Rights: Natural and Artificial

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Kris Morgan  6/4/2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making headlines once again. This time the Democratic Socialist is speaking as though access to affordable housing is a right. She made her point during a town-hall meeting hosted by Housing Justice for All. “Housing, she says, should be legislated as a human right. What does that mean? It means that our access and our guarantee to having a home comes before someone else’s privilege to earn a profit.”  After hearing about her proposal to make housing a ‘legislated right’, like most other libertarians, I gathered that she probably has no clue where rights come from. Unfortunately, she is not alone.

Back in 2017 The Daily Beast ran an article titled “The GOP’s twisted Reality, Where Guns Are A Right But Healthcare is a Privilege.” Author Michael Tamasky made a series of errors concerning the concept of rights which we can use to clarify the idea. This is important because, as the title of his piece reflects, there are those who fail to understand why some consider the right to own a gun sacred, yet won’t acknowledge the right to healthcare.

First, Tamasky used the dialogue between Republican Senator Johnson of Wisconsin and a High School student as a segway into republican ideas on rights. After the student asked if healthcare was a right, Senator Johnson replied “I think it’s probably more of a privilege. Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have the right to freedom. Past that point, everything else is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us so that we can afford those things.”

In the very next paragraph, Mr. Tamasky reacted with more than a touch of hyperbole: “There’s your Republican philosophy in a nutshell: Americans have no right to health care, but they do have the right to own as many assault rifles as they can get their hands on and go shoot up a concert venue.” Ignoring the part about everything being a limited resource that we use our opportunities to attain purchasing power to afford things was his first mistake. To his credit he did acknowledge this point, albeit not before making another blunder.

A key difference between the way the left and everyone else discusses rights is only the left includes funding and/or the labor of others in their definitions. For example, to conservatives and libertarians, the right to bear arms does not entail the right to a government-issued weapon, or policing sellers who wish to refuse customers from doing so. However, when the left discusses healthcare, they maintain that having others provide and pay for it is a right. This is where Tamasky went off course again. He attempted to promote the creation of an artificial right using a cost-benefit analysis.

“It costs us, and society, a lot more money than keeping people decently fed and medically cared for in the first place. And that’s part of the reason why, along with just plain old decency, many societies have decided that some goods are rights. Some degree of medical care or public health is guaranteed to citizens in more than half the world’s constitutions.”

It should be self-evident that rights are not based on whether a person or a people are going to save money by doing things differently. If this were so, one could deduce our individual finances ought to be under the lens of bureaucrats constantly making sure we are spending our money wisely. As though in the same breath, Tamasky jumps from one mistake to another by suggesting rights come from the constitution.

“But the Constitution, you say! It gives us only political rights. True. But we’ve changed the Constitution 17 times (after the Bill of Rights), and we can do it anytime we want. There’s nothing inherently un-American about making health care a right. We simply have to decide it’s so.”

The problem is our rights don’t come from the constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or any other document. Suppose we took a vote and gave white people the right to own minority servants, would the Daily Beast ever publish such an opinion? Would people of this sort of thinking have the courage to stand up and say all rights were respected because we took a vote and altered the constitution?

Tamasky makes one final blunder. He closes his article by saying “our definition of rights changes over the course of time, and rights are whatever the deliberative majority decides they are.”

Our understanding of rights may change over time, but they are not merely what a majority of people decide they are. In the libertarian view, all human beings have material needs and no life is worth more than another. This leads us to conclude that each of us has the right to peacefully acquire, consume, and dispose of property without interference from others. In this sense, the right to home-ownership, healthcare, and guns are the same; we may pursue such goods and services through peaceful means without intrusion from others, and defend our property against anyone wanting to infringe on it. Unfortunately Mr. Tamasky, through all his mental gymnastics, never bothered to look at rights from the perspective of property. We can’t help but wonder why that is.

 

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Amash

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Johnny Ordille  5/30/2019

Anyone who thinks the opinion of one person doesn’t count or can’t make an impact has been away from the TV and social media for the last few weeks.

The Mueller investigation had been wrapped up and, even though the House was going to do their own investigations, it seemed the angst that gripped and divided this country was going to fade. Maybe we could finally start healing.

But then there was one Tweet. Not from Trump, but from Republican Justin Amash of Michigan. He said the President could have “engaged in impeachable conduct” through Obstruction of Justice during the investigation. Cue the Facebook explosion.

Now, Representative Amash is an attorney, so I’m sure he has his own belief system in this regard; I am not, and I have my own. I believe that after a year and a half and approximately $30 million, the bad guys have been exposed; yet people still want to pin Russian collusion on the president. If he had been implicit, his own bluster would have given him away. He would have ratted himself out.

My concern comes from a different, non-political source.

There are those who have a manic obsession with bringing down our Commander in Chief and will stop at nothing to do it.  Let me clarify right now: I am a Libertarian and will always be; but I realize there is a Good Trump and a Bad Trump. Despite any political disagreement, it is not a reason for impeachment, especially this way.

Let’s take politics out of it if we can. Imagine that you, your husband or wife, parent or child are arrested for a crime they did not commit. Imagine now that you vehemently fight the charges, go to court, and are found not guilty only to be charged again with obstruction. I think it’s a very, very slippery slope to travel. I would hate to see law enforcement given another weapon to use as a lever against innocent people out of nothing more than pure vindictiveness — Yet we seem ok to see it happen.

This is the direct result of a government that has grown too large and too powerful. It is more intent on pitting one American against another seemingly for their own political benefit than any shot at real justice. As a matter fact, it’s going in the exact opposite direction.

Congressman Amash is entitled to his own opinion and that’s all it is. I’m all for President Trump riding off into the sunset in January of 2021, but let’s do it the right way by voting Libertarian, and growing the Libertarian Party.

 

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The Fear Game

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By Jared Miller

The world is a better place than it has ever been by almost every measure. People are living longer. Extreme poverty has been reduced by such a massive degree that it’s almost incomprehensible. The world is less violent, less dangerous, and more stable than ever.

Even average intelligence is going up so steadily that it’s causing problems for the people who make IQ tests (a score of 100 is supposed to be the exact average of the population, and the average keeps going up). Attitudes towards mental health are improving rapidly. Equality of opportunity for every person in any group we can think of is closer to reality than it has ever been. We’ve even begun to figure out how to reverse desertification!

This is the most golden of all golden ages in human history to date. And yet, all of our lives we’ve been sold the same story: fear. Fear of what that evil person across the street will do if they get their way. Fear of any worldview that might be different from our own.

Fear of all these “dangerous“ social trends that are “taking over our youth and dumbing down our nation.“ Fear that changing values equals destruction of our way of life. Fear that greater tolerance and personal freedom equals the total decay and eventual downfall of our society. Fear that ANY injustice is indicative of intentional or systemic oppression.

Almost none those fears are coming true. If they were, they would have choked out the possibility of this unprecedented era. Those that do occasionally come true rarely turn out to be the disaster they’re purported to be. Many of them, like the death of certain worldviews, have turned out to be a net positive for humanity.

It’s been the same story for years. Only minor details and the “topic of the day“ have changed. Everybody’s fighting that evil other guy that doesn’t actually exist, and they base their world around that. We don’t have to look much further than Thanksgiving dinner to see how true this is. Your uncle who watches entirely too much Fox News will inevitably get into a yelling match with your cousin sporting a Bernie tattoo. Or, everyone will just stare at each other awkwardly trying to ignore the festering, unresolved tension. That’s not going to change as long as we keep assuming it’s someone else that’s being manipulated.

We need to be honest with ourselves and each other about how easy it is to fall into the fear trap. It works so well because we believe ourselves to be above manipulation. But if we were, the engineers of these moral panics would never have realized that it’s less important for you to agree with them than it is for you to be afraid of the consequences of disagreement.

It isn’t necessary to say that the media and the government are evil. Very often this process happens without a single shred of malevolence or ill-intent. Even the most noble of people have used this tactic for no other reason than, “it works.” And because it works so well, it creates its own momentum.

“…public concern or fear over an alleged social problem is mutually beneficial to state officials—that is, politicians and law enforcement authorities—and the news media. The relationship between state officials and the media is symbiotic in that politicians and law enforcement need communication channels to distribute their rhetoric and the media need tantalizing news content to attract a wide audience which, in turn, attracts advertisers.”

Scott A. Bonn, Ph.D.

The only way to interrupt this cycle is within ourselves. No matter how we try, we’re not going to bludgeon someone over the head with “facts“ until they realize they’re being manipulated. The only way forward is to recognize how easily we ourselves are manipulated, and then act accordingly. Only by changing our own behavior can we become a backstop against the culture of constant fear.

So, stop playing the game. Recognize how satisfying it is to revel in righteous indignation. Recognize the signals you send to others in your group so they can praise you for how mad you are. And then recognize the steady flow of information that seeks to capitalize on those tendencies. The more anyone, especially someone we agree with, pushes this narrative of fear and anger, the less likely we should be to take them seriously.

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Your Questions Answered: What’s With Open Borders?

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Jared Miller 01/31/2019

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have stumbled upon the most exhausting false dichotomy in the current political landscape:

“Closed borders vs open borders.”

“Security and sovereignty vs the invasion and destruction of America.”

“Fascist racism vs compassion and basic economics.”

However it is framed, this has become an artificially unsolvable dilemma. The fake battle lines seem ever more inevitable as each side digs in against the evil, heartless, brainless other. So which one are you? Are you a fascist bootlicking nationalist that hates brown people and thinks they should be shot on sight? Or are you a brainless hippie globalist hell-bent on socialism and voter fraud?

…Or maybe there are other options. Because it seems that no one is speaking the same language. For starters, how should we even define open borders? What that means to someone who objects to them is usually not the same thing as someone who supports them. There is so much baggage heaped upon that nebulous term by people with not-so-hidden agendas that it’s best not to even use it at all. But what else is there?

There are really two different issues that everyone mashes into one. But that’s a much more complicated discussion, so it tends to morph into the standard “us versus them” oversimplification. For most libertarians, when they talk about “open borders,” they mean something closer to “Freedom of movement, not freedom of citizenship.”

Freedom of Movement…

This doesn’t necessarily mean nobody watches the border. It doesn’t mean anybody can cross anywhere they want. Some libertarians want that, for sure, but not all. Official border crossings and ports of entry are still a good idea. It is prudent to require some kind of background check, or documentation. But we already have something that would do that job — it’s called a passport. Some would want to also throw in a medical check to prevent the spread of communicable disease. Once inside, a non-citizen would be free to do as they please, so long as they don’t hurt anyone.

…Not Freedom of Citizenship

People don’t become citizens just because they are here. Citizenship is a much more heavy distinction than just physically being in the country, and any benefits of citizenship (use of free public services, any kind of welfare participation if it exists, voting, etc.) would not be afforded to non-citizens. But anyone would be free to pursue citizenship, and anyone already pursuing it would be able to move here and start their lives instead of waiting in limbo for several years on a process that isn’t guaranteed a favorable result.

Once we have an arrangement like this one, we can start tackling real logistical concerns. This isn’t the place to open the full can of immigration worms, and besides, that’s already been done thoroughly, if you care to look into it. But hopefully we can at least reframe the discussion in a productive manner. If not, this will remain one of the most divisive issues of our time with no resolution in sight.

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Cherry-picked Free Speech

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Franc Turner 12/20/2018

While it seems that most people are pretty much on the same page with the ridiculousness of banning the Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, of the “Charlie Brown” cartoon being racist, and the story of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” promoting bullying; I find it fascinating that this same attitude is completely absent when certain individuals are banned from various platforms because people were offended by what they said. Or, more accurately, “offended” by how they, themselves, interpreted what was said.

Recently, Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad; YouTube alias) and Milo Yiannopoulos were the latest in a long line of content-creators to be banned and deplatformed (and, therefore, demonetized) from earning an online living through Patreon. This same steady trend of purging dissenting voices from many locations on the fictional paradigm we like to call the “political spectrum” has been happening ever since social media outlets made an example out of Alex Jones (the over-the-top caricature of conspiracy theorists).

While I don’t particularly agree with the views of any of those aforementioned individuals, that’s not the point. Rather, this all seems to have been for the purpose of getting rid of honest voices who’ve actually had relevant, thoughtful, and thoroughly researched information to share. The various platforms and outlets tend to highlight the more outrageous of the figures in order to quietly lump together scores of other voices along with them.

The majority of these bans seem to have the common theme of random people or advertisers contacting the various platforms (whether it’s a radio station, Patreon, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, etc.) and demanding that certain content be scrapped from the airwaves. And if the outlets don’t comply, they run the risk of losing millions in ad revenue or having their reputations smeared. This kind of politically correct whitewashing of language and the manipulation of people’s perceptions, thoughts, and ideas should make a person take pause and say, “Nobody has the legitimate authority to dictate what other people say.” Who’s to say that your own thoughts on matters won’t be next in line for the chopping block, just because someone else didn’t like it?

Allowing this kind of blatant and unabashed censorship in our society through complacency, indifference, or an inability to handle one’s own emotions is actually how the strong-armed bullying of authoritarianism is allowed to foment and grow. There’s a reason why freedom of speech is the First Amendment of the Constitution. Freedom of speech is among the most important of individual liberties due to the monumental significance of dissenting points of view. That’s why it was penned in the first place.

Censorship, on the other hand, and in all its forms, is a representation of fear. It is a fear of change, a fear of diversity, and most of all: a fear that your concepts and ideas might be wrong. Truth fears no scrutiny. So if certain venues are on the side of sanitizing, sterilizing, and purging any ideas that are subjectively controversial, uncomfortable, or offensive; perhaps it’s time for other avenues of free expression to take their spots.

 

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George H.W. Bush: Legacy of Crimes

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Franc Turner 12/8/2018

By the looks of the news reports, one would get the impression that George H.W. Bush was a great man, a great President, and a champion of freedom. It’s even more surprising when these sentiments, which propel the former President to nearly saint-like status, come from “liberalmedia outlets. But then again, this is how propaganda works; and it goes to show how short people’s attention spans really are.

While I do not celebrate the passing of anyone, I also will not pretend that #41 was a noble person who deserves scores of accolades upon his demise. It would be the equivalent of the news media praising Charles Manson and pretending he was a great and humble person when he passes. The only thing both of these guys were great at was brainwashing people into committing mass murder to further their own agenda.

While promoting himself as a champion of christian and family values, George H.W. Bush was responsible for more innocent deaths than any modern day mass shooter could’ve ever dreamed of. Yet, you’ll never hear that from an anchor on CNN.

All one has to do is look up Bush Sr.’s role in the funding and arming of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This was before his own administration fabricated justifications to sway public opinion for U.S. intervention in the first Persian Gulf conflict (see Nayirah al-Sabah’s false testimony). One can also look at Bush Sr.’s involvement in the Iran Contra scandal, and his subsequent pardoning of those who were involved when he, himself, became President. The “humble” nature of Bush Sr. can also be seen in the events his government facilitated at Ruby Ridge. Not to mention the fact that his CIA was largely responsible for drug trafficking into the United States. Bush and company were publicly engaged in the farce called the “war on drugs”; against the very drug culture that they, themselves, fostered.

As far as Bushes go, he definitely was not the only member of his family who turned out to be an authoritarian lunatic. His father, Prescott Bush, along with others, wanted to overthrow FDR’s administration and install a fascist dictatorship modeled after Hitler’s Germany while simultaneously funneling money to Nazi Germany through his Union Banking Corporation. And it goes without saying that George Bush, Jr. followed in his family’s footsteps, initiating a multi-generational War on Terror which has destroyed countless more lives while fueling the very terror it said it would eradicate.

News outlets are more than happy (and pathologically programmed) to condemn people’s everyday speech and apparent political leanings. They condemn one’s support (or lack thereof) for specific modern day puppet politicians. They declare insignificant opinions/statements/jokes/actions as being completely unacceptable, “shame-worthy”, racist, and “fascist”. They even go so far as to inspire groups who call themselves “anti-fascists”; or more popularly, “antifa.” Yet when it comes to an actual fascist family who epitomizes every one of those characteristics, the media calls them patriotic and humble servants, implying they are/were genuine leaders who deserve our respect, adoration, and remembrance.

This reinforces the idea that our leaders have the United States’ best interests at heart, and have worked towards making life better for those of us at home. In the words of George Carlin, “The government doesn’t give a fuck about you. They don’t care about you… at all. At all. AT ALL.” I’m willing to bet that this same kind of emotional outpouring and adulation will also be given to Trump twenty or so years from now by the same media who apparently despise him today, and/or by everyday liberals. Because by that time, a different puppet president will be in office and he/she will be the focus of ire for people who have forgotten the crimes of the past.

George Orwell, himself, would probably look at these whitewashings of history today and say, “Yeah, like that. I tried to warn you guys.”

“War is Peace! Ignorance is Strength! Slavery is Freedom!” -George Orwell; from the novel 1984.

 

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Ocasio-Cortez’s Blueprint For Failure

46954939_506638016411489_8608785233526915072_nKris Morgan 11/8/2018

In this year’s midterm election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to the House Of Representatives at age 29. Love her or hate her, you have heard of her. According to her bio, “she thoroughly defeated 10-term New York Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district in the state’s Democratic primary, with close to 58 percent of the vote. It was her first time running for office, and as a Democratic Socialist of Puerto Rican descent, her stunning victory over the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House was a boon to the progressive change that many liberal voters have been demanding.”  So what is it about her message that makes her so popular?

Top issues listed on her campaign website include medicare for all, a peace economy, abolishing ICE, addressing climate change, and higher education. Since some of these topics have been addressed elsewhere, I’d like to examine her proposals with regards to climate change, higher education, and a peace economy.

When discussing a peace economy, Cortez claims that the wars in the Middle East are unjust and lists the benefits of bringing the troops home. “In times when we’re told that there’s not enough money, Republicans and corporate Democrats seem to find the cash to fund a $1.1 trillion fighter jet program or a $1.7 trillion-dollar nuclear weapon “modernization” program. The costs are extreme: the Pentagon’s budget for 2018 is $700 billion dollars, all to continue fighting an endless War on Terror and re-fighting the Cold War with a new arms race that nobody can win.”

While libertarians agree with the message of peace, Cortez misses the point of her own argument. It seems she is perfectly content being against Democratic Socialism when tax money is spent on things she doesn’t approve. Furthermore, she fails to recognize that public funds always counter the wishes of the people, regardless of whether they’re spent on war or domestic programs. If this were not so, taxation would not be a necessary means, as people would freely spend their money accordingly.

On the matter of higher education, she would like public colleges to be tuition free and for the Federal Government to buy all privately held loans. Her campaign site then makes the following prediction: “A policy of debt cancellation could boost real GDP by an average of $86 billion to $108 billion per year. Over the 10-year forecast, the policy generates between $861 billion and $1,083 billion in real GDP (2016 dollars).” This is a specific and bold claim, and is projected over a 10 year period, meaning if it doesn’t pan out, it will be forgotten about while Cortez remains in power. At any rate, let’s look at its origin.

The finding is based on a paper published by the Levy Institute called The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation. The idea is students could use money they presently spend on loan payments on other tangible items such as televisions, cars, etc. The question is of course: isn’t this really just a massive redistribution of resources away from education and into consumer goods? The government’s role, according to the report, is as follows: “The federal government would either purchase and then cancel, or, equivalently, take over the payments on student debt currently held by the private sector. As with the ED’s loans, if the government purchases the privately held loans it can choose to cancel them immediately or as borrowers’ payments come due.” Initially, it may appear as though this strategy would boost GDP. However, it will be absorbed into the overall burden on the economy via the tax bill, inflation, or both. Pretending we can always kick the debt can down the street is how we came to be over $21T in debt. No thanks. In the long run it will destroy economic activity through these distortions.

Finally, we come to climate change. Ocasio-Cortez believes we should have a Green New-Deal, “a transformation that implements structural changes to our political and financial systems in order to alter the trajectory of our environment… We need to avoid a worldwide refugee crisis by waging a war for climate justice through the mobilization of our population and our government.” This is what every climate-denier really fears, that climate change is nothing more than a front for socialists to seize control over the economy. Indeed, many refer to environmentalists as ‘watermelons’, as they appear green on the outside, but are red on the inside.

Libertarians have a method of dealing with pollution while simultaneously upholding free market principles through a strict respect for private property rights. According to an article at FEE, “The pollution problem is fundamentally a property rights problem. Consider it: history’s greatest environmental disasters are defined by the fact that their perpetrators violated others’ property rights without full and proper recompense. The offenders unfairly and coercively impose their costs, those associated with the operations of their businesses.”

Critics will say something like “that’s all good in theory, but the reality is the free market pollutes.” To that, I would invite the reader to consider the opposite is true. The idea that government regulations will protect the environment is the false gospel here. “When environmentalists complain that the government should do more to protect the environment, they seem not to realize that the federal government already holds most of the power and natural resources—that this fact is itself the source of the moral hazard giving rise to the most serious environmental problems.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a sign of what is to come. Millennials have inherited a troubled economy and endless warfare, and are looking for a soft landing. Unfortunately they are looking towards the socialists rather than the capitalists. It would behoove them as well as those in the future to consider that the same government which has mismanaged foreign policy and the economy is also responsible for their education, and their perspective as a result.

In spite of what is taught in schools, the United States has taken on many aspects of central planning over the decades. These include a central bank, public schooling, a progressive income tax, over a century of mismanagement in healthcare, military-industrial complex, prison-industrial complex, and so on. Considering the institution of slavery and the mercantilist system we started with, the capitalist experiment has not been around very long. In the years since, increased interventionism has lead to some pretty dark places, and where we are now. But that is because government interventions have grown more intense over those same decades; it is not a coincidence. Where government reach is, capitalism is not.

 

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Individuals are inherently free to make choices for themselves and must accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices. No individual, group, or government may rightly initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Libertarians reject the notion that groups have inherent rights. We support the rights of the smallest minority, the individual.

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Individuals are inherently free to make choices for themselves and must accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. Our support of an individual’s right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices. No individual, group, or government may rightly initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Libertarians reject the notion that groups have inherent rights. We support the rights of the smallest minority, the individual.

 

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