Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Does Voluntaryism Work?

I've not engaged in debate with libertarians a lot, because i tend to look for areas of agreement, & see libertarianism as an ally against statism.  But at some point, i knew i would need to look at the basis for the libertarian ideal.

What is the basic duty of government?

Provide justice.

This is the essence.  We want our rights protected from violators, either foreign or domestic.  The declaration of independence phrased it like this:  'That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.'

People want to live in peace & provide for themselves.  A good govt does this without over burdening them with excessive taxation, or exploiting them for the benefit of the state.  A good govt is a deterrent to criminal activity & foreign aggression.  They provide common infrastructure & fair trade rules.  They  provide a stable currency so the citizens can engage in commerce & build a nation.

How does voluntaryism provide this?  By the open market.  They quote the non aggression principle & expect everyone to voluntarily observe it.

But here is where it fails:

1. If justice is a commodity, it can be bought & sold to the highest bidder.  This is a 'devolution' of society into more primitive governance, where 'might makes right'.

2. Without a common defense, and the power to enforce it, there would be a proliferation of 'justice providers', battling each other for control, & none as strong as if they combined their forces.  This weakens the society, & would encourage crime & foreign aggression.
3. There are NO examples of this actually working in any society in the history of mankind.

The non aggression principle is a fantasy.  It is just as much an illusion as collectivism.  Both require altruistic citizens, or a totalitarian system to enforce it.  That is the logical progression.  Any vacuum of power is filled by competing entities, looking to consolidate their authority & control.  The people will be at the mercy of those providers of power.. they do not choose them, or have any balance of power or rights to appeal to.  It opens the door for aggressive, power hungry oppressors, & does not secure the rights or interests of the people.

Everything in libertarianism hinges on following the non aggression principle.  But the whole history of man is that of aggression.  Governments are formed, either by aggressive powers, or to ward off those powers.  An aggressive force needs an equal or more powerful force to deter it.  Voluntaryists expect a balance of power to come naturally, not systematically.  But that is not how balance is achieved   It must be provided & enforced by a common force of will, powerful enough to deter competing factions.  This force is government.  Anarchy brings chaos, not order.

What we should be asking is, 'What is the best system of government we can provide for ourselves, to establish justice & provide for a common defense?'

Does 'no government' do that?  Anarchy movements seem to breed violence & destruction.  It is not a positive force on society, but negative.  There is destruction of property, looting, & lawlessness.  Generally, where anarchy has increased, the response of society is to turn to a totalitarian force to deter it.  Lawlessness breeds totalitarianism.  It does not increase freedom for the people, but decreases it.

The american ideal is that the people have a right to 'institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.'  (declaration of independence)

'We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.'  (preamble of us constitution)

This works.  Yes, we've got some problems, but if we can get back to the basics, we can have a simple, effective government. The us constitution is a good base to work from. It provides a solid framework for governance.. justice, self defense, & protection of individual liberties. Of all the governmental systems in the history of the world, NONE have provided more freedom, prosperity, & opportunity than the US system of government.

It was very difficult to set something like this up.. we needed a lot of idealistic, altruistic people at the onset, which is extremely rare in human history. The usual scenario is for nice sounding words to be corrupted by those ascending into power, & the original ideals being set aside for the rulers' convenience. Look at every place where a statist system was rebelled from.. monarchies, dictators.. just about every nation on earth has had one oppressive state replaced by another, with less freedoms than before. The US evolution of govt is very rare.. for MORE freedom to be dispensed to the people by the central state entity.  We should not take it for granted, or toss it aside casually, for some pie in the sky fantasy.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Factories to workers, land to peasants! 
Peace, Bread and Land"
"Revolution is not a crime! 
Rebellion is justified!"
"Dare to think, dare to act".
"Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!"
"Change We Can Believe In!"

None of these slogans provided freedom for the people, but only led to more oppression.  Some people may be bored with the US constitution, or think it obsolete, but the alternative is authoritarianism, if we cast it aside.

I've had enough slogans.  Give me something that works, with a real track record.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Capital Punishment

I see the central argument as this:

Capital punishment does more to prevent wrongful death than not.

The goal is preventing or minimizing wrongful deaths. Murderers kill people, & those who die at their hands have their basic right to life violated. Justice has said for millinea that if you kill someone, you lose your right to life. 'An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, life for life', was how it was in the old jewish law, & the same principle has been in force in every civilization of mankind. The anti death penalty argument is that it is barbaric, & there are times when mistakes are made. I also argue that capital punishment is a greater deterrent for those who might be considering a capital crime. But i will address the 2 main points against capital punishment:

1. 'Barbaric' is a judgment call. Justice is either always barbaric, or it brings order to a barbaric society, depending on which side of the law you are on. It is an emotional word to elicit sympathy for the perpetrators of the crime. It really has no place in the central debate, which is how to prevent or minimize wrongful death.  A society with the fewest wrongful deaths is the least barbaric.

2. Mistakes. This is probably the main argument against capital punishment. Sometimes, a person is accused wrongly, & convicted. In seeking justice, another wrongful death is caused.
a. Many criminals are repeat offenders. They cause more 'wrongful deaths' than any travesties of justice. If the goal is to prevent wrongful deaths, that is served better by taking the lives of violent criminals, with the very rare wrongful death of an innocent. Incarcerated criminals also commit murder in prison, adding more 'wrongful deaths' to their resume.
b. An innocent locked up for life is slim consolation. A travesty of justice has still occurred, & justice has not been served.

I submit that justice is not barbaric, & is a stronger deterrent. Another benefit of capital punishment, is the taxpayers are not overburdened with the very expensive cost of incarcerating those who commit capital crimes.

My arguments are few & simple. Capital punishment is a better deterrent & minimizer of wrongful death than not. You will have fewer wrongful deaths, statistically, with capital punishment than by keeping capital offenders alive. They will not be able to kill again, nor will they kill while incarcerated. Logically, capital punishment is a better solution to wrongful death. Most anti capital punishment arguments center on the plight of the poor accused. But no consideration is given to the victims, or future victims of the perpetrator. Many family members have to spend their lives continually involved in the crime, since the perpetrator is still alive, & they have to appear every so often before a parole board to oppose releasing the killer. They are not able to find closure, & their lives are disrupted by the continual opening of old wounds. Capital punishment brings closure for them.

Here's a summary of the benefits of capital punishment for a civilized society:

1. It minimizes wrongful deaths.
2. It is a deterrent to capital crimes.
3. It relieves the citizens from having to pay for the criminal's incarceration for life.
4. It provides more closure for the victim's family.

I have not listed statistics to support these points, but they are readily available. My purpose here was to make logical arguments for the value of the death penalty in a civilized society.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Is there an American culture?

I think there is an 'american' culture.. at least as much as there is a mexican culture, or german, english, etc. It is a blend, of course, but it has its own identity. What is 'mexican' culture? Is it aztec? Mayan? No, it is a blend.. an evolution of spanish european, native indian, & catholicism. It has morphed all those factors into what we call, mexican. It is different than argentinian, or guatemalan, even though those are often lumped together as 'hispanic'. But really, the only thing that is really 'hispanic' is the common language.. & perhaps catholicism.

American culture is very similar. It is a blend of christianity, native american, english, mixed european, with lots of individualism & libertarian values. But imo, it is being overwhelmed by those who look to govt to 'take care of us'. We are continually evolving, too, & the current changes are not in the right direction for individual freedom. The culture of individual responsibility & personal liberty is morphing into an entitled, helpless, dependency, where the state is looked to as a nanny to care for us.

Mexicans have been ruled by tyrants, dictators, corrupt juntas, & just about every flavor of statist domination you can imagine over the centuries. They have NO history of individual freedom. I would not expect immigrants coming here to immediately 'get' what america is about. Most other immigrants have had to adapt to this idea, too. Some came here for exactly that: Freedom. Most mexicans who come here do so for jobs. A great percentage intend to return home.. this is a temp job for them, & they identify themselves as mexicans, not americans. Of course, most do not return home, but once the kids come, they settle down & get established.. usually in a mexican sub culture, as other ethnic groups have done in our history.

But previous immigration surges were different. Italians came here for economic prosperity & opportunity, & their culture morphed into the american culture, as did german, irish, english, etc. They came to be 'americans', & to identify with the new ideology. We had the mexican culture, too, which has had a large influence in the border states like tx, nm, az, ca. The mexican influence has been greater than other immigration surges in the past, if only because of the sheer numbers.. the existing culture has not had time to assimilate them, & they are not coming to be assimilated, but to dominate.. at least that is the result, if not the intention.

I like mexican culture. I went to a catholic boarding school in the 60's in Guadalajara. I live in az now, where mexican culture is all around, & flavors much of the culture here. I don't think that MY heritage should always be the one to take the back seat.. i don't mind celebrating other cultures, but they don't have to demonize mine to do so. That is a bit of a problem to me.

I think this argument can be applied both ways, yet it is too often a one way street:

Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures. ~Cesar Chavez

what is 'european' culture? The scottish are different from the greeks, & the swedes are very different from the portuguese. Many europeans are having a backlash over immigration, too, & theirs is nothing like the scale & scope of what is happening in the us. The french people are starting to revolt over the north african immigration, as are the danes, germans, english, & many others where other cultures are coming in but not assimilating. It is a bit of a defense mode.. wanting to defend & preserve their heritage from being overwhelmed by the incoming culture. We in the us don't have that problem as much, since our culture is historically, multicultural. But i think the disorderly, lawless nature of the current immigration mess is what most american citizens object to.

There is a mix of hawaiian culture, too. They have embraced a lot of the portuguese seaman into their own, as well as the english & japanese. Many native hawaiians are not sympathetic to american culture, but want to (understandably) hang on to their own. The numbers make that hard, too. There is also a subculture of hawaiian culture, just like any other. I have half hawaiian cousins on the big island, & there is a culture of 'menehune', mixed with catholicism, that opposes the big polynesian, kamehameha types. This is probably similar to the hopis, who don't identify as navajos, but insist on their own subculture, too.

There is no 'culture' in any land that goes on for long unchanged. All cultures are constantly evolving. Sometimes they are conquered by an outside influence, sometimes they are slowly changed ideologically from within, as when christianity changed european culture in the first millineum.

What sets america apart, imo, is tolerance for other cultures.. multiculturalism. That is the common denominator in america. Generally, we get along, & will have a guinness with the irish on st patty's day, have coronas with the mexicans on cinco de mayo, & lift our wine glasses with the italians on columbus day. We like chinese food, mexican, italian, greek, soul food, & just about any cultural delicacy we absorb into our own. THAT is my culture. It is distinctly american, & i'm proud of it.