11 December 2009

Ah, Motherland

Razing the Servile State VI

Whenever I deny in conversation that we have collective duties (as I did here), I'm usually told, "Now, surely you agree that some things, like the education of our children, are so important as to be publicly funded." In fact, I don't. As I've said, we have no children; society has no children. The state has no children to educate. I have children; you have children. Your children are yours to educate, and my children are mine to educate. The fact that we are encouraged to think "we" have children to educate leads me to believe that something other than education is the agenda. It is this other agenda that turns me off to the idea of public education.

Language differences notwithstanding, public education can no doubt work if limited to reading, writing, and arithmetic. We can even add elementary principles of geometry, the natural sciences, and the principles of our system of government (maybe!). The difficulties appear when we go farther than these. Teaching turns into indoctrination because it is not feasible to represent to children (including adolescents) all the aspects of a problem and to let them choose between dissenting views. (It isn't feasible because of the number of dissenting views on contentious issues. Trying to cover them all, even if one wanted to try, adds to the time it takes to get an education, and, for that reason, the cost. It also is not feasible because those whose children are being educated in all of these dissenting views, will either not want their children to receive instruction in all these dissenting views or not be satisfied that all views are receiving equal allotments of time.) Moreover, it is not very easy to find teachers who can teach views with which they disagree in a way which would satisfy those who hold such views. When it comes to these contentious matters, the party operating the schools is in a position to promulgate its views and to disparage all others. In many, if not most cases this usually results in lawsuits, as, for example when parents don't want their children to read the Bible -- even as literature -- or about Heather's two mommies or Mike's two dads, or when parents don't believe any theory but some form of Darwinism counts as "scientific" and sue schools to keep out the teaching of creationism or intelligent design.

If all education were private, there would be none of these difficulties. And yet, we are still encouraged to believe in the superiority of public education. This wouldn't be so bad if private schools (and home schoolers) were left alone, and the public schools required to demonstrate their superiority by creating a better "product". If private schools and home schoolers were left alone, it would be difficult to attribute ulterior motives to public educators. But there are some places where private schools and home schoolers are subject to severe burdens, burdens so heavy as to lead one to believe that the purpose is to drive them out of operation. Some of the methods are well disguised, I must say. For example, H.J. Res. 29, introduced 3 March 2009, proposes an amendment to the Constitution which provides that all persons shall enjoy the right to a public education and that Congress shall have the right to enforce this provision through "appropriate" legislation. That seems innocuous, even generous, until you realize that (unless we're talking about university education) everyone who wants a public education can already have one; or, we should say, everyone who wants a public education for his child can have one. One must wonder, therefore, what can be the purpose of such a constitutional amendment? Why, to keep parents from violating their children's rights to a public education! Let us note that the amendment does not seek to protect rights either to a private education or to a home education, but rather a public one.

This is nothing new, really. In the introduction to his Christianity and Liberalism, Gresham Machen mentioned a law in the state of Nebraska which forbade instruction by means other than English, as well as the teaching of any language other than English (12). "The minds of the people of Nebraska...are to be kept by the power of the state in a permanent condition of arrested development." He also mentioned a 1922 Oregon law requiring all children in the state to attend public schools, thus wiping out of existence all private schools in the state. At the same time in history, a New York state law provided that, "No person, firm, corporation or society shall conduct, maintain or operate any school, institute, class or course of instruction in any subjects whatever without making application for and being granted a license from the university of the state of New York to so conduct, maintain or operate such institute, school, class or course" (13, n. 2).

All of these state and federal actions assume that the state has some interest in your child's education. But to say that the state has a vested interest in your child's education is just to say that your neighbors have this interest. How is this? How can your neighbors assert a right to peer into, and exercise any control over, the education of your children, without the assertion, on some level, of ownership of your children? In a certain sense, it's not really as bad as all that. I daresay the vast majority of your neighbors don't really care, as long as your children aren't causing trouble. But in an important sense, it really is as bad as all that because it's really a matter of some of your neighbors, as private citizens, thinking they, as private citizens, have a vested interest in your child. And the state is simply the means they employ of managing this interest. These are people who, in contrast with people like me, don't believe you and I have children: they believe you and I have their children. Oh, they may do a lot of talk about "our" children, but they mean theirs; they just don't want us to know it. If you stop listening to them and pay attention to the laws they want passed, or the laws they succeed in having passed; if you pay attention to what they do when they have their children eight hours per day -- by their deeds you should know them. And their children are theirs to educate. They believe the state has, as someone recently explained to me (with a straight face), a "vested interest" in our children.

A "vested" interest in anything, much less our children? I was unable to ask this person if he even knows what it means to have a "vested" interest, but it can have one of two possible meanings (neither of which were specified for me in this brief conversation). In the legal sense, to have a vested interest means that one has a right, even title, to a thing, and, along with it, the right to dispose of the thing (sell, transfer). The important element is the element of interest: I'm not sure people who use the phrase "vested interest" really know precisely what it means. Interest is a general term, employed to denote a right, claim, title, or legal share in something. When used in reference to lands or real things, the term is used in connection with other terms such as 'estate,' 'right,' or 'title.' More importantly, for my purposes here, it means a right to have the advantage accruing from something, or someone. We're talking about a property right. How does the state (really only just some of your neighbors) come to have a right, claim, title, or legal share in your children? (The aforementioned person told me that it's just a matter of settled law, as if that is an explanation. Slavery used to be a matter of settled law, too. Abortion presently is a matter of settled law. So, I don't think talk of "settled" law really, well, settles anything.)

In a non-legal sense (e.g., in communications theory) it means that the education of children has consequences such that the state is affected. Since the state is the means by which some control others, what this really means is that some of your neighbors think that your child's education so affects them as to give them a say in it. They have an interest in the out-come of your child's education, so they get a say in it. It escapes notice that, since everything we do really affects just about everyone else (or has the potential to do) this argument is actually one which justifies totalitarianism.

Now, whether these people use "vested interest" in the legal sense or the non-legal, the notion should make us a bit uncomfortable. Either the state has an ownership claim upon our children, which is to say that some of our neighbors have this claim; or the state (i.e., some of our neighbors) has an interest in the outcome of our children's education. Whichever it is, we should ask how this interest came to be. We might ask, with regard to the legal sense, who has done this "vesting". I think we'll be told "we" did. And because "we" have done, our children are basically theirs and they will decide what their children are to learn, when, and how.

The point of public education is, and always has been, the control by some of the education of all. And this notion of a "vested interest", the mutual ownership of each other implied in use of the terms "we", "our" and "us", is another one of the dogmas of our own servile state. And when our ancestors first bought into the idea that education was such a good as to be provided at "public" expense, they laid the first cobble stone for the road to universal health care; for if education is that great and important a good, then health care is much more such a good. The same justifications are used for both.

So, the answer is, no, I don't think education is such a good as to be provided at public expense. The state does not have a vested interest, legal or otherwise, in our -- not their -- children's educations. And believing it does only empowers the servile state further.
19 November 2009

Everything's amazing; but no one's happy

Some historical perspective from Jefferey Tucker

H/T: Instituto Juan de Mariana
17 November 2009

"We", the people

Razing the Servile State V

Are we going to take the hands of the federal government completely off any effort to adjust the growing of national crops, and go right straight back to the old principle that every farmer is the lord of his own farm, and can do anything he wants, raise anything any old time, in any quantity, and sell any time he wants? ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

We are one in the State

Another of the dogmas of our servile state is that there is a thing called "society", which is superior to individuals and even has a collective mind of its own. "We", as a society, are more important than "I". Moreover, "we" and "I" are related such that, in some significant ways, something "I" have is something "we" have. The servile state needs us to think in terms of "we" because it needs us to believe that all of the significant things in life are accomplished, by this "society", seeking its collective good through the state, not by individuals seeking personal satisfaction or self-interest. (That would be almost immoral!) The servile state needs us to think like this, otherwise the justification for much that it does evaporates. For example, "I" have a duty to the poor; so do you. Clearly, "we" have a duty to the poor, unless you want to argue that no one has a duty to the poor. (The State -- the march of God upon earth -- never exactly informs us how we come to have these duties. Its prophets tell us we have these duties and that shirking these duties would put us, heaven forbid, on the wrong side of history. But I digress).

That "we" have a duty to the poor is to say "society" has a duty to the poor -- "its" poor. The poor are "ours" to do something about. "We", the argument generally goes, can really only fulfill our obligation to "our" poor by government action. To take care of "our" poor most efficiently, the state must be "our" agent. Only by mean of the state can "society" do its duty to its poor. Otherwise, provision for our poor will be chaotic, anarchic -- you doing one thing for some of the poor, me doing another thing for others of the poor. (And, worse, some of us doing nothing.) There are those whom we as individuals cannot reach; or those who cannot avail themselves of the provisions you and I make. What is to happen to them? The only way "we" can fulfill "our" obligation to the poor is by government programs: government, with it's virtually unlimited resources, can reach into places we, as individuals, cannot and provide a safety net.

Of course, if you and I ("we") have this duty, then, arguably, so does everyone else, even if they don't recognize such a duty. This points to another superiority in having "our" duty to the poor fulfilled by government: some people are obviously not (unlike you and I) employing their (personal) means to fulfill their duties to the poor. Since government exists to make sure we all perform our all of our obligations (right?) it makes perfect sense that government should employ tax law to ensure that these people also perform their duties. If the State is not doing it, then "we" are not doing it. This sad state of affairs cannot be permitted to exist. By means of state power, then, even those who recognize no duty to the poor can be made to do their duty. (Never mind that they don't think they have this duty. "We" know better. "We" know which is the right side of history.)

Yours, mine, and ours

All of this sort of thinking is true for any other problems "we", as a "society", may have: homelessness, drop-out rates, the high costs of university education, health care, even obesity. "We" have a duty in these matters; and government is rightly employed as "our" agent in doing "our" duty. "We" must do something about "our" obesity problem, like appoint an Obesity Task Force. It's for "our" children, after all. Now, you might think it's not "our" obesity problem. The only people who have an obesity problem are the obese, those specific individuals who happen to be obese; and it's their problem. Their obesity can be a problem for "us" only if "we" have a property interest in their persons. Formerly, the assertion by one person of property rights in another person was called slavery. And that used to be bad. Now, it's not called slavery, so long as the ownership of each of us is by all of us, instead of by any one of us. I cannot own another person, but "we" can. (Note, however, that this mutual ownership does not extend to the womb: "we" still cannot prohibit a woman killing her unborn child. It also does not extend to our sexual organs: "we" cannot prohibit pre- or extra-marital sexual relations, certainly not homosexual relations. Unless, perhaps, the state, which soon may be paying our health care bills, decides that it's in "our" best, collective, interest to prohibit certain sexual acts between certain sorts of people. I don't say which sorts of people, but don't worry, it's for our collective good. But I have digressed.)

You would, of course, be wrong to think that obesity is a problem only for the obese. Why? Because "we" know better. And "we" can't let you get away with thinking like that: it's selfish. Besides, if this notion, that what I have and what you have is something that "we" have, were rejected, much that government presently does would also have to be rejected. If "we" do not have a duty such that government is "our" agent in fulfilling "our" duty, then government acts improperly -- immorally -- in taking resources from us (individually) without our (individual) consent. (Our collective consent matters only if our property is collective.) Government simply becomes the means whereby those who control it do as it pleases them to do, with other peoples' resources, calling those resources "our resources".

All this talk of "we" reminds me of the answer my parents used to give when I asked, "How much money do we have?"

"We," they always told me, "have no money. Your mother and I have some money. You have whatever you've saved of your allowance. But we have no money."

No "I" in Team

We have the same problem when it comes to the decisions that "we" make. These decisions always assume that the resources involved are "ours". "We" have enough money. There is no reason why "we" cannot provide for universal health care coverage. There is no reason why "we" cannot educate "our" children the way other nations educate "their" children, no reason, in fact, why "we" cannot give all of "our" children the same education. "We" must work together. What very few of us seem to understand is that we have no money; we have no children to educate. (If you and I have children then you must be my wife -- or a previous girlfriend.)

Furthermore, on the subject of the decisions that "we" make, this notion that "we" (for all practical purposes) have all things in common means that public is superior to private. We get a hint of this notion from the rejection of the claim that the market can and will police and regulate itself, as well as that there is no problem with a public option health care plan making end-of-life decisions because, as His Beatitude Himself has said, "Those decisions are being made now" (i.e., privately, which is bad). "We" can only dispose of "our" resources publicly. That which is public is for selfless purposes, and is for people, while that which is private is for self-interest, and is for profit. So long as the notion that public is superior to private persists, the servile state is here to stay. And this notion rests in turn on the notion that "we" are more important than "I"; the individual doesn't matter. You can really only believe that public is superior to private if you don't think very highly of the individual. As Political Officer Putin said in "The Hunt for Red October", "Privacy...is often contrary to the public collective good." The public sector serves the collective good, all that is good for all people in the community, not just some of the people. That sounds reasonable, until you realize that, in fact, what is good for all people in a given community is really decided by just some of the people, a handful of individuals, in a given community. On a national scale it's even worse: You simply cannot have a 300 million member community. You can say you have it; but you don't. And, of course, as long as the people you're controlling think a 300 million member community is possible you'll continue to be able to control them. (You'll need to make sure no one is able -- allowed -- to change their minds. But how could you possibly do that?)

In pursuit of "our" common destiny, we are often told that "we" are in "this" together. Being in this together, whatever "this" is, justifies collective action. Because "we" are all in "this" together we can't permit an individual to say, "I'm not in 'this' with you." And we must each pay our fair share. This justifies not only the income taxes we pay, but the government's possession of so much knowledge of our sources of income (and our expenditures) as to be able to ascertain whether we each are paying our fair share. Of course, in the same way that only a fraction of us decide what "our" collective good is, a fraction of us also decide what this "fair" share is. Apparently, "we" think one's "fair" share increases as one's income does. But what is the "this" in which "we" all are in? We should really know, because whatever "this" is, it means we're all living the same shared life, pursuing the same shared goal in accordance with the same shared plan, or that we should be. We must be mobilized like an army; anything we do, we must all do, even if some of us don't want to do. And anyone who objects is a traitor.

Strange Bed-fellows

This vision of unity has had some interesting supporters over the years. And they haven't been fans of liberty. "Unity" -- as used by this type, is the motto of empire-builders. This is especially true of empire-builders who like democracy; it provides a patina of legitimacy: the people ("we") have spoken, so we have the consent of the governed. Unity is more important than liberty, which is, in fact a threat to our unity.

France once consisted of a multitude of provinces; and most Frenchmen thought of themselves as citizens of their respective provinces, not as citizens of a nation-state called France, a republic, "one and indivisible" (sound familiar?). France, to these people, was little more than a region of Europe, a relatively loose band of independent provinces. It was not a single entity. The declaration of the existence of this artificial man known as The French Nation, or The Republic of France, meant the demolition of all those smaller units, the provinces. (And this, whether the people in those provinces wanted this demolition or not.) Even during the monarchy, France was still a highly decentralized region. In 1789 there were 80 provinces, each with its own laws, its own customs, its own political traditions, its own history of resistance. The frenchman's sense of nationality, to the extent that he had one, was tied to the specific province in which he lived. As late as 1871 a study revealed that two-thirds of French public school children did not identify France as their nation, but instead named Alsace, Aquitaine, or Normandy as their nation! Few of them spoke the language which the government had designated as French. To create what we now know as France, those who wanted to create it had to flatten out all these regions, all their unique laws, all their unique customs, all their unique political traditions, all their languages. In short, for the sake of this France, the liberties of these people to think had to be flattened -- the liberty to think of themselves as Alsacian, or Aquitainian, or Norman had to be stamped out. They were going to be Frenchmen, and think of themselves as such, whether they wanted to or not.

The present state of affairs -- "unity" -- did not merely happen, and not just in France. It was through a concerted effort, from the top, down, by people who always know better than the ignorant masses. They know what the ideal sort of nation is. They also know that everyone should want this ideal nation to be realized. On 7 September 1789, Emmanuel Sieyes said, in the Constituent Assembly, "France must not be an assemblage of small nations, each with its own democratic government. She is not a collection of states. She is a single whole, made up of integral parts. These parts must not have each a complete existence of its own. For they are not wholes, joined in a mere federation, but parts forming a single whole.... Everything is lost once we consent to regard the established municipalities, the districts, or the provinces as so many republics joined together only for the purposes of defense and common protection." (Quoted by Donald Livingston, here.) The only adequate response to people like Sieyes is, "Oh, yeah? Says who?" Really, who says France must not be an assemblage of small nations? And on what authority? We are not told.

The same thing happened in Germany. What we now know as Germany was an agglomeration of independent smaller kingdoms, principalities and city-states. Even during the period of the so-called Holy Roman Empire, this was true. The Emperor's power was severely restricted and the territories of the empire were ruled by the kings, princes, dukes and even bishops or abbots of the member-territories of the Empire. The Emperor at no time could simply issue decrees or govern autonomously. In the empire's final years, his few powers were restricted by the Peace of Westphalia, which required him to submit to all decisions of the Reichstag. From 1648 until the Napoleonic wars, Germany consisted of some 234 countries, 51 free cities, and about 1,500 independent knightly manors. Of this multitude of independent political units, only Austria counted as a great power, and only Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Hannover could be considered major political players. This remained the case until the process of unification began, in the 19th century, by Napoleon, who created the Confederation of the Rhine, and was completed under Bismark, who also created the Prussian welfare state, noting how, in Napoleon III's France, people who looked forward to government pensions were much more amenable to increasing government regulation of their daily affairs, having been bound to the state through "chains of gratitude", as one of Bismark's advisors reportedly put it.

The names associated with this idea of unification should alert us: Sieyes, Napoleon, Bismark, Hitler (well, it's true), and Marx; and let's add Hamilton, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Herbert Hoover and, certainly, FDR. These are not friends of liberty.

What these all have in common when you think about it is a denial of the notion, expressed in The Declaration of Independence, of the consent of the governed. Sieyes and his ilk gave no attention to the question whether the people living in those small nations with their own democratic governments and traditions wanted to live in integral parts of his "single whole". They did not matter. Consent of the governed? Pish-posh. Sieyes knew what France should be. Bismark and his ilk knew what Germany should be. Hamilton and his ilk knew what the United States should be. As I said, those who love this vision of unity are not lovers of liberty. They do not permit you to think of yourself in terms that satisfy you. Here, in the United Servile States of America, one should not, indeed one dare not, think of himself first as a Texan (or a Californian, or Alabamian) and then an American. (Of course, this is not as objectionable as thinking of oneself as a Christian, or a Muslim, first and then an American.) One must always think of himself as an American first. And, as an American first, one cannot really even think of himself as an individual. An American is, first of all, a subject of the government seated in Washington.

"But James," someone will say, "what about co-operation? We need to co-operate with each other. This go-it-alone, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality is what got us into our current economic mess." But the fact is, there is little point in encouraging co-operation. We are co-operating -- whether we want to or not. There is as much need in extolling to us the virtues of co-operation as there is in remonstrating with a team of horses on their need to co-operate with each other. A team of horses co-operate because they have no choice but to do so: they've been hitched up and their efforts are co-ordinated (dictated) by The Driver. All of "us" are co-operating in saving the planet, even if some of "us" don't think it really needs saving (or, at least, not in the way "we" are going to do it). All of "us" are co-operating in saving companies deemed "too big to fail", even if some of "us" think they should fail. All of "us" are paying for the public education of "our" children, even though some of us are also paying (or have already paid) for the private education of our own children. Oh, we're co-operating. Some of "us" just don't realize how much -- and how little -- choice "we" have in the matter.

Part VI
19 October 2009

The New Patriotism

(Razing the Servile State IV)

[T]here is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But...I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose.... ~ Thomas Jefferson.
Habit is the most shameful disease because it makes us accept any misfortune, any pain, any death. Through habit we live with odious people, we learn to bear chains, to submit to injustices, to suffer; we resign ourselves to sorrow, to solitude, to everything. Habit is the most merciless poison because it enters us slowly, silently, grows little by little, nourished on our unawareness, and when we discover we have it in us, our every fiber has adjusted to it, our every action is conditioned by it, there is no medicine in existence then that can cure us. ~ Orianna Fallaci, A Man

In this posting I mentioned a certain paradox involved in one of the dogmas underlying our own United Servile States of America, the dogma that the state is owed virtually unquestioned obedience, and to some extent, even a modicum of adoration, by its subjects. (And, if not the State, then, at least to some, the Head of State.) It's a paradox because this union of free and independent states owes its existence to the fact that the founders dared first to question and then to deny obedience to the British Crown. What I mean by "virtually unquestioned obedience" is that one may question, one may challenge, but in the end, after the questions and the challenges, one should obey. This mentality, if accepted by the Founders (excuse me, the so-called Founders), would have had the Boston Tea Party and similar acts, but never, ever, The Declaration of Independence. And certainly there would have been no war to pursue the ends set forth in the Declaration. The colonists questioned and challenged. But eventually, they also refused to obey. Big time. And what they refused to obey was an increasingly extra-constitutional government. A king who did not have to obey the laws was not worthy to receive obedience from his subjects.

Why did the Revolution come? (Actually, it was a secession, but never mind that just now.) Was it just a matter of high taxes? Did they just wake up and say, "We don't need this King business anymore"? The Revolution can be difficult to understand, because we just really don't understand the legal grounds set forth in the Declaration. The Declaration was much more than a bitch list; it was a list of charges and specifications. It was an indictment. The Declaration of Independence accused King George of violating the law of the land; he, the one whose office it was to enforce the laws had violated the most basic and important of those laws: the British constitution. The King of England may very well have desired to execute the revolutionaries as rebels, but that would have been an instance of the pot calling the kettle black. It was his own violation of the law, the argument in the Declaration goes, which effectively severed the ties between him and his subjects in the colonies. Having broken that law himself -- repeatedly -- he had no business insisting upon obedience. Furthermore, his own unlawful acts were acts of war against the colonies, making him the enemy of the colonies. (They may have been unduly influenced by Rutherford's Lex Rex.)

The Old Patriotism

The old patriots were a vastly different breed of men. Among other things, they would occasionally tar and feather tax collectors and customs officers. They objected to most of the laws they lived under because they objected to the idea of "virtual" representation, preferring direct representation, by which they meant that the British parliament should be composed of members of each of the geographical areas in which the British subjects lived. The Government, however, accepted the notion that Parliament conducted business for the entire empire. This difference of opinion is what raised the matter of taxation without representation, as well as that of the consent of the governed, both of which notions go back to Magna Charta.

The Old Patriotism was a patriotism of resistance to authority exercised extra-constitutionally. That's an important point: the Founders didn't have a problem with authority per se, but with authority exercised extra-constitutionally, especially when it came to taxes. This is the import of the clause in the Declaration that King George III had "combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation." In referring to our constitution they were not speaking of the Constitution of the United States (it didn't exist); they were speaking of the British constitution, even referring to "our British brethren." The Old Patriotism didn't die right away after the Revolution. Thomas Jefferson actually received death threats -- in writing -- while in office. One anonymous writer wrote: "Thomas Jefferson. You are the damdest fool that God put life into. God **** you." (Try that today!) I don't think President Jefferson sent anyone after these people. Death threats and cursing with eternal damnation -- try that today. Heck, let a man exercise his constitutional right to bear arms, even at a venue attended by the President and the pusillanimous patriots on the left will be all up in arms over it, so to speak. (My own dear mother fears for me referring to President Obama as "His Beatitude" or "His Humptiness", wondering how long I'll get away with it. Get away with it -- my how times have changed. At least I haven't called him the "damdest fool that God put life into" -- not that I would.)

The New Patriotism

By contrast, we should say that the New Patriotism (a patriotism which comes in Left and Right varieties) is a patriotism of acquiescence, even in the face of "a long train of [extra-constitutional] abuses" beginning, arguably, with the causes of the War for Southern Independence. (Some would have it that alone demonstrates a lack of patriotism on my part.) King George III should have been so lucky as to rule over a people as acquiescent as we have become. Let some officeholder engage in an extra-constitutional act (wage and price freezes, gold seizures, discarding of states' rights, telling us which light bulbs we may install in our own homes, which cars we may buy, how fuel-efficient they must be, whether property-owners may decide whether to permit smoking on their property, etc) and we'll whine, moan, groan, gripe and complain. But, in the end, while it does not go on unnoticed, it does go on unchallenged. The Old Patriotism meant loving your country and your countrymen enough to hold rulers accountable to the laws. A ruler who would not himself obey the laws was the very definition of a tyrant, regardless the level of his benevolence. The New Patriotism (should we call it "Yankee Patriotism"?) means loving your country so much as to accept any number of violations of the law of the land, rather than invoke "consent of the governed" and dissolve the political bands which would bind people to such government. And that (i.e., this "new" patriotism) put an end to any effective challenge to law-breaking officeholders.

For the left, the new patriotism means subordinating oneself to the state when the state is pursuing leftist goals. So, if this be the case then true patriotism is to pay one's taxes. To be a tax resistor, like, say, one of the founders, is to be unpatriotic. Paying ones taxes, even to a government which acts as extra-constitutionally as good old King George, is a most holy, patriotic service. To criticize a President for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize amounts to siding with the nation's enemies. For the left, despite their "Founders" talk, the Founders were actually as nutty as those anti-government American Patriot Movement types. For the left, who secretly love strong arm leadership tactics (except when it serves what they mistakenly call free market capitalism, but is really state capitalism, or Crony Capitalism), King George must really be a secret hero of theirs. Sort of the antithesis of the homophobe who is really a latent homosexual, the left, for all their talk of loving liberty, really love tyranny. And patriotism is service to their tyrannical (but benevolent) aspirations.

For the right, the new patriotism means subordinating oneself to the state when the state is pursuing rightist goals, what they (also mistakenly) call free market capitalism. So if the state declares war, and cannot fill the ranks of the military with volunteers (unpatriotic bastards!) and there is a draft, patriotism means submitting to this forced labor arrangement, doing your patriotic duty. Accept the fact that your country has eminent domain over your very body, as well as your land.

The New Patriotism is Statism. How else to explain the fondness for Abraham Lincoln one finds among both Rightists and Leftists. One can find the likes of Christopher Hitchens to defend Lincoln's extra-constitutional abuses on the grounds that the Constitution was for the Union, and during the Civil War there was no Union. (You see, the states which did not secede counted for nothing, except during presidential elections, and for tax purposes, but not for civil rights. Sorry.) Even the freedom loving Rush Limbaugh can be counted on, virtually every Presidents Day, to sing Lincoln's praises: "Golly gee, folks, he saved the Union. If it weren't for Abraham Lincoln, the United States would be two separate countries." It is almost as if the life of anyone in any of those states remaining in the Union could possibly have been adversely affected by those states which departed the union. Somehow or another, each of us has some sort of property stake in each of the states and we're being robbed, or worse, if a state, or twenty, leaves the union. A union one can never leave isn't a union: it's a collective, you know, like the former Union of Soviet Swallowed Republics. Of course, Limbaugh, along with Whigs such as Lincoln, is enamored of our super-power status. I guess that's his real problem: two "American" countries means no super-power status for one "American" country. (I know: my lack of patriotism is showing. But I prefer freedom to super-power status.) Can you imagine if the American Revolution had failed? Brits the world over would be saying of King George III things like, "By Jove, if not for that eminent and blessed monarch -- a statesman and a scholar if ever there was one -- the British Empire would be fifty or more separate countries scattered hicklty picklty about the globe like toys in a nursery! In short, we'd have a ghastly mess!"

Implications of The New Patriotism

The New Patriotism, requiring a certain subordination of oneself to the interests of one's country ("Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.") presents a problem. It also hints at a solution to the problem. In a sense, if one's country is something more significant than the geographical location in which one resides, however it may be governed, then one's country is an abstraction. It is difficult to serve or revere an abstraction. An abstraction really cannot command loyalty very well. But persons can do. This is why it never fails that the notion of subordination to the state leads to acceptance of a single person as autocratic dictator, that one who, somehow, is the very embodiment of the nation ("Hitler is Germany and Germany is Hitler").

It's easy if the leader has acquired a claim on that loyalty. We have to a certain extent come to that state of affairs. As Anne Davies recently expressed it, "Most Americans revere the presidency even if they take issue with the office holder." It's debatable when this began, maybe with Lincoln, maybe before. I don't know; and I don't really care. Certainly, FDR achieved some personal reverence, what with people having little icon corners in their homes devoted to him, or to his memory. As far as my grandmother was concerned FDR had personally saved my great-grandfather's life. (And this was odd because that man is one of those who tried, ultimately successfully, to teach me to distrust government and its motives. I always got the idea that (1) he denied the idea that FDR saved his life and (2) even if FDR had saved his life the price was too high. He always told me to get all the education and training I could because those are the only things "they" can't take from you. He never said so, but I always had the impression that "they" meant "the government".) We have seen some of this on the part of both Right and Left in this country. On the Right there was the notion that opposition to President Bush (especially as regards the war in Iraq) evinced a certain lack of patriotism. Recently the Left have equated Rush Limbaugh's desire that His Beatitude fail with a desire that the country itself fail. In both cases the President is treated as a sort of elected Fisher King, opposition to him is opposition to the country itself. To wish ill upon him is to wish ill upon the country.

It is this sort of reverence for either one's country (as an abstraction), or for the head of the government (or of the state) that makes the state servile. Servility requires reverence: there is no servility without reverence; and if there is no reverence, servility is impossible. Hence, the paradox of life in the land of the free: our obedience to an ever-increasingly extra-constitutional, authoritarian state is -- ready yourself for it -- entirely voluntary. Our political ancestors tarred and feathered that law-breaking King George's bureaucrats, and we mouth off about respecting the office if not the man. We are, now, law abiding people, even if our leaders aren't. Extra-constitutional acts still bother us, but not as much as it bothered our ancestors. Barbarians -- the sort of people who today would probably tar and feather anyone attempting to enforce anti-smoking regulations in private establishments. This is the result of a slow-growing habit, a habit of deference and reverence -- if not for the office-holder then for the office. The servile state relies upon this for much of its power; it relies upon public opinion, specifically, among other things, that the reverence and deference -- the respect -- accorded these individuals is a necessity. But is it? If we started talking to, and about, these people as if they really were servants, as if they really did work for us, and not the other way around, what would happen? It would be a form of tyrannicide. Razing the servile state doesn't require any bloodshed, certainly no assassinations (those are usually counter-productive in the extreme). Razing the servile state requires a shift in opinion of what constitutes patriotism. If one want's to sing of one's country as the land of the free and the home of the brave, then one should act like he loves liberty, for himself and his countrymen. Rather, we are told, that love of country is best expressed by paying ever-higher taxes to provide for the needs of one's countrymen: housing, education, healthcare, whatever they need. The Old Patriotism is the patriotism of the Founders, lovers of both the First and the Second Amendment. It was the Old Patriotism that threw off the chains of that law-breaking monarch. The New Patriotism is a patriotism fit for serfs, a patriotism that works only for the ruling class, whether they are the Crony-Capitalists of the Right or the Crypto-Socialists of the Left. They need your (new) patriotism; they need your love and your obedience. But they'll settle for your obedience.

Oh, question and challenge as much as you want, so long as you obey. That's the New Patriotism. And the alternative, they say, is anarchy and chaos. Oh, the phantom menace of it all!

Part V
30 September 2009

Agree with us about how to reform healthcare -- or no healthcare for you

That's how Garrison Keillor feels about those of us who think the present healthcare reform schemes are not the best course of action:

[O]ne starts to wonder if the country wouldn’t be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the Republicans, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.
Garrison Keillor: healthcare nazi.
24 September 2009

A tax by any other name still smells like skubalon

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said..., "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all." -- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (Ch. 6)

I didn't know this (neither would I ever have guessed), but, apparently, use of a dictionary is evidence of impropriety. Well, that's what His Beatitude thinks, anyway – at least when one is using a dictionary in opposition to Him. During his Sunday morning talk show tour, Our Leader appeared with George Stephanopoulos, who asked,

STEPHANOPOULOS: Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money [by requiring them to purchase health insurance] and fining you if you don't. How is that not a tax increase?

OBAMA: No, that's not true, George. The -- For us to say that you've gotta take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it's saying is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you any more than the fact that right now everybody in America just about has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I'm not covering all the costs.

Actually, that isn't how auto insurance works at all. But its very instructive, and not surprising, that he thinks it works that way, though -- very, very instructive. (In case you don't know: Auto insurance is not required so you can pay your bills if the other guy hits you. The requirement is that you be able to cover your liabilities if you hit the other guy. I don't know whether consulting a dictionary would have helped the president on this.)

But I digress.


OBAMA: ...George, you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think I'm making it up. Merriam-Webster's dictionary, tax: a charge, usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now, otherwise you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.

There you have it. Using a dictionary to check on the definition of a key term (something most of us were taught to do in school) indicates that one is stretching. Trying to resolve a difficulty which relies upon the correct meaning of a term must, in His Beatitude's incredible opinion, be done without consulting a dictionary. That's incredible. What's even more incredible is that His Beatitude went to law school, which means he was required to know definitions of key terms, the definitions of these key terms being found in many cases in legal dictionaries.

Since His Humptiness specifically singled out Stephanopoulos's use of Webster's as improper, here is a discussion from a source other than Webster's:

John Bouvier defined a tax as:
A pecuniary burden imposed for the support of the government. The enforced proportional contribution of persons and property levied by the authority of the state for the support of the government and for all public needs.
In Lower Mainland, the Privy Council, Justice Thankerton for the Court, wrote that taxes:
... are compulsorily imposed by a statutory (authority)....They are enforceable by law...(and) compulsion is an essential feature of taxation.
In Australia, Justice Dwyer wrote, in Leake:
A compulsory contribution, or an impost, may be nonetheless a tax, though not so called.

The distinguishing feature of a tax ... is that it is a compulsory contribution imposed by a sovereign authority on, and required from, the general body of subjects or citizens, as distinguished from isolated levies on individuals.
In Canada, an oft-cited definition is that of Justice Duff of the Supreme Court in Lawson:
[Taxes]are enforceable by law .... Then they are imposed under the authority of the legislature. They are imposed by a public body.... The levy is also made for a public purpose.
In Ontario Private Campground, Justice Howden wrote:
A tax is defined as an impost or levy by the legislature or other public body for a public purpose, enforced by law.

At common law, the terms fee and charge do not exclude a tax and have been used interchangeably; therefore it was held in British Columbia that a fee imposed by provincial statute on operators of mobile home parks ... was considered to be a tax on land. Similar fees or taxes on mobile home parks have been upheld as land taxes.
But in Westbank, at ¶4, Justice Gonthier of the Canadian Supreme Court distinguished a tax from a user fee:
[User fees] bear all of the traditional hallmarks of a tax. They are enforceable by law, imposed pursuant to the authority of Parliament, levied by a public body, and are imposed for a public purpose. There is no nexus between the revenues raised and the cost of any services provided. As such, they do not resemble a user fee, nor any other form of a regulatory charge.
Granted, that discussion is in terms of Canadian law, but we belong to the same legal tradition. Here's how my Black's, 5th Abridged Edition, in relevant part, defines tax:
A pecuniary burden laid upon individuals, business entities, or property to support and carry on the legitimate functions of the government. Essential characteristics of a tax are that it is not a voluntary payment or donation, but an enforced contribution, exacted pursuant to legislative authority.
His opponents assert that this insurance requirement, including perhaps especially the fines, constitutes a tax because it accords with the definition -- even the legal definition -- of a tax. His Humptiness, a trained lawyer, rather than offering even an attempt at distinguishing meanings, summarily declares it improper to employ a dictionary in fixing the meaning of a key term. It's not a tax because when His Humptiness uses a word it means only what His Humptiness wants it to mean, and nothing else.

It's not a tax, you see, because His Humptiness says it is not a tax. So, if it's a question of which is master, then His Humptiness is master – that’s all.
21 September 2009

It's a simple question, Jimmy

Did the President of the United States knowingly utter a falsehood when he said that his healthcare plans would not cover those in the country illegally? Joe Wilson thought so, and said so. (If it was not so, then...uh...why did the loophole have to be removed? And why is Luis Gutierrez, of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, only now angry with the president? He wasn't angry before the president's disavowal. Why is he now?)

It could be that His Beatitude was simply mistaken. That is always a possibility. It's also a possibility that Bush was mistaken about the presence of WMD in Iraq. But when no such weapons were found, we did not hear a hue and cry over the fact that Bush was mistaken (which would have been bad enough); we heard he lied. No wonder, then, that if the current president makes a statement of fact which is false, someone might just get the idea that he knowingly did so.

Former president, James Carter, must think such fine distinctions are a waste of his dwindling time. He knows something more important. He knows that the truth of the matter is not that Joe Wilson, and others, thought the president made a statement of fact which was untrue -- and did so knowingly -- but that inherent opposition to a black president is the real issue.

Poppycock! It could very well be true that every single opponent to the president's silly insurance scheme is a card-carrying member of the KKK. It could also -- at the same time, I mean -- be true that the President of the United States, in an address to Congress, knowingly made a statement of fact which was not true. Someone's race issues -- or putative race issues -- have no bearing on whether someone has lied, or whether adding yet another insurer to the insurer pool counts as healthcare system reform.

If saying, "You lie!" to a man one thinks is lying to you makes one a racist, then how are we ever to call liars on the carpet?

In other news, the New York Times informs us that it isn't all bad, that very little hiring is being done. Only during a Democratic regime.
14 September 2009

What if we paid for soda the way we pay for healthcare?

As I've mentioned before, I vividly recall the day I took my first step toward embracing capitalism (well, capitalism lite, anyway, not laissez-faire):

I was in Germany on a military exercise. During the course of this exercise, my tank platoon were just outside a small German village. As frequently happened, some of the local boys (in the 12-14 year range) came out to check out my tank. While we were all standing on our tank talking, I pulled a soda out and started drinking. One of the boys offered me some money for one of my sodas (actually, the crew’s sodas; this is an important fact). Wanting to live up to the reputation of Americans as generous people, I let the kid have the soda for free. Suddenly, the demand for soda went from one-fifth of the German population present on that tank to one hundred percent of that population. What was I to do? Give one away for free and then start charging money? So I gave away five of our remaining sodas, leaving us with three.


Note the effect of price on both the supply of, and demand for, the sodas. When there was actually a price for the soda the...demand for soda amounted to...one.... This changed—drastically—when there was no price for the soda. This then led to a sharp drop in the supply of soda. If I were to have charged that single German child more than he was willing to pay, there would have been a change in the demand for soda, but no change in the supply. If I had simply accepted his price, the supply of soda would have gone down only by one soda; plus, we’d have a contribution to the next soda purchase. (It staggers the imagination: that German child knew more about free enterprise than I did.)
What if the kids who couldn't afford a can of Coke at my price had another option. What if they had soft drink insurance, allowing them to purchase a soft drink at 25% of the price I was charging (say, a dollar), with their soft drink insurance paying the rest? Sounds good, doesn't it? In actuality it's one of the worst possible things which can happen. Since these consumers can now -- sort of -- afford a good they could not afford before, and (at 25% of the price) a lot of it, their demand for the product will necessarily increase.

This is a law of nature, an economic law. To them, the price of a soda is no longer $1.00; it is $.25. Recall, before they could not afford a soda because it cost $1.00; now they can because it costs only $.25. They may not ever have had a spare dollar for a soda, but they did occasionally have a spare quarter. That spare quarter can now be used for a good like soda. But there were always others, who could occasionally afford, say, one soda per week at $1.00. Now, thanks to their soda insurance, they can afford four per week.

Still others, who could afford eight sodas per week, now can afford thirty-two. This artificially lower price has increased demand, which will soon begin to have a negative effect on supply. The (artificially) lower price to the consumer (but not to the insurer!) will lead to a spike in demand. The normal response to increased demand is to ensure against stock depletion by increasing the price of the good. But in our scheme the increased price is born not by the consumer of the good but by the insurer. If the soda-lover's co-pay does not increase, remains at 25% percent of the original price (i.e., $1.00) but the actual price goes up to, say, $2.00, in an effort to decrease demand (protecting supply), then the insurer is no longer paying 75% of the cost of soda; he's paying 87.5% (i.e., $1.75), while the consumer is now paying only 12.5%.

The price increase, intended to protect supply by decreasing demand, actually has no such effect, because the price paid by the consumer (the one actually wanting the soda) has not changed, while the price paid by the insurer has done. The soda producer, still trying to curb demand in order to ensure supply, raises the price yet again, to $2.50, a point at which the insurer pays $2.25, 90% of the price of a soda and the consumer still pays $.25, a mere 10%. Clearly, this can't go on, so the insurance company now raises the co-pay. And on and on it will go until the consumers, who clearly know next to nothing about how insurance works, begin to think they are the ones being abused.

I know what you're thinking. There is an important difference between soda and healthcare; one is an important need and the other is an unimportant want. Perhaps, but it is immaterial to economics whether a good (and healthcare and soda are both goods) is a "need" or a "want". To tell someone that some good he wants is not a need and then to legislate on the basis of that assertion is dictatorial. A good is a good and someone who wants it ought to decide for himself the reasons he wants it; it isn't for anyone to divide objects of his desire into needs and wants -- even if we are tempted to do so. Healthcare and soda are both goods; it is, therefore, legitimate to compare them in terms of each other simply as goods.

After all if we are really going to limit ourselves to needs, we could argue that no one really needs healthcare; they simply want it. They want it because they want to live, either for just another day (but they may not need, or deserve, to live another day) or at a certain standard of living (but they may not need, or deserve, that standard of living).

The woman, Florence Owens Thompson, and her children, below, probably have everything they need: clothing, just enough food, just enough water, and a roof (such as it is) over their heads:

You may be thinking that, no, they don't have everything they need. But that is only because you are thinking not in terms of life, but in terms of quality of life. You are thinking that they do not have everything they need to have a certain quality of life, a quality of life like mine, for example:

Dry wall in my garage -- I bet Florence Owens Thompson and her family would have loved to call my dry-walled garage home. Heck, I bet she'd have loved my garage even before the dry wall, possibly even before I insulated it.

So healthcare, like soda, is not something we need for life. It is something we want for a certain quality of life.

But the point really is that insurance is a silly way to pay for soda, especially since, like healthcare, it is uninsurable. And if it is a silly way to pay for soda, it is an even sillier way to pay our medical bills. This is especially the case since, like my present comparison, we still have not asked the most important question: Why did the cost get so high as to give someone the idea that insurance would be the best way to pay those bills? It is true that insurance itself is to blame for some of the rising costs by artificially increasing demand, which always results in price increase. But this is not the only thing that causes price increases.

It is no reform of the healthcare system simply to continue the practice of using "insurance" to pay the bills. One more insurance company -- even a public one -- isn't a solution. It's a variation on a theme.

Frankly, if anyone were really serious -- and I do mean really serious, not about "reforming" the "system", but in reducing costs, they should follow Hans Hoppe's advice, advice going all the way back to 1993, and summarized as follows:

1. Eliminate all licensing requirements for medical schools, hospitals, pharmacies, and medical doctors and other health care personnel. Their supply would almost instantly increase, prices would fall, and a greater variety of health care services would appear on the market.


2. Eliminate all government restrictions on the production and sale of pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This means no more Food and Drug Administration, which presently hinders innovation and increases costs.


3. Deregulate the health insurance industry. Private enterprise can offer insurance against events over whose outcome the insured possesses no control. One cannot insure oneself against suicide or bankruptcy, for example, because it is in one's own hands to bring these events about.


4. Eliminate all subsidies to the sick or unhealthy. Subsidies create more of whatever is being subsidized. Subsidies for the ill and diseased breed illness and disease, and promote carelessness, indigence, and dependency. If we eliminate them, we would strengthen the will to live healthy lives and to work for a living. In the first instance, that means abolishing Medicare and Medicaid....
There's a simple answer to the question why they don't follow this advice: Doing so means not being able to take credit (and assign blame) for our quality of life; it means surrendering control of something they enjoy controlling. I mean, the next thing they want is our food system.

Parenthetically, Glenn Beck doesn't think we should really be talking about healthcare reform when the real issue is corruption, at all levels and in both major parties, such as that captured by James O'Keefe. Frankly, I think we can multitask. Well, I know I can.


The reason I posted nothing about 9/11, is that my state of mind is much like that once expressed by Abraham Lincoln regarding some other casualties of war, which I paraphrase thusly:

I can not dedicate, nor consecrate, nor hallow this day. I cannot adequately commemorate this day. The victims of the attacks have done so, and far above my own powers of expression, and none more so than those aboard United Flight 93, who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country. No one can care what I think or feel; no one can care where I was when I first heard the news -- but everyone should care and long remember what happened to them.
One of the few things our first constitutional dictator ever said with which I whole-heartedly agree. Mark it.

Of course, my favorite Lincoln quote of all time might just be this one, from a 4 July 1848 speech: "Any people whatsoever have the right to abolish the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right."

Edited 15 September 2009 to correct local grammatical errors. -- JFS
31 August 2009

With a Democrat in the White House every cloud really does have a silver lining

A man said to the universe,
"Sir, I exist."
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
"A sense of obligation."
-- Stephen Crane

A perennial complaint during the Republican Captivity II was that myriads of college graduates were having to take low-paying, even minimum wage jobs. College graduates were "flipping burgers". Oh, the Charles Dickens of it all. That was bad news, because college graduates should just walk right into mid-management jobs. And that's in a bad economy; in a good economy, those graduates should have a seat on the board, no doubt. College graduates flipping burgers and waiting tables was also one of many signs that Republicans don't know how to manage an economy. (Note: an un-managed economy is a good thing to some of us.)

We deserve more, and some power, somewhere, is obligated to make sure we get it.

But now, believe it or not, that low-paying job could actually -- get this -- be a good thing. Paul Facella (ironically, a former burger-flipper), lists six good things, (six career enhancers, even) about starting out on the bottom rung.

That reminds me: remember when the best G.D.P. was a J-O-B?

Apparently, that applies only when a Republican is in the Presidential Palace. When a Democrat resides in the Palace as our Fisher-President, and the jobless hovers just below 10% or is it really closer to 20%?), why it's a great day in His Beatitude's coming paradise. These days, being J-O-B-less (and, therefore, G.D.P.-less) is, or can be, a good thing. If you just alter your perspective, these bad economic times are actually good. Think of it as "funemployment".


I do just happen to agree with Facella, though. Among the many benefits of starting at the bottom is the lesson in humility that some of us need, and some of us more than others. In 1992, while I was still an undergraduate, preparing -- I was certain -- law school, my wife and I suffered a financial set-back to the tune of, well, a lot of money. So long law school. I did well to get that B.A. in 1993.

I well recall the day one of my friends called, just a few days before graduation, to congratulate me. We spent just a few moments half-jokingly speculating on which think tank I'd be working for inside of a decade.

My first job after graduating was in a furniture repair shop; then I tried my hand at telemarketing, followed, rather ironically, by fast-food restaurant management. That fact -- the ugly truth of the matter -- is that life is like this (no, much, much worse) for most of the world's population. And it always has been. I'm not special because I went to university; and neither are you.

Life is difficult. Most people get out of life what they can scrape out of it. Deal with it.
28 August 2009

A bill, in lieu of flowers

Admirers of the late Edward Kennedy (R.I.P.), aware that a healthcare plan itself isn't very popular, now think we should, despite objections to a given plan, go ahead and support it now. Brian Williams has seen an email circulating, suggesting a heathcare reform bill, rather than flowers. The symbolism of a dead man, substituted for the substance of the lousy bill under discussion.

Sure, it stinks. Sure, it represents the most significant loss of freedom since the Raw Deal. But let's do it anyway. Let's put ourselves, and future generations, into chains -- chains of gratitude, no doubt. And let's do it for Teddy.

They desire to make a reposed hero -- a man who did much to benefit the less fortunate, with very little of his own money (no mean fete, I'm sure) -- their best argument for supporting healthcare take-over (I mean, reform -- healthcare reform), something fewer and fewer people want. To me, that makes it doubly unmerited.

If the plan (or some plan) is as full of merit as it supporters and proponents clearly seem to believe, then why take this (irrational!) tack? If we should have this over-kill version of healthcare reform, then sell it on its merits. This latest move is as close to an admission as we're likely to get, that reform, as they envision it, has no merits whatsoever.

UPDATE: Melissa Lafsky wonders what Mary Jo Kopechne, a dedicated liberal, would have thought about "arguably being a catalyst for the most successful Senate career in history," and concludes, "Who knows -- maybe she'd feel it was worth it."


Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that Lafsky wants minorities and other beneficiaries to know that we owe Senator Kennedy a great debt of gratitude: "Disabled? Poor? A member of any minority group? Then chances are your life is at least somewhat better because of Ted Kennedy." Yes. Well, I, for one didn't ask for his pinche help.

My mother was, briefly, a single mother. She taught me not to look to government for help. Don't get me wrong: She tried it once, applied for some help. She was very seriously -- and I mean very seriously injured in an auto accident and out of work for months. But because she was a homeowner, she could get no help; if she wanted help she needed to sell her home. The working poor -- yes, they love us so much; that's why we must divest ourselves of the few assets we have in order to be worthy of their largesse. And have I mentioned that their largesse doesn't cost them anything?

These people -- they can can never do good without making sure we know the good they have arguably done for us, and without always demanding the appropriate demonstration of gratitude. Typical, guilt-ridden, self-loathing caucasian. If only they could find a way to do their good in a way that leaves their left hands ignorant of what their rights hands are up to. (But to do that, they'd have to use their own resources, divest themselves of their own assets.) And they never understand when some of us beneficiaries of their benevolent provision are, to say the least, ungrateful. They remind me of the liberal attorney, Lucy Kelson, in the movie Two Weeks Notice, when she dumps some money in a guy's coffee because she is just sure that's what the cup is for. Observe (start at about 7:30 into the clip):

There is, of course, a salient difference: In this clip, Lucy Kelson, uses her own money in expressing her concern for those less fortunate than herself. But that still doesn't prevent her being flabbergasted at her beneficiary's lack of gratitude.
25 August 2009

It's the polylogism, stupid (2)

One of the ironies in this (aforementioned) article is the complaint that protesters against government-option healthcare coverage are hindering the so-called discussion about health care. It's ironic because there is already a bill. Actually, I'm using the word 'ironic' to be kind. It's actually dishonest. But I digress.

Quite clearly, with the President's demand for a ready-to-sign bill, the debate (or discussion, to use to word of the day) is over -- as are all debates or discussions, once the left have made up their minds. Besides, the article mentions Democratic congressmen who are at these supposedly disrupted town hall meetings to explain the plan. There isn't much to discuss, in a certain sense. I've been to meetings where an insurance plan was to be explained; and it was a plan that had already been decided upon, by an employer. The only discussion involved what the plan covers and how. There was no discussion of whether the plan should be adopted, no discussion of whether employees wanted the plan.

Clearly, in true statist fashion (believing that we work for the state), whether some sort of government option should even be implemented is not for discussion -- in this land of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our employer, the state, has already made its decision, and it remains only to explain to us their benevolence. (But sadly, that is what the protesters want to discuss.) The people may show up; that's their right. But they are their to listen and ask questions about the plan; and that's all. That's the problem with the protesters: they (employees) still want to discuss whether; the Congressmen (employers) only care to discuss how.

So the complaint that discussion is being hindered is a bit disingenuous. The key determination has already been made; and it doesn't matter who, or how many, object to it. The only acceptable questions are those related to how the plan will work. Objecting to the plan itself is out of line.

How, we might ask, do the left come to have the notion that they can be so dismissive of opponents? I really wasn't engaging in rhetorical flourish when I said (here) that opponents of the left do not matter to the left. The left are polylogists. (They are also, for that reason, irrational.)

Polylogism asserts that the logical structure of the mind is different with members of various groups of humans. And the two most common forms of polylogism, at least here in the U.S., are racial and marxist. Racial polylogism, which I discussed to an extent here, differs from Marxist polylogism only in so far as it ascribes to each race a peculiar logical structure of mind and maintains that all members of a definite race, no matter what their class affiliation may be, are endowed with this peculiar logical structure. (That's why someone like Jesse Jackson is black, but Clarence Thomas is not.) Marxist polylogism asserts, in contrast, that each class has its own logical structure and only members of a given class are endowed with this logical structural. In both cases, however, polylogism is a debunking tool: it exists only to provide grounds for dismissing an opponent without engaging in logical rejoinder. In other words, the racial or marxist polylogist can respond to an argument by telling you that you hold the position you do only because of your race or your social class. The logical structure of your race's mind (or your social class's mind) simply prevents you seeing the wisdom of his position, and, thus, also prevents your agreeing with him. Given these differences in logical structure, why should the left bother?

In a sense, this is at least one way in which the left are logically consistent. If you take seriously the polylogists' claim, then there simply is no way for members of different races or classes to persuade each other of anything. How could there be? In order for two people to persuade each other of anything they must share the same structure of mind. Two leftists could, therefore, be persuasive to each other, and so could two rightists. But leftists and rightists, having differing mental structures, simply cannot reach each other. One is on AM and the other is on FM. Consistent with their position, the left do not feel obligated to reason with those who, on their view cannot be reasoned with. (The right feel the same way about the left, but for a slightly different reason: polylogists are, by definition, irrational.)

But the left also believe that they are correct. And this is not because they can, or have, proved anything. Rather it is because, in true Hegelian fashion, they believe that what arises later in history is superior to that which arose earlier. Leftism (socialism, new liberalism, whatever) is later than rightism (capitalism, the Judeo-Christian ethic, whatever); therefore, leftism is superior to rightism. Rightism (like laissez-faire capitalism) is yesterday's news; we must look not to the past, but to the future. Rightists are wrong, not demonstrably so, but because they are on the wrong side of history. They are looking backward, rather than moving forward, as His Beatitude likes to say. They are, to societal evolution, what someone would be to human evolution who wanted us to devolve back into, say, Neanderthals. In fact, Rightists are neanderthals, and Leftists are homo sapiens sapiens -- on their humble view, of course.

Some things just change a man

Like suffering -- suffering can change a man. Or, the right woman.

On the other hand, so can the right food. Like Volcano Nachos. I'm not a big fan of Taco Bell: I grew up eating as "food" what most of you people call Mexican food. But I do really like this commercial:

Volcano Nachos...changes a man. Not since the days of the little chihuahuah, have I enjoyed a Taco Bell commercial.

Pero, no quiero taco bell.
19 August 2009

Again: if Obama were not a black man, we'd just love this healthcare reform plan.

That, this time, according to Mike Lupica.

Not a word in actual support of the plan. Not one word explaining wherein any complaints about the contents of the are false. More words about the moral turpitude of the protesters, as if it could not be true that (1) the protesters really are as immoral as Lupica and others say and (2) the plan is exactly what the protesters say it is.

For present purposes, let us stipulate that the protesters are racists. Fine. The plan still sucks; and calling protesters racists will not alter that.

But the protesters aren't racists -- not all of them, anyway.


The Instapundit on when the Nazi meme was chic.
14 August 2009

"Nazis" for the goose but not for the gander

If I just had had enough time, this is what I would have written on the subject. Beautiful.

There is a trajectory of socialism, regardless of the good intentions of many socialists.... [Y]ou take things such as health care, things that are traditionally understood as within the ambit of individual liberty and free choice; you move such things into the ambit of state responsibility as the welfare state emerges and grows, on the theory that it is government’s responsibility to provide for everyone’s needs (by redistributing resources); as more things are moved from private to public control, the state by definition becomes totalitarian; and, inexorably, the totalitarian state gets bad leaders and the society comes to reflect the policy choices of those leaders.

Now, we can argue until the end of time about whether that trajectory really exists and whether it is inevitable. But however you come out, it is an argument very much worth having. It goes to what kind of society we are going to be, to what the proper relationship between the citizen and the state is.

Nazi Germany is a useful historical example of socialism run amok. The genocide and terrorism ultimately practiced by the Nazis were horrible — that goes without saying. But National Socialism went on for a dozen years, it was the last stage in a progressive nationalization of German society, and there was a lot more to it than genocide and terrorism. It cannot be that because there was genocide and terrorism, the socialist aspects of National Socialism are outside the lines of acceptable political discourse. Given the immense popularity of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, one of the most important political books of the last quarter-century, it doesn’t look like Americans are as convinced as Mort Kondracke seems to be that these comparisons are verboten.


National Socialism is banned from the Right’s case against socialism, but is somehow acceptable when leftists use it as a smear or when the Left’s nuanced geniuses, after their very thoughtful consideration, decide its invocation is suitable for mature audiences? I don’t think so.

Darn right it's not verboten.
13 August 2009

You might be a Nazi, but only if you're a socialist

That's right. You'd have to be a socialist in order to be a Nazi. The word comes from the German name for the National Socialist German Workers' Party, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. We cannot expect that fact to hinder people like Nancy Pelosi from making assertions about her opponents like this, because she saw some swastikas:

The question was about the legitimacy of the protests. She sort of answered the question, which, I guess, was no. There is no legitimate grassroots opposition to Democrat healthcare reform notions. The opposition are "astroturf", not real grass. Worse than that, however, they must be nazis, what with the swastikas and all.

Right. Like nazis -- socialists -- would object to government-run health coverage. In fact, Democrats have a lot in common with nazis, the Nazis being: opposed to big banks and capitalism in general, opposed to pollution, in favor of two years mandatory voluntary service to the country, in favor of make-work projects (such as the autobahn), opposed to vivisection and cruelty and to animals, opposed to smoking and all tobacco products, in favor of abortion and euthanasia of the infirm and undesirable, in favor of big, unlimited, centralized government, opposed to small, limited, decentralized government – and, of course, in favor of cradle-to-grave nationalized healthcare. If the protesters really are nazis then they must be upset by the fact the present reform plan allows too much capitalism, or something.

This is the result of an education system (and they want to run healthcare too!) that has managed not to include the fact that the nazis were not just some white people who killed Jews, but were socialists who killed Jews.

I too have heard about the swastikas, but so far the stories I've heard, on the radio, have the swastikas with a black stripe through them, as if to say, No, to national socialism for the U.S. In that case, the protesters are not claiming to be nazis; they are tacitly claiming that Democrats are the nazis.

Frankly I think that's a poor way to object to what's going on. As a Chinese proverb says: The one who lands the first blow is the one who ran out of arguments. Calling people socialists, especially if they are, is quite sufficient. Calling them nazis is over the top. And I'll tell you why. What separates nazis from other socialists was the joining of race to class; that was the true significance of their use of the word, national. Originally, the word national meant what we generally now mean by words like racial or ethnic. If we were to translate the best sense of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei into contemporary English, it might better be translated, Ethnic German Socialist Workers' Party, or the Aryan Socialist Workers' Party. In other words, it was not enough to be of the working class. One needed also to be a true German (i.e., Aryan) worker.

To my knowledge, Democrats, though I do think they are socialists, have not joined class and race. One may have to be a socialist in order justly to be called a nazi, but being a socialist is not a sufficient reason to be called a nazi. In order justly to be called a nazi, one must be a supporter of ethnic socialism.

Presently, Rush Limbaugh makes the claim that it is Democrats who are truly nazis, but that is because he has an incorrect understanding of the true sense of the word national. He thinks Democrats can justly be called nazis because of the similarity of platforms. It is a serious error. And one cannot expect to be taken seriously who makes that kind of mistake.

Always be polite, even if you think your liberty is threatened

Let's have something clear. There is no need to be polite when the proposition to be debated is whether you will accept loss of freedom. No one denies the left's vision of healthcare reform results in losses of freedoms. We will debate a great many things, but not that.

If Kondrake and Krauthammer had been in Sparta when the Persian emissaries arrived, they'd have urged Leonidas to discuss the offer, to think about it, to (how did Krauthammer put it?) ask questions before categorically refusing it. Don't oppose it, just to be oppositionist -- while the left continue to be counter-oppositional just to be counter-oppositional.

When "Submit to more and more government dictation over more and more of your life" is the so-called proposition, there is nothing to debate, except how our would-be masters will be resisted. This is especially true when you know that control of everything is the ultimate goal. To oppose this for the sake of being oppositionist is no vice.

Note: Yes, I am reading the bill. So far, I can honestly say, I'd rather be one of Leonidas's 300 Spartans than a beneficiary of the benevolence wrapped up in this bill. John David Lewis, of Duke University, is much further along than I (finished, in fact). Here's his assessment. I'm guessing he's not a fan. (H/T: Limbaugh.)
11 August 2009

If Obama were a white man, there would be no objections to the healthcare plan

At least, according to Chris Matthews and Cynthia Tucker. (H/T: Newsbusters.)

These people clearly have no arguments in support of the plan itself. So they demonize opponents. There is, apparently, only a problem when some people yell; others may do so freely, so long as they can feign righteous indignation. But if being thought a racist or bigot by the likes of Chris Matthews (or un-American by Pelosi and her ilk) is the price of freedom, then so be it. It's a very, very small price to pay. Note, you can object to having a black man as president and still have reasonable grounds for objecting to a government-run healthcare system. You can also object to having a black man as president and still support a government-run healthcare system, despite its being proffered by a black man.

But mostly, when you have no arguments, you can call your opponents names.

I know the healthcare system is messed up. But if the present, proposed reform is the only alternative; if not doing this means (and it doesn't) doing nothing -- then I'll take my chances.
07 August 2009

It's the polylogism, stupid (1)

Truth does not matter to the left. It never has. The left enjoy to pretend otherwise; but they are just pretending. This is why the left end up turning policy arguments into discussions of the moral failures of their opponents. That is to say, for the left, there is something immoral about disagreeing with the left. And this is odd, considering that the left also do not believe in morality.

Take, for example, this article by Jonathan Allen for CQ Politics at MSNBC.Com. The article purports to ask, in the same, tired way we've come to expect from partisan journalists who, apparently, still haven't noticed -- or are in denial -- that Toto has pulled the curtain back and we know they are partisan, if the protests about the plan are good for our democracy.


Of course, one can easily see, I think, that the purpose of asking the question is to lay some of the groundwork for dismissing the protesters. Observe:

All across the country, conservative opponents are clamoring to disrupt town-hall meetings about the proposed overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, using GOP-generated talking points to shout down Democratic congressmen who attempt to explain the plan.

The Constitution protects their right to speak freely, but Democrats say that they are limiting rather than promoting an open exchange of ideas.

These opponents (conservatives, of course; for no liberal would oppose this plan,not willingly anyway) are "clamoring", not simply showing up, like supporters do. (Liberals never clamor, they congregate peacefully. We all know that.) Also, these protesters clamor, not to make their voices heard, not to share their views, or even, yes, to declare their opposition. No, they are there to "disrupt". Moreover, their opposition is not something in which they have a personal stake: they are simply, and blindly, unwittingly even, employing GOP-generated talking points. (And they probably don't even understand these talking points, the poor, dumb bastards). And, le pièce de résistance, they are not there to argue against the plan, but to shout down those poor Democratic talking-point spouting -- I mean those poor, concerned Democratic congressmen who are only trying to explain the plan. We know that those GOP-talking point spewing protesters don't understand the plan. Why, if they did they wouldn't be shouting down those whose only crime is to explain this new benevolence.

An especially nice touch is the obligatory nod to the Constitution. The Constitution, we are reminded, protects these protesters' right to speak freely, but, they are limiting speech. Thus we run rough-shod over the fact that the Constitution binds government against limiting speech. Nice touch, wasn't it? And note also that the person whose speech is supposedly being limited is a Congressman -- the government. Let us not dare limit the government's right to free speech.

This is one of the excuses to be used when they pass the bill over and above the opposition to it. They will say, Yes there was vehement opposition. But that opposition wasn't legitimate, but rather the activity of an irrational mob. Oh, yes, and don't forget the part about that irrational mob being funded by those evil private insurance companies. We know, of course, that honest dislike of the plan is not what's behind all. And the media will tell us what's really behind it, because they care about us poor saps who just don't know what's good for us.

You see how easy that is? You put forth a caricature of your opposition on the basis of which you can dismiss his opposition. For what is missing from the article is any curiosity about whether the supposedly GOP-generated talking points assert anything about the plan which is false. That question never comes up in the article. All we really need to know, one supposes, is that the assertions in the talking points are GOP-generated.

They may very well be. But are they false?

You'd think a journalist might think to inquire in that direction. Isn't that something we really need to know?

Of course not. We really need to know how awful the protesters are. We need to know that their opposition (like the Tea Parties) is not legitimate because it's backed by private health insurers and amounts to nothing but the spouting of GOP-generated talking points.

The fact is, because the left believe in ideology rather than truth, the only people whose opinions matter are those who agree with the left. Those who disagree are legitimately dismissed.

I think I'll write about more on this, and explain why. Just for kicks and giggles, which, really, is why I blog in the first place.

Part 2

About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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