Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

THE CURSE OF LIBERTY

September 18, 2020

In science, we’re always talking about sensitivity and specificity. As an example, consider the COVID-19 test: the more sensitive it is for detecting the disease, the more likely it will over-call it in some individuals; it’s a yin and yang thing. Now, as the tests improve, both sensitivity and specificity can too, but there’s always a trade-off. Liberty is something like that.

Everyone, including politicians, plays lip service to fealty to freedom. It seems a no-brainer. Then why, time after time, do people vote away their freedom? We’ve seen the Palestinians do it for Hamas, and the Venezuelans for socialism. These are just two of the dozens of examples that could be cited. It’s because the ying to freedom’s yang is law and order, or more broadly, security. It’s not that freedom is incompatible with law and order; we’ve admirably demonstrated this for over a couple of hundred years and have had remarkably peaceful transitions of power. It’s just that it takes constant effort and sacrifice. And the people have to decide if it’s worth the price.

The sacrifice is obvious in obtaining liberty; it’s usually a war with casualties and death and a tremendous outlay of resources. Maintaining it is another matter. Liberty naturally fades, even in (one might say especially in) a democracy. Over time, in a successful society, people become acclimated to security. A free society, with equal access to opportunity, naturally favors those with greater talent who exhibit greater effort; those who have high levels of competence and conscientiousness, in the words of Jordan Peterson. This results in disparity of outcome. It does not mean that a rising tide doesn’t raise all boats, just that some boats are much larger and more opulent than others. Every good society with a conscience strives to help the small boats in danger of capsizing; this charity, or welfare, is a good thing. The problems begin when the people in the small boats begin to think those in the large boats are bad, and that the government needs to fix it. Then the charity moves to sanctioned theft. The argument about the point at which this occurs is the basis for politics and ideology. The bottom line is that democracy inevitably deteriorates into socialism which more quickly devolves into poverty and fascism. History proves this. Unequivocally. So the founders tried to create a democratic republic with checks and balances to slow the deterioration, recognizing that it could serve only a moral people.

As government and the welfare state has grown and crony capitalism inevitably along with it, the family has shrunk. Charity is slowly being replaced by government largess. One or two generations ago a check from the government was seen as failure and often shunned. Now it’s more common to see it as an entitlement and something to be sought after. Being taken care of is slowly becoming more important than liberty.

With liberty comes free speech with the downside of allowing “hate” speech. Law and order with the downside of more rogue agents misusing it with criminal intent. More reliance on self, family and friends, and the Church, and less on government. Clearly, some societies favor less freedom and more security.

The coming election is so important because it will demonstrate the net vector of America in terms of this preference. It will serve as a bellwether as to how much time remains in our current system of government, founded on the values of the Declaration of Independence and implemented in the Constitution. History tells us this. Unequivocally.

The curse of liberty is that it has in its seed the very essence of its own destruction.

THE NEW POLICE STATE

May 1, 2020

The old maxim “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has always been demonstrably true, and now, to validate it anew, American citizens are being treated as an experiment on their own soil.

Our initial introduction to the villain in this experiment, the corona virus, was scary enough to warrant an initial overreaction. As more accurate knowledge about the danger from the pandemic unfolds and its deleterious effects on the economic lifeblood of our country, our ruling class is reacting inversely. One can argue to what extent this is motivated by power-intoxication, paranoia, politics, or foolishness abetted by virtue-signaling, but the effect is the same: the institution of a police state. Examples abound. In Michigan stores could sell some products but not others (i.e, furniture and seeds), a video went viral of a policeman in Oxnard hassling a 93-year-old couple for sitting on a beach chair instead of the sand. Here on California’s Central Coast, signs proclaim that the beaches are for walking, but not lying or sitting (thus far I haven’t seen local law enforcement enforcing these asinine requirements). This week, it hit home for me when I went to target shoot sponsored by a private gun club at a state-owned gun range where the members are older, wearing masks, and social distancing, and were told to leave due to a spanking new Fish & Wildlife directive. Powerful rulers and petty bureaucrats alike have convinced themselves that they have more wisdom than we do and translate that foolishness into silly, ineffectual, and often harmful regulations. The closed beaches in LA county led to increased beach-goer density in Newport beach and Oxnard (although posted aerial views suggest people still managed to effectively socially distance). In other words, we’re witnessing an acceleration of business as usual, government creep, now on steroids and moving into dangerous territory.

There are those who’ve adopted the mantra, “if even one life is saved,” as a valid rationale for this nonsense. But, as Ben Shapiro stated more eloquently (and at considerably more length) than I on his radio show, rational public policy always has to be based on a careful valuation of opposing variables. Otherwise we’d set speed limits at 35 and shut down every flu season.

I don’t think the government has more wisdom than we, the citizens, in looking out for our health, physically and economically, and their current policy trajectory illustrates this. Further, they have a vested interest in increasing their power, so don’t expect whatever gains they achieve in this regard on the coattails of this pandemic to completely recede when it’s over.

Beware; your liberty, which has been slowly eroding over decades, is now diminishing in chunks like a calving glacier: the true “climate change.”

THE HANDMAID’S TALE

October 15, 2018

If you watch Hulu, or even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard about their original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian drama about what I imagine is the Left’s vision of right-wing values carried to their logical extreme. For those unfamiliar, it’s a story centered around the main character’s struggle in a U.S. city post Crisis/Apocalypse based on a fascistic interpretation of Scripture. The secondary premise is that the vast majority of women have been rendered infertile (by a virus?) and the prime directive is to preserve the human race through enforced and highly protected procreation via the remaining fertile women. The city is run by totalitarian pseudo-religious Commanders in crisp black suits governing a cadre of red-garbed and 17th-century-hatted Handmaids subjected to ritual rape by the Commanders, to claim the babies for their blue-garbed wives. Law enforcement is maintained by public hangings and mutilation. Black-uniformed assault weapon-wielding military types are everywhere and the closest bastion of freedom lies north in, you guessed it, Canada. I’m barely touching on the brutality of the society, but you get the idea.

The series is well-written, well-acted, and expertly produced. If it weren’t for the fact that it represents a not-so-subtle tribute to Leftist foolishness, I’d have nothing bad to say about it (other than, at times, it can get a tad tedious and heavy-handed on the message side, to the detriment of plot pacing).

So now it’s time for a series characterizing the logical extension of the Left’s beliefs, right? Don’t hold your breath.

First of all, unless you’ve been hiding in a closet, the vast majority of the powers-that-be in Tinsel town are not just liberal, but full-blown leftist. Creating the mirror opposite (in truth, both sides end in fascism) of this series would be as unnatural to them as a fish walking down Hollywood Boulevard. But more importantly, there’s no need—we’ve seen their beliefs play out in real life every day: the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, the slow, steady corrosion of life in Cuba, and the dramatic fall from freedom and economic grace of Venezuela, to name just a few.

In truth, the next series, “The Left Turn into Hell,” may come, but it will be a documentary.

A LAMENT FOR THE FOURTH BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT

May 6, 2013

Forty years ago, for a college journalism class, I wrote a paper entitled “Bias in the Newspaper and News Magazine” that was well-received by the professor at the time. In this pre-Internet era my research led me to the (surprising) conclusion that “it has not been established that objectivity is a real need” and that “it is the newspaper managements rather than the readers that have demanded it.” I also observed that “there is no evidence that [objectivity] serves the public interest” and that the desire for it “is largely due to our conditioning,” having been told that it is in our interest.

Today, I don’t subscribe to the notion that objectivity in news is a bad thing, but I will stand by the conclusion I reached that “it would be fine if objectivity were a reality … [but] we are faced with the hard fact that it does not exist, and that opinion is being fed to us under its name.” I went on to suggest advocacy journalism clearly labeled as such would be preferable.

I was taught that the media are “the fourth branch of government.” Their probing helped keep the three constitutionally prescribed branches in check. Good investigative reporting shines a light on the entrenched cockroaches, causing them to scurry in fear. Judging, however, by the media’s handling of the Benghazi affair, I’ve concluded that objectivity isn’t dead—it’s nonexistent.

The attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya came at a very inconvenient time for the campaigning first-term president. The reports from the White House were so astonishingly inconsistent one would have expected an always scandal-hungry media to be all over it. As it was, the only voices emanated from conservative cable channels and Internet sites. As the months passed and it was clear the administration was stone-walling, another opportunity for vigilant investigative reporting went by with hardly a peep out of the main-stream media.

I don’t know if the attack was mismanaged, but it is clear from the White House’s behavior that they think it was. This week’s announcement that three whistle-blowers are planning to come forward will probably catapult the story to the front pages; there comes a point when partisanship becomes so blatant that even the loyalists have to dust off their keyboards and get to work.

Advocacy journalism, often masquerading as objectivity, is nothing new. What’s changed is that it has become so intense it blinds our investigative journalists to bad behavior. They effectively become campaigners, useless as the fourth house in our system of “checks and balances.”

Without their help, in the midst of a slow sea-change of values, I fear this wondrous experiment of freedom in a world plagued by subjugation will list to port and sink beneath the waves.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

May 28, 2012

One hundred sixty-six dollars. It’s not a lot of money. That’s the fine the IRS levied on a colleague who was off on his tax estimate by $11,000. Seems fair, doesn’t it? Oh, did I forget to mention?—he overpaid. They did return the money, minus the penalty. They did not return the interest they earned on the float, although, knowing the government, it probably evaporated on a bad green industry investment.

It’s not a lot of money, but speaks volumes on the state of the ruling class and the ruled—what we’ve become willing to accept as expected behavior. Our Founding Fathers, having felt the yoke of tyrannical government, did their best to restrain it with a series of prohibitions known as the Constitution. As government has grown, and grown, it has slowly pushed the limits on these constraints. Other countries, ruled by dictators that make whatever laws suit them, run things like the Mafia with a false veneer of legality, since there is no law but their own. In this country, stretching the envelope of the law of the land’s limitations takes creativity, and time. With each small gain in government power over individual liberty there is a period of adjustment by we the people, then acceptance, and it becomes the new norm, paving the way for the next abrogation of the intended constraint of power. The change is invisible to those that have been born and raised under the new paradigm, no longer indoctrinated in the principles of liberty and self-reliance, but in the values of social justice, environmentalism and equality. Not equality of opportunity, as the Founders had intended, but equality of outcomes. If this sounds very similar to Marxist philosophy, you’re getting the picture. Funny, though, how the ruling class in these socialist nations, as in our own, seems to be exempt. Freedom for the U.S. government has become freedom to run Ponzi schemes, engage in insider trading, and spend others’ money like, if you’ll forgive the cliché, drunken sailors.

When President Obama was elected, the new First Lady famously said that it was the first time in her life that she felt proud of our country. Over the last few years I’ve felt, for the first time, doubt of my pride in our country. My love of the values that made us a unique, shining star in the world is undimmed. I worry we may be drifting further and further from these cherished beliefs, approaching the point of no return. Too many have given their lives over the years to protect these principles to idly accept this.

Something to think about, especially this weekend. May you all have a peaceful, wonderful Memorial Day.

TEOTWAWKI

February 20, 2012

I’ve been watching a few episodes of a new series, a semi-documentary called “Doomsday Preppers,” about people preparing for “the end of the world as we know it.” It depresses me. Not the idea of the end as we know it (a downer if ever there was one), but the reminder of how ill-prepared I am. Experts rate the preppers on the various areas of preparedness and the majority fare pretty well. It’s not surprising, since some of them spend most of their waking hours dedicated to the task and have thousands of dollars of stored foodstuffs, much of which they’ve raised/canned themselves, enough to feed as much as a dozen hungry mouths for over five years. I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Saran wrap in the freezer.

All right, we’ve put away a small stash of canned goods and emergency water. We’re not off the grid and, at this time, not on the fast track to getting there. I started reading James Wesley Rawles’ How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It and after getting though about fifteen percent of the book, demoralized by my lack of preparation and skills, filed it under “reference.” As if a digital book and a Kindle will be of any use at the end of the world as we know it. You can see what I’m up against.

But I’m not alone. Although a growing number of us recognize the wisdom of preparedness, most people still regard preppers as a fringe element. Until a couple of years ago I was among them. A few things changed my mind. Foremost, as anyone who has read my prior rants knows, is the sorry state of the economy. While this plays big in the motivation of some of the TV preppers, others cite fears of global oil shortage, an electromagnetic pulse from the sun destroying the world’s electrical grids, or even the sudden reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles and its attendant tectonic shifts (an every 500,000 year event).

Regardless of the motivation, some attention to emergency preparedness seems to me to be a no-brainer. There is precedent for this line of reasoning: With limited evidence for global warming that has created a hypothesis that is widely regarded as fact (in the 1970s it was global cooling), people are willing to accept this as an impetus to change our behavior. Even if the evidence is flawed, the move toward a less polluted environment is laudable (except when used as a smokescreen for a (usually socialist) political agenda). The same can be said of preparing for TEOTWAWKI. In the event of an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or massive conflagraton, assistance and law enforcement may be sidelined for days, or weeks. The more global natural disasters referenced above are admittedly less likely, but taken together may be worth a nod as well. Economic collapse, on the other hand, may have up to a fifty percent chance of realization. Why do I say this? If we’re five to ten years behind Greece, as some experts think, and we fail to change our debt-first, common sense last approach to financial management, who will be there to bail us out? The supply lines in the cities are fragile, and most wealth is digital, a scenario ripe for disaster. A failing European economy and fragile oil pipeline in the Middle East due to political instability could theoretically trigger a slide even sooner. Or a war instigated by Iran. This, to me, seems to be a more imminent threat than global warming.

The truth is, it’s easier for the political class to decry global warming because it’s more distant, seemingly more manageable, and carries with it an aura of nobility. Focusing on the more proximate threat of global bankruptcy highlights their greed, incompetence, and impotence. From the standpoint of the American people, it’s a topic that is perhaps too alarming to face head on.

Is financial Armageddon inevitable? I think we have a window of several years to turn it around. I don’t know if we have the will. I believe the upcoming election is a barometer of that will. If more than half the country feels that leaving the current leadership in place is the answer, it speaks to the ascendancy of an ideology based on equality and parity of ownership (read: wealth redistribution), and to the decline of the principles on which this nation was founded: freedom and parity of opportunity. We’ll have moved from a democratic republic to a democracy, one that has elected social justice over liberty. This will not be self-sustaining.

If the current “management” is thrown out, there is no guarantee of success (spouting an ideology of reduced spending and small government while doing the opposite is the hypocrisy of the right). However, if the majority votes for change and doubles down on it, there is at least a chance it can become reality.

That’s TEOTWAWKI I can live with.

LAND OF THE FREE

July 10, 2011

You can’t turn on the television these days without an ad for something that’s “free.” From a bonus item for trying the newest miracle thingamawhatchamacallit (that always requires “only” an additional $7.99 for shipping and handling) to medical supplies for diabetes to battery-powered transportation for the elderly or injured, it’s all “free.”

Now, who doesn’t like “free”? I know I do. Then why does it grate on my nerves lately every time I see one of those commercials? Because you know and I know that it’s not really free. In the case of the miracle gadget the shipping and handling is a thinly veiled cover payment. But at least you have the choice. In the latter examples, it’s funds being redistributed from some hard-working son-of-a-gun to someone else.

I know that there are many out there saying, “What’s wrong with providing for those most needy? If it were you, you’d want a helping hand.” I’ll tell you what’s wrong: Charity at gunpoint or by stealth isn’t charity at all—it’s theft. I’m all in favor for helping those that cannot help themselves, to the extent that the better-off are able to do so. When we do it because it’s the right thing, it enriches our hearts and our souls. When nameless bureaucracies take this, the product of your labor, and decide where it should go, and what percentage, they not only make the decision for you, they decrease your power to give on your own. I believe this does irreparable harm to the human spirit. Instead of a generation of true idealists who believe in self-sufficiency, innovation and charity, we create a generation accustomed to being on the dole, one with an expectation of entitlement. A culture of “the government will provide.”

I’m not quite the libertarian—yet. But I believe the government should be charged with providing a certain basic level of infrastructure, especially in areas where only a national approach is feasible, and the rest should come from the levels closest to home—first, the family (sadly deteriorated in our society), then the local community (charities, secular and religious), then local and state governments. Because the closer the money falls to the tree, the fewer scavengers have the opportunity to gobble it up. Besides, who knows better the needs of the community (and the malingerers) than those closest to the problem?

Times may have changed, but the values that made our country great, and could turn it around again, haven’t. The sooner we return to them, the more likely we’ll be able to return the phrase “land of the free” to the meaning out Founding Fathers intended.

THE SILVER LINING

May 23, 2011

It’s the day after the world’s end, and I’m still ranting, so this is as good a time as any to step back from the gloom-and-doom musings and look at what every dark cloud is lined with (and it ain’t Federal Reserve notes—forgive me, old habits are hard to break).

Until now, the dynamic, as far as health care and the economy in general are concerned, has been consistently negative, a fertile soil for my pessimism to take root. Yet, there is a glowing ray of hope. Growing numbers of citizens, even amongst our ruling class, are coming to the conclusion that something “radical” needs to be done. Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare is such an example. Whether New Gingrich, who in the past has had many compelling, common-sense ideas to reverse our decline, really believes such a plan is “right-wing social engineering” or engaged in political posturing gone awry, we can only speculate. But his subsequent abject apology in the face of the conservative backlash may give a hint.

But I digress. The point is that the winds of change have begun to blow. Perhaps only a breeze at a time we could stand for a gale, but it’s a start. Our mettle and our values will ultimately determine whether we have a difficult, but healing, decade ahead, or collapse entirely. If the latter, there are still enough good people to build something new out of the ashes. That’s the good news. The bad is that the in the absence of an economically strong powerhouse with freedom as its paramount virtue we create a vacuum that may allow Islamist fundamentalism to grow, as Nazism did in the ‘30s . Who will be there to pick up the sword we drop?

In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham convinces God to spare the city if as few as ten good men can be found. We all know the unhappy ending of that tale. But I don’t believe God has quite given up on America yet. We still have a lot more than ten good men. I just think the jury’s still out on which way that number is heading.