My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for January 2010

Libertarian Platform #2

with 4 comments

This is part of a series on the platform of the Libertarian Party. I plan to post quotations from the platform and comment on them. I will explain where I agree, where I disagree, and perhaps share my personal thoughts on each item. The statements are from the platform adopted in May of 2008.

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We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.

     This plank is fundamentally a restating of the First Amendment.  Most Americans agree with it in principle.  However, most Americans are willing to put up with a few violations of it for reasons that happen to be convenient or advantageous to them.

     For me it would require the abolition of the FCC.  Whoever decided that the government owns the airwaves or the electronic signals that travel through the air?  It would include the prohibition of speech codes in any public institution.  It would require a continuation of a free, unregulated, untaxed Internet.   It would prohibit all campaign finance regulation that says how much money people can spend on campaigns, when and where their ads can run, and whom money can be donated to (political campaigns versus political parties).  It would also mean an end to the “equal time” doctrine.  Media outlets could run any ads they want without being forced to run certain ones for the sake of being fair and balanced.  They could also report on issues in any way they choose and could broadcast or publish political speeches without having to present the opposing view.

     This part of the platform would also preclude the concept of “hate speech” as a crime, although it would not, in and of itself, do away with the category “hate crimes,” which I also oppose.

     As I understand this statement, the Libertarian Party is for restoring the Free Exercise Clause.  If a student wants to pray at a graduation ceremony, that person is free to do so, and if another student wants to give a speech denying the existence of a god, then that person is also free to do so.  It doesn’t mean that the school, or the Congress, have set up an established state religion.  For the school to ban the expression of students’ religious beliefs not only violates the clear meaning of the First Amendment, but it establishes a kind of “anti-church” as the official church.

     I’m sure that some Libertarians interpret the words of this plank differently than I have here.  These are my views, and I would choose to interpret them myself.

Written by ambrosianideas

January 26, 2010 at 7:48 am

Posted in Libertarian Party

The Value of People

with 4 comments

     I heard Ayn Rand, the forumlator of Objectivism, talk about the concept of sacrifice soon after her husband died.  Someone mentioned that she had “sacrificed” for him during his illness.  “Not at all,” she replied.  “If you love somebody, then it is not a sacrifice to support and assist them.”

     Many people misunderstand Rand’s views on sacrifice.  She made it clear many times that she was against both altruism and the sacrfices that stem from it, but it is important that people understand how she used those terms.  Rand was, after all, a human being.  She had the capacity to love others, and felt the need to be loved.  When she eschewed altruism and praised selfishness, it was not in the context of loving family and friends, it was in the context of totalitarian governments taking people’s property and freedom and even their lives for “the good of the state.”

     A necessary component for Rand in her disdain for and rejection of sacrifice was the component of compulsion.  Rand thought of altruism as the requirement that one give to other people or to one’s country against one’s will.  She thought of sacrifice as giving up something of greater value for something of lesser value, especially because you are told that it is your duty.   On the other hand, Rand explained, when she took care of her husband, she traded something of lesser value (her own comfort and convenience) for something of greater value (the husband whom she loved).  To Rand, such a trade was not a sacrifice.

     Suppose for instance that you had a colleague at work who was in need, and you decided to give him your entire paycheck to help him out.  Then suppose you had nothing left to buy groceries for your own children or to pay the rent on your family’s apartment or to put gas in the car to continue going to work.  In that case you sacrificed something of lesser value (your loyalty to your colleague) for something of greater value (the welfare of your family for whom you are immediately responsible).  You did it out of altruism, as Rand defined it; that is, you did it because somebody had convinced you that to be a good person you had to help your colleague, even if it cost your own family food to eat and a home to live in and future financial security.

     People have told me that Christianity is incompatible with Objectivism, because Christianity extols love for other people and self-sacrifice.  I disagree.  For one thing, Chrisitianity encourages people to love and help others as a voluntary choice.  Nobody is forced to give up anything, unless they themselves see it as the right thing to do–and something that they sincerely want to do.

     Jesus taught that we should value other people.  We should value them at least as much as we value ourselves.  Once we place a high value on people, then it is not a sacrifice to give something up for them.  Once we see greater value in giving than in withholding, it is easy to give.  However, the New Testament strongly enjoins people to provide for their families; therefore, a Christian should never feel compelled to give to others to the detriment of his own children, spouse, parents, or other family members. 

     If my colleague at work has a financial need, and I have money in savings that I was going use on a fishing boat, then it is no sacrifice for me to give him some of that money.  It will not cause my children to go hungry or to get evicted from their home.  If I sincerely value my colleague as a fellow human being in need, then I am exchanging something of lesser value (getting my fishing boat soon) for something of greater value (my colleague for whom I feel compassion).  Rand would not have called it a sacrifice, as long as I were truly happy doing it and felt no compulsion to do it.

     Jesus gave us reasons to give to others.  He promised that if we give, God will give to us.  He also talked about the joy we experience when we give to others.  Even the knowledge that we are pleasing God is a benefit that we gain from giving to those in need.  You might even say that from a Christian perspective it is selfish to be generous, since we gain by giving.  (A higher virtue is to give without expectation of getting anything back, but the promise of a return is still there, and the joy of giving is still inevitable.)

     Jesus gained by giving.  When He died on the cross, it was because he loved us and wanted to redeem us.  The Bible says that Jesus endured the agony of the cross because of the joy that was set before Him in providing salvation for us.  He gave up a lesser value (his own ease and comfort) for what was to Him a greater value (restoring fallen humanity).  In the Randian sense, it was no sacrifice.  But as the Bible defines sacrifice, giving something we would usually want for something that we have grown to want even more, it was.

Written by ambrosianideas

January 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Out of Town

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     Some people say that I am out to lunch.  The fact is that I have been out to breakfast, lunch, and supper.  I have been on vacation.  I hope to post something new here in a day or two.

Written by ambrosianideas

January 10, 2010 at 6:24 am

Posted in Miscellaneous