter, the more reluctant it will be to step on the toes of those who have to live under it. The whole aim of the sixth pillar of localism is to subject government to the free market- that is, the choices of individual persons.   Only then, when the opportunity costs to alter and/or escape a government which displeases one are quite low, can government be kept as servant and not become master.

People have different ideas about what a good government would look like.   We should not expect there to be one right answer for what good government ought to look like, because people are different.  In a society built on the pillars of localism, governments will not look alike, but they will each look more like those who live under them wish them to look.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Moving up the E-Book Charts

I was pleased to see that Localism, A Philosophy of Government, was in the top 100 in two of its five categories on Amazon.com, #58 on History and Theory of Political Science and #92 on Ideologies and Doctrines under the "Politics and Government" category. Egghead categories I know, but someone must care about them.... http://www.amazon.com/Localism-A-Philosophy-Government-ebook/dp/B00B0GACAQ/ref=pd_rhf_pe_p_t_2_GB3H