Audio Clips

06 December 2008

A True Dichotomy

We often hear commentators and journalists use the terms "conservative" and "liberal" or "right" and "left". If you're a Republican then you're probably labeled a conservative of the right wing of political philosophy. You also share the same office space as the Nazis according to many commentators who put fascism on the right wing. That's probably not where you expected to find yourself. If you're a Democrat you may find yourself being described as a liberal or a left-wing idealogue. The problem with these descriptions is that they aren't descriptive. They're whatever you view them to be in your own mind. If you ask 10 people to define conservative or liberal you'll get 11 different answers. It would probably be useful to start a conversation on what the actual ends of the political spectrum are.

The debate about the role of government has raged for centuries and millenia. Hobbes, Plato, Rousseau, Locke, Thoreau, Smith, Voltaire and countless others have debated with each other across time and we still haven't decided unanimously about how we should be ruled or rule ourselves. In spite of an elusive unanimity of opinion in that respect, there is a simple way to lay the ground work for the debate and that is to start by defining the terms we use. I would argue that Republicans and Democrats no more define the right and left ends of the political spectrum than orange and yellow define the ends of the color spectrum. They are closer to each other than the other colors and there are other colors that lay further to the right and left of them.

I would argue that the actual dichotomy in governance is, on the one side, complete totalitarian control over the populace by a governmental elite and, on the other side, complete atomistic every-man-for-himself individualism. With that in mind, it's easier to see that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats has less to do with the extent of government control than it does with where the government control is exercised. Democrats (for the most part) feel comfortable with using government coercion to achieve their ends of social equality, environmental policy, health care and other pet pork projects. Republicans (for the most part) feel comfortable using government coercion to achieve their ends of corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies and other pet pork projects.

I think that most people would agree that complete totalitarian control, someone dictating to you every action you are to take, is an undesirable circumstance. Who wants to be told where they can work, what they can buy, where they can live, who they can associate with, or thousands of other personal decisions? We derive our greatest pleasures and lessons from the choices that we make for ourselves. I believe most people would also agree that a completely individualistic society where there are no rules and no enforcement would be undesirable. Why would you want to live so that you were constantly in fear for your life and your property, never able to trust that the people you meet have similar beliefs regarding your personal well-being. What would keep people from committing theft, assault, deception, contract-breaking and any other hedonistic pursuit?

This is a more useful dichotomy to use. The real question now is: where along this spectrum do we find the best protection of individual human rights while providing enforcement of contract

Suggested reading
The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen
What Social Classes Owe to Each Other by William Graham Sumner

02 December 2008

Voices of Liberty

A friend of mine invited me to participate in his blog Voices of Liberty. Please check it out. I'm excited about the opportunity for some debate.

Federal Government, Savior of Mankind?

Business Week has an article this week entitled "Can Obama Keep New Jobs at Home?" Several things stuck out at me while I was reading it.

The article starts by saying that Obama has promised to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years. I wish I could make promises like that. Absolutely immeasurable and completely useless. No matter what happens he can say he has done his job. Even if we lose 500,000 jobs over the next 2 years he can say "Well our analysts estimate that without the steps we took we would have lost 3 million jobs, therefore we saved 2.5 million jobs." Nice. Hey Obama, if you're going to make meaningless promises, go for broke. Why not promise that you're going to save 50 million jobs over the next 2 years, or 100 million. Then, as long as there are 50 million people working in 2 years you can say that you accomplished your promise. That would really set you up for re-election. Who would want to vote out a president who saved 50 million jobs? Not me!

Another part of the article that I found interesting was this:
In fact, Obama does aim to get money into the hands of consumers, through extended unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments that might otherwise lay off workers or raise taxes.
So this is how we're saving jobs? By giving money to the unemployed and making sure that government jobs don't disappear? Let's leave aside the unemployment question and say that people actually need that in the time that it takes to get a new job and just talk about the second half of the statement. How does saving government jobs help the economy? Let's be clear, EVERY government worker, federal, state or local, is a parasite on the economy. Now, don't get me wrong, we need some of those workers. We need police, army, fire, etcetera but let's not mince words, even those positions are a drain on the true economy. No government work ADDS to the economy. They may be set up to defend the safety of the economy as a necessary expense to make sure that capital is not destroyed, but they do not ADD to the economy. They are an expense that we taxpayers pay. Period. They are a drain to the actual economy and frankly, many of them shouldn't have their jobs. Many of their jobs are unnecessary and duplicative or more expensive alternatives to the private sector. So the fact that Obama views an infusion of money to state and local governments so they can spare those jobs as something that will improve the economy is disturbing. At most, those people will spend their salaries in the true economy and that will hopefully provide some jobs. A better alternative would be to eliminate all business taxes. Businesses don't pay taxes anyway, people pay taxes.