My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for October 2009

A Partial Answer for “Personal Failure”

with 24 comments

     Recently a commenter named Personal Failure asked:

What happens when private help isn’t available or isn’t enough? What then? My husband has MS. He needs medication, tests, doctors and treatments, but he was rescissed by his insurance because he failed to disclose a blow to the head as a child. (Does not cause MS.) He can get his MS meds free from the company, but those meds are known to cause liver damage, and he can’t get liver function tests for free, so he can’t take the meds. So there he is on the couch, too dizzy to walk the dog, let along work. Libertarianism works great- until you can’t work.

     I have thought long and hard about an answer.  Here is part of the answer below.  More is coming, but I try to keep each post around 500 words.    

      I do not want to minimalize the situation that you find yourself in.  It stinks, plain and simple.  My heart goes out to you and your husband.  I hope that he has the remitting kind of MS and that he enters remission soon.  I would first like to ask a series of questions and then conclude with a comment about your last sentence.

     Have you sought a legal remedy against the insurance company?  It sounds like they have violated their contract.  Libertarians are against anyone’s doing that.

     Have you asked your friends and family for help?  Perhaps each of your close friends and family members would be willing to pay for one liver test per year.

     Have you asked a church or other religious body for help?  In my hometown there is a network of churches known as the Community Ministries that provides all sorts of resources to people in need.  Maybe there is something like it where you live.

     Have you held fundraisers or, better yet, asked a close friend or family member to hold fundraisers on your husband’s behalf?  That is often done for people with chronic illnesses.

     Is your husband a member of a support group?  Perhaps they know of a foundation or private charity that could help him out.

     Has your husband thought about ways that he might still be able to make money from home, perhaps part-time?  If that is not possible, please forgive my even asking the question.  Last year I was struck with a debilitating condition that I thought would make it impossible for me to work anymore at my job.  I told my wife that I might have to stay home from school and try to write a book or offer private music lessons or private tutoring to struggling students.  Fortunately, my condition is under control–at least at the moment. 

     In the meantime, I have no problem with you and your husband availing yourself of any government programs for which you qualify.  You helped pay for them, after all.  Although I would like to see most public welfare programs reduced or abolished, you might as well benefit from the ones that are operating now.

——————–

     It is not fair to discuss whether or not Libertarianism would work in light of or current situation.  The United States of America is not currently operating under anything like a Libertarian-type government.  I believe that both you and your husband would be better able to withstand the current crisis if Libertarian principles were enacted.

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Written by ambrosianideas

October 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Libertarianism

What It’s All About

with 2 comments

     Many religions and schools of philosophy have promoted it and practiced it–the Golden Rule, the Silver Rule, the ethic of reciprocity, the non-agression axiom.  In some form or fashion, most people believe, down deep, that a person should refrain from doing to somebody else what is unpleasant or harmful to oneself.  Or in the positive statment of the idea, one should actively do to others whatever one would appreciate or want done to oneself.

Witness a sample:

  • “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.”  —  Isocrates
  • “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and your neighbor’s loss as your loss.”  —  T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien 
  • “One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self.”  —  Mahabharata
  • “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”  —  Analects of Confucius
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  —  Leviticus 19:18
  • “Whatever you would that people do to you, do so to them.”  —  Jesus in Matthew 7:12
  • “If it harms no one, do what you will.”  —  the Wiccan Rede
  • “First, do no harm.”  —  one of the basic principles practiced by ;hysicians, though not an original part of the Hippocratic Oath

     So, whether you regard it as part ot  the Tao, the Dharma, the Word of God, Reason, Natural Law, Evolution-instilled instinct, Common Sense, or Arbitrary Opinion, it’s the law that most of us strive to follow or believe that we should follow.  (Pretty much everyone seems to believe whenever they are wronged.  “Hey, you should not have treated me that way” seems to be a nearly universal reaction.)

     I want to keep what I earn, and I believe that you should be allowed to do so, too.  I want to provide for my family, and I believe that you should have all your own resources available to be able to do the same thing.  I want to be able to help my friends and neighbors in need, and that means that I want to have all the resources I earned at my disposal, so that I can better meet the needs of others.  I think that you should also help those who are in need around you, but I have no right to force you to do it.  In fact, if you do it under compulsion, it is not really generosity and not really an example of following the Golden Rule. 

If you earned your money, you earned it.  It’s yours.  You can spend it, save it, invest it, or give it all away, as you choose.  At least you should be able to.

     If you happen to be reading this and have legitimate needs, my heart really goes out to you.  I have had some pretty big needs myself.  I have had to depend on the generosity of others, which makes me willing to help others that are in need around me.  I urge you to avail yourself of whatever help you can find.  Plenty of churches and other religious groups, not to mention generous individuals, and (currently) government programs are there to help.  However, if you receive such help, please turn around and extend it to others. 

     If you do not have a legitimate need but are living off either public or private assistance, shame on you.  You are certainly violating the dicta above.  Whether you realize it or not, you are stealing, and I really wish that you would stop.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 28, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Humble Libertarianism

with 6 comments

     Libertarianism has a reputation for promoting selfishness.  It is an unfortunate misunderstanding of libertarian principles, however.  Libertarianism is about individual rights and responsibilities, but it is not inherently selfish.  A person can espouse libertarianism while being very compassionate and very generous.  It’s just that libertarians, if they are generous, want to be generous with their own money–not with somebody else’s money.  They also want people to be generous by choice rather than by force.

     I realize that libertarians come across as selfish to others, particularly to those who see the government as the solution to all problems and to those who are overly sentimental about people in need.   Some libertarians probably really are selfish, but so are some non-libertarians.  

     (When I mentioned people who are overly sentimental, I am talking about misty-eyed people who say, “We need to help the poor,” without spending even one second thinking about what would actually help them and without explaining who “we” is.)

     I recently discovered a different approach to expressing my libertarian views at a blog called The Humble Libertarian (see my blogroll).   Instead of stressing the fact that we do not want people to infringe upon our rights, we libertarians should emphasize the fact that we do not want to infringe upon other people’s rights.  Instead of talking about the right to keep our own earned wealth, we should talk about preserving your right to keep your own earned wealth (or the right to squander it or give it away, if you choose).  In addition to that, we should clearly promote our belief that we want you to live your life the way you see fit, as long as you are not hurting anyone else.

     Unfortunately I had already named this blog My Own Pie before adopting this approach.  Its title might sound selfish.  I did not mean it to.  I hope that people realize, by extension, that they have the right to their own “pie” just as much as I have the right to mine.  I am sincerely happy for anybody who makes more money than I do or who has a greater net worth than I.  Good for them!  I am actually not very ambitious when it comes to material wealth myself, so there are many people in the world who are richer than I am.  That’s fine with me, as long as they are consistent in what they say and do about wealth.

     What I mean by being consistent is that I do not respect wealthy people who gripe about “big money” or “big business” or who talk about the evils of capitalism.  I am talking about some of our entertainment celebrities and, yes, some of our politicians.  Before they preach about how bad it is to be rich, they had better divest themselves of a few million dollars and build a hospital somewhere or fund a job training program or something.

       I care about other people very much.  That is why I am a libertarian.  I would rather experience some difficulty myself than to knowingly trample on somebody else’s rights.  If my neighbor needs help, I will see what I can do to help him.  But I won’t take anything from you to do it or force you to help him yourself.  That’s your choice.  Or at least it should be.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Libertarianism

Tagged with , ,

Christian Libertarian Blog Carnival

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I should already have pointed out that the September Christian Libertarian Blog Carnival has been posted at The Holy Cause.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 21, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Talking Past Each Other

with 5 comments

     In conversations with non-libertarians and anti-libertarians, I have noticed that we sometimes have trouble communicating because we start from different premises. 

     The most important premise that seems to trip us up is the idea that freedom and control are dichotomous.  A person cannot be somewhat pregnant or somewhat dead, and to me and many libertarians, a person cannot be somewhat free.  Imposing external control on somebody takes away from that person’s freedom and makes him or her no longer free.

     Non-libertarians start from the premise that being free is not an either-or proposition and that having some external control imposed on you does not mean that you are no longer free.  It only means that you are a little less free, and that it sometimes for your own good (or the good of others) to be less free.

     Thus, non-libertarians can say that the United States is operating under a capitalist economic system, even though we clearly are not.  Some of them will call our system a “mixed” economy.  To libertarians there can be no such thing.  Either there is a free market or a regulated one. 

     Once you have farm subsidies, bailouts of private companies,  hiring and firing regulations, minimum wage, required benefits, tax incentives, tax disincentives, antitrust laws, and a host of other governmental intrusions on business, it’s hardly free.  Some people are getting unfair advantages and other people are getting unfair disadvantages, and the economy is stifled.

     I think it is important that both sides understand what the other side is saying.  Frankly, I believe that libertarians have logic on our side.  If freedom means the ability to speak or act without externally imposed restraints, then any restraint obviously destroys freedom.  That is my definition of freedom.

     Sometimes I think that non-libertarians understand what we mean when we say “free market” or “capitalism” but pretend not to.  It is in their best interests, politically speaking, to do so, because if the “free market” is the cause of our woes, then more regulation must be the solution.  However, if we libertarians are right, and we do not have a free market in America, then the problem is regulation, and the cure is more freedom.

     I hope that we can at least understand each other and recognize how we view things from such different perspectives, based on a completely different premise.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 21, 2009 at 10:41 am

Posted in Libertarianism

Tagged with ,

New Books About Ayn Rand

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Two new books bout Ayn Rand look very interesting. They are

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns

and

Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller.

 

I am glad to see such an interest in Rand.  I hope the books sell well.  I hope they lead people to explore Ayn Rand’s novels and philosophical works.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

Posted in Ayn Rand

Jesus and Taxes

with 4 comments

     People have used the story of Jesus and the tax question as a way to try to convince me to support government welfare.  For me, at least, they are barking up the wrong tree.

     If you want to explore the subject a bit more, Wikipedia has a pretty good artcle on the story that includes the context and the various interpretations of the story.

     The most important thing to understand about the story is that the question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” was not asked sincerely.  The men who asked it were not trying to find out Jesus’ opinion of taxation; they were trying to verbally trap him.  Jesus’ answer, therefore, should not necessarily be taken as a categorical answer on whether it is right for government to tax people or on whether it is right to comply.  Much less is it proof that Jesus expected the governmetn to take care of the needy.  Rather, his answer was a clever way to dodge the trap that was set for him.

     The trap was to work like this:  If Jesus said that the Jews should refuse to pay taxes, then his opponents could accuse him of rebellion and turn him over to the Roman authorities.  If he said that they should pay them, then the people, who resented Roman occupation and their taxes, would turn against Jesus.

     As he often did, Jesus turned the trap around on them, exposing them as hypocrites.  By asking them to show him a Roman coin, he was pointing out that they used Roman money, and if you use Roman money, then you are obligated to pay Roman taxes.  In addition, the image of Caesar on the coin was considered idolatry to the Jews; therefore, Jesus showed that the Jewish leaders were willing to compromise their beliefs for financial security.

     The Jewish leaders had a love-hate relationship with the Roman government.  They were unhappy that their country was under the rule of another.  However, they had worked out deals with the Romans in order to retain religious freedom for Jewish people and a semblance of power for themselves.  By retaining their positions of religious authority and limited civil authority, they were able to make a great deal of money as well as keep their power.  Jesus was exposing the embarrassing fact that they were financially in league with their Roman oppressors at the same time they supposedly opposed them on religious and political grounds.

     Jesus’ question has very little to do with whether or not citizens should pay taxes to their legitimate government leaders.  Rather, it has to do with what citizens should do when an outside power is ruling and oppressing them.  Jesus’ answer seems to be, “If you are going to cooperate with the occupying force by accepting their currency, then cooperate with them fully.  Don’t pretend to be against them on the one hand, but use the benefits that they provide on the other hand.”

     The next part of Jesus’ answer is the most stinging.  He says, “. . .and give to God what belongs to God.”  Since he is talking about the image stamped on the coin, he is talking about people themselves belonging to God, for the Hebrew Bible says that people were made in the image of God.  In other words, people should care at least as much about their duty to dedicate themselves and their lives to God as about their duty to the civil government.

     His command implies that the Jewish leaders were not already giving to God what belonged to God, and apparently this would have rung true with the common people and endeared Jesus to them even more than before.  This implied rebuke, on top of exposing their hypocritical ties to Rome, left the Jewish leaders bewildered and prompted them to slink away.

Written by ambrosianideas

October 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Christianity, Taxation