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Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Fettered Capitalism?

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     On another blog some people were discussing capitalism and socialism.  One person said that the problem in the American economy is not capitalism but unfettered capitalism.

     Wow!  As I understand capitalism, saying unfettered capitalism is redudant–like saying free freedom or salty salt or wet water.  To have fettered capitalism would be like having captive freedom or bland salt or dray water.

     Capitalism is the system in which the economy is free from government control.  In other words, there is separation of business and state. 

     The same person who spoke of unfettered capitalism said that he defined capitalism as a system in which most property and most businesses are privately owned.

     Most?  Does that mean that if the government owns 49% of property and businesses, that you can say that the country is operating under a capitalist system?  You might as well say that a country in which the government controls 49% of the churches is practicing freedom of religion.

     Actual capitalists do not define capitalism that way.  They define it as a system in which all businesses are privately owned, and in which owners may do almost anything they want with their businesses.  The only legitimate limit that a government may place on business is to prevent them from infringing on the rights of others, such as through fraud or breach of contract or reckless endangerment.

     I think that Americans in general cannot discuss capitalism and socialism objectively.  We have been programmed to charge those two words with added meaning.  Most of us think of capitalism as “the American way” and as a good system.  Most of us think of socialism as un-American and bad.  Therefore, when somebody calls somebody else a socialist, we think that the first party is insulting the second party, instead of labeling them with an appropriate designation.

     I ask, “What’s wrong with being a socialist?”  If you favor socialism, just say so.  It’s a legitimate position to take, even if I happen to disagree with it.  If you sincerely believe in it, stand up and be counted.  Shout it from the rooftops:  I am a socialist, and I am proud of it.

     What is more annoying to me than the ordinary man or woman on the street misuing the words, but the well-educated politician doing so.  In that case, it is political posturing to say that one believes in capitalism when one actually believes in taxing and regulating businesses to death.  Politicians know that any admission of being a socialist would not play well with the electorate.  It would be like telling a group of Baptists that you are an atheist or a Satanist.

     However, I would respect an honest atheist or an honest Satanist who tells people what they really believe (or don’t believe, in this case).  I would also respect an honest socialist who tells people what they really believe and does his or her best to defend those beliefs.

     Listen carefully to political speeches.  You know your in trouble when a candidate says, “I believe in capitalism, but. . .”  It’s that but that leads to a fettered, that is a socialist, economy.

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Written by ambrosianideas

September 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Watch your Mouth

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     This post is an entry in the blog contest responding to the new book, New Threats to Freedom edited by Adam Bellow. The contest is open to all and further information can be found here.

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     Speech codes on college campuses are one of the biggest threats to freedom in the United States today.  They are, on their face, contrary to the right to free speech.

     The University of Wisconsin has a speech code, but it is not alone.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education discovered 270 institutions of higher learning that have speech codes in 2010. 

     Isn’t it sad that there even has to be a foundation tracking these First Amendment violations?

      Before you tell me that free speech is not absolute, let me grant that point.  I agree with court rulings that some kinds of speech should not be permitted.  These things have been hashed out already–no yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, no slander, no libel, no harassment, and no fighting words. 

     Speech codes do not prohibit only those excepted categories of speech.  Bryn Mawr’s speech code, for instance, prohibits “offensive or degrading remarks.”  In direct contradiction, the same policy document states that “[t]he College is firmly committed to academic and professional excellence and to freedom of inquiry and expression for all members of the College community.”

     Don’t get me wrong.  I am not defending or excusing offensive or degrading remarks.  I am defending the right to make such remarks without fear of official reprisal.  I am sure that the Founding Fathers of the United States had some choice names for King George III that were offensive and degrading, and that is exactly the right that they codified in the First Amendment–the right to say things that somebody else, especially somebody in power, finds offensive.

     Since speech codes offend me, shouldn’t somebody be punished for instituting them?

     One problem with speech codes is that they give power to the “offended” party.  If somebody were to say that musicians are stupid, I would find it offensive, as I am an amateur musician.  A speech code would allow me to use the power of the college administrators to get back at the person who offended me.  Honestly, it’s a lot like childhood tattling.  Honestly, it does not harm me in the least to hear somebody say that musicians are stupid.  I learned long ago that comments like that say more about the speaker than about their target.  College students are certainly old enough to learn that lesson.

     In my example, the remark was clearly derogatory; however, speech codes, by their vagueness, could result in worse violations of rights.  I could be offended because somebody says that they admire Che Guevara.   Shouldn’t that person have the right to admire him and to express that admiration?  Then what right do I have to use the power of the university leaders to punish that person because I am offended?  The Constitution does not guarantee that people will never be offended.

     Many people believe that professors, who are employees of universities, should have intellectual  and academic freedom.  How much more so should the students, who are essentially the customers? 

     For the sake of freedom, speech codes should be abolished.

Written by ambrosianideas

July 23, 2010 at 4:06 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

To Be Fair

with 4 comments

     I’m sure that all parents have been through it.  My parents certainly have.  I have been through it as a parent.  I assume that either you put your own parents through it or your children put you through it or both.

     It usually comes in a nasally, high-pitched voice and is accompanied by folded arms and pouty lips.  “It’s not fair!” the “wounded” child exclaims.

     Taking my cue from a couple of parents whom I greatly admire, I decided to deal with the claim of unfairness by teaching my children the true meaning of the word fair.  I made a poster with the word and its definition to put on the wall and referred to it whenever the whiny accusation was thrown at their mother or me.

     FAIR:  when each person gets exactly what he or she deserves by his or her own merit or as a result of his or her own effort.

     We had numerous discussions about the implications and applications of that definition.  Because we recognize that children are self-centered, we usually couched it in terms of themselves:

     What should happen if somebody hits you?  (Answer:  They should apologize and be punished.)  In that case, you shoud accept that if you lose your temper and hit somebody, you must apologize and take your punishment.

     What should happen if somebody was willing to help you clean up your room?  (Answer:  I should give them something as a reward for helping me.)  Then do not get upset if one of your siblings gets paid for a chore that they did.  If you do extra chores, you will also get paid. 

     We told them that if Mom of Dad really do something unfair, we are willing to hear them out, and if they are right, to apologize and make amends.  However, Mom and I were not willing to hear them whine or see them pout.  We would evaluate each case as it arose, according to the definition of fairness that we posted.

     If G said, “It’s not fair that V got to watch that video and I didn’t,” then we said, “Wait a minute.  We promised the video as a reward for cleaning your room.  V cleaned her room, but you did not.  Therefore, you are each getting what you deserve.  Therefore, it is fair.”

     If E said, “It’s not fair that you promised me some ice cream but didn’t give me any.”  We said, “Oops!  You’re right.  If you were promised ice cream, then it’s fair for us to give it to you.  We messed up.  We’ll go and get you some right now.”

     I’m afraid that a lot of adults still have an inaccurate view of fairness.  They think it means having things turn out to their advantage, rather than having each person what he or she deserves by his or her own merits or effort.  I have been told that it is unfair for some people to be poor while other people are rich.  Well, yes and no.

     It is unfair for a person to be poor because somebody else tricked them out of their money or failed to compensate them for labor that they performed.  It is not unfair for a person to be poor because that person has chosen not to work or has chosen to waste his or her money on drugs or gambling.  It is unfair, in a vast, cosmic sense, for a person to be poor because that person was born with a disability or because that person tried really hard but outside forces caused them to fail.  In that case, such a person should receive our compassion and help.  It is not unfair for a person to be poor if that person tries one harebrained scheme after another or loses one job after another due to a bad attitude.  (I know people like that; in fact, I am related to some people like that.)

     It is unfair for a person to become rich by scamming other people or by simple stealing.  It is not unfair for a person to become rich by inventing something useful and charging people money to purchase it.  It is unfair for a person to become rich by exploiting or oppressing other people or by taking bribes or by extortion or by embezzlement.  It is not unfair for a person to become rich by impressing his employers so much that they give him or her promotions and bonuses.  It is unfair, in a cosmic sense, for a person to become rich simply by inheriting wealth from his or her ancestors.  Then again, it is perfectly fair for wealthy people to pass on their wealth to their children, if they wish to do so.  It is not unfair for a person to open a business and impress his or her customers so much that the business makes huge profits.

     Before we throw around loaded words like fair and unfair, we should think really carefully about what they mean.  Actually, we should think about the concepts behind the words, and what they actually are.  We should not just act childishly and whine, if things don’t go our way, “It’s not fair.”

Written by ambrosianideas

July 21, 2010 at 12:35 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

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

Ebenezer Scrooge and Charity

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     Everyone knows that Ebenezer Scrooge was the meanest and most miserly man in the world.  For those who don’t know, I’m speaking of the main character in the novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

     Scrooge says in the early part of the book that he pays enough in taxes to support the debtors’ prisons and the workhouses.  He has no obligation to take care of the poor or pay his clerk a good wage or even give a coin or two to a Christmas caroler, so he says.  The men who are collecting a fund for the poor point out that those institutions are not very pleasant.  In fact, many poor people, they claim, would rather die than go there.  So much for government provision for the poor!

     What’s interesting to me is that at the end of the story, after his reformation, Scrooge gives the charity collectors a large sum, raises his clerk’s salary, and promises to pay wahtever it takes to get Tiny Tim, the clerk’s crippled son, cured of his illness.  He even visits his nephew, who is the first person in the novel to hear Scrooge say, “Bah!  Humbug!”

     Notice that he doesn’t insist that everybody pay more taxes or that money be distributed thoughtlessly to whomever is thought to need it.  He supports private charity and takes care of his own circle of people.   I think that Dickens was absolutely correct in portraying voluntary charitable giving as the right way to live.  It’s not Scrooge’s business to make other people kind and generous. It is only his business to be so himself.  He does not expect the government to take care of the needy, as he did before. He takes it upon himself to use his wealth to help others.  I think that he is right.

Written by ambrosianideas

December 22, 2009 at 12:12 am

The Government and Breast Cancer

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     Confusion and uproar are the order of the day in regard to breast cancer screeing.  The American Cancer Society says that women should get regular mammograms starting at age 40.  A panel called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force put out a recommendation that women stop getting mammograms that early, saying that they do not have to start until age 50.  After huge outcries from a concerned public, Kathy Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, says that women should continue to get the test in their forties, and assures the public that women on government assistance will still be able to have mammograms before age 50.

     It’s her task force, for goodness’ sake.  Either she backs their findings, or the whole exercise was one big waste of time and taxpayer money.  Or is this how we “create” jobs now–by commissioning a panel to make recommendations that are harmful and that end up being ignored?

     The fundamental question, though, is why the government should determine when and how often medical tests should be performed.  Shouldn’t doctors and patients make that decision?  How does a government know if a woman, a particular woman, should have a mammogram at age 40 or age 45 or age 50?  It should be based on the woman’s family history, personal history, and level of risk acceptance.  Doctors should help a woman make that determination based on what they were taught in medical school and what the medical journals tell them, based on scientific research.  The woman should consider how much risk she is or is not willing to take, and how much she is willing to spend on preventative care.

     My sister died of breast cancer before age 40.  One of her best friends seems to have beaten it–before age 40.  She and other cancer survivors are outraged at the new recommendations.  If women get breast cancer even before age 40, then it does not seem that 40 is too young an age to start checking for it.

     Could it be that the panel wants to help the government save money?  All those women getting mammograms at Uncle Sam’s expense are sure costing a lot.  Maybe some of them will go ahead and die of breast cancer before age 50, and that will save even more money, since those women will not be getting mammograms after they are dead.

     That’s why the government should not be involved in breast cancer or any other medical problem.  You should not treat people as statistics.  You should not promise free, universal health care and then do cost-benefit analyses to determine who gets tests and who doesn’t and to determine ways to save money by letting people get deadly illnesses. 

     Women die of breast cancer.  The government should not be the entity responsible either for preventing or contributing to their deaths.  It’s ultimately up to each woman, in consultation with her doctor, to make those decisions.

Written by ambrosianideas

November 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

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