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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Government by Delegation

Where does any government get the right to exercise authority over citizens? Prior to 1776 most in the western world thought that kings had some divine right to rule. That made sense only if you both believed in God and and believed that He had somehow picked the king of your country. Most today would reject that concept. In fact our Declaration of Independence rejects it, as indicated in the following from pp127-128 of my book, Freedom or Serfdom?

“ 'That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.' “That stood previous ideas of government on their heads. Government exists, not for kings and other rulers, but for and at the pleasure of the banker, the farmer, the garbage hauler, etc.

“That phrase deserves special attention. Government power comes from the consent of the governed. In other words, we the citizens delegate our power to the government. It becomes our agent, to act in our name with such power as we choose to allow. That simple phrase not only means that the people are to rule, but adds another requirement for limited government. We can delegate only the powers and rights we ourselves possess. We have a right to defend ourselves; let's delegate at least part of that right to the police and the military. We have the power to build roads and bridges; let's delegate that power to government. We have a right to demand that a factory not dump mercury into our waters; delegate that to government as well.
“There are, however, rights we do not have and therefore cannot delegate to government or to any other entity. We do not have the right to hold other humans as slaves, therefore we cannot delegate to government the right to approve slavery. We have no right to force our neighbor to paint his house the color we prefer; therefore we cannot delegate that right to government. We have no right to force our neighbor to buy the insurance we think he should buy; therefore we cannot delegate such power to government.”

This concept is at the root of limited government – limiting even democratic government. If 99% of the people want to enslave someone, decree how houses shall be painted, etc., they have no right to do so. Numbers may make strength but they do not make right. That which is immoral for an individual remains immoral for a democracy.