Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Road to Freedom is Paved With Disobedience

You have most likely broken the law. As you sit there right now, reading this, you are probably doing or have done something recently that has transgressed some statute, some rule of government. You haven’t done anything to harm another, you haven’t stolen or damaged the property of another, and yet it is likely that those who rule over you have written some words down on a piece of paper somewhere, called it a law, and now they expect you to know this and obey its dictates. The absurdity of this system is clear for all to see, and yet you are at the mercy of those who call themselves “servants” of the people but then act as if they are the masters. They are a frightening group of people and if they set their sites on you, for whatever reason, you will end up being punished in some way.

If you have somehow violated some “code” (a very appropriate word for small details to a larger law or set of laws since normal English speaking people can’t understand much of what is written and only those well versed in the arcane language known as “legalese” have any idea of the “code’s” true meaning) then perhaps you have only to pay a small fine and the mean, nasty government people will leave you alone. Most of us ordinary folks simply pay these fines without question, even though we resent them, for a couple of reasons. First off, most of us realize that if we try to fight such a fine it will end up costing us more in time and money than if we just pay it, and then we might have to pay the original fine in addition anyway. Secondly, most of us realize that if we try to ignore the fine that eventually the government gang will catch up to you, perhaps kidnap and throw you in a confined space known as a jail cell, and make you stand before some guy in a black robe (who is paid by and owes his allegiance to the state) and explain to him why you were so rude and ignored their requests for money.

Should you find yourself in the grasp of government agents or in one of their courtrooms pleading with one of their judges don’t try to use the excuse that you didn’t know you were breaking a law. They don’t care. Of course you didn’t know you were breaking a law, how could you possibly know all the laws that have been written? It is a human impossibility. No one could possibly know what all the laws not only because so many have been written, but they are in a constant state of flux. What’s legal one day can be illegal the next and vice versa. Yet these people, when you stand before them, will tell you that ignorance of the law is no excuse. That may have worked when the law was simple and only involved other human beings as victims, but when it only involves state entities as the complaining parties then it should not only be an excuse, it should be understandable and expected.

Another thing that one might consider is why one should believe that any given politician wouldn’t use his power to try to punish someone he didn’t like, or try to force someone with a divergent viewpoint to change his behavior. Perhaps one used to think the justice system could be used to keep such power crazed politicians in check, and perhaps at one time long ago when supposedly many judges were principled one would be right. But judges are fallible humans also. They can not only tell who butters their bread, they can also be bought and sold when necessary. While I’m certain that principled judges do exist, I’d just as soon they didn’t have to depend upon government to earn their paychecks when their job entails having to mediate a case that might have some impact upon that very paycheck. Until and unless viable free market arbitration and dispute resolution systems evolve, we need some form of check to see that the courts remain fair and unbiased.

One such check was supposed to be the press. Media outlets and journalists were supposed to have free rein to report on the happenings in the public sphere. This, in my humble opinion, is necessary to help ensure that corruption in the system is kept to a minimum, that the populace is informed as to the actions of their public servants, that those working with the public trust are held accountable for their actions, and that individuals’ rights are respected at all levels of government. Denying access of modern reporting technology such as video cameras and recording devices into public venues only serves to impede this necessary check to power.

In Illinois, a state more socialist than others, even still cameras are not allowed into the public buildings which house the courtrooms, let alone the courtrooms themselves. If one tries to enter a court building with so much as a camera phone that person is denied entrance and usually has to go back to their car to put it safely away. Such restrictions only make it more difficult for the ordinary person to make an accurate appraisal of how well the justice system is working. In Illinois, we are forced to depend on artists’ renditions of the participants and the accuracy of reporters’ memories and notes as twenty first century technology is not allowed to record the public events taking place inside these sacred venues and so the nuances of voice inflection and facial expression are lost to the common man’s interpretation of the event.

In New Hampshire this is not so. In New Hampshire not only are cameras and recording devices allowed in the courtrooms, it is a right supposedly protected by their state constitution. It should be protected by the first amendment of the US Constitution, in my opinion. “Congress shall make no law prohibiting freedom of the press,” it says in effect. In Keene, New Hampshire, however, a judge tried to abridge this right by writing a proclamation that video recording would not be allowed in the building. Unlike the state of Illinois where the people seem willing to obey any dictate without question, some New Hampshire residents seem to have more backbone. One resident, a Mr. SamIam, decided to challenge the dictate posted, unsigned, in the Keene courthouse. He decided to disobey the orders which he felt were unlawful and was promptly arrested along with five others who quickly showed up to support his efforts.

As I write this, SamIam still sits in a jail cell to the best of my knowledge. He was busted for disobeying a judge and trying to exercise his first amendment rights. Now he’s exercising his fifth amendment right to remain silent and has been told he will remain in jail indefinitely until he decides to cooperate with his jailors and recognize their authority over him. This violates his sixth amendment right to a speedy and public trial. His disobedience continues. Unfortunately, it seems to me that government folks believe disobedience is the worst crime possible. Apparently it is punishable by life in prison. How dare anyone disobey? How dare anyone question their authority? How dare a man claim he has rights that need to be respected by government AND try to exercise those rights? This befuddles and angers the government authorities and the only way they can figure out how to deal with it is through violence and imprisonment.

Throughout history it has been shown that peaceful disobedience is a valid way of gaining more freedom. We were shown this by such historical figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the 1960s during the civil rights movement tens or hundreds of thousands of activists with a little more melanin in their skin bravely disobeyed laws in the face of violent opposition from just as many angry persons of less melanin. Those common folks of darker skin peacefully sat at lunch counters and marched through streets as the lighter skinned folks screamed nasty epithets and even at times physically attacked them. These brave folks for the most part grit their teeth and did not retaliate. This led to the recognition that these folks were in fact human and entitled to the same respect for their rights as any other human, which overturned many laws that had been enacted by certain states at that time.

More Americans need to follow the examples these brave folks have shown us. We need to disobey and question unjust laws. We need to exercise our rights at every opportunity, otherwise they may atrophy like an unused muscle in the body politic. By simply obeying without question the populace becomes sheep like and allows those who would rule to stop respecting the rights of individuals and become tyrannical. As the police state grows those who would obey simply shrug their shoulders and go along to get along. How different would history and the world be if a few more Germans in the 1930s had been disobedient? We have tried electing different groups of people into government and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. We have tried working within the system and it seems no one is listening. The time has come to stop simply grumbling and complaining about injustices and to do something about it. The time has come to stop funding bad policies. The time has come to once again practice some peaceful civil disobedience to reclaim our freedoms, or at least to support those who are brave enough to do so.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Media Complicity and the Bravery of the Independent Journalist

Many have now heard about the plight of Roxana Saberi and her recent espionage conviction handed down by the contemptible Iranian authorities. To sum things up for those who may not know, Ms. Saberi is a person of dual citizenship, born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota but also a citizen of Iran. She is an independent reporter who has worked for several news organizations and has been living in Iran for the last six years. In January 2009 she was arrested on charges having nothing to do with espionage and in April 2009 she was convicted of spying for the United States of America and then sentenced to 8 years in prison. All this was done behind closed doors, in secret proceedings, with no one except government approved persons there to witness exactly how this determination was made. The entire episode is very questionable and suspicious indeed.

Ms. Saberi is just the latest in a long line of brave journalists to be jailed worldwide. Their stories are inspiring and harrowing as they attempt to bring information to the masses from places where the powerful keep a tight control on information and determine what is allowed to be released to the public and what is not. More frightening still are the members of the press who have been killed or attacked throughout the years. These are men and women who are simply trying to inform the public as to the reality of world events. While some are victims of the very events they are covering, becoming casualties of the chaos which is the nature of some of the conflicts they may be reporting on, others die under mysterious or coincidental circumstances that make one wonder.

There is not, in my opinion, enough media coverage of these journalists who have been unjustly imprisoned either by their own governments or by powerful groups that might be at odds with authorities currently recognized as the ruling faction in a geopolitical area. It seems to me that anyone who would jail a journalist would do so only because they have something to hide, something they don’t want reported. It is not hard to imagine that every government is corrupt at some level, even (or especially) those governments who claim to be ordained by God and implementing his divine law. It is also not hard to imagine that any group desiring to rule over others are equally corruptible. The morality of forcing people to live by your set of rules and values is dubious at best and oft times despicable. The ordinary people of the world, those who do their best to survive and produce and try to achieve a better life, deserve to be informed and to have their voices heard. That is the job of the principled journalist.

It seems to me that when a journalist is jailed or murdered the rest of the media should be not only reporting on the event, but should start digging deep into the stories that reporter was working on and try to determine if they had a lead into something that could precipitate a dangerous reaction from the powerful or if they had recently angered some powerful official. I realize that individual journalists may be hesitant to investigate for fear of retribution, but fear is something we must overcome if we are to expose the hidden truths that drive events. This fear could be easily alleviated if the giant media corporations which provide public access to most of the world’s information would fund and encourage such investigations, but that does not seem to happen. Perhaps this is because the most powerful mainstream media operations work hand in hand with corporate governments worldwide and do not want the sources of their power exposed. This makes being a principled independent journalist a very dangerous career indeed, for not only do you have to worry about possible retribution from some very powerful entity, but without any powerful or politically connected organization to back you up there is little hope for salvation should accusations be made against you by public officials. Is it any wonder so much corruption remains so hidden in all governments?

Those in power will often use “national security reasons” as an excuse to keep information from public scrutiny. This is, of course, a catchall excuse as those in power actually get to decide what constitutes a breach of national security. In other words, if a leader decides that an op/ed writer criticizing his foreign policy constitutes a breach of national security that op/ed writer can be arrested, imprisoned and then secretly tried and convicted and the general public will only know that this particular writer was considered a threat to national security. This control can only be broken when the truth is found and disseminated to the populace. Until and unless secret trials are stopped all over the world (including in my country, the United States of America), we will be dependent upon brave independent journalists who are willing to risk their freedoms and their very lives to reveal the depths of corruption in political systems everywhere.

Ms. Saberi was convicted of espionage and I wonder what story she was working on or who she may have angered that made such a conviction necessary. I wonder what information she might have that could embarrass the powers that be in Iran. I have no resources to find this out for myself and so I must depend on the work of the mainstream media or another independent outlet for that information. If such discoveries were often made and if those in power had reason to believe they would be held accountable for their actions, then maybe such unjust activities would cease.

Of course, it could be that she actually was spying, in which case why didn’t the Iranian authorities try her in open court so that we could all evaluate their evidence and judge for ourselves whether or not the Iranian authorities were justified in their actions? I understand that certain information such as troop deployment, numbers and movements and weapons capability need to be kept secret because lives could be put at risk, but in a trial this information could remain under wraps while still revealing the type of information she was supposedly uncovering for the American authorities. But I don’t believe for a second that Ms. Saberi is a spy. I believe something far more nefarious remains hidden in this case and that the Iranian authorities want to be certain it is never revealed, or if it is than it is not to be believed.

It is a shame governments, the United States of America included, continue to justify the jailing of journalists whatever the reason. It seems to me that the journalists are the victims here and those in power are the criminals. But then, it seems that this thing known as political power attracts corruptible, murderous criminal types no matter what part of the globe one resides in. A free and independent press would do wonders to keep these types in check and to make sure they behaved themselves. It’s a shame that the independent journalists of the world cannot work without fear of reprisal and it’s a bigger shame that the corporate media has sold out to political interests and can no longer be trusted to do meaningful investigative work. One can only hope that the independent journalists of the world continue their work and continue to grow more significant as time passes. One can only hope that one day we live in a world where open societies are the norm and all information is presented to each and every individual so that everyone can make fully informed judgments.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

President Obama, Slick Salesman For Banksters?

I watched another one of Mr. Obama’s speech a couple of days ago on television. I couldn’t help but feel I was being sold a bill of goods. I couldn’t help but feel I was being asked to buy something I knew I couldn’t afford and was likely not going to use. I felt as if I had answered the door and let a slick talking vacuum cleaner salesman into my home because he seemed like such a charming person. He proceeds to try to sell me some vacuum cleaner/radio/mp3player/toaster/juicer all in one for several thousand dollars on easy terms when I know I can go out and get all these things separately for a few hundred. Like most good salesmen, his aim is to make the insensible seem sensible, to make the product sound indispensable and to make the price sound fair and equitable. I’m not buying. I simply can’t afford it today.

What sticks out in my mind most about Mr. Obama’s speech is the word “credit.” He kept talking about how much we needed the flow of credit. He kept talking about how much we need credit to get out of this mess which was created because of too much debt that could not be paid. It just made no sense to me. This got me to thinking, who benefits from credit? Who is likely to profit and who is likely to pay? Admittedly this is not always such a simple question, but it seems to me that in today’s United States of America, it is the banks who are profiting and the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

Credit is like gambling, at least when one is the creditor. One is taking a chance that the money loaned out will not be paid back. I am reminded of a time some “friends” came in from Minnesota and needed fifty dollars for gas to get back home. I “loaned” them the money with the complete understanding (in my own head, I didn’t express this thought to them) that I most likely would not be paid back. Had they needed more, they would have been out of luck. If one is going to extend credit to another then they should make sure they only loan money they can afford to lose. It seems to me that modern banks don’t have to worry about that since they don’t have to worry about losing anything. Such is the nature of fractional reserve banking and government guarantees. And it has now been shown to us that when they get into trouble they can simply threaten the cowardly politicians of this nation with financial meltdown and societal upheaval and a bailout will be forthcoming.

Yes, it is true that sometimes a loan will help out all parties involved, more often than not it is the lender who truly profits. If one uses credit to pay for a product, likely one will end up paying more for that product than one should. This extra cost doesn’t go to the manufacturer, but to the bank that loaned the money. It seems to me that the consumer would have been better off had he waited to purchase the product until such a time as he could put aside enough to afford it. I realize and I will be the first to admit that this is not always feasible and that there are situations when credit becomes a necessity, but it seems to me that perhaps our society has over extended its credit system not by buying necessities, but a lavish lifestyle.

So, American families and businesses have been cutting back. They have decided not to spend their money on certain things anymore. Perhaps some have decided to keep their old cars for another year or two rather than buying new. Perhaps others have decided to delay purchasing an insurance policy. Some companies may have decided to lay off some of their employees. Others may have cut back on costs by lowering their inventory levels or by applying modern technology more efficiently. Still others might have decided to pay off as much debt as possible to get out from under the burden of paying interest on loans. Mr. Obama’s speech yesterday made it clear that he didn’t think this was a good idea. Since the private sector has stopped spending, he’s going to make certain the government sector makes up for that lack of spending. He’s going to make certain the debt continues to grow. There’s a huge problem with this. Government money is stolen from the private sector in the form of taxes. Government is spending money in ways private citizens and businesses chose not to spend. Government is spending money the private sector would like to save and the only ones who will profit from this are the banksters, the same ones that demanded hundreds of billions in bailouts from the American tax payers.

The constant contradictions that I heard spilling from Mr. Obama’s mouth confounded me. In one sentence he would talk about how right the ordinary people were in the way they handled their own finances, then he would turn around and talk about how this doesn’t apply to government. As reasons to increase government spending and justify a continuation of bailouts, Mr. Obama cited debatable lessons in history from a viewpoint that many historians might find distorted or a misrepresentation of historical events. He cited the views of economists on “both” sides of the political spectrum who feel that a reduction in spending is the last thing government should do in a recession. It is clear to me that Mr. Obama is refusing to consider differing variations of economic thought. Perhaps it is because he actually believes more government meddling, more borrowing and less freedom for people to conduct their business as they see fit will somehow help the economy, but I get the impression that someone behind the scenes is using him to sell the public a product that most of us realize is poorly designed and too expensive. The Federal Reserve system has never done what it claimed it would do and has cost this country far too much real wealth already.

Let me mention here that when Mr. Obama speaks of history and states that it has provided lessons for us which shows that more government intervention is the way to go, he forgets the lessons of the economic downturn after World War I. With Harding and later Coolidge as presidents we saw little government intervention in the economy and ushered in the roaring 20s, a time of prosperity. After the stock market crash of 1929, when first Hoover and later Roosevelt bullied the United States congress into intervening to try to prevent an economic calamity, we ushered in a time of government interference in the private sector and experienced a long and drawn out depression which only ended with the occurrence of a sad and destructive war.

As for Mr. Obama’s reference to economists on the “right” and the “left” side of the political aisle agreeing on spending, I would politely remind Mr. Obama that there are more than two schools of political thought in the world and to pigeon hole every issue into two arguments, whether referred to as left or right, liberal or conservative, or whatever label you would put on them, is an over simplification and a disservice to mankind. Furthermore, I would remind him that economists are human beings and can be wrong even when they agree. More importantly, they can be trained or paid to present ideas in such a way as to support a particular political philosophy or agenda. In this case it seems that agenda is control of our economy by the unholy marriage of bankers and their political puppets. This is the same game that has been being played for hundreds of years and the public still doesn’t seem to catch on. The rich and powerful stay rich and powerful and ordinary people continue to get screwed.

I will not buy Mr. Obama’s sales pitch. I do not believe that increased government spending and more government intervention into our economy is the way to bring prosperity back to the nation. This is the same old argument that has been used time and again, from Wilson to Bush Jr., to keep increasing the size and intrusiveness of government. There are several other avenues we have yet to travel down. We have always had the option to explore these various economic philosophies, but have never been brave enough to cast off the chains that bind us to the old ways and implement meaningful change that will result in equitable opportunity and prosperity for all who would participate.

Yesterday there were many, many tea party events held across the country to protest taxes. I hope the protests do not stop there. I hope that tax protests are not co-opted by any political party in an effort to further an agenda that maintains the status quo and the power of the banksters. It is time to demand accountability in and from the system. It is time to demand an audit of the Fed, something that has never been done. It seems the Fed is above the law and beyond oversight. If Mr. Obama is truly the champion of change as he says he is, then perhaps he will lead the charge to see that this happens. Audit the Fed, expose its corrupt nature, and perhaps the American people can begin to recover the trillions of dollars that haven’t been accounted for in recent years. Perhaps after it has been audited and those who own it held accountable for their actions, the Fed can be ended and their notes replaced with honest money. It might be nice to see the words “US Treasury Note” instead of “Federal Reserve Note” on a dollar bill again. It might be nice to carry around and circulate genuine gold and silver coins once again. At the very least, that would be a good start.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ron Paul, Right About the Economy, Right About Freedom

Last year at this time, a presidential campaign captured the interest of many in the nation. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of voters like me supported the candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul, a long time Republican congressman from Texas. Those of us who are interested in liberty and personal independence put quite a bit of our hope for a better tomorrow into his candidacy, and in my opinion, rightfully so. Dr. Paul has a long standing record of voting in a pro liberty manner on many of the important issues of our day. Many may have been disappointed by the events that took place, but perhaps they should not be surprised. Even though Dr. Paul did not become president, or even the Republican presidential nominee, his campaign has opened the eyes of a great many people and his message continues to reverberate in the American consciousness, and indeed around the world. The freedom message is powerful and popular worldwide, not just in America.

It became evident quite early on in Ron Paul’s campaign that the establishment was not going to give into him easily, no matter his popularity. The establishment media did their best to marginalize him and his supporters and minimize the impact he had on the political discourse. They did their jobs well, as far as that went, and managed to prevent huge numbers of common folk from discovering the only candidate that could really be trusted to make a difference. But since Ron Paul was a Republican, they couldn’t keep him out of the debates like they do so many other worthy candidates with a freedom message. Unfortunately, it may have been too little, too late against an establishment that was simply too powerful.

Still, Ron Paul managed to awaken a multitude who may have otherwise remained apathetic and feeling helpless against the rising tide of political disenfranchisement that continues to pervade not just the United States of America, but the entire world. Despite the fact that he was given less time than other candidates at the debates, despite the fact that he was asked more insignificant questions having nothing to do with the main issues of the day than the other candidates, despite the media’s efforts to make him and his supporters look crazy and/or radical, he managed to deliver a liberty message that resonated in the fibers of the American people. He managed to deliver a message of smaller, more transparent government that most freedom loving individuals can agree with. Ron Paul’s candidacy was a success in so many ways simply because the establishment and their media cronies did not want the common folk exposed to such ideas and they could do nothing to stop it. The idea of freedom has always been dangerous to those in power.

Yet Ron Paul did more than just deliver the message of freedom to the masses. He was able to make some predictions about the direction this country was taking. More surprisingly, he showed that the American people are interested in economics and how money works, particularly young Americans. After all, it is the younger generations who are going to have to pay for the follies the government engages in today. What do people think debt is anyway? What do people expect from a system where money creation is based on debt? Like the old fairy tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, debts are to be paid as promised else likely the children will suffer the consequences. Perhaps the people of this nation understand more than the establishment gives them credit for and that is why there was such an outcry against the recent bailouts.

It is only now, after we have seen many of Ron Paul’s economic predictions come to pass, that he is given credibility by those who interview him in the mainstream media. It is only after an election has been held and establishment supported politicians have remained firmly in place that the mainstream media begins to give any credence to the free market proponents who had been warning all along of the impending crisis. Even now, as Ron Paul, Peter Schiff and others warn of a deepening economic crisis, the politicians continue a policy of increasing the debt burden and trying to maintain an unworkable, credit driven monetary system. Even though thoughtful, common sense solutions have been proffered by such gentlemen and reported on in establishment media these men are ignored by the political and banking elite as their solutions would curtail the power and control the establishment maintains over our lives and so no real change will take place despite the apparent prophetic nature of past predictions.

It’s not just the economy that Ron Paul made dire predictions about, however. He also made predictions and continues to warn about the likelihood that our freedoms will be lost. As it stands, the United States government still honors a few of the freedoms we used to take for granted, but even those freedoms are tenuously honored at best as the elite who control the mechanisms of state would love to stifle all dissent and silence all who would dare protest. Civil liberties which were supposed to be protected by the rules of governance that were outlined in the Bill of Rights which were eviscerated by the Bush administration have not been restored. It seems to me likely that those who broke the law by violating those rights which they had sworn an oath to uphold will never be brought to justice. Worse still, the burdensome tomes legislators and their friends create and then refer to as laws are not being repealed. In fact, I am certain more cryptic laws are being crafted as you read this to create larger bureaucracies with less transparency and more power than ever.

There are remedies available for these problems also. Dr. Ron Paul understands what these remedies entail and gave us his recommendations during the debates. On top of my list is to bring all our troops home from all around the world. As a nation the United States has over extended its budget and its authority by trying to administer an empire it should never have built in the first place. It is time to give the rest of the world the freedom to police their own nations and to keep our troops here to defend ours. It is time to deal with other nations fairly on a private business level, letting them sell their resources for what open markets will determine is a fair price, rather than trying to force them to bow to the will of our corporations. If this causes higher energy prices, then so be it. Perhaps if that were the case we would develop better alternative renewable energy sources. We should have fair trade with all nations, entangling alliances with none.

It is long past time we ended our wars of aggression. Too much life and treasure has already been lost on an activity which by its very nature can only destroy. Wars of any kind only serve to generate an atmosphere of fear and animosity that darkens the future for all mankind. This kind of paranoia only serves to stifle the overall productivity of the world. Rather than concentrate on producing products and services to improve the lives of others, products and services that destroy are emphasized. Rather than concentrate on products that bring joy and value to one’s life, mechanisms and policies that bring about misery to others are pursued.

Fear is the biggest threat our society faces. It is this unreasonable, irrational emotion that has eroded the American way of life faster than any enemy ever could. Because of its grip, we have allowed the protection of our freedoms to be undermined by an unscrupulous few with their own agenda. Because of its continuing presence we can expect more restrictions on the exercising of our rights.

On more than one occasion last year, Dr. Paul referenced the United States Constitution as part of his answer to a question. As far as I could tell, he was the only candidate to do so. He is, in fact, a self proclaimed defender of the Constitution. Enshrined within the body of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments which are meant to restrict government’s activities and protect an individual whose natural rights might otherwise be violated by a far more powerful and possibly tyrannical entity. While the Constitution may not be a perfect document as evidenced by its past and present inability to prevent government abuses of civil liberties from taking place, it is a document those who have been unjustly persecuted can point to in their defense when making such claims. It is, at the very least, a good outline of how a just government ought to treat individuals under its auspices.

Many have come to believe that the Constitution is the document that grants American citizens their rights. This is not so. To suggest this would be to suggest that government can take rights and freedoms from its people. These rights and freedoms aren’t granted by government, but are a natural part of the human spirit. This is the case worldwide, not just in America. It is a condition that has been known to philosophers and hidden by tyrants for millennia. The question is not whether or not humans have rights that can be given and taken, the question is whether or not one can openly exercise his individual rights without fear of retribution from those who hold stations of power. This is a measure of the amount of freedom one has in a given society, and in today’s United States of America many have become afraid to exercise their rights due to the flagrant disregard the federal government shows for its own rules as outlined in the Constitution.

Last year in the debates Ron Paul was right about the direction the economy was taking. He was right about the federal government disregarding freedoms. He remains right about establishing a new, sound monetary system based on something other than debt. He remains right about curtailing government abuses by adhering to the Constitution, the highest law of the land. Just following those two simple steps would do so much to begin to bring fiscal sanity back to our economy and peace of mind back to our society. If the government continues to ignore such sound advice, perhaps it is time that common men begin to ignore government dictates and implement their own free market institutions based upon these principles which most politicians no longer care to uphold.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dreaming Evolution in the Twenty First Century

I had a discussion a while back with one of my daughters in which I was accused of being an idealist. I asked her what she was if not an idealist and she said she was a realist. Upon reflection, the situation strikes me as being just a little bit odd. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t the young people supposed to be the idealists, the ones who are going to make the world a better place, and older folk such as myself supposed to be the realists, the ones who just accept what is and have given up trying to change the system for the better? Perhaps I’ve mischaracterized the exchange or boiled it down too much and over simplified it, but in my opinion this needs to be done at times when dissecting such conversations in order to get a better perspective on things.

We were talking politics. More specifically, we were talking about the individualist philosophy of freedom and liberty versus the collectivist philosophy of socialism. My daughter and I agree that people should be allowed to make their own decisions in their personal lives without government interference, but she disagrees with me on allowing people to make their own decisions when it comes to their business affairs. She is of the mindset that government should regulate business activities and force people to conform to certain rigid standards if they are to be allowed to operate a business. She is also of the opinion that people should be forced to give a portion of their income to the less fortunate in society. I am of the opinion that people should be allowed to open a business without government interference and that consumers should determine whether that business succeeds or fails. I am also of the opinion that no one should be forced to give a portion of their income up to anyone for any reason and that only voluntary contributions to the less fortunate has any true meaning, at least in a spiritual sense.

Again, perhaps I over simplified things, but I expect that you get the general gist of the discussion. As so often happens in discussions such as these, the points that were being made fell on deaf ears, frustration mounted and the conversation ended before it was concluded. My daughter has a good heart and means well. She wants to help people. What the conversation boiled down to, in my opinion, was the way we look at the nature of the human animal. It seems to me that she sees people as basically evil, self centered beings willing to plot against and take advantage of others for their own gain. I see people as basically good, empathetic beings who care about their fellow humans and for the most part want to do right by them. She believes that, unregulated and left to their own devices, people in a free market would steal from others whenever possible and without remorse, and so she claims to be a realist. I would trust that in a free and open market people would deal with each other cordially and with respect and not try to rip each other off, and so in her eyes I am an idealist.

If believing in the goodness of humans makes me an idealist, then so be it, I am an idealist. But I also believe I am a realist. I see things as they are and realize we have a long way to go before mankind achieves a truly free society based on mutual trust and respect. I realize it will take some time before we can live in a society where all our interactions are voluntary and we are not forced or coerced into doing business with organizations we don’t want to do business with, organizations such as many government agencies have become in modern times. I’m not even entirely certain such a society is possible. While such a vision may sound like a utopian society to some, I would be the first to admit that such a society would not be perfect. Perfection in an imperfect world is extremely unlikely. I’m simply looking for the fairest, most just system and it seems to me that letting every individual take personal responsibility for their selves and make their own decisions for their own lives is such a system. It seems that one should be able to keep all the wealth one earns through their own labor or other honest mechanisms and spend it as they see fit. One should not be forced or coerced into “donating” a portion of their income to any organization, no matter how well meaning.

I also realize that such a society isn’t going to just spring up overnight. Such a society is not something that can be forced upon the populace. It is something that should evolve naturally and so become the norm. This is most likely to happen at a slow and steady pace. So I am a dreamer. I dream we can evolve into an ideal society. I dream that common folk will come to this realization, not some leader or an elite political class, and I dream it can and will happen peacefully as a matter of course as each and every one of us begins to understand that it is up to each individual to respect their neighbors’ choices and one would expect their neighbor to reciprocate.

Socialists also dream of an ideal society. Their society revolves around equity. They seem to believe that everyone should have equal access to all wealth regardless of how hard one works, how much in demand their services are, or how much supply for such services and labor exist. They seem to have forgotten that wealth is something created by mankind and is unlimited, not something which occurs as a force of nature and is finite. Wealth itself is not the thing that makes one man equal to another, but it is the opportunity to create wealth that makes men equal in nature. Socialism, wealth redistribution schemes and taxation in general work to destroy this natural equality. These systems reward the lazy and unproductive by giving them unearned wealth and punish the hard working and productive by stealing their earnings from them. This will inevitably break the spirits of those individuals who produce and indeed make them less productive as they begin to feel that they are being used, abused and/or exploited. As a result, the whole society produces less and its economy falters or fails. Hence the socialist’s ideal society discounts the reality of mankind’s nature.

The difference between an individualist’s ideology and that of a collectivist is mostly in the use of force or coercion, even if that force is very subtle. The difference between the idealist vision of an individualist and the idealist vision of a collectivist is one of control. The collectivist would exert authoritarian control using the mechanisms of power that the state provides to frighten individuals into conforming. The individualist would exert market and social pressures on others to show them the benefits of behaving in certain ways and to gently persuade them to pursue acceptable courses of action.

So I am both and idealist and a realist. I also remain ever the optimist. I dream of an evolution occurring in the twenty first century, and hopefully from that evolution will spring a voluntary society, a society free from any elite group that would try to control the population through the force of restrictive laws and regulations. I dream of a society where one’s imagination and innovativeness will be welcomed into the open marketplace. I dream of a society where regulations that stifle competition and limit consumer choice will be a quaint memory like the fading images of a nightmare exposed to the light of day. I dream of a time when each individual will determine for their self what path to take in life and their choices will be honored regardless of how others perceive the merits of those choices. Such a society starts to form as principled individuals continue to remain true to their principles of non aggression, personal responsibility and respecting the choices of others. Such a society grows when principled individuals remind others of the merits of these principles through example. Such a society grows from the bottom up, not the top down.

I continue to do what I can to help my dream come to fruition. It is often times difficult to get those in control to relinquish their power and let others make decisions on their own. It is therefore necessary to remind those in power that such policies are good for everyone, including those in the highest offices of government who have a tendency to try to micromanage even the day to day lives of the common folk. Reversing the tendency toward collectivism our society has shown might not be easy, but it is a worthy effort. There is strength in numbers and our numbers seem to be growing. It is my hope that those of a freedom mindset continue to speak out against authoritarian, collectivist policies of government and that their voices grow louder and more insistent. It is my hope that many more hearts and minds will be won over as they hear the freedom message. It is my hope that many others share my dream of evolution and improving not only the common man’s lot in life, but the human spirit as well.