Category Archives: Philosophy

Progressivism & Liberty

The narrative of the American experience throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century is marked by a steady increase of the scope, cost, and weight of government. The trend — marked by the birth of the welfare state, of extensive economic regulation, and supremacy of the concept of social justice — is defended by subscribers of a particular umbrella ideology called Progressivism. Such an ideology depends for its coherency certain political, moral, and philosophical assumptions which, as will be argued in this paper, are antithetical to the philosophy of America’s founding; that of Jeffersonian liberty.

Thomas Jefferson, in drafting the Declaration of Independence, enshrined a particular political philosophy congruent with man’s nature; that individuals were, by right of their nature as rational animals, endowed with inalienable rights to the destiny of their own lives. From that axiom grew corollaries like the right to be free of compulsion (liberty), to engage life as one sees fit (happiness), and to keep that which was rightfully earned (property). Thus, “government was instituted among men” for no other reason than to defend man’s natural right to his own life from any corner that may wish to infringe upon it. It was with this philosophical understanding that government was inconsequential to all rights-respecting individuals who kept to themselves or made voluntary agreements with their neighbors. Government’s role was negative in nature; to stop injustice, so justice itself could remain.

This philosophical foundation was reassessed however by the Progressive movement beginning in the late nineteenth century. The Progressive “consensus” was born by discontent with the first “big business,” the transcontinental railroad. Soaked in government subsidies by the passage of the Pacific Railways Act of 1862 [1], the railroad industry was encouraged to over-produce railways so much so to the point where supply far exceeded demand. Yet, instead of prices reflecting this new equilibrium, the monopolistic status granted to railroad corporations by the government assistance, allowed them to arbitrarily set prices.

From this experiment (of meddling in a free market), grew general discontent with the railroad industry in particular and laissez faire capitalism in general. It seemed at the time to many that the rich were getting richer at the expense of the poor; that unregulated capitalism had led to monopolistic conglomerates in the industries of rail and oil and now consumers were paying the (higher) price.

A call for reform echoed across the American landscape in favor of regulation at the Federal level, instituting welfare programs for the poor, and price controls in the forms of laws and tariffs. Herbert Croly, a Progressive intellectual and editor of the magazine The New Republic wrote in his seminal treatise The Promise of American Life:

…the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth. [2]

How, one might ask, could a country in the span of a century go from such staunch individualism as exemplified by the writings of Thomas Jefferson, to varying flavors of Progressivism exemplified by author Herbert Croly?

This fundamental change came from the redefining of liberty as a concept. With the backdrop of the late 1800s, capitalism had seemingly left a majority of the people behind. Liberty as defined as the freedom from force seemed to lose favor. After all, went the narrative, it was the hands-off approach which led to monopolies and wealth inequality. Liberty then seemed not so passive; it required adjustment, adaptation, and progression to deal with changing realities of time. “Life is complex;” Woodrow Wilson would put it in 1912.

[T]he individual is caught in a great confused nexus of all sorts of complicated circumstances, and that to let him alone is to leave him helpless as against the obstacles with which he has to contend; and that, therefore, law in our day must come to the assistance of the individual. [3]

Liberty became a state of being, a standard of living. It became not just the ability to be left alone, but the ability to employ one’s own energies successfully. Wilson likened liberty to a perfectly operating machine, contending that liberty was achieved only when all parts were “associated most skillfully with the other parts of the great structure.” Thomas Jefferson’s “chaotic individualism,” as Croly put it, was far too focused on the wrong side of liberty’s equation. Paradoxically, according to the Progressives, the results of liberty, as opposed to the mechanics and architecture of liberty, defined liberty itself.

From this fundamental assumption (that individuals were entitled to equal results) came a series of policy prescriptions which included the promotion of the poor through welfare programs and the subjugation of the rich through regulation and high taxation; in other words, wealth redistribution. This was completely justified under the holistic reasoning; in order to save the many, a few needed to be sacrificed. To the Progressives, wealth was not tied to productive effort, but was a zero-sum game. The rich could only be so at the expense of the poor, and so these policies were justified in the new definition of liberty.

The year 1913 saw a wave of Progressive reforms on the national level take place; the establishment of the national income tax, direct election of U.S. Senators, and the establishment of the Federal Reserve system just to name a few. During World War I, the Progressives nationalized industries such as railroads and banned alcoholic beverages, two initiatives that would be overturned later by popular discontent — all in the name of fine-tuning the “great structure.”

The Federal Reserve would go on to artificially inflate the money supply which led to speculative bubbles throughout the rest of the century. The direct election of Senators largely removed the states’ ability to check the federal government. The national income tax, despite being reduced after the end of World War I, remained higher than before the war and remained the federal government’s primary source of income. [4]

Some of the consequences of this new chapter of government activity were obvious, like higher taxation and the meddling of natural economic forces. Some of the lesser known consequences however were the introduction of the apparatus for the state to choose winners and losers. By adopting the premise that the government could morally redistribute wealth, competition emerged to secure government favors, benefits, and privileges. J. Brian Phillips writing for The Freeman magazine put it perfectly.

In a capitalist society, in which the government has no control over the economy, there is no benefit to be derived from pressure group politics; in a collectivist society, in which the State controls the economy, pressure groups are a matter of economic survival. [5]

To illustrate this, consider the influx of lobbying in Washington between 1900 and 1920. During this decade known as the Progressive era, the U.S. saw the most interest group organizations form, including the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Medical Association. [6] Moreover, and in particular, the growth rate of non-profit interest groups was greatest during this period. [7]

Progressives, by expanding the state into the business of handing out taxpayer money, would cement the domination of capital to reign over and iniquitously influence politics (which they would later come to despise) giving legitimacy to bribery, blackmail, and cronyism.

These consequences have come to define the recent political discontent with Wall Street and Washington. Despite diverging policy prescriptions, the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement have a general agreement that over the years, the government has picked winners and losers, whether they be the petroleum or the “green” industry, and that such behavior is no longer desirable. But I digress.

The Progressive era reforms that came about during this period marked a tragic scene for liberty’s cause. Now subject to the premise that we were all our brothers’ keepers, that the individual lacked the rational faculties to navigate the complexities of life, and that capitalism was a force to be contained through regulation, liberty’s torch was drenched in a sea of taxation, wealth redistribution, and regulation. The American family would find its hard-earned wealth taxed away, now less free to invest in their future. The poor were rewarded with federal-assistance programs funded by taxes meant to pay for the legitimate roles of government, like a military and the police. Businessmen were now expected to burn the candle on both ends — to increase wages and benefits while simultaneously increasing employment, regardless of economic realities. They were now less free to operate their business as they saw fit.

Egalitarianism inherently circumvents liberty. By ignoring the natural heterogeneity of the human race, Progressives sought to impose equality where it naturally could not fit. Humans are unique in talent, skill, and culture. This uniqueness has allowed a division of labor into specialized groups that has brought untold wealth and prosperity to the entire race. It is this uniqueness, along with our rational faculties, that makes our race what it is. Circumventing that uniqueness has a substantial cost: the liberty of others.

Jeffersonian liberty, the bedrock of America’s founding, rests on the idea that individuals are means to their own ends, never the ends of others; that individuals should be free to engage in voluntary acts of mutual agreement with each other; and that they deserve that which they produce. Progressivism represents the antithesis of these simple concepts. Its dawning on the American polity during the turn of the nineteenth century brought about structural changes that gave rise to iniquitous lobbying that dominates politics even to this day; to the administrative state that continues to circumvent natural economic forces; and to a fundamentally new and perverted definition of liberty and America’s founding philosophy.

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[1] Library of Congress. Primary Documents in American History. June 30, 2010. http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/PacificRail.html (accessed November 2011).
[2] Croly, Herbert. The Promise of American Life, 21. Northeastern, 1989.
[3] Wilson, Woodrow. The New Freedom. 1912.
[4] National Taxpayers Union. History of Federal Individual Income Bottom and Top Bracket Rates. 2009. http://ntu.org/tax-basics/history-of-federal-individual-1.html (accessed November 2011).
[5] Phillips, J. Brian. “Capitalism at a Crossroads: 1875-1900.” The Freeman 37, no. 9 (September 1987): 348-351. http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/capitalism-at-a-crossroads-1875-1900/ (accessed November 2011).
[6] Hrebenar, Ronald J., and Bryson B. Morgan. In Lobbying in America: A Reference Handbook, 15. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009.
[7] Walker Jr., Jack L. In Mobilizing Interest Groups in America: Patrons, Professions, and Social Movements, 63. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1991.

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Collectivism and the OWS Movement

The architecture of liberty is comprised of the same simple concepts illustrated by the Declaration of Independence — that man has a right to his own life, that individuals are sovereign entities entitled to the pursuit of their own happiness so long as such pursuits heed to the sovereignty of others. This individualism defines the standard for which society is to be evaluated. This is why the saying goes “justice is blind” in that the rule of law applies equally to all men, regardless of race, creed, religion, or stature; why we are free to buy or not buy goods based on our own needs and desires (i.e. free market capitalism); why we value such ideas as privacy, free speech, and uncoerced association. All of these stem from one singular concept: the sovereignty of the individual.

But the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement seems to have done away with individualism in their rhetoric. Instead, they plead for the alleviation of society’s needs, the woes of the 99%, the voice of the community. To the occupiers, it seems, America is a homogeneous organic body working in harmony towards a goal of loosely defined progress. Society is thus much like a symphony with individuals working together towards a single composition. When this holistic thinking becomes the standard of evaluation, it doesn’t seem so outrageous to sacrifice some parts to save the whole. After all, wouldn’t any sane person opt to surgically remove a cancerous tumor in order to keep living if given the choice?

We see this today with the words echoed in metropolis centers across America by the OWS — that the top earners in this country have unfairly acquired too much wealth; that corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars worth of capital they should be spending; that more social services like free Health Care are readily practical if only taxes were high enough, and so they should be — all in the name of society’s progress.

In the wake of Progressivism lies the shattered rights of individuals. The rich man suffers from the premise that he is not entitled to his wealth, society is. Businesses suffer from the premise that the jobs they provide aren’t theirs to adjust in times of economic turmoil, they are entitlements to society. Every taxpayer suffers from the premise that if they sacrifice their own happiness and an ever-growing portion of their paycheck to the state, its for the (morally) greater happiness of society.

Progressivism views individuals as a collective and treats it as such. As a result, liberty’s true definition gets muddled, sacrifice becomes a moral virtue, and individual rights become easy to brush aside. America was founded on the ideal of individualism because man’s right to his own life was an axiom based in nature, not a dated and malleable concept. Until the OWS movement embraces that axiom, their message will always be hard to swallow by individuals who value liberty.

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Oprah’s Misguided Call for Servitude

With not a dry eye in the stadium, Oprah Winfrey — an iconic American phenomenon that has traversed the fruited cultural plane — said farewell to her daytime talk show audience and offered words of advice for her viewers. One particular kernel of advice she gave struck me. She said, “Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.” (Emphasis added.) I have serious disagreement with this call for servitude that I wish to explain.

Implicit in Oprah’s comment was the notion that it is morally right for individuals to “serve the world” as opposed to serving themselves. Oprah has, in essence, encapsulated the altruistic morality perfectly — the morality that states humanity’s justification for existence is to serve others and that self-sacrifice is her highest moral duty. This is an evil moral code that views man as not a heroic being of rational capacity to accomplish the most complex and life-fulfilling of tasks, but as a sacrificial animal to be a slave to the common good.

Human life is a constant struggle. We must acquire food, shelter, and clothing for our bare necessities, but we must also live our life fulfillingly by accomplishing our goals, pursing our hobbies, and live healthy. Such objectives cannot be accomplished if our moral pursuits implore us to view the happiness of another person as good, but not our own happiness. Altruism is, at its root, the morality of suicide.

There is a common confusion that arises from this critique of altruism: should we not help others? Should we live a life of isolation, ignoring the needs of others? Altruism is not just the helping of others; it is the sacrificing of the self to others. Altruism is commonly confused with kindness, generosity, or benevolence, but those characteristics do not imply sacrifice. Altruism does.

If one is to believe in individual rights at all, one must believe in the sovereignty of the individual over their own actions. If humans were not sovereign people, if they were mindless automatons of random action, they would not be bearers of rights at all. Since humans are rational animals, and are indeed sovereign, it should then be to the discretion of the individual — with respect for that individual’s constant struggle for life — when kindness, generosity, or benevolence should be employed.

Oprah is not asking her viewers to help others as they see fit, she is imploring them to serve, which by definition involves self-sacrifice. So I have a better piece of advice for people, one that respects you as a person much more than Oprah does:

Your life is yours to live. It is your ultimate value, your everlasting project. It is full of trials and defeats, elation and success, but it is yours to live. So live it, and don’t just live it, live it flourishingly. Live life to the fullest your imagination and ability can take you. Pursue selfish interests like finding and loving a fulfilling partner; like surrounding yourself with family that make you feel loved and appreciated; like excelling in a career that makes you proud of yourself. You are the ends and the means.

Do not listen to Oprah’s misguided pleas for servitude and slavery. You are not obligated to serve me or anyone else. Your only moral pursuit, your only justification for existence is to live and enhance your life. And if kindness and generosity enhances your life, as it no doubt does Oprah’s, so be it. It’s your choice, not anyone else’s.

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The Morality of the Obama Doctrine

The much anticipated foreign policy speech by President Obama this Thursday will likely be a more concise verbalization of the Obama Doctrine — a currently discombobulated foreign policy philosophy in much demand to be hashed out. The President will likely strike tones of ‘duty’ to fellow man, ‘sacrifices’ demanded on humanity’s behalf, and will wrap up the strategic posture of the United States in the Middle East during this Arab Spring.

But as we wait on the edge of our sofa cushions for Thursday, we shouldn’t expect much divergence from the President’s moral code of altruism — the code of morality that states man should place others above the self; that he has a responsibility not to his own well-being, but the well-being of others.

This morality plays out throughout the Libyan episode we witnessed this spring. The President spoke of “our responsibilities to our fellow human beings” and that to “measure our interests against the need for action” is an insufficient model and cannot be an excuse “for never acting on behalf of what’s right.” Aside from the fact that foreign policy’s only moral purpose is to serve American interests, what does the President mean by “what’s right?” Right by what standard? His standard is altruism.

In order to understand altruisms incongruence with foreign policy, we must first understand the nature and purpose of foreign policy. Thomas Jefferson once said, “It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all.” What he meant was that because each individual enjoyed certain inalienable rights, and that if those individuals wished to live amongst each other peacefully, it became necessary to delegate the use of force and judiciality to a government in order to secure domestic tranquility from those who would violate our rights such as criminals, murders, and thugs.

Foreign policy is no different in principle. Criminals, murderers, and thugs may exist in the form of other states wishing to do violence against our rights. The government is then tasked, rightfully so, to defend our rights from foreign threat where ever those threats arise. It is not within the confines of foreign policy to frustrate the efforts of dictators, or to spread democracy at the barrel of a gun.

An altruistic foreign policy philosophy shifts the entire focus from the lives and rights it was established to protect, to the lives and rights of others that have no weight or practical significance to ours. At the expense of our tax dollars, our military, and our resources, we have engaged in an unbeneficial crusade for our “fellow human being.”

On Thursday, the President will defend his altruistic morality and attempt to wrap it nicely in the American flag and call upon us to accept it unquestioningly. But keep in mind the impulses of the American Revolution and the fundamental — and moral — purpose and scope of our government, and you shall not be fooled.

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The Immoral Royalty: Why the Monarchy in the UK is Immoral

In case you didn’t know, Prince William and Kate Middleton just recently got married. I suppose it would be in good character for me to wish them the best, which I suppose do, but I seem to have a deficiency of interest in the UK Royal Family. I guess it stems from my fervent belief that they represent an entirely immoral political class; a self-imposed elite that feeds off of tradition; an illegitimate family of rulers who circumvent the proper notion of government. To explain my thinking here, we must first ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of government?” and “Which form of government is best?” I will tackle these two questions separately.

The Purpose of Government

Because man is a rational animal – and in most instances desires to live – he has the right to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. In other words, by man’s very nature, he has the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Man’s rights are not gifts bestowed by God, or granted to us by a benevolent government, nor conferred to us by a gracious society. They are inherently ours and inalienable.

I lack the moral authority to do violence against another man’s rights. The forbiddance of the initiation of force is a cornerstone principle if man is to successfully live on earth. However, if I were mentally ill or overcome by emotion I may transgress – I may commit injustice. For those who would, a collection of individuals must defend themselves. As Thomas Jefferson said “It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all.”

So then, the only moral purpose of government is to defend those rights. It’s sole task: to stop injustice so justice itself remains.

The Best Form of Government

Clearly, the best form of government is that which defends the rights of man – his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The Founding Fathers of the United States understood this moral imperative when they crafted the Constitution and its limiting mechanics imposed on government. More fundamentally, they understood that government cannot carry legitimacy if it is not powered by popular sovereignty. Such was what Jefferson spoke of when he referred to the individuals that composed society to be the “safest depository of power.”

Unfortunately political theory  is an endangered interest in the United States. Few question the authority of government because for the past century, altruistic politicians have laid moral claim on more and more quadrants of life. Government’s role has been expanded in the name of all sorts of daemons, be them charity, civil defense, or environmentalism. It is only with a solid philosophical and ethical foundation can a political structure stand.

The British Monarchy

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. While most political power is delegated to parliament and the Prime Minister, the royal family still holds substantial power over the state. The constitution of the United Kingdom, and uncodified set of laws and procedures, acts as the only barrier between the Monarchy and the state. The Monarchy’s remaining powers include the power to maintain or dissolve Parliament, to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister, and to grant or refuse Royal Assent to legislation passed in Parliament. These powers are very rarely used in the negative however. The decline of Royal Assent was last used in 1708 and the dissolution of parliament in 1835.

However, let’s review Monarchy in principle. In a monarchical system political power resides in a family chosen by God to govern. Such is the case in the United Kingdom. There is however something distasteful to make the claim that God has chosen a particular family to rule an entire country. First of all, how do we know this divine decree to be true? By what authority does God have to chose the governance of mortal men? Is the King or Queen in direct contact with God? Are they familiar with God’s will? Is there even a god?

Claims to the right to govern derived from a god are inconsistent with the proper role of government, and in fact perverts the very definition of a government. Government is a reluctant enterprise among free individuals to protect their rights from those who would trespass them. It’s very nature presupposes the consent of the governed. Unfortunately, the Monarchy benefits from no such consent. The Royal Family are not voted for. Their political power is inherited. It is derived not from votes, but from blood. This represents an entirely illegitimate form of leadership, and immoral system of government. The mere concept of royalty defies individual rights and the precept that men are born equal. Such was the very reason the American colonists rebelled from the British crown.

Incessant clamoring over the ‘majestic’ and ‘magical’ place the Royal Family enjoys feeds a perverted sense of governance. It does violence to the very nature of man. I would hope one day the English people will realize the transgression that has been imposed on them by tradition. It is high time for them to shrug off centuries old concepts and become acquainted with a political theory and system that respects the individual, holds him to be sovereign, and the state to be his rights’ defender.

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“Progressive” News Site Marries Rand to GOP

Reposted from OActivists:
Take a look at this abysmal portrayal of Objectivism and Ayn Rand.

The article seems to equate conservatives’ superficial approval of Ayn Rand’s political ideas with principled conjoining. The record needed to be set straight. My comments:

The author of this article has made the atrocious mistake of equating conservatives’ superficial approval of (some of) Rand’s political ideas with a principled agreement between Objectivists and Conservatives. I’d like to set the record straight.

Let me first make clear that Ayn Rand viewed conservatives as a greater threat to the survival of the American country and idea. She saw conservatives to be more willing to shackle the rights of individuals for their cause, slightly more so than their counterparts on the left. She laid considerable condemnation to both the left and right for their adherence to predatory altruism, their dedication to anti-reason in the form of faith and mysticism, and their complete lack of philosophical underpinning.

Rightfully however, the author depicts Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare programs as burdensome violations of an individuals’ liberty according to Objectivism. It is the forceful confiscation and redistribution of wealth that Objectivists view as morally impermissible. Of what right does any other have to the earned wealth of some? Of what right to a certain standard of living – regardless of personal effort or lack thereof – do others have? By what standard are you to deny an individual his right to the pursuit of his own happiness?

Ayn Rand’s philosophy begins with recognition of the individual as a sovereign entity with inalienable rights derived from his unique ability to reason. She refused to view humanity as a homogenous whole capable of being prodded, controlled, and manipulated into performing grandiose tasks. Rather, she viewed man for what he was – a heroic being capable of incredible feats, feats made possible by his ability to use his mind.

This article wrongly portrays Objectivism as a savage system of anarchy, of a cold and dark lawless night with no individual safe from mindless gangs of greed and profit. Unfortunately, that could not be further from the truth. It’s Objectivism that recognizes – by virtue of his nature – the individual’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. It’s Objectivism that rests responsibility upon the individual yet it does not forbid acts of kindness and charity. It’s Objectivism that grants man choice, not moral and social pressure. It’s Objectivism that grants man freedom.

It wasn’t Objectivism this article spoke of.

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Obama’s ‘Moral’ Basis of Libyan Action

It seems the ethics of altruism has struck again: a selfless war in Libya at the expense of U.S. time and resources. I couldn’t help but yell into my car radio as I was listening to President Obama’s speech last night  as he danced around like a jester trying to please the American people with deploying the U.S. military to yet another sand country. I was unamused.

The President invoked the strong chored of “responsibility” over and over again. His strongest statement:

To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.  And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

I take serious issue with this extra-constitutional view of America’s international role. President Obama is seemingly implying that the United States is morally obligated to alleviate the ills of the world. Yet we find troubling gaps in this reasoning. We have ignored the brutal suppression of protesters in Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Syria, Yemen, and other totalitarian countries, not to mention the ongoing genocides in Africa, the violation of human rights in China, suppression of the free press in Russia, or the practices of socialist dictators in Venezuela and Cuba. I mention these other dark realities not to advocate American involvement, but to highlight the nature of American foreign policy, and the President’s misunderstanding of it. Many troubles plague this world, few of which endanger American interest.

The President swears an oath to defend the United States from enemies both domestic and foreign and wields power over the world’s most powerful military in order to carry out that oath. But in what sense does genocide in the Sudan endanger American interest? It does not. In what sense does the suppression of rights in Russia endanger American interest? It does not.

In what sense does a revolution in Libya endanger American interest? It does not.

Why then are we deploying the U.S. military in Libya? The President argues we had a responsibility to defend the Libyan people — that had we not interceded, Qaddafi would have leveled towns and killed an untold number of innocent people. But who endowed us with that responsibility? By what standard is that responsibility ours to take up? The only answer is the ethics of altruism.

Altruism demands from every man that he sacrifice himself for the good of others. It is the ethic of suicide and under its mantel of self-sacrifice, it has once again pushed America into a world conflict which has no relation to American interests (interests that the President has consigned to defend).

It would behoove President Obama to become reacquainted with his job duties; to not let hawks on the right or bleeding-hearts on the left to obscure his prime responsibility to represent, secure, and defend American interests.

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Social Security is Bankrupt… Morally.

James Leroy Wilson over at DownsizeDC.org wrote a piece on the fraudulent nature of Social Security. He does a great job until he ends his editorial with recommendations on how to make it solvent, as if its solvency is the solution. I disagreed, and commented as follows:

First of all, I would like to thank James Leroy Wilson for this great article on the serious shortcomings of Social Security. He exemplifies effortlessly the fraud being perpetrated on the American people. However, Mr. Wilson’s concludes with suggestions on maintaining the Social Security system by a series of policy changes. I reject this at its foundation, and here is why.

As Mr. Wilson made clear, the government has fraudulently claimed that the approximate 12% of income taken away from individuals is safely stowed away into a keepsake for their retirement. We know this not to be true. We know the government has spent Social Security confiscations (not ‘contributions’ as it is popularly said) on other entitlement programs; we know the government can arbitrarily raise the payroll tax at whim; we know the government can even change when an individual is entitled to his own money again by raising the retirement age.

I’m sure Mr. Wilson would agree that individuals are entitled, and in fact have the right to the fruits of their labor. Why then are billions of dollars confiscated from millions of innocent, hard-working individuals? It is because Social Security is powered by an altruistic moral philosophy that dictates man to be a servant to his fellow man – that self-sacrifice for the greater cause is morally sanctioned. I reject that morality. I reject the notion of man as a sacrificial animal to be toyed and prodded with for the benefit of others.

Social Security rests on a faulty morality and inhibits the federal government to levy yet another tax upon the working individual so as to fund other entitlement programs resting on the same faulty morality. Individuals should be allowed to keep their own hard-earned wealth and either spend it responsibly with their future in mind, or irresponsibly and suffer the consequences. It should not be the case that regardless of how one spends their money, we as the taxpayer guarantee a certain economic status to the elderly.

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The Virtue of Individualism

This morning, I responded to Peter Lawler’s critique of C. Bradly Thompson’s post over at Cato Unbound on Neoconservatism. Both of which are worth taking a look at.

Mr. Lawler’s post was as follows:

Extreme libertarianism brings out the thoughtful moderation in our Porcher friend. He defends the Straussians and the Neocons from Brad Thompson’s fantastic charge that they are NATIONALISTIC FASCISTS. That means, of course, that any public concern for virtue or the quality of citizens is FASCIST. It also means that anyone who thinks there’s much of arole for government in any way is both a SOCIALIST and a FASCIST. Brad, of course, reminds me of Glenn Beck, but without even Glenn’s nuance and appreciation for some role for religion in who we are as a people.

I will repeat what I’ve said so often: There ain’t any FASCISTS around today worth worrying about. The liberals in the president’s party aren’t FASCISTS; today’s progressives aren’t FASCISTS. Straussians aren’t FASCISTS. Tea Partiers aren’t FASCISTS. PORCHERS aren’t FASCISTS (actually, nobody saying they are unless Brad comes after Pat). HISTORY–the religion of the FASCIST–is dead in any strong sense.

For us all but in different ways, the PERSON is the bottom line, with certain qualifications. The CATO people have forgotten the qualifications, of course. The greater danger today is LIBERTARIANISM UNBOUND–or the inability to think of the PERSON as part of anything greater than himself, as a creature or citizen or parent or friend etc. So I’m with the Porchers against the excesses of creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism.

And my response:

I find it disturbing that Mr. Lawler takes such offense to the concept of individualism. Lawler says:

“The greater danger today is LIBERTARIANISM UNBOUND–or the inability to think of the PERSON as part of anything greater than himself, as a creature or citizen or parent or friend etc.”

First of all, I find his implied conclusion greatly unconvincing. Is Lawler really implying that individualism represents a greater threat than idealistic interventionism? Is respect for the rights of the individual a greater threat than the surrendering of one’s mind in blind mysticism? Lawler doesn’t say.

Secondly, his flippant attitude towards individualism is disheartening. Individualism is the only mind-set which recognizes and respects individual rights as primaries. Else the status quo would be a collectivist society, with appeals to cohesiveness and the betterment of “society” (whatever that is).

In the world Lawler implies to seek, man should not be looked upon as an individual with certain unalienable rights, but rather as a cog in a grander machine – a tool for the use of all others. That is the morality of altruism, a morality that subdues man’s mind, man’s spirit, and man’s rights by appealing to a greater whole.

Individualism is the only system of thought which disallows one to control many in the name of society, God, or the state. It is the only way to maintain man’s natural rights.

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A Call for Metapolitics

With all the rancor de jure surrounding the President’s budget and budget cuts, I find it a good opportunity to bring up the concept of what I’ve called metapolitics – the concept of discussing the nature of government and law.

The discussion from both sides of the political spectrum seem to emanate from the premise that the government’s current scope and responsibility is A-OK, but curiously, seems to cost too much. So, then, the solutions are simply monetary in nature. They include consolidating duplicative government agencies and targeting waste and inefficiencies. While these aims are admirable, they fall short of the real conversation needed in this country: metapolitics.

The American federal government has outgrown its purpose, outspent its allowance, and over burdened its constituency. It has engulfed quadrants of Americans’ lives unwelcomingly with Health Care mandates. It has carried the torch of deficit spending to even more horrendous levels by subsidizing irresponsible businesses and flagrantly tossing taxpayer money into economic “stimulus” projects based on the defunct theory of Keynesianism.

We need a new conversation that begins with “why?” not “how?”. Why should the government be involved in markets A or regulate business B? Why should the government pass law X or subsidize industry Y? Why, not how.

What are your thoughts on the nature of government?

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