Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Culture of Life

With the passing of Mrs. Theresa Schiavo, one chapter ends while another begins. As many culture warriors would have it, the recent tragedy in Florida represents the front lines in the battle for uniformity of morality. Specifically, the so called “culture of life” was dealt a blow by courts at all levels, from the lowest to the highest.

The “sanctity of life” has become a rallying cry for social conservatives throughout the country. Matthew J. Franck, a professor and chairman of political science at Radford University, wrote an article for NRO in which his passionate pro-life position was unmistakable. Franck cites the Cruzan case of 1990, that adjudicated a “right to die” for one in a PVS.
In short, Rehnquist's preposterously invented "right" was the Court's way of blessing a practice called "substituted judgment": the process, varying from state to state, by which parents, spouses, or other close kin establish to a court's satisfaction either that when the patient was competent, he did express a desire not to live as an otherwise healthy incompetent, or (in states a bit more lax) that if he had thought about it when he was competent, it would have been his desire not so to live.

Justice Antonin Scalia concurred in the Cruzan decision, because the result was rightly to uphold the state's power to set standards for patient care and to regulate the decision to die. But he plainly stated his divergence from Rehnquist's opinion for the Court when he wrote separately to remind us that, traditionally, "American law ha[d] always accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide — including suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one's life." In the tradition the Court was unraveling that day, Scalia noted, it was fully within the power of the state to prevent suicide or assisted suicide, even by the supposedly "passive" step of refusing or withdrawing necessary sustenance, and "even when it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that a patient no longer wishes certain measures to be taken to preserve his or her life." Of course, Scalia conceded, it is within the state's power to offer less protection than that to human life — as Missouri did in the laws the Court upheld that day — but he wrote to defend the power of the state to protect innocent human life completely, unfettered by any claims of constitutional "rights" or "liberty interests" to kill yourself by refusing nutrition and hydration.

In similar demagogic fashion, Cal Thomas, an unapologetic Christian columnist, suggested that
No life is safe because every life now depends on the whims, desires, comfort level and pleasure of others. From an "endowed" right to life, we have quickly moved to a court-imputed right to die. Increasingly we do not speak of life at all, but death. America truly is, as the suffering Pope John Paul II has described it, a "culture of death."

So far, I’ve presented only the “academic” pro-life perspective. For many of this persuasion, the Bible, pure and simple, informs their thinking. Assuming that rank and file pro-lifers sincerely hold such views to be self-evident, I would like to challenge the basic premise: that life is valuable in and of it’self and ought to be protected without question. Moreover, the intrinsic value of life supercedes even the one that owns said life. Such would also apply to the life support system for an unborn fetus, namely its mother.

In that I have a working knowledge of the Bible, I will attempt to use scripture to counter the foundational claims of those for whom life is an end in and of itself.

There are 66 total “books” in the Christian Bible-39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament. This is a comprehensive volume to be sure, so I’ll not recite every relevant passage. I will however, select one potent bit from each section.

First, from the older, which is well known for God’s dispensing of punishment for iniquity. But there’s the unique account of Job, about whom God declared “that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Such a claim has not been attributed to Mrs. Schiavo, saintly though she may have been. Back to Job. The aforementioned conversation purportedly takes place between God and Satan, no less. Even a cursory reading of his trials reveals that God “sacrificed” his children, his servants, his cattle and indeed all of his possessions. To add insult to injury, his wife and his closest friends heaped criticism upon him, as though he had somehow earned such treatment. Oh, and there were those painful “boils” that afflicted his skin. The end of the tale shows that “life” was subordinate to the larger plan of the creator of it.

Now a portion from the newer testament. Paul, the Apostle that is reputed to have penned 2/3 of the New Testament, wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, concerning the importance of terrestrial existence: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:6-8).

The question to the house is: why do “Christians” maintain that mortal life is the most valuable aspect of existence, when the Bible clearly teaches the opposite?

Some will point to Levitical Law in general and the 6th Commandment (murder not) in particular. To this I say that the failure to act (provide sustenance) cannot be reasonably construed as an action. There is no such commandment that demands the force feeding of one that is incapable of swallowing. Note that while “feeding tubes” and respirators were nonexistent in ancient times, God’s power to resurrect was…according to Biblical accounts.

The open secret really, is about abortion. Those opposed to euthanasia invariably say that it is a byproduct of Roe vs. Wade. If one were to remove the emotional component and look at the facts dispassionately, perhaps there would be less tension. Many cite the innocent nature of the “unborn” as a justification to ban all abortion. Again, the Bible contains an example of God’s dealings with innocents. [He] made a distinction between Hebrew children and the first born of Egypt on the night of Passover. Untold thousands of kids were slaughtered by the “death angel” that passed over Moses’ people (Exodus 11). Whatever Pharaoh may have been guilty of, the children had no part of it. The fact is that
God’s plan took precedence over “human life”.

In glaring contrast, pro-lifers by-and-large support the “death penalty” for those that are considered “guilty”. Quite simply, the justification for such a position flows from Levitical Law. “…you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-24). Fairly straight forward huh?...not exactly. With the death and resurrection of Christ, came a paradigm shift. The New Testament reveals that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13). Therefore, the law is of no effect for Christians.

Finally, the case for liberty can also be made without respect for mysticism. The life of an individual, for practical purposes, is the sole property of it’s occupier. Thus, our constitutions (state and federal) are drafted with the individual and his/her life in mind. The claim that the nebulous concept of life trumps the individuals mind (i.e. consciousness) is asinine. A body without a cognitive faculty is nothing but carbon based tissue. If this is true (and I believe it is), then not only may one choose the time and place of expiration, but a woman is justified in terminating a pregnancy before such time as the fetus is capable of self-sustaining existence. This may well offend the moral sensibilities of some, but I would suggest that [they] bear in mind that not everyone excepts a universal code of morality. Furthermore, imagine the magnitude of offense, in the event that a theocratic government were established that is contrary to your deeply held beliefs…this is how one feels that does not share yours.

The Virtue of Singleness

I was mulling over ideas for this post when, like a bolt from the blue, I stumbled upon this verisimilitude of my current thinking…well, not literally. The fact is, I’m happily single, unencumbered and loving it. Please don’t misunderstand, I'm quite sure that healthy unions exist. My parents were married for 43 years, before my mother succumbed to breast cancer in the summer of 2004.

The phenomenon that I wish to explore here, however, is sustained solitude. Although I’ve only been "legally divorced" since June '04, I’ve been delightfully "alone" since late '03...after thirteen years of marriage. No, the separation was not an attempt to reconcile, but rather a period of pragmatic discovery. I actually managed to serve as my own legal council in the divorce proceedings. This without formal training in law. As it happens, the "office supply" chains sell fill-in-the-blank legal forms. However, such are useless in the event of a contest, which was not something I had to worry with. Whew. Yeah, I married a complete waste…so-to-speak. I now have legal and physical custody of my three kids and I couldn’t be more pleased. I did have to familiarize myself with the Law Library at the local Courthouse. If nothing else, I got an education and my total legal bill was $65.

Having dispensed with the particulars, let’s move to the issue at hand…the joy of singleness. The ability to live without coordinating with an overly hormonal companion is, in a word, liberating. Now I’m certainly no sexist, it’s just that, at this point in my life, the cost of maintaining a relationship far outweighs the benefits…yes, those benefits. Look guys, it’s all about will power. At least that’s what I tell myself. Oddly enough, I plan to remain single for the duration of my life; or at least until my kids enter college. When the youngest of which graduates from high school, I be forty years old. Perhaps then my thinking will be different, but I sure hope not.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

War of the Words

In the red corner: Jonah Goldberg, of National Review Online
But what's interesting is that Jonathan nowhere in fact demonstrates that liberal positions are empirically "better" than conservative ones. Nor does he demonstrate, empirically, that liberals are better empiricists than conservatives. Rather, he simply takes it as a given that the government intrusions he likes have already been empirically declared the winner by some dispassionate band of fact-finders somewhere.

And in the blue corner: Jonathan Chait, of The New Republic:
Liberalism is a more deeply pragmatic governing philosophy--more open to change, more receptive to empiricism, and ultimately better at producing policies that improve the human condition--than conservatism.

These two rhetorical "pros" go op-ed to op-ed in the interest of extolling the virtues of their own ideology, while excoriating the other’s point of view.

And now, without further adieu, the main event. The winner shall be per the decision of the reader.

Hat tip: Will Wilkinson, whose post is referenced in the debate.

The decline of Individualism

What’s in a name? Certainly in our culture-rich brand-driven society, the desire for self identification dictates that we wrap ourselves in labels…class, political ideology, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), philosophical bent and so on. While such is practical for revelatory purposes, it can be constraining.

I fear that base human nature tends toward the acceptance of conformity. It appears to be self evident that only the rare individual will ignore pier pressure to assimilate. Now, common culture is not without it’s benefits. From employment to personal relationships, first impressions are key. But beyond that, I see no reason to sacrifice my peculiar subjective proclivities to those of the larger group. This is most prevalent in religion and politics…the third rail of topics of discussion.

Lately, one’s geography would seem to explain one’s political leanings (crass oversimplification). I generalize here because, well, it’s generally true. People are so predictable that even politicians have figured out the game. Many people prefer to move in herds. How else to explain referring to voters with such distinctions as: seniors, hispanics, blacks, soccer moms, married women, independents, blah, blah, blah. Why does one not speak of those for whom the Constitution is preeminent? Or, those that prefer to live and let live? The truth is that there aren’t enough of “us” to register on the radar…sadly.

On to the other forbidden subject matter, religion. It’s no secret that I consider myself to be a “believer”, of the Christian variety. However, I’m reluctant to accept that label because of those who do. I may be one of the few “libertarian” folks that isn’t an atheist or agnostic. In fact, I have first hand experience with those who proudly proclaim themselves to be among the “religious right”. In fact, my older sister married an evangelical preacher. To say that I’m misunderstood by them is an understatement. The problem though, is that they seem to be trapped in their “philosophical box”; and of course, I’m not. But seriously, I’ve made numerous attempts to dialog with my family about things of substance, but I’m always left frustrated. I should mention that these are educated people. It’s just that they have apparently decided upon a social category, which precludes the need to reexamine their original premises. I worry that my relatives are not unique in this.

Actually, my suspicions are confirmed by the plethora of blogs. There are definitely variations on themes. The themes are recurrent all the same. One might be inclined to place this blog in the “libertarian” category…in fact, those that have been gracious enough to roll me have invariably done just that. I can’t really blame them, given the handle I’ve selected. For the record though, I tend to use libertarian as an adj., in that I am not a member of the LP. Speaking of which, those in the “major parties” endeavor to slam and mischaracterize them/us in a bipartisan fashion. I’ve come to believe that both politics and religion are sustained by masses of individuals that refuse to think and act individually.

Monday, March 28, 2005


I recently posted a critique of democracy, which may contain an erroneous quote that is attributed to Alexander Tyler. This may be an amalgamation of various statements made over time…or not. An alleged clarification was brought to my attention. I say this because I have not independently verified the source material, as is true for the quote, so one should make one’s own judgment.

Whether the aforementioned quote is “authentic” or not, my view of direct democracy stands. History, and indeed the present, shows that a segment of society has no qualms about relieving their neighbor of money and/or property in the name of “social justice”. Therefore, I could not care less if an historical scholar uttered those words or not. I find them to be logical and reasonable.

The primary reason for this “clarification” is to reveal a bit of my guiding philosophy. Primarily, I endeavor to be aware of that which I know and indeed that which I don’t know. Secondly, I try to be as skeptical as possible, while not dismising empirical evidence. I am a work in progress.

The failure to choose, is itself a choice

There must be something in the ether. Of late, our public “luminaries” seem to have switched sides, ideologically speaking. Not only are Dems touting states’ rights while Cons demand federal action, some of our collectivist friends are denouncing choice. Café Hayek posted a bit about an anti-choice theory called ”libertarian paternalism”, which is a superb oxymoron. More, there’s a good audio debate between CH’s Russell Roberts and a “liberal” psychology professor. It’s worth a listen…if you have a strong stomach.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Lying Lobbyists' Legislation

If you’re reading this post, I need not explain the McCain-Feingold inspired court ruling that potentially threatens its very existence. No, criticism of that atrocious Act is ubiquitous…at least in the blogosphere. However, there seems to be more to the story. Front Page Mag posted an article that exposed the genesis of the MF. In it, there’s a link to aWSJ Opinion Journal piece that tells all:
If a political gaffe consists of inadvertently revealing the truth, then Sean Treglia, a former program officer for the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts, has just ripped the curtain off of the "good government" groups that foisted the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill on the country in 2002. The bill's restrictions on political speech have the potential for great mischief; just last month a member of the Federal Election Commission warned they could limit the activities of bloggers and other Internet commentators.

Apparently, Teglia fabricated a “grass roots” campaign to limit the political (monetary) speech of conservatives. There was no public support for this bill, so Pew made one up…out of whole cloth.
But the results were spectacular. Not only did the effort succeed in bulldozing Congress and President Bush, but it might have played a role in persuading the Supreme Court, which had previously ruled against broad restrictions on political speech, to declare McCain-Feingold constitutional in 2003 on a 5-4 vote. "You will see that almost half the footnotes relied on by the Supreme Court in upholding the law, are research funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts," Mr. Treglia boasted.

Herein lies the focus of this post. It appears that the Constitution was not faithfully executed, in the interest of serving “the will of the people”. Ironically, there was indeed no popular demand for reform, as most saw it as a free speech violation. This bit of information elucidates the deleterious effects of democracy. When reelection by majority vote is how one maintains a job, such foolishness as this ought not to be surprising.

The original intent of the Founders was to elect the House of Reps by popular vote, which in turn, would elect Senators (from its midst) to represent the sovereign states. The Congress would then appoint a President. In this scenario, the cries of the mob would have less volume, but the voice of the Constitution could more clearly be heard. The imperfection of the Constitution not withstanding, its proper interpretation seeks to preserve the rights and liberties of all, without respect to social status. Our elected officials would do well to familiarize themselves with the document that they have sworn to honor.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Political Conundrum

I recently stumbled across a blogospheric coincidence. It would seem that those of a libertarian persuasion may be more likely to throw-in with one of the two major parties, as opposed to the Libertarian Party (whose +- .5% of the popular vote inspires few).

”Eric’s post” suggests that libertarians would be better served by a modified GOP, but ”Logan” argues that the Dems are a closer ideological relation.

Upon reflection of current events, my choice is less clear than it has previously been. I’ve never (since adulthood) considered myself to be in the Democratic camp. In fact, I was raised by two well-meaning religious Republicans. For virtually all of the decade or so that I’ve been eligible to vote, I’ve leaned libertarian, but voted Republican (for practical reasons). This has much to do with Reagan, who was the Executive in my formative years. But lately, conventional wisdom suggests that the “religious right” is calling the shots. This is a little disconcerting because I have familiarized myself with Christian “church history” and what I discovered is troubling. I’ll not delve into the details now, but suffice it to say: political authoritarianism is not foreign to so called Christians.

The question that “liberty loving” individuals must ask is: which party will cause the least amount of harm to me and indeed the nation.

The current make-up of the GOP barely pays lip service to freedom. It’s not uncommon for a “red statist” to claim that the First Amendment grants freedom of religion and not from religion. For many, atheism is unthinkable…for their neighbor. I fear that the Republicans may trade liberty for political power.

Conversely, the DNC seems to appreciate the First Amendment’s true meaning, but fails to recognize the sovereignty of the individual. This party has been populated by southern racists, irrational environmentalists and quasi socialists. Opportunism, pure and simple, is the only explanation for this. When political power is the goal, one does what one must.

I would love to articulate a reasoned explanation of why one party is definitively more appealing than the other. I’m afraid that, at this time, it just isn’t possible. Both sides of the isle have demonstrated that individual liberty is a luxury and not a political necessity. The irony is that I can’t say that withholding my vote is appropriate. I’m willing to entertain any cogent solutions to this problem.

one more for the roll

May I have your attention please? I have another addition to the ‘roll’. Caution: he’s an opinionated, Christian military man…which means hammertime is worth a gander.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

...poor little rich kids

Café Hayek posted a perfect example of young lefties using rank emotionalism as a means to an end. These closeted socialists are determined to ruin this country by diminishing the empowering effects of free market capitalism.

The irony is that these spoiled brats would be the first to complain about the poverty that is inevitable, if they ever realize the grand egalitarian dream.

Hyperbole, Hysteria and Hypocrisy

Occasionally, deep philosophical discussion takes place on a grand scale. Now is one such time. The severely disabled woman in Florida, with whom virtually everyone is familiar, has been the catalyst for a national existential debate. More specifically, how and when a life may be prematurely extinguished.

There are various strata of opinion, but they can be distilled into two major camps:
1. those who believe that to end a suffering life is compassionate (euthanasia)
2. those who believe that life itself is sacred and must not be ended unnaturally (typically a religious view)

These two are essentially antithetical, but are similar in one important respect…both would, theoretically, allow for an irrevocable decision to be made on behalf of one, other than the actor. In such cases, the crucial missing element is the will of the one whose life is in question. Presuming that human beings are free and sovereign moral agents, life is contingent upon the consent of the individual.

In the environment of relative liberty in which we, Americans, live, forced euthanasia is not exactly up for consideration. However, for the record, this is no less than homicide (lest there be any confusion, power of attorney is tantamount to consent).

Now, the most vocal opponents of self termination are the aforementioned #2. I’m fairly familiar with their worldview, as I was indoctrinated with it as a child. The thinking is a bit of a logical contortion, starting with “creationism”, which leads to the idea that life begins at conception and must not be tampered with. As a ‘l’ibertarian, I can’t and won’t act to prevent anyone from living according to those principles. Unfortunately, those of this ilk don't reciprocate. Their intransigence is abetted by the erroneous view that the US Constitution is subordinate to the Bible, because many believe that America is a quasi Christian theocracy. The hypocrisy of this camp is revealed in their support of capital punishment and warfare. Apparently, some life is more valuable than others. Make no mistake, these folks see law as a means to affect societal change…into that of a moralistic utopia.

There is however, a minority opinion that the Constitutional protection of life supercedes the individual for whom the life exists. I must admit that, to me, this is the most enigmatic. This is akin to the anti-individual theories of collectivism and statism. Such thinking annihilates the concept of freedom, in that existence would serve anyone or anything but the one that lives the life itself.

My default position is maximum liberty. I value my life more than any other and I own me. I assume that everyone else (if one were to be honest) feels likewise. That said, we don’t live in a vacuum, but in a pluralistic society. As such, the “rule of law” is the best mechanism to promote liberty while ensuring equal protection. No code can be perfectly constructed and particular laws are not irrevocable. If and when the laws need to change, there is an orderly process articulated in the Constitution and is designed to respect the natural rights of all US citizens.

In the midst of the current media circus, the attempt to craft legislation in the throws of emotionalism could sacrifice individual liberty for the sake of narrow ideology. Those who are insisting upon state intervention ought to consider the implications of their demands...governments never willingly relinquish power. Therefore, government authority must be minimal. The "state" should be a neutral referee and not a player on a particular team.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Democrats: the party of Jefferson no longer

President Thomas Jefferson's name will soon be removed from a public elementary school in Berkeley, California if its teachers, parents and students vote to do so…but wait, there’s more. call yourself a Libertarian

Libertarians are among the most misunderstood folks around. They/we manage to enrage a majority of Americans with their/our ideology. In fact, criticism of ‘l’ibertarianism is a rare instance of commonality between Republicans and Democrats. Here’s an example of one such irreverent...”critique”.

Governed by the Rule of Law

I’ve been silent (until now) on the Terri Schiavo issue, mainly because it’s already been discussed ad nausium ad infinitum. The emotional aspect of this case cannot be overstated. Certainly, one would not want to be forced to make life and death decisions for a beloved family member.

To be sure, there are patients languishing in hospital rooms worldwide. This case is distinct, in that the news media have made it a “cause celeb”. This is why Congress has, and should not have, inserted itself. Political expediency is responsible for bad law.

Charles Krauthammer’s piece points out the problem when current law is at odds with a particular moral concept.
Because following the generally sensible rules of Florida custody laws, conducted with due diligence and great care over many years in this case, this is where the law led.

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law.

But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the parents "failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims" that Terri's feeding tube should be reinserted immediately. This is “the rule of law” in action. Our nation IS NOT ruled by morality. Law is (theoretically) neutral and equally applied; moral codes vary with cultures, neighborhoods and indeed families…as this case has shown. The US Constitution articulates a rule of law, not a rule of men.

Update: The erudite William F. Buckley has weighed in on this matter…his wisdom is apparent.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Psyamoche (shadow boxing)

The Canned Platypus is justified in attacking a straw man rather than dealing directly with “conservative” issues, because of this:
Straw men and ad hominem attacks are pretty universal and not confined to any particular ideology. Tu quoque, on the other hand, seems to be a characteristically anti-liberal failing. It’s a particular instance of the survival of the meanest dynamic I’ve alluded to before, except that this time it’s survival of the stupidest instead. Can you say “adverse selection"?

And of course, “liberals” are correct because “anti-liberals” are mean.
Many liberals are pacifists. Many are taught to respect others’ opinions. Quite a few are simply wimps. No matter how you slice it, though, these attitudes put liberals at a distinct disadvantage when debating conservatives and libertarians (collectively, “anti-liberals") who don’t believe in “playing nice” at all. Liberals rein themselves in, and stop to listen; anti-liberals don’t reciprocate.

Nevermind the facts, I've already formed an opinion.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Objective Morality?

These days, morality, in general, seems to be one of the prime political motivators. Only, an objective standard to determine what is and is not moral is conspicuously absent. The “conservative Republicans” lean toward a traditionalist Christian world view, while the “liberal Democrats” favor a more humanistic worldview...generally speaking of course.

As I was pondering the paradox of the mutual exclusivity of these two extremes, I was reminded of yet another metaethical theory…rational egoism. I ran across this essay by Will Wilkinson of The Fly Bottle. In it, Wilkinson critiques a book by Tara Smith entitled: Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality, in which she defends Ayn Rand’s definition of morality…
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.
— Ayn Rand, Appendix to Atlas Shrugged

There are many other conceptions of morality to be sure, but I need not cite them now to make my point, which is: an objective definition of morality is elusive at best and nonexistent at worst.

Morality, at its core, seeks to distinguish “good from evil” and “right from wrong”. To say that such concepts are ambiguous would be a huge understatement. This is not to say that strong arguments don’t exist on all sides, but some are more convincing than others. That said, a universal moral measuring rod has yet to be far as I know.

Could this be construed as “moral relativism”?...perhaps by some, but if so, what’s the alternative? The idea(s) of morality that I’ve described are definitively subjective and thus aren’t universally accepted.

I submit that a desire for "moral authority", without agreement on a definition of terms, leads to endless and fruitless debate.

Since total isolation is impractical, some minimal code of conduct is essential to preclude interpersonal collisions. So what ought to be the guiding principles? I suggest that (in the interest of a pluralistic society) only actions that demonstrably cause harm to another’s person, property or liberty, without consent, could legitimately be considered "immoral". Actions that cause positive benefit, without causing harm in the process (i.e. theft for wealth redistribution), could be called "moral". All other actions would necessarily be neutral, and in self interest. Unfortunately, there seems to be a consensus that any/all actions must be either moral or immoral. By such thinking, people are manipulated in order to achieve the desired ends of the manipulator(s). This is especially true for religious institutions and political organizations.

Now, some assert that a particular moral code can be objective. That begs the question: on what basis? If on the basis of the respect for individual liberty, then I say it has merit. But the problem arises when a particular group consensually denies their own individuality in the name of communal living. This is certainly not what I desire, but there are those for whom codependence is "natural" and "good" in their estimation. For a one-size-fits-all moral code to be exclusively superior, the liberty to choose collectivism or some religious dogma must necessarily be suppressed. In such case, freedom is meaningless. As an individualist, I support the freedom of another to self destruct, as long as there are no other victims. Again, different moral codes can coexist as long as individual freedom and consent predominante.

I will say, that the concept of morality in general is an objective verity, but I reject the notion that any particular moral code is objectively superior, because reasonable, intelligent people can disagree on the fine points of subjective ideology.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Democracy is Dangerous

In the geopolitical climate in which we find ourselves, democracy is often upon the lips of the “leaders” in our midst. President Bush famously asserted, in his recent Innaugural Address, his plan to spread democracy throughout the world. The average person likely understands this to mean the "antithesis of tyranny". The problem, though, is that words have meaning. From ancient Athens to give or take a century ago, democracy was known as majority rule, as opposed to the rule of law.

When our brave and brilliant forefathers sought emancipation from the British Crown, the ills of democracy were well understood. Alexander Tyler said (note: the authorship of the following quote has been disputed):
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship…”

We all now benefit from the Founders' wisdom. These giants of history realized that the rule of law was the best way to preserve and protect the natural rights of the individual. Edmund Burke (18th century British statesman) once said:
"I cannot help concurring [e.g., with Aristotle, inter alios] that an absolute democracy, no more than an absolute monarchy, is not to be reckoned among the legitimate forms of government. They think it rather the corruption and degeneracy than the sound constitution of a republic."

In this vein, John Adams penned:
In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers or either of them: the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.
[Massachusetts Constitution, Part The First, art. XXX (1780)]

It can conceivably be argued that, in current usage, the word “democracy” is synonymous with “liberal democratic constitutional republic”. While this may be true in many cases, I submit that the use of the “d word” has caused the uninformed rank-and-file to believe that the “majority” does in fact rule. No, the word “democracy” DOES NOT appear in our constitution at all. This ignorance has led to a paradigm in which the US Constitution is viewed as "quaint" and "living", rather than a social contract that prevents the state from consuming the individual...from Joe Sixpack to the Supreme Court. The state exists on a conditional basis…as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declartation of Independence: …that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…. The more commonplace “democracy” becomes, the more likely the rule of law will diminish.

Newsflash: men and women may be different

Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review Magazine, recently suggested thatsegregation be the education of girls and boys that is. This, in the shadow of the controversy at Harvard University in which it’s president, Larry Summers, implied that sex differences might explain the disproportionate representation of women in the hard sciences. Should Lowry be fired for such insensitivity?

Lowry asserts that:
As it happens, the gender-insensitive American education system hurts everyone. Take boys and reading. According to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, between 1992 and 2002 the gap between young women and young men in reading widened considerably. High-school seniors who are girls score on average 16 points higher than boys on a reading test given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. As an NEA official wrote recently, "What was formerly a modest difference is fast becoming a marker of gender identity."

he goes on:
The flip side of this is girls when it comes to math and science -- they develop more slowly. They will suffer the same discouragement as boys if they are pushed too soon, or in the wrong way. Sax says that at age 12, for instance, girls are less interested in "pure math" than boys, so problems have to be presented with practical applications.

As the parent of two boys and one girl, the fact that gender differences exist is old news to me. Perhaps the desire to rectify past sins of inequality has led some to irrationally ignore intrinsic cognitive dissimilarities between men and women. I'm well aware of brilliant females as well as imbecilic males. There ought to be equality under the law, but not a blurring of the distinction of the sexes. Androgyny is NOT the answer…just look at metro-sexuals. I rest my case.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Red Meat for Anti-Rands

The Libertarian Party is, I think, populated in part by slavish followers of Ayn Rand and her philosophy: Objectivism. While I enjoy her writing, I’m certainly no lemming. There are those, however, who find Rand and her ideas rather repugnant. This red meat is for the latter…enjoy.

Rights...why they must be absolute

Meaningful discourse is impossible without agreement among the participating parties on first principles or the definition of terms. This is especially true when the topic has to do with what people ought or ought not to do. The core of such issues is none other than the meaning of rights.

Much of the political rancor these days is due in large part to a disagreement about what constitutes a right. There is a wide divergence of thinking here. Some claim the right to healthcare, a living wage or housing, others insist upon a right to regulate speech in campaigns, still others argue for the right of a fetus to be born while their counterparts assert a right to choose abortion. The only way for this to make sense is if the term right has no objective definition. I suggest that it does.

Warbs has a provocative post dealing with this subject. His post mentions freedom, which is inexorably linked to the idea of rights. As most know, the Declaration of Independance declares: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...! Interestingly enough, there are some that take issue with this. One such individual-collectivist (a walking contradiction) is all but infamous in the blogosphere…none other than dadahead, the disembodied head with a wooden brain. In the aforementioned post, DH wrote this:
“…you SHOULD be helping others voluntarily, but since you're not going to, we'll go ahead and force you to.”

And reiterated thusly:
“you should be sharing your wealth out of a sense of altruism. But since you won't, we/the govt. are going to forcibly take it from you.”

And the last but not least:
”…property rights are not absolute. If I can save a life by 'stealing' someone's property, in many cases I am going to do just that.”

Sadly, this type of thinking is not unique to blockhead. In fact, most Democrats and some Republicans would see no problem with such STATEments. But as for me, I find it intolerable and antithetical to the principle of liberty. Rights ARE, by virtue of one’s existence. Right are by definition absolute and unalienable. That which is conditional is not a right, but a privilege. The alternative to individual rights is collective or government rights, where the individual may or may not do this or that depending upon the ruling authority. The US Constitution recognizes only individual rights and not government rights; the government may act only with the consent of the governed. The failure to acknowledge and preserve individual rights inevitably leads to tyranny…totalitarian, authoritarian or chaotic anarchy. There is no such thing as abridging rights a little or a little tyranny, as each cannot but increase after having been tolerated.

I fully understand that the concept of rights is abstract and subject to violation by thugs and looters. This is why a healthy civilization MUST revere the concept of individual liberty and acknowledge the right of citizens to self protect from a single brute or an oppressive government.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The beer of Urban Outdoorsmen

I was engaged in a fun but frivolous discussion over at JMPP about the drinking habits of homeless folk, when my new friend Ragnar (a renovator of historical homes in Seattle) suggested I read this.

The irony here is hilarious. It turns out that a bum's beer of choice was originally intended for high-end consumption!?!? I thought that this paragraph was especially priceless:
"Gettleman Brewing of Milwaukee appealed to tweed-jacketed faculty members with its University Club, complete with a faux college crest on the can. The brewers of Gaybree Malt Liquor in Norfolk, Virginia, said it "tastes, looks, sparkles like champagne." Century Brewing's Sparkling Grenáy touted its "superb wine-like character" and sported a coat of arms with tiny winged lions and four medallions."

Am I just one of those heartless SOBs that has never struggled and has no idea what it's like suffer? Not exactly. My derision is not aimed at one for whom hard times have fallen unexpectedly. No, that’s pretty much true for the majority of working class folks. I am however, calling a spade a spade; one for whom homelessness and unemployment is tolerated at length by consuming malt liquor in vast quantities. The only people I despise more are those that coddle and make excuses for such inadequacies. We live in the greatest civilization in history. Not everyone will be wealthy, but absent physical or mental disability, one should NOT make a career of panhandling.

I’m not as much anti-bum as I am pro-personal responsibility. If one chooses to be a vagrant, it’s none of anyone’s business…unless and until that one seeks to impose upon society or another individual.

Any and all excoriation of me should be directed to the comment section.

I'm sooo embarrassed!

Apparently, much to my surprise, this blog has previously had the LARGE PRINT one might expect to find in grandma’s Bible. As my default browser is Firefox, the font size appeared to be normal. I only logged on with Internet Explorer because I could not access my post editor. When my blog opened, I realized for the first time that it looked AWFUL!!! My inexperience is a secret no more…L O L.

The way the font now appears is the way that I’ve seen it since I started. With time perhaps I’ll get this thing figured out. Until then, I will likely be forced to bother Warbs…thanks again man.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

How dare you?

I got an interesting e-mail today. Someone attacked me in my own in-box! The message was a rebuttle to a comment that I made here. At this point, my only recourse is to add T. F. Stern to my blogroll.

Is your marriage State approved?

Once again, the issue of same-sex marriage is in the news.
NPR [March 15, 2005] A San Francisco County Superior Court judge overturns California's ban on gay marriage. Judge Richard Kramer ruled the ban unconstitutional and said withholding marriage licenses from same-sex couples violated their civil rights. Supporters of the ban plan to appeal the decision.

This is one of those boiler-plate subjects in which both proponents and detractors often become exercised. To be sure, there are those that are ambivalent, but they don’t figure into this debate. Interestingly, as each side all but demonizes the other, they both claim the moral high-ground.

With those for whom this is a matter of civil rights, they have a champion in California. In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom gained notoriety as the nation's most ardent crusader for same-sex marriage. He's was lauded at the Democratic National Convention for unilaterally ordering the issuance of license to homosexual couples. Newsom claimed that ALL should enjoy the same rights and that current law was discriminatory.

Among the most vocal opponents of gay unions are Christians in general and the *religious right* in particular. The primary basis for their view is the Bible’s prohibition of ANY homosexual activity. The logic suggests that by granting approval by way of legislation, the gay population will increase exponentially and thus bring God’s wrath upon the whole nation. Further, the slippery slope argument is made, which implies that allowing gays to marry will preclude discrimination against polygamy and incest. A back-up point is that the traditional definition of marriage should stand.

Thomas Sowell has an interesting take with which both sides would likely take issue.
Of all the phony arguments for gay marriage, the phoniest is the argument that it is a matter of equal rights. Marriage is not a right extended to individuals by the government. It is a restriction on the rights they already have.

People who are simply living together can make whatever arrangements they want, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. They can divide up their worldly belongings 50-50 or 90-10 or whatever other way they want. They can make their union temporary or permanent or subject to cancellation at any time.

He goes on to say:

The issue is not individual rights. What the activists are seeking is official social approval of their lifestyle. But this is the antithesis of equal rights.

If you have a right to someone else's approval, then they do not have a right to their own opinions and values. You cannot say that what "consenting adults" do in private is nobody else's business and then turn around and say that others are bound to put their seal of approval on it.

Some folks that I’ve spoken with about this seem to have formed an opinion without letting the facts intrude. In my view, maximum individual liberty is the default. I recognize that anarchy is not feasible and some restriction of movement and action is essential for the protection of everyone. That said, ANY such limitation should be irreducibly minimal.

With respect to Newsom’s action, I think he failed to understand that the rule-of-law trumps one’s desire to correct a perceived injustice; the Constitution allows for orderly creation and repeal of legislation.

The religious opponents seem to think that the Constitution and individual liberty are subject to the Bible. Not only is this an asinine misconception, the logic is flawed on its face. If God were to *punish* people Sodom and Gomorra style for transgression of his law, why would he not be angry about the First Amendment, which acknowledges freedom FROM religion. As one for whom the Bible is a subject of study, I suggest that those who make such arguments use the Bible to control the behavior of others; their Democrat counterparts use the Constitution in a similar way to affect societal change.

While I have a great deal of respect for Thomas Sowell, our views diverge here a bit. He seems to err on the side of cultural stability, where marriage is concerned. I see culture as a means of societal health to a point, but for me, individual identity must not be subjugated by a group’s sensibilities. Sowell’s point about the mutual property of consenting adults has merit; the main difference between marriage and cohabitation is an enforceable contract with the former and nil with the latter. The issue’s core, for me, is that any consensual union of individuals that is bound by a contract enforced by the state, should be devoid of the spiritual/mystical. All marriage ought to be secular civil contracts. Those that are so incline have every right to allow the religious sect of their choice to place its imprimatur and blessing upon it. I don’t seek to give anyone, with whom I am not acquainted, my approval and I don’t expect to receive their sanction. The US Constitution neither respects one’s faith nor one’s sexual proclivities…at least not yet.

Monday, March 14, 2005

When I was young and dumb...

My oldest son, having just reached the milestone age of 13, has reminded me of my self at that age. For me, self awareness began in earnest back in the mid 80s...*old folks* like me remember that decade well. It was a time of cultural polarization with various cliques (at least among teens). I soon began to question the *herd mentality* and decided that I preferred an individual identity to group-think. At the time, in Georgia, the Punk scene was a perfect vehicle for a rebellious kid to challenge the status quo (not without social consequence). But by the time I reached high school, Punk had lost its luster in my estimation. Then, with the discovery of marijuana and LSD, I morphed into a *Dead Head hippy-type*. Now, before you presume that I did a 180, I present my Top Ten list of ways in which Punks and Hippies are in fact fellow travelers:

1. Both are social outcasts.
2. Both have an aversion to soap…on principle.
3. Both are left-leaning anti-establishment and anti-capitalist.
4. Both despised Ronald Reagan.
5. Both assume that they are smarter than they actually are.
6. Both bitch and moan more than live productive lives.
7. Both prefer intoxication to reality.
8. Both demand “social justice” without providing a coherent definition of it.
9. Both are ridiculous anachronisms
10. Both are pitied by me.

For the record, by the time I turned 20, I realized that those two *personae* (as well as drug abuse) were irrational at the core. Individual identity was actually that for which I was searching. The fact that both groups are moochers who bitch at the hand that feeds, in addition to *the list*, was enough for me to distance myself from them for good.

Note: my statements are generalizations, but true nonetheless. There are however, exceptions to the

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Blogwhores of the world unite!

At long last, my blog has links! In the interest of full disclosure, I’m all but illiterate, in terms of programming and/or blogging. Though my learning curve was steep, I’ve made great leaps in my understanding (sardonic LOL). In fact, I received assistance from a fellow traveler: Brad Warbiany, the unrepentant one, to whom I am indebted.

I’m going to break with tradition (as I am want to do) and rather than incorporate my new blogroll additions here, I ask you to glance to your left. There you will see what I’ve been reading and commenting on for a while now. Those in my first blogroll (random order), are largely responsible for this very blog…thanks guys and gals.

Now, for those who don’t appear on the *list*, there will be future additions…so keep your pants on! These select few are special because they’re my *first* and one never forgets one’s *first*. So go, visit these superlative blogs and be enlightened!

Update: The aforementioned one who shant repent has yet given more help, as I still didn't have this thing right. Make no mistake, Brad's da' man.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Quotes to inspire and frighten...

Intellectuals of all stripes throughout history have made their ideas part of the public discourse. Some of which are profoundly inspirational, others simply trigger the gag reflex and still others make one shutter. Below is a sampling of each…one must make an independent judgment as to which does what.

The following are courtesy of my hometown Libertarian talk show host, Neal Boortz.

"Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion- in the long run, these are the only people who count." [Robert Heinlein]

"In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other." [Voltaire]

"Fascism finds it necessary, at the outset, to take away from the ordinary human being what he has been taught and has grown to cherish the most; personal liberty. And it can be affirmed, without falling into exaggeration, that a curtailment of personal liberty not only has proved to be, but necessarily must be, a fundamental condition of the triumph of Fascism." [Mario Palmeiri]

"I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the president." [Hillary Clinton commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents]

We must organize all labor, no matter how dirty and arduous it may be, so that every (citizen) may regard himself as part of that great army of free labor.... The generation that is now fifteen years old... must arrange all their tasks of education in such a way that every day, and in every city, the young people shall engage in the practical solution of the problems of common labor, even the smallest, most simple kind. [Vladimir Lenin]

"All the people I know who are driving for a form of national service, primarily want it to be compulsory. They realize that's a terrible problem politically, so they're not willing to say it. It is endangerment of freedom and the potential for indoctrination that skeptics do not like in the national service concept. However benign the program, some think it will not succeed on any meaningful scale unless is compulsory." [Martin Anderson, Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution]

"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society." [Hillary Clinton, 1993]

"We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans ..." [President Bill Clinton, 'USA Today' March 11, 1993: Page 2A]

"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." [Ayn Rand]

"Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all." [Nikita Khrushchev, February 25, 1956 20th Congress of the Communist Party]

"It is thus necessary that the individual should come to realize that his own ego is of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the nation as a whole ... that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual. .... This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise for every truly human culture.... we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow man." [Adolph Hitler, 1933]

There is the great, silent, continuous struggle: the struggle between the State and the Individual; between the State which demands and the individual who attempts to evade such demands. Because the individual, left to himself, unless he be a saint or hero, always refuses to pay taxes, obey laws, or go to war. [Benito Mussolini]

Fascist ethics begin ... with the acknowledgment that it is not the individual who confers a meaning upon society, but it is, instead, the existence of a human society which determines the human character of the individual. According to Fascism, a true, a great spiritual life cannot take place unless the State has risen to a position of pre-eminence in the world of man. The curtailment of liberty thus becomes justified at once, and this need of rising the State to its rightful position. [Mario Palmieri, "The Philosophy of Fascism" 1936]

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage." [Alexander Tyler]

"In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other." [Voltaire]

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. [H.L. Mencken]

The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-by to the Bill of Rights. [H.L. Mencken]

"America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way." [Ayn Rand]

For good and ill, these people have influenced history. With time, it will become abundantly clear how I view each of the quotes above. In the meantime, tell me what you think, as I already know what I think.

Friday, March 11, 2005

New kid in the blogosphere

I have some rather unorthodox views and opinions that I will eventually hurl at the general public. Of late, I've enjoyed commenting on various blogs and having a blast doing it. Until I manage to produce content, check out Eric's Random Musings, Seven Inches Of Sense, The AnarchAngel, The Unrepentant Individual and Redneck Feminist: A Free Market Feminist Blog. This should keep you occupied for now.