Blog Posts

Why States Don’t Have Rights

Depending on your point of view, my title for this article either makes your blood boil, or else you are cheering. Good. Either way, that should keep you reading.

A few days ago I noticed a tweet that posed the question of whether or not the states had the right to nullify anti-segregation laws that came from the federal government. That same day, in making an argument for nullification of gun laws, I also used the term right. But it occurred to me later that the term right as it used here is an equivocation – one that contributes to the confusion people have about what rights are, where they come from, what the consequences of violating them are, what states can and can’t do, what constitutions are for, and what law is. The following is meant to clarify all that.

The English word law has, as does every other political word, two distinct meanings. One is practical and the other is normative. Putting that in more simple terms – one is law in the sense of a list of rules written up by a group of men – and the other is law in the sense of how things ought to be. Now, the laws that men write down are supposed to be based upon law-as-it-ought-to-be, but they aren’t always. Hence, these two types of law are very different animals.

We might also call law-as-it-ought-to-be justice. An understanding of what justice is requires deductive reasoning. Justice is political (i.e., it deals with our relationships to other people) but it is derived from ethics (our relationship with ourselves). Once you have reasoned it out, and assuming there are no mistakes in your reasoning, law-as-it-ought-to-be is certain. That means that it doesn’t change with the times, it isn’t tentative until you have more data, and technology never invalidates it. It is utterly certain. It is, in that sense, the same as 2+2=4.

Now, could you say 2+2=5? Yes, you could. After all, you can say anything. But if you really believed that 2+2 was 5, the consequences would be grave. Because you wouldn’t be able to do much else. Maybe you could sit there sucking your thumb, but  you couldn’t do anything that required math. And that’s a lot of things. Hence, there are very, very few people who question 2+2. There are rather a lot of people who question nullification, though. And yet, in essence, it’s the same thing. The mistake is not so obvious because the consequences are not so immediate. So let’s look at it.

Before we can examine the concept of nullification, we have to know what rights are. I’ve talked about rights many times before on this blog, but it never hurts to discuss it again.

What are rights?

A living being, in order to continue to be a living being, has to do certain things. If it doesn’t do those things, it dies. Among those things, for example, is obtaining food and shelter. Because you will die if you don’t do these things, and because it is only you who will ultimately suffer that consequence, you have a responsibility to do them.

When these responsibilities are restated from the perspective of a third party (third in the sense that it is not you or yourself) they are called rights.

That’s it. That’s what rights are. Now, you can see that rights are not granted by government, right? They are simply a consequence of the fact that you exist and wish to continue existing. If you want to say they are granted by anyone at all, you would have to say they are granted by God. Or nature. Or whatever it is that you believe caused life to come to exist. The Founders called that thing the Creator, but you can call it whatever you want.

All rights are in essence corollaries of one right – the right to life.  For example:

Right to life –> (corollary) right to defend it –> (corollary) right to bear arms

Right to life –> (corollary) right to support it –> (corollary) right to property in the fruits of one’s labor

So you see, if you accept the right to life (and you do if you value your life), all of these other statements, including the right to bear arms, are a lot like 2+2=4. Really, they’re more like 2=2.

Now, why don’t states have rights?

Now, you could say given the relationship of a federal government to state governments, the states have rights – i.e., they have responsibilities which can be restated from the point of view of another party. Well, that’s true. But there is a problem. States do not have a right to life. Individuals do. In fact, all states really have are obligations. States are created by individuals for a purpose. Beyond that purpose they have no reason for being. In fact, their existence beyond that purpose is detrimental to individuals. But that purpose is so important that individuals are willing to risk it.

What is that purpose?

To defend individual rights.

Here it is as stated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men

To secure these rights….

Ok, so now we can put it all together. The states have an obligation to all of us individuals who are citizens and that obligation is to defend our individual rights. What happens if the state, instead of defending our individual rights, violates them?

Here’s some more from the Declaration of Independence:

…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it

Ah, there it is. The people have a right to alter or abolish their government.

Now, as I’ve said before, and I think you can see from the their writings that the Founders agreed, it does not matter what legislation says. It does not matter what is written in the constitution. It does not matter what is written into law. What matters is only truth. If what is written down does not conform to the truth, the people have a right to disregard, alter, or abolish it. In other words, you don’t have to take the Founders’ word for it, or anyone else’s word for it. You can reason it out yourself.

So, why write it down at all?

Because not everyone is able to reason it out. In fact, today, unfortunately, the vast majority of people are not able to reason it out. They need a list of rules (law put into practice) to tell them what they can and can’t do if they want to live in a civilized world. If everyone were able to reason correctly governments would be entirely unnecessary in the first place.

But they are not unnecessary. And those who are capable of proper reasoning must make sure that the list of rules always conforms to proper reasoning.

That means that when you sit on the jury of a man accused of something that is not truthfully a crime (i.e., he did not violate anyone’s rights) you have a responsibility to nullify that legislation. You have that responsibility because if you send a man to prison for something that is not truthfully a crime, you are in fact perpetrating a crime. You are allowing the violation of his rights when you know better. And by allowing his rights to be violated, you have put your own rights in jeopardy.

That also means that any state, when another authority attempts to violate the rights of it’s citizens, has an obligation to those citizens to nullify that legislation.

In the case of segregation laws, the federal government nullified the states. In the case of gun laws, the states are nullifying the federal government. That’s because back then the states had no business enforcing legislation that segregated people. And today the federal government has no business enforcing legislation that prevents people from defending themselves.

So, these are the take home points

  • Rights are a priori and inalienable.
  • Written law is only a list of rules meant to put into practice a priori law.
  • Nullification is the act of disregarding, altering, or abolishing law that does not conform to proper reasoning (i.e, does not conform to the truth, violates individual rights).
  • Nullification is the responsibility of all citizens of a civilized state.
  • States, that is, governments have no rights. Only people do.

Now, when someone tries to tell you that rights are granted by governments, that what is written in the constitution or passed by congress is law, or that nullification is illegal, you will know how to respond.

And if someone tries to tell you that “only certain states have the right to secede from the union because only certain states have such wording in their constitutions” you will know that they are very, very mistaken. You can then respond that what is written in constitutions is only relevant if it corresponds with justice. You can tell them that states don’t have a right to secede, because they don’t have any rights. But, if the federal government tries to violate the individual rights of their citizens, the states have the obligation to secede or to nullify. And you can remind them that the state’s sole purpose for existing in the first place is to protect individual rights.

Good luck!

Weekly Word (and Equivocation): Science

Yesterday I was musing about writing a new post. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the difficulty inherent in writing on political topics. This difficulty stems from a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the reaction you will get from people who don’t agree with you. The other difficulties come from two sources, one for each type of reasoning involved. And that’s where I stumbled upon something else that’s been on my mind to write about for awhile. As I was busily talking to myself about the difficulties inherent in political writing, I spontaneously used the phrase political science.  I then immediately corrected myself – politics is not a science.

But isn’t it?

What exactly is a science?

The word science is actually a great example of polysemy. It is also an equivocation. An equivocation is, specifically, the use of words with double meanings that also happen to muddle our thinking, something the words man, or mole, or mouse, while examples of polysemy, almost never do. The word science, however, definitely does.

What are these two meanings? One is a very broad meaning – any broad field of study.

Under this usage, economic science and political science are entirely justified terms.

However, there is another understanding of the word science, one that if not made explicit can certainly cause problems – a broad field of study that uses the scientific method to discover the truth.

The scientific method.

Economics and Politics do not use the scientific method.

Science is empirical. That means to discover the truth in science one must observe some aspect of the outside world, collect observations as data, create hypotheses, do experiments to test those hypotheses, and only then draw a conclusion. This is the scientific method. On top of that, the conclusion drawn is perpetually tentative - meaning that further observations, hypotheses and experiments, can partially or completely invalidate it.

Neither politics nor economics are sciences in this sense. Both are the products of deductive reasoning. This means that no observation, data collection, hypothesizing, or experimenting are called for. It means that the conclusions drawn are certain insofar as the reasoning is correct, and therefore not tentative. It means that no further observations, hypotheses or experiments can ever invalidate them.

The use of the term science to refer to pursuits based on deductive reasoning is to my mind no accident. Insofar as it leads to errors in thinking – things like “The constitution of the United States is a 200 year old document. The ideas espoused there are outdated.” or “We must collect data on the demand for loans in order to determine how much money should be printed.” – it is a boon to those in power because it keeps the true nature of such fields hidden from the average person, thereby allowing the Powers-That-Be to take political and economic actions that enrich them at the expense of everyone else.

And it’s insidious. Because even people like me, who explicitly know better, can fall into the trap of using this word inappropriately. I think even Ayn Rand has done so in essays here and there referring to philosophy as “science”. What do you call these fields if not sciences? That is the question. Subject and field of study seem a bit boring and long winded respectively. Perhaps we don’t need a word at all. The science of economics is just economics and political science is just politics. Ah, yes, but in the universities both will always be referred to as sciences.

Now you know why.

Word of the Year: Militia

Yes, this is still the no-so-Weekly Word. But this word will pretty much define 2013 if only because it is one of the words that the great mass of unwashed people totally misunderstand. It is also a word you will hear bandied about by fools who imagine that if only there were no guns there would be no killing.

To get us started below is the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now, before I go on, I want to point something out. It is very easy to get wrapped up in what it says in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and be arguing that the government can’t do this or that because of what it says there. I’m here to tell you – it does not matter what it says there. If the right of the people to keep and bear arms is infringed the consequences are not just that someone disobeyed a rule laid down by some far off founders. The consequences are the loss of civilized society. The reason this rule appears at all in our Bill of Rights is because the particular men who wrote the rules happened to know that rights are a priori, and inalienable, and they wanted desperately to create a civilized nation. Rights are the product of logical deduction. They do not come from the government. Got it?

With that out of the way, let’s discuss the word of the year. What is a militia?

A militia is NOT a professional army. A militia is a group of average men and women, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, who pick up their arms, and come together in defense of themselves, each other, and their freedom whenever an emergency arises. While professional armies go all over the world initiating conflicts, militias never do. Their sole purpose is DEFENSE. They are average men and women defending themselves, their communities, and their way of life, from people who are threatening them. Some countries, like Switzerland, do not have professional armies at all. They DO NOT initiate conflict anywhere, but nevertheless stand ready to defend against it. They maintain organized militias.

The purpose of a militia is not just to defend against foreign invasion, though. Their purpose is to defend not the state, but the people. And the people sometimes need to defend themselves against the actions of the state.

Now, I’m sure in hindsight, if the men who founded this country could see what a mess has become of it, they would realize that prefacing the Second Amendment with the clause A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State… was a mistake. They were logical men, so perhaps they wanted to make some of their reasoning plain, but truthfully, if you’re making a rule book, don’t bother. The reasoning will just be used to defend the unreasonable. I have heard numerous times in defense of “gun control” that the second amendment applies only to a militia and since the STATES don’t have ORGANIZED militias, nobody ought to have a gun. This can only come from one who is horribly naive about the history of their own nation or of mankind in general… but… sigh… I will say just few words about it.

The words which are most key here are not state and organized but rather MILITIA and FREE – a militia being average ordinary folk protecting their freedoms from those who – external or internal to the current government (state) – are attempting to take those freedoms away. So rather, you can ask yourself this: Is a well regulated militia necessary to the security of a free state? Yes. And the Founders obviously thought so, too. That modern states don’t have these does not make this statement any less true. In fact, there ought to be agitation for the organization of militias and the dissolution of professional armies who murder and pillage all over the place in the name of “freedom” rather than calls for good people to be disarmed. Alas, I’m asking too much. Regardless, the argument that states don’t have militias is entirely irrelevant. And no, modern times are no different.

I recently had a short debate with someone who told me that only a few states had the right to secede from the union and he would have to check which ones they were and get back to me. I told him something that applies here as well – They all have that right. It doesn’t matter one whit what’s written in their constitutions or in the US Constitution or anywhere at all. That right – like the one to keep and bear arms – is inalienable. And why it is in alienable is laid out quite nicely in the Declaration of Independence. It’s worth a read.

As a bonus, watch this video of what always happens immediately before a holocaust as it is happening in Australia and will likely happen here, with or without a civil war.

Gun Laws and Rabbits

I’m sooooooo bored.

Honestly. If you are wondering why I don’t write much, this is largely the reason.

That, and the fact that I am a perfectionist writing about deep philosophical issues. But largely, I’m bored.

And the reason is this. After a while you realize that for a lot of people it doesn’t really matter how well you explain something. They are really just rabbits in disguise. Rabbits in the sense that no amount of logic can penetrate their skulls. Rabbits in the sense that reasoning is not really possible. (Ever try to reason with rabbits?)

Let it be known that if you are reading this, this probably doesn’t apply to you. The fact that you found this site in and of itself tells me you’re not a rabbit. Or any other type of rodent. You are human and thinking.

That being said, you probably don’t need another explanation about why laws against gun ownership are a really bad idea and in fact contribute to the kind of violence that happened in Connecticut. You don’t need another argument about how law abiding gun owners defend themselves and others, or how an armed populace defends itself against rogue government. If I were to write another carefully composed argument about all this, you would be bored, too.

There is, however, occasionally (very occasionally), someone who is just starting out. They’ve just fallen out of public school and have realized that they are not rabbits and they have started to think. Sometimes, albeit rarely, they find themselves here. If this is you, you can look at my previous posts about guns (Arm More Grandpas (Gun-Law a priori), Gun-Law a priori Part 2, and Guns) as well as some excellent arguments on the matter that have appeared in The Freeman and at the Mises Institute or on a host of other excellent sites with excellent authors. Do a search. The arguments have all been made. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

I’m not in the least surprised of course that after the tragedy in Connecticut, I would find a petition for more gun laws, already with 150,000 signatures, up on the White House’s website. (Something was needed to outshine that petition for Texas’s peaceful secession from the union after all.)

But, really. No argument can be made. Because the people who signed that petition are not people. They are rabbits. (Zombies if you prefer that metaphor, the point being that they cannot be reasoned with.) So why write? Why say the same old tired arguments that go over their heads with a loud swoosh. It’s boring.

For fun, you might want to point out that this same horror of yet another school shooting (funny they are always school shootings) is an excellent argument against parents SENDING THEIR KIDS TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. But, that… that, my friends, is never questioned.

I think the petition OUGHT to read “Make the WHITE HOUSE a GUN FREE ZONE!” If not, why not? (Ha! You need an argument? YOU make it.)

Just recently I had an argument with a guy who swore to me that 2+2 someday might be 5. (This really happened.) “How do we know?” he asks.

How, indeed.

But for those of you without any question about 2+2, I think you need some catharsis.

Note: There are a few other petitions with a lot less signatures floating around that support the 2nd Amendment. Here’s one, there are others.

Weekly Word: Autodidacticism

Ok, this one caught my attention on Wikipedia because of some of  the inane opinions on the Talk page. Now, never mind the conversion to an “ism” – as both autodidacticism and autodidactism are indeed words  – and with that I’d like to remind people that just because your spell-checker doesn’t recognize it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a word. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be in the dictionary to qualify – if it’s being used and people understand it. Hell, some of the words we use most often, for better or worse, are probably not in there. And you don’t need me to tell you what they are. (Bet you the spell checker gets them right, though!)

So who or what is an autodidact?

Here is the entry from Merriam-Webster:

Autodidact: a self-taught person
The adjective is autodidactic [which by the way my spellchecker does not recognize]
The origin is Greek – autodidaktos self-taught, from auto- + didaktos taught, from didaskein to teach.
The first known use was in 1748

So, an autodidact is a self-taught person.

Now, this is an interesting idea in itself because it contrasts only with the idea of being educated by someone else, something that, to my mind, can only mean brainwashing.

But today, popularly speaking, most people think it is only correct that one be educated formally and by a set of authorities – as you can see quite plainly by some of the talk on Wikipedia about the subtleties of meaning. Otherwise one apparently descends into lunacy. Some commenters do point out that on some level everyone is self-educated, but I’m not so sure about that. Self-educated people in general do not simply trust in what they are told by so-called teachers, public or private. In this sense, the autodidact has a particular philosophy when it comes to learning and THAT indeed justifies the -ism. He thinks for himself.

Autodidacticism (or autodidactism, whichever you prefer) is a philosophy. One that is not only natural, but is essential, to any free society.

As for the “gender bias” complained about on the talk page at Wikipedia – I can only guess that the complainer is a young woman who is insecure and focused on the opinions of others, particularly regarding her intelligence. I can only recommend that she become an autodidact and once she has learned a thing or two she will never be bothered by such things again. Nevertheless, if it helps, one of the biggest advocates of autodidacticism, especially with regard to it being an entirely natural process in the development of young children, is Maria Montessori.

Go forth and be autodidacts!

 

Weekly Word: Polysemy

I just discovered this one a short time ago while working on an article about language. Here’s the definition based on the Wikipedia entry:

Polysemy: the capacity for a sign, word, or phrase to have multiple related meanings. It is usually regarded as distinct from homonymy, in which the multiple meanings of a word may be unconnected or unrelated.

For example, a word like man would qualify as being polysemous because the meanings are related. Let’s look at them:

  • Man: humankind (both male and female, old and young)
  • Man: specifically a male human being
  • Man: even more specifically an adult male human being

Those are very obviously related as they all refer to human beings.

Wikipedia includes another one that I think is even better:

  • Book: a bound collection of pages (could be a blank book)
  • Book: a reproduced and distributed text (not a blank book, and perhaps not even paper pages (a digital book, for example)
  • Book: a verb meaning to record or make an entry in a ledger (a book!) or today in a computer file.

It seems rather common in language to find nouns become verbs and vice versa.

This would be opposed to a homonym like the word stalk:

  • Stalk: the stem of a plant
  • Stalk: verb meaning to follow and harass either an animal or person

There is some debate, it seems about whether polysemy is a distinct category or a subset of homonymy. It seems to me, though, that a great many homonyms are actually words that came to have a new meaning through metaphor.

Like the the mouth of an animal and the mouth of a river, for example.

Also in Wikipedia’s list of homonyms there are words like:

  • Change: verb meaning to become something different
  • Change: noun meaning money converted into a collection of different denominations
  • Change: noun meaning the difference between an amount of money charged for an item and the amount given to pay

The above are clearly related definitions.

Anyway, a very interesting word and one that I think is useful.

Polysemy, of course, if not properly recognized, can lead to the fallacy of equivocation.

How the anti-concept of “intellectual” property turns the real concept of property on its head

intellectual property

It should be somewhat obvious that nobody can really “own” an idea, right? An idea has no tangible existence. Ideas are not created either, they are discovered. This means that they are potentially available to any mind that bothers to think. Two people can discover the very same idea at the same time. Or at different times. If someone “gives away” an idea, he doesn’t lose it. It’s still part of his understanding, even as that understanding now also takes shape in the mind of another. Two people can use an idea without either of them suffering a loss. Ideas can be kept secret. But once they are shared, there is no way to take them back.

Real property is not like this. If you have a cup of coffee, you lose if someone else drinks it. If you are wearing a t-shirt, you lose if someone else wears it. Property is what’s known as “zero-sum”. Two people cannot use it at the same time. If one has it, the other doesn’t. Zero-sum.

Property is essential to life. Food, shelter, clothing, are essential to life. The portion of it that is yours cannot be anyone else’s and still be yours. Property is essential because you come into being already possessing something – your body. A body has to be maintained. It has requirements. You must have property if you are to live. The right to property is a corollary to the right to life.

Yet, the founders of America thought it was a good idea to:

..promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Perhaps they thought including the word “limited” would make what they were trying to do clearer. But any less than strict use of words leads down a slippery slope. And today, not only is the “limited” part being eroded away, but people are coming to believe that such a “right” really exists and they are taking that idea to its logical extreme. And its logical extreme is the total destruction of property qua property.

A couple of examples should clarify.

As an artist, I frequent a lot of websites that allow users to create color schemes. A color scheme is usually about 5 colors that work well together and are then used to create patterns, websites, print pieces, and other art works. People really enjoy putting colors together, sharing and discussing color ideas. And here is where the notion of a “right” to an idea starts down the path to absurd. I recently noticed that on one site that I was browsing, every color scheme saved included an automatic “license” that said things like “no commercial use” and “attribution must be given” and “derivative works ok with same license”. “Licensing” a color scheme? Maybe they thought they were being magnanimous in using the Creative Commons wording. Really? Are they serious? What will be “licensed” next? The A-minor musical scale? Nobody owns musical notes. And nobody owns colors. So, this sort of “license” is perfectly absurd. I don’t even think the US government would really uphold such a thing – at least not yet. At this rate, though, who knows. But this tells you the kind of thing that the notion of “intellectual” property leads to. If you believe in that sort of thing – i.e., ownership of ideas, then this is the logical next step. These guys are just being consistent.

But it gets worse. Much worse. In a recent news article on Marketwatch, Jennifer Waters discusses how your ability to lawfully resell your used products is now in jeopardy. In a nutshell, some copyright holders think you ought to get permission from them to resell whatever you purchased from them. Imagine buying a book and then not being able to sell it, maybe, not even be able to give it away, without permission. Bye bye, eBay. If such an idea took hold, you wouldn’t be able to sell anything at all. After all, everything is designed by somebody.

And with that goes the entire notion of property.

This is the logical consequence of confusing a metaphorical ownership with a real one. Taking the ownership of ideas as something real, this is what you get: you don’t really own anything. In the end the “creator” owns everything and he suddenly has the power to tell you what you can and can’t do with it. He gets to sell his product and keep it, too. Only, nobody creates anything that doesn’t have some roots in something someone else did, said, or thought. So much for having your cake. You’ll be lucky if you get to eat it.

These two examples are just taking the concept of “intellectual” property and consistently applying it. How do you all feel about those patents and copyrights now?

Weekly Word: Corollary

Yes, I know. My Weekly Words are sporadic. I’m working on that. Here’s one now:

Corollary.

A good one to follow up a priori, a corollary is a proposition that follows without any additional proof from one already proven.

I think of it like this: If I can say therefore, it’s probably a corollary. For example: A=B therefore it follows that A is not less than B or therefore it follows that A is not greater than B.

Generally, its use is reserved for things that are self-evident, like the statements above. But it is sometimes used where the logic is deductive, but hardly self-evident like:

One has a right to life, therefore one has a right to property in himself.

Property in oneself is corollary because it is essentially a restatement of right to life, but someone who is not familiar with the ideas and terms may have to mull it over a bit before he realizes it.

It gets harder. For example: I think therefore I am. Or I doubt therefore God exists.

Both I am and God exists are corollary statements in the sense that they are deductive reasoning and are implied by the axioms (I think and I doubt) that precede them. But for sure you’ll need to mull them over!

Happy Reasoning! :-)

What is Thwocking?

What is Thwocking?

I watch a lot of TV.

I know, I know… it rots your brain, right?

Well, it certainly can, and the reasons behind that are two-fold.

First, if you are a child, or the type of person who prefers not to reflect on things, you can be easily swayed to believe whatever the TV wants you to believe. If that wasn’t the purpose of TV when it was first invented, it has certainly been put to that use by now.

In essence, media today takes the place of the church in olden times. People would gather in the church. They got their news and their beliefs from the priest. It was a means of propagandizing. (Hey, that’s why the church would kill you if you publicly said anything that might interfere with their plans for the sheep, ok?) Today the media plays nearly all the church roles. It hires priests (also known as politicians and scientists) and it puts on lots and lots of morality plays (sitcoms, dramas, “reality” shows…). In that way it teaches you what to believe and how to behave. It works because much of the information we take in and process happens unconsciously. Weeding through all that stuff is the conscious process of reflecting, something far too few people do. (Hey, it’s work.)

Now, not all media is in on it. My blog isn’t. (Ha ha! Maybe it is! No…) The internet is just brimming with real journalists and pundits – people who are doing their own thinking and are simply expressing themselves. It’s just that those who are not official don’t reach the great mass of unwashed people. You’ll know if you start to because if you’re not saying the right things, someone will try to shut you up. That’s what SOPA, and all those crazy copyright laws are for – oh wait, you thought those were to protect you?

Anyway, that’s the first way it will rot your brain. Well, not rot your brain, just turn you into a zombie. Okay, that is kind of like rotting your brain. The only difference is, your brain is actually still fine. You can change it whenever you like. The longer it’s like that, though, the harder it is.

But there’s another way that TV rots your brain (and eats up large amounts of otherwise productive time)… it’s very, very, relaxing. It’s kind of like a smoke or a drink. It talks to you. Lulls you to sleep. It tells you a bedtime story. Even if you are well aware, as I am, that a lot of it is horribly slanted, and you tend not to fall for the propaganda, it can still be a lot like a drug, causing you to lay around when you could be doing something more productive. It can fill you with apathy. It’s a dangerous drug, really, if you don’t manage it.

When my mother passed away in 2001, I watched more TV than ever before. That’s how I became addicted. I realized its benefits in overcoming grief. Back then I watched a lot of History Channel. I think it made me feel better to imagine a time when Mom was not just alive but young. I also watched a lot of Court TV and Cartoon Network – the escapism aspect should be obvious in the pairing of those two. What TV served as for me at that time is simply this: a pacifier.

TV really is the Great Pacifier.

So, I’ve come to call watching too much TV – especially inane TV, the kind that educates you on no real useful topic, as thwocking. That’s the sound the pacifier makes as you suck on it… TWHOCK THWOCK THWOCK…

Just remember you heard it here first.

Thwock thwock thwock…

An entire nation of us. Addicted. A kind of silent addiction. Well, except for the…

Thwock thwock thwock…

How do you battle a thwocking addiction? I’m not entirely sure. But here are some things I’ve been trying:

  • If you must do it, do it only at bedtime. (Make sure you have a timer on the TV to shut it off!) It really can be a great sleep aid.
  • If you must do it, force yourself to watch something at least potentially educational. Yes, it’s usually a vast wasteland, but there are pockets of good stuff – even great stuff – for learning.
  • If you must do it, watch it in a foreign language. This can be a great excuse for watching a lot of junk. In the end, at least you learned something.
  • If you must do it, critique the hell out of it. I’ve gotten some good material for the blog that way!

That’s all I’ve got so far. Going cold turkey is always good. But then, that’s just another reason why, despite all the apocalyptic visions to the contrary, I doubt that power to the TV is ever likely to be out for too long…

Thwock thwock thwock…

Happy Thwocking!

Ice and Economics

I’m a little behind in my readings in The Freeman, (the Foundation for Economic Education‘s excellent magazine), so if you read it, you may already have already seen this little piece by David J. Hebert. If not I highly recommend it. It’s called Ice and Economics and although it is not specific to this question, I think it expresses in a wonderful nutshell exactly why price gouging is good.

“If there is a disaster, we would want people to use less of [a resource] so that everyone else can still use some.”

Of course! Why would we want panic and hours waiting on lines?

“With firmly established and enforced property rights, not only does the owner not have to worry about someone else taking his things, but he also doesn’t have to rush out to gather the resources as quickly as he can. A situation where there are no property rights is susceptible to what is called the ‘tragedy of the commons,’ where the resource gets depleted too quickly and never has a chance to replenish.”

Hours waiting on lines anyone? The station running out before you make it there?

Yes, the gas lines may be gone here in NJ, but there is always a good reason to learn about economics or they’ll be back.

“Meanwhile, as the price of ice on the ponds rose, the people of Boston gained the information that it would bring a higher return in the Bahamas, thus they used less themselves and sold the ice to the Bahamians.”

There’s more to the article of course so be sure to read the whole thing.

Affluent Beggars

I saw them again yesterday. Affluent kids standing at the supermarket exit holding buckets to collect cash from shoppers as they leave the store. The signs that adorn those buckets read “Support [insert name of town or public high school] Crew”… or Football, Soccer, Hockey, or Lacrosse…. Sometimes they want a trip to Florida, or Italy, or England. Often their parents are sitting there right beside them in little folding chairs looking on proudly or sporting a bucket of their own.

Yes, their parents don’t just condone this sort of behavior, they participate in it. Apparently there is no shame in it. Apparently they have not equated it with exactly what it is:

Begging.

I had thought that given the state of the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy I might not see this for awhile, although it’s very common around here. I thought it much more likely that I would see real charitable organizations asking for contributions to help those who have lost their homes – certainly a worthy cause. But no. These beggars are asking for money for themselves. Not because they’re poor. Not because they’re disabled. But so that they can enjoy a luxury and one which, by the way, their parents are more than equipped to pay for.

Besides being affluent and begging for a luxury, what’s worse is that nearly all of this begging is done in the name of a public school that has already taken money from taxpayers.

Some years ago I attended a real estate school. One day the students got off on a side discussion about taxes for school and I said that I thought it was unfair that I had to pay taxes for school, since I didn’t have any children. A man in the front was very upset by my remark. He had kids in school and felt that it was perfectly fair that others be made to pay to support them. He thought that I was being selfish for not wanting to. Apparently his desire to take from me (and by force no less) to support his children was not selfish at all.

To be fair, I don’t think this had ever really occurred to him before. Until I brought it up, it was something he had just accepted and never analyzed. (You might say it’s a form of brainwashing, but in truth his brain was never washed because it never had done any conscious consideration in the first place.) However, I got the sense from him that he would be thinking about what I had said from that day on. I still wonder what became of him.

But this is different, right? The kids are begging, they’re not forcing anybody.

No. But it’s the same sense of entitlement that allows people to do this sort of begging without feeling any shame. Many of the poorest people who beg feel terrible shame in having to do it, and they are truly in need. What excuse do these kids and their parents have? I’ve imagined asking them a few innocent questions to see if even then they show any signs of embarrassment.

Maybe something like this:

Q. Oh. Are you poor?

A. No.

Q. Oh. Are you disabled?

A. No.

Q. Oh. (Here maybe I’d drop a quarter in the bucket.)

Now, I don’t mind children fund raising for their school events. But they should do it by trading value for value. Whatever happened to a car wash, a bake sale, or putting on a play? In fact, fundraising in this manner is a way to teach children that they should not expect something for nothing – that living in a civilized society requires trading value for value. In truth, that is one of the most important things a child need to learn at that age.

But maybe that’s exactly why such things are not done so much anymore.

It’s interesting that they are always begging outside of the supermarket. Maybe someone should throw some food stamps in their buckets.

Poll: Who did YOU vote for?

Who did you vote for in the 2012 US Presidential Election?

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Does it Matter Who Gets Elected Part Two

Back in January I wrote a post about how it matters who gets elected even when that person is a liar or is powerless to change anything, because it tells you something about the philosophy and the maturity of the people who vote.

The video I posted a few days before the election where Mark Dice convinces various people that the election has already taken place (and who flat out lie about having voted, btw) made me realize that you can take this concept further and actually divide people into levels based upon who they vote for.

Now, both the Republicans and Democrats spout socialist crap. Both focus on non-issues, like gay marriage or abortion (hey, sex sells), both are pro-war, and both will lead the country along essentially the same agenda. But it occurred to me that Mark Dice was, in that video, in a sea of Democrats. This simply because I know that had he bumped into a Republican, they would have known right away that the election had not taken place. Now, why is that?

It is largely because Democrat is the default political party. In other words, if you don’t know anything at all about politics, or you aren’t really interested, you will imagine yourself a Democrat. This is because the media that the most ignorant among us happen to consume is overwhelmingly slanted to that view. Hence, as your maturity level and knowledge of the world improves (if it ever does), you will inevitably become something else.

The default something else is Republican. This is for two reasons. One, it is generally considered the opposite position and two, it is imagined to be supporting generally more economic freedom. As people grow up, they start earning a living and hence start paying taxes. The more productive they are, the more taxes they pay. They start to realize that the money comes from them. So, we can say, that while Democrats are hardly productive at all (they tend to be children and old people) at least Republicans are economically productive. So, if you are Republican you’ve definitely taken a step up.

At the next level are the various third parties. All of those are pretty much the same as Democrat or Republican but with some pet issue they are obsessed with. A Democrat with an environmental obsession might be a Green for example. A Republican who has just discovered the Constitution might choose the Constitution party and so on.

The Libertarian party is the party you choose once you’ve graduated to understanding that there is an ideal. You are at the highest level you can be at and still be a member of a political party.

At the truly highest level one can achieve, though, a person begins to realize that there is no ultimate guru or group. He realizes that he is an individual and he no longer aligns himself with a party at all. He only considers ideas and whether they are true or false, good or evil.

Each of these stages will vote for different candidates (if they vote at all).

So, if the vote is legitimate and a huge number of people vote for a candidate like Ron Paul (whether or not you think he’s for real or could actually achieve anything) you know you have a basically good population of people who are at least investigating the truth.

How many people voted for Ron Paul? Despite the fact that he was no longer a candidate, did anyone write in his name? We’ll probably never know.

But, I think it’s definitely something worth knowing.

Why We’re 49 and They’re 50

According to Freedom in the 50 States, a publication by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University that ranks the 50 US States by how free they are, New Jersey, the state I live in, ranks 49 and my neighbor New York ranks 50.

That doesn’t surprise me.

But to underscore those rankings, given the current crisis here in the Northeast caused by Hurricane Sandy, here are two interesting points I’ve discovered in the last week, these in addition to anti-”price-gouging”-gasoline-rationing-odd-even-days from the 70′s.

This first one doesn’t actually relate to Hurricane Sandy specifically, but it does impact people currently suffering from it. Chuck Grimmet recently posted his rant Bloomberg Donations Ban and Perverse Consequences in The Freeman and I agree wholeheartedly. But here it is, the original story from March of this year, as it appeared on the FoxNews website: Nanny Bloomberg Bans Food Donations to Homeless Shelters: Too Salty!

That’s right. No donations because the food is too salty. I don’t really think I need to say more. I understand Chuck Grimmet’s rant. I often feel the need to rant. Something inside of me still thinks that if I explain it clearly enough people will go “Oh! I get it! You’re kidding, right?” I still think there’s a possibility they will understand. I mean, it’s not 2+2=4, it’s just really, really close. Someone could honestly misunderstand, right? But I guess I’m starting to get tired because I now think that if you don’t see this as wrong without having to have it explained to you, you are probably a babbling idiot anyway and explaining it to you would be kind of like trying to teach a rabbit to read.

But if you think a rant will help you, or maybe just be a catharsis, definitely go read Chuck’s. The only thing I might add is this – there’s a reason we as a species crave salt and sugar: because when you are going hungry those are exactly what you need. Just another reason it isn’t beneficial to have an idiot feeding you.

This next one is from New Jersey and actually is in relation to Hurricane Sandy specifically. Here it is: ‘No Red Tape’? New Jersey Turns Away Non-union Relief Crews

That link is from Breitbart, but this blog post from Chris Wysocki is much more entertaining. Some of the comments he points out illustrate nicely the attitude of union members. This exchange is my favorite:

Union man: Have you ever wored (sic) with non-union lineman? I have and no, they are not as well trained and have not done the train ing (sic) that IBEW lineman do. There is no way that I would do storm work with someone who has not even been train (sic) and too stupid (sic) to know it is better to be a union lineman. It is far too dangerous.

Non-union man: We have very reliable electric lighting here in Alabama. We also go through a major storm (Cat 3,4,5) every eight or ten years with little ones (like Cat 1 Sandy) about every other year. After Katrina, we had power back in less than four days. We have the crews. You have the unions. Enjoy the dark.

I hate unions.

Now, when I was a kid just out of high school and I got my first job I was in a union. I thought it was great. If I did something worthy of getting myself fired, my union rep came in looking all sharp in his suit and carrying his briefcase and he would go and “negotiate” with my employers to keep me on the payroll. I felt all kinds of important when he came in. I had a thug in my corner. On some level, I knew that’s exactly what he was. It always worked, too. Well… not really, because eventually that store went out of business.

Now, let it be known, I believe wholeheartedly in people’s freedom to organize themselves for their mutual benefit. The problem is, unions are not that. They aren’t really for self defense as they like to claim and for the most part their antagonists are not even the companies that employ the workers – no, just as that story illustrates – they are really other workers that the union members want to prevent from bidding on jobs in order to keep their own wages unduly high – i.e., thuggery.

Anyway, just two small examples of why, especially during a crisis, New Jersey ranks 49 and New York ranks 50.