Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two Cheers

I was at a party a while back, and the subject of libertarianism came up. Considering the makeup of the crowd, the opinion of the topic was one of almost universal approval.

Normally, I save my political rantings for more intimate venues (my wife
gets to hear a lot of them - sorry honey), but I'd had a few drinks, and couldn't stop myself from playing devil's advocate.

The problem is, libertarianism is completely correct. Yep, the the whole program, liberty, personal responsibility, voluntary association - its entire intellectual foundation is logically and morally consistent, so there is almost no chance it will ever be anything but a fringe movement.

Imagine a modern person transported back to fifteenth century Germany - arriving in a large field where the townsfolk are dragging an old lady to the stake to be burned for a witch.

"Wait!" Screams our hero, "There is no such thing as a witch. This woman is innocent. Your crops failed and your cows went dry from completely natural causes, and you should look for those instead of engaging in this useless behavior."

"Further," continues the visitor from the future, "Even if this poor old lady believed herself to be a witch, even if she went out on the night of the full moon, danced naked and offered her soul to Satan in return for earthly power, even if she went about casting curses on your fields and cattle, it only means she is as deluded as you. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WITCH! Now stop this nonsense and find the real cause of your problems."

It makes no difference that everything he says is true - factual, absolutely, mind-of god true. The mob will grab him and toss him in to burn with the witch.

It is an iron rule: Denying the existence of witches means you are one.

But, you say, those are ignorant peasants; us modern folk would never fall victim to base superstition.

Oh, yeah? Try the same kind of speech as above in Zuccotti Park, but substitute bankers for witches as the authors of all the world's ills, and see what you get - hopefully not burned at the stake, but don't bet the house on it.

Hyperbole? We have just left a century where cynical men directed the rage of the masses against Jews, capitalists, hoarders, wreckers, polluters of racial purity, and other imagined enemies. The result was a pyramid of a hundred million skulls. The context may have been different, but the unbroken chain connecting those atrocities to the witch hunts of the distant past was the eagerness of people to throw their neighbors onto the pyre.

So, to all you Free-Staters, Reason Magazine readers, and Cato Institute supporters, I am with you sixty six and sixty seven one hundredths percent, but remember, the vast majority of our species wants, needs, and seeks witches to burn - because witch hunts are less terrifying than freedom.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Withdraw My Consent

The president's executive order on student debt forgiveness is making all of the expected waves. It is a virtually empty gesture which will benefit the recipients little, and cost the taxpayers more, not a great deal more, but something more.

It is enlightening that an obviously cynical attempt to buy the votes of what is, considering the amount of debt they have accrued in return for virtually nothing - the country's stupidest demographic, has generated so much heat.

Read enough history though, and you realize that it is frequently the small things which act as the spark that ignites the blaze. That is why the first signals of great events are often missed by those doomed to suffer the consequences of those events.

The arrogant are attuned to the grandiose - if it is not a war, riot, flood, or some other world changing occurrence - if they are not central to the story, it simply doesn't matter.

Down here at worm level however, we aren't equipped to deal with the enormous. We are too busy navigating daily life to devote the effort to understand a trillion of anything, a debt crisis spanning a continent, or a meltdown in the real estate market. And even if we skipped changing the oil to spend time learning to read a balance sheet, it's not like there would be much we could do about it anyway.

Consequently, it is the more trivial abuses which weigh on the mind - a half billion in chump change to bail out a company whose CEO is a big democrat donor, a justice department raid on a business whose owner is too outspoken against the party, a little message coordination from the white house to the media to make sure they are all on the same page when it's time to slander the decent people who publicly protest the latest outrage - the steady, daily accumulation of insults which must go unanswered due to life's other commitments.

So, in response to Obama's latest, almost offhanded, bit of machine politics, I have an inconsequential reply.

I withdraw my consent. This is not my government, and the man sitting in the oval office is not my president - he is a tribal leader who has chosen to treat half the people of the country as enemies to be plundered to provide largess for his followers.

I know my withdrawal of consent changes nothing. I know that if I offer any meaningful resistance to the rulers of this country they will not hesitate to use force to compel me to bend my knee. I know our aristocracy sees me as less than dirt and views what meager wealth I have as a resource to exploit for their own benefit. I know they would not hesitate to take the food from my family's mouth and leave us to starve so that their dogs might eat. And I know they consider all these things to be right and just and proper because I am not of their tribe.

I know all these things; I am not stupid.

My withdrawal of consent changes nothing - almost nothing. It changes me, and I am not stupid. If I realize these things, so must others, and hopefully many others, and perhaps those who think of themselves as rightfully our rulers will be so fixated on the grand events of their making, they won't notice the crowd behind them until it is too late.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When Ignorance is Bliss

Saw Breda's link to the story about the Occupy Folk and their problems organizing a society. At first of course, I laughed at their dilemma. Who wouldn't? But then I realized theirs is the problem of every age. And at the risk of sounding faux-philosophical, we all struggle to come up with a framework to explain the world we live in.

It is no small task - the consequences of where to live, where to work, whether to have children, and every other decision, accrue from our ability to establish a reasonably accurate mental map of our world. Nobody wants to be the one who spent a lifetime learning to captain a whaling ship - just as the world switched to gaslight.

The protestors are in that position. To judge by the number of them who demand student loan forgiveness, these spiritual descendents of the campus radicals of the sixties have gone deeply into debt to buy the magic beans offered by the education industry. But, where their forebears were at least exposed to the greatness of western intellectual achievement before consciously deciding to piss it all away, these poor fools have been steeped in nothing but empty platitudes tarted up as learning. This leaves them with nothing - they may reject the rejection-ism they have been indoctrinated with, but that is not the same as creating. Old ways of thinking cannot be abandoned if there are no alternatives available.

This is a generation which has been led into the wilderness and abandoned - I pity them and I fear for them.