Saturday, July 30, 2005

Legality and Morality

That which is legal is not necessarily moral. That which is illegal is not necessarily immoral. That which is immoral is not necessarily illegal. And yet, I am continually astounded by the number of people who cannot distinguish between legality and morality. I was brought to this topic by a little rhyme I heard a few minutes ago on KMJ. A doctor was quoted as saying, "Getting high because you're sick and going to die is not a good idea... because it's illegal."

Now, taken at face value, it's not that bad a statement. Regardless of the benefits, doing things that are illegal is generally little more than a way of making one's own life more difficult. One has to hide one's activities, constantly be looking over one's shoulder, and if caught, there can be serious consequences. Sometimes, despite the lack of a good moral argument against a particular action, it's just better to avoid the trouble doing something illegal can start. And if you're representing a group, it is best to avoid illegal activities altogether, since if your name is damaged, so is theirs.

The problem I have is when comments like that are made by people who really mean, "it's wrong because it's illegal." I am continually frustrated by the general inability of the average person to have a political discussion about our drug policies becase, "It's illegal." They trot that out like it's the trump argument, as if God Himself delivered our laws to us and we can't do anything about it. I suppose our political system is so confusing to the avarage person that, so far as they can understand, our laws really *are* some immutable force. But it's just so stupid.

Our laws are written by men we elect and send to the various legislatures that represent us. Those laws are enforced by men who we elect, and cases are judged by men who are either elected by us or appointed by those we have elected. So "it's illegal" simply cannot be a moral argument against an act, because our laws were written by men, and can be changed by men! There is nothing immoral about saying, "I disagree that this law ought to be." And yet, in our society, there seems to be a taboo against suggesting that an act which is illegal should not be illegal. I'll say, "I really don't see what harm there is in letting a guy smoke a joint in the safety of his own home. It may not be a good idea for him, but I fail to see how he harms others with his habit." "But it's illegal!" is the retort I have often gotten. Yes, it is. The point I am trying to make is it oughtn't be.

It's no wonder our legislatures are so unresponsive to the desires of the people. We've become sheep, regarding our legislators as instruments of divine will. So many people think illegal=immoral that it's nearly impossible to overturn a law once it has gone into effect.

I can just imagine these people cringing at the thought of sheltering a legally oppressed class. Nazis could be going around, hauling off Jews for slaughter, and the few who have the ability to distinguish law from morality will attempt to protect these people in whatever way they can. But the sheep will sit there and say, "But it's illegal!"

Friday, July 22, 2005

Incremental Liberty

This started out as a response to another blog, but it began to take the shape of a full-sized blog. So I've expanded it, and posted it here.

I think the sales analogy used by the reform movement is an excellent analogy. We want to sell them a constitutionally limited government. They may well benefit by it, but they are afraid that the cost will be too high. Now, when a salesman has a product that he really thinks is good enough it can sell itself, he gives out either a free sample, or offers a test drive.

So it is with what some libertarians might call “half-measures.” Take medicinal marajuanna. Some libertarians might say that doesn’t go far enough, and fear that if we go for that, many for whom that’s “far enough” will jump ship, and then we’re stuck with medicinal marajuanna, and don’t have total freedom where drugs are concerned. The belief is that if we get a compromise solution, the pressure the real world facts give for legalization will be allieviated, and people will no longer be looking for a solution. Good theory, but its obvious that strategy simply does not work. This is proven by the fact that drugs are still illegal, and almost nobody is calling for the repeal of drug prohibition--and those that do are labeled crackpots.

Government itself is like a drug. While some can quit cold turkey, many, if not most, need a more gradual cutoff. What I think more likely is that, if we support, and successfuly implement medicinal marajuanna policies, there will be two effects. First off, there will NOT be that amazing increase in crime and delinquincy that the hardcore anti-drug crowd predict. While they will try to say that’s because of the medical restrictions, most people will know better. The second effect is that, because of our involvement, others in the medicinal movement who were not previously libertarians will be exposed to our thinking on it in a friendly setting. They may consider that there are benefits beyond the medical uses of marajuanna to ending prohibition outright.

Another example is taxes. Many libertarians consider any and all forms of taxation to be "theft." Therefore, any policy that falls short of the complete repeal of all taxation (or, for the "lesser extremists" simply the outright repeal of the income tax) is sacreligious and must be vigerously opposed... even if the proposal is to lower taxes! This is what turned me off of the Libertarian Party for years. I remember reading the policy statement of a libertarian cantidate for some state office. This woman actually advocated the repeal of the income tax IN HER CAMPAIGN STATEMENT! Given that the office she was running for was executive, not legislative, how does that have anything to do with her election? What can that do but turn off someone who is not a raving extremist?

Now, understand that I, too, would like to see the repeal of the income tax... some day. There is much that must be done *before* that can happen, if ever. I, for one, favor replacing the income tax with a carbon tax. Such a tax could pay for government at current levels for quite some time, would reduce significantly the intrusion of government into people's personal lives, lower significantly the minimum business size necessary to do business effectively (benefiting small businesses), and have the added benefit of making tax evasion and conservation of fossil fuels (and lower pollution emissions) one and the same, meaning we automatically turn tax dodgers into fully legitimate environmentalists!

But, a hardcore libertarian would say, "NO! That's an increase in government power! The government does NOT have the authority to tax AT ALL!!!" Well, sorry folks, but 99% of the electorate and the very Constitution of the United States of America disagree with you. And furthermore, were we to somehow repeal all taxes TODAY, we'd destroy our credit rating completely. Our economy, so dependent on government cash flows, would collapse. Such a collapse would be temporary... assuming the masses of unemployed don't turn to violence to fill their bellies... assuming foreign governments don't use our failure to repay our debts as a pretext for invasion (and with no money to pay a military, they will win)... assuming a lot of things that just plain wouldn't be true. No taxation whatsoever is a great goal, but it will only be reached slowly. There are debts to be paid, and segments of the economy that need to be weaned off government money. A sudden ceassation will throw millions into joblessness, including soldiers. A slow weaning is not only actually politically feasable, it'll give these segments time to "see which way the wind is blowing" and find other options.

The statists have been nickeling and diming us to death for years. This was a natural phenomenon, since the big government people were split between the two major parties. Most who were involved in that practice really did believe they were doing the right thing (whether it be big-military Republicans or big-welfare Democrats), and though they opposed one another, because it is easier to create a law than it is to roll it back they took turns increasing every aspect of the government. Bi-partisan legislation also always seems to be aimed at increasing the power of government.

We need to nickel and dime them back. Extreme measures will never catch on. But if we manage to roll back the power of government a little bit, in an area that will benefit the largest number of voters, they’ll say, “Hmm… I like that. A little more, please?” The generation that reaches its age of influence under a smaller government will support smaller government still, so long as we’re not stupid about it. Even if we don't reach the dream of worldwide libertarian utopia, wouldn't you rather live under a smaller government than we have today? Or are you so accustomed to victim-thinking that even you are dependent on our current level of government?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Libertarian-Progressive Alliance

Both the Republicans and the Democrats seem straddled between their extremist and moderate elements. The Republicans seem to be a coalition of economic libertarians, big business interests, and conservative religious-nationalists, and people who fear Democratic extremism. The Democrats seem to be a coalition of socialists, hardcore environmentalists, social libertarians, and people who fear Republican extremism. I have long thought that a new second party composed of the libertarians of both parties would work well, if only it could come into existance. The problem is that the libertarians of both parties are the sort that fear the other party too much to take the risk of letting the other party have too much control. As it is, the Libertarian Party--the theoretical home party for these people--is generally composed only of those who fear both major parties equally. How on earth could one pry these members of both parties?

Huh, I just came up with a possible idea. What if I came up with a sort of "matching service" wherin I matched up a would-be libertarian Republican with a similar Democrat, getting both to agree to jump ship of the other does. This isn't what this blog is about, but I may develop it in a future blog.

Lately, however, I have been hearing a lot about a possible collapse of the Democratic Party. Basically, the story is that the historically allied interests of the Party are finding themselves less and less allied. Labor Unions and Public Employee Unions don't necessarily get along. Socialists and moderates don't necessarily get along. Labor and Environmentalism don't necessarily get along. Democratic Hawks and Pacifists don't get along... the biggest split during the 2004 elections. Career bueraeucrats don't necessarily get along with everybody else.

The first place I heard about this was the Sean Hannity Show. Not the most credible source, I admit, but that was the beginning. That was the first time I heard someone else say it. The next place was in an article that can be found at The Heartland Institute, which predicts a Democratic Party split by 2008 which will be followed by a similar split in the Republican Party. This article at the Ashbrook Center shows that people have been talking about this as far back as 1998. Thomas Harrison speaks of "the demise of the Democratic Party." The Red Critique in a socialist diatribe talks of "the all but 'official' collapse of the Democratic Party." The Daily Pundit states "In the US I expect a huge realignment of political parties, starting with the Democrat's collapse..." The Armed and Dangerous blog speaks of "Post-democratic possibilities," my favorite (and his) clearly being his "Case Gold."

Personally, I think the only thing holding the current party system together is the previous generation's fear of the other party's extremes. There is a reason lefties compare the Right to Nazism... compassionate conservatism contains enough socialist elements, and the religious right enough nationalist elements, that a very real America National Socialist entity can be percieved by one who fears that possibility. For the Right, the Left has done enough flirting with the worldwide Communist movement in the past for many Republicans to see the shadow of Stalin (or even Napolean, among the more historically minded) in a Democratic victory. There are potential Libertarians in both parties... but they fear their opposing major party so much they don't dare break away and hand victory to either Hitler or Stalin..

A Democratic collapse would change everything. If the far left (the greens and the reds) abandoned the Democrats, the remaining rump would hardly be large enough to oppose the Republicans. With the baggage ejected, three possibilities emerge. The Democrats, with the Big Government reds and greens gone, could become a more libertarian party, and both Libertarians and Republicans actually jump into the newly invigorated Democratic Party. Or, the Libertarians somehow manage to clean up their image and stop clinging to the nineteenth century and libertarian Democrats say, "What the heck; we're not doing any good over here anyway," and go ahead and join the Libertarian party. Many libertarian Republicans follow as the Libertarians become more and more credible as a real alternative. A third possibility is that the Republicans crack immediately afterward, and that an electoral free-for-all results, with a temporary multiparty (more than two) system results, which shakes out into an upper-lower quadrant divide, rather than the right-left divide we have today.

I discovered while researching this issue, and let me tell you: this is an excellent site. It contains elements that have the potential to marry the libertarian movement, the progressive left, and even the religious right! Seems impossible? Perhaps it is, but in the event of a real electoral shakedown, this upper-left quadrant style of thinking just might become popular. (Today, none of the major political entities occupy the upper-left quadrant; see the site for what I mean by "quadrant.")

I do believe there is an opportunity for a new political entity to arise within my lifetime.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Eminent Domain and Solomon

I wonder how many people are actually surprised about the recent decision regarding how far the power of eminent domain streatches? They really shouldn't be surprised. This has been going on for as long as written records have been kept. Consider Ecclesaiastes 5:8
If you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and justice being miscarried throughout the land, don't be surprised! For every official is under orders from higher up, and matters of justice only get lost in red tape and bureaucracy. Even the king milks the land for his own profit!
This is just government behaving in the way it always does. Not even our vaunted "democracy" preserves us against this. Certainly the "parchment barriers" of the Bill of Rights are no defense against this.

I wonder if local governments would go through with this if they knew full well that the poor posessed the means and the will to excercise their very basic right to defend their own property rights? This is the real reason for gun control. The government cannot grow when people posess the means to defend their rights themselves. Therefore, the means must be taken away.