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Cultures, rights, and burqas

September 27, 2010 5 comments

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Being that I am a pure voluntaryist and ardent objectivist, my moral code and sense of life is based on the conceptualization of man as a choosing agent advancing himself in a natural universe. As such, I hold it as objectively morally wrong, which is to say, anti-life, to forcibly control another individual for one’s own purposes. I further maintain that to a rational person there can be no pity for the guilty. This is to say, legitimate defense is not limited strictly to self-defense, but rather every righteous individual has the authority to forcibly intervene in defense of the innocent when a violation of rights is committed. It might, then, seem odd to suppose that defensive intervention is often not the best course of action for combating crime, but in fact I believe exactly that. Furthermore, I believe that intervention to combat the particular acts of violence and destruction which have become accepted to a certain degree as cultural norms is frequently harmful and wrong, and that those who combat social order with violent uprising often inflict collateral damage so as to incriminate themselves just like the demons they seek to eliminate.

There are many examples of violence and control which have been accepted in one culture or another throughout history. In many cultures, women are expected to be subservient to their husbands and can suffer beatings or worse if they behave as independents in public. Fear of such abuses of women has been used as a rationalization for a number of government policies, such as the recent burqa ban in France and the upcoming ban in Australia. Obviously, such a ban ignores the possibility that women wear burqas voluntarily, which is certainly the case for many Muslim women. Worse than that, though, is that it necessarily fails to accomplish the intended purpose of preventing men from beating their wives. After all, wife-beating is already illegal. Men who continue to do it are able to get away with it either because no one sees it happen, or because no one cares. Outlawing the burqa won’t stop that, and it won’t change the violent tendencies in anyone savage enough to beat an innocent person for religious reasons. What it will do, though, is convince leaders in local communities with high immigrant Muslim populations that Western governments represent a threat to their way of life. As such, they (especially the men) will feel an increased need to culturally distance themselves from Western natives and will enforce this on their wives and children. The burqa bans, like any other attempt to politicize behavior associated with race, culture, and religion, will have precisely one long-term effect: Incentivizing people to turn against one another violently, where before it was economical and rational to move towards tolerance. Donations to racist political demagogues will increase; the freedom of women will not.

So what makes women being forced to wear burqas in heavily Islamic communities in Western Europe different than, say, a grown man getting murdered on the street? In principle, these are both instances of aggression, and so they are both morally wrong. The difference comes into play in considering how effective various strategies for prevention can be. Murder of a grown man in a Western nation is extremely rare, and almost everyone recognizes that it is an egregious crime. As such, those who wish to foricbly intervene in defense of a murder victim can rely on the local community to support them and ensure justice. The opposite is often true of Islamic law. Suppose it is discovered that one particular woman in a Muslim community is wearing a burqa against her will on her husband’s orders. A squad of armed men come to her house to arrest her husband and give her a good lecture on her rights as an individual. Then what? The thirty other extremist Muslim households in the surrounding neighborhood ostracize her or potentially kill her. Now one might rightly say that not all or even most Muslims are so vicious and oppressive. This is surely so, yet in a community of moderate and tolerant Muslims, it is much less likely that there would be an oppressed woman in the first place. Violence is common in violent areas. In a community where aggression is accepted as normal, force to stop it is unsuccessful and provokes racial and cultural hatred and conflict.

What, then, can be done? The first step is always to depoliticize. Those who seek reform must accept the limitations of their abilities and not attempt to force a change for which society is not yet ready. Top-down government planning never achieves its desired goals and always causes collateral damage to innocents. After depoliticizing comes educating. The strongest weapon against bad ideas is and always will be good ideas. So to end oppression around the world, we must start by establishing a broad base of literature and other media promoting freedom, then spread that message in our daily lives. Anyone who wants to promote an idea needs to get onboard with the first-hand idea manufacturers – authors, philosophers, scientists. These intellectual leaders must be resolute in their commitment to both the theory of liberty and the specific goals such as ending oppression of women. Without a firm intellectual base, a movement cannot prosper. Attempts to skip the ideology and proceed straight to enforcing the results always fail for the reasons explained above.

After educating comes disincentivizing. Bad ideas will not be replaced by good ideas unless the latter are actually shown to be superior to the former. The second-hand dealers in ideas can make this happen. We can voluntarily put pressure on talk show hosts, newspaper columnists, bloggers, restaurant and store owners, and other important members of society to reject violence and oppression as a way of life. For example, a person who is passionate about ridding the world of burqas can openly refuse to watch any television show which depicts a burqa-clad character in a positive light. If this is demonstrated to be a good philosophy, the cultural free market will adapt. Moreover, due to the purely voluntary nature of the pressure applied, those who resist have no moral ground on which to stand. Remember when some bigoted Muslim extremists claimed that a comical and negative depiction of the prophet Muhammad was grounds for violent opposition? Yeah, they became the laughing stock of the whole world, triggering a voluntary reaction called Everybody Draw Muhammad Day. Had the artists who initially sketched Muhammad taken violent actions, and had the Muslim response been peaceful but firm, the results might have been quite different. By choosing to take the higher ground – to avoid engaging in threats of violence and instead protest peacefully – freedom-lovers and all of Western civilization won a huge victory.

Thousands of years of cultural custom cannot be overcome by a sudden decision on the part of the government, or you, or anyone, to punish a certain action, even if that action truly is a violent crime. Spontaneous decisions to attempt to effect social change quickly and forcefully usually trigger a backlash that is much larger, much more severe, and much longer-lasting than the proponents of change ever anticipate. Effective laws develop slowly out of long-observed traditions of peaceful behavior. Just as the United States suffered for its decision to invade the Confederacy and was ultimately powerless to prevent a century of violent oppression of blacks until the South’s very culture naturally changed, so the other Western nations will pay dearly if they attempt to push laws onto Muslim communities where they will not be respected. To fight for the betterment of society requires long-term thinking and peaceful methods. If you would like to see a world without burqas, my suggestion is to start by writing a book.


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Dangerous anarchists undermine the social order in my local community.

September 26, 2010 3 comments

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Hi friends. I’m going to experiment with taking a more casual attitude towards the Worst-Case Scenario for a while. This means that the blog posts will not be as in-depth or researched as usual, and will mostly contain comments on the world as I think them up. However, the positive side to this is that, hopefully, I’ll be able to post more often, perhaps even as much as once a day. To kick off that theme, I’d like to tell you a story about a very terrifying event I witnessed yesterday. A gang of shameless anarchists disrupted the social order and broke a number of very important and long-established laws, including committing multiple severe felonies, without the slightest regard for the damage they were doing to their community. Here’s how it happened.

I was walking back to my house from Golden Isles Coins and Collectibles after purchasing a Krugerrand when I spotted the first anarchist. He was a small Latino boy of between five and seven years, sitting at the end of his driveway under a sign defiantly declaring, “Lemonade 50C” [sic]. The stand did not display any health and safety rating, so I was forced to conclude the local health inspector was unaware of the foodstuffs being sold. What’s more, the child clearly was not old enough to be working even a part-time job under child labor laws. Now, this is not necessarily damning. After all, he may not have been technically employed, since he was personally running all of the trade. Yet that in itself raises another question – where was this young man’s business license? Clearly, he wasn’t filing any 1099 forms or reporting any of his gross income to the Internal Revenue Service. Finally, he had no understanding of the need to tax prepared foodstuffs at a rate higher than the state-wide sales tax, as is the law in North Carolina. Indeed, and the crime was widespread: A few feet away I saw another person, an older Latina woman who was no doubt complicit in the illicit business being advertised. She was chatting absent-mindedly with a neighbor in Spanish as a deliberate affront to American values.

This experience was disturbing enough, but what I saw about fifteen minutes later was much worse. As I drew near to my house, I spotted a young black man of at least eighteen standing on the sidewalk, with no intention of using it for its appropriate public purpose, and waving a cardboard sign that said, “Car Wash $5.” I couldn’t believe my eyes – two blatantly illegal business operations in one walk from the gold store. I stared across the street to where the man was pointing, and sure enough there was a full gang of laborers washing a car in a parking lot. There was no one present above college age, and they did not appear to be reporting to any manager or supervisor. A single individual among them collected the payment from cars that drove in, but as far as I could tell she was not in a position of authority so much as in a flimsy trusteeship with the rest of the laborers. Essentially, it was mayhem.

As far as what laws these hooligans were breaking, it’s hard to even know where to begin. As I said, they weren’t funneling their money through any particular business head, so there was no accounting and no clear legal personality should their company be sued for poor service. Worse than that, though, was the complete absence of any government guarantee of good service in the first place. They lacked the required North Carolina car wash license which is used to ensure that gullible car owners aren’t victimized by devious car washing services such as this one. I seriously doubt that they even had a North Carolina business license, what with no manager and all. Of course, just like with the lemonade black market, none of this income was being reported, and the sales of the services were not taxed. But that’s not even the worst part. No, I didn’t see the true horror of all this anti-social behavior until I had observed their process for some time.

After much consideration, I found the utterly horrifying bottom line is that, from my best estimates based on the number of participants and the rate of five dollars per car, these laborers were not even making the federal minimum wage. The repercussions of this kind of exploitation are extraordinary. If they had a business owner, he would lose his business license and possibly go to jail for his heartless exploitation of them. Unfortunately the business had no owner since it was just an impromptu anarchist cartel, so I’m not sure whom I ought to excoriate, revile, and despise for the fact that these laborers were being savagely exploited. I think I will try blaming the customers for giving money to the poor slaves without educating them on the damage that is done by sub-minimum wage work. I may even have to send an email to the local car wash workers’ union, who will hopefully be able to help them by requiring them not to sell their services anymore. It takes a lot of activism and effort to effect positive social change, but rest assured, loyal readers, I will do whatever it takes to ensure that these oppressed laborers are empowered and their seditious violation of social order is corrected.


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Top Five Songs of Freedom

September 20, 2010 22 comments

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I have often heard complaints from true patriots and freedom advocates about the difficulty of finding pleasant, powerful, and lyrically compelling music that examines the world from a libertarian or even just individualist perspective. Indeed, statism is rampant in contemporary songs on the radio, despite shallow claims by many artists that they are anti-authority. Celebrities are notoriously leftist, and their idea of being anti-authority typically has more to do with spewing hatred for nameless cultural enemies than addressing the real, coercive institution of politics. The only genre of music that has remained largely immune to leftist childishness is country, but that has all its own problems. Very few country singers dare to confront the authority of the state for what it truly is. Moreover, a sizable portion of them happily and fiercely wave the flag of imperialism for Uncle Sam whenever he calls upon them to denounce war skeptics as anti-patriotic and anti-freedom. Indeed, for those of us who can envision a truly voluntary society and understand that freedom does not come from preemptive violence and collectivist class warfare, appropriate entertainment options are limited.

What’s particularly bothersome, though, is that there doesn’t appear to be any good reason why this is so. The power of individual choice and the beautiful achievements of free people are among the most awe-inspiring of potential song topics. The oppressive instruments used by the state and its sympathizers to obstruct individual creativity and prosperity are angering in the extreme – and they affect everyone! Libertarian music ought to invoke at least as much emotional response as any class warfare or false patriotism. Why, then, is there frustratingly little of it?

I don’t know, but I’m not willing to give this one to the Man. So in the interest of promoting the great, if few, artists of our time who have taken a stand for freedom in their music, I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite contemporary songs that portray a mature and explicit pro-freedom message, along with links to lyrics and recordings.

1. Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It

lyrics || video

This song is a classic among anti-state and anti-authority types across the board due to its motivating, revolutionary tone. Poetically, it was released in 1984 (haha) and goes a step beyond the played-out and dull expression of teen angst about controlling parents and controlling schools and controlling what-have-you. From the start, the use of the phrase “right to choose” reveals that Twisted Sister is concerned specifically with political freedom. The enemy whose abuses “we’re not gonna take” appears to be governmental, not cultural. Then, in a second verse that sounds suspiciously like a rejection of cradle-to-grave nanny-statism, the song accuses authority figures: “You’re so condescending; your gall is never-ending; we don’t want nothing, not a thing from you.” That might still be open to a little interpretation, but the deal is sealed immediately afterward when the enemy’s “life” is called “confiscated.” It’s hard to imagine that refers to anything except the state, whose existence is based on confiscating from others only to give (less) back again.

Twisted Sister’s not-so-subtle rebuking of abusive state control worked, too. At least, it made the statists angry and scared enough that one year later the United States Senate called the lead vocalist, Dee Snider, in to testify on behalf of heavy metal and explain why it shouldn’t be banned from America. That was a mistake, as this video shows. Snider harshly criticized the Senate for its attempts at censorship and even said a few beautifully derisive words about Al Gore’s wife when the Senator himself accused metal music of harming her poor, sensitive mind.

2. Linkin Park – No More Sorrow

lyrics || video

Released in the anti-war fury of the late Bush administration, “No More Sorrow” is among the most vicious attacks on statism I’ve heard. After a musical opening with a clear marching beat reminiscent of revolutionary soldiers preparing for battle, the song’s incendiary lyrics denounce all aspects of the rise of fascism in America. Every single word is intensely political, from identifying the Terror Wars with, “your crusade’s a disguise,” to summarily rejecting the whole administration as “liars and thieves,” and the sentiment to which we can perhaps most directly relate, “I’ve paid for your mistakes.” Linkin Park promises that “you will pay for what you’ve done” and chants “thieves and hypocrites” in a shouting tone that is angry to the point of being disturbing. In spite of its obvious connections to George Bush, the message of the song is essentially timeless. As long as there is a state, it will consist of liars and thieves who will wage false crusades at the people’s expense. The solution is clearly stated at the end: “Your time has come to be erased.”

3. Hank Williams, Jr. – A Country Boy Can Survive

lyrics || video

Well, what to say? This country classic is just basically one of my favorite songs of all time. Written and performed by Hank Williams, Jr., it shows a truly independent country spirit – not blind, flag-waving nationalism, but simple, individualistic Americanism. Hank opens by describing a national crisis – a decline in the economy which has resulted in rising crime rates and civil unrest. But Hank is not too worried, because he has “a shotgun, rifle, and a four-wheel drive, and a country boy can survive.” He goes on to describe the pragmatic independence which allows him to live apart from industrialism and the larger national economy – eating, of course, good old “organic” food as the environmentalists tell us is proper.

Then, Hank tells a story about his friend from New York, whom he clearly respects, being killed on the city streets by a common thief looking for some cash. In a stroke of pure, unadulterated Americanism, Hank says outright, “I’d love to spit some beach nut in that dude’s eye and shoot him with my old .45!” (Wow!) There’s no political correctness to be found here. In fact, there’s no politics at all. There’s only justice, delivered by a concerned and well-armed citizen with no reference whatsoever to any permission from an authority figure. Hank’s simple lack of regard for unnecessary institutions of all forms is rare and refreshing.

4. Econ Stories – Fear the Boom and Bust

lyrics || video

If you want explicit libertarianism in a song, this is as good as it gets. Russel Roberts, an economist from the Institute for Humane Studies, worked with media director John Papola to try to bring a knowledge of economics to the general public, and the Ke$ha-endorsed rap “Fear the Boom and Bust” was the result. It tells a fictional story of world-renowned economists John Maynard Keynes, who advocated heavy government interventionism, and Friedrich Hayek, who favored freer markets, meeting in New York city during the financial crisis of 2007-2010. Using real quotations from their most famous books, Roberts constructs an argument between the two over what caused the crisis and how it can be fixed. Topics include the on-going collapse of the American housing market, the worldwide credit crunch which has proven to be immune to quantitative easing, and the chronically depressed aggregate demand by consumers which persists in spite of Keynes’s prescribed stimulus spending. That Hayek wins the argument is as clear as it is inevitable. His ground-up constructed philosophy triumphs over the flawed Keynesian model of aggregate variables and interventionist dogma.

5. System of a Down – Cigaro

lyrics || video

I must give fair warning here: By the standards of my blog’s usual content, “Cigaro” is quite obscene, so click the links at your own peril. I’ll avoid commenting too much on the gruesome details in text, but let it suffice to say that this song ridicules the immaturity of state rulers in a most overt way, accusing them of engaging in useless power struggles that harm innocents around them. The video, especially, depicts a group of arrogant buffoons – the governors of the world, of course – trying to force activity in their countries and comparing their relative strengths in a scene reminiscent of the build-up to the World Wars. System of Down condemns this crowd as “cruel regulators” and “the propagators of all genocide,” continuing with the World War theme. An explicit identification of the close historical ties between heavy economic regulation and mass murder is quite rare these days, as public schools have taught us that national socialism is good, but National Socialism is terrible. Perhaps there is hope for the future after all.


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