Monday, April 11, 2016

Human Rights

We’ve all heard the screams of anguish. North Carolina and Mississippi are denying homosexuals their human rights. Companies and entertainers refuse to have anything to do with those states because of their “crimes.” The heinous “crimes” include not forcing people to violate their religious beliefs, and not forcing young women to share restrooms and shower facilities with men.

Let’s look at what human rights really are.

First, most of us in the U.S. believe that we have a constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion. Note the wording; that amendment tries to protect not just belief, but exercise of that religious belief. As long as the religious exercise does no overt harm to others, it is to be protected.

Second, most of us believe it a human right to not expose our private parts to members of the opposite sex unless we chose to do so voluntarily. That requires restroom and locker room facilities separated by sex, and that sex is to be determined by body construction. A man or teenage boy who “identifies” as a woman does not thereby obtain the right to share a shower or restroom with our teenage daughter. The irony is that many claim that a constitutional right to privacy allows for unrestricted abortion, then they turn right around and deny right to privacy to women in restrooms and locker rooms.

Sadly, many today claim that “human rights” include the right to force people to act contrary to conscience, to photograph or bake cakes for homosexual weddings. That is true even though the “aggrieved” could easily find another photographer or baker. They also claim that it is a human right for a biological male to claim to identify as female and enter the precincts where real females should be able to expect privacy.

This would be laughable if the results weren’t so serious and if the proponents of these new “rights” weren’t 
so successful at publicizing their ideas. The promoters of these new “rights” are making inroads on the real human rights we all should have. They use law, money, and celebrity to convince people to ignore the obvious and support this nonsense. That will continue unless those who believe in our true human rights speak out – loudly and often.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living in a Fantasy World

Fantasy can be fun. Movies, books etc. that show life outside what we live on a daily basis entertain us. They are especially attractive to children who do not yet fully understand the world we live in. Who among us, when young, did not think that maybe we could learn to fly like Peter Pan or to use magic to get what we wanted?

That is normal for children. Adults however, if they want to live reasonable lives, must face reality. Tinker Bell will not sprinkle pixie dust on us, nor will we find any magic wand capable of creating the food or anything else we want. As we grow up, we should learn that we get what we need by understanding reality and working with it, not by trying to change that reality – or worse, by pretending that reality is different from what it really is.

Sadly, many “adults” today do not seem to understand those simple facts, and their fantasies do more than their share of damage. We have just seen this in Belgium as Islamic fanatics murdered people at the airport and a metro station. Much of Europe has swallowed the line that, if only treated kindly, those fanatics will become good, law-abiding people. That is an attractive fantasy, but reality refuses to go along. If those European rulers were to look at the record they would see that the fanatics have never changed their goals nor their willingness to use violence to achieve those goals. Their pixie dust is an illusion. Those fanatics believe that they have a divine mandate to impose Sharia law on the world, and they are willing to die to reach that goal. No amount of kind welcoming will change that.

Nor is our U.S. president immune to such magical belief. He wants to admit Islamic “refugees” by the thousands, but offers no way to separate the dangerous potential terrorists from the real refugees. That kind of magical thinking gets people killed.

But why do we have leaders living in Fantasyland? In a democratic system there is an obvious reason: too many voters live in Fantasyland, voters who think government has some magical solution to all our problems. They fail to notice that:

Government has no magical source of goods or services to provide to the people. It only has what it takes from those people.

Government has no source of wisdom beyond that of ordinary people. Imperfect people select government functionaries from among the imperfect people actually available in this imperfect world.

Government has no greater integrity than that of those imperfect people who select other imperfect people to hold power.

Voters must think reality, not fantasy. Our security, our economy, and our freedom depend on it. We must reject the pie in the sky fantasy that many politicians promise. Those promises may sound attractive, but the real world rejects them.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Presidential Elections: The Longest Lasting Consequences

There are many issues for voters to consider in any presidential election. However, the longest-lasting legacy of any president must be among the most important. Most presidential decisions can be changed a few years down the road but there is one exception: Supreme Court Appointments.

The Supreme Court is effectively the last word, accountable to no-one. Five justices form a majority on that court, giving them the closest thing we have in this country to dictatorial power. Indeed, at times they do seem to have dictatorial powers. Their decisions stand, and the voters have no means of changing those decisions.

Voters must consider carefully what kind of justices the next president is likely to appoint. That president will probably appoint at least three new justices. Obama's two appointees, Sotomayor and Kagen, will likely remain on that court for decades, as will those three new justices. If the new appointees are similar to the Obama appointees, that will give them decades of absolute majorities on that court, the ability to impose unchangeable rulings on the people.

So which candidate is most likely to appoint good justices, rather than leftist sycophants? Certainly not either of the democratic candidates. Clinton or Sanders would appoint leftists to that court. Trump? That is essentially unknown, the only hints we have are his history of supporting things like condemnation of private property to give it to other private entities, and federally controlled health care. The probabilities do not look good, it is doubtful that he would appoint defenders of constitutional freedom to any court.

Of course there are always a lot of unknowns in electing a president. However, I believe that the candidate most likely to appoint good justices is Ted Cruz. Of all the candidates, he is most committed to the constitution. Voters must consider that when deciding how to cast their ballots.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Cutting off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

Voters are angry, justifiably so. They gave control of both house and senate to the Republicans on the promise that those elected would do things like stop executive amnesty, funding of Planned Parenthood, stop Obamacare, etc. The Republicans then turned around and acted like Obama sycophants. Their campaign promises were as trustworthy as a Hillary Clinton claim. They betrayed the voters who now want revenge.

Unfortunately, that anger is not a good guide for voters. In their desire to strike back, many of those voters are harming the very causes they support. Let's face it, Donald Trump is unlikely to do any of the things voters supported in 2014. Even his main issue, the promise to build a wall along the border, is in serious doubt. Allegedly, in an off-the-record interview with the New York Times, he said he doesn't really believe what he is saying about stopping illegal entry. The fact that he refuses to have the tape of that interview released leads me to believe that the claim is true, he has no intention of building a wall or otherwise restricting illegal entry to this country.

If we make the mistake of electing Trump, I doubt we will see much of anything different than if we elect Hillary Clinton. Reacting in anger can cause us to jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

Related to the issue of illegal aliens are the job losses and underemployment many families face. That is partly, but not totally, due to illegal aliens taking jobs otherwise available to citizens. Again, reacting in unthinking anger is national suicide. That is reminiscent of the way Hitler took power in Germany. As I wrote in my book, Freedom or Serfdom?:

How could Hitler get enough voter support to become chancellor? The answer is that the Germans were desperate, and desperate people may grasp at any straw. The Treaty of Versailles imposed onerous reparations on the country. That and other problems devastated the economy. Formerly prosperous families found themselves with little or nothing. As Hayek puts it, “It should never be forgotten that the one decisive factor in the rise of totalitarianism on the Continent, which is yet absent in England and America, is the existence of a large recently dispossessed middle class.”[1]

As I write this, the American middle class is under siege. Should much of that middle class fall on hard times, that could open the way for a demagogue to take power .”

When I wrote that, I had no idea that Trump, who I consider to be very much a demagogue, would seriously contend for the presidency. I did suspect that another demagogue, Hillary Clinton, would be the democratic candidate but it had not occurred to me that voters in November might face the choice between two such demagogic candidates. I do not want to claim the mantle of prophet, but I'm afraid we might face exactly that. I may vomit in the election booth.

Let us hope that voters will wake up and not let their anger do the voting, rational thinking is much better.

[1]      Hayek, op cit, p215

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Potential Nightmare

Do we want a psychopath as president? I make no claim to be qualified to diagnose that condition, nor can the experts make such a diagnosis from a distance. However we have reason to be concerned. Here is a snippet from Chapter 22 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?
How can we, citizens untrained in psychology, recognize the psychopath? Sorry, we can't. Even those qualified to diagnose the condition cannot do so at a distance. That is the bad news. The good news is that we do not need a solid diagnosis. We need only know that a candidate has signs consistent with the condition. Any candidate having most of the characteristics of psychopathy is qualified only for rejection, be he a true psychopath or not.

Psychopaths are described as “without conscience, incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves.”1 They will have most of the following traits:

Lack of remorse
Lack of empathy
Refusal to accept responsibility
Lack of goals
Poor behavioral control
Adolescent antisocial behavior
Adult antisocial behavior2

Those traits are red flags, the growl before the dog bites. They warn us to avoid the candidate, though the personality of the psychopath distracts from that warning. Note, however, that lack of goals will not show up in the political psychopath. That psychopath does not lack goals, he has very ambitious goals – all relating to himself.

I believe readers will see the resemblance with the leading candidates for president in each of our major political parties. I believe that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are superfici8al, grandiose, and deceitful. Both seem to lack remorse and refuse to accept responsibility. I do not know either well enough to know if they lack empathy, but their disregard of others suggests that they do. Both are irresponsible, refusing to accept blame for anything. That is enough to raise a red flag, nay a crimson flag!

Note also: Not all psychopaths are violent. Some are white-collar criminals. Some stay within the law, though seldom within normal ethical boundaries – and they fool people with ease. The white-collar psychopath is a talented deceiver. He uses his personality, his mind, and his silver tongue to separate people from their money, to acquire high-paying jobs, or to reach positions of power. He is the ultimate narcissist; and as far as can be determined he has, literally, no conscience. He is, however, charming, persuasive, often charismatic – and a world-class liar. He could run a red light, hit your car, and convince you that it was your fault.

I do not know if either Trump or Clinton is a true psychopath. However, there are enough warnings that having to chose between the two for president is a nightmare.
1 I Paul Babiak, PhD and Robert D. Hare, PhD, Snakes in Suits, When Psychopaths go to Work, Harper 2006, p19
2 Ibid, p17

Monday, February 15, 2016

Replacing Justice Scalia

With the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, we can expect a major discussion (near war might be a more appropriate description) about his replacement. The statists are salivating over the possibility of another justice such as Sotomayor or Kagan, justices who would rubber stamp big, intrusive government. Freedom lovers, on the other hand have reason to fear such a new justice. There is little doubt that President Obama will try to put another of their ilk on the court; the only hope for liberty is the Senate.

Supreme Court justices have lifetime tenure, barring retirement or impeachment – and we have never impeached one of them. Each is effectively one fifth of a dictatorship since five justices can make a rule from which there is no appeal.

We must get the right people on that court.

Sadly, in recent years the biggest absence in the Senate has been Republican backbone. Republicans won big in the 2014 election, primarily on the basis of voter opposition to Obama's overreach. Yet they have failed to use their majority to block that overreach. Indeed, earlier they could have blocked Sotomayor and Kagan. They had the votes, along with reason to believe those two would be exactly the kind of justices they have turned out to be. Yet the Republicans acquiesced like a drunk giving in to the offer of another drink. Checks and balances were AWOL.

Our senators take an oath to defend the Constitution. They have not only a right, but a sworn duty to reject any prospective judge who is likely to weaken that Constitution. That duty is especially important when they consider Supreme Court appointments. They must insist on the following requirements before they approve any judge:

Absolute integrity
Commitment to Constitution and Law
Subordination of Personal Belief to Law and Constitution
Intellectual ability
Knowledge of law and Constitution
The inner strength to stand up for what is right.
(Detail and reasoning behind those requirements is found on pp132-134 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?).
There must be no compromise on those requirements. Any prospective justice who fails in even one of them is not qualified to occupy the bench.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Legitimate Sphere of Government

Just what is the legitimate sphere of government? Let's look at a few examples:
You go on vacation, driving on an interstate highway built under government direction.

The fire department responds to your neighbor's house fire.

Burglars would break into your cousin's apartment, except the police caught them during a previous crime and they are now in jail.

A foreign tyrant looks enviously at Alaskan oil, but leaves it alone when he sees the ability of our military.

Your nephew lives downstream from a factory that might pollute the river if it were not for the laws against that pollution.

Those represent legitimate functions of government. They provide what economists call external costs and benefits, or externalities. Externalities are defined as costs or benefits accruing to someone not directly involved in the transaction. Your cousin is not involved in the burglars' “business” but he would pay if government didn't enforce the law. As citizens we are not involved in the tyrant's “business,” but we lose if government fails to defend the country. Individually, you paid next to nothing to build that freeway, but many people travel on it. Those are all externalities. Externalities and nothing else are the properly the domain of government.
However that does not mean that government should automatically meddle with all external costs and benefits. It should determine if a proposed action is really worth doing, fair, and worth the cost. For example, it should not build the new road that primarily benefits the mayor's cousin, nor should it build a fancy stadium that brings minimal benefit to the people. Government should also avoid actions that unduly restrict freedom, even if those actions fall within the sphere of external benefits. Some would claim that government should do things like dictate the colors houses should be painted. Free men, however, would object on the grounds that people should make their own choices in such matters, not force their idea of beauty on others. We should remain free unless there are strong and compelling reasons to impose a restriction.