A little government and a little luck are necessary in life; but only a fool trusts either of them.
-- P.J. O’Rourke
Politicians in America and elsewhere often like to remind people of their “civic responsibility” to participate in the political process, usually to vote for them through the electoral process. It is no secret however, that Americans actually participate in their government to a much smaller degree than most other democratic nations. This essay is written for non-voter as well as the casual and party line voter as a brief introduction to political concepts, especially as practiced in America and as encouragement to get involved in the political process. However, I won’t be invoking any “civic duties” here – my message is that politics matters, and it matters to you. This essay is not meant to rehash a Government 101 class or a party platform – rather, it is meant to give you the tools to understand party politics in America, and tell you why it is crucial that you do so. I will cover three major topics – a brief history of American political development, basic principles of government, and an overview of today’s political spectrum and how the major parties fit in it – from a classical liberal perspective much like that of the founding fathers.
Before I start, a word of warning – this essay is written from a certain political slant – my own. Some of my ideas may sound like common sense, and some may sound extreme – but don’t make the mistake of dismissing my arguments outright just because I claim a viewpoint – after all, everyone has a viewpoint to start from, whether they admit it or not.
My only request is that you evaluate my arguments on their own ground, without dismissing them solely on the basis of that fact that I have an opinion.
It does not do you good to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.
Politics matters. More importantly, politics matters to you. Non-voters will often claim that Washington is too far away to care or that all politicians are the same so it doesn’t really matter who you vote for. Some will claim that interest groups, (or pressure groups, as political scientists like to call them) corporations, the military-industrial complex, Chinese bribes, or plain power-lust is what rules Washington, so individual actions do not matter. History has shown otherwise. Abraham Lincoln’s election led to the civil war, FDR’s election led to the sweeping government programs of the New Deal, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s election led to the “Great Society” programs that completed the framework for the welfare state we live in today. The policies, regulations and programs enacted under various administrations have an enormous impact on our lives today. Most people spend several months of every year working to pay their federal, state, and local taxes, receive or are eligible of a multitude of government subsidies and are subjected to literally tens of thousands of regulations for what they can, cannot, and have to do to avoid breaking the law. Laws and regulations on the federal, state, and local level cover everything from the labels on your food, to the waters usage of your shower heads and toilets to mundane things like the holes in Swiss cheese and the number of bugs in your cereal. While there is much dispute over whether some or any of these regulations make you better or worse off, most people will agree that they have a huge impact on your life.
Skeptics of my arguments may concede that politics matters as a whole, but claim that individual votes are ineffectual in all cases but the rare tie vote. However, ignoring the political process does not exclude one from its effects. While today’s politics are a hugely complicated mess, the process is government by relatively simple rules of economics and human nature and understanding these rules allows a person to predict and anticipate the actions of government in advance. For example, as early as September 12th, 2001 political commentators (see my own essay written on 9/12) predicted the nationalization of airport security personal, a new domestic security agency, new military bases in Asia, the multitude of new anti-terrorism measures, as well as the economic subsidies to various business, the financial fallout and the new beneficiaries of federal aid ranging from defense contractors to farmers. Anyone who was planning to take a vacation, invest in the stock market, or is simply concerned with their civil liberties would have benefited from understanding how politics work, whether they plan (or want to) get involved in them or not. Ignoring politics is something no one involved with the outside world can afford to do anymore. With that, let us move on the basic principles of government.
To rest one's case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one's enemies-
that one has no rational arguments to offer.
-- Ayn Rand
There is a common saying that opinions, like a certain bodily organ are similar in that everybody has one. Yet it is important to understand that people rarely hold opinions on any issue in a vacuum – their views are based on more fundamental assumptions that are ultimately based on their basic understanding of the world. People generally base their views on one of two things – on faith of what someone else has said or on underlying assumptions. Since reading this essay would only be useful to someone who is willing to critically examine and formulate their own views, rather than simply borrowing someone else’s, I am first going to explain why one should care to form independent political views of their own in the first place.
To base your opinion on faith (also known as blind faith) is to base your understanding of the world on what someone said without actually attempting to independently find go out and determine what the world is actually like. Faith is dangerous (that is, harmful to your and others lives) because it falsely assumes that everything claimed by some politician, teacher, or theologian is true and leads a person to act on these false premises. Usually these premises are based on someone’s unbridled selfishness in their desire for greed, power, or usually, both. Even when such people have good intentions, they are usually wrong, and following them not only leads one to ignore reality, but to sacrifice the interests of themselves and those they care about in order to reach an earthly or heavenly utopia that does not exist and is impossible to reach but requires the loss of real values in the process. Political and religious fundamentalist movements from the Nazis to fundamentalist Muslims, to blind State-worship in the form of communism have led to much death and destruction in the 20th century, and thus is it absolutely critical that no one should ever base their views on anything solely on someone’s word, whether it be parents, preachers or college professors.
The alternative to basing your opinion on someone’s word is to verify that position with reality – that is to see whether what someone said is actually true as reflected in reality or as Ayn Rand said, “no concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the sum of his knowledge.”
Generally, when political views are not taken on faith, different opinions are based on fundamentally different understanding of human nature, specifically man, and his relation to the world. For example, socialists will claim that private property is inherently exploitative and unfair while capitalists will say that property is the material result of being a productive person. Other issues such as gun regulation depend on whether you view mankind and/or the average citizen as fundamentally good and responsible or fundamentally corrupt and not able to know what’s good for him or herself. In the pages that follow, I’ll try to examine how these differing views are reflected in politics and policy. First however, we need a little background.
This country was founded by religious nuts with guns.
This section is not yet written…
American political history can be best summarized by the changing view of the proper role of government.
The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
The “classic” view of the scale of political ideologies is the left vs. right spectrum.
However, while this view can describe the mainstream politicians of America, it runs into trouble with anyone who doesn’t fit the mold. Let’s examine why.
The origins of the terms “left” and “right” can be traced back to the meetings of the French States-General in 1789 when the nobility took the place of honor on the King’s right, while the ordinary (and more revolutionary) members sat on his left.
This linear model is still in widespread use today. Broadly speaking, in the US the right-wing is associated with “conservative” political views, and the left-wing is associated with “liberal” political views.
For many well-known political figures, it’s easy to place them on the left/right model. Where do you think the following people should be placed on the political spectrum?
George W. Bush, Al Gore, Rush Limbaugh, Jesse Jackson
The task becomes more difficult, however, when discussing other people. Can you fit these (in)famous people on the line?
Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Ayn Rand, Jesse Ventura, Ralph Nader
A much wider variety of politics views can be accommodates by a two dimensional model which compares a person’s views on two scales – personal and economic freedom. Personal freedom is the amount of freedom one has in things such as speech, religion, sex, group association and other lifestyle choices. Economic freedom is the freedom one has in the products they can buy and sell, the jobs that may be employed in (or employ others in) It also includes things such as zoning regulations, and tax rates.
Here is where commonly identified groups may be placed on this scale:
Here is another view of the quiz with some prominent politicians of past and present.
(Note that this is the same thing as the graphic above, only rotated left 45 degrees – the star is the author’s position :-))
Here are common descriptions of these groups:
Left-Liberals prefer self-government in personal matters and central decision-making on economics. They want government to serve the disadvantaged in the name of fairness. Leftists tolerate social diversity, but work for economic equality.
Right-conservatives prefer self-government on economic issues, but want official standards in personal matters. They want the government to defend the community from threats to its moral fiber.
Centrist favor selective government intervention and emphasize practical solutions to current problems. They tend to keep an open mind on new issues. Many centrists feel that government serves as a check on excessive liberty.
Authoritarian (Fascist, Socialist, Communist, and other forms of Statists)
Authoritarians want government to advance society and individuals through expert central planning. They often doubt whether self-government is practical. Left-authoritarians are also called socialists, while fascists are right-authoritarians.
Libertarian (Classical Liberal)
Libertarians are self-governors in both personal and economic matters. They believe governments only purpose is to protect people from coercion and violence. They value individual responsibility, and tolerate economic and social diversity.
(Descriptions are from http://www.self-gov.org/results.shtml)
As the spectrum shows, most liberals (at least in rhetoric) want more personal freedom and less economic freedom, while conservatives want more restrictions on personal freedom and less on economic freedom. People that want more freedom in both areas are libertarians (or classical liberals) and people who want more government control on both areas are authoritarians.
Generally speaking, most Americans are centrists (otherwise known as moderates)
If you would like to take this quiz yourself, and see where you rank politically, you may do so at http://www.politopia.com or http://www.self-gov.org/quiz.html
None of what I have covered so far explains just why one would want to be at a certain point in the spectrum of personal and economic freedom. To do that, we will first examine the basic ethical premise and purpose of government.
Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
To have a proper view of government, one must first understand what rights are. In fact, differing views of rights (and what they mean to government) account for almost all differences in political opinions. Generally speaking, there are two major views of rights -- which can be generally called the individualist and the collectivist. Since I am a strong supporter of the first view, I will cover that first. Rights can be defined as the scope of a man’s moral actions within a social context. Let’s examine what this phrase means in detail.
“The scope of a person’s actions” refers to any action they may choose to engage in. That is, each person can choose to do (or attempt to do) anything they want. If a man lived in a desert island, or a remote wilderness where he did ever not interact with other men, he would not need the concept of rights, as reality would be the only limit to his action. That is, he might decide to do anything he wanted, and whether he could actually accomplish his goal would simply depend on whether his action was physically possible.
However, when men live in society and interact with each other on a regular basis, some of their chosen actions will contradict or and come into conflict. Generally, this conflict will be over one of two things -- they may desire the same property or they may desire to limit the actions of others. If they both want the same property, they may want the same land, fruit, or house. If they want to control other people, they may want to limit their speech, action, or even maim or enslave them. Obviously, if one person desires to enslave another, the victim will not share their wish, reflecting a basic fact of reality – when because people’s desired actions conflict, not everyone can have their way. That is, if one man wants to enslave the other, then either the man will succeed in making a slave or he will fail because either his victim or some other party stopped him – but either way, one party will have his way and the other will not. Of course, not all interaction between men is about winners and losers – the opposite of the involuntary interaction between men (such as that between a master and a slave) is the voluntary interaction, in which two individuals engage in a mutually beneficial transaction. This transaction can be in the form of good for good, good for service, or it can be non-material such as friendship for friendship. All voluntary human interaction only happens when both of the parties involved choose to do so because of a perceived benefit. Thus, a conflict can only occur in involuntary interaction, when one man forces another to do something against his will, in the form of theft, fraud or bodily harm – all forms of restricting a person’s liberty or property. This is what it means to violate someone’s rights. This is where rights apply, and where we must choose to side with one of the conflicting parties – the moral and immoral party – that is, the party who is violating rights and the party who’s rights are being violated. The purpose of government then, is to side with one of the parties and act as the agent of force by protecting rights –- that is, protecting the party in the right --the moral party. In this way, by relegating the use of force to the government, men do not have to worry (nearly as much) about having to use force in self defense.
This is then, what I mean when I say that rights are the scope of a man’s moral actions in a social context – rights define what actions a person may take without violating the rights of others. As such, every action that violates the rights of other is immoral. (It does not follow however, that all actions which do not violate other’s rights are moral, as many will correctly argue that self-destructive actions such as suicide and self-mutilation are immoral – but they do not violate anyone’s rights.) This view of rights demonstrates another fundamental principle – all rights are non-contradictory. That is, no two people have rights which contradict with one another. This seems like a radical statement when you consider claims to the effect that children have a right to education and health care and you have a right to the money you make – isn’t this a contradiction of rights between your right to property and a child’s right to life? As I will explain, such a contradiction results from a misunderstanding of the principles of the initiation of force.
The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty.
--Ludwig Von Mises
(The following is from http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Politics_InitiationOfForce.html )
The initiation of force is the act of one man initiating force against another, as opposed to retaliatory force. Force includes such acts as murder, theft, threats, and fraud. It is acting against another person without their consent.
The initiation of force is never moral. Man's nature is such that he survives by reason. Survival by reason requires the ability to act on your reason. Force destroys that ability. When you use force against someone, you are destroying their ability to survive by destroying their ability to use reason, and their ability to survive will suffer to the extent that force is used.
When force is introduced into the equation of human relations, survival becomes harder and harder until everyone dies. If there is some parasite living off others, one thing is clear: he needs his victims while they do not need him. If you use force to get what you want, not only do you give him reason to retaliate, but you diminish your own ability to survive by becoming dependent on your victim. Once your victims all die off, you're screwed. In the end, the result of force is death.
If a man uses force against you, he is declaring that he does not want to survive by means of reason. He is telling you that he doesn't recognize your right to exist as an independent individual. According to him, might makes right, and he is just taking his share from the local sucker.
When you come up against a person who views force as the proper means of relating to people, you know that this is a person not worth dealing with. This is a person outside the realm of morality, and once outside, moral conventions and principles have no place. There is only one way to deal with such a person, and that is with retaliatory force.
The difference between the initiation of force and retaliatory force is that retaliatory force is a response to force. It is force meeting force in kind. It is the only proper response to a person who initiates force.
Since force inhibits survival, men can only thrive within a society if they are shielded from the coercion of others. Government is instituted among men to fulfill this function.
The rights of your fist end where my face begins.
As explained above, the initiation of force is immoral – and because rights are the scope of a man’s moral actions in society, the initiation of force against others violates their rights. It is also the only way that rights can be violated. It is important to understand that rights cannot be given or taken away by any entity – whether a person or a government – they can only be violated or infringed upon. When a thief steals your property, he has no diminished or taken away your right to property – he has only unjustly infringed upon it – he is in the wrong, and you are in the right. Because rights are non-contradictory, no person has the right to the property of another. This however is not how the United States currently operates, as it engages in the redistribution of property on all levels through various means of taxation.
TODO: More examples of the non contradiction of rights here, integrating Huxley’s essay below
Redistribution as theft may be explained by looking at the two basic models of elected government – republican and democratic. The basic purpose of a republican government is to maintain a monopoly on the legitimate use of force by the consent of those governed and use it to protect individual rights from being violated. These are the rights to life, liberty, and property. Any other supposed rights – such as the right to healthcare, food, or a job necessarily infringe on the primary rights to liberty and property because welfare requires that wealth be taken by force from one party and given another.
(This is from http://www.fatalblindness.com/FREEDOM990614.htm#ISSUES )
A right is the sovereignty to act without the permission of others. The concept of a right carries with it an implicit, unstated footnote: you may exercise your rights as long as you do not violate the same rights of another—within this context, rights are an absolute.
A right is universal—meaning: it applies to all men, not just to a few. There is no such thing as a "right" for one man, or a group of men, that is not possessed by all. This means there are no special "rights" unique to women or men, blacks or white, the elderly or the young, homosexuals or heterosexuals, the rich or the poor, doctors or patients or any other group.
A right must be exercised through your own initiative and action. It is not a claim on others. A right is not actualized and implemented by the actions of others. This means you do not have the right to the time in another person’s life. You do not have a right to other people’s money. You do not have the right to another person’s property. If you wish to acquire some money from another person, you must earn it—then you have a right to it. If you wish to gain some benefit from the time of another person’s life, you must gain it through the voluntary cooperation of that individual—not through coercion. If you wish to possess some item of property of another individual, you must buy it on terms acceptable to the owner—not gain it through theft.
Alone in a wilderness, the concept of a right would never occur to you, even though in such isolation you have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In this solitude, you would be free to take the actions needed to sustain your life: hunt for food, grow crops, build a shelter and so on. If a hundred new settlers suddenly arrive in your area and establish a community, you do not gain any additional rights by living in such a society nor do you lose any; you simply retain the same rights you possessed when you were alone.
A right defines what you may do without the permission of those other men and it erects a moral and legal barrier across which they may not cross. It is your protection against those who attempt to forcibly take some of your life’s time, your money or property.
Animals do not have rights. Rights only apply to beings capable of thought, capable of defining rights and creating an organized means—government—of protecting such rights. Thus, a fly or mosquito does not possess rights of any kind, including the right to life. You may swat a fly or mosquito, killing them both. You do not have the right to do the same to another human being, except in self-defense. You may own and raise cows, keep them in captivity and milk them for all they are worth. You do not have the right to do the same to other men, although that is what statists effectively do to you.
There is only one, fundamental right, the right to life—which is: the sovereignty to follow your own judgment, without anyone’s permission, about the actions in your life. All other rights are applications of this right to specific contexts, such as property and freedom of speech.
The right to property is the right to take the action needed to create and/or earn the material means needed for living. Once you have earned it, then that particular property is yours—which means: you have the right to control the use and disposal of that property. It may not be taken from you or used by others without your permission.
Freedom of speech is the right to say anything you wish, using any medium of communication you can afford. It is not the responsibility of others to pay for some means of expression or to provide you with a platform on which to speak. If a newspaper or television station refuses to allow you to express your views utilizing their property, your right to freedom of speech has not been violated and this is not censorship. Censorship is a concept that only applies to government action, the action of forcibly forbidding and/or punishing the expression of certain ideas.
Statists have corrupted the actual meaning of a right and have converted it, in the minds of most, into its opposite: into a claim on the life of another. With the growth of statism, over the past few decades, we have seen an explosion of these "rights"—which, in fact, have gradually eroded your actual right to your life, money and property.
Statists declare you have a "right" to housing, to a job, to health care, to an education, to a minimum wage, to preferential treatment if you are a minority and so on. These "rights" are all a claim, a lien, on your life and the lives of others. These "rights" impose a form of involuntary servitude on you and others. These "rights" force you to pay for someone’s housing, their health care, their education, for training for a job—and, it forces others to provide special treatment for certain groups and to pay higher-than-necessary wages.
Under statism, "rights" are a means of enslavement: it places a mortgage on your life—and statists are the mortgage holders, on the receiving end of unearned payments forcibly extracted from your life and your earnings. You do not have a right to your life, others do. Others do not have a right to their lives, either, but you have a "right" to theirs. Such a concept of "rights" forcibly hog-ties everyone to everyone else, making everyone a slave to everyone else—except for those masters, statist politicians, who pull the strings and crack the whips.
Actual rights—those actions to which you are entitled by your nature as man—give you clear title to your life. A right is your declaration of independence. A statist "right" is their declaration of your dependence on others and other's dependence on you. Until these bogus "rights" are repudiated, your freedom to live your life as you see fit will continue to slowly disappear.
June 14, 1999
The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence... The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, and to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
As explained above, government is the agency created to protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by protecting individuals from the initiation of force. While a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of force, it does not have a right to initiate force itself – because no man possesses that right in the first place, he cannot vote it away to the government. Its sole purpose is to serve as an agent of the people it represents in protecting their rights from the initiation of force by others. The agencies to do so are the police – to protect citizens from criminals, the military – to protect citizens from foreign invaders, and the court system – to settle disputes between citizens and prosecute criminals. In order to carry out these tasks, a proper government needs to have a key characteristic: a rule of law, not of men.
In a free society each and every man lives under a rule of law, as opposed to a whim-ridden rule of men. Such a rule of law has only one purpose: to protect the rights of the smallest minority that has ever existed -- the individual. Such laws form objective legislation, which hold a man innocent until he can be proven guilty, as opposed to a library of irrational regulations which hold a man guilty until he can somehow prove himself innocent, to the gratification of some Atilla able to gain a foothold in public office. In a free society it is the actions of government -- and not the actions of citizens -- that are regulated.
To ensure no despot -- whether that despot is a single dictator, an elite political pressure-group, or the befuddled democratic majority of the moment -- may usurp the powers of government, and turn its machinery upon its citizens, each and every aspect of government action is codified, and carried out, according to objectively defined laws. The supreme legal document of a proper society is the constitution -- a citizen's protection not only against private criminals, but public ones also. (Source: http://www.capitalism.org/faq/government.htm)
Tyranny and despotism can be exercised by many, more rigourously, more vigourously, and more severely, than by one.
The common good comes before the private good.
- Nazi slogan
The opposite of the position presented above is called collectivism, or statism. Collectivism holds that the individual is not an end to himself, but is only a tool to serve the ends of the group. Collectivism, unlike individualism, holds the group as the primary, and the standard of moral value. Whether that group is a dictator's gang, the nation, society, the race, (the) god(s), the majority, the community, the tribe, etc., is irrelevant -- the point is that man in principle is a sacrificial victim, whose only value is his ability to sacrifice his happiness for the will of the "group". (Source: capitalism.org)
A full critique of collectivism is beyond the scope of this essay, but the basic flaw with collectivism is that there is no such thing as a group right or a “social good.” If there is such a thing as a “group right” – it is derived from the individual rights of its members, but does not confer them any new rights. Today however, the idea of group rights is widely practiced in the form of “gay rights,” “women’s rights” or “patient’s rights” - but there is no such thing, as the only right an individual possesses is to be free from the initiation of force by others – and being a member of any group does not confer you with any additional rights because they would infringe on the freedom of others. While you have a right to sleep with whomever you want, and attempt to get any job you want, being a member of a group does not give you the right to force others to give you a job or let you in their restaurant (even if you think that they are being immoral or irrational by discriminating) because to do so would be to violate their rights to liberty and property – and rights do not contradict.
(There is much more to be said on this topic, which is covered in much more detail in Ayn Rands Virtue of Selfishness)
From the ethical doctrine of collectivism follows the political doctrine of Statism. Statism is the doctrine that maintains that your life, money and property are not yours, but the property of the state. A statist is any individual who upholds this doctrine and/or supports its implementation.
A statist knows that he cannot get away with—at least, not yet—openly declaring that your life, money and property are not yours, so he advances these ideas by implicit means.
Statists enact laws that forbid you from taking certain actions altogether or only if you have their permission—and the idea is: if you may only act by permission, you do not have a right to your life. Statists, through their regulations, determine how much of your money you will be allowed to keep—and the idea is: if you do not have the right to decide how your money is spent, your money is not yours. Statists issue decrees restricting how you may use your property—and the idea is: if you do not have the right to control the use and disposal of your property, your property is not yours. These are the indirect means by which statists promote and implement their ideas.
An adult statist is grown up, physically, but in a state of self-arrested, stunted, mental development. His worldview is that of a child who can only do what his parents permit and who is dependent on his parents for everything. In the adult world, he seeks to forcibly impose this view on others. You are the child and the state, run by statists, is the parent. The statist may do anything he wants, while you may only do what the statist permits—bringing us a complete reversal of the way it should be. In fact, you should be free to do whatever you want (so long as you do not violate the right of another to do the same), while government officials should only be able to do what the law specifically permits—and no more.
The irony of it all is the fact that statists, left to their own devices, are impotent, powerless to harm you. The power that they wield comes from the willing support of their victims, from the very individuals they control, from any and all who earn a living and produce the financial and material means statists use to regulate others. All that it would take for statists to lose this power over you is for their victims, the productive, to stop supporting them. A statist’s greatest fear is your discovery of this fact.
In his impotence, a statist seeks to escape the terror of facing reality by ruling the competent, the capable—those who do face reality. In a free society, statists would only be able to rise to the level of their ability, which, for most, would not be very far. In a statist society, their ability to produce is irrelevant. They can rise to the extent to which they are able to forcibly harness others—taking statists to heights impossible to them in a free society.
A statist hates self-reliance, so he forces you to rely on others and others to rely on you. He will use anyone and anything to control you and force you into dependence: your children, your elderly parents, your neighbors who have fallen on hard times, your friends who are ill. Every human problem or disaster is an opportunity to be capitalized upon by a statist—another chance to enlarge his powers.
A statist is that schoolyard bully, or his spiritual equivalent, of your childhood. But now he is grown up, all dressed up in a suit. The only way he can allay his constant anxiety and dread is through the control and intimidation of others. He doesn’t want to conquer nature, but other men. He wants to cheat reality, not abide by it. He wants to get away with living, not live his life on his own.
A statist only has self-identity if the eyes of others are focused on him. He only feels alive if is he is part of some group, so he forces others into adoring, dependent herds who must curry his favor in order to survive.
A statist hates the independent mind, since he doesn’t have one of his own. He can’t really think, he can only manipulate words, ideas cut off from reality, emotions and other people—these are his only reality. To a statist, reality is not real—thus, the truth doesn’t matter. Lies, deception—and the truth, on occasion—are interchangeable tools, one as valid as another, to be used to pander to the worst in man: the desire for the unearned.
A statist is that mooching relative, now a bureaucrat, for whom there can never be enough handouts. He is a panhandler with a gun, who despises your charity as an insult, but claims your money as a right. He is a criminal who has gone from bad to worse: an armed robber doesn’t try to convince you that he is taking your money for your own good, but a statist politician does.
Such is the face and soul of a statist.
Before you vote for another statist politician, ask yourself this: would you—and take this literally—sign a legal document giving control over you life, money and property to another person—let’s say, to your Congressman? I doubt it. I doubt if even many of the witless supporters of statism would do this, yet this is precisely what you effectively do when you support statism. When you vote for statist politicians, you give them a proxy, a power of attorney of sorts, to carry out their ideas in practice, to vote away some part of your life, money and property.
The liberation of your life and the recognition of your right to it—to live it without seeking anyone’s permission—will only come once you revoke that proxy given to statists. Once this occurs, the rebirth of freedom will begin in earnest.
Fulton Huxtable June 7, 1999 )
"The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve 'the common good.' It is true that capitalism does -- if that catch-phrase has any meaning -- but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification for capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man's rational nature, that it protects man's survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice."
-- Ayn Rand
Capitalism may be property defined as a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.
While capitalism is commonly defined as an economic system in which "production and distribution are privately or corporately owned," these are only characteristics, not the essentials of capitalism. In order to have private enterprise, you must have individual rights and specifically property rights. The only way to have an economic system of private enterprise is to have one which respects the rights of an individual. The first is an implication of the second. Because people often use the term "Capitalism" loosely, "Laissez Faire Capitalism" is sometimes used to describe a true Capitalist system. But this phrase is redundant. It is important to define "Capitalism" correctly because a proper definition is a prerequisite to a proper defense. Capitalism is the only moral political system because it is the only system dedicated to the protection of rights, which is a requirement for human survival and flourishing. This is the only proper role of a government. Capitalism should be defended vigorously on a moral basis, not an economic or utilitarian basis. (Source: http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com)
More on Capitalism:
The state is the great fiction by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.
-- Frederic Bastiat
Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureaucrat's tool is fear.
It is worthwhile to consider the ideal model of democratic government and the reality of what happens when politicians come into the scene. Ideally, citizens demand government actions to “fix” situations of “market failure” – cases where the market leads to less-than-efficient outcomes, such as when a used-car salesman lies about the quality of the cars he sells. Ideally, taxpayers consent to the use of their money to correct the asymmetrical information problems (in other words, crooked car salesmen who know more about the car than the consumer and have an incentive to lie about it) by say, mandatory information stickers on used cars. Politicians rarely have the sole interest of the public in mind because human nature dictates that man is self-interested, and when he cannot compete for customers, he competes for power. The bureaucrat who makes his living inspecting car dealerships is unlikely to suggest to his superiors that a consumer protection agency would be better at his job, or that bringing a mechanic to the dealership is a cheaper solution to government intervention. He is more likely to suggest that more regulations be placed on used car lots so that he may hire assistants or increase his work hours. Meanwhile, the consumer knows little of such inefficiencies in the inspector’s work, because the best judge of the efficiency of inspecting used cars – the government inspector himself is the one least likely to reveal the inefficiencies of his job -- because they may lead to his demotion or loss of work. The point is not that regulation of used car dealerships is harmful to consumers, but that government bureaucracy is inherently inefficient and self-promotional, and the costs of such inefficiencies must always be balanced with the potential benefits.
There is another, more dangerous aspect of government regulation. The used-car dealership rarely takes regulation lying down. Rather, it will hire lobbyists, create ad campaigns to raise public support, court politicians, and in various other ways attempt to influence public policy. It is undeniable that business has such influence with the policy-makers of the United States. The problem is that as soon as an industry seeks to influence the government, it begins to compete on two levels – the competition for market power and the competition for bureaucratic power. Firms no longer strive to produce the best product at the lowest price, but for political “pull” – and the ones that win the war of pull are rarely the ones that are the most efficient. Thus, firms try to out-regulate each other out of existence rather than out-compete each other. Such is the inevitable side-effect of government regulation. What this means, is that for every government action, there will be a reaction by business, or in other words, if you want to get business out of government, you must get government out of business.
It is crucial to recognize that government is not especially good at producing any one good – it is only capable of forcibly transferring wealth from one party to another. Taxes, tariffs, licenses, and regulations either take wealth or create barriers to market entry, and private and corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies, tax-breaks, and regulations give wealth and monopoly powers to other parties. There are many arguments for such transfers of wealth, and it is impossible to answer them all in a short space, but it is sufficient to consider the previous two arguments, as they inevitably corrupt any good intentions legislators have when they enact such legislation.
When one considers the above effects of market regulation, it is easy to see why politicians have such a bad reputation. Many reformers propose further regulations and agencies to oversee politicians’ actions and finances – but this only increases the size of government. The real solution was provided to us by the Constitution of the United States -- while imperfect, it contained built-in limits on the power of government to intervene in the market. When the government remains small and stays out of the regulation business, businesses have little interest in lobbying government because their livelihood is not at stake, and consumer groups have little success in imposing regulation because of court oversight of legislation. Such is the ideal size of government. When it strays into the market, it immediately becomes too big and acquires tremendous incentives to expand more and more.
(The above section comes from my essay “The Moral Basis of Government”)
Governments will always misuse the machinery of the law as far as the state of public opinion permits.
-- Emile Capouya
Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles,
we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
-- P. J. O'Rourke
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In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time someting like that happened in politics or religion.
-- Carl Sagan
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Thus, the moral premise and sole purpose of government is the protection of individual rights. Any other claimed rights to a minimum provision of any good or service are invalid because they necessarily infringe on this basic purpose. Government is a contract among the people it governs that maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, but the will of the majority does not give it the right to go against its basic purpose and make any individual a tool of the state or the whim of the majority.