Friday, January 22, 2010

Why the Individual Matters

I was having another non-civil discussion yesterday with Satyavati over health care (because the ever-present subject has gotten a lot of news this week due to the Massachusetts race).  One of the points I always press is freedom and choice (which is naturally curtailed when you give up control to other entities).

So after that yelling match, and while cooking supper (with the added advantage of preschoolers that I can hand the spatula to), it occurred to me that it's easy to get caught up in the idea that government should provide us with certain essential things.  After all, if the government "provides" us with things that are necessary for us all, without an "EEEVIL" profit motive punishing the "poor" then we are "free" to do what we wish.

(Hm.  Four words in quotes there.  Think I might see a problem with the concept?)

The problem is that the freedom to watch your preferred sports team doesn't mean shit, because it has little bearing on anything except providing a neat excuse for ignoring the continued and ever-increasing involvement by the Imperial Federal Government in every facet of your life.  And the worst part is that most people rationalize every intrusion without the question, "Is the government even Constitutionally allowed to do this?"

I've rationalized government intrusion myself.  And I blame some of this on the mental neutering that is produced in the non-education of the freedom-sucker that is the government school system.  In short, government schools preach what the government wants:  compliant subjects.  But that's another post or 10 (and the reason my children's teachers will hate my guts).

So let's break this down into a few basic parts, organized for you to teach your children well (and I may even avoid gratuitous obscenities and shit).

The Constitution

I start here because the Founding Fathers started everything here.  And the reason this is absolutely critical is because the Constitution is a document with a single, clear purpose:  To create a limited form of government with minimal impact in the lives of the individual and a duty to protect the natural rights of the individual.  Key points in this was the creation of a government with lots of checks and balances:  A strong executive to check Congress, the power of Congress to override the President, a judicial branch that could compare any law passed and throw it out if it conflicted with the Constitution.  And as I was saying yesterday, one body to represent the people, checked by a body that represented the states.  And the only person you may be able to vote for (because you have no right to vote in a federal election) is that single representative.

All this was because the Founding Fathers did not trust those in power.  They did not trust a single legislative body.  They did not trust too powerful an executive.  They didn't trust people who sought the power that the federal government gave a career politician.  They did not trust individual states to work together.  And they didn't trust the concept of democracy, the euphemised version of mob rule.  And many of them did not trust the idea  of a Constitution that did not explicitly secure those rights.

That was the purpose of the Bill of rights.  Ten amendments, each designed to secure the rights of the individual and limit the powers of the federal government.  The first eight spell out  the most important and critical rights.  The ninth states that there are other rights not explicitly stated that the people retain.  And the tenth specifically states that the powers not explicitly given to the government, nor denied to the states, are reserved for the states or the people.

200 years later, we have seen the results of compromising that vision.  Now both houses of Congress are elected by the mob, the Electoral college is ruled by an idiotic beauty contest, the Supreme Court adds powers to the government by judicial fiat, and in addition to redefining the concept of rights, the government has added benefits and bureaucracy, and branches into every single part of our lives, from birth until after we are getting it on with worms.

Minorities

One problem that this country possessed from the beginning was a failure to protect the rights of minority groups.  From those who were enslaved by their fellow man, to those who suffered the prejudices with the tacit support of a government, to those who were equal in every way except that they were condemned to the status of secondhand citizens.  With much struggle, one full-blown war, many lives lost, and laws on top of amendments, we corrected those injustices.  And while there may be some prejudices that still linger and fester into discrimination, the law is clear, and designed to be equal, even if enforcement may fail in some places.  However, protecting the rights of minority groups is relatively easy.

Where the government fails most miserably is protecting the rights of the most numerous and smallest of minorities:  the individual.  As with any minority group (which can be manipulated, bought, and played against another group (think Nazi Germany)), the Constitution is designed to protect the right to life, liberty, and property, which can only be lost through due process.

Some examples where the government has utterly failed:
Eminent Domain - taking property for developers to build properties that can bring in higher taxes.
The welfare state - Using taxation to take the property of one individual for the express purpose of giving it to someone who has not earned it.
Compulsory education - Determining what constitutes an "education," compelling taxpayers to fund this education, keeping the money when a parent does not comply by giving their child to the government, and providing a substandard education that makes great government subjects.
Control by purse strings - Using money taken from individuals to briber/coerce states to pass laws restricting the rights of individuals.
Censorship - While print is clearly protected, and the Internet has so far kept free of government regulation, radio and television are tied to government licensing.  Which means when a citizen pull out a tit during a halftime show, the government can punish the networks, punish the stations, and by doing so, ensure that certain forms of expression are banned, not by the government, but by the broadcasters who have to do so to protect their ability to continue operating.  It's the same mentality that drives fear in the concept of the misnamed "fairness doctrine" and the chilling effects of control over free speech that the garbage that McCain-Feingold is known for.

I could go on for a long time here, but you get the idea:  Government now possesses control and influence over nearly every facet of our lives, whether by laws, or by taxes, or by manipulation, or by propaganda, or by fear.


Those Who Trade Freedom....

Freedom isn't free.  It costs time, and energy, and money.  Because with freedom comes responsibility.  And that includes responsibility.  For everything.  Sometimes that means going without.  Sometimes that means financial disaster.  Sometimes that means dead bodies on the deck (and yes, I do think that sucks).

Now before you of the compassion police start whining about the "less fortunate," let me explain a few key points:

First of all, there are people who lack the physical or mental ability to function in a free society through no fault of their own.  It is the responsibility of a moral society to take responsibility for those people.  How we do this is a matter of debate.  I favor more private and more local channels.  But there is room for compromise on that.

Second, there is a big-assed group of people who are not "less fortunate."  They are people who, through their own bad stupid choices, have landed themselves in shitty circumstances.  When you're in that position, it's mighty hard to climb out and really easy to sit back on the government hammock.  Trust me on this one.  And if you spent most of your formative years being taught that the role of government is to take care of people?  It's damned easy to keep offering money for the paternalistic Imperial Federal Government to take care of you, as long as you cede all the important responsibilities to them.

Third, freedom only works if we adhere to the concept of a common morality.  Most of that over our history has come through us through the Judeo-Christian ethic, although with our religious freedom, our common morality comes from God in all His forms and images, and even from the reason and decency of those who do not believe, but realize that there is value in keeping JC's version of the Golden Rule in their hearts as they deal with their fellow man (despite the blather of Conservapedia (link included for a laugh)).

It matters completely whether helping our fellow man is through the goodness of those who volunteer or compelled my a state which codifies the pseudo-religion of compassion (despite there being an amendment against it).

I've been studying the concept of freedom in a micro setting as my children have grown.  They grow best when I'm not holding their hand.  It's why I follow related concepts like Free Range Parenting, which is simply the idea of letting kids free to choose with only the age appropriate boundaries necessary to keep them from being killed.  It ties back into trusting in the inherent goodness of others (rather than paranoia over skinned knees, any hardships, and Stranger Danger).  And in watching them grow, I see tangible results that confirm everything I wrote above.

Concluding Quote (feel free to copy and paste with link)

In life, you always have to choose between freedom and security in everything that matters.  If you lean toward security, ask yourself if the person or entity you go to with your hand out is someone who truly cares and will help you without expecting anything more, or if it's someone who sees you as a way to empower themselves.

38 comments:

dmarks said...

Socialists (and their predecessors in tyranny... the pharaohs and kings) believe in the rights of the individual, as long as that individual is in the ruling class.

Protecting the rights of all individuals, such as exemplified in the Bill of Rights, has been a trend toward improving human freedom and liberty. But there are those who want to go back to modern forms of complete submission to authority.

TRUTH 101 said...

Where and who are these people that want complete submission to authority Dmarks?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

To hell with the individual Patrick. We should do what is best for the "greater good".

Gene Hackman: "If you could cure cancer by killing one person, wouldn't you have to do that? Wouldn't that be the brave thing to do; one person and cancer's gone tomorrow?"

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: If it were just the socialists, and other collectivists of various stripes, I wouldn't be concerned. But the overwhelming number of people that have caused the mess weren't.

101: Let me answer that for Dmarks (because I think I probably need to clarify): We have very few people who are in favor of tyranny as a whole. But we have an overwhelming majority of people who believe in increments of tyranny. Whether it's someone who wants to determine how much ha company pays an individual, someone who objects to specific content on a broadcast and asks the censors to come in, someone who wants to confiscate the wealth of one person to give to another, or have the government ban a practice or habit that's unhealthy, such as smoking cigarettes, it's the idea that government can be used to control the free will of the individual beyond protecting the rights of other individuals that are the destroyers of freedom.

Although if you want complete submission, it's called government schools.

Soapster: Of course, the person whose death would cure cancer would get shot by somebody awfully quick. But as long as the shooter was prosecuted, then the rights of all are protected.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Socialists (and their predecessors in tyranny... the pharaohs and kings) believe in the rights of the individual, as long as that individual is in the ruling class.

This is obviously the statement of someone who doesn't understand socialism, which realizes that all human struggle is class struggle, and therefore works to abolish class divisions in society.

Nuf said.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

All one needs to "know" of Socialism is that it is a failed system which can never succeed because of the simple fact that it is not consonant with man's intrinsic nature.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

That's the same mindset behind my 11th grade World Religions teacher, who, when asked why we weren't learning about the Protestant Reformation, told us, "All you need to know is that they were wrong."

It's a closedminded, predetermined mindset that encourages further isolationism.

That mindset is a huge part of the problems we have today.

dmarks said...

Thanks, Patrick, for describing the incrementalism. In this, socialists and other modern "trust the rulers and give them more power" ideologies are identical to the theologises of the Middle Ages and the god-kings of old Sumeria and Egypt. The main change is that the justification for the rule has evolved from being religion to being pseudo-science.

SDD said: "This is obviously the statement of someone who doesn't understand socialism, which realizes that all human struggle is class struggle, and therefore works to abolish class divisions in society."

I understand socialism completely enough to know that once one buys into the "class struggle" myth, the ways to abolish "class" divisions are ham-handed actions of a very strong government. The imaginary socialist utopia is so unrealistic that it is unsustainable and can only be forced by complete totalitarianism. And then it is really no utopia at all, is it?

Seeing past the "class" myths is one sign of understanding socialism, instead of buying into it without while ignoring the necessary critical evaluation of its assertions.

Soap: SDD has a point, in that there is to more know. What is beyond your short summary? Well, there is the reality that when socialism is implimented, it tends to result in extreme stratification, modern-era "god-kings", (an ironic) removal of workers rights, and other examples of good old fashioned tyranny. It is the "don't question authority. Submit to it!" ideology.

dmarks said...

"That mindset is a huge part of the problems we have today."

There is a much worse problem with repeating ideas that only fail spectacularly, instead of quickly dismissing these failed ideas as Soapy has.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Class struggle is a myth?

The history of human civilization is the story of class struggle. Whether the class consists of the poor (peasants/serfs), entire races (slavery), religious groups (ghettoization), sexes (the lack of equality for women), or the workers, it's all about one class attempting and/or succeeding at dominating another.

ME said...

Name: Soapboxgod said...

To hell with the individual Patrick.

And I second that.

BB-Idaho said...

"the Supreme Court adds powers to the government by judicial fiat, and.." ..and we find that the 1st Amendment applies more than to just
us simple individuals: the international megacorporations are now able to buy their candidates.
Fiat..good point.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

It is the "don't question authority. Submit to it!" ideology.

This is the same ideology that brands me as UnAmerican because I want ________, which happens to disagree with what (insert name of conservative right wing person here) thinks. The kneejerk reaction to any dissent is to brand someone as traitorous, heretical, anti American and God forbid, a socialist.

And it's all untrue. Except the Socialist part.

dmarks said...

Feel free to disagree. It's easy in a non-socialist society, where "class" myths do not prevade, and you don't have the government crushing people near as much in order to fit the square peg that is humanity into the round hole of socialist ideology.

Not surprising that the socialist societies tend to trend more to much more censorship, state control of media, and the like.
----------

BB: The simple answer has nothing to do with mega-corporations. The simple answer is the the people are more able to exercise their First Amendment rights and speak on on politicians and political issues.

SDD: And much of "class struggle" is a myth. It has its root in a very uncritical un-intellectual and childishly simple idea of generalizing about people based on "class". This ignores the fact of the many differences among human beings.

More dangerously, this Marxist myth is used to, surprisingly enough, foster real class strife. By wanting the real ruling class (government) to have more power over the ruled. Also, ironically, this Marxist myth is used to try to wrest workers from having control over their work.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

?And much of "class struggle" is a myth. It has its root in a very uncritical un-intellectual and childishly simple idea of generalizing about people based on "class". This ignores the fact of the many differences among human beings."

Class struggle is anything but a myth. In the same way that casteism in India to this day causes riots, much of human civilization has been based on classes, one ruling or attempting to rule another. This is where 'aristocracy' comes from. This is what brought on the French Revolution. This is the mindset behind slavery, the reason Aborigines are being apologized to by the Australian government, the thought process that defines women as worth less than a man for equal work.

The history of the human race IS about class struggle.

dmarks said...

And somehow the Marxist/socialists/etc more than anyone play into this reality by working so hard to assume some sort of divine rule (as per the French aristocracy) justified by pseudo science, instead of religion and French culture. And they end up creating extreme class stratification.

And the less "class" division comes when the principles that Patrick champions come into play (individualism, etc).

TAO said...

My My My...

Socialism is the only tyranny?

How about Fascism? Fuedalism?

Or how about supply side economics and the belief that investors are superior because they create jobs?

Seems to me in a capitalistic system based upon the concept of supply and demand when anyone aspect of the economic matrix is preferred, or given preferential treatment over the other then you in fact have created 'classes' and an aristocracy.

That aristocracy then over time creates a tyranny....

Then PRESTO you have "Too Big To Fail!"

Can't help but wonder if all this debate over socialism is nothing more than a smoke screen to avoid dealing with the obvious tyranny in our current capitalistic system.

Anyone care to argue that we do not have classes in the United States and that they were not created by supply side economics?

Go ahead Dmarks....

Of course you will claim that it is because we have become a socialistic economic system....which is cute considering that socialism was always about benefitting the masses, the workers, and the poor.

Now we have "socialism" for the investors....which is fuedalism not socialism.

FenwayFrank said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patrick M said...

Dmarks, Soapmatic, Satyavati, BB, and Tao (who I'm sure I'll have to correct in a bit): It's always enlightening to have a discussion over all the systems that suck liberty from the individual. Keep up the good thought.

Tao: Despite your obsession with the "evils" of supply-side economics (which can be applied in either a free market of fascist method), I'll not try to correct you. This time. :)

Trolls: Glad you came along for the comedy relief.

Me: I prefer the concept of a "godhead" Patrick. Makes me shinier.

Frank (another word for hot dog, which could also be construed as dick): Why the fuck are you talking about Scott Brown and Obama after insulting intelligent commenters? That was another post. Bye.

FenwayFrank said...

Schmuck-head said:
Frank (another word for hot dog, which could also be construed as dick): Why the fuck are you talking about Scott Brown and Obama after insulting intelligent commenters? That was another post. Bye.

Talking about DICK-HEADS, Man, this blog is full of them

dmarks said...

So, Patrick, I could ask you what is most important, the individual, or the supposed "class" that government elites think people belong categorized in? But I think I know how you will answer.

dmarks said...

Tao said: "Socialism is the only tyranny? How about Fascism? Fuedalism?"

Fascism and socialism are rather closely intertwined. Feudalism is an outdated concept: the feudalists today refer to themselves as types of socailists.

"Of course you will claim that it is because we have become a socialistic economic system....which is cute considering that socialism was always about benefitting the masses, the workers, and the poor."

I'd never say that, since socialism has proven to be the most effective method of crushing the masses (including workers anre poor). Socialism is always about concentrating more power and wealth in the hands of ruling elites.

Patrick M said...

FF: Talking about DICK-HEADS, Man, this blog is full of them

Thankfully, though, I have comment moderation to gleefully boot said assmunchers.

Patrick M said...

Dmarks: To answer the obvious, the individual.

Not Left, Just Right said...

So here we are. Again. A huge sum of debt has been run up, this time rewarding people who took out stupid loans and handing people, a number of whom are just the ones who goofed off at school, cut class, don't like to work hard, have crappy attitudes so can't keep jobs, keep popping out babies without thinking about the costs or consequences... these have become, "Those poor people without health insurance, it should be their right." I have lazy ass friends, and friends who make choices like to pursue the arts instead of a job that would give them health benefits. Tell me this: Health care as we have it only exists because of a ton of work done and being done on a daily basis by countless people who have sacrificed and labored to make it so. Doctors who went a quarter mil into debt and sacrificed a decade of their lives - longer if you count earlier school years - to be able to do what they do; nurses who work the toughest of jobs; researchers, who spend years locked away with rats in dark labs so that we can have the medicines and treatments we have; engineers locked at desks going over equations so dull that most of us would rather shoot ourselves than try to follow along, so that they can come up with the amazing equipment our hospitals have; administrators and fundraisers and generous people in the community who have labored for decades, centuries, to make the hospitals we have reality, to make the medical services we have available.

Not Left, Just Right said...

So tell me, what fucking right do my lazy ass friends have to reap the benefits of all this labor and sacrifice? Air you can breathe is a right. Something that comes at great cost and effort, that is a privilege you should have to earn your access to. But, as you've noticed, whoa, wait a minute, we are suddently WAY THE FUCK OFF TOPIC. Because this has nothing to do with fixing the economy, which is in complete collapse.
Oh, wait. I forgot. Even though we have supposed liberals and Democrats in office, corporate profits are all that matter. Corporate numbers are starting to look better. Ah. So, right, the economy is starting - I'll try not to puke or swear - to get better. Really. Look you dumb fuck numbnuts. Don't start with your asshole talk, as you are now about to, "Hmm, there may be a 'double-dip' in housing." It's not a double dip, it's the same continuing crash. Crashes aren't straight lines, they do hit bottoms, come up a bit, then continue down, as any first grader who can look at a chart knows. And don't start with 'jobless recovery.' Next thing, I know, you'll be expecting consumer spending to return, since that's 2/3 of the economy, as you like to point out when you encourage us to spend money we don't have. Oh wait, that's right, you aren't concerned we don't have jobs, you want the credit markets to loosen back up so we can continue to spend money we don't have. Isn't that the best of all, the best part of the scheme, and really the best scam in the history of ever. The goal was to be able to have all the money go to corporate profits without having any of it shared with workers. There was one problem: yes, as said above, without consumer spending, corporate profits aren't so good. WAIT! said one brilliant scumbag. What if we get people to spend without paying them? How the fuck will you do that? Just give them more and more types of and access to credit! BRILLIANT! And so this is the setup we are being told is about to recover. Really. Consumers, which dictate 2/3 of the economy, are about to somehow go back to spending money they don't have, and that will make everything well. We aren't going to do anything to bring jobs home, we'll ignore the looming retirement disaster as a whole generation - the super-sized Baby Boomer one at that - retires without any pensions to live on, and we'll ignore the fact that the individuals of the nation not only aren't earning money to spend, but have massive debt. No, no stimulus will help, idiots. Here's a riddle: if you borrow a trillion dollars from the Chinese, give it to people to spend, and it mainly ends up going back to the Chinese since that's where the corporations who get the money do their spending, what does that stimulate? Yes, correct, the Chinese get a great double-stimulation: America now owes them another tril, and most of that tril actually just gets handed back to them and their workers by the American companies that have their plants over in China! Wow! That helps America by.... um. Right, billions for Cash for Clunkers, and who got more of that cash than anyone else? You can kiss these Liberals assholes backsides all day long if you want to Patrick, but it's still what it is. A Fucking socialist asshole running the most powerful country in the world.

Patrick M said...

JR, who's NL: I think there was a point in that rant. Normally I'd delete it, but I have a feeling you were locked in a closet as a kid and are just desperate to express yourself in cat-lady craziness.

So....

Name: Soapboxgod said...

The only reason why SDD and others of her ideological persuasion want to better understand socialism is not so that they can better identify it and thwart it at every instance. To be certain it is instead so that they may continue to advocate its implementation and (as they see it) its virtues by redefining or retooling the various parts of its equation.

All the while doing so they attempt to "tweak" it here or "tweak" it there and dismiss, in the process, the fundamental premise that it is not a problem with specific intracacies of Socialistic policy but rather the problem lies with the entire equation that is Socialism as a whole. And, to restate myself, it is flawed because it is a social experiment which is antithetical to the fundamental nature of man's very existence.

dmarks said...

The individual is paramount in socialism. But the only individuals who matter are the ruling elites. They get to maximize their individual wants/needs/desires at the expense of the ruled.

dmarks said...

Not left asked: "So tell me, what fucking right do my lazy ass friends have to reap the benefits of all this labor and sacrifice?"

What right? The right of greed. They see stealing from others as preferable to working for it.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

You don't understand socialism. Period.

What you rail against is your interpretation of socialism, which comes from I'm not sure what sources, but obviously has been formulated without consulting those who actually adhere to socialist principles and work towards a socialist nation.

I would suggest to you that you look to those who claim socialism as their ideology, and ask them what THEY stand for, and what THEY believe, and what political goals THEY have.

This would give you some accurate information from the actual source, as it were, and not from some third party.

I also extend this same advice to those who choose to bash the beliefs of others' religions, whilst never actually examining firsthand, from the actual source, what those people believe and why they believe it.

It's called 'getting your information from the people who know'.

dmarks said...

"You don't understand socialism. Period."

One big asterisk after that period: I DO understand socialism. Because I look at what happens when it is tried. I look at it from a critical view, looking at what happens when things are tried. I look at the flat-out false assumptions that it is based on, which is why it turns out the opposite of how socialists claim it will. Pol Pot being one of the most pure examples.

"What you rail against is your interpretation of socialism"

It's actually the majority interpretation of it (most socialists) with a strong eye to the pragmatic. How does it REALLY work in practice? When the rubber hits the road? Instead of pure imaginary theory like Marx's rants that have little connection to real world situations.

"which comes from I'm not sure what sources, but obviously has been formulated without consulting those who actually adhere to socialist principles and work towards a socialist nation."

It is them that I look at most closely. Those whose work always includes diminishing the power of the ruled while endowing the rulers with more and more privilege.

"I would suggest to you that you look to those who claim socialism as their ideology, and ask them what THEY stand for, and what THEY believe, and what political goals THEY have."

Follow the walk, not the talk. Socialists are great at saying "We're doing this to help you" while making things much worse for those they claim to help. No thanks. I can see right through the whitewashing.

They do this much better than right-wing fascists, although some great socialist leaders like Hugo Chavez slip up and use a lot of right-wing fascist terminology (crush the Jews, etc).

Name: Soapboxgod said...

The reason why we don't take to making inquiries with others who adhere to socialist tendencies is because we don't base our conclusions of the subject on feeling. We reach our conclusions based on reason, logic, and fact.

Socialism as a means towards a utopian society, while it might very well sound good in theory to a great many, is a failure in practice.

And, if something cannot very well in practice bring about its intended result it cannot (and let's be clear about this) then be good in theory.

dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmarks said...

Soap. Yes, it is a failure in practice, because it has nothing to do with human nature, reality, real history, and how things work.

The whole "dialectic of history" (the progress of class struggle) framework is based on imagination. It has as much to do with actual human history as Velikovsky has to do with actual astronomy.

Marxian and Socialist ideas really should only have the stature of religion in the real of public discourse. That is, let people believe, but keep them out of public policy.

Mistakes of letting socialism become public policy have resulted in more human catastrophy than any theocracy (religious government) has. Keep these bad ideas in a place where they can't do any harm.

Socialist ideas have so little do with reality that the only way they can come about is with extreme force and great effort (i.e. a totalitarian government enforcing extremely stringent rules and getting rid of anyone who doesn't conform).

dmarks said...

Soap said: "And, if something cannot very well in practice bring about its intended result it cannot (and let's be clear about this) then be good in theory."

Yeah. Like a theory that if you flap your arms real hard, you can jump off a cliff and fly. It might look good on paper, and you can write it (like socialists do) while ignoring real evidence. And it makes everyone feel good. Who doesn't love the idea of flying like this?

But when it tried in the real world, you get corpses piling up at the bottom of the cliff. (seque to image of the skull piles of Cambodia... evidence of a thorough effort to apply socialism to the real world).

So, let's just leave it on paper where it won't do anyone any harm, ok?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

You'll get no argument from me dmarks. Well said.

dmarks said...

Thanks. Socialist policy starts to go rapidly downhill with the whole idea that the ruling elites should control the "means of production", as opposed to capitalism, where ownership is left to the people.