Monday, December 28, 2015

Government by Decibel

Related to things like university students demanding censorship of ideas or information: the problem of government by decibel, the loudest tend to get their way.

Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, or simply the crowd demanding exclusion of some ideas from their colleges. They make so much noise that nobody looks at how many people they actually represent. Too many simply assume that any group that noisy must be important.

I've no idea what percent of college students want to exclude some ideas, what fraction of people support the Occupy Wall Street and related movements, or what percentage want to claim that Black Lives Matter to the exclusion of all lives mattering. I doubt anybody has solid data; the questions are simply not being asked, much less answered. However, it is almost certain that those groups have influence beyond their numbers. Serious students who want real education, working people who want to work and live in peace, Blacks who agree that all lives matter, all those are likely to be too busy to join the screamfests. That means that the protestors are self-selected and almost certainly not representative of the population in general.

Those screamers have excessive influence for at least two reasons. First, too many decision-makers pay attention to them and ignore the majority. Second, many in what we can aptly call the silent majority, allow themselves to be intimidated and do not speak out.

This is a travesty for our democratic society. It puts unwarranted power in the hands of those with no productive employment, the students who scream instead of studying, the fanatic wing of any movement, those who have no jobs and plenty of time to protest. Our government, including university administrators, is supposed to work for all the people, not just whoever who can scream the loudest.

The solution is simple, though not necessarily easy. The silent majority must be silent no more. We must insist that our representatives represent us, not just the noisy. And we must insist that tax money supporting colleges be contingent on those institutions allowing free speech, on any subject. Only when we do that will we turn around the ridiculous state we now find ourselves in.

Do you think this will not work? Look at the facts. Government officials may not agree with the majority, but they do agree on one thing: they want to keep their jobs. A few years ago some friends were testifying at the Oregon legislature about a proposed law. They had data, facts, charts etc. Their presentation was impressive. Then one state senator took them aside. “You guys need to understand something about the legislature. We don't care about your charts and data. What we care about is getting re-elected.”

Let's let our representatives know that their re-election depends on representing all of us, not just the noisy. Letters to them and to news organizations can go a long way.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


(Because tomorrow is Christmas, I'll postpone further discussion of things like restrictions on speech until next week.)

Like most people, I enjoy the Christmas season. I regard it as a time to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World (though he was almost certainly not born in December, more likely in the spring, but that is another subject). Even those who do not believe in Him can enjoy the season.

Good will, never in oversupply in this world, seems to peak at this time of year. I remember a few years ago reading of a man who went to a local store, one not patronized by the well-off. He asked if they had anyone who had put Christmas gifts on layaway and was not unable to pay for them. They did, but not for long. He paid for those Christmas presents. That is far from the only example of such generosity this time of year. In some cases, Jews and others even replace Christians who would have to work, allowing those Christians to spend the day with their families.

So I hope you enjoy the season, and that you help others enjoy it. The lonely often find this time of year depressing, maybe you can visit some of them. Some children are sad because their parents cannot afford presents – and many of those parents are unhappy because they cannot give their children a happy holiday. Fortunately there are many opportunities to give to the disadvantaged this time of year. Such giving helps not only the recipient but the giver as well.

So I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas season. If you are a believer, you can celebrate the birth of the Son of God who gives us eternal life and the opportunity for forgiveness. If not, you can still enjoy this time of year and the good will it brings.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Immunity to Ideas and Information

Berlin, Germany, 1971: I stood looking at the wall, its ugly appearance surpassed by an even uglier purpose. It stood four meters (13 feet) high, topped in places by razor wire. However Russian and East German authorities were replacing the razor wire with smooth concrete pipe, large enough in diameter to offer no hand or foot holds. Razor wire is no deterrent to people fleeing machine gun bullets.

The infamous Berlin wall was built to keep people in and ideas out. (From Chapter 26 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?) That is a terrible, tyrannical objective. Not only does it hold in captivity people denied information, it blocks progress as those people are deprived of the information necessary to advance everything from freedom to technology. The fall of the wall was a cause for celebration as East Germans once again had access to a variety of ideas, reasoning, and evidence. Surely nobody today would want to again put in place such a horrible blockade, would they? Don't be too sure.

Today not only are people creating barriers to information and ideas, but the people erecting those barriers are the very same people being deprived of information! On campuses across the country a minority of “students” demands “safe spaces” where certain viewpoints are prohibited. They demand “trigger warnings” so they can leave class lest they be exposed to diverse ideas. While the East Berlin captives sought information from the West (with the help of some in the west who put up informational billboards visible over the wall), these new captives not only fail to seek a variety of information, they demand that no such information be available. The captives are their own jailers – and enthusiastic jailers at that.

This self-censorship and censorship of faculty goes so far as to try to prohibit law schools teaching rape law! Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk described this in a New Yorker article a year ago.
Let us be clear, rape is a serious offense and we should do all we can to stop that crime and punish the rapists. It is for that very reason that law schools must teach the subject. Failure to do so constitutes dereliction of duty, and pressure not to teach rape law gives aid and comfort to the rapists.

Nor is rape the only subject some want to declare off limits. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education documents and fights against many campus speech codes. Often those speech codes block presentation of unpopular political views. If such views are prohibited, we will be right back to authorities dictating what we can think and discuss. And the “graduates” of institutions with such restrictions will be indoctrinated but not educated.

We must fight those campus restrictions. More on that, probably next time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Forget the Facts, Just Sling Mud, Part 3

(This is the third and final excerpt from Chapter 16 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom.)

The Other Side of the Coin – When the Shoe Fits
I'm confident that nearly everyone would agree: unsubstantiated name calling is bad. It is dishonest and distracts from the real issues. But what if the apple really is rotten? What if a politician is a thief, a scoundrel, even a traitor? Unless the voters know about such things they will not be able to vote wisely. Evidence-based, correct description of politicians is not only good, it is required if we are to avoid demagogues and keep our freedom. There is a big difference between unsubstantiated name calling and pointing out verified problems. If a politician has a track record of lies and broken promises, voters should know about it. That is true whether those lies and broken promises were to the public or confined to family and friends.

What should we think of politicians who cheat on their wives, people like Anthony Weiner, Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, or John Edwards? Does their private behavior bear on fitness for office? Years ago I saw a quiz intended to measure people's attitudes toward some work issues and help them understand the importance of having the “correct” attitudes. One question asked, “If you found out that your boss was having an extramarital affair, would you think less of him as a boss?” The “right” answer was that no, that should not change how you regard him. His personal life has nothing to do with his work life.

That “right” answer is nonsense.

To believe that a person can have high integrity at work while lacking integrity in personal life is to believe that the person is split into two different characters. It just doesn't happen. If someone cheats on his spouse and not on his employer there is a simple reason: at present he finds it attractive, and of acceptable risk to cheat on his spouse but not on his employer. What will happen when he finds it attractive and of acceptable risk to cheat his employer (or the country)? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to answer that question.[1] Integrity is not situation-dependent. The person who is honest only when honesty is convenient, or when dishonesty is dangerous, lacks integrity. When the situation changes, he will cheat. That is true in family life, in business, and in government.

Newt Gingrich, for example, cheated on at least two wives, eventually divorcing both.[2] He then talked of Christian forgiveness, using that to try to convince people that they should support him. As a Christian I believe in repentance and forgiveness, but so what? The issue is trust, not forgiveness. In fact, I am in no position to forgive Gingrich; he did not wrong me. His ex-wives and his children must deal with that. For voters the issue is trust; and trust must be earned. In fact while Christian scripture repeatedly commands us to forgive, I do not know of any scriptural admonition to trust the offender. Jesus even instructed his disciples to be “wise as serpents.”[3] Surely such wisdom would include trusting only those who are trustworthy.

In our romantic lives, business, or politics we must require that people be trustworthy. That integrity should be manifest by actions, not just words. The politician who fails to demonstrate integrity by his actions should be rejected – be those actions public or private.

We must seek the truth about our politicians. If they are liars and cheaters, we should know that and not vote for them. If they are falsely accused, we should also know that and not hold the accusations against them. And of course we should refrain from unsubstantiated name calling ourselves.

[1]      There are a few people who agree to “open marriages” wherein each allows the other as many affairs as he or she wants. However such marriages are, as far as I can tell, officially unheard of among politicians so they need not concern us here.
[3]      Holy Bible, Matthew 10:16

Friday, December 11, 2015

Forget the Facts, Just Sling Mud, Part 2

(This is the second of probably three posts from Chapter 16 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?)

Other Sneaky Tricks

One common manifestation of Godwin's law today is what is appropriately called turnspeak, that is, accusing your opponents of your own sins. Psychologists call this projection.

Turnspeak goes back at least as far as Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Trying to excuse his own imperialism, he claimed that those countries were complicit in a plot to invade Germany, and he even staged a false Polish attack on a German radio station.[1] That is what turnspeak is; turning the facts around 180 degrees as Hitler did when he accused the Czechs and Poles of the imperialism he himself was committing. And it is what all too many in politics do today. Come out against big government and they will likely call you fascist, in spite of the fact that fascism is a form of big government.

One problem the turnspeak victims face is that the accusation many seem so obviously false that it should need no refutation – and it seems trite to refute something so flagrant. Plus refutation risks involvement in a “you are/no I'm not” argument. However, if allowed to go unanswered, the accusation will stick. It is probably best to just do something like point out that the free man is the opposite of a fascist while the statist wants big government just like the fascists did.

However, the real test is when we hear someone else called fascist or something similar. Do we just accept the accusation, or do we examine the evidence? Politics creates so much turnspeak that we should be careful about which accusations we accept. If there is solid evidence, we can accept the accusation. Otherwise, we owe it to ourselves and other citizens to publicly oppose the lie.

And there are yet worse forms of political chicanery.

Other Nastiness

False flag operations and agents provocateurs are the foulest excrement of politics. The idea is to make opponents look unattractive no matter what it takes, honesty and integrity be damned. The agent provocateur tries to goad his enemy into doing something stupid; for example he may try to get him to appear to agree with a racist remark. The false flag operative pretends to be one of his opponents while doing something stupid or racist. There have been several attempts of these types, especially against the Tea Party. 

For example, in 2010 a school teacher in Beaverton, Oregon created a web site urging people to crash the Tea Party and to “use misspelled protest signs, make wild claims during interviews or other actions that would damage public opinion of the party.”[2] That is an example of a false flag operation – and I know statists who defended that deception. Of course, should that pretender manage to goad his targets into doing something stupid, he will become a successful agent provocateur.

But that was just a rogue teacher, right? I'm afraid not. At least one former high ranking Democrat tried the same trick. Kathy Sullivan, former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, openly sought Democrats “willing to pose as Tea Partiers and hold up anti-Obama, racist signs at the Tea Parties.”[3] It would be difficult to think of a more dishonest dirty trick.

There will always be at least a few liars around, and in politics some will engage in such things as false flag or agent provocateur operations. That should be illegal; perpetrators should go to jail. Such shenanigans attack the very integrity of our political system. Until we have such a law, free men need to identify those deceivers and expose them publicly. And we need to be careful to not fall victim to provocations designed to get us to act stupidly. Of course as fee men, in the Tea Party or not, we must never use such dirty tricks ourselves, and we must try to purge from our ranks anyone who does. If we want the trust of the voters, we must strive to be beyond reproach.

By being aware of the dirty tricks some statists use, we can defend ourselves. That we must do if we are to defend our freedom. Our opponents have those dirty tricks on their side, plus an attractive sounding idea described in the next chapter. Unless we expose them, we will lose our freedom.

[2] investigate_beaverton_teacher_who_urged_people_to_crash_the_tea_party.html

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Keep Muslims Out?

The controversy over Donald Trump's latest statement about Muslims deserves comment. In case anyone hasn't heard, he said we should not allow any Muslim immigrants into this country. (He actually worded it as, “Donald J. Trump is calling for...” I shall not at present comment on his tendency to describe his statements in the third person instead of just saying, “I am calling for...” However the psychologists may be able to make something of that.)

While we clearly need to keep terrorists out of our country, and his statement has created justifiable controversy, that controversy has not yet mentioned one salient fact: Trump's proposal is essentially unworkable. To do it, we either have to stop all immigration, or find some way to determine who is and is not a Muslim. No, we cannot just ask them.

The sad fact is that the terrorists who would enter our country are world class liars. To them, lying in pursuit of their objectives is not only acceptable, it is expected, regarded as a positive good. The terrorists wanting to come to our shores will simply claim to be Christian, or even atheist or Jewish, and we have no way to determine if they are telling the truth. Trump's proposal would keep out the honest Muslims while allowing in the fanatic terrorists.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Forget the Facts, Just Sling Mud, Part 1

(This and some following blogs are taken from Chapter 16 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom? The Case for Limited, Constitutional Government and Against Statism)

About the only exercise some folks get is jumping to conclusions and running people down.

Bumper Sticker Bigotry

Tea Party sounds so much nicer than Mob of Racists and Homophobes.”

That bumper sticker provides one of the most bigoted statements it has ever been my displeasure to encounter. When I see it I'm tempted to ask the car owner how many Tea Party members he or she has actually known. I'm guessing that the answer would be zero. Yet the accusation remains, often accepted without evidence. Tea Party people and other “conservatives” are often accused of bigotry just because they oppose statism.

The essence of bigotry is evidence-free judgment of people as a group rather than looking at individuals and their actions. That is exactly what many statists do to with free men. They automatically label any freedom lover as racist, no evidence required. The news media aids and abets the slander. For example, when some Tea Party activists demonstrated against congressional representatives on their way to vote for “Obamacare,” the news claimed that they were using racist language. Yet nobody has been able to find even one recording of such language, in spite of the fact that both media and private individuals recorded every second of the demonstration. Did lack of evidence change how the media represented the Tea Party? Of course not; many in that business hold it as an article of faith that the Tea Party is racist. (See Chapter 27 for more on media bias.)

Racist” is probably the most common invective thrown at free men, with “homophobe” a close second. Why bother with facts when you can call names? That is bigotry, pure and simple.

Name Calling

In too many cases, name calling replaces rational discourse. People are called extremists, racist, socialist, fascist etc. on evidence as uncertain as a politician's promise. Too often the accusation is regarded as proof, and the deception is often intentional. Statist Saul Alinsky in his book Rules for Radicals even devotes seven pages to this tactic. He recommends that his followers pick a target (scapegoat) and personalize it. They should act as if the target is 100% bad and their side 100% good.[1]

Of course this goes both ways. Too often even some free men do things like accuse Barrack Obama of being a Muslim. That is not only unfair but counterproductive. With so much of the media favoring Obama, any false accusation will only work against the accusers – and against anyone the statists and the media can claim is associated with the accusers. They are masters of guilt by association and will use such accusations to tar all free men with the brush of alleged ignorance.

Such accusations often amount to preaching to the choir. People who agree with the accusers take those claims as proof that the accused is next of kin to the devil. However those who disagree are not likely to be convinced by bumper stickers or similar sound bites.

There are two dangers, however. First, some people who have not yet made up their minds may accept those accusations and vote accordingly. That puts the misinformed in the voting booth and raises the probability that demagogues will be elected. Second, and much worse, all that name calling leaves little room for rational, evidence-based discussion. An avalanche of innuendo buries the truth deeper than the Mariana Trench.

In fact, the entire name-calling technique smacks of demagoguery. It is a tactic of people who want to hide truth and create false impressions. If those people had evidence for their accusations they would undoubtedly publicize that evidence. The very act of unsubstantiated name calling indicates that the accuser is not being honest, or is blindly accepting the word of someone else who is not being honest. This applies especially to one of the more common forms of name calling.

Godwin's Law

“As an Internet discussion goes on, the probability that someone will be compared to Hitler or the Nazis approaches 100%.”

Mike Godwin formulated that law back in 1990.[2] He was correct, but was also guilty of understatement. His law applies to any political discussion, on the Internet or elsewhere. We regularly hear politicians, mainly statists, accuse their opponents of being Nazis. The irony is that the accuser is usually closer to Nazism than is the accused. The Nazis believed in an all-powerful government that would control nearly every aspect of life. That has obvious similarities to today's statists, but it is the opposite of what free men believe.

Whenever we hear an accusation that someone is a Nazi, fascist, or anything similar, we should be skeptical and demand evidence.

[To be continued]
[1]      Alinsky, Saul, Rules for Radicals , pp130-136


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

World Government, Part 2

(This is a continuation of my previous blog, continuing the quote from Chapter 28 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?)

International Diversity
The one-world advocates want a single government, the same power ruling in China, Malaysia, the United States, and everywhere else. If they get their way, different countries will cease to exist. Have they considered the advantages of competition, not only between businesses but between countries? What happens if only a single model of government is available?
Currently we have various forms of collectivism, all too many tyrannies, and at least two major forms of representative government. People can see the difference; they can look at which type of government they prefer. They can then try to establish that form of government in their own countries. In fact many of them “vote with their feet,” moving to the country they think will serve them best (usually the United States of America).[1]
Should world government become a reality, the U.S. would be forced to follow the rest of the world. Those who now flee to our shores would have nowhere to go; they would remain prisoners in whatever system holds them. Those who want to copy our freedoms would have no example to follow. The United States is an ideal as well as a country. That ideal, if we hold true to it, is a shining city on a hill, providing an example to the world. World government would destroy that example.
One-world government is a terrible idea until such time as we have perfect people to run such a government. Rather than bring the rest of the world up to our standard of freedom, we would more likely impose on the entire world a tyranny such as rules in third-world dictatorships.
I close this chapter with the last paragraph of Hannan's book. After pointing out the disadvantages of the current European system and decrying the U.S. tendency to copy the worst aspects thereof, he concludes,
So let me close with a heartfelt imprecation, from a Briton who loves his country to Americans who still believe in theirs. Honor the genius of your founders. Respect the most sublime constitution devised by human intelligence. Keep the faith with the design that has made you independent. Preserve the freedom of the nation to which, by good fortune and God's grace, you are privileged to belong.[2]

[2]      Hannan, The New Road to Serfdom, op cit p187