Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In Memory of one of the Greats: Brent G. Bills

Today, I attended a memorial service for Brent Bills.  His influence on me was profound. He was a man who loved liberty and worked tirelessly to support and promote it.   Few people, if any, have had a greater impact on my political thinking and thirst for education as he had. He was a driving force behind my desire to learn and teach Social Studies.  I am blessed to teach what I teach where I teach, because I have no greater way to carry on his legacy than to pass on the knowledge he gave me to other people. 

Every year, he worked tirelessly to put together the best fireworks show in the country.  The show was put on in only a small part because he liked fireworks.  The large motivator behind the show has always been his desire to teach and share true principles with those who would listen.  What made the show great was that the thousands who attended learned truths about how liberty works, and about the principles that founded the country that they wouldn’t learn anywhere else.
He had a profound love and respect for the founders of the United States.  He was a Constitutional scholar. He had an extensive library of learning and never stopped adding to it. Last I knew, he was reading the collected writings Thomas Jefferson.  These writings are collected in a set of at least a dozen volumes.  The particular set that Brent had was being read for the first time, and he had to cut open the pages as he read them.  He wholeheartedly believed that America is great because America is good, and was as good a person as anybody could hope to be.  He truly led by example.
He worked to pass his learning on from all who would listen, and to learn from those who would talk.  I was blessed to have many conversations with Brent, and I never felt that my time spent talking with him could have been better spent on anything else.  His life was a life of love, service, integrity, and hard work.  He did more in his short life than most ever accomplish.  Nobody can say that he should have done more with his time.  I knew and respected him as a religious leader, an orthodontist, a Scout leader, and a friend.

His loss is a huge loss to those who knew him, and to those who love liberty.  He is undoubtedly working on the other side of the veil with the same passion and energy as he worked here.  Even though I am blessed to have a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, and to know that the end of this earth life is not the end,  I will still feel the huge void that his passing left, and I look forward to seeing him again, on the other side.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

If you liked Bush, you should love Obama.

Nearly three years ago, America elected a president whose sole qualifications were that he was handsome, well spoken, and who looked presidential. This man promised hope and change, but delivered neither. His policies, both domestic and foreign, are the exact policies of his predecessor, and only the rhetoric has shifted. For example:
  • George W. Bush “abandoned capitalism to save capitalism.” He ignored (or was ignorant of) the fact that the economic collapse was caused by government and Federal Reserve action, and relied on his faith in central economic planning to rescue the economy, without understanding the underlying problems. He did this twice: once around 2001 when the .com bubble collapsed, and again in 2009. During his tenure, he doubled the national deficit, and spent more than ALL prior presidents combined. His successor has continued with this reckless policy of spending, bailing out, and central planning.
  • George W. Bush ran his 2000 campaign on a humble foreign policy – one that would stop the senseless overseas intervention of the Clinton era. Then he involved us in our longest war in history in Afghanistan. He also invaded Iraq on false pretenses, and only sought to expand American hegemony overseas. His successor promised to close the illegal prison that is Guantanamo Bay, and end the wars, but is just now winding down Iraq.  He expanded our role in Afghanistan, Bombed Libya so that Ghadaffi could be replaced by Al-Queda, and extended use of remote controlled aircraft to assassinate anybody he wants at will, even American citizens, regardless of if they have even been accused of a crime. Gitmo is still open, and and our involvement in bombing the world is only more entrenched.
  • George W. Bush passed the USA PATRIOT act, which strips away the important protections of the Fourth Amendment, and allows the federal government to listen to our phone calls, read our emails, track us with GPS equipment, and spy on us without a warrant, and without probable cause. It also allows government agents to write its own search warrants, called National Security Letters, without approval from a neutral judge and without any evidence. They can arrest a person who receives one of these warrants if he tells anybody that he received one: a religious leader in a confession, a spouse, even a judge under oath! His successor, despite his rhetoric and his votes against this act as a senator, has, as a president, expanded the use of this monstrosity, and fought against its repeal. He even authorized the use of an autopen to re-authorize this act when it would have expired while he was overseas.
  • George W. Bush called himself a compassionate conservative who believed that the federal government should be used to provide healthcare benefits to seniors in the form of a massive, underfunded prescription drug program. This was passed easily through a Republican congress and signed with great fanfare by Mr. Bush. His successor has continued the federal takeover of medicine, pushing through an even bigger underfunded program that requires everybody to purchase a good that fits the government's approval, as well as numerous other horrible things.
  • George W. Bush, lacking the basic economic understanding that prohibition creates black markets, continued and even expanded the idiotic war on drugs, which does only makes drug running more profitable and increases the power of drug cartels. Despite libertarians' hope that this senseless policy would end with his successor, it hasn't. Despite the fact that there is no constitutional authority to control drugs, and that it is absolutely a state matter, Obama's DEA agents have continued illegal raids on legal dispensaries in states that have legalized medicinal cannabis, and on peoples homes.
Both of these men have pursued a policy that strips away our basic freedoms in the name of keeping us safe, and in so doing have made us less safe, less free, and more dependent on their handouts and bailouts. In the upcoming election, most of the Republican candidates would not significantly change any of these policies. Michelle Bachmann talks about repealing Obamacare, but replacing it with a Republican version of government-controlled healthcare. Mitt Romney has no significant opposition to any of the above-mentioned policies, and was the founder of State-level government healthcare. He says whatever he thinks the people he is talking to want to hear. His positions on any given issue change more frequently than I change my underwear. In 2002, he promised to protect a woman's right to choose, and in 2007 claimed that everything he had as governor had been pro-life. Rick Santorum believes that a nation's greatness lies in its ability and willingness to bomb the hell out of anybody they want, and would probably not be opposed to going to war with Iran, Venezuela, and even Mexico if given half-a-chance. Rick Perry is a know-nothing empty plastic man who tried to use his executive power to vaccinate teenage girls against STDs. He said that he will do whatever he thinks will save lives, which places no limit on the role of government. Herman Cain wrote an op-ed literally one week before the 2009 collapse, giving the economy a clean bill of health, and stating that any talk of recession was just the Democrats trying to make something out of nothing. His 9-9-9 plan is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at a tweak to how the government loots and exploits us that does not deal with the root of the problem, namely, why the loot and exploit us.

Ron Paul is the only serious candidate. He is the only candidate who has any understanding of economics. He predicted the housing bubble collapse at least as early as 2002. He has been educating on the dangers of the Federal Reserve and Fiat currency since 1975. He has been a stalwart defender of civil rights, of the kind of non-intervention foreign policy we need, and of sound economic principles. He is the only candidate who has put forth a real plan to cut government spending in any real way. His plan would balance the budget in just 3 years. He is the only person running who doesn't just say what he thinks you want to hear.  What he says is what he actually believes and what he will actually do.  He is the only logical choice for any person who opposes the stupid policies of every president since at least George H.W. Bush. In short, Ron Paul is the Thomas Jefferson in a field of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt wannabes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Iran So Far Away

I was looking to laugh a bit this afternoon with Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island crew with this hilarious video:

and instead ran into this video, which is a great explanation of Iranian/American relationships from a brilliant and thoughtful conservative libertarian named Jack Hunter.

The video is from 2009, but it is amazing how little things change, and how most of the Republican candidates are trying to out-hawk each other on Iran, which is the last thing we need right now.

By the way, make sure you check out Jack Hunter's website: http://www.southernavenger.com/

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wicked government: King Noah vs. Modern America

In the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, we read about a group of Nephites who separated themselves and went to inherit the land of Nephi Lehi. Though they were righteous for some time, after a few generations, a wicked king named Noah inherits the throne and reins very oppressively. His reign has some striking parallels with modern America. Mosiah chapter 11 talks about this king:

For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his won heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abomnible in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.” (Mosiah 11:2)

That is to say that a political leader often sets the stage for the moral character of a people, and while it is possible to stay righteous when surrounded by such wickedness, (and it is definitely certain that our moral compass should not be the government) staying righteous is very difficult. But after that verse, it gets interesting:

And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed, a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron; and a fifth part of their fatlings; and also a fifth part of all their grain. And all this did he take to support himself, and his wives and his concubines; and also his priests, and their wives and their concubines; thus he had changed the affairs of the kingdom.” (Mosiah 11:3-4)

Interesting to note that the tax rate for this wicked and oppressive king was only a 20% income tax.

Yea and thus they were supported in their laziness, and their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity.”(Mosiah 11:6)

We surely don't have anything like that in our current political structure. Our income tax doesn't go to support the laziness of politically well connected corporations and fat-cats *cough GM, Goldman Sachs, ethanol industry, GE, Solyndra, cough*.

The sad thing about this people is that they didn't repudiate what King Noah did. In fact, it seems that they celebrated it!

Yea and they (the people) also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering words to them.”

We surely aren't sucked in by vain and flattering words uttered by our politicians, no sir!

And it came to pass that King Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, and all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and precious things. And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass. And the seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words unto his people.” (Mosiah 11:8-11)

Anybody else picturing Washington DC when they read this?

The next verse almost seems like it comes out of a manual on being a congressperson:

And it came to pass that he placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living with his wives and his concubines; and so did also his priests spend their time with harlots.” (Mosiah 11:14)

Even the verses on their military have some interesting parallels:

And it came to pass that the Lamanites began to come in upon his people, upon small numbers, and to slay them in their fields and while they were tending their flocks. And king Noah sent guards round about the land to keep them off; but he did not send a sufficient number, and the Lamanites came upon them and killed them, and drove many of their flocks out of the land; thus the Lamanites began to destroy them, and to exercise their hatred upon them.” (Mosiah 11:16-17)

They only began to be attacked as they increased in wickedness. Finally, the military issue comes full circle:

And it came to pass that king Noah sent his armies against them, and they were driven back, or they drove them back for a time; therefore, they returned rejoicing in their spoil. And now because of this great victory they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength, saying that their fifty could stand against thousands of the Lamanites; and thus they did boast, and did delight in blood and the shedding of blood of their brethren, and this because of the wickedness of their king and priests.” (Mosian 11:18-19)

It is implied in verse 19 that even though the Lamanites did attack, and even though self defense is a justifiable use of military force, delighting in shedding the blood, even of our enemies, is a sign of a wicked nation. Sadly, this chapter could just as easily be talking about present affairs in the United States. Our national pride is in our militarism; in our ability to conquer small, backward nations that pose us no threat. We are taxed highly in order to support the laziness and idolatry of our supposed leaaders and their well-connected friends. I will leave you on your own to read the next several chapters of Mosiah, but if history repeats itself as I believe it does, they should serve as a sobering look at where we could be headed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later - What have we allowed ourselves to become?

Ten years ago, our country suffered the largest terrorist attack that the world had ever seen. Everybody remembers where they were on that day of tragedy. In my memory, that day still passes by as if it were in slow motion. I will never forget how it made me feel. Ten years later, I want to look back and write down some things that I think of as I reflect on that day and what has happened since. In that reflection, I believe and fear that the initial 9/11 attack has unleashed a far worse national tragedy than even those who carried out the attacks could have thought possible: the loss of our nation's self-identity, the continued – even quicker – erosion of our economic power, and most importantly, the loss of our freedom itself.

Before I get into that, we need to understand why we were attacked, and why those attacks were planned by a man, Osama bin Laden, who was an ally of ours in the Cold War. After the attacks, President George W. Bush stated that, “they hate us for our freedoms.” This is a dangerous and overly-simplistic view of international affairs that ignores our constant meddling in the middle east. Believing that the United States was standing idly yet triumphantly by, completely innocent, and was suddenly attacked for no reason other than our freedoms is essentially saying that we were attacked because we wear blue jeans and eat at McDonalds. This view is too simple, even for children.

Prior to the attack, a political scientist named Chalmers Johnson wrote a book that describes the growth in overseas militarism that the United States has carried out since the end of the Cold War, and states that our increased efforts to grow our empire will result in something called “Blowback” (also the title of his book). Examples are plentiful: In 1953, the CIA overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran and installed the Shah, who turned out to be a repressive military dictator. Historian Stephen Kinzer (author of All the Shah's Men) believes that, without our intervention, Iran would have developed into a stable, modern representative democracy. Instead, the people of Iran overthrew the Shaw in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and installed the current Ayatollah government, which is a closed-down, repressive theocracy and is (for obvious reasons) unfriendly to the United States. We also installed Saddam Hussein to represent U.S. Interests in the Iraq/Iran war, and then turned against him in Operation Desert Storm. We were heavily involved in arming and supporting the Muhajadin (led by Osama bin Laden) in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the Cold War. Muhajadin, by the way, refers to Freedom Fighters who simply desire to be left alone by foreign powers. This organization eventually became the Taliban. It is probably only a matter of time before our “friends,” the so-called rebels, in Libya become our enemies, just as have countless other regimes we support when they do our bidding, and bomb when they try to act independently.

Today we use our military to tell countries what they can or can't do. If Iran pursues nuclear weapons , we will first starve, then bomb them. We refuse to even allow travel to Cuba, a country that has not been any threat to the United States for decades. Instead of trading with other countries, respecting their sovereignty and independence, and showing by example the fruits of liberty, we pursue a truly isolationist foreign policy wherein we attack (verbally or physically) any country that disagrees with us. This behavior is absolutely hypocritical. It seems as though any time an (especially Islamic) country expresses a desire to do anything that might negatively affect the American Empire, you hear the pounding of the war drums to threaten (or even force) the country back into compliance by means of sanctions (starvation, which repressive leaders easily blame on the United States) or outright war. Of course, those who committed the 9/11 attacks committed horrible crimes, but to assume that they acted without motive, is dangerous, stupid, and utterly defiant of history.

Finally, a word needs to be written on what we have lost since the attacks. We are less free and less prosperous:
  • We have lost more than 5,000 of our men and women in uniform and wounded tens of thousands more fighting wars that were largely unnecessary.
  • We spilled that blood and spent trillions of dollars trying to remake the political landscape of tribal cultures that we do not understand.
  • We have been the instrument of death of more than one million Iraqis and Afghans, most of whom were innocent civilians; and we have displaced millions more.
  • We have “given up essential liberties to purchase a bit of temporary security,” showing the prophetic Benjamin Franklin that we were undeserving of our liberty to begin with.
  • As Franklin prophesied, we will likely loose our security as a result of our lost liberty
  • We passed the PATRIOT act, allowing government bureaucrats to tape our phone calls and monitor our electronic communication without a warrant, and have given federal agents power to write their own search warrants. This is a disgusting breach of our right to privacy, in excess of any law passed since King George's tyrannical rule over the American Colonies.
  • We have, through the same abominable piece of legislation, given the FBI the ability to break into our houses, make it appear as though a robbery had occurred, plant bugs, confiscate evidence, and leave without a warrant, and without disclosing anything for 18 months
  • We have also given the government power to tap into our cell phones and use the microphone to listen to anybody within its range, again without a warrant of any kind.
  • We have entrusted our airline security to government agents, absent any market discipline, and have empowered them to either sexually molest us or photograph our naked bodies with heavy doses of radiation as a precondition of our freedom to travel.
  • We have allowed ourselves to become a nation that operates secret military prisons; a nation that engage in the kinds of torture that we abhorred when the North Vietnamese did it to us.
  • In short, we have become a mere shell of the free country that made us a beacon to the world. We are no longer an example of freedom or prosperity, as are thus likely destined to fade into the pages of history, just as every empire before us has. If in fact they did attack us for our freedoms, everything I mentioned above proves that they won.
I pray that we can overcome these severe deviations from our Constitution, and that once again we will be a beacon of liberty, but I fear that we may not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why a nuclear Iran is nothing to fear.


Last night's Republican debates brought a heated exchange between Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Paul was asked if his policy on Iran is unchanged from 2009, when he said, “Sanctions are not diplomacy. They are a precursor to war and an embarrassment to a country that pays lip service to free trade. […] One can understand why they (Iran) might want to become nuclear capable if only to defend themselves and to be treated more respectfully.” Dr. Paul, of course, stood by his position that the United States has no business meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and not fight wars that are not directly related to our national security. Senator Santorum accused Dr. Paul of “seeing the world the same way Obama does.” and went on to discuss his mis-named “Iran Freedom Act,” which starves the impoverished masses of Iran in the name of making Iran want to be a free, democratic country like the United States supposedly is. Ironically, Mr. Obama's foreign polciy has more in common with Santorum and the rest of the Neo-Conservitaves that were at the debate than he does with Dr. Paul's. A Neo-Con Obama is the topic of another post, so, I'll get back to the purpose of this post, which is:

A nuclear Iran is not a real threat to our national security (or anybody else's for that matter), for reasons I will explain below. But first:

Why would Iran even want nukes?

To answer this question, we are going to try to see things from the point of view from the Iranian leadership. Yes, I know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a bad guy, but it is naive and dangerous to sit around and think that “they hate us for our freedoms,” when they have real reasons to not like how they are treated by the Western world. It is not difficult for Iran, or any other isolated government to see how they are treated compared with the rest of the world. Nuclear powers, such as Pakistan, Israel, India, and China never have sanctions imposed against them, and are welcome trading partners, even if our relationship with them is not entirely peaceful. Iran, on the other hand, sees that it has two options:

  • Option 1: Give into the international community, and give up their nuclear programs. This option is unattractive because it would effectively make Iran submissive to the whims of the international community. If they give in over nukes, then it is understood that they will give in to any mandate passed down from a body of countries that shows no respect toward them.

  • Option 2: Plow through the sanctions and disapproval of the international community, develop nuclear weapons, and then command the respect of the international community. This is the best of the two options for any country in Iran's circumstances that wishes to be respected.

If the international community, however, would back off of Iran and stay out their internal affairs, Iran might develop a nuclear weapons program, but they might not. If Iran saw that it was respected and treated as a peer in the international community, it would no longer feel obligated to build nuclear weapons in order to command the world's respect. More importantly, talking and trading freely with countries does more to bring about democratic and Western reforms than sanctions and other punishments ever could. This brings me to:

Sanctions don't work, and interfering with Iran's internal affairs is immoral.

The four-decade long failure of sanctions is so painfully obvious that I'm surprised that they are so unilaterally supported on both so-called sides of the political aisle. Basically, they prevent Western countries and their allies from selling or doing business with set countries, depriving of them of food, water, medicine, and other goods. (The international sale of goods and services on the free market are totally voluntary, and exist within they private sector. They should not be confused with foreign aid, wherein, to borrow a phrase from Ron Paul, money is stolen from the poor people in rich countries and given to rich people in poor countries.) Sanctions punish free trade and commerce. Sometimes they are targeted on specific goods, while other times they are more broad. The idea behind sanctions is that they will deprive the people of nutrition, healthcare, and other goods and cause the people to blame their government and enact reforms. Sanctions fail time and again, because repressive regimes who are sanctioned simply use state media to explain to the citizenry that the evil Western countries are the ones starving them, so the anger that sanctions hope to direct at, for example, Machmoud and the Ayatolla, are instead directed toward the United States government.

Apart from being ineffective, they are immoral. It is a natural right to engage in trade with whomever we wish, and sanctions violate that natural right

Iran is no threat, even with nukes

As crazy as Mahmoud is, he presents no threat, even with nukes, to Israel, the United States, or anybody else. Yes it's true that he believes that Israel has no right to exist, and that he denies the holocaust. However, it is absurd to even think that Iran would engage Israel, the United States, or anybody else militarily. They have almost no military, and they understand that any attack would be met with swift military action from the rest of the world. They know that they could not possibly get away with nuking Israel, as it would be an effectual committal of suicide.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My minute-by-minute reaction to the debate, from 7:30 on

7:33 - Huntsman doesn't answer a question

7:34 - Romney flip-flops again. - We only want immigrants with PhD's

7:36 - Cain has another list of 4 things - this one on immigration - that says lots of words and conveys nothing. High fences and wide open doors built our country? Ha!

7:37 - Newt refuses to answer his question on immigration and answers Cains question instead.

7:38 - Ron Paul touches on ending the War on Drugs, ending overseas militarism, and ending the welfare state as responses to immigration.

7:40 - Romney says nothing at all, attacks Obama on taxes, balancing budget

7:42 - Pawlenty attacks Obama again, says he regrets the cigarette tax now that he finds out it was unpopular

7:43 - Bachmann will vote for something if you stick some phony pro-life language in it.

7:43 - 7:46 - Bachmann and Pawlenty argue about nothing at all and get really really annoying.

7:47 - Santoru talks vaguely about his non-existent plan to grow the economy, willing to compromise for big government.

7:49 - Newt says something almost intelligent about the super-committee, still dead wrong on "gutting the military"

7:50 - Tim Pawlenty talks about ObamneyCare - offers no real solution of his own.

7:52 - Romney supports the Tenth Amendment - only on Healthcare. Apparently not on Drug policy, or any other aspect of human behavior, constitutional or not.

7:53 - Romney will come up with some other federal bureaucracy for healthcare to replace obamacare, allow states to force people to buy health insurance

7:54 - Bachmann makes the true argument that states cannot force people to buy a good, doesn't understand the tenth amendment

7:55 - Ron Paul eloquently defines a federal system - explains that healthcare costs are caused by the lack of the free market, wants to use the free market

7:57 - Santorum makes it apparent that he doesn't understand the tenth amendment.

8:01 - lightning round

8:02 - Ron Paul happy for Rick Perry entering - he further shows Ron Paul as the standout contender

8:04 - Santorum avoids a question.

8:05 - Pawlenty thinks that saying nice things about the military will make people love him

8:06 - Romney flip flops on Afghanistan again. - too spineless to be a commander in chief, and willing to let the generals do whatever they want

8:08 - Newt mad again that he has to answer a question about his rhetoric on Lybia. - accusses Obama of flip flopping and refuses to answer a question

8:09 - John Huntsman is a cyber-Neo-Con. Wants to use the military to attack countries where cyber criminals live.

8:10 - Santorum the interventionist talks vaugely about preventing Iran from getting a nuke, wants to cyber-attack Iran (terrorism), Continues

8:13 - Ron Paul kicks some neo-con ass, realizes why Iran wants a nuke, advocates diplomacy over starving children and war-mongering.

8:16 - Herman Cain reminds my sister of Stanley from The Office and would probably spend his time in the oval office doing crossword puzzles. I agree.

8:18 - Michelle Bachmann reveals that she really doesn't believe that the constitution protects anybody that she deems to be a Terrorist,

8:20 - Santorum believes that our military has brought freedom to the world, doesn't understand why terrorists hate us.

8:22 - Ron Paul kicks Neo-Con ass again!

8:26 - Newt wants Muslims to take loyalty tests.

8:27 - Cain explains Southern views on Mormonism with all of the eloquence of an elephant giving birth at a wedding rehersal dinner.

8:29 - Bachmann says something about marriage and family values that comes from one of those nauseating commmercials.

8:31 - Romney flip-flops on marriage again, beleves that a constitutional amendment on marriage will ensure taht nobody will procreate out of wedlock

8:32 - Huntsman - "I believe in civil unions because it polls well."

8:33 - Paul says that marriage should not be a government issue at all. He is (as usual) right.

8:36 - Bachmann supports constitutional amendment

8:37 - Yeah, we know - everyone is pro-life

8:39 - Mitt Romney blames the president for an economic policy that is equal to his, would extend unemployment benefits. He has no real economic differences from Obama

8:40 - Huntsman: "blah blah blah blah" talking points

8:42 - Bachmann kind of has a clue on economic issues

8:44 - Cain, once again, suggests nothing.

8:46 - Newt is a shill for a central bank, just not as much as most other politicans.

8:47 - Ron Paul on the Fed - get rid of legal tender laws, don't pay the fed.

8:49 - Santorum thinks he's a Tea Party guy! Gimme a break! "Of course we have to raise the debt limit"

8:54 - Huntsman looks like a scary, creepy man, says something kind of smart on education, and then screws it all up for supporting the so-called debt deal.

Closing arguments

Santorum is clueless, bottom dweller

Stanley "Herman Cain"- no substance

Ron Paul kicks more ass

Romney says he believes in capitalism - an obvious lie.

Bachmann - OK

Pawlenty - says he wants to protect freedom, despite running over the tenth amendment

Huntsman - We have a cancer, it is debt" - says the guy who supported the debt limit increase.

Newt - Cheezy thanking everybody because he has nothing better to say.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The credit rating is a farse

Friday evening, we found out that one of the participants in a government-granted cartel of rating agencies has downgraded the safety of long-term US debt from AAA to AA+. This means nothing for a number of reasons:
  • The debt rankings are untrustworthy. Need proof? Mortgage backed securities - those things that collapsed in 2008 and ushered in a global financial meltdown - were ranked AAA by all three ratings agencies.
  • The U.S has been in perpetual default since 1971. I will do a post about this in the near future, but the gist of it is that under the Brenton-Woods agreement in 1953, foreign banks and creditors could redeem their federal reserve notes for gold at the rate of $35/oz. Richard Nixon closed this window in 1971, and the US has refused to fulfill this obligation. Instead it has paid its creditors through inflation. This is default by any reasonable definition of the term.
  • Finally, you would have to be a moron to put your money in US Debt. According to the treasury's own website, treasury yields are a NEGATIVE rate of interest for short term (less than 7 year) debt. This means that you PAY money for the privilege of holding US debt. Long term yields are not much better. The 30 year bonds are yielding 1.14% APY. This means that you can by a 30 year bond from the US Treasury, and if you believe the phony inflation statistics of ~2% per year, lose 1% of your "investment's" purchasing power per year. How can an investment that cannot, even under the rosiest of scenarios, even maintain purchasing power, be ranked AAA by any right-minded agency? At best, they should be ranked at best, CC. (info on bond credit ratings available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_credit_rating)

The phony "cuts" of the debt deal

The President and the corrupt blockheads in congress constantly reaffirm their commitment to “cutting the deficit” and dealing with the debt problem. They assure us that the deal passed to raise the debt ceiling cuts nearly two trillion dollars off of the national debt over ten years, and they call the deal a “significant step in the right direction.” The problem is that these so-called cuts aren't even cuts at all. If the deficit were cut, we would actually spend less money after ten years than we spend now. If we were serious about paying off the debt, we would make cuts deep enough to have a budget surplus in the near future.

But in Washington, they apparently don't calculate cuts in spending the way we do in the rest of the world. In Washington, two trillion dollars in cuts means that, over ten years, we will spend two trillion dollars less than we had previously intended to spend. This means that in ten years, our budget deficit will be 5.3 trillion dollars per year, instead of 5.5 trillion dollars per year.

This chart (from the CATO institute) shows that, what the spineless politicians call cuts, are really not cuts at all. The blue line shows the money that the Congressional Budget Office believed we would have spent over the next ten years. The red line shows the revised spending trajectory, after “saving” two trillion dollars. See how it still goes up? See how the up trajectory is almost the same as it would have with a "clean" debt ceiling increase? That is not a savings at all. That is the rough equivalent of buying a $98,000 Mercedes Benz instead of a $100,000 Mercedes Benz, when you cannot afford to buy any car at all, and calling it a "savings."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Marriage Question

This post comes in answer to the question, “How can you be a Mormon and a Libertarian, if Mormons want the government to tell people who they can marry?” As always, (but in this post especially,) it is important to remember that what is written here is not a declaration of doctrine or beliefs of members of the LDS Church as a whole. I believe these positions to be in harmony with the Church, but they are not to be taken as Church doctrine.

Having said that, the bulk of the the Church's position on marriage can be found in a document called, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” You can read this document at http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,FF.html. The first paragraph says, “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

It is the position of the Church that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, and that chastity and fidelity are essential virtues for the protection of the family. It is also the view the Church that the Family is the basic unit of society. The breakdown of this foundation will have dangerous consequences throughout society as a whole.

It is important to note that the Church does not support using government power to interfere with the private actions of private citizens. Regarding a city council anti-discrimination initiative in Salt Lake, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy said, “We are not anti-gay, we are pro-marriage between a man and a woman. And there's a huge difference between those two points.” The article about this can be found here http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=8624086.

My view on marriage is as follows: The fact that the government has a role in marriage is flawed and problematic. However, IF marriage is to be defined by the state, it should be defined as being between a man and a woman. This is necessary because, in my view, any other definition could be used in courts to attempt to force a religion to recognize a union that violates their beliefs. This would be a profound breach of freedom of religion.

However, I believe that there is a better solution. Marriage is a religious ceremony. It symbolizes a covenant between two people and God. Like other religious ceremonies, marriage does not lie within the proper function of government. I would prefer to see governments simply no longer deal in marriages. Churches, institutions, and people that define marriage as being between a man and a woman would perform and recognize ceremonies exclusively within the bounds of that belief, while churches, institutions, and people that believe otherwise would be able to recognize anything they like as a marriage . The definition of marriage would be left up to those using the word, and not to any government force.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Natural Law by Lysander Spooner

I've been busy lately, and unable to come up with a mind-blowing power-post. One is in the works, most likely on the unintended consequences of the legislation of morality. Until then, here is an essay by the great philosopher, Lysander Spooner, called Natural Law. (Source: http://jim.com/spooner.htm) It is an excellent makes-you-think piece of writing, discussing the origin of and source of power of the Government. Enjoy:

Lysander Spooner

Natural Law.

Part First.

Chapter 1.
The Science of Justice.

Section I.

The science of mine and thine – the science of justice – is the science of all human rights; of all a man's rights of person and property; of all his rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is the science which alone can tell any man what he can, and cannot, do; what he can, and cannot, have; what he can, and cannot, say, without infringing the rights of any other person.

It is the science of peace; and the only science of peace; since it is the science which alone can tell us on what conditions mankind can live in peace, or ought to live in peace, with each other.

These conditions are simply these: viz., first, that each man shall do, towards every other, all that justice requires him to do; as, for example, that he shall pay his debts, that he shall return borrowed or stolen property to its owner, and that he shall make reparation for any injury he may have done to the person or property of another.

The second condition is, that each man shall abstain from doing to another, anything which justice forbids him to do; as, for example, that he shall abstain from committing theft, robbery, arson, murder, or any other crime against the person or property of another.

So long as these conditions are fulfilled, men are at peace, and ought to remain at peace, with each other. But when either of these conditions is violated, men are at war. And they must necessarily remain at war until justice is re-established.

Through all time, so far as history informs us, wherever mankind have attempted to live in peace with each other, both the natural instincts, and the collective wisdom of the human race, have acknowledged and prescribed, as an indispensable condition, obedience to this one only universal obligation: viz., that each should live honestly towards every other.

The ancient maxim makes the sum of a man's legal duty to his fellow men to be simply this: "to live honestly, to hurt no one, to give to every one his due."

This entire maxim is really expressed in the single words, to live honestly; since to live honestly is to hurt no one, and give to every one his due.

Section II.

Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, protect the defenceless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will, perform them. But of his legal duty – that is, of his duty to live honestly towards his fellow men – his fellow men not only may judge, but, for their own protection, must judge. And, if need be, they may rightfully compel him to perform it. They may do this, acting singly, or in concert. They may do it on the instant, as the necessity arises, or deliberately and systematically, if they prefer to do so, and the exigency will admit of it.

Section III.

Although it is the right of anybody and everybody – of any one man, or set of men, no less than another – to repel injustice, and compel justice, for themselves, and for all who may be wronged, yet to avoid the errors that are liable to result from haste and passion, and that everybody, who desires it, may rest secure in the assurance of protection, without a resort to force, it is evidently desirable that men should associate, so far as they freely and voluntarily can do so, for the maintenance of justice among themselves, and for mutual protection against other wrong-doers. It is also in the highest degree desirable that they should agree upon some plan or system of judicial proceedings, which, in the trial of causes, should secure caution, deliberation, thorough investigation, and, as far as possible, freedom from every influence but the simple desire to do justice.

Yet such associations can be rightful and desirable only in so far as they are purely voluntary. No man can rightfully be coerced into joining one, or supporting one, against his will. His own interest, his own judgement, and his own conscience alone must determine whether he will join this association, or that; or whether he will join any. If he chooses to depend, for the protection of his own rights, solely upon himself, and upon such voluntary assistance as other persons may freely offer to him when the necessity for it arises, he has a perfect right to do so. And this course would be a reasonably safe one for him to follow, so long as he himself should manifest the ordinary readiness of mankind, in like cases, to go to the assistance and defence of injured persons; and should also himself "live honestly, hurt no one, and give to every one his due." For such a man is reasonably sure of always giving friends and defenders enough in case of need, whether he shall have joined any association, or not.

Certainly no man can rightfully be required to join, or support, an association whose protection he does not desire. Nor can any man be reasonably or rightfully expected to join, or support, any association whose plans, or method of proceeding, he does not approve, as likely to accomplish its professed purpose of maintaining justice, and at the same time itself avoid doing injustice. To join, or support, one that would, in his opinion, be inefficient, would be absurd. To join or support one that, in his opinion, would itself do injustice, would be criminal. He must, therefore, be left at the same liberty to join, or not to join, an association for this purpose, as for any other, according as his own interest, discretion, or conscience shall dictate.

An association for mutual protection against injustice is like an association for mutual protection against fire or shipwreck. And there is no more right or reason in compelling any man to join or support one of these associations, against his will, his judgement, or his conscience, than there is in compelling him to join or support any other, whose benefits (if it offer any) he does not want, or whose purposes or methods he does not approve.

Section IV.

No objection can be made to these voluntary associations upon the ground that they would lack that knowledge of justice, as a science, which would be necessary to enable them to maintain justice, and themselves avoid doing injustice. Honesty, justice, natural law, is usually a very plain and simple matter, easily understood by common minds. Those who desire to know what it is, in any particular case, seldom have to go far to find it. It is true, it must be learned, like any other science. But it is also true that it is very easily learned. Although as illimitable in its applications as the infinite relations and dealings of men with each other, it is, nevertheless, made up of a few simple elementary principles, of the truth and justice of which every ordinary mind has an almost intuitive perception. And almost all men have the same perceptions of what constitutes justice, or of what justice requires, when they understand alike the facts from which their inferences are to be drawn.

Men living in contact with each other, and having intercourse together, cannot avoid learning natural law, to a very great extent, even if they would. The dealings of men with men, their separate possessions and their individual wants, and the disposition of every man to demand, and insist upon, whatever he believes to be his due, and to resent and resist all invasions of what he believes to be his rights, are continually forcing upon their minds the questions, Is this act just? or is it unjust? Is this thing mine? or is it his? And these are questions of natural law; questions which, in regard to the great mass of cases, are answered alike by the human mind everywhere.(1)

Children learn the fundamental principles of natural law at a very early age. Thus they very early understand that one child must not, without just cause, strike or otherwise hurt, another; that one child must not assume any arbitrary control or domination over another; that one child must not, either by force, deceit, or stealth, obtain possession of anything that belongs to another; that if one child commits any of these wrongs against another, it is not only the right of the injured child to resist, and, if need be, punish the wrongdoer, and compel him to make reparation, but that it is also the right, and the moral duty, of all other children, and all other persons, to assist the injured party in defending his rights, and redressing his wrongs. These are fundamental principles of natural law, which govern the most important transactions of man with man. Yet children learn them earlier than they learn that three and three are six, or five and five ten. Their childish plays, even, could not be carried on without a constant regard to them; and it is equally impossible for persons of any age to live together in peace on any other conditions.

It would be no extravagance to say that, in most cases, if not in all, mankind at large, young and old, learn this natural law long before they have learned the meanings of the words by which we describe it. In truth, it would be impossible to make them understand the real meanings of the words, if they did not understand the nature of the thing itself. To make them understand the meanings of the words justice and injustice before knowing the nature of the things themselves, would be as impossible as it would be to make them understand the meanings of the words heat and cold, wet and dry, light and darkness, white and black, one and two, before knowing the nature of the things themselves. Men necessarily must know sentiments and ideas, no less than material things, before they can know the meanings of the words by which we describe them.

Chapter II.
The Science of Justice (Continued)

Section I.

If justice be not a natural principle, it is no principle at all. If it be not a natural principle, there is no such thing as justice. If it be not a natural principle, all that men have ever said or written about it, from time immemorial, has been said and written about that which had no existence. If it be not a natural principle, all the appeals for justice that have ever been heard, and all the struggles for justice that have ever been witnessed, have been appeals and struggles for a mere fantasy, a vagary of the imagination, and not for a reality.

If justice be not a natural principle, then there is no such thing as injustice; and all the crimes of which the world has been the scene, have been no crimes at all; but only simple events, like the falling of the rain, or the setting of the sun; events of which the victims had no more reason to complain than they had to complain of the running of the streams, or the growth of vegetation.

If justice be not a natural principle, governments (so-called) have no more right or reason to take cognizance of it, or to pretend or profess to take cognizance of it, than they have to take cognizance, or to pretend or profess to take cognizance, of any other nonentity; and all their professions of establishing justice, or of maintaining justice, or of rewarding justice, are simply the mere gibberish of fools, or the frauds of imposters.

But if justice be a natural principle, then it is necessarily an immutable one; and can no more be changed – by any power inferior to that which established it – than can the law of gravitation, the laws of light, the principles of mathematics, or any other natural law or principle whatever; and all attempts or assumptions, on the part of any man or body of men – whether calling themselves governments, or by any other name – to set up their own commands, wills, pleasure, or discretion, in the place of justice, as a rule of conduct for any human being, are as much an absurdity, an usurpation, and a tyranny, as would be their attempts to set up their own commands, wills, pleasure, or discretion in the place of any and all the physical, mental, and moral laws of the universe.

Section II.

If there be any such principle as justice, it is, of necessity, a natural principle; and, as such, it is a matter of science, to be learned and applied like any other science. And to talk of either adding to, or taking from, it, by legislation, is just as false, absurd, and ridiculous as it would be to talk of adding to, or taking from, mathematics, chemistry, or any other science, by legislation.

Section III.

If there be in nature such a principle as justice, nothing can be added to, or taken from, its supreme authority by all the legislation of which the entire human race united are capable. And all the attempts of the human race, or of any portion of it, to add to, or take from, the supreme authority of justice, in any case whatever, is of no more obligation upon any single human being than is the idle wind.

Section IV.

If there be such a principle as justice, or natural law, it is the principle, or law, that tells us what rights were given to every human being at his birth; what rights are, therefore, inherent in him as a human being, necessarily remain with him during life; and, however capable of being trampled upon, are incapable of being blotted out, extinguished, annihilated, or separated or eliminated from his nature as a human being, or deprived of their inherent authority or obligation.

On the other hand, if there be no such principle as justice, or natural law, then every human being came into the world utterly destitute of rights; and coming into the world destitute of rights, he must necessarily forever remain so. For if no one brings any rights with him into the world, clearly no one can ever have any rights of his own, or give any to another. And the consequence would be that mankind could never have any rights; and for them to talk of any such things as their rights, would be to talk of things that never had, never will have, and never can have any existence.

Section V.

If there be such a natural principle as justice, it is necessarily the highest, and consequently the only and universal, law for all those matters to which it is naturally applicable. And, consequently, all human legislation is simply and always an assumption of authority and dominion, where no right of authority or dominion exists. It is, therefore, simply and always an intrusion, an absurdity, an usurpation, and a crime.

On the other hand, if there be no such natural principle as justice, there can be no such thing as dishonesty; and no possible act of either force or fraud, committed by one man against the person or property of another, can be said to be unjust or dishonest; or be complained of, or prohibited, or punished as such. In short, if there be no such principle as justice, there can be no such acts as crimes; and all the professions of governments, so called, that they exist, either in whole or in part, for the punishment or prevention of crimes, are professions that they exist for the punishment or prevention of what never existed, nor ever can exist. Such professions are therefore confessions that, so far as crimes are concerned, governments have no occasion to exist; that there is nothing for them to do, and that there is nothing that they can do. They are confessions that the governments exist for the punishment and prevention of acts that are, in their nature, simple impossibilities.

Section VI.

If there be in nature such a principle as justice, such a principle as honesty, such principles as we describe by the words mine and thine, such principles as men's natural rights of person and property, then we have an immutable and universal law; a law that we can learn, as we learn any other science; a law that tells us what is just and what is unjust, what is honest and what is dishonest, what things are mine and what things are thine, what are my rights of person and property and what are your rights of person and property, and where is the boundary between each and all of my rights of person and property and each and all of your rights of person and property. And this law is the paramount law, and the same law, over all the world, at all times, and for all peoples; and will be the same paramount and only law, at all times, and for all peoples, so long as man shall live upon the earth.

But if, on the other hand, there be in nature no such principle as justice, no such principle as honesty, no such principle as men's natural rights of person or property, then all such words as justice and injustice, honesty and dishonesty, all such words as mine and thine, all words that signify that one thing is one man's property and that another thing is another man's property, all words that are used to describe men's natural rights of person or property, all such words as are used to describe injuries and crimes, should be struck out of all human languages as having no meanings; and it should be declared, at once and forever, that the greatest force and the greatest frauds, for the time being, are the supreme and only laws for governing the relations of men with each other; and that, from henceforth, all persons and combinations of persons – those that call themselves governments, as well as all others – are to be left free to practice upon each other all the force, and all the fraud, of which they are capable.

Section VII.

If there be no such science as justice, there can be no science of government; and all the rapacity and violence, by which, in all ages and nations, a few confederated villains have obtained the mastery over the rest of mankind, reduced them to poverty and slavery, and established what they called governments to keep them in subjection, have been as legitimate examples of government as any that the world is ever to see.

Section VIII.

If there be in nature such a principle as justice, it is necessarily the only political principle there ever was, or ever will be. All the other so-called political principles, which men are in the habit of inventing, are not principles at all. They are either the mere conceits of simpletons, who imagine they have discovered something better than truth, and justice, and universal law; or they are mere devices and pretences, to which selfish and knavish men resort as means to get fame, and power, and money.

Chapter III.
Natural Law Contrasted With Legislation.

Section I.

Natural law, natural justice, being a principle that is naturally applicable and adequate to the rightful settlement of every possible controversy that can arise among men; being too, the only standard by which any controversy whatever, between man and man, can be rightfully settled; being a principle whose protection every man demands for himself, whether he is willing to accord it to others, or not; being also an immutable principle, one that is always and everywhere the same, in all ages and nations; being self-evidently necessary in all times and places; being so entirely impartial and equitable towards all; so indispensable to the peace of mankind everywhere; so vital to the safety and welfare of every human being; being, too, so easily learned, so generally known, and so easily maintained by such voluntary associations as all honest men can readily and rightully form for that purpose – being such a principle as this, these questions arise, viz.: Why is it that it does not universally, or well nigh universally, prevail? Why is it that it has not, ages ago, been established throughout the world as the one only law that any man, or all men, could rightfully be compelled to obey? Why is it that any human being ever conceived that anything so self-evidently superfluous, false, absurd, and atrocious as all legislation necessarily must be, could be of any use to mankind, or have any place in human affairs?

Section II.

The answer is, that through all historic times, wherever any people have advanced beyond the savage state, and have learned to increase their means of sub-sistence by the cultivation of soil, a greater or less number of them have associated and organized themselves as robbers, to plunder and enslave all others, who had either accumulated any property that could be seized, or had shown, by their labor, that they could be made to contribute to the support or pleasure of those who should enslave them.

These bands of robbers, small in number at fist, have increased their power by uniting with each other, inventing warlike weapons, disciplining themselves, and perfecting their organizations as military forces, and dividing their plunder (including their captives) among themselves, either in such proportions as have been previously agreed on, or in such as their leaders (always desirous to increase the number of their followers) should prescribe.

The success of these bands of robbers was an easy thing, for the reason that those whom they plundered and ensalved were comparatively defenceless; being scattered thinly over the country; engaged wholly in trying, by rude implements and heavy labor, to extort a subsistence from the soil; having no weapons of war, other than sticks and stones; having no military discipline or organization, and no means of concentrating their forces, or acting in concert, when suddenly attacked. Under these circumstances, the only alternative left them for saving even their lives, or the lives of their families, was to yield up not only the crops they had gathered, and the lands they had cultivated, but themselves and their families also as slaves.

Thenceforth their fate was, as slaves, to cultivate for others the lands they had before cultivated for themselves. Being driven constantly to their labor, wealth slowly increased; but all went into the hands of their tyrants.

These tyrants, living solely on plunder, and on the labor of their slaves, and applying all their energies to the seizure of still more plunder, and the enslavement of still other defenceless persons; increasing, too, their numbers, perfecting their organizations, and multiplying their weapons of war, they extend their conquests until, in order to hold what they have already got, it becomes necessary for them to act systematically, and cooperate with each other in holding their slaves in subjection.

But all this they can do only by establishing what they call a government, and making what they call laws.

All the great governments of the world – those now existing, as well as those that have passed away – have been of this character. They have been mere bands of robbers, who have associated for purposes of plunder, conquest, and the enslavement of their fellow men. And their laws, as they have called them, have been only such agreements as they have found it necessary to enter into, in order to maintain their organizations, and act together in plundering and enslaving others, and in securing to each his agreed share of the spoils.

All these laws have had no more real obligation than have the agreements which brigands, bandits, and pirates find it necessary to enter into with each other, for the more successful accomplishment of their crimes, and the more peaceable division of their spoils.

Thus substantially all the legislation of the world has had its origin in the desires of one class – of persons to plunder and enslave others, and hold them as property.

Section III.

In process of time, the robber, or slaveholding, class – who had seized all the lands, and held all the means of creating wealth – began to discover that the easiest mode of managing their slaves, and making them profitable, was not for each slaveholder to hold his specified number of slaves, as he had done before, and as he would hold so many cattle, but to give them so much liberty as would throw upon themselves (the slaves) the responsibility of their own subsistence, and yet compel them to sell their labor to the land-hodling class – their former owners – for just what the latter might choose to give them.

Of course, these liberated slaves, as some have erroneously called them, having no lands, or other property, and no means of obtaining an independent subsistence, had no alternative – to save themselves from starvation – but to sell their labor to the landholders, in exchange only for the coarsest necessaries of life; not always for so much even as that.

These liberated slaves, as they were called, were now scarcely less slaves than they were before. Their means of subsistence were perhaps even more precarious than when each had his own owner, who had an interest to preserve his life. They were liable, at the caprice or interest of the landholders, to be thrown out of home, employment, and the opportunity of even earning a subsistence by their labor. They were, therefore, in large numbers, driven to the necessity of begging, stealing, or starving; and became, of course, dangerous to the property and quiet of their late masters.

The consequence was, that these late owners found it necessary, for their own safety and the safety of their property, to organize themselves more perfectly as a government and make laws for keeping these dangerous people in subjection; that is, laws fixing the prices at which they should be compelled to labor, and also prescribing fearful punishments, even death itself, for such thefts and tresspasses as they were driven to commit, as their only means of saving themselves from starvation.

These laws have continued in force for hundreds, and, in some countries, for thousands of years; and are in force to-day, in greater or less severity, in nearly all the countries on the globe.

The purpose and effect of these laws have been to maintain, in the hands of the robber, or slave holding class, a monopoly of all lands, and, as far as possible, of all other means of creating wealth; and thus to keep the great body of laborers in such a state of poverty and dependence, as would compel them to sell their labor to their tyrants for the lowest prices at which life could be sustained.

The result of all this is, that the little wealth there is in the world is all in the hands of a few – that is, in the hands of the law-making, slave-holding class; who are now as much slaveholders in spirit as they ever were, but who accomplish their purposes by means of the laws they make for keeping the laborers in subjection and dependence, instead of each one's owning his individual slaves as so many chattels.

Thus the whole business of legislation, which has now grown to such gigantic proportions, had its origin in the conspiracies, which have always existed among the few, for the purpose of holding the many in subjection, and extorting from them their labor, and all the profits of their labor.

And the real motives and spirit which lie at the foundation of all legislation – notwithstanding all the pretences and disguises by which they attempt to hide themselves – are the same to-day as they always have been. They whole purpose of this legislation is simply to keep one class of men in subordination and servitude to another.

Section IV.

What, then, is legislation? It is an assumption by one man, or body of men, of absolute, irresponsible dominion over all other men whom they call subject to their power. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to subject all other men to their will and their service. It is the assumption by one man, or body of men, of a right to abolish outright all the natural rights, all the natural liberty of all other men; to make all other men their slaves; to arbitrarily dictate to all other men what they may, and may not, do; what they may, and may not, have; what they may, and may not, be. It is, in short, the assumption of a right to banish the principle of human rights, the principle of justice itself, from off the earth, and set up their own personal will, pleasure, and interest in its place. All this, and nothing less, is involved in the very idea that there can be any such thing as human legislation that is obligatory upon those upon whom it is imposed.


1. Sir William Jones, an English judge in India, and one of the most learned judges that ever lived, learned in Asiatic as well as European law, says: "It is pleasing to remark the similarity, or, rather, the idenity, of those conclusions which pure, unbiased reason, to all ages and nations, seldom fails to draw, in such juridical inquiries as are not fettered and manacled by positive institutions." – jones on bailments, 133.

He means here to say that, when no law has been made in violation of justice, judicial tribunals, "in all ages and nations," have "seldom" failed to agree as to what justice is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rights vs. Necessary Goods

After reading my post on rights, a friend posted to my Facebook wall:

“If food and healthcare are not human rights, then why do be punish people for not providing food and healthcare for their children? We call it neglect.

It is understood that some people do not have the ability feed themselves. In a system where food is provided for free for those who could not obtain it otherwise there is a risk that some people will cheat and get free food even when they could somehow obtain it themselves. however in a system where all must fend for themselves there is a risk that some will starve and die in great agony. which risk would you rather take?”

I thought these were excellent questions, and worthy of a response, so here it goes:

If food and healthcare are not human rights, what are they?

As said before, rights are God-given and can be exercised by all people at the same time. There is no action required of a third party in order for me to exercise my rights. Food is not a right, because it must be produced by human action. Food is a good, albeit a good that is absolutely essential for survival. If food were a natural right, that would mean that we are entitled to the labor of the farmer, or the wages of whoever purchases the food. Likewise, healthcare is not a good, but rather a service. Even if I will die without emergency surgery, (as would have been the case several years back when my appendix nearly burst) I would not have had a right to surgery. This is because somebody must provide me with that service. A right to healthcare implies that I have a right to the labor of the surgeon. When one person takes money or productivity from one person and gives it to another person, it is called theft. There is no difference between that and when governments tax the productivity of some citizens in order to give goods and services to other citizens. This, as I will show shortly, doesn't mean that people will starve and die on the streets without some kind of government wealth transfer program.

Why do we punish people for not providing food and healthcare for their children? We call this neglect.

People absolutely should be punished for neglect. It is an obligation of parents to provide food and healthcare for their children. In my view, by bringing life into the world, parents are under an unwritten contract to provide, to the best of their ability, the basic necessities until their offspring are able to fend for themselves. Most parents will do everything they can to provide their children with the best life possible, simply out of love. Those few parents who neglect their duties should be punished. But, as is made plain above, the fact that parents are neglectful in providing necessary goods and services to their children doesn't make those goods and services rights.

People who share my religious beliefs know who King Benjamin was, but for those who need a brief premier, King Benjamin was a king in the Book of Mormon (a book we believe to be scripture) who is most well known for his brilliant discourse found the Book of Mosiah, chapters 2-5. In chapter 3, verses 14-15, King Benjamin explains that the obligations of parents is that they “will not suffer [their] children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will [they] suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But [they] will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; [they] will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”

Who is responsible to provide food and healthcare for those who cannot produce?

In other words, what happens if parents, or any other person in society, for whatever reason, simply cannot produce anything? For this, I will once again defer to Lysander Spooner and his work, Natural Law:

“Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, protect the defenceless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will, perform them. But of his legal duty – that is, of his duty to live honestly towards his fellow men – his fellow men not only may judge, but, for their own protection, must judge. And, if need be, they may rightfully compel him to perform it. They may do this, acting singly, or in concert. They may do it on the instant, as the necessity arises, or deliberately and systematically, if they prefer to do so, and the exigency will admit of it.” (Natural Law, Chapter 1, Section II)

It is, therefore, the role of society to provide for the less-fortunate; those who cannot be productive. When I say society, however, I do not mean the Government. I agree with Thomas Paine, who said:

“SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse(blogger's note: 'intercourse' meant free exchange in Thomas Paine's day.), the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” (Common Sense)

King Benjamin would have agreed. As a king, it is presumed that he could have simply commanded that a tax be levied upon his subjects to care for the poor, but he seemed to think that this was not the role of his government. He said:

“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:16-19)

We know from the record that King Benjamin was not one who profited at the expense of his subjects, but instead, described himself as one who “labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne” (Mosiah 2:14)

Do government anti-poverty programs even work?

Government anti-poverty programs have been an absolute failure. Sure, in the United States, we don't see people dying on the streets, and sure, we do have a myriad of so-called anti-poverty legislation, but these programs have been a failure. In his 1964 State of the Union address, President Lindon B. Johnson began to wage what he called the “War on Poverty.” In 1900, the poverty rate was around 95%. Between then and1964, it fell to around 15%. Since the 1964 War on Poverty began, the poverty rate has fluctuated between 11% and 15%. This is largely because money was taken out of sectors of the economy that would have given poor people employment, and diverted to subsidizing the non-productive sector. Government welfare programs do not reduce unemployment or poverty, and government healthcare programs do not provide better healthcare.

If not the government, than who?

The exact part of society that should provide healthcare, food, and other “moral obligations” is a little bit more difficult to specifically define. This is because the free market is just as capable of tapping into human generosity as it is human ingenuity. Without government intervention, charities would find even more innovative ways to raise money and provide necessary services to people in need. When private charities provide services, they do so without the corruption and inefficiency that government programs are known for. Government programs have actually taken a substantial amount of money away from charities, because people do not feel obligated to donate to charities when the government is responsible for taking care of the poor. Government action has also pushed much of the pro-bono services out of the healthcare industry. Regarding the effect of the War on Poverty's healthcare programs, historian Allan Matusow writes, “Most of the government medical payments on behalf of the poor compensated doctors and hospitals for services once rendered free of charge or at reduced prices.” As a medical student and resident, congressman Ron Paul worked in a charity hospital in Houston for $3/hour. These hospitals turned nobody down, provided adequate care, and did so by providing valuable experience to new doctors.

In the Church, we feel an obligation to help those among us who are less fortunate. Each month, we fast for two meals, and donate (at least) the cost of two meals to the Church, and that money is used solely to help those in need. The Church Welfare program provides financial assistance, job training, and other services to people in need, and it does so relying entirely on donated funds and largely on donated labor. It includes massive farms which grow and harvest food for the needy, as well as storehouses where people can acquire food at no cost.

Most importantly, it is the Family's responsibility to care for its members who are less fortunate. When the families are unable to, it is the responsibility of churches and other local charities. Finally, it's the responsibility of the rest of society. But as Mr. Spooner said, it is up to the individual to decide to what extent he can or is willing to help. Any forced confiscation and redistribution of resources for this end is theft. It is my sincere belief that society is generous enough to provide for those who are in need without government intervention.