Posts Tagged ‘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.


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.”


July 23, 2012

The horrific story of the tragic shootings in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater dominated the headlines this week. The usual questions of why? and how could this happen, again? dominated everyone’s thoughts. Predictably, and understandably, the legislators began clamoring for more regulations and more stringent gun control. Is this necessary? And will it work?

Looking back to the Fort Hood killings in 2009 when Army psychiatrist Major Nadal Hasan murdered 13 soldiers doesn’t give me great confidence that doubling down on the old approach is the answer. Investigation brought to light that there were multiple, even obvious, missed signals that the man had become radicalized. Clues were swept under the rug for fear of being labeled Islamophobic. The hard truth is that, while high profile, mass killings by a deranged or ideologically motivated madman remain only a small fraction of the murders in this country and are, therefore, extremely difficult to anticipate.

Our Founding Fathers, motivated by their fear of an oppressive government, made an unprecedented decision to leave arms in the hands of the people, believing that the protection of liberty outweighed the risk of citizen abuse of the privilege. There has always been and always will be tension between freedom and safety. Where we draw that line is up to us. The guns are already out there; to use a worn cliché, that horse is already out of the barn. There are reports that Colorado’s laws are too weak to prevent the sale of weapons to known felons. These loopholes should be closed—there and elsewhere. But using this tragedy in an agenda to so tighten gun control as to shift weapons from the hands of the Good Samaritan into those of the scoundrel would be misguided policy.

Preventing the next Fort Hood or Columbine or Aurora is, regrettably, impossible. We cannot place a guard in every theater and classroom in the country. What we can do is change the rules of the game. Not a single theater-goer in Aurora had a firearm to defend his or herself and loved ones from the maniac who burst through the back door on that black day.

My politically incorrect solution? Let’s arm more of the good guys—regular folks who get extra screening and training, that can circulate among us in enough numbers to provide a real, and perhaps more importantly, a psychological deterrent. I’m not looking for vigilantism, only vigilance. In some states, concealed carry weapons are already ubiquitous and I’m told crime rates are lower.

There will be those that decry the risks. And there are risks. I think they can be managed with a program sensibly implemented. I predict the old approach of more government and regulations will be wanting, and unaffordable.

It’s our choice: spend billions more on a new, ineffective expansion of government regulations or pennies on a few bullets in the right hands. What do you think?


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.