Posts Tagged ‘Objectivism’

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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Shared: The “social contract” is an empty concept.

July 23, 2010 1 comment

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Mike P of The Emptiness recently published this brilliant refutation of the statists’ falsehood known as the “social contract”. He gives a clear and concise example of how the social contract, if invoked by someone other than the government, would undoubtedly result in the person in question being labeled criminal, evil, and mentally unsound. Yet in this there is great hypocrisy, for the government itself consists of people who have no distinction from all the rest of us except simply the fact of being in the government. Thus, when a person speaks of a social contract, what he really means is, “We’re the government, and you’re not.”

The first thing we need to do is identify exactly what the social contract is. What are its terms? How is it defined? This is tough because no one that promotes this idea will ever define it for you, so even if I run the risk of being accused of making a strawman argument, I will have to infer its definition from the arguments that people that promote it make. Not only will statists refuse to define it for you, but they will interpret you asking them to define it as an act of aggression or anti-social in some way.

If something is morally good, then anyone, whether they are part of the state or not, should be able to do it. How could you argue against this? If it is morally good to give to charity, then I can do it, you can do it and the state can do it, and all of us would be engaging in righteous behavior. So then if the state is morally good, the basis of it’s power must be morally good, the social contract must be morally good and therefore anyone must be able to make social contracts with anyone else. I must be able to make a social contract with you, you can make one with me, my neighbor can make one with my other neighbor and all of us can make one with the state.

See the full post in its original context here.

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Tea Party Plans for Success at 912 Protests in 2010

July 14, 2010 1 comment

This year’s 912 protests promise to be truly extraordinary, as an unexpected and powerful coalition of conservatives, libertarians, new patriots, and principled Americans has formed to plan and oversee the events. The Tea Party Patriots recently released this announcement in preparation for the protests. In it, they explained that the operation now boasts the support of “partners at FreedomWorks, Institute for Liberty, the Ayn Rand Center, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Patrick Henry Center.” The intellectual diversity represented by these various groups, in particular with the inclusion of the notoriously atheistic and anti-Republican Ayn Rand Center, underscores the Tea Party’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, and government openness, rather than to any party lines or hidden agenda.

Perhaps even more impressively, the 912 protests of 2010 will have focal points in three separate cities: Washington, D.C., Sacramento, CA, and St. Louis, MO. The protests were big back in 2009 with just one central event, with about 75 thousand limited government advocates demonstrating on the streets of D.C., and tens of thousands more spread in various smaller cities across the nation. The Tea Party’s decision to expand into three cities this year shows confidence that their plans will be even more successful, possibly even reaching D.C.-sized demonstrations in each region of the States. This ambitious attitude likely stems not only from the large coalition of supporters which the Tea Party has built since 2009, but also from the mounting urgency of making a lasting impression on Congress and America before the mid-term elections 52 days later.

The 912 Project was created by Glenn Beck in March of 2009 to remind Americans of the core values like love of freedom, responsibility and accountability, and respect for God and fellow men that we all felt on the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Over the next several months, the project evolved as the aspects of accountability and freedom were amplified, until they spawned a nationwide taxpayer rally to get the government back to serving the interests of the people, rather than destroying wealth in the false name of American values. The taxpayers’ march on Washington on 9/12/2009 was unprecedented in its size, scope, and influence.

Now the Tea Party Patriots plan to do it all again by coordinating cross-country travel and organizing what could be one of the largest taxpayer demonstrations in the history of the world. Most major cities across the nation will have local events on the big day, but everyone is strongly encouraged to make travel plans to attend the marches in D.C., St. Louis, or Sacramento if at all possible. I will be heading to D.C. from the Raleigh-Durham area. Anyone who wants to join (and you really all should!) can subscribe to my blog by clicking the grey button in the upper-right corner of the screen. You will then receive email updates as I negotiate travel plans from Raleigh to D.C. When enough people are on board, the costs really will not be high, and of course the demonstration itself is free!

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Legalize Now – The War on Drugs is Philosophically Bankrupting America

May 29, 2010 7 comments

To listen to the audio version, play the videos below. To read the transcript, simply scroll down. The audio track had to be split across two videos, so click the second one after the first has finished.

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Good evening. Tonight I’d like to discuss a battle of modern politics with which every American is intimately familiar, and that is the so-called “War on Drugs”. The discourse surrounding the war is among the most philosophically insightful of all the hot-button issues, and nothing says more about a politician’s true principles than how he defends his position on drug use in America. Through careful examination of political rhetoric we can see that, despite the recent trends towards decriminalizing marijuana, the philosophy of freedom is actually losing the fight for the minds of the American people, especially among the established politicians. Even as drug laws grow more relaxed and penalties less severe, the government is actually tightening its control over the daily lives of innocent civilians.

To the enlightened individualist who recognizes non-violence and the freedom to choose as the hallmarks of great civilization, it is immediately clear that any production, retail, and consumption of drugs or any other products which do not cause harm to others is absolutely none of the government’s business. It is further clear to any literate person that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the federal government from passing any legislation restricting the trade and use of drugs regardless of whether such actions harm others or not. This of course has nothing whatsoever to do with any particular “right to use drugs” or lack thereof; it is simply the moral and Constitutional mandate that one person cannot use coercion against another to control personal choices. To advocate for the repeal of drug legislation is not an endorsement of drug use, but rather a rejection of assault and imprisonment as a response to non-violent actions.

Unfortunately, the battle cry of the mainstream anti-“War on Drugs” movement has become, “Decriminalize, regulate, and tax”, or “DRT” for short. Presumably, the unusual word “decriminalize” is used here specifically to distinguish from legalization, as, for example, minor traffic violations are typically not criminal offenses, but are still illegal. Regulation, of course, means only allowing government-approved vendors to sell government-approved drugs in government-approved quantities. Furthermore, the concept of taxing drugs is invoked with the intent that they would be taxed above the rate of ordinary sales tax, just as cigarettes and alcohol already are. This stance is philosophically void; it signifies no fundamental change in how people interact with one another. If the movement to end the War on Drugs takes the DRT form, it deserves to lose in Congress.

The DRT argument is not a moderate form of the Libertarian stance. It is in fact a moderate form of the statist stance. Advocates of personal freedom must not regard DRT as any improvement whatsoever over current laws for the simple reason that the DRT argument treats the question of government control of drugs as one of degree rather than of morality. Both current laws and the proposed changes accept it as a foregone conclusion that certain people have the authority and the responsibility to use force to help others make personal decisions. Neither side of the debate rejects philosophically the idea that aggression is a moral good, and so neither side is any better than the other.

Some freedom fighters have mistakenly fallen into the trap of thinking that the regulation of DRT only implies that harmful drugs will be kept out of the hands of small children. This is of course not what the legislators intend by the term at all. Keeping drugs away from children is regulating child care, not regulating drugs. What the legislators mean is that they want to control who sells drugs and in what quantities, just as there are already huge barriers to entry in the bars and distillery industries. When they say they will tax drugs, they mean to apply steep taxes to disincentivize the consumption of drugs, as if that is the government’s prerogative or responsibility. The establishment politicians, even the seemingly drug-friendly ones, have no intention of rejecting coercion and nanny-state values in favor of a philosophically individualist attitude towards drug use. Their purportedly new ideas are just a rehashing of the well-worn and thoroughly despised statist programs.

Those who will oppose the live-free-or-die stance of the Tenthers and the Libertarians fall back on tired and intellectually lazy distractions masquerading as arguments. Politicians will try to confuse the issue by citing collateral damage done by drug users operating vehicles on public roads. This has nothing to do with the issue at hand, because drug legislation has nothing to do with roads, and no one has ever seriously suggested that druggies should be allowed to harm others without accountability. The only point put forward by the Libertarians is that drug users who do not harm others should not be forbidden from pursuing their recreation on their own property. Taxing drugs to disincentivize their use has no bearing on whether people drive while high or not, and so the latter should never be brought up in a debate about the former.

By far the most widespread counter-freedom argument on the issue of drugs is the fabled plea for moderation. Almost all politicians and most citizens would not hesitate to agree with the statement that the government should not tell people how to live their lives if they aren’t hurting others. However, when that philosophy is taken to its logical conclusion of repealing all drug laws, the average Congressman will retaliate with a criticism of “absolutism”, arguing that society should not take moral principles to “extremes”. It is impossible to exaggerate how intellectually void and utterly meaningless this is as a defense. To criticize an otherwise valid principle simply for being a principle is to abandon all hope for consistency and morality in the world. To cry out against absolutism for no particular reason save that it is absolutism is the last, desperate act of a failing philosophy in the face of incontrovertible truth. Essentially, a plea for moderation is nothing more than a spiteful admission of defeat. The “Decriminalize, regulate, and tax” camp is as much of a moral failure as the War on Drugs itself, and the only legitimate stance to accept is that of complete legalization and individual choice.

The importance of this philosophical distinction cannot be overstated. Ayn Rand once noted that sociologists and historians go to extraordinary lengths researching trends in history to try to explain events, but that she was able, with relatively little intellectual effort, to predict events by understanding the philosophical motivations of the various schools of thought in modern politics. Even John Maynard Keynes declared “The ideas of economists and political philosophers are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”

I am here to tell you that I am a philosopher. I know why people do things, based not only on their moral values but on the even more fundamental structures of epistemology and ontology that guide their whole lives. Because of this, I can predict the future of politics more accurately than any sociologist who tries to study only statistics and feelings as if they are dissociated from logic and the mind. I have analyzed the theory of the War on Drugs and its associated debate, and I have educated myself as to how others perceive the situation. If you wish to know what will happen with the War on Drugs, I will tell you.

The War on Drugs will never be won. It is far too late for the central planners to put the genie back in the bottle and convince society that drugs are a paralyzing threat to the nation. However, the anti-War movement will not succeed, either. As the federal debt continues to climb and the prison crisis grows ever more severe, decriminalization and the increased nullification of federal marijuana legislation will be inevitable, but full legalization of all drugs will not be realized. The efforts of Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank to promote individual freedom will continue to make repealing drug laws a cool way for establishment politicians to appeal to younger voters, but the establishment will never renounce government control as a fundamental value.

The consequences of this intellectual laziness will be far more severe than is presently believed. In fact, the government will reassert itself in another decade or two with a new crusade for our protection. This post-War on Drugs phenomenon will actually be more restrictive and affect more Americans than the current battle, because it will be excused as being more relevant to the functionality of society. The demon will be bad nutrition and health habits. The so-called fight against childhood obesity will merge with the campaigns to outlaw trans fats and excess salt consumption. Nanny state do-gooders from the Left-wing establishment will incite rage and riot among naive Right-wingers by complaining that unhealthy, lazy, fat people are bankrupting the nation’s health-care systems. They will rally the false fiscal conservatives into an elitist fit and decry the unhealthy scum that pollutes our nation the same way illegal immigrants and the unemployed are resented by the dumber Republicans today. The same underlying principle of the government protecting individuals from the substances they choose to consume under the guise of promoting general health will lead to a far more disruptive and personally invasive institution than the War on Drugs ever has. Granted, it is unlikely that half a million people will go to jail for eating too much salt, but they may be chastised regularly by public school officials. Restaurants will be forced to submit to periodic menu evaluations, and folks with a sweet tooth will be forced to pay high taxes to offset their own choices.

In the long term, mainstream American society will pay dearly for its decision to marginalize drug users today. All tyranny and oppression begins with small groups who are easy to criticize and treat as plagues upon the larger national population. Once the philosophy of individual liberty has been supplanted by state-enforced “wellness” and collective decision-making, the regulations become ever-more invasive and destructive to everyday people. The transition from minor regulation of drug use to absolute Orwellian totalitarianism is merely one of degree, and the inherent nature of government is to gradually exploit whatever power is given to it more and more as time goes by.

Thank you all for listening. I’ve got some procedural and promotional business to attend to tonight. I’ve decided that, in order to diversify my content and communicate better with my listeners, every fifth audio track I publish will discuss topics and questions suggested by the fans. The Worst-Case Scenario has a Facebook page, and you can find the link here or on the Connections and Networking page of the blog. Add the page on Facebook and submit any questions, comments, or ideas you may have to the Discussions section. I want to do these in Discussions rather than on the Wall because that encourages multiple people to post their thoughts on a particular topic. As I said I’ll do these user-submitted episodes every fifth time, so I’ve got one more of my own after this and then I will take submissions. Please post your thoughts and questions for me on the Facebook page and share it with your friends. Thank you.

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How to Stop All Oil Spills – And Why the Government Has Never Done It

May 25, 2010 3 comments

To listen to the audio version, play the video below. To read the transcript, simply scroll down.

All right, friends. I’m supposed to be running a level-headed show here, but tonight, I am mad. I am very mad, because once again the demagogues are creating a racket by touting themselves as defenders against a real problem that Americans face and instead creating more of the same problem. It has now been 36 days since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began, and there is no end in sight. Dozens of millions of gallons have already entered the Gulf, which is probably about how many dollars the news media and lawyers are making right now complaining and failing to produce any solution. Of course no solution has been found, because the government’s policies towards drilling ignore philosophy and human nature.

At every turn, at every new spike in pollution of the air and the sea by some careless mega-corporation, the federal government has responded by issuing greater regulation and tightening controls on industry in a racketeering attempt to say they did something. Better to pass an imperfect law than no law at all, right? But their strategy has never worked. There’s a million and ten ways for a company to pollute, accidentally or otherwise, and the nature of legislation is to be reactive. To stop pollution, we need policies that are proactive. We need to be able to anticipate catastrophic environmental damage before it occurs – not yell and legislate about it afterwards. The government cannot accomplish this. For the past century, it has been passing progressively more and more laws regulating businesses that deal directly with the environment, and yet oil spills keep happening, each one seemingly worse than the last. The polar ice caps are still melting, and the only response the feds have ever conceived is more barriers to entry in industry, more government-mandated inspections of rigs, and more taxing and spending. This has gradually increased the real cost of oil for middle class Americans and has never stopped corporations from inflicting collateral damage on the environment through misuse of communally-owned resources.

All of that, though, I have learned to begrudgingly accept. What has gotten me so enraged tonight is the fallacious sense of inevitability with which the whole ordeal is discussed. As soon as the extent of the damage of the spill came to light, the liberals immediately responded with their demands to punish the big, mean corporations for damaging our environment. They said we need more regulation and more government action against big business to show British Petroleum that they can’t just pollute our waters without some accountability. Then the conservatives replied with their predictable economic concerns. “Wait!”, they said. If you try to punish the oil companies by fining them and restricting their business, the cost will just roll over to consumers, raising the price of gas! Barriers to entry will reduce competition in the industry even further, and it will be more difficult for average Americans to maintain their standard of living. That’s the argument you hear – and you here it day in and day out. Take your pick, they say – either allow the corporate big wigs to wreak havoc on society and the planet without any accountability, or cripple the oil industry in regulation and let the American middle class take the hit anyway. And they give you those choices as if it is just natural – As if that’s just how things are supposed to be!

I am here to tell you that I don’t buy it. I don’t accept this dichotomy. The Republicans scream to protect the industry and the Democrats scream to protect the planet, and the result is that neither achieves any success. Government swoops in and does what it does, and when all is said and done, we keep having oil spills and the price of gas keeps going up. It is time for a philosophically different approach to drilling for oil. It is time to implement freedom and responsibility – to allow businesses to compete with one another in a free market to drive down the cost of oil while at the same time placing upon them the responsibility to maintain their own resources, free of pollution. Over the past century, we’ve had plenty of Democrats and plenty of Republicans take office and enact their plans to absolutely no avail. It is time for a new solution – the Libertarian solution.

In a Libertarian’s perspective, the Gulf oil spill is just one of millions of examples of what’s known as “The Tragedy of the Commons.” The tragedy goes like this: When individuals use resources that are owned by the community, it is in the interest of each individual to use the resources in a manner that is not in the interest of the community as a whole. The Commons gets depleted, because each person takes from them recklessly, conserving nothing for the future lest the others should get it first. To a Libertarian, the solution is self-evident: Do not have a Commons. When every individual actually owns a certain portion of the resources, it is in each person’s interest to conserve his own property, and he does not have the right to damage or intrude upon another person’s property.

What I am telling you here is that the only way to prevent oil spills is to privatize the oceans and release all government control of the oil industry. It isn’t hard to achieve. Simply auction off the waters in sections to whomever will develop them. Let the proceeds help pay off the federal debt. Each company or person that buys a section receives a deed to it just like land owners do. Then the protocol for polluting someone else’s waters is just as it would be dumping oil in your neighbor’s backyard: You can’t. If you do, your neighbor will sue you in a civil court.

In essence, what this will achieve is the complete freedom of the oil companies to compete amongst themselves to find the most efficient way of delivering oil to Americans cheaply while also internalizing 100% of the costs associated with pollution. By disincentivizing pollution instead of yelling about it, we will put an end to oil spills. No longer will companies be able to undertake careless practices and make tax-payers and their neighbors accept the consequences. There will be no more discussion of a “cap” for collateral damages; there will simply be no collateral damages. Anyone who commits an act of pollution will be taken to court by a complainant who will actually own property that suffered demonstrable damage. This contrasts sharply with our current system in which British Petroleum is essentially on trial against the government for crimes it allegedly committed against the whole planet. When all resources are in the hands of well-defined owners, there will be no more ambiguity of finger-pointing, no more argument about who hurt whom and how. Pollution will be unprofitable, plain and simple.

Perhaps you wonder, if this solution is so simple and effective, why it has not been tried before. The answer is just as obvious as freedom itself. Neither the government nor the corporations have any interest in adopting a policy of freedom and responsibility, so no such policy is ever considered. The concern that government regulation will harm big business is in itself a racket and a false source for angry punditry – government regulation is the source of big business. Does anyone know when was the last time that a new oil company was started? Of course you’ve never heard of a start-up in the oil industry making it big. The barriers to entry are insurmountable. The more the government legislates to try to save the environment, the more impossible they make it for anyone to get approved to start a new drilling project to compete against existing corporations. Through environmental demagoguery, they systematically reduce individual freedom. In doing so, the government creates an oligopoly through which all American industry is dependent upon a select few oil companies. These companies are in a position to demand whatever they want, because the American lifestyle cannot persist without oil. As such, they are never held truly accountable because to punish them as they deserve would cripple society – and so, there is no responsibility, either.

To privatize the oceans and regard them as resources to be used freely without causing damage to other people’s property would break the intimate relationship that corporate lobbyists have established with legislators. When legislators no longer interfere in business, corporate lobbyists no longer have any reason to win their favor. The billions of dollars spent on maintaining large legal departments and publicizing court cases to pressure legislators and raise public concern would no longer be necessary. The savings would roll over into lowering gas prices for you and me. The racket would end. We would stop seeing Congressmen and business executives speaking on the news every day about the ongoing controversies and the need for taking some unspecified action to calm everyone’s anger. Instead of shouting at bad behavior, we’d be disincentivizing it. True freedom and responsibility is the only way to end the tragedy.

Thank you for your time. The Worst-Case Scenario now has a Facebook page. Find out more on the Connections and Networking page.

“Football” Congressman Exposed: He’s a Big Annoying Meanie!

January 31, 2010 1 comment

My friends at the libertarian Reddit recently informed me of the Department of Justice’s bizarre letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) regarding restructuring of – not the economy, health care, or gay rights, no – college football. Specifically, CNN Political Ticker reports that Senator Hatch raised a complaint with the Obama administration about the lack of a national championship in college football, which he views as the result of violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act on the part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Perhaps that sounds a little strange, as if the government is taking the Sherman Act and using it to change the policies of the private sector in a manner only tangentially related to trust-busting. Indeed, it is exactly that, as Obama was actually quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying he would “throw [his] weight around a little bit” in college football in order to get a proper playoff system established. The claim that the government is throwing its weight around in private affairs is one I expect to hear Rush Limbaugh making on a slow news day, not Obama openly stating as a bragging point.

When I read about this atrocity, I had to wonder about Senator Hatch and his political ideology. Whereas the Republican platform claims to advocate a limited federal government and interference in private affairs only when it is necessary for the public security, it seems improbable that Hatch could believe the lack of a college football championship is a threat to anyone’s security. What I found surprised me perhaps more than it should have. Although the senator has a moderate amount of respect for fiscal responsibility, repeatedly voting against economic stimulus bills and advocating a balanced budget, his honest Republicanism and regard for the Constitution ends there. On the issues, Senator Hatch is a neocon, a theocrat, and a big fat bully. He has a history of arbitrarily doing just what Obama loves – throwing his weight around – whenever he sees something that he does not like.

The senator’s concept of rights and free speech is odd, to say the least: “…we must amend the Constitution to restore the historic right to protect the flag. … We are not interested in diminishing free speech. But, by restoring the traditional power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag, we are drawing the line between legitimate free speech and destructive conduct.” Democrats and Libertarians in the audience will wince at the idea of an amendment to prohibit flag-burning. But Republicans and all rational persons should writhe in agony at the use of the phrase “right to protect the flag”, which means, “right to use violent force to protect the flag” (as that is the only way the government can enforce any law), which means, “right to use violent force to stop other people from destroying property they created and own as a public statement.” Apparently Hatch believes that just after the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness comes the right to force other people not to destroy something they own if it runs contrary to customary social values.

This arbitrary and inexplicable concept of rights may explain why, in 2004, Senator Hatch tried to outlaw the internet. Being that he was irritated with the rampant copyright violation on the internet, and obviously had never committed this crime himself, Senator Hatch proposed the INDUCE Act, which would have changed copyright legislation so that anyone who deliberately facilitates copyright violation would be tried for the violation itself. The bill qualified ‘deliberate inducement’ of violation by “whether the activity relies on infringement for its commercial viability.” What websites and services rely on copyright infringement for their commercial viability? To put it simply, all of them – or at least all of the ones you and I visit on a daily basis. The internet is a highly competitive economy, and most high-traffic sites operate on a fairly low profit margin. Cut out ten percent of their gross revenue, and they become inviable. What percentage of the page views on sites like Google, Youtube, MP3Raid, MegaVideo, and even Wikipedia derive from searches for illegitimate material? Not all or even most, but enough. Even Facebook would be dragged into court, as a common use among teenagers for the site is the redistribution of photographs of friends, which (believe it or not) is in violation of international copyright law. The point to recognize here is that relying on copyright violation for economic viability does not mean dealing explicitly in illegal transactions – it simply means benefiting from them to a significant degree. The very same network effect that makes the internet such a valuable resource also makes it impossible to completely separate oneself from the crime committed on it.

Orrin Hatch also voted in favor of federally prohibiting homosexual marriage while attempting to prohibit it Constitutionally. When Stephen Colbert and the progressives complain about the angry-white Christian-right, Senator Hatch is the sort of man they target. His inconsistent principles and inappropriate use of the term ‘rights’ to describe bullying by the government give the freedom-loving conservatives a bad name. He hangs tightly along party lines on denouncing welfare and blocking excessive spending, but party lines are his only motivation – he cannot be construed to have a philosophical understanding of the failures of government while he still views it as a morally acceptable way to force his Christian values  and personal whims on the population of the United States. As a pious Mormon, Senator Hatch ought to ask himself whether Jesus would use political power to change the game of football.