Wednesday, November 30, 2005

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Abortion Case Today

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The court is dealing with its first abortion case in five years, as well as the first in the brief tenure of Chief Justice John Roberts.

The case does not challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that declared abortion a fundamental constitutional right, and the justices seemed to be seeking a compromise that would avoid breaking new ground.

Several said the law was flawed, because it requires that a parent be informed 48 hours before a minor child has an abortion but makes no exception for a medical emergency that threatens the youth's life.

So the Supreme Court is going to decide soon whether or not a New York state law that requires notification of parents 48 hours in advance of an abortion for a girl under 18 years of age is unconstitutional or not based on the emergency exemptions the law has (or doesn't have). I can only shake my head in disappointment. Disappointment that this law was even conceived (pun intended), disappointment that this law could be voted on in the first place, and extreme disappointment that this law was voted in by the majority of New Yorkers.

From a libertarian perspective, everything about this situation, from the law itself to the supreme court getting involved, is just plain wrong. First of all, any law that positively restricts the freedom of an individual is never permissible, and this law does exactly that. In addition, restricting the reproductive rights of a person simply because they are under an arbitrary age limit is absurd, inhumane, and positively evil.

Of course there is also the democratic aspect of this law. It was voted in by the majority of New Yorkers. This is a fine example of "tyranny of the majority" and it shows us why democracy, and voting, is a bad thing. In a popular voting system, individual rights can never be guaranteed; they are always at risk to the latest fad or emotion that the majority of people feel. In fact, in America, the only time individual rights are protected is when courts strike down stupid laws like these that get voted in by an idiotic populous. Popular vote did not give America Roe vs. Wade. Popular vote did not declare that separate is inherently unequal.

In a libertarian society with unalterable individual rights derived from natural law, this law would never have even existed, much less been voted on. A libertarian government would never have the ability, much less interest, in taking any kind of stand on abortion issues. In a libertarian society, things would be much more simple. A woman would be allowed to get an abortion, regardless of age, and without any notification being sent to her parents. If she wants her parents to know, she can tell them herself. It isn't the doctor's business, it isn't the government's business, and it sure as hell isn't the general population's business.

Coercion is never permissible in a libertarian meritocracy based on natural law, but in an American democracy it is. A democracy cannot guarantee the security and self-determination of its citizens. Only a non-democratic libertarian society can.

As long as popular voting exists, our rights will never be secure. And no clearer an example of this is needed when we see the reproductive rights of our daughters, sisters, and girlfriends being taken away from them.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happiness vs Growth / LibertyGrid

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Will Wilkinson has an interesting quote about the correlation between happiness and economic growth :

By continually giving people a sense of living better than they or their families have in the not very distant past, sustained economic growth reduces the intensity of their desire to live better than one another. Economic growth satisfies the form of people's aspirations for "more" that is possible for everyone to fulfill. . .

When an economy stagnates, however, the importance people attach to living better than others against whom they naturally compare themselves is more intense. The fact they cannot do so, or at least on average cannot, then takes on heightened importance in their eyes. The resulting frustration generates intolerance, ungenerosity, and resistance to greater openness to individual opportunity. . .

Mobility, either economic or social, is inherently threatening because it means the possibility of movement either up, or, more to the point, down, compared to the prevailing norms of the society as a whole. But when the average income for an economy is stagnant, people who allow others to get ahead of them are not only falling behind in relative terms but also losing ground compared to their own past living standard. They lose out from the perspective of both benchmarks. When an economy is growing, however, and per capita income is rising, those who fall behind compared to others can still be moving ahead--and if growth is sufficient, moving ahead solidly--by the standard of their own experience.

What does anyone think about LibertyGrid ? I'd be interested about hearing other people's thoughts on that site.

Freedom from religion, not freedom of religion

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It's no secret that none of the contributors here like religion, and since we live in North America and Western Europe, that means Christianity. In fact, we feel pretty strongly that religion is bad for society and should be fought against. I have also written an entry on why I think Christians are our cultural enemies. I think it's pretty clear that the Christian worldview - not all Christians, only those who subscribe to it - are enemies of individualism and individual rights.

I know this is not a very popular position to take. I'm not in it to be popular. I'm not in it to be nice. Learning to call a spade a spade is the first step towards a realistic assessment of any situation - without honesty (the uncompromising recognition of reality) and frankness (the ability to express such uncompromising recognitions), we have no guard against problems. It's easy to bury one's head in the sand and refuse to see problems. I think that, in a large part, the current anti-science and anti-atheist movements are due to such head-burying.

The current attitude towards religion is that any religion is good, as long as you have a religion. It doesn't matter what side you're on, at long as you acknowledge the legitimacy of the game. It is not other religions, but rather atheism, which is seen as the enemy. Even atheists make it a point not to challenge Christians to their face, and that is very distressing.

So we end up with a society which preaches "freedom of religion". Freedom of religion means : you have special rights, you are recognized, as long as you have a religion. If you don't, then you lose out. But beyond this inequality, the main problem is that these "special rights" are not natural, and therefore go against freedom.

The most flagrant example is educational abuse. So-called "religious schools" are allowed to teach anything they want in the name of religion, even cults. These brainwashing institutions have no place and should be banned, or at least forbidden to pass as "schools" and "universities", that is to say, if we have a society based on evidence and not on belief, and on protecting the individual from religious fraud. I'm in favour of prudent predation in society, so I wouldn't be in favour of banning them outright, but that's a wholly different issue.

So we've got this thing called "freedom of religion". We must reject this concept and replace it with "freedom from religion". Individuals should be free to be religious but, as anti-individual belief systems, we shoule ensure first of all that the individual is free to leave religion, regardless of cultural, social, family pressures. It is only when the individual has a free mind that he is able to make decisions that pursue his own interest (and by extension general interest).

The special protection of religion hurts everyone. It favours religion and its collectivist consequences, oppresses the victims of religion, warps public discourse, and only creats more inequalities of rights. We should no longer talk about "freedom of religion" but rather the "freedom from religion".

Another aspect of this issue is that Christianity is inherently opposed to freedom of mind, which is a necessary prerequisite for political freedom. It's easy to restrict freedom to political freedom, but if you look at a cult like Scientology, for example, and people who can't leave even when they are made to basically do slave labour simply because they live in fear, I don't think you can really dissociate the two. Sure, political freedom is an important part of it, but not by far the whole story. You can have the most libertarian society in the world and still have an extremely oppressive society.

So the other aspect we should consider is whether we'd like an oppressive monotheistic religion to dominate public discourse. And while Christianity is not as bad as a cult like Scientology, it still promotes mental submission and moral irresponsibility. And that also reflects on politics. If we tolerate Christian discourse, we're tolerating a worst society for each and every one of us.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Greenies and their beliefs

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Because environmental causes have been turned so adroitly by left-wing and activist demagogues as quasi-cults of government and animal worship, the single issue on which us libertarians tend to get lumped in with the lunatics in the right-wing is the environment. It makes me depressed that so many people smash real science together with plutocratic Christian lunacy, just because we disagree with them.

So in the interest of general understanding and reconciliation, I have decided to take the time to explain to my fellow libertarians what the Greenie movement is all about.

First, here is the top 10 list of signs you are a Greenie :

10. You’re furious that pounds kill pets, so you support an organization which kills pets.

9. You think coal pollution is better than nuclear waste, and then you complain about the quality of our air.

8. You think “risk assessment” is a board game.

7. You constantly complain about layoffs, but you think losing millions of jobs (and billions of dollars) is okay if it helps reduce the air temperature by a fraction of a degree. You think people promoting the alternative of sound technological solutions are crackpots.

6. You’re pissed off when people serve you meat, but you act surprised when people blast you for wanting to enforce veganism on your future innocent babies.

5. You think the precautionary principle is AOK, except when it’s applied against you. Then it becomes a matter of principles.

4. You get mad when anyone says you think other animals are more important than people, but you cheer when hunters die or animal researchers are threatened with their grandmother's corpse.

3. You think “The Tragedy of the Commons” is a Shakespeare play.

2. You say we should respect all life, then you gulp antibiotics. The hypocrisy of this doesn’t register in your mind at all.

1. You’re so concerned about third-world hunger that you campaign to ban life-saving GM foods from Africa.

Now, the top 4 activities of Greenies (using American statistics) :

4. Having sex and making children... while believing that human activity is inherently harmful. Perhaps they think it's okay as long as you can brainwash your children to become "caring" Greenies like they are.

3. Eating vegetarian because it's "healthy", "natural" and "compassionate", even though vegetarianism is unnatural, makes many people weaker, and threshers kill more rodents and snakes during a single grain harvest than the amount of animals all slaughterhouses kill in an entire year.

2. "Sustainability". I think this has to do with protesting globalization and growing your own vegetables (not that I have anything against growing your own vegetables). I think it also has to do with whining about oil reserves while you drive your SUV (I don't own a car, so I can feel as superior as I want to the Greenies on this point).

1. Recycling ! This icon of Greenie "concern" persists in the public consciousness even though it is generally acknowledged that a single landfill 120 feet deep and 44 miles square could handle 1000 years of garbage and that recycling in most cases (around 150-200$/ton, and only for some waste) is a waste of resources compared to disposal (30-90$/ton, depending on the place, for all waste).

Finally, here are some jokes about Greenies :

Q: What do you call a Native vegetarian ?
A: A bad shot.
(credit to the show "Cooking with the Wolfman" on APTN for that one)

Q: How many Greenies does it take to change a lightbulb ?
A1: None - lightbulbs aren't biodegradable. Greenies prefer to suffocate themselves with oil lamps.
A2: Twenty to write the EPA report, a hundred to protest the lightbulb changing, and one to give away the socket to the government so the evil capitalists don't get their hands on it and make a profit by offering to change it at a lower price.

Q: Why did the Greenie cross the road ?
A: He had to go back to the car to get his sign for the anti-globalization protest.

Q: Why was Hitler vegetarian ?
A: Because he valued cattle more than human beings.

Ba-doom-tish ! Thank you very much. I'll be here all week.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The lack of respect for suicide

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There is a general understanding that suicide should be strongly disouraged, both by education and law. And it is true that teenagers generally consider suicide with a lack of perspective. Because of their young age, they tend to lack gravity in the face of the issue, as well as the wholly romanticized notion of the "noble suicide".

The fact remains, however, that this is a small minority. The vast majority of suicides, perhaps 90% according to a 1995 study, have as major factor mental disorders or drug abuse (including alcohol), even in teenagers. Furthermore, a lot of the remaining suicides are due to grave medical conditions. The highest suicide rate is in the "older than 85" demographic (all of this using United States data).

So the old bromides about suicide do not apply most of the time, and education is basically pointless. "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" only applies to temporary problems, not to debilitating health problems. "Suicide is cowardly" does not apply when there's no other way to fight the problem. And of course both have no relevance to mental illness, where free will becomes a rare commodity.

Still, there are vast differences between countries, and in some cases there is a significant difference. So suicide rates, while not a social problem due to the reasons I just listed, can underlie cultural problems. There seems to be no economic or political correlation to suicide, but cultural correlations are obvious. Countries of the former Eastern bloc have high suicide rates, probably due to the harrowing post-Communist conditions and high rate of alcoholism. On the other hand, other poor countries have extremely low suicide rates. A country like Japan, which considers suicide justifiable in many instances, has a very high suicide rate. The low suicide rates in Islamic countries may be explained by the strict prohibition of suicide in Islam, as well as the sense of purpose given by religious fanaticism. Of course, these are just basic guesses that do not explain a sea of data. But it seems clear that cultural factors are most important, although we have to remember that culture is nothing without tacit moral acceptance.

I think the basic problem with the debate around suicide and assisted suicide is the equivocation between suicide-romanticism, which is not nearly as prevalent as people think, and a reasoned decision to "end one's life". There is a definite lack of respect for the notion that one may desire to take what, according to religion, "God has given us". These notions should have dissapeared with scientific understanding of reproduction, but religious beliefs have made debates centered around reproductive facts highly aberrated. The fact remains that one owns one's own life, and that there can be no justification to discourage or prohibit suicide. If we entrust to the state control over one's most important and profound decision about one's body, then it would be absurd to then preach freedom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

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Standing up for you? Is that why he's leaning lazily up against a shit-brown wall?

The slack-jawed idiot pictured to the left is Dan McTeague, member of the Liberal caucus in the Canadian parliament, member of parliament for Pickering—Scarborough East, Ontario. You see, Toronto has been having some trouble with gun violence. So Danny Boy thinks the smart thing to do would be to ban 50 Cent, barring him from entering Canada during his upcoming tour. Fucking moron. Yeah, banning individuals or works that say stupid, ugly, or unpopular things really works well and it's totally acceptable in a free society, right? Or even in a semi-free society like Canada?

Don't get me wrong; I hate 50 Cent. I think his image, his lyrics, and his music are stupid and boring. Right now, though, I hate Dan McTeague even more.

McTeague has written to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, asking him to stop Curtis Jackson (a.k.a. 50 Cent) from crossing the border. The last I heard, Mr. Volpe has not yet responded.

Mr. McTeague's web site is here:

The Honorable Dan McTeague, Moron at Large

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Standing up for you? Is that why he's leaning lazily up against a shit-brown wall?

The slack-jawed idiot pictured above is Dan McTeague, member of the Liberal caucus in the Canadian parliament, member of parliament for Pickering—Scarborough East, Ontario. You see, Toronto has been having some trouble with gun violence. So Danny Boy thinks the smart thing to do would be to ban 50 Cent, barring him from entering Canada during his upcoming tour. Fucking moron. Yeah, banning individuals or works that say stupid, ugly, or unpopular things really works well and it's totally acceptable in a free society, right? Or even in a semi-free society like Canada?

Don't get me wrong; I hate 50 Cent. I think his image, his lyrics, and his music are stupid and boring. Right now, though, I hate Dan McTeague even more.

McTeague has written to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, asking him to stop Curtis Jackson (a.k.a. 50 Cent) from crossing the border. The last I heard, Mr. Volpe has not yet responded.

Mr. McTeague's web site is here:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Libertarianism on the UK Virtual Economy

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The Virtual Economy model has been online for quite a while. I remember playing with this years ago. Since we now have a libertarian blog, I thought I'd give a go at it once again and show you the results. I try to apply as much capitalism as I can. Here are my choices for each category (in the advanced model) :

* Income tax : as low as the model permits, with the highest brackets. That means 6%, 10% and 22%.
* Income tax allowances : as high as the model permits.
* Macroeconomy : Unfortunately, the model does not allow for stabilization of the monetary supply or controlled deflation, so I choose "keep inflation at base level". I halve spending on health care, education and defense (assuming that the first two will be covered by private systems and charter systems, and the latter reduced to self-defense).
* National Insurance : as low as the model permits, with the lowest brackets.
* Indirect taxes : abolish duties on beer, spirits, wine. VAT abolished. No change to petrol, tobacco, fuel tax and car tax.
* Benefits : all children-related benefits are reduced as much as the model permits. Working tax credit is maximized. Pension stays the same (it's not the old people's fault if they lived in a crappy system). Tax credits withdrawal rate is set at 10% (to maximize the number of families who have access to the credits - the lower the %, the less the credit tapers off as you go in higher incomes).

Aaaand... run model !

And you get great results. For one thing, all the family scenarios save more money except for the two unemployed parents one, from 1k more (in low-income families) to 47k more (in the case of two employed parents making 100k a year). As predicted, poor families benefit greatly from the abolition of the sales tax, while rich families benefit greatly from the abolition of the income tax.

The government also benefits greatly from this change - tremendous growth and lower spending means more money :

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Unfortunately, because of the stunning growth we're stuck with murderous inflation :

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But the GDP per capita skyrockets, even adjusting for inflation, which seems to indicate that this inflation is probably entirely caused by the rise in salaries coupled with a growing monetary supply :

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And we're going to need major immigration to fill out all these new jobs, otherwise the economy is gonna stagnate pretty fast :

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All in all, I think this would be a rather rude shock treatment, and that progressively introducing free market measures would probably be better. But I think living in such a society would be pretty good, all things considered.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Unions Hurt the Economy, Society

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General Motors, the world's largest automaker, announced recently that it will be cutting 30,000 jobs and closing about a dozen facilities in an effort to save $7 billion a year and return the company to profitability. Those 30,000 jobs that will be cut represent about 22% of General Motors' hourly workforce.

But the United Auto Workers union may make things difficult for GM. They of course have blasted the move as unfair:

Not surprisingly, the leadership of the United Auto Workers union blasted the move as unfair.

"We have said consistently that General Motors cannot shrink itself to prosperity. In fact, shrinking General Motors only exacerbates its problems," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President Richard Shoemaker said in a joint statement. "Unfortunately, it is workers, their families and our communities that are being forced to suffer because of the failures of others," they added.


The company's contract with the United Auto Workers union essentially prevents layoffs before it expires in September 2007, as the company needs to pay union members whether or not there is a job for them.

To a small degree, the UAW is right: you can't simply shrink a company into prosperity. But what you can do is manage a company into prosperity. And some of that management involves cutting excess capacity, which is a big, costly problem for GM right now. And given the fact that the UAW contract guarantees pay for these 30,000 employees through 2007, it looks like GM has its hands tied. GM will be facing many difficulties in adjusting their payroll and excess production capacity in order to keep the company thriving.

What is the UAW doing essentially? They are telling GM what to do. They are restricting GM's ability to manage itself as a company, and contract and expand as the market demands. Of course, UAW would never have any problem with GM expanding its workforce, because that would mean more union members, more union dues, and more clout for the union itself. But whenever GM tries to cut back, the UAW fights tooth and nail. The UAW serves as the greatest impediment to GM's attempts to become profitable again. Ironically, the longer it takes GM to turn a profit, the more financial hot water the company gets in, and the hourly union jobs currently in force become even more at risk.

In my opinion, GM (and all automakers in North America) should refuse to hire union members. The UAW doesn't make cars: GM does. The UAW doesn't make its own jobs: it takes money from those who have jobs, and the UAW itself has only a small payroll for the union administrators. But if it weren’t for automakers like GM, Ford, and others, the UAW wouldn't even be able to pay its own administrators or collect union dues. The UAW's entire existence is dependent upon auto giants like GM to employ its members. And yet here we have the UAW telling GM how to run itself. Maybe GM should tell the UAW how to operate, and tell it to shut the hell up.

What does a union like the UAW do? It fights for "decent pay," for one thing, which amounts to an artificial minimum wage within a niche industry (in this case, automotive jobs), and we all know how minimum wage situations hurt society and the economy. They also fight for as many jobs as possible, which restricts the employer’s ability to turn a profit, and in the long run only endangers the job security of everyone that works for the company. Indeed, it puts a greater risk on the mere existence of the company. And to top it off, the pay raises that the UAW fights for are either nullified or reduced in effectiveness for the union members because of the mandatory monthly union dues.

A union can do some good in a monopoly job market. But this is a capitalist economy, where over a dozen different automakers have huge operations in America, and the UAW is obsolete and superfluous. There is a literal automotive job market, where auto manufacturers naturally and necessarily have to compete with each other to offer the best jobs to attract the most capable workers. The unions don't need to exist to protect anybody's wages or job security. The nature of the free and competitive job market does that automatically.

But let's look at the heart of this particular issue: the 30,000 employees that will be laid off. It will be unfortunate for these 30,000 people to receive pink slips. But why artificially protect their jobs through coercion or restrictive, long-term contracts? These 30,000 people will have plenty of options once they get laid off. They can find other jobs at other automobile manufacturers. For example, if GM is laying them off due to lower sales, yet the car market is expanding (which it is), then that means that other companies like Toyota or Honda are increasing their sales. Those other companies will need to hire more people to produce the extra cars that are being sold. These 30,000 people can get jobs at the other companies (yes, Toyota and Honda have many large facilities operating locally in North America). Or the 30,000 people could get jobs in other fields. Or they could start their own car company!

If the UAW is right, and they think they know how to operate a car company better than the people who run GM, then why don’t they organize and start their own car company? It’s a free market and nobody is going to stop them from starting up a competing automobile company. They already have a 30,000 person strong workforce to tap into, after all. I already know what a UAW representative would answer to that question: they would say that the automaking industry is fierce and that they would be squeezed out of the market before they got a chance to sell a car. In other words, they would be admitting that they wouldn't be able to run the company efficiently and competitively enough to survive. So who the hell do they think they are telling GM how to sail its own ship?

The UAW has the attitude that their members have a right to a job. That’s bullshit. Nobody has a right to a job, ever. What all those union members do have a right to, is the freedom to seek a job and be evaluated fairly for the job based on their own merits. This concept is totally foreign to the UAW, and the message is lost in the minds of its members if it ever reaches them at all. They would rather have an organization represent them and coerce a company into keeping them on the payroll rather than face the risk of market forces and merit-based employment. What a bunch of pussies.

Unions do not belong in a capitalist society. They do not belong in a competitive job market. They definitely should not be telling their members' employer how to run itself. But GM is also partly to blame for this problem, because they enable the UAW's evil behavior by agreeing to hire its members and by signing restrictive contracts. GM should stand up for itself and refuse to hire any more union members or sign any more contracts with the UAW.

Looking at the situation from a bird’s eye view, we see a competitive job market and a variety of employers. Then we see a monopoly of sorts, and that monopoly is the UAW. Is it any surprise that the UAW is the entity in the puzzle that's screwing everything up? I hate unions and want them all to disappear, but for sheer smart-ass irony value, I'd love to see a competing union sprout up and drive the UAW out of business. Wouldn't that be something!

Anti-consumeurism and the war against the poor

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Anti-consumeurism usually flares up as the holiday season nears, but it's always in effect. The basic belief of anti-consumeurism originates in sacrifice religions like Christianity and Islam, which decry "the world" and prosperity as evil, and continued in communism, nazism, and other statist extremisms which decry rich people as exploiters and abundance as evil.

This belief is that consumption is an inherent evil, a product of unnecessary greed, which is bad for our moral fiber or religious fervour and can only be tempered by some form of economic collectivism or social engineering.

However, this belief, while being explicitly an attack against the most prosperous amongst us, is really part of the war against the poor. While all these collectivist belief systems preach equality, they promote radically assymetrical systems with strong ruling classes. Sacrifice religions have their clergical ruling classes, communism and nazism had their dictatorial ruling classes. Both stand to benefit the most from the suffering of the masses, in that they can channel that suffering for their own utilitarian ends. This has always been their mode of functioning and is still their mode of functioning (the perpetual wars in our modern democracies are oen example).

The masses are the most vulnerable to economic conditions and the availability of cheap products. Take health care, for example. Socialists in Canada always say that a capitalist health care system creates a "two-level" system that is bad for the poor. And yet that is what we already have in Canada today : friends of the state and celebrities get VIP treatment, and the rich can always go to the United States for treatment. The social elite can compensate for bad economic dynamics better than the masses can. Joe Sixpack need Wal-Mart, but Kevin Costner doesn't. Once again, this comes back to the notion I already discussed of capitalism being a boon for the masses more than for the ruling classes.

A dilemma related to anti-consumeurism is, where do we draw the line ? Obviously buying the food necessary for our survival is all right (although some extremists take it to the absurd and preach self-sufficiency), so how much is too much ? Well, the answer is obviously whatever their value system tells them is "enough". Like any other part of the cultural war, this is a battle of value systems, and the anti-consumeurists seek to make their value system law.

Is Christmas too commercial ? In fact, anyone who knows the history of Christmas also knows that consumeurism saved Christmas. To praise Christmas and then complain that Christmas is too commercial is a contradiction. To villify gift-giving is incredibly callous. But to the collectivist mind, force, not compassion, is the rule.

Anti-prosperity, anti-greed and anti-consumeurist beliefs stand in direct opposition to the expression of individual values in Western society. They know very well they can't persuade people to change their values, because they have nothing to offer, so they complain and try to pass laws. That's how all these anti-social types operate. Wal-Mart is a good example of this.

In fact, Wal-Mart proves nothing better than the fac that people are idiots, and follow Franc's Principle slavishly. People hate Wal-Mart because it drives inefficient and limited competitors our of the market, but they love Wal-Mart when it tries to drive its smaller, minimum wage competitors away by driving wages up. So once again, people hate the free market, people hate the poor (as main beneficiaries of low-priced competition), people hate the expression of values (through the capacity to consume more), and people love government control. No surprises there.

About Wal-Mart, I am looking forward to the movie "Why Wal*Mart Works and why that makes some people C-R-A-Z-Y!". Of course, the statists on Amazon are already complaining of propaganda. And we accuse them of propaganda. The more relevant question is : who's right ?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Why I am not open-minded

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As individualists, we argue against collectivist belief systems of all kinds - whether religious, political, or otherwise. We get a lot of True Believers, be they Christian, Islamic, liberal, conservative, Greenie, nazi, New Age, or just plain crackpots, telling us that we're intolerent and close-minded (of course, they all want us to listen only to them, not other equally valid belief systems).

Isn't it hypocrite for individualists like us to attack people on the basis of their belief system ? After all, everyone is different. And for someone like me who advocates strict "live and let live" limits to advocate the persecution of other belief systems ?

I am an individualist, but not because I think all positions are equally valid. I don't have any problem with different lifestyles or even value systems, even if I think they are immoral and disgusting. People have the right to hurt themselves and consenting friends as much as they want, in the name of any destructive ideal they want. But when they start abusing children, and coopting the democratic system to impose their value system, that's when I stand and speak up, and where you should also.

For example, I've already explained why I consider Christianity one of our cultural enemies on Goosing the Antithesis. It is a belief system whose basic premises are a principled attack on Western civilization and modern values. In some countries, like the United States, this indicts all other belief systems because they are all tools of the Christian establishment. In other countries, we have to look at them on a case-by-case basis. But in all cases, belief systems only stifle individualism and individual rights - that is the only constant.

And brainwashing of children into any belief system represents child abuse. With more benign belief systems, such abuse is likewise benign - telling a child that liberals are right is not likely to give any trauma. Raising a child in a Marxist environment, for example, and brainwashing a child into mental submission and hatred for other value systems, causes lifelong mental trauma and disrupts moral development.

In the mental model of these belief systems, other people are not individual on their own rights, but representatives of their value system, and they must hate "the bourgeois", "the capitalist", "the exploiter", or in other cases, "the unbeliever", "the world", "the other races", "the materialist" (in either sense), "the liberal" or "the conservative", and generally anyone who dares to disagree with, or just doesn't fit in, the dogma of a given belief system.

For all these reasons, we can only "live and let live" until these belief systems have no more power to attack our lives and those of innocent children.

You also get the argument, usually by patriots, that wanting to impose a value system on everyone is "common good" and "unity", and that wanting people to live separately and isolate themselves is "selfish" and "worldly".

Well, my position is, of course, that selfishness and worldliness are morally superior. But more importantly, they have it all in reverse (as usual). It is the raving activist or preacher who is "selfish" and prey to "worldly" desires (at least in the meaning they give those words) by trying to subvert the entire society, indeed the basis for our civilization itself, to his perverted notions of morality. And it's the individualist who is promoting the "common good" and "unity" (once again, using their meanings) by stopping social warfare. The idea that we can forcibly unite everyone under one flag is sheer lunacy and a refusal to acknowledge the fact that we all have different value systems, and always have.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

US map of libertarianism

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For the Americans amongst you, check out this US map of libertarianism. Here it is in smaller :

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Reading between the lies, part 1

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Francois has invited me to continue to do here something that I've already been doing from time to time at the Graveyard of the Gods, which is to post articles about what I see and think about political goings on. Many of these, but not necessarily all, will be specifically about Canadian politics.

So, without further ado, here's a snapshot of the political shenanigans going down in Ottawa so far this week.

The leaders of the opposition parties got together this past weekend to work out a strategy for bringing down the Liberal government without triggering an election campaign that would interfere with the Christimas holidays. Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party (socialist), would offer the opposition's cooperation in passing a budget update bill this week (being a money bill, it's a confidence vote) in exchange for the Prime Minister promising to dissolve parliament after the Christmas break, causing an election campaign to start in January with a general election taking place in February. If the Prime Minister didn't go for that, Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper would introduce a non-confidence motion in parliament at his next opportunity, which would probably be next week. The result of that would be an election campaign running through the holidays and the opposition would try to spin it so that Canadians would blame the government for the inconvenience.

Prime Minister Paul Martin's response to that was, essentially, that the proposal is irrational. He is saying that it's a binary question: either you do or don't have confidence in the government. He's saying that the opposition's proposal would mean that they do have confidence in the government but only for the next six weeks or so, after which time that confidence would magically disappear. I suppose there's something to that.

The reason that the opposition parties give for wanting the government to fall is the corruption within the Liberal party, as exposed in Justice Gomery's investigation and first report on the infamous sponsorship scandal.

Background on the scandal in general
Gomery's first report

However, the NDP members, in particular, are obviously not being honest in presenting Liberal corruption as their reason for wanting to bring down the government. They were fully prepared to continue to prop up the government as long as the Liberals passed legislation for certain items of social spending that are near and dear to the socialists' hearts. However, when the Prime Minister "no" to the NDP wish list, the government was suddenly too corrupt to continue. That's some funny kind of morality.

Justice Gomery's first report did clear Prime Minister Martin of involvement in and knowledge of the scandal but, as members of the Conservative Party have pointed out, the Liberal Party itself defrauded Canadian taxpayers of millions of dollars. The Conservatives have been fairly consistent in condemning the government, unlike the NDP.

So, anyway, it looks like an election campaign probably will be triggered soon. One of the funny things about it is that the Prime Minister had already promised to call an election within 30 days of Justice Gomery releasing his final report, which is due on February 1st.

However, the reason the opposition doesn't want to wait just a few weeks longer for an election call is that they don't want to give the government too much time to use the power of government in what they claim, with some justification, is partisan electioneering before an election is called.

A budget update was released today which could well be seen as a pre-election move on the part of the government. The update includes some significant personal income tax reductions and some spending which is likely to be popular (we are told that the government surplus was larger than expected). The Liberals are saying, "Merry Christmas, Canada. Here's some money." (Never mind that it was our own money to start with.)

Oh well. At least an early election call will kill a surveillance bill which the Liberals introduced today. It would give police and intelligence officials the legal ability to force telephone and internet companies hand over personal information about subscribers. They could get your name, address, phone number, cell phone number, IP address. The Liberals defend it, saying that it's merely an update of old wiretap laws. The death of this bill due to an early election would probably only be a temporary reprieve, though. (For more on the surveillance bill, go here.)

Niels's positions

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Let's continue:

* A country can be best helped by supporting initiatives for improvement of their freedom. A country is not helped by supporting a corrupt government and thus perpetuating the bad political situation.

* Religion is anti-science. Their 'knowledge' is not spread by means of testability, evidential support, consistency, repeatability, etc. Instead it spreads like a virus of the mind. This way religion has come up with all kinds of non-defined words (god, soul, supernatural, hell, satan, sin, etc.) that the individual believer fills up with his own imagination. We should fight against the use of non-defined words because they perpetuate imagined reality.

* Getting government out of education is paramount. A government monopoly on education creates the least pressure on schools to give customers what they want. And do you think a collectivist education has any notion of individualism and how to encourage or serve it? No. It delivers people who aren't fit for the scientific world. Who aren't fit for entrepreneurship. In fact, who aren't fit for dealing with the real world.

* Globalisation is good because any upscaling of capitalism is good, "except in cases that bear sharply on national defense" (see link). Trying to prevent international trade simply holds the country back globally.

* Violence is not justified in retaliation against even worse atrocities, or as pre-emption against future atrocities.

Value-based politics part 2

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A common criticism of libertarianism is that libertarians are too negative and only oppose things. Value-based politics turns back this criticism against them. Libertarians are not opposed to any value expression which does not hurt anyone else. Statists, on the other hand, are the ones who are always opponents - opponents of other value systems.

What do we stand for ? We stand for freedom, we stand for progress, we stand for prosperity. What we don't stand for, is any statist belief system that ultimately only lines bureaucrats' pockets and help someone get elected, instead of trying to make life better for the great majority of people living in a given society.

Tyranny benefits the ruling class, but libertarianism and capitalism, coupled with scientific and technological progress, benefit everyone, especially "the masses". While the lifespan of a member of the ruling class has only been marginally raised, the lifespan of the average person in a modern society has shot up by 50% in the last century. While the amount of years lived is by no means a sufficient standard of life, it's a good indication of benefit, especially if we couple this with the incredible technological advances in that same period of time and their fast propagation due to capitalism, as well as the fall in extreme poverty around the world. So that's what we stand for.

But these are survival and social values, not political values. When we talk about political values specifically, we're talking about how the institutions and structures that regulate our society function and act (through their agents of course). We're talking about guiding institutional principles. So what are these values, what should we seek in our political institutions ?

The Logical Structure of Objectivism, my reference book on morality, gives three examples of political values : individual rights to freedom and property, the rule of objective law, and limited government. To these I would add secondary principles like a process of non-participation, private governance (which Kelley would no doubt argue against) and value-neutrality (represented to a small extent by the separation of church and state).

I've already touched on the value of individual rights. Rights are rules which describe the extreme limits to which both individuals and institutions must be subject. When we say, for example, "the right of free speech", we mean that absolutely no one may initiate force in trying to stop the speech of another, and that such initiation of force must be stopped. Right are inherently negative, as freedom entails responsibility (in that we are responsible and accountable for our actions) but not duty (in that we cannot be forced to serve another person's rights, only to respect them).

So rights, therefore, are valuable because they are the basic unit by which we describe the expression of values. "Right of free speech" means that we are free to communicate ideas, amongst other things, even those which contradict other value systems. Even though there are many of our Christian cultural enemies who would rather we not be able to say things like "there are no gods" or "Christianity is evil", and I'd rather Christians not be able to propagate their own immoral and irresponsible beliefs, the right of free speech ensures that we are all protected in being able to express our values.

The value of limited government is more immediate. The bigger government is, the less place private citizens can hold in a given society, and thus there is less possibility for value expression. The smaller the government, the better.

According to David Kelley, the rule of objective law is composed of four elements :

The rule of law consists in law that is (a) universal, so that everybody has a determinate standing before it. It must be (b) known in advance, because one cannot be held responsible for violating a principle one could not have known of. It must be (c) consistently applied, simply as a matter of logic: to do otherwise would introduce whim and subjectivity to any attempt at adjudication. Finally, it must be (d) applied by an objective process. This means a process of established procedures and methods, based on the analysis of facts. This is another preservation against whimsy and distortion, and is essential to ensuring that the law proceed in a rational manner.

What this means, basically, is that law and fact, not the "human factor", should rule. This obsession about law and fact is precisely what makes many people complain about the justice system, and demand juries as a basic right : but if the law was objective to begin with, there would be no need for juries, and bad laws are not a justification to forcibly enroll citizens into replacing justice anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Aaron's Positions

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Since I'm also a Radical Libertarian, many of my non-negotiable positions are the same as Franc's. To help prevent redundancy, I will only include points in which I differ from him, or which were previously unstated. As a result of this, my list is much smaller:

* Everyone has a right to freely pursue their values, but nobody has a right to their values. For example, while you have a right to freely pursue housing, you do not have a right to housing.

* Parenting, as a value, can be freely pursued, but must be earned. This is not unlike driving a car. You need to prove yourself capable of driving a car, otherwise you could hurt someone. In the same vein, you need to prove yourself capable of raising a child, otherwise you could hurt the child.

* Censorship of any kind is unjustifiable, even censorship against religion or hate speech. A free marketplace of ideas is essential, for all ideas must be able to stand up on their own merits. In a free marketplace of ideas, if an idea has no merits, it will fail of its own accord, making censorship superfluous. In a free marketplace of ideas, the bad ideas fail fairly. But with censorship, bad (and sometimes good) ideas fail unfairly.

Value-based politics part 1

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To examine individualist politics, we have to start from the premise of individual values. A value is something that we seek to gain or keep. Values are rationally determined from the needs that all human beings have, as separate beings and as a part of society. These needs are themselves derived from natural facts. To take a simple example, we have a metabolism that requires nutrition, therefore we need nutrition, therefore nutrition is a value.

There are four categories of values : physical values (air, food, shelter), mental values (rationality, education, well-being), social values (friendship, love, visibility) and political values. This last category is the one that interests us.

Why are there political values ? Because, to have any standard of living beyond the tolerable, we need to live in society. And when living in society, people naturally build institutions and structures in order to regulate interactions between people. These institutions and structures can be oppressive, dictatorial, using force to impose one value system over all others, creating statist social warfare. There can also be a lack of needed institutions or structures, creating anarchic social warfare. Finally, others can stop coercive actions while leaving people free to exist within their value systems, eliminating social warfare.

So we have all these possibilities. Now, to be a value, it must be within the realm of choice. And indeed we all play a little role in determining what these institutions are like - not because of democracy, since voting doesn't change anything, but because we determine (to a certain extent) where we want to live, what causes we want to support, and what behaviour we adopt towards our fellows. Besides, institutions and structures are not a given, they were made by people, and so we can also evaluate them morally.

It's easy to see that the type of system we live in has a direct bearing on the values we can effect, especially if we're not part of the ruling class. A society where only specific value systems are permitted, will alienate a great proportion of the population. Since moral rules that seek to eliminate behaviour are anti-values, such a system is anti-moral - it is the reverse of the expression of values.

So I, as a living, value-driven being, need to live in a society that allows me to express my values while stopping others from trying to stop me from doing so. And in order to reap the benefits of living in society, I wish for everyone else to benefit from the same rights. This is, therefore, a "free society". I value a free society because such a value is necessary for the expression of all my other values. Social warfare, physical warfare, crime, oppression, only engenders death.

So you get political values, and the justification for a free society from the individualist perspective (there are ways to derive a free society from epistemology, but these are irrelevant here). On my next post I'll look at some of these values.

This is an article in two parts. The second is available here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Franc's positions

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Epistemic and political positions I consider non-negociable :

* Only the individual can think and evaluate for himself. No one can do it for him, as much as he'd like to. The best we can do is consciously surrender our judgment, which itself requires judgment.

* We all have individual, personal values. To follow these values rationally is our sole, inescapable ethical imperative.

* Society, organizations, corporations, families, do not exist ontologically. They are expressions of the interactions between individuals sharing values and cooperating based on that fact. People cooperate because they desire, want and need to cooperate in order to progress. Self-interest is the greatest motor of progress and its necessary prerequisite.

* We value political institutions because they help ensure that no one is hampered in the expression of his values. Therefore, political institutions should only serve to help the expression of individual values, and stop coercive attempts to stop the expression of individual values.

* If people voluntarily agree to "harm themselves", they should be free to do so. People always have reasons to do things, even if they are not apparent to us. To assume that people have "no good reason to do" something is lunacy.

* In a free society, there is a harmony of values, in that no one's self-interest is ensured by violence, fraud, or political struggle - only by voluntary trade (whether social, economic, affective, etc).

* Democracy is epistemically, morally and politically absurd. Democracy is not individualist - it puts individual values and rights at the mercy of mob rule. A free society promotes the harmony of values, democracy forces people of different value systems to fight against each other. Forcing people to vote on basic human rights is a disgrace. Democracy must be eliminated if we are to ever live in a free society.

* Everyone should be equal under the law, regardless of income, social or economic power, race, political affiliation, or age. This is not the case in democratic systems, where individuals who have the most political clout win.

* The initiation of war is never justifiable. Interventionist foreign relations are never justifiable. Tariffs, trade disputes and barriers to entry for foreign companies are never justifiable.

* The right of one's own body is inalienable. The War on Drugs is unjustifiable. Laws against abortion are unjustifiable. Laws against cloning and other technologies based on one's genetic material are unjustifiable.

* The right of one's actions is inalienable. Laws against privacy are unjustifiable. Government monopolies are unjustifiable.

* The right of one's own property is inalienable. Taxation is unjustifiable. Eminent domain laws are unjustifiable.

* Parenting is not a right. At best, it is a highly suspicious substitute for real child-raising.

* People should be made free from dogmas and collectivist beliefs, so they can express their persona values. If they are fully conscious of what they sanction and still disagree with us, they should be left alone.

* If you don't like someone's lifestyle or choices, and they're not coercing or defrauding anyone, be responsible and let them do whatever they want. You're free to fight them with rhetoric all you want, but using government power as a tool to bludgeon others (however right you think you are) only enslaves everyone to that power, creating political struggle and social warfare.

* We only fight against collectivists because they endanger everyone's freedom and well-being, due to the fact that we live in democratic systems. In a free society, there would be no need to fight over disagreements, since everyone would be free to live in the way he desires. Therefore, we should not focus solely on why our opponents are wrong, but also on how the system can be changed.

Radical Opening Post

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I suppose I should introduce what this blog is about...

This is a way for myself, Aaron (who is currently sick but will join the blog soon) and Brad (to whom I already sent an invite) to join the very few libertarian voices on the blogosphere. We are both rather annoyed that most "libertarian" blogs are right-wing, conservative, pro-war voices. And we hope to contribute to change that, through theoretical, radical discussions of libertarianism and politics in general.

We have called it "radical" because our position is radical - that politics should be seen as a subset of moral values. Our position is individualistic, and our politics consists of the radical idea that "political institutions should only serve to help the expression of individual values", and the fundamental libertarian idea that "no one owns anyone else".

More to come soon.