Yes, Mars DOES Have Rights

Mars: Does It Have a Right to Privacy?

Putting the Proper back in “Property” – Part 19

This essay came about as I read, and then reread, Ronald Bailey’s article in the February 2012 issue of reason entitled, “Does Mars Have Rights?”  Bailey brought up some interesting points and raised some reasonable questions, but something bothered me.

In the last paragraph he wrote: “They simply do not have an ethical point of view that we must consider.”  He was referring to Martian microbes (that may or may not exist).  I realized, more clearly than ever, that there is something in my free market ethics and morality that does not fit the mainstream capitalist mold.  So, it is this gap – or gulf – between property rights advocates of two different camps that I explore here today.

In the standard Lockean view, property rights arise necessarily from the axiom of self ownership.  Through the volitional exercise of our independent minds and wills, we humans combine our actions with the material world around us and create things to improve our lives.  We build shelters, we create weapons by which to hunt animals, we create tools by which to gather plants or harvest crops, and we clothe ourselves.  Some of our belongings we keep and utilize directly; some we trade for other things: goods, supplies, services, etc.  Taken in combination with a multitude of other such trades, an economy is born and our species’ standard of living is altered – presumably for the better.

But what of the plants, animals, and minerals we harvest, kill, and gather?  There is a fundamental agreement that this is okay and proper … and right.  Else we would not survive even one day.  What is clear, however, is that there is a serious divergence in the way these entities are regarded.  I strongly suggest that the view that these non-human components of life are inferior and may be handled dismissively and abusively is inappropriate and ignorant.

Some believe – and I’m among them – that we have the right to domesticate cattle.  But many of us, including me, have a major problem with the manner in which these animals are treated during various stages of their exploited lives.  Some are branded with red hot irons, castrated, confined in grossly inadequate pens and forced to wade in their own feces, de-horned, force-fed alien and unnatural diets (e.g. corn), pumped full of questionable chemicals, and eventually slaughtered and butchered in whole-sale fashion.  This camp apparently believes that our need to honor the dignity of these animals is negligible.  After all, they’re just “dumb” animals, and God put them here for us to use … as we wish!

Wait a second – am I going to address planetary rights, or animal rights?!

Both, actually.  I propose that asking, “Does Mars have rights?” is the same basic question as, “Do cows have rights?”  The fact that we ask these questions in this way implies that we have been approaching this issue – of rights – from the wrong end.  The real issue is how do conscious and self-aware beings like us live the best way we can with regard to all entities – whether natural or artificial, simple or complex, self-aware or inert.  If rights were to exist only in proportion to one’s level of awareness or enlightenment, then babies would have no rights at birth, and would only gradually attain them as they approached adulthood.  Mentally disabled people would have fewer rights than normal, healthy individuals, and highly-educated academic types (e.g. members of Mensa) would accrue more rights than us average folks.

By this reasoning, if we were to grant that lions, dogs, squirrels, frogs, clams, and bacteria had rights, they would be miniscule relative to those we would grant to adult humans.  So, what about redwood trees?  Fields of cotton?  Azaleas and roses?  Crab grass?  Poison Ivy?  Lichen?  What about rocks, boulders, subterranean veins of copper, salt domes, and interstellar hydrogen clouds?

Rather than trying to ascribe rights according to some Byzantine rating system, to every variety of existent, I suggest we approach this issue more elegantly and, I believe, logically.  Let’s look to the source of rights: the faculty of self-awareness.  Because we humans can discern the difference between right action and wrong action, respectful behaviour and disrespectful behaviour, we are inextricably charged with an obligation to do our best, to approach every choice with conscious respect for the entities we encounter.

Look at the title of this article.  What I really mean here is that Mars has rights in the same sense that a dragonfly, a dog, and a baby have rights.  There is a proper kind of respectful and thoughtful relationship we ought to have with these entities, each according to its fullest potential, according to the nature of its existence in the fullest context of our understanding.  The more we know and understand the world around us, the more we can adjust our actions to treat each other, animals, plants, and planets more carefully and respectfully.

Considered in this way, the rights that Mars “has” do not originate within its planetary core, or hover around the reddish haze of its apparently barren landscape.  It has rights in that it “deserves” to be treated rightly … by beings who would have the wherewithal to explore it and colonize it.  Whichever species shows up on Mars first (or next) will have the chance to do whatever it wants … to install scientific installations, to build shrines, or to trash the place.  Nobody on Earth will be able to lift a finger (or tentacle) to stop them.  That being said, there is a deep part of me, developed over my lifetime of study, play, and interaction of all kinds, that leads me to believe that this inert planet ought to be explored and studied with reverence and awe.  Our relationship to it ought to involve a commitment to thoughtful stewardship that envisions things on the order of 10,000 years.

This approach is no different really than the approach of mindful climbers who ascend Mt. Everest.  Since the 1970s, it was common practice of many climbers to treat this place as a high-altitude dump, leaving used oxygen canisters and trash in ice caves and under rocky crags.  This appalling behaviour so blatantly contradicts the spirit of the enlightened adventurist who loves the outdoors that, thankfully, a concerted effort has been made in recent years to reverse this trend and to remove and dispose of the litter.

We humans, distinguished by self-awareness, are obliged to act and behave thoughtfully in all our encounters, in every situation.  As we attempt this, we naturally regret it when we fall short.  As long as we do our best to get back into harmony with the world around us, all is fine.  It is when we show up in large numbers and begin to act as a mob that we tend to produce more ugliness and harm than we would if left to our own (individual) devices.

When we get to Mars, there will presumably be no villages, or water sources, or animals to consider – not even micro-organisms.  Nevertheless, I believe we owe it to ourselves, first and foremost, to respect the order, the harmony, and the beauty that we’ll find there.  Does this mean that I would advocate never going there at all?  Should we preserve this cosmic museum piece in its pristine and untouched state by never going there?  No.  That would be an absurd application of the ethic that I’ve been advocating in this article.  What we ought to do, though, is arrive with an attitude of peace and respect, imagining that the place were inhabited by invisible guardians, asking silently for their blessings as we explore and, eventually, colonize the fourth stone from the Sun.

Posted in Philosophical, Political, Psychological, Spiritual, Technological | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ask Not What Apple Can Do For You …

I just finished reading Clyde Prestowitz’s article for CNN, Apple Has an Obligation to Help Solve America’s Problems, and it left a nasty taste in my mouth.  In fact, it so pissed me off that it inspired me to end my 9-month hiatus from this column.  So, Clyde, pay attention and learn why you’re wrong about the nature of commerce and the forces underlying the world of trade.

"How long have you been waiting?" "Since 3:00 AM."

To quote Prestowitz: “Does Apple owe anything to Uncle Sugar? You betchum. Big time.”  The presumed justification for his thesis is the fact that Apple, among many other multinational corporations, “has continually pressed the U.S. government to enforce copyright and patent laws to protect its intellectual property from international theft.”  First of all, that’s one of the very few legitimate functions of government: to protect the property of its citizens, whether its tangible or intangible.

Why the act of reminding the government to do its job would place a citizen, or group of citizens, in a stance of debt or liability to the government is beyond me.  Is Prestowitz angry that many corporations have become active in other countries – i.e. become multinationals?  If citizens choose to conduct business in foreign lands, that is of course their prerogative.  And, it is the prerogative of pundits and so-called economic strategists to lambast American corporations for being disloyal, enriching foreigners, and allowing the homeland to slide further into disrepair.

His nonsense is due to a couple of logical errors which don’t hold up under scrutiny.  First and foremost of these is that Prestowitz is overlooking the essence of a transaction, the fundamental unit of all economies.  Every valid and reputable transaction has several essential characteristics about which every business and law student learns … offer, acceptance, consideration.  All sorts of things can go wrong, especially in our modern and complex world of high finance, high technology, exchange rates, and so forth.  For the purposes of this article, all that is irrelevant.  Here, I’m talking about transactions that went right, and I want to explain what that really means.

When two parties agree to do something, one action in exchange for the other, and they each fulfill their obligations, then they are both satisfied.  Fully satisfied.  I’m going to say it again because it’s the part that the whole damn world seems to have forgotten: Both sides are fully satisfied.

When both parties have done what they said they would do, then neither party is in a place of neglect.  Neither party is in a place of debt.  Neither party is in a place of liability.  Both sides are EVEN.  By definition – by the nature of a contract!

The next point ignored by Prestowitz, and most Americans for that matter, is that when two parties (individuals or corporations) enter into a contract, and they carry it out, the broader community is enriched.  While it is true that commerce and trade can have a negative impact on other economic entities (via pollution, uncertainty, competitive intensity, etc.), the long-term net impact is generally positive.  Proof of this has been accumulating now for three centuries – for the average human, we’ve seen an exponential expansion of material wealth, huge increases in the standard of living (ease of effort and extent and variety of leisure time), and significantly increased life expectancies.

Yes, I am well aware of the counter argument: that all this expansion of so-called “wealth” is nothing more than a mob marching madly toward its own grand orgy of toxic death.  Even if that were true, my point regarding the natural equitability of contracts still holds.  Furthermore, most people tend to overlook the positive side effects of commerce, especially the long-term accumulation of billions of individual transactions (trades).

Okay – back to Apple.  Apple is nothing more than a really big player in this game called commerce, business, or free trade.  Its great size does not negate the principles to which I have referred above.  When Apple contracts with its suppliers, its manufacturers, and its distributors to do certain things, and these partners do them, and when Apple likewise does its part, then they are all equally and fully satisfied.  If and when one of the participants isn’t fully satisfied – even if the contract was legal and binding, the presumption is that it will learn from the negotiation, perhaps scrutinize its transactional strategies and then adjust them going forward.  That’s life.

Having produced its products and stocked its shelves, Apple is poised to welcome to its stores millions who are more than happy to enter into individual contracts with the giant.  As we’ve seen on the news, some customers actually camp out overnight in order to improve their chances of making a purchase before the stock sells out!

So, let’s see here … what was Prestowitz whining about … something about Apple having an obligation to do something about America’s problems?!  Hmmm…

It’s clear that Apple has fulfilled its contractual obligations on every front: this evil multinational corporation doesn’t owe anything to anybody!  In fact, it is we consumers, we Americans, who owe Apple.  We owe the company a debt of gratitude, respect … perhaps admiration.  Apple has been helping Americans solve complex problems for decades.  Given that millions happily trade their hard-earned dollars for iPhones, iPads, iMacs, and iPods, and then utilize these gadgets to make their lives more productive, more interesting, more entertaining, and more enjoyable, how dare somebody suggest that Apple owes us Americans anything!

Apple represents the zenith in creative virtue, and it well deserves the market share it has earned.  Like so many other manufacturers and innovators, they put in raw materials and ingenuity, then turn the crank, and out come devices that are, to most of us, barely comprehensible … bordering on magical.  I should know – I own ten Apple devices myself!

Contrary to Prestowitz, here’s what I say to Apple.  “Thanks for making such amazing products, and making them affordable, to me and millions of others!”  Would I like to see Apple return some of its manufacturing activity to the United States?  Perhaps.  I don’t presume to know all the variables that such a move would entail, but I imagine it might benefit my fellow Americans and me. In this regard I might say, “Apple, please consider bringing some of your manufacturing business back to the USA.  Some of us Americans have become willing, once again, to work really hard for a day’s wages.”

By the way, I live in Austin, Texas.  Apple is, in fact, considering bringing a major office/plant here and is lobbying for subsidies and incentives from local government.  I am opposed to such a deal.  It is not within the proper scope of government to make such deals.  This is what is referred to as “crony capitalism.”  It’s illegitimate, and it gives real capitalism a bad name.  Apple doesn’t need to rely on such deals, and it shouldn’t stoop to wrangling for handouts.  Apple should base its decision to move to Austin (or any other city) purely on its social, commercial, and technological merits.

Posted in Economic, Financial, Libertarian, Political, Technological, Totalitarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GOP Fielding Palatable Candidates?

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Once again, I offer my services as a relatively disinterested critic regarding which candidates did well in last night’s New Hampshire Republican Presidential Debate, held in Sullivan Arena on the campus of St. Anselm College.  My qualifications are that, as a libertarian, I consider the Republican Party practically as bad as the Democratic Party when it comes to adherence to the Constitution and to filling elected offices with men and women of integrity.

To be fair, I should make clear that I am biased in favor of the Republican Party to the extent that these candidates, and many Republicans presently serving in office, tend to claim free market friendly policies.  While this is not the only basis on which to judge a candidate, it is a very big piece.  Unfortunately, most of the group standing on the colorful stage in New Hampshire made it clear when and how they would undermine individuals rights concerning civil liberties.

The big surprise I have to offer is that Congressman Ron Paul did not win the debate.  Even though he has the most comprehensive and consistent understanding of the workings of the economy, and the nature of the Constitutional rights of all of us citizens, he did not present himself well in New Hampshire.  He lacked his usual poise and confidence.  Perhaps he was tired.

Dr. Paul did have one excellent response, which almost made up for his lukewarm and muddied performance elsewhere: “I wouldn’t wait for my generals. I’m the Commander-in-Chief,” he said. “I make the decisions. I tell the generals what to do. I’d bring them home as quickly as possible. And I would get them out of Iraq as well. And I wouldn’t start a war in Libya. I’d quit bombing Yemen. And I’d quit bombing Pakistan. ”

John King, the CNN moderator, was annoying in the way that he kept trying to reword and rephrase the candidates’ responses, molding them into more polar and unpopular statements in some cases, no doubt to make it easier for their pundits to critically insert these quotes during their upcoming newscasts.  King was not as reprehensible as some CNN moderators have been, but he seemed adamant about promoting the political blur zone in which, presumably, his preferred Obama Administration might appear less ignorant and less out of step with the mainstream of America.

Michele Bachmann, the lone woman candidate, came off better than I expected.  I already knew she was extremely attractive, but I was mildly surprised that she spoke so eloquently and confidently.  I didn’t agree with all her points – not by a long shot, but I was able to determine that she towers over Sarah Palin intellectually and culturally.  Her poise was considerable.

Mitt Romney did pretty well, for a two-faced, back-tracking schmoozemeister.  He successfully downplayed most of the crap that John King rightly tried to foist on him.  Interestingly enough, he was borrowing heavily and obviously from the Libertarian free market game plan that Ron Paul has so consistently been educating America on for several decades now.  The big question is whether this pretty boy was speaking with genuine passion, or whether he was, once again, demonstrating histrionic and rhetorical expertise by speaking with forked tongue.

Herman Cain, the lone black candidate, spoke with candor and genuine passion whenever he got the chance.  He constantly referred to his business experience as he made clear that the US Government needs to revamp and restructure much of the entitlement structure of government – which is the primary source of the gigantic debt we, as a nation, are in.  Although he was articulate and likeable, he was not as smooth and polished as his white competitors – except for Ron Paul, as I said earlier.

Believe it or not, Newt Gingrich gave a fine showing.  He managed to shed much of his I’m-an-establishment-Congressman-with-a-3000-dollar-suit-and-countless-Beltway-connections smugness, and he gave a couple of bold responses.  At one point, he defied the sleazy Muslim-appeasers, for which I must give Newt a gold star.  Even though I disagree with Gingrich’s take on world affairs and national security, and I agree with Ron Paul that the United States has unilaterally created the animosity of the Muslim world by virtue of its appalling imperialism, I like the leadership he demonstrated.

Finally, there were two youngsters on the stage that both came off rather well.  Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum both demonstrated decent poise, confidence, perspective, and restraint.  Santorum is a bit of an alter boy, with his white-bread churchiness, but this also gives him credibility.  On several occasions, Pawlenty was a bit too eager to toot his own horn; every chance he got, he declared that he was the one who had done the most toward selecting arch-conservative judges, etc.  I would rather he used all those 20-second intervals to declare his allegiance to specific ideals and principles, as Ron Paul is always doing.

Any one of these candidates would be vastly preferred over more of the same from the present Obama Administration.  The danger with these candidates, however – except for Ron Paul – is their implicit, and sometimes explicit, acceptance of the principle of Manifest Destiny applied to the world.  The GOP is probably more to blame than the Democratic Party for the policies of the USA as the policing superpower on Earth.

I am afraid that by voting any of these folks into the Presidency, we might be seeking to repair an economy, only so that we can rebuild our war machine and pick another fight.

 

 

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Financial, Philosophical, Political, Psychological | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gold Star for Obama: “Stand Down, Israel!”

Was this a "shotgun wedding," or what?!

As a consistent and profound critic of President Barack Hussein Obama, I am favorably positioned to give him credit when credit is due.  He showed guts yesterday for, somewhat unilaterally, calling for the Israeli Government to withdraw claims from various annexed regions that have expanded its territories over its short existence, and to be prepared for it to revert to its pre-1967 boundaries.

And, of course, he had no business doing so – at least as an official of the United States of America.  Any who have read my previous posts know that I, as a (Constitutional) Libertarian, advocate the immediate and total withdrawal of the USA from foreign alliances, entanglements, back-room deals, sweetheart deals, and implied partnerships of any kind.  We, as a sovereign nation, have no business in, and ought to have no stake in, the rise and/or fall of Israel … or Albania, Bosnia, Canada, Denmark, England, etc.

All foreign aid should end as soon as possible – it being unconstitutional and detrimental to our security and prosperity.  Yes, I know: this is idealistic, extreme, even heretical to modern politics as it is practiced by the two machine parties.  So what.  That doesn’t change the fact that – IN THE LONG RUN – we do more harm than good by taking sides in other nations’ quarrels and differences.

It is now “the long run,” and, sure enough, we have been reaping the harm we have done ourselves by getting mixed up in the disputes of fundamentally irrational antagonists since long before 9/11.  Back to Barack Obama – at least he ventured, momentarily, out of the nebulous haze of diplomat-speak by which high-paid, well-dressed, good-for-nothing ambassadors waste time, money, and good will by lying to each other and serving up to one another ambiguous pseudo-agreements.

Question: If the United States foreign policy is almost entirely illegitimate, then what could and should replace it?

Answer: The Secretary of State is, perhaps, the one and only proper representative who might interface with foreign governments – but only to a very formal degree.  Only the Secretary of State should offer opinions and/or commentary of how, why, when other sovereign bodies ought to conduct themselves.  Even that is questionable.

Any private citizen may, as I am doing in this article, proclaim a wish, a desire, a recommendation for individuals, businesses, associations, and even entire countries regarding their behaviour, policies, and actions.  We do this for free.  We do this without first installing puppet dictators, or supporting coups d’etat, or inciting riots (on both sides!), or causing world banking imbalances.

In short, my recommendation here is: Butt out, America! Why then do I give a gold star to Obama for his boldness.  Number one, for his boldness.  Number two, for the fact that his statement checks the bizarre and insane love affair the USA has been carrying on with Israel since its inception in 1948.  Holy Cow – talk about inappropriate public display of affection!

There is something deeply unsettling about the ongoing persecution complex professed by Jews taken collectively.  You know what is more toxic than white guilt – i.e. guilt by descendants of slaveholders in the United States (if not white folks in general) … for merely being white?  It is gentile guilt – i.e. guilt for not being persecuted as the Jews were before and during WW II.  That is some sick shit if you ask me.

To my fellow Americans, I say, “Keep the Nose of State out of the business of other nations!”

To the peoples of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, et al., I say, “Tell my/our government to take a hike, withdraw its hush money, its seed money, its military bases, its soldiers, its foreign offices, and Get the HELL Out!

All future collaborations should only be – as they ever only should have been – private, voluntary, peaceful, and according to the wonderful and perfect justice of the Free Market.  In other words, let the ambassadors of our country be all those curious and courageous individuals who travel for adventure, knowledge, prosperity, and creative collaboration.  If and when this becomes the predominant state of mind, we will have a genuine chance at world peace among truly diverse nations.

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Financial, Philosophical, Political, Psychological, Separation: Church & State, Spiritual | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Obama on Osama … “He’s Dead!”

Wanted: Dead or Alive

I wonder what, exactly, inspired President Obama to give the “Go” order on the operation just reported.  According to all mainstream media sources, such as this New York Times article, Osama bin Laden was finally found, hunted down, and killed.

Excuse me for being skeptical, but I have learned by experience that the official stories given by our elected representatives are often tainted and purposefully misleading.  Examples are legion.

I sincerely hope that this report is correct, given the generally accepted reputation of Osama bin Laden as either the mastermind or the spiritual guide of the 9/11 attacks on the USA.  Even given my general belief that the United States government has, by its profoundly unjust and intemperate foreign policy of empire building and police state meddling, logically attracted antagonism and virulent hatred by various groups throughout the world, I join my fellow citizens in celebrating vengeance on a rabid dogmatist the likes of which we have rarely seen.

Osama bin Laden, the Head Cheerleader for Jihad for over a decade now, is presumably gone.  I know that by italicizing “presumably,” I will be thrown into that group of pariahs known as conspiracy theorists.  I expect it.  More accurately, though, I ought to be grouped with the I-don’t-trust-my-government-99-percent-of-the-time folks.

I’m not devious enough to know why President Obama would wait until now to plan and carry out the assault on Osama bin Laden.  Certainly, in a crowded world of 6.8 billion people, it is not necessarily easy to go find 1 man – especially a bearded turban-wearing man in a sub-continent of bearded turban-wearing men!  However, I do presume that, although the US Government is expert at wasting colossal amounts of money on overlapping triple-duty bureaucracies, it still has some reasonable intelligence gathering equipment and multi-lingual embedded personnel (a.k.a. spies) that are well-trained enough to have ferreted out this really tall bearded turban-wearing guy before now.

Why in the world would we, the United States Government, after almost 10 years of a HOLY CRUSADE against the likes of bin Laden, find him, kill him, and then dump his body in the ocean less than one day later?!

You’ve got to admit: this is pretty suspicious behaviour.

Oh, are you going to inform me that “the officials” gave us at least 2 “good” reasons for this?  Thanks, but no thanks.  Excuse #1: to forestall the enshrining of a martyr.  Excuse #2: to honor the relatively quick burial methods of Muslims.

Answer to Excuse #1: Ridiculous.  He is already a martyr to the Jihadist dogs.  They kiss his photographs and swear eternal allegiance to his memory.  True: a burial plot in a physical graveyard would have the danger of becoming a sacred destination, although a remote “unmarked” grave could have been used … or even a burial at sea AFTER the body was properly and thoroughly shown off and validated to many objective civilian DNA experts and media representatives.

Answer to Excuse #2: Preposterous.  Allowing national security, and the TRUST of US citizens, to be overridden by a sanctimonious display of respect for the burial methods of some religious sect is absurd – especially when we’re talking about “the Crime of the Century.”  Who will do the embarrassing fact checking on all the poor dead bastards at Gitmo (and other wartime sites) who were NOT buried within a 24-hour period?!

What if the timing of this hunt and kill were truly innocent?  In other words, what if Osama bin Laden really did just now come to our attention after 9 years of the most intense manhunt in world history?  What if it had nothing to do with President Obama’s intuition and political savvy for good timing in the face of lagging popularity months before the official start of his campaign for reelection?

Good.  For.  Him.

What if, despite the skeptical doubts of naysayers like me, a team of Navy SEALS really did find, trap, and kill the bearded bastard?  And, furthermore, for whatever technical and official reasons, what if they really did dump his sorry ass in the Indian Ocean in less than 24 hours?

Good.  For.  US!

Meanwhile, I will continue to be vigilant for signs of smoke and the flash of mirrors.  Even if Uncle Sam just played a straight hand – which I doubt – I don’t expect honesty to become a habit.

 

 

Posted in Constitutional, Political, Psychological, Spiritual, Technological | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Can Republicans Trump Obama?

"America, I've got what it takes!"

Today’s FoxNews article on Donald Trump’s presidential bid misstates the nature of “conventional wisdom” in the polls.  The article quotes an Obama aide in calling Trump a “sideshow,” and Karl Rove in calling him a “joke candidate.”  Yet, one of the top icons of American life, caught in the intersection of real estate wheeling and dealing and television reality show production, leads all the “GOP front-runners” in the polls.  How can this be?

The title states that this “defies conventional wisdom.”  To defy conventional wisdom implies that these early polling numbers are perceived as surprising results.  Are you surprised?

I’m not.

Donald Trump has guts.  He has style.  He even occasionally tells the truth, albeit bluntly and arrogantly.

In a hairstyle contest, Mitt Romney would win.  But Romney is a pace-setting Socialist in Republican clothing.  He showed Obama and the Democrats how to screw the nation by first screwing Massachusetts.  Romney wouldn’t know how to talk straight with a ruler.

In a proselytizing contest, Mike Huckabee would win.  But Huckabee is a Christian fundamentalist and a disingenuous huckster.

What about the other “front runners”?  Newt Gingrich?  He’s a world-class demagogue in search of a religious angle and a “winning” candidate profile.  Sarah Palin?  She’s a reality show opportunist of questionable intelligence.  Michele Bachmann?  Also of questionable intelligence, she is at least occasionally sincere.  Tim Pawlenty?  He’s just another well-dressed former governor who hasn’t quite summoned the courage to tell the truth.

What about Ron Paul?  In terms of knowledge and integrity, he is superior to the entire field.  Trump, however, has a reputation for being a superlative negotiator.  This American trait is valued and hailed by the mainstream media well above integrity and dignity.

Trump is a real American.  He’s loud.  He’s brash.  He’s willing to call a spade a spade on national television, and then partake in some good-hearted back-slapping with all his buddies in places of power.  He claims to be on a first name basis with heads of state, senators, judges, PGA golfers, half of Hollywood, and most of the TV news anchors.  They love him.  He guarantees good ratings.

Trump talks a good game, and America believes it.  He somehow balances guts and chutzpa with just enough common sense to bounce back from his latest bankruptcy hearing.  How can these other GOP candidates hope to compete with this?

Does Donald Trump stand a chance to win the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012?  Absolutely.  Would he offer the Republicrats a chance to beat Obama and the encroaching hordes of statists, socialists, and second-handers?  Perhaps.

As a libertarian, I have a built-in ability to see through the routine deceptions of the “machine party” candidates, so it’s nice to see a hint of truth creep through.  One wonders what Trump’s Achilles heel might be, other than what he shows us everyday.  I hope he lasts long enough in the Republican primaries to shake up the game.  Even though I wouldn’t vote for him, I would be applauding him all the way.

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Gender Bias, Class Action & The Supreme Court

Should the balance be legally mandated?

According to a CNN report, The Supreme Court is poised to consider a case of worker discrimination that will likely have a giant impact on the way American businesses operate.  The reason is simple: it involves the largest private employer, Wal-Mart, and half the population, women.  That means, of course, that it involves the other half: men.

The modern slant on this ancient issue is: Do women get treated fairly in the work place in terms of their compensation – which includes pay and opportunities for advancement?

One important legal question that arises here is: Should the high court waste its time with a case that, on the surface, only involves a handful of plaintiffs, and allow it to turn into a class action suit involving upwards of a million?

This case attracted my attention for two reasons.  The first is that I fundamentally challenge the moral basis of enforced anti-discrimination.  This strikes at the heart of the right (of individuals) to enter into economic relationships of their own choosing (i.e. free trade).  The second is that I am wary of mechanisms, created by government, designed to look after the interests of those who have not solicited this help.

Without going into the subtleties of class action law, let me make this simple point.  If a claim of some substantial indiscretion, deception, fraud, negligence, etc. is found to be valid in a court of law, then the individual plaintiff is due the prescribed legal remedy.  If, during the course of such a trial, it becomes clear that others may have been similarly victimized, then the judge – as representative of the government – is obliged to condemn whatever general process, platform, procedure, or program that would lead to these predicaments … and to order all of these – if they exist – corrected in the same manner as outlined in the judgement for the original plaintiff.

It is that simple.  There is no need to go beating the bushes on a prolonged, expensive, obnoxious search for other plaintiffs, and then trying to accommodate the processing of a gigantic number of legal documents.  This is an absurd waste of time, and it has led to our becoming the laughing stock of the world in terms of our justice system.

We are the Class Action Generation, and we glorify victimhood.

In my more elegant and streamlined approach, there would be a serious future cost against a business or institution that did not follow the explicit path outlined in a judgement for a plaintiff.  Any business or institution that did not immediately scan its entire structure and domain – worldwide, if necessary – to make sure that similar infractions and injustices were corrected as soon as physically possible, regardless of the cost, would be placing itself at risk for a judgement of condemnation, an order of magnitude higher and more severe than any judgement it may have had to endure due to the initial case filed by a plaintiff.

This would take the burden of procedural cost away from the government, which you and I, as taxpayers, must fund, and it puts it on only the individuals, businesses, organizations, or associations that have not done their due diligence.  In other words, we are all obliged by reality to be ever-vigilant regarding our responsible conduct and fair relations.  This would also remove the incentive for lawyers to go scouting for reasons to file lawsuits; there would be a serious decline in ambulance chasing and the filing of frivolous lawsuits.

Now that that is settled, let’s consider the problem of perception around the demon known as discrimination, or bias.  To discriminate means to make a distinction – in favor of or against – on the basis of a group, a class, or a category.  Of course, we all do this every day, all day, in countless areas of our lives.  This mechanism of looking over a myriad possible choices and then selecting one or some, and moving forward to the next set of choices, is ineluctably human.

There can be no proper governmental edict barring your or my right to do this.  Yet, this is precisely what anti-discrimination laws are all about.  They state that I, as a small business owner, or you, as the manager of a national corporation, may not freely hire employees on the basis of our own preferences.  Laws such as these have arisen due to the aforementioned reflex to embrace our victimhood.

If a company wants to hire (or serve) only whites, there is no problem.  If it wants to hire (or serve) only men, there is no problem.  If it wants to hire (or serve) only heterosexuals, again, no problem.  The reason there is no problem is that “problem” in a social, political, or economic context is only defined when there has been initiation of force.

The real problem is that there are artificial and arbitrary obstacles to entry for businesses that want to compete against companies with such narrow-minded hiring (and trading) policies.  Political action against such governmental bureaucracy and illegitimate legislation, therefore, is called for in order to remedy this.  Beyond these very real legal, technical, and financial impediments, what, really, is to stop the large number of insulted and excluded people – who were “refused” service or employment – from opening up businesses that do hire (and serve) non-whites, women, and non-heterosexuals?  The brutal answer is … nothing.

Nothing but sloth, false pride, and a fundamental confusion around integrity and responsibility.  Businesses that serve (or hire) from the pool of people who were passed over at those “bad” discriminating outfits will eventually gain the business and profits that those others refused.  Add to the natural force of free market competition, peer pressure and honest reporting, and the logical result will be that archaic discriminators will be kept to a healthy minimum.  Nobody can legitimately complain of a restaurant that only serves Muslims, or Latinos, or gays, IF there is a restaurant next door or across the street that does!

By the way, if you’re thinking that I have missed the point about companies, institutions, and groups of people who actively refused to hire (or serve) various folks in the past via violence and/or unjust governmental policies (e.g. lynching, strong-arming unions, sweetheart franchises, enforced governmental monopolies, minimum wage laws), then let me make my stance very clear.  These were (and still are) actual problems on which government must act immediately, as signaled by the initiation of force against individuals.  Government is always obliged to mitigate and/or eliminate these instances as soon as possible.

Let’s circle back to the Wal-Mart case.  Could it be that the plaintiffs – within this company that appears to have an excellent record of non-discrimination and fairness – are simply too socially lacking, too slow, too inflexible, too lazy, too grumpy, too inarticulate, too … inferior for the promotions that they believe they deserve?

And, even if they are correct – that a rational manager would promote them, so what!  I know countless friends and family members who have chosen to leave a company because of personal conflicts and differences of opinion regarding policies large and small.  These friends and family members did so without resorting to the whining stance of the grab-bagging legal victim.  They took their resentments and their anger, and they transformed these into the resolve to not make the same mistakes in the future.

Ultimately, the best and most elegant way for a society to correct cases of mismanagement regarding discrimination is, not to make it illegal but, to encourage individuals to choose more virtuous and responsible paths.  In other words, we ought to support each other and cheer when some of us occasionally need to move on and leave certain ignorant bastards in the dust.

 

 

 

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Philosophical, Political, Psychological | 2 Comments

Uncle Sam Pulling a Charlie Sheen?

"You gotta problem with that?!"

The United States of America is very much like an alcoholic-addict who is in the throes of his disease, oblivious of the harm he causes every day of his life, and not in touch with the fact that he has a chronic, fatal disease.  Uncle Sam, apparently taking a cue from Charlie Sheen’s playbook, is heading out on another round of binge drinking, snorting, and womanizing … and these equate to spending, warring, corrupting, destabilizing, and puppeteering.  In short, trying to be two and half nations instead of one.

To continue the metaphor, if Uncle Sam were forced to submit to a breathalyzer test, he would blow far beyond the minimal 0.8% blood-alcohol level that would secure a DWI.  He would be way up in the 2 – 3% range.  Yes, that would normally mean death, but he is well-connected and the County Coroner is on the take.

Uncle Sam likes to mix his medicine – uppers (starting wars), downers (launching more internal bureaucracies), and psychedelics (allowing one branch of government to usurp the jobs of the other two).  Like any real addict, Uncle Sam likes to spend like there’s no tomorrow.  He thinks nothing of blowing his entire paycheck on an all-nighter of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll … i.e. lobbying, bombing, over-taxing, pandering, and gerrymandering.  He wears slick suits in public, but back home at 3:00 AM, in his wife-beater t-shirt, he gives his wife a black eye and beats his teenage boys to within an inch of their lives.

I’m beginning to enjoy this metaphor, but it’s a bit creepy.  Who are the beleaguered wife and children in this scenario?  I guess you and I – the citizens.  We are the innocent shmucks who stick with this loser, even though all our friends, neighbors, therapists, and complete strangers told us long ago that we ought to kick the bastard out.

That’s hard, though, when Big Daddy is the police chief, the mayor, and the banker, all rolled into one.  He seems to have an endless supply of suckers that will allow him to pawn more stuff, which, for some bizarre reason, they allow him to keep even though he pays them back with Monopoly money.  Oh yeah, he’s a charmer.  Like Charlie Sheen, Uncle Sam knows how to have a good time, trash the joint, and move on to the next hotel before the management is the wiser.

As far as Uncle Sam is concerned, denial is a river in North Africa.  “Egypt?  Libya?  Tunisia?  Oh yeah … those folks know how to party.  Let’s go!

With the Recession-Depression lingering, high unemployment holding, stagflation blooming, government-run education failing, infrastructure crumbling, and health care abominating, there is no better time than the present to get on a really expensive airplane, like Air Force One, and hit the road to sell more snake oil and to schmooze with more sheiks, mullahs, dictators, and hookers.

Mark my words.  Charlie Sheen and Uncle Sam will be photographed together next week in the south of France, or Qatar, or maybe Hong Kong, getting shit-faced on radioactive Japanese sake and leaving a wake of Polynesian prostitutes in their wake.  The bill will be enormous, but that’s okay.  You and I are used to stuffing our mattresses with those pesky IOUs.  And they do help us stay warm in winter, since we can’t afford heating oil anymore.

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Humorous, Political, Psychological | Comments Off

Does Japan Have Insurance?

You can afford to do what Uncle Sam can't.

The tragedy of the month, and perhaps the year, is under way in Japan.  The news media have delivered a vivid picture of the ongoing nightmare in that unfortunate nation.  By all accounts, the Japanese are enduring horrendous conditions with their heads held high.

What can be done?  As much as we’d like there to be a quick and tidy Hollywood solution, there isn’t.  What can a sovereign nation like Japan do in the face of such a colossal environmental and civilizational disaster?

Is there such a thing as insurance for a whole nation?

An entity with the ability to insure entire nations would have to be a supra-national organization patronized and supported by tens or hundreds of independent, financially solvent, regularly paying client nations.  In today’s world of Keynesian debt-is-a-healthy-approach-to-economic-security policies, this is obviously not going to happen any millennium soon.

Of course, most individual persons and businesses have insurance, and these policies tend to mitigate the carnage in a mega disaster.  However, it is the large-scale infrastructures (e.g. transportation, communication, power) within a stricken nation that tend to behave as the “uninsured” in such scenarios.  That’s because they tend to be too large to fit under the aegis of any single protective body or organization.

This is all obvious.  What’s my point?

My point is that we humans tend to create our own disasters, by false urgency and misguided expediency.  Of course nobody yet knows how to predict earthquakes, but the Japanese people knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their nation sits on a time-bomb of tectonic activity since its founding in prehistory.  They take risks by building and living at sea level, and, to their credit, they have made awesome improvements in the science of earthquake-resistant architecture and tsunami warning.

And, they obviously under-estimated the power of Mother Earth.  They weren’t as ready as they thought.  They are giving the rest of us a valuable lesson, though, for if the A+ student is failing this badly in the class called National Disaster Preparedness, then just think how horribly the rest of the nations of the world would do on a similar test.

We Americans get tested every couple of years by floods and fires.  Then, we even get the occasional exam, like Katrina.  Our grades haven’t been too good lately.  Why?

People make two common mistakes – over and over.  1) They continue to insist on living in places where disaster is known to lurk (e.g. below sea level in parts of New Orleans) while assuming that somebody is standing by to rescue them.  2) They put their trust in an organization that is bankrupt: the United States Government.  For minor disasters, the Government can fake it, by pulling resources that were propping up other bits of infrastructure (and hoping nobody notices).  But for major disasters, the Government of the United States is less and less able to make the grade.

Japan needs help, but the United States is neither qualified nor authorized to assist.  Will this stop Uncle Sam from saddling up his white pony and riding forth?  Unfortunately, no.  The Government of the United States is addicted to playing the big shot, rushing into harm’s way and attempting to rescue victims from famines, floods, and civil wars, regardless of where on earth these occur.

The intent of the do-gooder is admirable, perhaps, but the fact of his irresponsible over-commitment and reputation of breached agreements precedes him.  The raison d’etre of government is to secure and protect the property of its citizens.  Unless and until this job is done, all other action is spurious and illegitimate.

The Government of the United States of America needs to secure the borders here.  It needs to solve the crimes here.  It needs to repair and rebuild infrastructure here.  It needs to pay off its debts, here and everywhere.  It needs to save – more than anybody can presently imagine – for the storms and cataclysms that are sure to visit us here.

If private citizens and independent (non-governmental) disaster relief agencies go to Japan on missions of mercy, they are to be lauded for their kindness, grace, and generosity.  However, the Government of the United States mustn’t play this hero’s game.  All it can afford is a get well card – and a homemade one at that.

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Financial, Philosophical, Political, Psychological | 2 Comments

Unions: Cancer in the Body Politic

"Hey Taxpayer, you're just gonna have to tighten your belt."

Governor Scott Walker, Republican leader of Wisconsin, is setting a great example by following through on his campaign promise to return state government to fiscal responsibility.  Although the odds are still high that he will falter and compromise with the Welfare- and Social Program-addicted rabble, so far he is valiantly sticking to his guns.  For that, I am impressed and inspired.

The message he and his fellow Republicans are sending to their constituents, and to the nation at large, is: “The gravy train is over.”  If Governor Walker can survive this battle against one of the most corrosive forces in America, Public Sector unions, then I predict he will be elevated into the top echelon of Republican presidential hopefuls in 2016.

Unions are a cancerous growth on the body politic of our nation.  A union is basically a large number of people who fail to take individual responsibility by giving personal feedback, making personal requests, and making a personal decision to remain in, or leave, a work situation, and who thus elect to join together as a mob to coerce, blackmail, and solicit illegitimate support from all quarters.

Our vast economy consists of nothing more than a giant integration of individual transactions.  Supply and demand.  Innovation and modification.  When an individual doesn’t want a particular product, he chooses away from it by selecting an alternative.  This decision-making behavior is the fundamental unit force in the job market as well, yet unions short-circuit the process by presuming that the individual is powerless over the demon of “management.”

Here come the flashes of anger and disbelief leveled at my callous idealism.  I can hear the crowd now – exhorting me to brush up on my history … to go read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  According to the encyclopedia, it was a fine journalistic expose.  It brought to light some hideous facts about the meat packing industry of the early 20th Century in America.  Super.

Did anybody force the workers to work in those meat packing plants, or in similar factories, in which the conditions were equally wretched?  No.  Did somebody misrepresent conditions in these plants and factories, and did this lead to accidents, disease, and death?  Probably.  Nevertheless – self-serving, dues-scavenging union bosses are not required to report deception, fraud, gross negligence, and manslaughter to the proper authorities.  The government stands ready to protect all citizens against these foul exigencies.

What was that?  The government was not standing at the ready – to protect citizens against these dirty practices?!

Well … that is a different matter.  Then it was not the formation of unions that needed to occur, but militias … and vigilante gangs.

I’m being serious here: when a government does not stand at the ready to protect average (hard-working) citizens against rape and pillage by their leaders and employers, it is time for revolution.  Revolution can occur peacefully at the ballot box, by wholesale exchange of truth-seeking advocates of justice for incumbent lying demagogues.  Or, it can occur more messily and noisily.  I suppose that’s what we’re witnessing, to a degree.  The battle at the ballot box was won in Wisconsin by a Republican majority, and it seems the Democratic minority has gone into withdrawal spasms – like a battalion of heroin addicts who have been told that their connection moved back to Afghanistan.

Making a deal with the criminal who is robbing you is not a real option.  Unions, with their stock in trade known as “collective bargaining,” are not a valid response to work place injustice.  They merely disguise and actually expand it.

And, if it’s not injustice that is the problem, then there ain’t no problem!  Remember, we live in a free country with a free market.  If you don’t like the conditions in the factory, or the mine, or the classroom, then quit whining and go start your own factory (or mine or school).  Run it the “right” way, attract all the smart workers, and put the other dumb, poor bastards out of business.

Also, quit worrying about the other individuals who are suffering in those “horrible slave-like conditions.”  It’s none of your damn business.  Let them watch you lead by example, and maybe you’ll actually teach them something – instead of power-brokering an illegitimate deal with government-entrenched thugs and scumbags.

The cancer of unions has spread and metastasized – we are at “Stage 4.”  Let’s root for Governor Walker and his co-surgeons.  If they fail to neutralize and excise the cancer, especially the virulent strain known as Public Sector unions, we will all be canceled by our insurance companies due to the same widespread pre-existing conditions: spinelessness and stupidity.

 

Posted in Constitutional, Economic, Financial, Philosophical, Political, Psychological | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments