Author Archives: Nick

She Even Says Hot Things

Predictably, Jessica Alba is under fire for saying she doesn’t consider herself a latina:

Alba is my last name and I’m proud of that. But that’s it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I’m American…I had a very American upbringing, I feel American, and I don’t speak Spanish. So, to say that I’m a Latin actress, OK, but it’s not fitting; it would be insincere.

I fail to see what’s wrong with that. Personally, I’m darned proud of my heritage. But I had a very American upbringing. I consider myself at least as much American as I am Indian, but if one day I’m famous enough to be in countless news articles and press releases, I hope they don’t preface my name with ‘Indian’ like they seem to do all too often with her. But it sounds like she wasn’t raised in hispanic culture, as I was raised Indian. So why should she identify as a latina?

As Mary Katherine Ham detailed:

One blog post on the comments remarks, “Guess sell-outs come in all races and sizes.” Another calls it a “disturbing hoard of quotes.” Another claims she “hates Mexicans.”

Comments about Alba’s comments include, “F**K YOU THEN, JESSICA…VIVA LA RAZA!!!,” “She should just change her last name to White, then,” and “I thought she could be a good role model for Latinas, but she is a fake, tryin’ to be white.”

Personally I would’ve called her a sellout if, given her generic American upbringing and lack of facility in Spanish, she insisted on calling herself latina. She would’ve been fake if she wore the latina badge with pride, given that as she says herself it says nothing about her but her genetic origins…

But maybe I’m just crazy.

I’ve said since high school that the bigger deal you make about race, the bigger deal it becomes. It doesn’t matter if its white people making a big deal about black people or if its hispanics making a big deal about themselves. Either way, you make race a larger part of your external identity than it need be.

What this whole ruckus demonstrates is the continued and distressing trend of American minorities to define themselves in terms of their skin color and distant geographic origin. And more importantly to see people of other ethnicities as outsiders.

It seems obvious that you can’t create a colorblind society if you keep making a big deal about your own color, but I probably lack the ‘nuance’ and ‘erudition’ that allow progressives to see things otherwise.

Ms. Alba, if you’re reading this I want you to know that when I look at you I don’t see a Latina. I just see a really hot chick.

FacebookGoogle+RedditStumbleUponEmailWordPressShare

A Look At Our 2008 Options

I tried to take a break from politics. It didn’t work. Obama getting the spotlight, more than anything else, sparked my re-awakening. He reminds me of FDR. That is not a good thing. The more I hear of his ‘vision’–and peoples’ gushing reaction to it, the more I get the urge to scream, rip my hair out, and go become a hermit. Surely we can’t fall for the same trick twice? But apparently we can. Obama is the kind of person who would coax America into a cage–a comfortable one, but a cage nonetheless–all in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’, neither of which can possibly be realized under such a stifling regime as he wishes to create, just as FDR once did in an administration that was more damaging to liberty than any that has existed since.

And from that came more political thinking, something I didn’t want to happen…

For years, I’ve taken to shorthanding my political beliefs as ‘socially liberal, economically conservative’. Something most of us have done when describing our philosophy to our more benighted friends. I’ve never been fond of it, seeing nothing ‘liberal’ about allowing government to control our economic freedom. I never liked the image that ‘socially liberal’ conveyed either, as all too many ‘progressive’ ideas on social policy are in fact quite authoritarian. And, as Hayek always held, to control the economic is to control the social, and vice versa.

Now as I look at the Democrats’ platform, I find there’s basically nothing there I can stand behind. Precious little in the Republican Party Line either, but at least there’s something. And more importantly, a someone or two I could get behind.

For the past 20 to 30 years, we’ve tended to vote overwhelmingly for Republicans. But that changed substantially in the 2004 election, as one would expect given the continual outrages that Bush and the Republican majority inflicted upon us. Only 53% of us voted for Republican congressmen in 2004, with 44% voting for Democrats. 2006 was possibly worse, but I’m too lazy to conjure up figures.

What’s bothering me about this is that we are attempting to choose the lesser of two evils, when either one is sufficient to destroy the United States as we know and love it. Oh, I don’t mean a land of ruins and squalor, but I do mean a land of stagnation and statism. A land that no longer resembles the country that our forefathers sought to establish.

Trying to choose between the two is kind of like picking which nuke you’d like to be hit by, the 21 kiloton Fat Man, or the 13 kiloton Little Boy? It’s not exactly a question that makes a whole lot of sense.

So how about a third option? Lets not get nuked at all. Or at the very least take steps to delay it. Too bad that as a country we’ve developed the mentality that longshots and third parties are nothing more than throwing your vote away, which is why the vast majority of libertarians divy up their vote between left and right. I was just 8 years old when Perot made his run at the presidency in 1992. I still know very little about him or his policies. What I do know is that at one point he led the polls. And on that fateful day in November, he managed to scavenge up a full 19% of the vote. Unheard of for a third party candidate in the modern era.

Unfortunately, we ‘learned our lesson’ after that, blaming Perot for Clinton’s ascendancy and Bush’s loss. In 1996, all third party candidates together earned barely half of what Perot did in 1992, and he was once again blamed as the reason Clinton won. And in 2000, they barely registered, although, once again a third party candidate–Nader–was blamed for Bush’s victory. The problem is, we learned the wrong lesson.

It’s true that we’ve always been more or less a two party system. But it hasn’t been the same two parties over the 200 and some years this country has been in existence. Parties changed, they split, they dissolved, and new parties came in to take their place. For crying out loud, the Democrats proudly call themselves ‘The Party Of Jefferson’ (and manage to say it with a straight face!). Does the Republican party of today even begin to resemble the vision of Goldwater in 1960? Heck no.

The lesson we should have learned from Perot is that it is possible to change the status quo. Rome was not built in a day, and in such a contentious and ignorant population–how else do you explain the way Democrats get away with calling themselves liberal–you can’t expect the revolution to happen in a single election cycle. Much as it pains me to say, this election will probably not be the revolution we want and need, but if we play our cards right, it can be an investment , one that will pay dividends in the future. I’m sure we’ll lose, but if we lose big enough, we still manage to demonstrate the dissatisfaction with the two mainstream parties. And when the hue and cry raises up that our ‘thrown away’ votes allow the ‘wrong guy’ to win, that’s when we really go on the offensive. Both guys were the wrong guy, we’ll say. And look how well we did last time. Lets put the pressure on and actually win next time.

The lesser of two evils approach worked, more or less–less rather than more in hindsight–when one evil was substantially less lethal than the other. But in today’s environment, we can’t vote for the leading Republican just because he’s not a Democrat. And we can’t vote for a Democrat just because we’re pissed at the Republicans (like we did in the past two elections).

The libertarian and constitution parties simply are not viable. But we’ve been given a gift in Ron Paul. I’ve been a longtime fan of his. And I certainly never would have guessed he’d get as much attention as he’s gotten. I do disagree with his stance on the Iraq War and middle east interventionism in general. But I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. That, more than anything has been the reason that for once a true liberal has gotten anything resembling real press for the first time in my life. Its allowed him to talk about his domestic policies at several venues. It’s absolutely refreshing to be able to hear a libertarian philosophy presented on TV.

I think we’ll see the buzz only continue to build as his newfound celebrity enables him to more properly and clearly state his position on domestic issues. And it’ll be interesting for sure if he’s allowed to attack head on the principles of the so-called modern liberals in a public forum. He did a great job of it on The Daily Show and with Bill Maher, much better than I would’ve thought.

Dr. Paul’s newfound celebrity is also coming at a great time, politically speaking. There have never been fewer Republicans, and the Democrats aren’t doing so hot either, so it goes without saying that there are more unaffiliated people of voting age than ever before. There is only one candidate out there who isn’t really a Republican or a Democrat (regardless of his nominal party affiliation). That right there, is a huge niche just begging to be exploited.

All he has to do is convince all those dissatisfied people that McCain, Giuliani, Hillary, and Obama are just the same ugly message of increasing intervention and domination of our lives, just clothed slightly differently. It really doesn’t matter if he wins the nomination as a Republican or not, so long as he managed to take those same supporters with him when he goes.

Like I said, I doubt he’ll win, and I do disagree with him on certain issues. But I doubt we as a nation are suddenly going to become satisfied with the Democrats and Republicans after the election either. So long as we don’t take his loss as a defeat, but rather gained ground, we have potential to influence the 2010 election to an even greater degree. And perhaps in 2012 the country might be ready for a truly liberal president.

Ron Paul is a chance at a future in which liberty still exists. He’s an investment in a future free of statists. The only viable investment there currently is.

Damage Control: Why We Need To Lock Down The Borders

Introduction:
I know for a fact that several of the contributors to this blog will disagree with my stance on border control. Doug just posted about it. Brad’s mentioned it in the past. And if my memory (currently taken up by such wonderful things as bone cancers and endocrine disorders) serves correctly, there are a couple of contributors to this blog that agree with me.

What I would like to see is a considerable streamlining of the process for legal immigration where we have openings and a much strengthened enforcement of illegal immigration laws and more impenetrable borders.

As the son of immigrants, I’m very grateful for the opportunities this country has given us. And I’m even more thankful to have received what’s left of the blessings of liberty our (your?) forefathers fought and died for.

But it’s the very fact that our liberty is but a faded reminder of its past glory that makes me wish for stronger borders. There is no doubt that our country was built by immigrants and that immigration is vital to our continued growth and progress. I say this because both my parents work jobs ‘that Americans won’t do.’ And they do a pretty good job. Both of these jobs require graduate degrees.

There are certain political and economic realities of the world and this country that we must accept and deal with or face the prospect of watching what’s left of our liberty circle down the drain because we refused to support distasteful but necessary legislation. The fact that we stayed true to our liberal ideals would be little solace if we inhabited a prison born of statism.

I discussed this concept of cutting to cure in an earlier essay. The Castle Doctrine makes me angry, as does the fact that I have to take a class and apply for a CCW. These things shouldn’t have to exist. The second amendment and the writings of our ideological fathers confirm this. Yet here I am, saving up the money and finding a free Saturday to take the class. And there I’ll be, standing in the Sherrif’s office paying him several hundred dollars so he can run my prints like a common criminal so I can get a permit just to carry a means to defend myself.

But do you know what would be altogether worse? Not being able to defend myself in my home. Not being able to carry. More regulation, more bureaucracy. But my 2nd amendment rights at least partially restored–in a practical if not ideological sense.

I’ve presented the political and economic arguments for why we need tougher border control before, so I’m not going to go in near as much detail this time around.

Politics:
In today’s political climate, Kennedy’s famous quote has been reversed. It is now not about what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you. In this climate, freedom has been redefined as comfort. Into this environment you invite millions of people who through no fault of their own better qualify as ‘have-nots’ than ‘haves’. And as the ‘have nots’–together with the cultural elite–have shown themselves all to willing to do, they will vote from others’ pocketbooks. And they will vote for other egregious restrictions and legalized discrimination.

As I have remarked before:

Will [the children of illegal immigrants] do as well economically and academically as the native population? Doubtful. And so the hue and cry of ‘racism’ and ‘prejudice’ will be raised. A generation from now Sharptons and Jacksons with latinized names will rise up, speaking to cultural identity that their only path to ‘freedom’ lies in increased governmentally-sanctioned privilege. Privilege that will come at the expense of freedom and opportunity for all other races. And in this political climate, they will be all too successful.

Economics:
And economically, a progressive unconstitutional tax system is the order of the day. One that’s exacerbated by the double and triple taxation through corporate income tax, capital gains taxes, and even death taxes. This situation is compounded by a regressive government expenditure system. In which through social welfare and various other government services, far more is spent per capita on the people paying the least in taxes.

Those who pay the bulk of taxes receive the least in benefits. Which honestly is fine by me. That’s not what I’m objecting to. But when you add in a massive influx of people who do not reach the equity point in terms of taxation vs. government expenditure, you have an obvious problem. One that would be solved by an even greater (and probably even more progressive) tax burden. Tax freedom day comes late enough as it is. And while these problems would be ameliorated by a flat consumption tax and a reduced government commitment to welfare, they would hardly be eliminated.

And just because I love stroking my own ego, I should mention that even Jerry Pournelle likes my logic.

Conclusion:
If our government still resembled the one defined by the constitution, I would have little problem with an open border. If our politicians were managers seeking to do the best job within the confines of their mandate, rather than power-mongers finding the best way to bribe and buy our affections, I would be all for an open border. If the doctrine of positive liberty were not on the rise, if freedom had not been redefined as comfort, I’d be alright. If we were still a constitutionally-restrained republic rather than a free-for all, I’d have a different opinion.

Neal Boortz often remarks that we don’t need to ship illegal immigrants out of the country, we merely have to remove the incentive for them to stay. Which is exactly how I’d prefer tackling the issue. But the reason I bring this up is actually to illustrate why I wouldn’t see a need for border restrictions if we lived under a classically liberal government. Immigration would self correct in response to basic market and social forces. Today however, both economic and social factors are dramatically altered by political machinations. The costs of many of the things that make this country such a great place from our excellent standards of healthcare, to our educational system, to our basic infrastructure are not paid by those who receive the benefits. When those who receive the benefits don’t pay the costs, bad things happen. This is the essence of economics, ecology, and game theory. And something we all should recognize.

So let me repeat. If this were a minarchist country, I would have a different position on the border. But it isn’t. And I want to protect what freedom I have left.

When Negotiation Is Merely Appeasement

We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot believe that such a programme would be rejected by the people of this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal contact with the dictators. –Neville Chamberlain

I found reading the words of the man who nearly brought destruction to the British Isles and Europe in the years leading up to World War II to be both enlightening and astonishing. Then-Prime Minister Chamberlain sounded not too dissimilar from how the American and European Left sound today. Whether speaking on the need to see things from the other’s point of view–no matter how barbaric–or the infallibility of diplomacy, it was like I was reading the latest missive from DailyKos or the most recent editorial in the New York Times.

Chamberlain was thankfully succeeded by a man of strong will and stronger judgment. One who was neither afraid of being blunt in words nor being decisive in action:

We ask no favours of the enemy. We seek from them no compunction. On the contrary, if tonight our people were asked to cast their vote whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of cities, the overwhelming majority would cry, “No, we will mete out to them the measure, and more than the measure, that they have meted out to us.” The people with one voice would say: “You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. It was you who began the indiscriminate bombing. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst – and we will do our best.” –Winston Churchill

In later years, Churchill criticized Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, saying that it is nothing more than feeding others to a crocodile, hoping you’ll be the last to be consumed. What makes appeasement so dangerous–particularly from the Chamberlains of the world–is that they themselves may not realize what they are asking for:

This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. –Neville Chamberlain

Central to their misguided belief is that peace is always possible. How they justify this central premise, I have never heard articulated in a logical manner. Men fight for many reasons. Sometimes they fight over property. Sometime over some slight–real or imagined–made by one against the other. But sometimes they fight because they hate the other with every fiber of their being. As in the case of the proverbial Hatfields and McCoys, it is entirely likely that conflicts of the latter kind are rooted–somewhere in the fog of antiquity–in disputes of a more tangible nature. Whatever their origin, when it comes to pass that one group defines themselves by their very hatred of the other, such matters become irrelevant.

Diplomacy can only provide a solution when the discord is directly tied to a given action or series of actions. When a state fights another, not because of who they are but because of what they did. In such cases, negotiation can provide the means to provide redress for the offending parties. The source of agitation now removed, peace is possible, indeed likely.

When the catalyst for one state’s aggression against the other isn’t what they did but who they are, there can be no peace. There can exist for a time an uneasy ceasefire. A hostile and brooding silence. But the roots of the conflict remain in place. Such an untenable situation is hardly to be desired, yet this is the limit to what negotiation can bring us. For while agreements between ambassadors and heads of state can silence the guns, they cannot change the hearts and minds of people.

What the West, Israel, and the parts of the East not already fallen face with Islamofascism is precisely the latter situation. Only intentional ignorance could lead one to any other conclusion. From the attempt to push Sharia in France and England, to the hostility of several immigrant muslim activism groups in the West, to of course the words of their own leaders, one can be left in little doubt as to the intentions of Islamic leaders. Just as Mohammed himself preached death to non-Muslims, so too do these groups. They hate the way we pray (or don’t pray), they hate the freedom we allow women even more than the freedom we allow men. They hate us for no reason but the fact that we are not them. And though many Muslims may not feel the same way, far too few will stand up against the despotic tyrants who cage their people and seek to murder us in our beds. There is no possibility of peace with men who hate you for who you are. Only an ephemeral and strained armistice.

If this is your goal, then by all means, engage in talks that will usher in your temporary truce. But know what it is you are asking for. Know that as long as you leave the men who hate you in power, they will be plotting your destruction, even as you drop your guard for the ‘peace’ you have bought.

Crossposted from Indian Cowboy

Defending Marriage

Thought it was a good time to put in my 2 cents. Especially since I’d already written about this issue a couple months ago.

I’m one of those people who don’t believe in gay marriage, but who does believe in civil unions. My reasoning is simple. Marriage is at its evolutionary root about altricial infants, paternal care, and sexual fidelity. In its biological and ecological basis it is identical to the monogamy displayed by the wolf, by south american monkeys, and by certain species of birds. Ergo, a homosexual couple literally cannot be married.

But there’s no denying that homosexuals are just as capable of loving and devoted relationships as heterosexual people–not to mention the fact that these days fewer heterosexual couples are really focused on the family (sorry for the pun), so why should they be denied the rights accorded to heterosexual couples who wish to make the arrangement semi-permanent?

In Defending Marriage, I argued that the best way to protect marriage is to get government completely out of it. There are two reasons for this:

1. Government-sanctioned marriage really is discriminatory. It is a state-enforced privilege offered to some adults but not others based on a choice they make. As such it goes against the core classical liberal principles of freedom of choice and individualism. Privileges for one group can only be maintained by penalties against another.

2. By allowing government to get involved in the marriage business, we politicize it. Marriage becomes not a cultural, historical, and biological phenomenon, but a political tool. And, as in all things of such a nature, marriage will be bent, twisted, and eventually broken in the quest for power.

On Problem 1:

The classical liberal position is one in which the philosophical perspective centers around the individual rather than society at large (which is merely a thin disguise for veneration of the state). Furthermore, the classical liberal position is that for an individual to be free, he must be able to do as he wishes so long as no direct harm comes to another. The flipside of this, of course, is that the state and/or society should have no direct role in the choices the individual makes. Marriage is fundamentally an agreement between two individuals; an agreement of sexual exclusivity, mutual fealty, and dedication to the rearing of their progeny. Marriage is a choice; two free individuals approach the altar, and two free individuals, one carrying the other and both slightly drunk, cross the threshold into the honeymoon suite.

The first problem is that government sanction and/or protection of marriage is essentially interfering with an individual’s choice, positive though the interference may be. In this way, marriage is no different from social welfare in that the state somehow subsidizes a person’s behavior. The second problem is that no individual has more inherent rights than another. Yet when the state sanctions, protects, and subsidizes marriage that is exactly what it proclaims; it gives preferential treatment to those individuals who make a certain choice. The third problem is that because state interference is largely positive, it negatively impacts those who didn’t make the choice to marry. As has been discussed at length, positive interference by the state of any kind represents a reduction of liberty.

We are thus left with the conclusion that state-sanctioned marriage simply does not fit in the classical liberal scheme.

On the second problem:

The problem is that once the state is allowed to grant preferential treatment to married couples, it must defend its decision to do so. Although the preceding section discussed the problematic nature of state-sanctioned marriage from a minarchist position, it must be remembered that Leftists are opportunistically individualists. Marriage happens to be one such issue where it suits them to drop the Statist cloak, if only for a time.

Leftists will reduce marriage down to economic privileges, whether shared tax forms or pooled bank accounts and assets. Or down to legal privileges such as the ‘next of kin’ designation available to the spouse but not to the ‘life partner’. Or even the 5th amendment spousal inclusion. They will then make the valid argument about the lack of equality before the law. Unfortunately, the way their nihilistic minds work is that instead of removing the preferential treatment, or making accordances for it through civil unions, they should redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

And by allowing government to define the word and the concept of ‘marriage’ in the first place, we’ve given leftists the ability to change that definition both politically and culturally.

Most importantly, classical liberals have a healthy distrust for government; it’s one of our hallmarks. Why then should we allow marriage–a meaningful, beloved, and sacred institution–to become something that is defined and enforced by the government?

The solution is a simple one. Get the state out of marriage entirely. No privileges, no tax breaks, no legal protections. Not because marriage isn’t important or valuable. But because it is too valuable to leave in the all too corruptible hands of government. We take our philosophy from the founding fathers. And the historical progenitor of that philosophy was distrust of the state. They distrusted it because it was an inevitability that the state would stop serving the people it was created by. And thus that the more power the state had, the larger a hammer that could eventually be wielded against the people. The state is an evil, albeit a sometimes necessary one. Perhaps because of this it has been a hallmark of our philosophy that the more beloved the ideal, the less involvement of the state we’re willing to grant. By giving the state a role–no matter how small–in defining marriage, we’ve exposed a sacred concept to the same depredations that we fear would happen to our liberty and our property.

Save marriage. Get the state out of it.

Optimism On The Fourth Of July

Or maybe just bloody-mindedness, who knows. Wrote this last year. Don’t think I can better it. And now (admittedly not that many) people actually read what I write. Slightly dated, the mood being heavily set by the then-recent Kelo decision. Still, much of it is more or less timeless.

A lot of conservative bloggers seem to be wearing black and mourning the death of America today. Truth be told, I was too as I went to bed last night, prepared to make a sob-filled eulogy to the dying ideal of the Land of the Free. But depression doesn’t come naturally to me…it usually transmutes itself to burning anger within a few hours. And that’s how I feel today: angry. Not just angry at the misguided people that undermine the constitution everyday in all three branches of the government. Not just angry with the idiots who shepherd them into office, chasing a dream of the European ideal…a land where they never figured out how not to be subjects. A land where what looks like milk and honey turns out to be nothing but whitewash and food coloring. But I’ve been angry with myself for getting depressed in the first place.

On this day a Call to Fight came from the colonial caucus, magnificently penned by Thomas Jefferson. 229 years later, it is still a call to fight, albeit against a far more insidious enemy. July 4th in 1776 was a challenge, to the maddened King George, and to the wave upon wave of red coats and muskets that would soon come by the boatload. On that day, our forefathers stood their ground and declared that no more would they be ruled in such an arbitrary manner, heads bowed to an authority that was scarcely their better.

Today our enemy comes from within, but, like those British soldiers, they are simply taking orders. Their orders come from their false education and indoctrination, and from their lack of introspection. Today we are called to arms, not to raise our swords upon the field of battle, but to raise our pens and our voices, to win possession not of bloody battlefields but of hearts and minds.

Heinlein, that preternaturally brilliant political commentator, remarked that a people who forget their history will have no future. And that is the very essence of the problem. We simply aren’t taught our history well enough. We learn dates, we learn places, and we learn names. But that’s the least important part of history. Way back when, it didn’t matter what day of the week or the month that Patrick Henry spoke his famous words. It doesn’t matter what the Federalist Papers were called, or even who wrote them. That Ben Franklin invented bifocals, are you serious?

The importance of our founding fathers lay in what they said and what they did. Of the lessons they imparted to posterity. Of the struggles they fought for 7 long years. Of the failure of the Articles of Confederation, and how from its ashes the Phoenix of the Constitution which arose with such glory no better governing document has been written. This is the history that’s important, and it is precisely this history that isn’t taught.

This country’s laws and institutions aren’t something to be discussed, agreed upon, and decided by Democrats and Repubicans. That was already done for us with the birth of the Constitution. Our framers were polymaths, accomplished economists, historians, and philosphers; The constitution is thus approximately as outdated as this post, possibly less. They were also some of the most paranoid and far-thinking individuals the world has ever seen. They created a document that had no need of changing with the times. A simple, profound document which gave us the basic ideals on which society should be built, and just how limited government should remain.

The Constitution should no more change with the times than the Bible, Buddha’s words, or Shakespeare. Our framers’ very intent was to create an ahistoric document. One that it doesn’t matter when you gave it a glance, the words are timeless. On the 150th anniversary of July 4th, Calvin Coolidge said as much about the Declaration (hat tip powerline ):

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Not progress, reactionary. These days no Republican is untainted by assault on certain principles of our founding document, but the entire ‘progressive’ movement is a reaction against the Constitution. They are not progressive, they are regressive. They are Statist. Individual liberty is not the goal, but individual comfort. By such stuff are subjects and sheep made. Their power lies in speaking to the fears and the emotions of their minions. That is not the life I want to live, to take counsel of my fears (to quote churchill) before deciding my course of action (except insects…i’m still afraid of insects) Our message is clear, it is invincible, the only thing that remains is to speak that message. To remind people of what it means to be American, to believe in freedom, and the sacrosanct individual. To remind them that the government is our plaything, not the other way around.

The Gadsden flag is flying today in my mind and in my heart. It neatly encapsulates everything our forebears stood for on the field of battle and in the composing of our great ideological foundation. Years ago it was flown by the most belligerent of Revolutionary War soldiers. Today, it’s resurrected, flown by one of the most belligerent classical liberals I know: me. They stood there ready to die for their cause.

No one will ask that of me, or of you; we have no excuse for walking out on this fight.

The events I’ve witnessed in recent years, the debates I’ve had with fellow students, the pure filth that comes out of so many politicians made me question whether America really was better than Europe. I dont know how the country got to that point, but no more. Melancholy has given way to the much more comfortable rage. Rage I can do, rage is familiar to me. I can do it all my life and not blink an eye. And you know what? I think I will. The statists fought a war of attrition for 200 long years, but their day ends now.

Why Any Rights At All?

Edit: I should point out that I’m a doofus. I didn’t intend to mischaracterize Francois’ position. Didn’t even mean to intimate that this was a direct response to his position. Just a general thingy on the problems I see with anarchy…and why I support the concept of negative rights. And, as a couple point out, I might be dead wrong in my characterization of anarcho-capitalism entirely.

Introduction
There are many who claim not to see the difference between negative and positive rights. However, this isn’t a valid position to take given the extent of application of the positive/negative distinction. Far from being applicable solely to the rights of man, they find use in describing virtually every situation in which action is required. For instance, in Operant Conditioning, the terms positive and negative are used to denote different forms of reinforcement. Negative reinforcement isn’t punishment and positive reinforcement isn’t reward. Negative reinforcement is withholding or not using a stimulus (whether a reward or a punishment). Positive reinforcement is giving that stimulus to the subject (again, whether it’s a good or bad stimulus).

When it comes to rights, negative rights are quite simply those things you would have with no interference; Unless you murder me, I live. Unless you stop me, I’m free. Unless you take it, I have property. Unless you attempt to take it away from me, I have that right. Positive rights on the other hand are things you can only have with interference (again, ‘good’ or ‘bad’). A ‘right to a standard of living’ can only be maintained if those who don’t have that standard of living are given it by an outside source. This outside source is inevitably government. And said government works through taxation and regulation. You have a ‘right to a standard of living’, if I subsidize it. You have a ‘right to maternity leave’ if your employer concedes it. The difference can only be made up through the contribution of others. It is thus a ‘positive right’. And, because this ‘right’ can only be maintained through the coercion and loss of property of others, it is mutually exclusive to the maintenance of negative rights. The same is true for all ‘positive rights’. They thus result in a net loss of liberty.

But a man could ask why any rights at all?

Which is an exceedingly more difficult question. But one I’ll try to handle in the following post. As I’ve said, I’m a behavioral ecologist. And while I love monkeys, I also have a passion (if you couldn’t tell) is for philosophy. Particularly evolutionary epistemology and ethics. Evolutionary epistemology is comparatively easy to derive from first principles, and even easier to expound upon. Evolutionary ethics, on the other hand, is a huge mess. It is nearly impossible to derive a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ when all actions essentially derive from selfishness. We call the selfish but devoted father that is the Titi monkey ‘good’, while we call the infanticidal–but no more selfish–male Howler monkey ‘bad’. I still haven’t figured that problem out, and the manuscript still sits on the back burner more or less untouched, 2.5 years later.

The Problem
This basic problem of how to define ‘good’ without a clear universal is even more complex when it comes to political philosophy. The reason is because what at first looks like a simple problem is actually twofold:

1)Why are ‘negative rights’ good? Why are ‘positive rights’ bad?
2)Why any rights at all?

I’ve discussed Problem 1 at length both here and at my own blog. The major defect in ‘positive rights’ is that it posits the existence of ‘The People’ as a single entity, a collective. This differs from ‘the people’ as used by the Framers to denote a collection of individuals who share a common government. The idea of a collective, of group selection, has little or no basis in reality. It hasn’t been shown to exist. Rather, as outlined by Adam Smith and corroborated by two decades of economists, mathematicians, and behavioral ecologists progress and cooperation are simply epiphenomena relating to self interest. To quote Terry Pratchett:

‘I’m sure we can all pull together, sir.’

Lord Vetinari raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh I do hope not, I really do hope not. Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions.’ He smiled. ‘It’s the only way to make progress…’

Forcing humans into a collective goes against our very nature, which is why such coercive governments seldom last without the added coercion of lethal retaliation for disobedience. And why they inevitably succumb to stagnation.

The Solution
And in here we see a makeshift solution to the ‘good’/’bad’ problem: What were we built to do? How were we built to behave? What are the rules by which we function? And if the trend continued, how would things end up? In other words, if the models that behavioral ecologists and economists used were taken to their logical conclusion, what would we see?

With Problem 2 we run into greater difficulty. ‘Surely what we see in nature is anarchy,’ would inevitably be an anarchist’s reply. And in that no animal other than humans has a codified rule of law, he’d be right. Yet there are trends we can see within the animal kingdom, particularly among the most intelligent social mammals, that would seem to tend toward things that are too expensive to fight for.

The basic idea is that the ‘worth’ of an individual can be calculated in terms of the time and energy spent to create said being. An insect or a mantis shrimp doesn’t cost a whole lot to make. Neither does an egg-laying vertebrate like a fish or a frog or a snake. Small mammals aren’t much further up the scale. But as one goes up the scale in intelligence, sociality, longevity, and size, they get much more expensive and much more demanding very fast. Just for some perspective, while some rodents can produce up to 6 offspring every 3 weeks, you can only produce 2-4 wolves every two years in your average pack (which consists of several adults of both sexes). It takes a monkey anywhere from 2 to 6 years to achieve completion, a chimp or a gorilla up to a decade, and a human close to 18 years, with correspondingly lower interbirth intervals.

A mantis shrimp dying might only represent 50-100 calories lost. A chimpanzee on the other hand, would amount to literally anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of calories of lost investment if he died. Interestingly enough, the cost of producing an adult of a given species and the intensity, frequency, and lethality of fight situations within and between groups shows a pretty robust trend toward fewer and less intense fights the more expensive the individual. Fights to the death are not uncommon among invertebrates and ‘cheaper’ vertebrates such as the famed lethal dances of male hummingbirds. But amongst higher primate males (excluding humans), within-group lethality is such an uncommon occurrence that a simple description of the incident is often worth an entire scientific publication (in other words, pretty remarkable). Lethality between groups is likewise low, with Chimpanzees being the only other primate known to do so in a systematic manner. And even that is rare.

As might be predicted, the general trend we see, from ‘life’ on down through ‘property’, is that the higher the energetic worth of an animal, forcible coercion through violence drops lower and lower. Instead, the mere likelihood of retaliation is enough to convince the would-be aggressor not to bother. This is the basic principle behind Heinlein’s assertion that ‘an armed society is a polite society’.

Conclusion
This would seem to be an argument in support of the anarchist’s assertion that society will find order on its own anyway. But an important part of this understanding is that violence does happen. Animals’ ‘property’ (whether food or territory) is stolen. And females and males alike find themselves coerced by more dominant individuals on a regular basis.

Although the incidences of all of these would decrease relative to other animals in a human anarchistic society due to an increased fear (and cost) of retaliation, they would still exist. So what the anarchist asserts is that a basal level of murder, coercion, and theft is somehow ok. The depredations against others in an anarchy represent the background noise that proponents clearly ignore as mere stochastic effect. Which seems just a bit dismissive, if you ask me. And not all that different from the collectivist mentality of the leftist when you get down to it. Just as–according to the Supreme Court–the police are responsible for the protection of ‘the people’ but not a single individual, the anarchist is fine with a relatively low level of transgressions against man’s right to life, liberty, and property among ‘the people’ despite its continued occurrence amongst individuals. ‘As long as ‘the people’ are more or less free, who cares about a couple of them?’ is what they seem to say.

But more importantly, the anarchist imputes too much to statement that ‘All men are created equal.’ Even at birth, some are taller, some are heavier. Some are healthier, some are more alert. Should one strip away all of the material (environmental) differences, the genetic differences would still leave vasts gulfs between the most capable and the least. The anarchist’s basic argument of self order is dependent upon not only a level playing field but teams consisting of cloned players. While his assumptions hold basically true in the animal kingdom where the difference between the Alpha male and the lowest of the subordinate males doesn’t tend to be all that great, in a population as varied as humanity, the assumption doesn’t even begin to resemble reality. In such a system, where some are capable of greater acts of coercion than others, and where the threat of retaliation varies widely from almost none to almost infinite, a few will inevitably come to control the many. An oligarchy. History tells us much about these oligarchies, and about how noble, how meritocratic, how well-meaning they are in the beginning, such things will inevitably become mere tools for the ambitious, the greedy, the predators, to all the more easily take power with. And so tyrannies are born.

The anarchist turns a blind eye to the difference between the perfect world of their assumptions and the real world. The classical liberal merely acknowledges them. He sees that for society to remain free from tyranny, individuals must treat each other as if they were equal. It is not only the logical conclusion of the trend toward less and less coercive acts in the animal world, but also the only way to prevent tyranny. The young man must not kill the old one merely because the latter cannot protest. The man must not rape the woman merely because he can pin her. The strong must not take bread from the mouth of the weak merely because he can. Because eventually the young man will become a general, the man a police chief, the strong an iron-fisted dictator.

Un-American

I saw this beautiful post by Individ about what patriotism really is. From what I gather, like me he’s a trained scientist, and that scientific background informs and strengthens his commitment to classical liberalism/libertarianism. Making him one of the handful of scientists able to apply their methods to political thought.

Anyway, I just had to riff off of it. Here’s a teaser:

But worst of all they try to tell us that rather than remaining true to being a country founded upon Freedom From Government, we should become a country that espouses ‘Freedom’ Through Government. They are not patriots, they do not think like Americans. Now, their heart might be in the right place, and in a couple of instances they might even have a point, but that doesn’t change the fact that what they believe in isn’t the America that men have fought and died from 1776 until today. They want to change every principle that defines our country as they vilify those of us who remain true to its ideals. If that’s love, I don’t want to see what hate looks like.

I would’ve just cross-posted it in full but I got all self conscious, being the new guy and all. I didn’t want to have 2 of the 3 newest posts and seem like I was trying to take over the place.

The Aristocracy Returned

You know, the first thing that went through my head when the news erupted with the William Jefferson mess was the bit in Animal Farm where the pigs learn to walk on their hind legs:

There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything — in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened — they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of —

‘Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!’

A representative is believed to be taking significant amounts of bribes. The FBI file a request for a warrant, they get the warrant. And then they find the evidence they expected to find all along. Some 90,000 dollars hidden in a freezer. A corrupt government official, a man who did not represent his constituency or the people of the united states, but merely his own pocketbook. Outrage, now one would definitely expect outrage over this. And indeed that’s what we saw, from both the people and the government.

What we couldn’t expect is that while our ire was (rightly) directed at Jefferson–and at corruption in the legislature at large–our supposedly representative officials had taken umbrage that one of their own was treated like an ordinary citizen. Note that, one of their own. They reacted not as stewards of our will and desire, but as people in power. A ruling class. As Hastert, Santorum, and Boehner raise their voices in objection, they also herald in all-too-certain terms that they see themselves as above us. I’m particularly upset about Boehner. The man certainly seemed to have integrity and be serious about reform. It’s why I gave my thumbs up to him way back in the day.

But I guess it should come as no surprise that the only time we ever seem to have bipartisan support for a bill is when it has to do with government privilege. Continued hidden earmarks? Pay raises? Perks? Immunity? Might as well send it to committee. But even when an overwhelming majority of American citizens support such things as a hardline stance on border control or a simplification of the tax code, nothing ever happens. Likely never will.

Of course, none of these observations or thoughts are anything particularly new. But it’s nice when something you’re fairly certain of is writ large for all to see. And as a behavioral ecologist, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not surprised at the fact that congress seeks to serve themselves. What I’m surprised by is how brazen they’ve gotten. To so openly declare that they should have immunity from the law, that they should be able to get away with taking a bribe in order to not do their job.

But more than that, that they would offer up such a pathetic justification as ‘separation of powers’. These people increase the scope of the federal government every day they’re in office: This, more than anything else, has become their job. More Federal money to their state, to the people who donate to them, to the people who bribe them. And considering they are the ones who vote on the budget and taxation, it’s not such a difficult thing to increase taxes so everyone (or at least the aristocrats) win.

Legislators see themselves as above us. They believe they shouldn’t be treated as ‘ordinary citizens’. And like the feudal lords of old, they see citizens as merely serfs. Sources of power and nothing more. Republican? Democrat? All the same. All power-mongers, all insincere, all parasites.

The moral of the story? I try to visit India every couple of years. The mosquitos down in the southern part are killer. Literally. So when I was a kid we used to use this extremely strong smell menthol-ish repellant. And it worked darned well. But if you missed a spot, you’d invariably be bitten, no matter how small the uncovered area was. Parasites are good at finding openings, and the more they find, the more they’ll take. A big government is like a bare spot the size of your back. Not the best idea. This recent mess has shown that whether we’re talking about a ‘selfeless’ Democratic or ‘small governemnt’ Republican elected official, what we really have is someone who will suck you dry given half the chance. So don’t give them that chance.

Government represents nothing more than the sovereignty that you surrender. The more power you give to others in the form of government, the more power they can use against you.

And I’ll end with another excerpt from Animal Farm:

But they had not gone twenty yards when they stopped short. An uproar of voices was coming from the farmhouse. They rushed back and looked through the window again. Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials. The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously.

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Just Call Me Token…

My Blog

I make it my business to understand what makes people tick. In high school, by virtue of being big, older-looking, and trustworthy, my peers laid upon me the mantle of lay psychologist. In undergrad, I studied the biology of the brain itself. And then on a lark I went off to england to get a master’s in human evolution and primate behavio(u)ral ecology. Now, at 22, I’m trying (mostly failing) to keep playing primatologist as I enter my second year of medical school, eventually to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Understanding a man’s political ideology is in many ways merely a matter of understanding his psychological mindset. Understanding the nuts and bolts of how a person interacts with and within a political system merely an extension of behavioral ecology (of which economics is a subfield).

I blog because I love to write and I love to think. I love writing about why I think the way I do (philosophy). I blog because I think I have an interesting take on the world, being a broadly educated guy who attempts to apply the lessons of evolution and ecology to human interaction. I blog because you can only have one (1.25 in my case) career, but you can have many interests. And, of course, I blog because it’s a good ego boost.

Words and Numbers. That’s how I see the world. Words are important, they define what we experience, they help us categorize and systematize it. They help turn the infinite complexity around us into an intelligible construct. And numbers. Whether Newton’s Theory of Universal Gravitation or the Laws of Supply and Demand, numbers are a powerful predictive force, even when it comes to understanding the choices that as complex a being as a human makes.

I call myself a classical liberal because I’m dissatisfied with both groups claiming to be the tradition’s ideological heirs. Libertarians deify self-interest in an almost Randian way while failing to acknowledge that the market has limitations. Progressives on the other hand, posit that freedom and comfort are interchangeable and close their eyes to the evidence that humans are and will always be self-interested. One group takes too superficial a view of a valid concept (the efficiency of the market). In addition to its oxymoronic motto of “greater freedom through increased regulation!”, the other posits a political system based upon assumptions known to be completely invalid (group selection). Both are childish.

As a classical liberal I believe government’s role should be minimal, to protect our inalienable rights and to intervene where self-interested individuals acting in a self-interested manner will fail to do what is necessary to preserve their rights and maintain their liberty(Tragedy of the Commons). It’s what Chris calls minarchy. The market isn’t perfect. If it was we wouldn’t need any government. I will from time to time talk about where government intrusion may be necessary (education for instance…although not as it is now), but I will never say the state intrusion is good, merely necessary. Just like an amputation that could save your life.

Oh. For those of you who don’t get the joke in the title, here you go. I’m not black, but I do own a few do-rags, can rap along with Twista and Busta when I feel like it, and…I can dance.