The Folly of Political Violence

I’ve been cautioned on several occasions not to use the word anarchism because, in the eyes of most people, an anarchist is a bomb tossing madman, a violent nihilist who seeks to spread chaos throughout society.  Funny how we prejudge entire groups of people based on the actions of a violent few.  Nowadays people might be tempted to insert the word “Muslim” in that sentence.  And, depending on which way you lean, you might be tempted to characterize the opposition in the same way.  

There is no question that there has been a rise in political violence of all kinds.  And, here, I speak of neither of the most egregious forms, war and terrorism.  Rather, I  refer to both the rhetoric of violence and of the violent acts perpetrated by the most dangerous of all actors, the true believers.  When people assault and kill each other because they have become genuinely convinced that the “other” is an obstacle to justice who simply must be stopped, we have reached a very dangerous place.

As someone who regards most all laws, regulations and authority as fundamentally illegitimate, I do believe there is often value in resistance, but not of the violent kind.  Rather, the proper form of resistance is nonviolent civil disobedience, as practiced by Gandhi and Dr. King.  I am not a pacifist as I believe that everyone has a right to protect themselves from harm by whatever means necessary.  But I am a practical man who understands the folly of using any form of violence to try and achieve political goals.  And, as a libertarian, the idea of harming an innocent person for any reason is immoral.  In fact, in order to join the Libertarian Party, one must sign a pledge that states “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”  

But, speaking only pragmatically, violent acts do nothing but create a climate in which more, not less, authority is likely to be wielded by the central government.  Terrorists are often very honest in admitting that that is exactly the response they hope for.  They want a more and more authoritarian society.  I don’t and I sincerely doubt that most people out there either hinting at or advocating violent acts do either.  You say you want a revolution?  No, you don’t.  The two most famous revolutions of the modern Era are the French and Russian Revolutions.  Both led, within just a few short years, to an even more oppressive, totalitarian society.   What you want is change and what you are is impatient that everyone else doesn’t agree with you.

Because, you see, violence begets violence.  And a world in which violence rules will most definitely not be one in which people who value peace, freedom and justice come to power.  It will be one where those with the fewest scruples and the greatest willingness to kill and imprison its enemies will rise to the top.  

So, not only is political violence morally wrong, it is stupid.  It is not a shortcut to achieving the society you seek.  It is a road littered with death and suffering,  It is a “Highway to Hell.”  So, whoever you are, I hope you “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  True change is hard and involves engaging the hearts and minds of others.  But that kind of change is possible.  We see it everyday and it is that change that will ultimately lead to a better, more just world.  Those small, sure steps on a “Stairway to Heaven.”

With apologies to AC/DC, The Who and Led Zeppelin, I will conclude today’s post.  As always, thanks for following along and, if you like what you read, please share it with your friends.  Have a great week!

Introduction to Libertarianism (Part 2)

Ronald Reagan once said that libertarianism was the “heart and soul of conservatism.”  In the first part of this article, I suggested that anarchism was the heart and soul of libertarianism.  But is that true?  Is liberty incompatible with any formal governmental structure?  Or is a stateless society merely one of a number of libertarian possibilities?

 None of us truly know the answer to that question.  One of the two biggest objection to anarchism is that some of the most important tasks in society simply will not get done.  Whether the objection is that hungry people will not get fed or that roads will not get built, the underlying assumption is that government is necessary for the provision of certain services.

But does “government” actually grow the food that feeds the hungry?  Well, no.  Does “government” actually buy the food?  No, the money they collect from taxpayers does that.  They simply take their cut.  Does “government” distribute the food?  No, the food is normally distributed through the market.   

And so it goes.  “Government” doesn’t actually do anything.  People employed by the government do things, but they could do the same thing in the absence of government.  Good people who want to help others are the ones who feed the hungry.  Engineers and construction crews build and maintain roads.  Brave men with access to the proper equipment fight fires.  And so it goes, one “indispensable government service” after another.

No, the only thing that the “government” does is use force to achieve their objectives.  Normally that sort of behavior is considered criminal and gets one locked away for some time.  But not for our supreme rulers.  They are nice enough to exempt themselves from the rules they purport to enforce.  

Not only that.  The “government” (and yes, I am going to put the word in quotes every time I use it) is the biggest busy body neighbor you have ever had.  They have the audacity to believe that they have a right to tell you how to live your life.  They say that the substances you put in your body are their business.  No, they aren’t.  They say they have the right to regulate who you can love, marry, employ or exclude.  No, they don’t.  They say they are smarter than you and that you need their great wisdom to survive.  No, we don’t.

The genius of human civilization is that we have learned how to work together to achieve great things.  Just because, traditionally, a gang of thugs has been intimately connected with many of those achievements is no reason to give them the credit or regard them as indispensable to that process.  They are not.

In Part One of this article, I mentioned a “failure of imagination” and now I am mentioning it again.  It will continue to be a theme of this blog for as long as it exists.  As long as we think within the officially sanctioned box of American politics, we will always fall prey to their arguments.  Allow the establishment to define the parameters of the discussion and, not surprisingly, they will always come out on top.  I will continue to challenge them.

Of course, freedom has consequences and some people don’t like them.  Next week I will do my best to offend you.  I will do my best to horrify you.  And I will do my best to convince you that only a voluntary society can be the best society.  Until then, Happy Father’s day, have a great weekend and thanks for following along.

A Coalition for Liberty

My most recent posts have been pretty radical, more than simply hinting at my personal belief in a stateless society and, at times, seeming to disparage the political process itself.  In other words, not very “ecumenical.”  Or maybe not.  A popular cliché of the Left has been “think globally, act locally.”  I will suggest a libertarian alternative:  “think radically, act practically.”  And I believe that is how I have behaved, pretty consistently, over the years.  Whether it was supporting less than stellar Republicans and Democrats or backing the least radical candidate seeking the Libertarian nomination, I have always believed that our only opportunity to create a freer society was to build the broadest coalition possible. 

While I never hide nor deny my own beliefs, I try never to treat the views of others with disrespect.  I can disagree without being disagreeable.  I have had the opportunity to exchange ideas with so many genuinely good people, not all of whom agree with me, who have helped me develop my own philosophy.  I truly believe that there is a coalition out there that can make this nation freer and fairer.  I truly believe there is a coalition out there for peace and justice.  And, while I rarely make pragmatic arguments, I truly believe that such a nation will bring the greatest prosperity to the greatest number.

Just a short post tonight but I may add a bonus one sometime during the week if I feel like I have something worthwhile to say.  I hope you all have a great week!  Thanks for following along!

Introduction to Libertarianism (Part 1)

So it begins.  Time to devote at least one post a week to political philosophy.  Time to explicate an idea that I find to be self-evident but which others find to be confusing.  So let’s go.

To me, the first principle of libertarianism is individualism, the belief that the essential unit of politics is the individual.  In fact, the only truly “real” unit is the individual.  Whether you want to discuss class, race, sex or nationality, all of those categories are simply a collection of individuals.  No group acquires any special status, either because of its size or because of any prior position, either of privilege or disadvantage.

Once you accept the primacy of the individual, it is a short step towards recognizing his or her rights with respect to any other individual.  Unless one individual somehow interferes with another, they have every right to be left alone.  Absent some previous contractual agreement, no person should be compelled to behave in any particular way.  And a world lacking such compulsion is the libertarian ideal.

At some level, most people are with me on this point.  Of course not they say.  But most make an exception for government rules, seeing democracy as somehow consistent with individual freedom.  But a simple majority vote hardly establishes any particular policy choice as moral and justified.  It is simply two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for dinner.

That being said, ideas have consequences and even many libertarians are not ready to accept the consequences of these ideas.  A world in which no one is permitted to control anyone else, regardless of the context, is one which renders both modern voting and modern government immoral and illegitimate.

In the end, pure libertarianism is anarchism, a society entirely absent the modern nation-state. And that is a very tough pill for the average American to swallow.  Are they right?  Am I insane?  Or do their objections represent a failure of imagination?  You might imagine my answer but you’ll have to wait at least a few days to find out for sure.

Until then, have a great weekend and thanks for reading!

Labels, Labels, Labels

If we humans are good at anything, it is assigning names to things.  Hey!  According to the Bible, we were actually given that task.  If so, we are doing our job and then some.  But, oddly enough, the names we assign to things are often ambiguous in meaning and, frequently, we use them not just to describe something, but to disparage it.  We label something in such a way as to allow us an excuse to avoid it or, for that matter, to embrace it.  We may say we hate “country music” or love “goth fashion” but we say those things more to define ourselves than anything else.  

Political labels are some of the worst.  They frequently allow us the luxury of not thinking about a particular issue but simply embracing the views of those we have identified as being like us.  That is important, not just as an intellectual shortcut, but also as a way to be sure that we continue to conform with the social groups with which we identify.

So let me do my best to alienate (or is that embrace) just about everyone.  I am a liberal and I believe in the values of liberalism, namely reason, science, open mindedness and human rights.  I am a conservative and I believe in the values of conservatism, namely valuing social institutions such as families and churches and believing in the value of hard work and discipline.  I am a populist and I believe in the values of populism, namely that common people are frequently ignored and exploited by large institutions like corporations and banks and are often treated like trash.  I have been a registered Republican and a registered Democrat.  I am often the consummate politician and respect those who dedicate their lives to trying to fix the ills of society.  I am also an anarchist and I believe that, fundamentally, the business of politics is violence and can not be justified.  

I do not believe that there is one right way or one true path.  I believe human beings can change and grow but that we are always going to be fallible animals who will do terrible things.  I am a pessimist when I look around and see, not only the way we grow deeper in debt to one another, but also to our planet and its resources.  But I am also an optimist as history teaches me, not only the evil that men do, but their enormous potential for good and their truly remarkable ability to overcome obstacles.  

I do not choose to judge you by the labels that others have assigned to you.  You are not your gender or your race or your religion.  I may not like you but that will be because, like so many others, you irritate me.  But, assuming you don’t irritate me too much, I will listen to you and try to learn from you.  I will respect you as long as you respect me.  I will say “please, thank you, and you’re welcome.”  

I will also do my best to try and make sure you can never quite figure me out.  In other words, I am going to try to avoid your labels by embracing them.  I don’t want to be a stereotype, any more than you do.  I am unique, just like everyone else.  I am an individual and I will always embrace a world view that values individuals as individuals, not as the labels, labels, labels we give them.

Thanks again for reading and have a great week!

I’m Chevy Chase and You’re Not

Well, I’m not actually Chevy Chase either and, while Weekend Update was not exactly a newscast, it seems, in retrospect, more serious than much of what passes for news nowadays.  In that spirit, I will offer my short takes on the issues of the day!  Expect hard hitting journalism.  That way you’ll be more disappointed.

Funny how, just a few days past, Kathy Griffin was a D-list celebrity whose schtick was moderately amusing for a while about 20 years ago.  If someone had told me she had died a few years back, I probably would have believed them and remembered her fondly for her time on Suddenly Susan or for her guest spots on Seinfeld and Letterman.  So then she tweets out a picture of herself carrying Donald Trump’s severed head and we have to talk about her again.  First off, get over it America!  I don’t care.  It doesn’t matter.  It is a meaningless distraction.  OK, it is in bad taste.  So was a lot of imagery put out there about Obama or Bush or freaking John Adams.  I don’t care about those either.  You want to be President?  Deal with it!  If you are genuinely cool, you laugh about it!  Presidents suffer under the constitutional misconception that they can spy on, detain or kill off just about anyone they think threatens “national security.”  You want to be King now?  Expect a few beheadings!  Too bad Trump has “ruined her career” since that means I’ll be seeing way too much of her for the foreseeable future.  Now that’s a tragedy!

Oh, and speaking of things to get over, let’s add the minor uproar over “women only” showings of Wonder Woman.  Deal with it!  It harms me in no way, shape or form.  Based on past DC Comics Universe films, the only victims here may be the poor women who shell out their hard earned money to see it.  (I hope I am wrong about that.)  If a private business wants to sponsor events open only to women, that is their prerogative.  Of course, they should also have the right to sponsor events only for men or any other group they care to designate.  They should have the right to include or exclude anyone they want.  I’m sure some of you just gasped at that suggestion but I am merely being consistent.  Are you?

So I suppose we have to talk about climate change and such.  I know nothing about climate change and, outside of some documentary or magazine article, neither do you.  Overall, global temperatures seem to be rising slightly but pretty consistently over the past few decades.  If it continues, it would create some significant changes.  Water temperatures would rise, causing additional ice melt and threatening coastlines around the World.  The narrative is that human activity, specifically the increased output of carbon in the atmosphere, is the cause of these changes.  It’s plausible. It is worth continuing to study and monitor.  But, like the Ice Age many experts were predicting back in the 1970’s, it may not come to pass.  I do not deny the value of scientific research but I do deny the wisdom of placing experts, bureaucrats and politicians in charge of trying to fix anything.  When you have learned out to predict the weather more than about 48 hours out, get back with me on your predictions for the climate a decade or two down the road.  Genuine human ingenuity and the free expression thereof is far more likely to “fix” a problem than a bunch of elites in Washington DC or Paris.  Kudos to the President for once.  He got this one right.

Well, nothing like a few controversial opinions on a Friday night!  If these ideas have you all worked up, may I suggest a nice beer.  I prefer an IPA and an occasional stout or porter but you can have a Coors Light if you want.  Thanks for following along and I hope you have a great weekend!

Are Preferences Wrong?

Strange question or is it?  I’m not asking if some preferences are wrong but if all preferences are wrong.  We live in a culture which increasingly tells us they are.  And I don’t mean choices in a commercial sense.  Bernie Sanders may complain about too many deodorants or sneakers but that viewpoint is fairly rare.  No, I speak of the preferences we may have in our interpersonal relationships.

Most all of us realize that pre-judging others based on sex or race is not only wrong but misguided.  To that, most would add sexual preference, religion and national origin.  A decreasing number seem to include political views in this list as our political landscape becomes increasingly toxic.  But I see increasing numbers of people who tell us that any preference I have is wrong.  To value a person because they possess desirable qualities or to avoid those with less desirable qualities makes me a bad person.  

The dirty little secret about human relationships is that we choose to spend time with those who, one way or another, bring us pleasure.  Over time, bonds of love, family and friendship may develop and we may come to value those bonds more than any temporary pleasure or inconvenience.  But we are drawn to each other initially by characteristics like intelligence, humor, strength, beauty and, yes, even wealth.  Maybe we should all be more like Mother Teresa and live among the poor and sick but most of us never will.  We may have compassion towards those people but we will not devote our lives to helping them.

I am sure there are many people who value me as a human being and wish me no harm and, in fact, want me to be happy.  However, a number of those people probably would not choose to spend time with me.  They may think I am stupid, unattractive and grumpy.  They may find my humor intolerable and might think I smell or dress funny.  They may regard my life choices as terrible and my ideas as wrong and simply don’t want to associate with me, outside of a brief exchange of pleasantries.  You know what?  I am fine with that.   Because I feel the same way about some of them.  And I think that’s OK too.  

That being said, neither my opinion nor any other person’s opinion about you should, by itself, define who you are.  Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t make you wrong, just because I’m not attracted to you doesn’t make you ugly and just because I don’t enjoy your company doesn’t mean you are an unpleasant person.  They are preferences and we all have them.  And, no, they aren’t wrong.

Thanks for reading along.  Be back at the end of the week with more wit and wisdom…well, maybe.