Friday, October 02, 2015

Libertarian Cookies

I have a recipe for the best damned sugar cookie ever.

It's an old recipe that dates clear back to the time of the Revolutionary War. But don't let that put you off... these cookies have been praised over the centuries by people who really know their cookies, including the famous French chef, Frederic.

Nevertheless, a friend approached me today to complain about the recipe.

Friend: Dave, those sugar cookies you recommended to me taste like dirt.

Me: What do you mean?

Friend: You told me that they'd be the best, lightest, sweetest cookies ever. But they're not sweet at all! They taste like dirt!

Me: Did you put in enough sugar?

Friend: Of course I did!

Me: How much?

Friend: None at all! Sugar is bad for you!

Me: How do you expect them to be sweet if you took away the sugar?

Friend: There you go again, misrepresenting things! Nobody took away the sugar!

Me: So where's the sugar?

Friend: Locked in the cabinet, of course! Sugar is bad for you!

Me: But the cookie itself is missing an essential ingredient, that being the sugar.

Friend: Sugar's not essential. Nobody needs that much sugar!

Me: So did you substitute something else? Stevia, maybe...? Or molasses?

Friend: I have zero tolerance for sugar.

Me: But surely you can't expect the cookie to turn out as promised if you refuse to follow the recipe.

Friend: I followed the recipe! It tastes like dirt!

Me: The recipe calls for the sugar to actually be in the cookie.

Friend: That recipe was written long before people knew how bad sugar was for you. Besides, they never anticipated modern refined sugar. The sugar of their time was a lot simpler and harder to come by. 

Me: So why didn't you at least substitute natural cane sugar?

Friend: You're not paying attention. Nobody needs sugar! Maybe professional bakers, but they're regulated and have the proper training to use the sugar properly.

Me: So you'd rather leave it out and have a disgusting dirt-cookie?

Friend: Nobody left anything out! It's right there in the locked cabinet!  Idiot
And your cookies are still terrible!

Me: How would you know? You've never tasted one.


For having read through that you get this nifty sugar cookie recipe:


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla or any other flavoring
  • 2 cups flour (approx.)
  • cinnamon and/or nuts (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the milk. Sift flour and mix baking powder with 1 cup, then add the rest of the flour, and gradually add more if needed to make a dough stiff enough to handle. Place in refrigerator to harden. Roll on floured board 1/4 inch thick. Shape with cookie cutter. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts, if desired. Bake in a quick oven (375 - 400F) for 8 to 10 minutes.


When you've never tasted real freedom, it's easy to complain about the sham you've been fed in its place.  

Yes, of course it's a rant. It's applicable to all of the rights that we lock away in the cabinet because they're "dangerous". It's about Free Speech relegated to "zones" on campuses, or done away with whatsoever. It's about freedom of religion when that freedom is forbidden in public spaces. 

But now playing: The usual crying about the Second Amendment from the usual quarter. And it's accompanied by the usual hypocrisy.

The Pope is surrounded by Swiss Guard, who are armed to the teeth for his safety. On the whole, it works very well. Yet the Pope chides the manufacturers of the weapons purchased and used by the Church.

The President is surrounded by Secret Service, who are armed to the teeth for his safety. On the whole, it works very well. Yet, speaking for our government, the President would limit such protection to himself.

For twenty-five years our schools have been surrounded by signs advertising the complete lack of opposition to anyone who wishes to take a life... signs which are practically an invitation to any who would cause mayhem. On the whole, it doesn't work in the slightest.

The Pope and the President are surprised at this.

When the complete lack of security doesn't work to secure anything, the people who demanded that their children be left out as goats for the T-Rex call the police, who are armed to the teeth, but always arrive too late.

The people are surprised at this.

Having chosen to discard the Second Amendment, and having done everything in a way that ensures deaths that could have been avoided had the Second Amendment been observed, the people who caused the problem complain that the Second Amendment is at fault. They cry that "something must be done", but that "something" is never to empower law-abiding citizens to take immediate action against the immediate threat that they face. They continue the illogical narrative that places blame anywhere but with the guy pulling the trigger, and if only they could find this magical source of the problem, the lions will become vegan just as they falsely claim is the case in every country but ours. But they never find that source, and mass shootings still occur even where the guns are banned.

Why am I not surprised at this?

Photo credit: Drop Sugar Cookies by Vanessa Myers via Flickr.  (cc-by-sa)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Pot-smoking Chimps and the Seductive Power of Power.

In my last post, SC may legalize pot, and this libertarian doesn't care, I pointed out that my libertarian position is not dependent on a desire for legalized drugs, but for increased liberty. I don't much care for recreational drugs, and I'm not in favor of laws to "legalize" them. I'd much prefer to get rid of the unnecessary laws that criminalize them. Adult citizens can and should be empowered to make such decisions for themselves.

Now, as sometimes happens, even when I take a conservative position ("I don't like drugs"), I fall on the foul side of people on the Right ("'Decriminalize'? What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"). That has happened here.

It has now been suggested to me that I'd rethink my position if I had teenagers.

My response was, I think, measured. The fact is I have three sons, and no... that doesn't make me re-think my position. Nor should it.

You see, nothing really prevents teenagers from having ready access to drugs. I daresay that they can get them as readily (or moreso) than you can. The law has never stopped them, just as it never stopped my peers when I was in high school in the 70s. Nevertheless, not only did I not turn to drugs, but those of my peers who did smoke turned out OK.

No one was ever cured of alcoholism by Prohibition. That's just another drug, and the problem with drug abuse and addiction isn't something that's fixable through legislation. My kids don't do drugs not because of fear of the law, but because they have the confidence to make their own decisions. Part of my job as a parent was to inculcate in them exactly that confidence. It comes from knowing Right from Wrong and choosing Right.

My youngest two have recently turned 19. It may be that they'll take up some drugs someday, and it's quite beyond my ability to prevent at this point. But I doubt it, because education and attention alone seems to have worked quite well to get them past that suggestible stage. You may find that the greatest part of peer pressure is not knowing your own mind. In today's world of fatherless, rudderless households, this is exacerbated by having been trained by "the authorities" from an early age that others should do your thinking for you.

"Don't try this at home, kids!" Sound familiar? It means, "Do as I say, not as I do." When you use this sad cliche your underlying message is that you are specially privileged in a way that they are not. When you're talking to a minor, that's fine because you are privileged by age and experience. Not so when you're talking to adults. When they have attained the age of majority, your days of condescension should have come to a close. While you may still have experience they don't, they now are of an age where they can determine for themselves whether to follow your advice. They're adults, just like you.

The Law is a Tool

But, comes the answer, I prefer to have the law as a tool on my side.

That's great for you when the law is backing up decisions that you would make for yourself. But other people like having the law as a tool on their side to help them prevent bad behavior, too. That becomes a real problem for you when they're trying to prevent behavior that you find either desirable or totally innocuous and no one else's business. The law is not and has never been intended to be a tool that exists for the purpose of extending your will.

Even when you wield it, this "tool" erodes your liberty in ways that you cannot argue against, as you are admittedly in favor of such controls in principle. It's only when you're not holding the reigns that it becomes a problem. How, for instance, is it possible for you to argue against Sharia law when it is patiently explained to you that it is a "tool" to help prevent bad behavior and bring people closer to Allah? Are you going to claim the exercise of Liberty that you so frequently toss in the ashcan when applied to others? This sounds entirely hypocritical... like it's nothing more than a double-standard.

Which of course it is. And your argument is now doomed, your logic expended. All that's left to you is the exercise of power, which will destroy you as soon as it falls into the hands of the "other side". You can't even complain about that, because you did it. And that's exactly the refrain we hear in politics today: "But they did it, too!"  As if that's alright.


I no longer have this dilemma. I now have one inviolable rule, which is to extend to others those inalienable rights that are not only laid out in the Constitution, but which I reserve for myself. And if you can't live under that rule, then you can't participate in our government. As a citizen, I make you take an oath to that effect, whether you're a dogcatcher, soldier, congressman or President. Furthermore, I say that if this is an issue that is not delegated to the Federal or State government by their respective constitutions, then the decision-making is rightly reserved to you and me, just as the Constitution says. I explained this to my correspondent as follows:
"Now, as I don't do drugs, and you don't do drugs, and the two of us presumably teach our children the same thing, I doubt that there is any disagreement between us as to whether someone should do drugs.  
"However.. I have no moral dilemma when it comes to asserting my liberty, as I do believe in asserting that same privilege even to those who make decisions for themselves that I would not make in their shoes. Considering that this is the Constitutional approach, I personally consider it far more 'conservative' than any interventionist approach. I realize that this is not the current state of the language... I simply hold that it's the language at fault and not my position."
I don't intend for that to sound confrontational. I'm largely describing the point at which I personally came to the conclusion that it is this acceptance of inconsistency causes far more and greater problems than the Left or Right are trying to solve.

Both the Left and Right attempt to assert control over individuals who, if we truly believe the high-sounding words of the Declaration, are created equal to those who would 'govern' them. When I saw that this was equally true of my own position, then I had no alternative but to recognize my own hypocrisy and reject it. So now I'm politically Libertarian (because -- on paper -- our government can be described as nothing else), while continuing to advocate and make for myself conservative choices.

And that's OK, because no one has ever been brought to God by the imposition of another man's will; just as no one has ever been made generous by being taxed, or virtuous by being fined, or content by being confined. These are things that people come to of their own accord, given free will and positive examples.

I did receive a response:
"That's all fine. Personally, I don't want that crap around!"

In other words... all that talk of Liberty can take a back seat to the personal desire for control. And that pretty much sums up our entire political landscape in every conceivable direction, even when talking to those who believe they believe in small government. So I ask myself:
What is more dangerous to society and this country... a neighbor who smokes pot in his own place, or an intrusive government that wishes to control my actions?
Hmmm... let me think on this now....

The intrusive government. That's FAR more dangerous.

That's my final answer.

Photo credits:

  • American Flag by uhuru1701 via Flickr
  • Chimp Lookout by Brian Harries via Flicr
  • Composited by Dave Leigh. Creative Commons license. By-ShareAlike

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SC may legalize pot, and this libertarian doesn't care.

Here's an odd thing. Here in SC there's a movement to legalize medical marijuana, and those of my friends who know I'm a libertarian are surprised to learn that I have no enthusiasm for this bill. How, they wonder, can I be libertarian if I'm not for drug legalization?

It's because I am a libertarian. I do not favor unnecessary laws that tell me what I can do any more than I favor unnecessary laws that tell me what I can't. I'd rather see the laws that limit my freedom repealed than laws that treat the government as a master that grants me leave to do only those things for which I'm granted permission.

Not my monkey - Not my circus
(via Wikimedia Commons)
In other words, I don't want to see drugs legalized. I want to see them decriminalized. I want to remove the bloody laws that shouldn't be there in the first place. Passing Yet Another Law is not a step toward Libertarianism, and as I don't personally a great desire to fire up a doobie, this ain't my monkey - ain't my circus.

The counter argument is that permissive laws at the State level counter restrictive laws at the Federal level. First... that just means we have too many laws at both State and Federal level. We can't dismantle them by piling more on. Those Federal laws clearly shouldn't exist, and are not authorized by the Constitution except through tortuous re-interpretation of the plain text. Second... it doesn't really work. State law doesn't trump a conflicting Federal law; and the only thing keeping marijuana users in permissive states from being arrested is a lack of initiative on the part of the Federal authorities. Decisions about prosecution are still left to the discretion of the federal government.

While a local law means that patients may be able to use medical marijuana if the Feds allow it, in my view, backing such a bill has nothing to do with being a Libertarian.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Doing Unto Others

I hope this comes across as intended: help others fearlessly, confidently, simply because it's right.

I made this meme in response to another one I saw (below). It expresses a statement that's technically correct... BUT, the correctness of it stems from a horribly incorrect mis-statement. I'd say it expresses a little truth by sacrificing a big one:

On the face of it, it's right. If you live your life expecting that good deeds will earn you rewards in equal measure from the people for whom you do them, then you will be disappointed.

That's because that's not what you're supposed to be doing. You can do it right instead.

So what's my problem with this meme? There are a few:

FIRST: It magnifies negativity. Everyone knows that feeling of disappointment when you expect the people around you to behave more kindly toward you than they do. It's important to acknowledge those feelings, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But this meme is basically a piece of advice, that's not what advice is for. Advice is for taking action to deal with the emotions after you've acknowledged them. This meme basically invites you to dwell on disappointment: to avoid future action due to the assumption that you'll always (or frequently) be disappointed. I think there's much better advice to be had.

SECOND: It expects payback. You're doing "FOR" others and expect them to do "FOR" you.  That's not the point of the Golden Rule... not at all. It's not even how it's properly phrased. Most often it's stated as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Yes, it's a Biblical meme... even if you have little room for religion, it's still good advice whether it was given by Jesus, Shakespeare, or Oprah Winfrey. But since it's been around for thousands of years, out comes the Bible. Mostly people have problems with what they think is written there. So here we see what is:
"All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets."
See that? "Should do". Not "will do". In fact, there's not one thing that's actually said about what they will do to you. The entirety of it... 100%... is about how you treat others. And how should you do that? As you wish they should treat you. It's an instruction for you, not an expectation of them. It's neither servitude nor obligation, but simply doing what's right. Later on you're given the advice again, rephrased:
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Your disappointment comes from your expectation, and that's what needs to change, because you may be missing out on something much better. 

THIRD: No one has the same heart as yours. But most people have a heart like yours. They respond to kindness in kind. Someone has to go first, so why not you? Why not me?

And sure, not everybody responds in kind. Not every smile will get you a smile in return. Some people are just grumpy. Some are sad for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Some may have even listened to poor advice from Internet memes and have built walls. Some are suspicious because they, too, have listened to cynics and are looking for "the catch". Some were never taught the golden rule as it should be understood. Toss them the smile anyway and keep walking so you can toss a few more at others. They may not return your kindness today, or to you; but they will remember that it was given freely. There was no catch. The cynics were wrong about you. And somewhere, sometime, that grumpy person will be kind to someone... just because it's right and because they had your example.

Here's the funny bit about that heart. You feel disappointment only if you are willing to give kindness. And if the cynics are wrong about you, then they are wrong about a lot of people. Because contrary to what some big purple dinosaur may have told you as a child, there are a lot of ways in which you are not unique.
You are not unique in having feelings.
You are not unique in feeling gratitude.
You are not unique in being human.
When you stop to consider that we all share our humanity, it opens up an entire new world of realization. There are many people like you. And if you're willing to help, they are too. If there's one person who's willing to help, there are millions. But the only mind you know is your own. So the only way to ensure that there is one is by being that 'one'.

And here's something else to think about: if someone else just gave you that piece of advice, you know for a fact that you won't be alone. All you have to prove is that it's true for you.

So consider what's "in it for you"... a city, a town, a country, or even a world, in which people are taught to be charitable for the sake of it... freely, cheerfully. Even if not everyone is so inclined, this is still an infinitely better world than one where people are tolerable only out of fear of the law, not because it's right; where they do not support those in need of their own accord, but only because they are forced to contribute so that someone else will do it for pay; or because they desire the benefit.

FINALLY, the advice is just plain faulty. It's wrong because following it doesn't make you a better person; nor does it place you among better people.

The implicit advice given by this meme is that you shouldn't treat others as you would have yourself treated, because they wouldn't do it for you. As advice is ranked, perhaps it's slightly better than Jim Jones' invitation to "have some Kool-Aid." I'm not kidding. Taking this advice can screw up every relationship and personal interaction in your life, for the remainder of your life. It invites you to be selfish and standoffish at best, and others will respond in kind, because they do have hearts like yours, and will not take kindly to such poor treatment.

Wouldn't it be a comfort just to know for a fact that you live in a world where if someone truly needs help there is a person who will step up and give that help?

Be that person.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Still Did Their Jobs - Part 2

So. I've posted some very provocative images to criticize a very stupid meme... "Still Did Their Jobs". My point in doing so was to point out the utter lack of logic in the meme's very premise... that you should blindly follow authority. The images I posted show exactly what happens when you do that.

Of course, some people aren't going to be capable of separating that from the Kim Davis issue itself, so I'm clarifying my previously stated position, clearly and more concisely:

Mrs. Davis should issue the marriage licenses as directed. The reason is that this is NOT an issue that infringes on her religion, for the following reasons:
  1. These are not religious licenses. They are secular licenses, issued by a secular state which it forbidden by the Constitution from making any law regarding the establishment of religion. Therefore it is not constitutionally possible that the law is intended to support "Christian marriage" as opposed to merely "marriage",
  2. Even if the law were based in religion, Mrs. Davis has already violated her principles many times, as licenses have been issued to people of all faiths... and no faith. Some of them, such as Satanists, violate Christian principles, yet it has never been Mrs. Davis' practice to deny them a license.
  3. The argument that she promised to uphold the law as it existed when she was sworn in is simply invalid. That's neither what an oath of office says or means. Laws are made and revised all the time, and it is not the prerogative of a clerk to demand that the Law be frozen at the time of her taking office.
  4. If Mrs. Davis conscientiously objects to the new demands of her office, then she should do what any conscientious objector does: refuse to serve. That is, step down and allow someone else to serve in her place. 
If Kim Davis were to step down, I would be among the first to hail her for having the courage to live in accordance with her deeply-held religious convictions. I cannot laud her in the same fashion for continuing to take a paycheck for a job she doesn't intend to perform dispassionately, even-handedly, and in its entirety.

Now. All that said, while I'm fine with expressing an opinion, this isn't an issue for the American people to resolve. It's a matter for the courts and the people of Rowan County, Kentucky. Which of the several ways to solve this should be taken is no more my business than it would be the business of a California resident to lobby about the internal politics of Union, South Carolina. They have a population with more than a few adults who can govern their own affairs.

Still Did Their Jobs

I'm about sick of the "Still Did His Job" meme for several reasons: 
  1. It's applied without thought 
  2. It's an OBVIOUS logical fallacy
  3. It's not that clever to start with. 
So I decided to break it.

This was the tamest of the images I could have used to illustrate the point. Sometimes personal conviction must override orders from the State. We may not agree on when that is appropriate, but it is certain that blind obedience to authority is simply stupid. 99% of the meme-writers have lost sight of that.

Here's another image I could have used:

And no, this doesn't correspond one-to-one with Kim Davis' refusal to issue marriage licenses in Kentucky. I'm making a different point... a point about the meme itself, and the expectation that people should do their jobs simply because they're their jobs. When a job is morally abhorrent, you shouldn't do it. People know that. That's why Oskar Schindler was a hero.

You might argue that rank-and-file German soldiers followed the Nazis' orders because otherwise their lives were in danger. The problem is that Mrs. Davis might argue the same regarding her immortal soul, on which she may place a greater value than mere loss of life. Whether you and I disagree with her is irrelevant. [1] Disagreement doesn't make this an intelligent meme.

And we may disagree with Mrs. Davis over whether this rises to a level to where she should actively block her job as opposed to quitting it. That disagreement still doesn't make this an intelligent meme.

If Mrs. Davis has that deep-held conviction, she is morally justified in acting upon it. This is where it's appropriate for the courts to interpret the law and make a well-informed decision, which might result in her removal from the position. It's not time for half-baked ridicule from people who aren't even terribly good at it.

There are few worse ways to make your point, because it doesn't address the problem that resulted in dissent. It just confirms your willingness to blindly submit to authority. 

Do you still think that "doing your job" gives you the moral high ground?

All images used under Fair Use for the purpose of political commentary.

[1] Now, if you'd really like to know what I think on the Kim Davis subject, it's that she should do issue the licenses as directed by the court. I've explained it before, but I'll summarize it in my next post.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Explaining Libertarianism to the Right

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
There, shallow Draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again. 
--Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

I was once editor of a literary journal entitled The Pierian Spring, named for this bit of verse. The name and the verse allude to a bit of Greek mythology about the sacred spring of the Muses, which is identified as a metaphorical fountain of knowledge. The meaning of the verse is that, as we first gain knowledge of a subject we become heady with that knowledge. The "intoxication of the brain" is a certain bit of foolishness that results. But as we absorb more, that initial foolishness abates and we become "sober" once again.

Occasionally that happens when a conservative "discovers" that Libertarianism is what was once called "classical liberalism" and has an ignorant conniption fit. Having drunk a shallow draught he is giddy with the pittance of knowledge that has been gained. He needs another drink. I have a full cup.


Libertarianism IS, in fact, exactly classical liberalism. The name "Libertarianism" has been coined because modern-day "Liberals" have so corrupted the term as to render it unusable for its original purpose. This is the very first thing of which my more "conservative" friends should take note.

For a moment let's discuss that original purpose. "Classical liberalism" is that of the Age of Enlightenment, that age which led to the founding of the United States. In fact, every single one of America's founders was a Liberal in this sense, without any exception whatsoever. If you think of yourself as a Constitutionalist, you either agree with this philosophy... or you're not, and should start looking for a new label for yourself.  A classical liberal education, dominant in the Age of Enlightenment, was one that emphasized the liberal arts, those being:
  • Grammar
  • Dialectic
  • Rhetoric
  • Arts & Music
  • Natural Science
  • Mathematics
  • Geometry
You might simply call it a classical education now. It is the foundation of such principles as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom from government coercion, the right to property, the right to privacy, the right to a representative government, the right to self-ownership and self-determination (what was then termed the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness)...

...a few of these should sound vaguely familiar.

Now, if you like all of those things, and you want your government to guarantee them and you aren't spouting opportunistic bullshit about when, who, and under what conditions they apply... if you're not engaged in situational ethics in which your freedoms are ok, but someone else's are "dangerous"... if you're ethically consistent... if you can grasp the concept that a guarantee of freedom means that some people are going to do things with which you fundamentally disagree... if you were honest about it when you said you wanted your government to guarantee all of those freedoms, then you might be a Libertarian.

I thought long and hard about all that before deciding I was a Libertarian.  Fortunately I have drunk deep, from the very same "deep end" as the Founding Fathers of this nation, without adultery, dilution, bastardization, or embarrassing compromise of either principle or morality.

It is true that in the principle of government, I support Liberty. It is my Liberty upon which this country was founded; not your ability to control my actions, whatever they may be. For in allowing that the actions of one human being may be regulated by another, you give permission for them to do the same to you according to their principles of what they want from you. This is something I find to be thoughtless and short-sighted.

It was my Liberty that was argued when the Bill of Rights was debated on both sides, with the only question being whether it was best protected by enumerating rights or relying on their lack of mention in the Constitution to identify them as being reserved to the People. A debate, by the way, still being played out today, and which seems to be proving Madison right, as Amendments intended to reign in and control the government are perverted to control the People instead. As an example, First Amendment was never intended to control the religious practices of any citizen. Its plain language meaning is to limit the government. That hasn't stopped any non-Libertarian from twisting its use. Hardly a record of which to be proud.


It was only after heavy consideration that I realized my championship of Liberty does not constitute an endorsement of what you do with it. This is the most common bit of simplistic ignorance leveled against Libertarians. Seeing through this allowed me to decide that it was not possible for me to identify as anything else.

Here is the platform of the Libertarian Party. Keep in mind that as in any huge group of people, there are differences of opinion. A party platform is a general guideline of agreement... sometimes the "agreement to disagree". Especially in the case of Libertarians, it is a grave mistake to believe it is some instruction as to what to believe. I certainly don't agree with all of the points, but that's OK... People who employ reason do not limit their discussions to only one side of an issue. Rather, they're open to frank discourse.

Here are my own positions on key issues:
  • Drugs: I am for ending the wasteful, useless, counterproductive "war on drugs", but I am not for drug use. I'm not for alcohol use, either, though it was made legal after a disastrous attempt at Prohibition that yielded exactly the same predictable, counterproductive results as the current "war on drugs". I am also against the institutionalized slavery made possible by unnecessary convictions for "victimless crimes". I describe the justification for this term in an earlier essay. Far from being a pejorative invention of mine, the Supreme Court of Virginia made the characterization while interpreting the Thirteenth Amendment. This is slavery which is monetized by UNICOR and financed by the United States Government. That would be you and me. I, for one, don't like being made an implicit slave owner through these practices, of which most ordinary citizens are completely unaware.
  • Church and State: I am for the separation of Church and State, but unlike statists on both the Right and Left, I know what that means. It means I get to pray in a school or courthouse, and if you don't like that, then you can say your own prayer or don't pray at all; and neither one of us will be in violation of anything. It means that the government is prohibited from making a law robbing me of my ability to choose my customers based on my religious beliefs. It does not mean they should "make it legal"... it means they can't make the law in the first place.
  • Abortion: Libertarians are not monolithically pro-choice. They are divided on the matter as are Republicans and Democrats. I, for instance, am pro-life and justify laws banning abortion by the fact that unborn innocents have a right to Life that would otherwise have no champion. The protection of the innocent is a legitimate role of government, and I believe these laws to be necessary. When weighing the literal life or death of children against the inconvenience of the adults that conceived them, I side with the children. Other Libertarians are just as bluntly pro-death, and the party platform basically just punts, because we're not going to agree today. Whatever their stance on personal choice, however, almost all Libertarians agree that the government has no business funding abortion through any means.
  • Border Security: Libertarians are also divided on the subject of open borders. I am among those who oppose it on consequentialist grounds (its impact on maintaining a free society). We have the means to immigrate to this country legally. This is necessary to ensure that those who become citizens at the very least will promise to uphold the basic liberties that drew them to this country and allowed them to become citizens. There is no need for insecure borders, and plenty of reasons to secure them.
  • Equality: I am consistently for equality before the law, because ALL men are created equal. And in accordance with common language usage, "men" means "mankind", as in "women", too. And there aren't any qualifications on which men or women this is talking about. Does anybody seriously want to argue against that? Prediction: you will lose.
  • Marriage: I am for the elimination of government controls on marriage, but I am not for gay marriage. I will neither perform nor enter into one. I jealously guard my religious freedom as a matter of self-interest, and government has no business in religious matters. That means your sacrament, my sacrament, theirs... all off limits. (See First Amendment). How that works is made crystal clear in my last essay
  • War: I oppose starting a war. I also oppose fighting someone else's war without invitation. I am in favor of an unassailable National Defense, in that I draw a sharp distinction between defense spending and military spending. I do support mutual defense pacts, and in those cases, an attack against one member is an attack against all. Like the porcupine that is the Libertarian mascot, we should make it very painful to attack the US. I supported retaliation for 9/11 and would again. But it would be focused, fierce, then finished. It is stupid to spend billions to engage an enemy on his home soil when he is content to simply wait you out. Furthermore, I support the intelligent use of our military; something that hasn't been tried in many decades. The military has one main purpose: to secure our borders and liberty. Why do we need a separate border patrol? Why do we not allow our military to do their job and secure our borders on our soil? Whatever the reason is, it is not the Third Amendment.
  • Privacy: I oppose impositions on Liberty enacted with the supposition that they "enhance my safety". How many terrorists have convicted under the Patriot Act? There is no useful answer, because under the Patriot Act there is no need for due process. The Act requires no charge, no warrant, no prosecution, no conviction, no sentence. This is applied to American citizens on American soil. And when due process is applied, it is often applied inappropriately, simply because it can be. Consider the case of Tamera Freeman, who was convicted under a felony charge of terrorism after swatting each of her children three times on the leg during a Frontier Airlines flight. She spent three months in jail before they forced a guilty plea out of her. Charged with terrorism? You are damned straight I opposed a law that made that possible, I have nothing but pity for the sheep who supported it unchanged rather than urge the construction and adoption of a better alternative that defends the rights of Americans. I know thinking is hard work, but sometimes it's a lot better than just continuing to go with the first thing you came up with out of some misguided sense of "support". The injustice of it should make your blood boil.
  • Economy: I absolutely support free market capitalism in what is universally touted to be a "Free Market Capitalist" economy. Why would I support anything else? Forty years ago when I first started paying attention to politics that was the conservative position. Maybe people have just gotten economically illiterate in the meantime. Which, on the average, they have. Take as an example the hypothetical failure of a lending institution. That could never happen, right? But it did, and both main parties threw trillions of dollars at it. In a free market, when "Bellyup Bank" goes belly-up, you're not off the hook for making your house payments. You still pay. That debt of yours represents the bank's assets. And those assets are what get sold off in either re-structuring or dissolution of the company. The end result is, you're still making payments. Only now it's to a stronger bank. And it's unlikely that those assets would all go to one place. Several banks would have gotten stronger as they purchased those assets. The people who worked for Bellyup Bank will be jobless only temporarily, as those stronger banks grow to fill the void left by Bellyup, and will seek experienced help. In other words, there's a temporary impact on the economy, which then recovers, just as with any recession and no worse... except not a single dime of bailout money need be spent. The "trillion dollar bailouts" of this last decade did basically nothing for the economy but keep a few familiar logos on some familiar buildings when they should have been replaced by new ones. A truly conservative economist would never endorse such a foolish waste. Libertarians are more conservative than Conservatives on this issue.
  • Education: There is no role for the Federal government in running our schools. The Constitution doesn't permit it, though overeager politicians have. I therefore support disbanding the Federal Department of Education. Education is best managed at as local a level as possible. In South Carolina, where I live, the state constitution (in Article XI) does mandate a public education system, so that's the appropriate place. I'm not opposed on pragmatic grounds to paying for it with taxation at the State level (which is moot because it is already).  However, Article XI Section 4 also prohibits state funding of private institutions, which could be interpreted as prohibiting the use of school vouchers at those schools. I favor educational choice, the advantages that come with competition, and using educational funds for the purpose for which they're intended, namely the education of all of the children in the state. I therefore favor vouchers and a constitutional amendment to Article XI Section 4 to explicitly allow parental choice and appropriate credits. But even without such an amendment, I favor parental choice among public schools. On a purely practical note, this happens anyway. Parents simply list some relative's address in the desired district. All parents should have that option. 

There's a lot left out, of course, but these are the ones that have come up in conversation with the Right... and I threw in Education for good measure. That having been said, of these issues, what's wrong with my positions? I don't want to know just whether you agree with the positions, but with the reasons they were taken.

And I mean it... tell me in the comments, or message me on Facebook.

Oh, and please don't bother with what you suppose I might say about topics I didn't mention. If you want, ask me about them and we'll talk about them at a future time.

My reasons for this are somewhat personal. There is plenty here for disagreement on both Left and Right. Few Democrats or Republicans will read these points without saying, "Yeah, that's good except...". As I've discussed politics over the years, most of my heaviest disagreements have been with Democrats. But the ones from Republicans, though less frequent, feel the worst, because Republicans are the ones who talk the most about freedoms and small government. Though the public record shows that government grows more intrusive no matter which party is in charge, I still hold this hope that rank and file Republicans actually want freedom and small government.

But I also want to know whether or not, Democrat or Republican, you can see a consistent and reasonable cause for my position, even if you don't agree with the position itself. Do you think I am your "enemy" as opposed to thinking that I merely disagree with you on a point of policy?

You see, in all my disagreements, today is the first time anyone has ever referred to me as "the enemy" in response to a reasoned discussion, much of which is included above. I want to know if that charge has merit. So if you would, please. drop me a line.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bartlet's BS: How to Argue Mo' Better.

This is making the rounds again, with a new caption:

Before you get all self-congratulatory about what you perceive as the brilliance of this rebuttal, know that it's bullshit. It's intended to shame, not to convince; and it does so with a bogus interpretation of Christianity that is easily dismissed by Christians who recognize its flaws when Atheists do not. (And stick with me here, because whatever side you're on, I'm probably not going where you expect.)

Since the Atheists have decided to engage in a little Sunday School lesson, here's one[1]. I often find myself having say something like the following when speaking with not just Atheists, but Fundamentalists as well. A quote from Deuteronomy chapter 5:
"And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.  The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire, (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to shew you the word of the LORD: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying, I am the LORD thy God..." [followed by the "Ten Commandments"]
There were a few sequels. [2]
Pay attention, please: "In your ears". "This day". "With us". "Not... our fathers", "With us", "Even us". "Here". "Alive this day". "With you", "Face to face".

Who do you think that message is meant for? The Bible certainly has a lot of subtexts and allegorical messages with multiple meanings. THIS ISN'T ONE OF THEM. Moses bent over backwards to make this point so excruciatingly plain that I think you have to be either completely blind to the existence of the verse, or actually trying to fail in order to get it wrong.

This Covenant and the Law... of which there are 613 laws... are intended for the people present at that place and moment of time and their descendents. Uncle Yusuf's not here? He's out.

There is no stigma to being "out" of this deal. Jews don't think that Gentiles are horrible people for not keeping the Sabbath because they know that Gentiles don't have to. They don't think non-Jews can't get into Heaven. The LORD is the LORD, and he can take whoever he jolly well pleases without your permission or approval. This verse is why Jews don't proselytize. It's not for YOU.[3]

Pointing this out isn't confrontational; it's informational. If you think that Christians must follow a law simply because it's written in the Old Testament, you're mistaken. If you think that Christians are hypocrites simply because they don't follow this or that Old Testament law, then you're likewise mistaken, and every argument you make based on that presumption fails.

Jesus brought a different simpler message for the rest of us:
"...The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31. Also stated in Matthew 22:36-40)
For sure, He does start with "Hear, O Israel", as He is following the formulation called Shema Yisrael... this is the heart of Judaism, and He was talking to a Jew. But that audience is expanded when He commands his followers to go out to all nations, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20). And that's what we should do. Teach, not enforce (Matthew 13).


The problem with the President's rebuttal in the clip is that it perpetuates the myth that any of the levitical laws are tenets of the Christian religion, simply ignored by hypocritical followers out of personal choice or convenience. To be sure, there are ignorant hypocrites out there. But the argument fails when applied to actual Christianity rather than the "straw man Christianity" of a Hollywood screenwriter. It is based on a false assumption. As all but a few Christians immediately see the false premise, the only thing it convincingly does is portray Bartlet as a braying jackass. The sound is quite appealing within that species, but to few other creatures.

Now, if the President wanted to actually make his point and not just make an enemy, then he'd have pointed to Leviticus 5 as I just did, AND to Mark or Matthew. Then he might say something like this:

"Although you may view homosexuality as a sin, nowhere did Jesus give you the right to persecute those that commit that sin. You are, in fact, commanded to love those people anyway. God will judge them Himself when the time comes, and He will be merciful or not as He desires. But you're wasting your time worrying about their sins and not your own. Read Matthew 7:5, because it speaks to all of us on this subject:
"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." 


Personally, I see it as this: the Christian institute of marriage is between men and women. Jesus confirms it. As such, marriages are performed before God for His blessing. But a secular marriage, even one between a man and woman, isn't a marriage in that sense. My church will consecrate those marriages that are marriages conforming to our beliefs. But my church is not in the habit of denouncing marriages that are performed in other churches, in accordance with other beliefs.[4] If their license may be denied on one point of faith, why not any other? Why not to a Hindu who has many gods? Why not to an Atheist, who has none? On what basis should we selectively pick and choose which Biblical precepts to apply? And if those who do the picking and choosing are not me, then why should they not deny that license to me? This is the argument which President Bartlet so ineptly attempts to make.

We cannot prevent the marriage of those outside our religion, nor should we be allowed to in a country that recognizes our natural right to freedom of religion. The County Courthouse is not my church. The Clerk of Court is not my priest. The licenses that are issued there are now and always have been for secular contracts called marriage, not marriage as defined by any particular religion.

And while we as individuals are free to exercise our religion, our GOVERNMENT is not. In the pursuit of her duties, a Clerk of Court is not acting on her own behalf in accordance with her own beliefs. She is acting as an agent of that government, which is stringently prohibited from interfering in religious matters. Thus, even if one does not accept the valid argument that government-issued marriage licenses represent secular contracts; one must allow that as a religious matter, agents of the government cannot interfere. Remember, we're not talking about just you... If I were in the position where my religion prevented me from acting as a properly impartial agent of the government; if the the free exercise of my religion denied the very same freedom for many, many applicants; then it would be obvious to me that the only ethical resolution between my conflicting responsibilities to God and the State would require that I remove myself from the State and devote myself to God.


By the way, this is why I think that the government shouldn't be in the business of marriage at all. "License" means "permission", and I see no reason on this green Earth why as a free human being I should have to beg for the permission of the State to marry. I do not seek the legalization of gay marriage for the same reason that I do not favor the legalization of any marriage. In defense of my own religious freedom, I do not recognize the right of the government to "define" what marriage is or is not. I believe the very concept is prohibited by the First Amendment, and that the practice represents one of the first of many erosions of our liberty. Further, it presumes that a thing should be illegal unless permitted, and that is a grave error of judgement, contrary to the concept of a Free Society. I want the State out of marriage completely.

[1] Obviously my theology may differ from yours. Even among Christians, views vary widely. But when faced with a conundrum I've found it most useful to go with a plain reading of the text. Edicts, canons, councils, and interpretations have often done as much to confuse a topic as to explain it, and often creates dogma where none exists in the Biblical text. If, for instance, you are a Christian who argues that you are still bound by Mosaic law, I believe you are at an argumentative disadvantage, as you are now required to explain why you hold that view when the scripture explicitly states that you are not.

[2] Illustration of Moses from More Good Foundation via Flickr

[3] Acts 15:19-29 expresses the minimum requirements for Christians: "that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.." Clearly, the whole of Mosaic law is not contained in that short sentence, which limits itself to those things which not only honor God and do not exceed the teaching they were commissioned to spread, but which make it possible for those Jewish believers in the early Church to interact with them

[4] Indeed, as a matter of course, Christians honor the validity of marriages outside their faith. Law or no, it's not OK to covet a pagan's wife. Despite it not being a "Christian marriage" it is always treated as a valid one. If you choose to think this attitude is demeaning rather than respectful, I invite you to imagine a world in which the contrary is true; where someone of another faith does not recognize your marriage and deems it OK to rape the women of infidels. You really don't have to imagine it, as this is expressly allowed in Islam. Here's the verseHere's the clerical rulingHere's the hadith (historical context). And do make sure you check several translation boxes for that verse. Muslims often chide Christians for having multiple translations, but so do they, and some of them are quite deliberately obscure. The clerical ruling, however, never is.