Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Dying to be FreeGuillermo Fariñas Hernandez has literally taken up the mantle of Patrick Henry, who said: “Give me liberty, or give me death”. In fact, he’s been on a protracted hunger strike.
Our friend Apesnake spoke to this issue as well:
In a time where people are considered to be freedom fighters for blowing up their countrymen and for firing mortars at people who line up to express their democratic rights. There are real freedom fighters who have integrity and honor and are ignored as not newsworthy. They are not only newsworthy, they are an inspiration and a precious reminder of what humans are capable of when they try.Go read the whole thing; and while you’re at it, check out this Blogburst.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The First Grandma Sparks DebateThe Associated Press (via WaPo) is reporting that Barbara Bush, Dubya’s momma, has ”earmarked” a charitable donation, one intended “for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools”. Moreover, the “money was donated to the Bush-Clinton Houston Hurricane Relief Fund”. Oh yeah, the “earmark” is for her son’s company.
Two years ago, the Houston school district board wrestled with conflict of interest concerns over the Ignite program. Neil Bush had helped raise $115,000 for the district's philanthropic fund from donors who insisted the money be spent on his company's software.There are, it seems to me, two distinct issues at play here. On one hand, there’s an appearance of a conflict of interest (count on the Left to emphasize this); on the other hand, this is a private donation, which means that the concept of individual liberty ought to be considered (perhaps the Right will emphasize this, although I’ve not seen it yet).
The district accepted the donations and used them to pay half the costs of new Ignite software, about $10,000 per school.
Currently, Houston public schools use 15 Ignite programs and the Houston area has 40 programs, said company president Ken Leonard.
So, what say you? Is this a matter of personal choice, mutual aggrandizement or something else entirely?
Friday, March 24, 2006
More Government=Less FreedomFCC Chairman Kevin Martin seems to be a typical paternalistic bureaucrat:
"Parents need to be more involved," said Martin Tuesday, acknowledging in part the argument that says the best control is the "off" button found on all televisions. But Martin, who thinks that channel rating systems and programming guides aren't good enough, added that "I think the industry needs to do more [to prevent widespread viewing of adult-oriented content]." The industry's "lack of action is notable," Martin said.Lack of action? AT&T CEO tells a different story:
"Any provider who blocks access to the Internet is inviting customers to find another provider," Whitacre said in his keynote speech. "It's bad business." He then emphatically stated that AT&T would not block independent services, "nor will we degrade [Internet access]. Period, end of story."In other words: the free market would work, if only the FCC would allow it to. But that just makes too much sense. Regardless, our friendly-neighborhood regulators never miss an opportunity to meddle:
In a question-and-answer period in front of the keynote audience, Martin said that "I do think the commission has the authority necessary" to enforce network neutrality violations, noting that the FCC had in fact done so in the case last year involving Madison River’s blocking of Vonage's VoIP service.
"We've already demonstrated we'll take action if necessary," Martin said.
hat tip: Hit & Run
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Mariology: The New Black
TUPELO, MS—The Blessed Mother Mary said Monday that devout Catholic Anthony Montero is simply praying to her as a way to get to her Son, Jesus Christ. "People exploit me for my connections, worshipping me as a way to get closer to Jesus," said the Holy Virgin, bathed in a golden light and attended by seraphim. "How would Anthony feel if I called upon him in the guise of friendship, but simply wanted his cousin to do some plumbing work for me? It's just rude." Our Lady added that, if Montero wants to reach Jesus so badly, maybe he should "grow a pair and pray to Him directly."
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Posthumously Speaking With Chris (Part 2)I’d like to share a portion of another casual, yet candid e-mail written by my long-lost friend.
I love nature and I love the art of men. I love cities and oceans. I want to learn and experience as much of this life as possible. I am the type of person that will try almost anything once. I long to experience as much of life as possible. So where am I now and what am I trying to say. Nothing really, just giving you some insight into the person I am.I really shouldn’t be surprised by the similarities in our thinking, our debates as teen-agers about everything from philosophy to politics to theology notwithstanding. In fact, I found out about his ‘libertarian’ leanings from this very e-mail; and he never knew of my ‘libertarian’ bent either. There was so much to discuss…
I want to be a dad and a teacher. I want to learn about life and give what I learn to other people. I believe that there is some purpose to life other than just being. I think that we are becoming better as people, but in order for this to happen we have to have both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. So we grow, and we pass this on to our children. I think that I have a good outlook on life and I want to pass this on. This is my sense of immortality.
Oh, Love is probably what I have faith in. I am a scientist and a hopeless romantic too. I have faith that love is a powerful force in this world. I know I sound like a hippie, but don't think I am like that. I vote Libertarian. I don't have a bleeding heart per se. I do want to go help third world countries, but I don't want to do this as charity. I would like to go as a teacher. I would like to go to Costa Rica and start up a chemical research company. I want to train locals. Teach them to be scientists. In this way I could get research accomplished and find new drugs ($) and at the same time increase the education of the undereducated. This is my idea of charity.
We ought to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones…for it is fleeting.
[see also: Part 1]
Saturday, March 18, 2006
A trillion here, a trillion there…Cicero at To The People has a radical solution to our $9,000,000,000,000 problem:
Now, here's my radical solution to the national debt. The federal government should default on it. Policymakers should say, "we can't ever pay this off. Sorry. Our bad. We're not going to pay". This is the only moral solution to the problem. The only other alternative is to make people who played no role whatsoever in amassing the debt pay it off. This is simply unfair. It's grand theft. Ok. Trillion theft.I like it…except for the bit at the end.
Could defaulting on the national debt hurt the overall economy? Yes. It would likely crash the stock market. But, it would most certainly shake people's faith in government. And that would be a good thing. Once people realized that the federal government could default on bonds in the future, they would be less likely to loan money to the federal government. That would prevent the government from racking up a huge credit card bill ever again (or at least for several decades). Knowing this, investors would become quite bullish. The American economy would rebound and flourish. Without the federal government driving up interest rates through massive borrowing, companies could afford to expand like never before. And the federal government would free-up the $350 billion it spends every year just paying the interest on the national debt. Congress could give this money back to the American people through major tax cuts, further stimulating the economy. (Bone to socialists: Congress could also spend that money on health care, welfare, etc.).
via: Nick Gillespie
Friday, March 17, 2006
Individual Rights: An AbsoluteNote: libertopia came into being one year ago this week. The following essay was originally posted on 16 March, 2005 (minor editing was required for the sake of intelligibility).
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, while 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 for the term “right” to have no objective definition...I argue that it does!
My friend Warbs has a provocative post dealing with this subject; it deals with the concept of freedom, which is inexorably linked to the idea of rights. And as most of us know, the Declaration of Independence 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 collectivist-individual (a walking contradiction) is all but infamous in the blogosphere…it’s none other than DADAHEAD, the disembodied wooden head. In the aforementioned post, DH commented thusly:
“…you SHOULD be helping others voluntarily, but since you're not going to, we'll go ahead and force you to.”And subsequently reiterated:
“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.”Lastly, this little gem:
”…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…er DADAHEAD. In fact, most Democrats and many modern Republicans would have no problem with such statements; but I find it intolerable and antithetical to the principles of liberty and individual rights. The individual is possessed of rights as a consequence of existence. Right are, by definition, absolute and unalienable. That which is conditional is not a right, but merely 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 or prevailing majority.
The US Constitution only recognizes individual rights, not government rights; the government may act only with the consent of the governed and is constrained by the rule of law, which is embodied in the constitution. The failure to acknowledge and preserve individual rights inevitably leads to tyranny…totalitarianism, authoritarianism or chaotic anarchy. Tyranny inevitably increases after having been tolerated; it grows like a cancer.
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 either a single brute or an oppressive government.
This is the wisdom of our founding document: the unwavering protection of minority rights…a minority of one.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
New and Improved?The ever-evolving Prince has apparently now become a prude:
Pop icon Prince vowed never to sing 50 of his own songs again, because of their explicit content. The PURPLE RAIN hitmaker, who became a Jehovah's Witness six years ago (00), has removed songs including CREAM and GET OFF from his live repertoire, and insists there is enough music containing vulgar language already. He says, "You can't push the envelope any further than I've pushed it. So stop. "What's the point? So much of what we see on TV and hear on the radio is debased. I will not add to that."JWs may be horribly misguided, but at least their not murderous Islamic fanatics. Then again, neither are Democrats or Republicans…just sayin’.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Posthumously Speaking With Chris (Part I)I plan to periodically post excerpts of e-mail correspondences between my late friend, Dr. Christopher Whitehead, and one of his friends from the University of Florida. The following is a portion of one of their first exchanges…Chris wrote:
I have a philosophical hang-up right now: are people basically good with evil tendencies or basically bad with good tendencies? This a question that Plato brought up. And he believed that people were basically good. He thought that when people did the wrong thing it was because they did not know the right thing to do. Plato was one of the fathers of western philosophy. The same philosophy that gave birth to science. This type of philosophy was never born in eastern culture.I would give anything to bring Chris back; to laugh with him, debate with him, learn from him. I would give him any number of reasons to disagree with me…respectfully of course. For instance, this essay. And one of my favorite songs reminds me of Chris…a lot.
I think that if you had to label my philosophy it would be transcendentalist. That is the best I can do and that descriptor is not comprehensive. Remember I said I thought the univesrse brought itself into existence to become aware of itself? Well I only kind of think/believe this. The problem is that when I look at the world with my western philosophy I see evolution. I see the universe being born in unfathomable violence, where matter can't even form atoms. Then simple atoms form, these coalesce into stars, which then create more types of matter. These stars die to form new stars and planets; these nice cool planets then give birth to life. This life becomes aware of itself and begins to figure out where it came from. I see evolution everywhere, in everything. I see evolution in my life. From a child to an adult. This is an evolution of my personality. But I only see this way because I was raised in western culture. Eastern philosophers would see it differently and I don't really know how they see it.
People who don't want to wonder, who don't want to find answers should still be huddled together in a cave at night scared of the dark. Sometimes I don't want to think. This is why I rode a skateboard, this is why I am trying to surf. But I feel that my point in life is to continue human evolution of the mind, of consciousness. It is hard to say what a higher level of consciousness is if you have never had it, but I know I have touched upon it.
I think that western philosophy gave birth to all important science and eastern philosophy has given birth to an acceptance and peace of mind and spirit. Buddhism teaches that if you desire nothing then you will never suffer. This is too extreme to me even though true. Western philosophy will teach that if you are good now you be repaid in the afterlife. I can't buy this shit either. Funny thing, they both try to convince you not to enjoy this life. I don't think anyone has really tried to meld these philosophies, except transcendentalists (Thoreau, Emerson).
Happiness is not always feeling joy, it is letting yourself be exactly what you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be it. Then, I don't know... I am striving for a consciousness that can understand this.
How many times will they do the same thing?
How did they get programmed to, your following?
Everyone’s locked up in their suffering
The only way you can tell is reconsider everything
What if the truth is that there is no truth
The only thing I can prove is there is no proof
Don’t be so sure that your source is correct
People believed it before, before they had checked
How many times can they tell you
Til you just give them their way
How many times can sell you
Til you let them have their say
Every time you will ignore your
Heart it will come back twice more
Never deny your own instinct
Everybody want something they control
Some just want grass some they want gold
Either way does it feel good or feel low
Taking you down not fast but real slow
Rebellion done for it's own sake
Does not a true free thinker make
To go against for it's own sake
You're still controlled by the course that the other man takes
Reconsider everything, reconsider everything
Reconsider everything, reconsider everything
Reconsider everything, reconsider everything
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Strange Bed FellowsKevin over at the The Liberty Papers (a political / philosophical group-blog to which I contribute) has posted an eye-opening look at what he calls: libertarians for tyranny. It’s a must read…and not just for libertarians!
Kevin’s piece concludes with a link to a Tom Palmer article, from which the following comes:
I do not favor using coercion to forbid people with reprehensible views from publishing them. It’s not censorship to refuse to be associated with those views or to criticize them. I think that KKK members should not be legally forbidden to express their evil views, but that doesn’t mean that I’m obligated to let them come into my home to express them or to lend them a megaphone. The same is true of a doddering old crank like Gary North. It’s not censorship to refuse to be associated with him, but it is — at the very least — astonishingly bad judgment and a sign of a lack of moral sense for anyone to associate with him or to list him as a columnist.That, dear readers, is an excellent elucidation of the distinction between tolerance and acceptance. To quote Judge Reinhold’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: “learn it, know it, live it”.
What Progressives Really ThinkDADAHEAD recently wrote about trade, in the context of the upcoming election(s).
[T]he majority of Democratic office holders are not really populists or progressives; they're welfare-state capitalists, and their allegiance to big business is as axiomatic as any Republican's.In response, Neil wrote the following:
Personally, I'm happy to identify as a welfare capitalist -- can you not be that as well as a populist or progressive? If you set up the economy so that the maximum amount of money flows in, and it happens to flow in to rich people, that's just fine as long as you tax those rich people heavily enough to fund education and health care, etc, for everybody. If it turns out that it's easier to fund the betterment of the working poor that way than to actually set up the economy so they make more money in their jobs, that's the way we should set up policy.So, according to at least one progressive (and probably many more), capitalism is great, insofar as the benefits flow away from those who create the capital and towards those who produce nothing. How, exactly, is this ethical, Neil?
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Responding to: you know WhoRecently a commenter known as: Who reacted to this recycled essay (and again on his own blog here…I guess I’m “another journal”, referenced in the title, although he neither mentioned my name not provided a link to my blog).
You once wrote: "As an individualist, I support the freedom of another to self destruct, as long as there are no other victims."Firstly, what is an individualist…or individualism? Well, Merriam-Webster Online defines it this way:
And later, aware of a degree of contradiction or paradox, "No one is an island."
(1) a: a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount; also: conduct guided by such a doctrine (2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals b: a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests; also: conduct or practice guided by such a theoryNow, while I happen to agree with much of Ayn Rand’s philosophy (among others), vis-a-vis individualism, I do not in fact espouse individual isolationism. I appreciate the various benefits that are attendant to civilized society…ergo, “no one is an island”.
On a purely conceptual level, individualism is integral to the human experience. Each and every individual is unique in the universe; each has the ability (theoretically at least) to think and act independently…or, if you like, individually. Furthermore, each individual is personally responsible for their own choices and the consequences that inexorably follow (see this). It may sound elementary, but apparently, not everyone understands it; Who continued:
There is a hidden assumption behind the individualist position, the assumption that we are independent beings. Time(s) and space(s) and matter(s), however, are not compartmentalised on all levels. On subtler levels they are fully connected. It is simply an error to see only the gross.From a quantum mechanical perspective, the interconnectedness of the material universe goes without saying; everything is matter and/or energy. But that’s not exactly relevant to individualism. What’s more, “the assumption that we are independent beings” is quite a sound one in my view. For humans may be made of similar stuff, but not the same stuff (i.e., each individual / mind is a distinct entity). This is not a distinction without a difference.
My first assumptions are that matter and energy are gross forms of consciousness and that there are no boundaries obstructing consciousness from what it wants to experience. Further, it is an illusion that there are numerous independent consciousnesses.Read the last sentence again…and than again if needed. That’s right, Who claims that “independent consciousnesses” are “an illusion”. I just have one question: on what do you base such an assertion?
So, if somebody overdoses with drugs in the USA, it does affect me here in the UK, truly. If a large number of people do that, it will somehow degrade my own experience of life and I may feel motivated to act. There are always other victims.I’m not sure I follow his line of reasoning, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. It sounds like he’s arguing that actions have consequences, which is just stating the obvious. But the subtler implication is that government, or society at large, ought to simply prohibit activities that could conceivably cause harm to another. Frankly, that’s bullshit! For instance, why don’t we (government, society, the “global community”, whatever) urge lawmakers to criminalize: the driving of automobiles, the owning of baseball bats and steak knives, the drinking of alcoholic beverages, the possession of firearms and the like? The answer is simple really: such prohibitions are an affront to, and egregiously impinge, individual liberty…period.
Here’s a novel idea: why don’t “we” punish actual misconduct that results in harm done to another, instead of advocating the punishment of potential harm?
[cross-posted at The Liberty Papers]
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Queen + Paul RogersMy friend Ashton won a pair of tickets, from our local rock station 96 Rock, to the Queen concert. The show was phenomenal! Check out the set list.
Surprisingly, the Queen songs were great, despite the absence of the inimitable Freddie Mercury; but I must say that Paul Rogers acquitted himself quite well. Speaking of which, the following song was a particular highlight, in addition to making me rather homesick:
Feel Like Making Love
Baby, when i think about you
I think about love
Darlin', don't live without you
And your love
If i had those golden dreams
Of my yesterdays
I would wrap you in the heaven
'till i'm dyin' on the way
Feel like makin'
Feel like makin' love
Feel like makin' love to you
Baby, if i think about you
I think about love
Darlin' if i live without you
I live without love
If i had the sun and moon
I would give you both night and day
Feel like makin'
Feel like makin'love
Feel like makin love to you
And if i had those golden dreams
Of my yesterdays
I would wrap you in the heaven
'til i'm dyin' on the way
Feel like makin' love
Feel like makin' love
(repeat many times)
Feel like makin' love to you
-Queen + Paul Rogers-
Saturday, March 04, 2006
The Tax Man Taketh AwayThere is an interesting discussion over at David Friedman’s blog, Ideas, involving the anchient Athenian tax scheme (particularly the comment thread).
The Athenian model was purely a tax on wealth, whereas “modern democracies” (democracy is dangerous, by the way) favor a progressive tax scheme, which is a graduated tax, primarily on income, i.e. “from each according to his ability…”. In fact, the proponents of progressive taxation are quite varied. For instance, the following comes from the aforementioned Wikipedia article:
Thomas Jefferson: "We are all the more reconciled to the tax on importation, because it falls exclusively on the rich...In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the general government...the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone..."
Karl Marx: "In the most advanced countries the following will be pretty generally applicable:..a heavy progressive or graduated income tax."
It might appear, at first blush, that progressive taxation is intuitively rational. After all, it’s only fair, right? Those with more means ought to “give back” to society, so the thinking seems to go. Beyond that, there are economic arguments in favor of a progressive tax:
“As income levels rise, levels of consumption tend to fall. Thus it is often argued that economic demand can be stimulated by reducing tax burden on lower incomes while raising the burden on higher incomes.”
The idea that government ought to seize and redistribute wealth is not new. Arguably, it’s most notable proponent is John Maynard Keynes, who, in 1935, wrote: “I believe myself to be writing a book on economic theory which will largely revolutionize -- not, I suppose, at once, but in the course of the next ten years -- the way the world thinks about economic problems". In short, his theory goes something like this:
Keynesians' belief in aggressive government action to stabilize the economy is based on value judgments and on the beliefs that (a) macroeconomic fluctuations significantly reduce economic well-being, (b) the government is knowledgeable and capable enough to improve upon the free market, and (c) unemployment is a more important problem than inflation.
Seventy years later, after innumerable examples of its failure (e.g. western Europe, socialist and communist countries world-wide and to some extent, post WWII America), folks still hope against hope that progressive taxation (i.e. coercive confiscation) is the solution to the problem of poverty and so-called “social injustice”.
Don’t misunderstand…I’m not suggesting that all taxation ought to be eliminated. I’m not an anarchist, so I believe that some form of government is necessary, albeit an irreducibly small one. That is, government ought to be empowered to do that which the market, in conjunction with free individuals, cannot do… nothing more. In such an environment, the best possible mechanism by which the basic functions of government could be funded is a tax on consumption, like the Fair Tax, for example. That way, taxation would be almost entirely voluntary, in that one is taxed only when one chooses to spend, as opposed to having an ever-increasing percentage of one’s income ravaged for the benefit of others; those who do nothing whatever to earn that which they receive from the beneficent hand of government.
Needless to say, the current paradigm creates a disincentive to create wealth, for the rich and poor alike. The former are punished for being successful, while the latter are rewarded for a lack of economic success. How did this become the prevailing wisdom?
Friday, March 03, 2006
New Site, Relationship AdviceChris Wilson (formerly known as The Enlightened Caveman) has a new blog called: Enlightened Living. In fact, he’s graciously invited me to contribute. It’s very flattering.
Chris is currently in the midst of a series entitled: Relationships 101; part 3 of which, Between Getting and Keeping Relationships, is now up. Here’s a taste:
So let's suppose you've set your sights on the kind of relationship(s) you believe will best serve your quest for long-term happiness. And let's further suppose that you've correctly assessed the market of desirable targets, and that you've successfully enhanced your looks and personality such that you now have wide access to the people with whom you hope to become close. You're there, right? The world is your oyster. Not exactly.
Whether you’re a lonely soul in search of your “soul mate”, or one that appreciates the virtue of singleness, it’s definitely worth a read. Agree or disagree, the comment thread is always a good vehicle for rational dialog. Jump right in!
[What a difference a year makes! I wrote “The Virtue of Singleness” one year ago this month. I guess the maxim holds after all: “never say never”.]
Harry Browne, R.I.P.According to the LP:
(Washington, D.C.) Former Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate, noted scholar, and investment advisor Harry Browne died at his home in Franklin, TN on the night of March 1, 2006, after a long illness.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Islam: a religion of peace?
"Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection." (9:29)
…read the rest.