Socialism (is) for Dummies

It never seems to go away. No matter how many times it’s tried and how many times it fails in spectacular fashion, socialist ideologies continue to infest modern thinking like roaches. The empirical evidence against socialism is so strong that no sane person can object to the argument that it is dead on arrival in any version, but still it persists as an ideological “truth”. No matter how many times you poke holes in their logic, and no matter how many people end up dying as a direct result of it, socialism just keeps on keeping on.

The reason for this is that socialism on paper is an amazing concept. It pulls at our hearts because the ideas themselves espouse championing the little guy and making sure everyone has what they need. It calls for a fair playing field where everyone makes it, regardless of where you come from or what you’re doing. Utopia is an amazing idea, and socialism looks like the perfect way to get there.

The problem is that socialism ignores one glaring problem: human nature. As survivalist animals, we are always on the lookout for what is best for ourselves, not the other guy. In optimal circumstances we can find it within us to be selfless, but unless the reward is big enough we are typically unwilling to put anyone before ourselves, that being our individual person or those who we include in our sphere of concern. We will always prioritize people who mean something to us over those who do not. There is a reason family continues to be a thing.

If we accept the fact that people will always be looking for ways to advance themselves and those they care about, we start to see where the ideals of socialism fall short. When people start to have a preference for one person or group over another, conflict is inevitable. The only way those disparities can be peacefully resolved is if we all feel that the disparity is fair. The primary way in which this resolution occurs is in the way we view how society provides us with the ability to interact with those resources. In modern times it is simply the difference between equality and equity.

In a good capitalist society, the goal is equality of opportunity. If you can remove most of the unfair impediments to access to good opportunities, everyone has a reasonable chance to find success in whatever it is that they want to do. Equality of opportunity means we start with a level playing field and then let each person figure out how they’re going to reach their own individual goals. The end result will never be the same, and the goal isn’t to manipulate things to make it that way. Nothing is forced on anyone; it is a completely cooperative system and your results are determined by your skill and a bit of luck.

In the perfect socialist society, the goal is equality of outcome. The desire isn’t to put people in positions to become successful on their own, but to force those who are already successful to help those who haven’t figured things out (or simply can’t figure things out) and save them from their problems. The idea is nice, but the end result is always the same. The successful people get pulled down by the masses of the desperate and everyone ends up losing.

The problem is one of production. A small percentage of very successful people produce the majority of things, be it goods or services or whatever. This is not due to people gaming the system to keep talent in a very small pool of people. It requires extraordinary skill and dedication to produce the kinds of things we take for granted every day, and that skill and dedication are rare. This means that only a small percentage of the population will possess enough skill or talent to make a meaningful difference on a society level scale, and because of this they end up getting most of the reward. This is true in any society, be it a capitalist system that measures success with money, or a socialist society that measures success by position or prestige. It’s simply the way things work, and no amount of political manipulation is going to change it.

If we understand that resources are finite and that a small percentage of people will always disproportionately control them, then we have to decide what system we are going to use to make that allocation of control as fair as possible. Socialists will tell you it should be the government because people are greedy and selfish and won’t do anything to help society without being forced to. Capitalists say that government is corrupt and just steals our money, so trusting them with complete control is dangerous and stupid. Both sides have good points, and the answer is likely somewhere in the middle.

There must be freedom for people to make their own choices so they can develop their talents in whatever direction makes them the most productive and satisfied. That is a key part of the equation. Personal satisfaction makes all the difference in the world when it comes to individual productivity. Happy people produce more than sad or anxious people. People who are forced into things they don’t want to do will be unhappy, and that reduces productivity. On the other side, too much freedom results in the worst of human nature materializing and ruining innocent lives. Some level of external control is warranted.

This is where we run into trouble. How much external control is necessary before becoming oppressive? We recognize the need to place limits on society and we start out with the best of intentions. Then people start going overboard with the rules and eventually no one has any room left to breathe. When you start to feel like your effort no longer provides enough benefit to you, or the effort required is just too much to keep going, you lose your happiness and your productivity decreases, which results in a ripple affect across society. When enough people feel those effects, the system collapses.

Part of the problem is human nature itself. We like to believe that we can achieve a utopian society with enough government intervention, but this ignores the fact that people in power will always be corrupted if given enough of it and the rewards are worth the risk. The more we give control over to the flawed human beings in government, the worse things will inevitably get as back room deals and large sums of money or prestige or whatever other version of currency begins changing hands in exchange for special favors.

If we understand that we fundamentally can’t trust putting human beings in direct control of things, it seems that the answer truly lies in a heavily capitalist leaning society with minimal controls to reduce corruption. The ideal capitalist system has no face or ideology; it is simply about producing the most stuff at the most profit. With proper controls, everyone wins. If it’s a choice between an impartial system or a cabal of corruptible human beings, I’ll take my chances with the system, please.

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Hands off!

I think we all know what this blog post is about. It’s one of the most controversial topics in American history. We fight over it almost every day because it sparks outrage in some and fear in others. The argument stems from a fundamental difference in the way the various participants see the world, and it isn’t something that is likely to be resolved soon.

The debate over firearms is always going to start a huge argument when held in a forum where disagreement exists. The reason for this is self-evident: it is a life and death issue. Many of the things we argue about have some room for rational discussion and most people would be willing to at least listen to your side of the discussion because they have the capacity to think about things a different way, even if they ultimately don’t agree with you. Guns are a completely different animal. They are deadly weapons, and in the hands of the wrong person can result in the catastrophic loss of human life. The traditional argument on both sides hold no real value in terms of being objective because firearms inherently contain a fear component that many people simply can’t get over, regardless of how rational the arguments might be.

The conservative side holds to the idea that the Constitution endows us with the right to keep and bear firearms, and while that’s technically correct, it also contains provisions for changing the laws when enough people decide it needs to be changed. Holding to that argument is ultimately futile as more and more people grow up in a society where guns seem to be less and less necessary. Regardless of whether or not the claims of needing guns are valid, the argument is futile in the face of a growing population who is totally afraid of crazy people with guns.

The liberal argument is that we have police and military to protect us from danger, so the average person has no need for a firearm. On the surface, the argument makes sense, but when you start to pick it apart you begin to realize that no matter how much money we pour into government protection programs, they will never have the capability of preventing something bad from happening to you. The best we could hope for is that they find the person who hurt or killed you, but that will be little comfort to you or your family because the damage is already done. No matter how much you choose to place your faith in the system, you will never convince the other side to do the same.

We are at an impasse on this issue. Both sides have strong arguments that make sense from their point of view, but if the other side just can’t agree with that point of view, no amount of argument will lead to a resolution. A change in perspective on both sides is necessary if we’re going to reach a final decision on this issue. The reality is that it may be necessary to step back from the gun debate entirely to find the answer to it.

The fundamental disagreement of our time is which is sovereign: the individual or the government. We thought we had this all figured out when we extricated ourselves from the English crown more than 200 years ago and crafted a foundational document that specifically emphasized that we are a nation of individuals with rights that are not subject to control by the country’s leadership. Everything about the Constitution is laid out to prevent any one person or group from gaining control of our government and forcing the rest of us to bend to their will.

This attitude has slowly eroded over the life of our nation and people have forgotten why our country exists in the first place. Individual sovereignty is the primary reason America was created and it’s the reason why it has become the superpower that it is. We freely choose to work together for the betterment of our nation, and because we choose it and are not forced into it, we put in our best effort. From our individual right to choose we build a nation of people who want to work together in common cause.

If we begin from a position that individual rights are sovereign, then the answer to the question of gun control becomes clear. It is a very simple argument: if the individual has the right to choose, then no one has no right to bar us from choosing the methods we use to defend ourselves. When we accept that we are each responsible for our own security and stop believing in the fantasy that the government can completely protect us, it starts becoming much more reasonable to acquire the most effective means of self defense available.

The only exception to this is a method the represents a clear and present danger to others. Explosive or radioactive material in close proximity to others is a very real and imminent hazard, so some minimal limitations are called for because your right to self defense ends when it puts others in immediate danger. No matter how careful you are, a small mistake could result in serious loss of life and that is a direct infringement on the rights of those around you.

Barring examples like that, though, it is unreasonable to make the argument that any other method of self defense represents a clear and present danger to others. A firearm is a tool with a specific purpose, and much like a hammer or screwdriver, it only performs its function in the hands of a human being. It is the person who is responsible for what it does, not the firearm. In the hands of a responsible adult, it represents a threat only to those whom the threat is warranted: criminals with violent intent. It is bad actors who cause us problems, not guns. Taking them away won’t solve the issue. It just shifts how the violence happens.

Of course, the idea of completely removing guns from America is ridiculous from the start. There are so many firearms in America that even if the government somehow passed a complete ban, they would never get rid of even most of them. The moment such a law passed, those who disagree will find a way to hold on to what is a fundamental part of their lives. And the number of guns would probably see a massive spike as smugglers flood our country with illegal weapons. Much like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s, the average American will rebel and find a way to hold on to the only means of self defense they can find.

So what do we do about this? We can argue about guns until we’re blue in the face and it will never resolve anything. The argument is really about personal rights. If we answer the question of how we feel about individual liberty, then the answer to the gun debate becomes self evident. I for one believe that each of us is responsible for our own lives, so that puts me squarely in the pro second amendment camp, not just because I like guns and want to have them, but because it is the logical conclusion of one of my fundamental beliefs, and as I stated in my very first blog, the logical outcome stems from your chosen starting point.

As Americans, we need to go back to the very beginning and figure out where our starting point is. Once we do, we’ll have a much better understanding of where we’re going. If we don’t, the aimless wandering of our government policy will continue to drain away our wealth and prestige, and hopelessly partisan arguments will hinder our ability to remain the most powerful nation on the planet. This post is a call to every person’s sense of reasonableness, and I hope that this attitude can become infectious and we can start forcing the more radical people on both sides of the debate back into the shadows…or even better bring them further into the light.

It is only with the light that we can expel the darkness.

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Political Distancing

I struggle to understand the thinking of some people today. It used to be that each of us had a right to our own thoughts, and we could share those thoughts without fear of reprisal because we all understood that words don’t hurt people. The sharing of ideas is a critical part of a free society, even if they are bad ones. It is only by sifting through ideas in an objective and critical way that we come up with the most pure version of what we believe in.

The current viewpoint seems to be that we have to shield ourselves from “dangerous” ideas. Apparently the average person is so weak minded that if they even come within spitting distance of a “dangerous” idea, they will become hopelessly contaminated by it and be lost forever. It seems that the good old days of sitting down with someone and having a healthy debate about a controversial topic just isn’t something the modern American is equipped for anymore. At least, that is what many in our leadership appear to believe.

For the last year, we have been forced to live with an alternate version of reality as we deal with COVID-19. Social distancing is one of the many new buzz words that have emerged from this pandemic. Before last year, people would have looked at you funny if you said those words, justifiably confused at the idea that we have to maintain our distance from people. While I personally tend toward social distancing by default, the average person tends to want to be in close proximity to others. Social distancing is an unnatural concept for most people.

It is interesting, then, that political distancing has been alive and well for decades. We crave social interaction, but when it comes to those we disagree with, we feel a strong need to group ourselves into ideological strongholds, desperately holding on to our viewpoints in the vain hope that if we just ignore it then it will go away. Rather than sit down and work out our issues like adults, we choose to fall on the floor and thrash about like a toddler. Better to stubbornly cling to our viewpoint than risk finding out we’re actually wrong.

The current trend in media today is disturbing. There are calls by many in positions of power to start silencing people because of what they claim to believe in. Rarely do you hear anyone say that we should maybe go and talk to these people and find out who they are and what they are about. We are a society of labels, and if you have the wrong label, then you are cast out as a pariah. People clump into their homogenous groups and move further and further from each other in an attempt to avoid “contamination”.

There is another place that most of us attended in one form or another: high school. If you had anything to do with school at all, everything I have stated above should make perfect sense to you. In high school, popularity is everything. You find a group that makes you feel socially relevant. Few high school students are interested in facts or logic. The focus is on how they feel. The questions they ask are “what fun thing are we doing today?” or “who do we go pick on today?” or “what are people thinking about me?” Rarely is there ever a discussion between students about anything meaningful.

Politics today is a mirror of this mentality. When you look at what the people we put in charge are doing, it is a sad reflection of what we all went through in high school. One of the common tropes is that high school sucked for most of us and we were glad when it was over. It is curious, then, that we choose to continue that pattern into adulthood. We claim to be responsible adults, but rather than choosing sensible people who are well equipped to have intelligent debate, we elect fools who are more concerned with their own popularity than running our country in a way that reflects the values it was founded on.

The problem is mostly apathy on the part of the average American citizen. We have jobs and families and plans for our own futures, and most people rarely think about what the politicians are doing. They pass these huge packages of laws that rarely get the attention they need, even by the politicians voting on them, and most of the changes occur so slowly that we just don’t notice it. It’s like the frog in the boiling water. They turn the heat up so slowly that we don’t notice it until it’s too late.

I don’t feel like I’ve put anything in this post that is particularly controversial, yet when you really think about this topic, you should be horrified. The fact that the age of discussion seems to be over should cause you to run around in stark panic. If the days of reasonable discourse and logical thinking are over, it means we are all back in high school again, subject to the whims of the popular and in a position to be bullied by those who decide that their viewpoint is the only one that matters. It is a dangerous way to live.

The only way this can change is if we can convince the average person to pick their head up and start looking around. Whether they are Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, or anything in between, it is critically important that every person realize that we don’t want to live in a society where a small portion of the community runs unchecked over the rest of us.

In the end, these people only have the power that we give them, and it is up to us to force them to behave in the way that we as their employers dictate that they do. All it takes is raising our voices, and it doesn’t take too many to drown out these crazy people who have found ways of mooching off of our system of government for many years. There are so many more people who agree with your point of view than you know, regardless of what it is. The tactic of those in power is to get us to feel that we are alone and powerless, but the truth is that when we come together in good faith, there is far more the same about us than different. No amount of vitriol or partisanship or fear can stop Americans when we decide we are going to get something done. We just have to remember who we are and what we believe in.

We can absolutely come together to get done what we agree on, and rationally discuss the things we don’t. But until we purge the parasites from our system, we will continue to struggle just to survive. If you are reading this post and you feel alone, know that you are not. Regardless of which political party happens to be in power, there are so many people out there who are more like you than are different. Don’t allow the media to convince you that your neighbor is crazy because they think differently than you do. We are all Americans.

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The Danger of Freedom

I like Star Wars. It is a compelling story with interesting characters and an emotional message. Beneath all of the entertainment, however, lies a message of warning that many people just don’t internalize because all they see are the flashing lightsabers and cool spaceships. It is a story of oppression by a government who claims to be providing security, and the people willingly give themselves over to it. When people see hard times, it becomes easy to give over control to someone else who claims they can take care of the problem for us. The truth is that no one can solve your problems for you. You have to do it.

Human beings crave freedom. It is a fundamental part of our existence. The ability to choose our own path and shape our own future is one of the most powerful dreams a person can have. Western society has been formed around the idea that a person is a free individual who has the right to choose. Our governments have been formed around this central concept and everything in our lives is shaped by it.

Unfortunately, human beings are also filled with fear, and this manifests itself in a strong desire for security. That same freedom that we so crave is often a source of anxiety because we fear the possibility of failure or privation or even death. We are equipped with a powerful survival instinct, and it usually serves us well, but sometimes it can get in the way of the higher ideals to which we strive. When push comes to shove, our instincts usually take center stage.

It has been said that freedom isn’t free. It has a cost. Part of that cost is certainly the blood and sacrifice paid by those who came before to provide us with a world where freedom can flourish. Many have paid the price for the lives we live now, and most of us respect those sacrifices and salute those who came before. The problem is that while we respect it, we don’t really understand it, and because we haven’t experienced what they had to go through, we don’t value it as much as those who came before. It isn’t until we are forced to go through what they went through that we truly understand the value of what they have given us.

We always struggle to reconcile this dichotomy inside us. We want our freedom, but we don’t want to pay the price that comes with that freedom. It is always preferable to have someone else deal with the problems that come with making a society free, and the ideas that emerge from that line of thinking invariably lead to socialism, and then communism. It is because we don’t want to deal with the dangers of freedom that we eventually lose it. We aren’t willing to live with risk, so we give up our freedom a bit at a time hoping that it will result in a safer community, all the while not realizing that it’s all a lie.

The world isn’t a safe place, and it never will be. To believe that anyone can provide you with a safe place to live is foolish. Our history is rife with incidents of riots and violent protests, many of which were in places where the people believed they had safe communities. It only takes a moment to go from order to chaos, and what will you do when the systems in place are inadequate to respond to unfolding events?

It gets even worse than that. Setting aside random acts of societal violence against cities or governments, what about you as an individual? We trust in our police to provide us with justice, and that is the right thing to do. When someone wrongs us, there must be a price paid for that act, and we rely on our police force to investigate and bring criminals to justice. The problem is that it is very unlikely that the police will prevent the act in the first place; they almost always arrive after the crime is committed. It is very rare for the police to stop something bad from happening to you. The national average for police response time is 18 minutes following a 911 call. Even if it were only five minutes, we can imagine what can happen to us in even such a short time, and that assumes you ever get the chance to call the police anyway.

The lie of big government is that it can somehow mitigate all of these dangers and provide us with a free and open society with none of the risks that freedom entails. This is false. When people are truly free, there is an inherent risk that some of those free people will do something horrible. When we allow people to do what they want, some of them are going to want to do evil things. It is the danger of freedom.

So what do we do about it? Lock everyone down in the futile hope that it will prevent some of us from doing bad? How much government does it take to stop all bad things from happening? Is it even possible? I believe that history has shown us that there is no way to prevent people from doing bad things when they decide they’re going to do it. Criminals will always find a way to get around whatever laws we put in place. It is only those who wouldn’t do bad things in the first place who actually abide by the rules. They aren’t the ones we have to worry about.

If we understand that no government will ever provide us with security, then we have to start moving our goals toward the other end of the spectrum. The more we allow government to interfere in our lives, the most danger we expose ourselves to. This instinctively feels wrong, but when you think through logically to the end, it is the only conclusion. Even putting aside the conspiratorial ideas that the government itself will do something bad to you, which historically it does, big government can never protect you from even the most basic dangers in life. Why would we trust our safety to it?

In the end, we are all responsible for our own lives. Our survival ultimately rests on us. When we trade our personal liberty for a false sense of security, we get neither freedom nor security. Our founding fathers understood this, and we should remember it. If you think you can sit back and enjoy the luxury that has been provided for us without paying the price for it, you are sadly mistaken. We ignore the advance of false security at our own peril.

So if we already know the problem, what do we do about it? Take to the streets? Put on our tin foil hats and gather in dark rooms to obsess over conspiracy theories? Join a cult? No, none of those things are helpful. As Americans, we live in a country that allows us to make new choices and change our way forward. All it takes is a little bit of effort and a little bit of reason to find the way to overcome this false doctrine of security. The power lies in that piece of paper that we all have the opportunity to mark when a new round of elections come around. It is the first cost we must pay to ensure our own freedom. If we are too lazy to pay that small fee for freedom, then our procrastination will lead to far steeper costs in the future, and we will deserve the bondage in which we find ourselves.

The power lies with us. Don’t waste it.

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Oppression Via Taxation

I can’t really complain about my current income level. I make a pretty decent amount of money, and compared to most of the country I make a fairly envious amount of money. Compared to most of the world, I am in the top 1% of earners. I could never legitimately complain that I don’t make enough money and I wouldn’t stand around grumping that I should be making more. It would be disingenuous.

However, I will complain about the mentality my state government has adopted regarding how it treats the money its citizens earn. Rather than finding ways to encourage us to become more productive, it finds ways to make us resentful of any success at all by siphoning away the money we make so it can redistribute it to others. I’m all for being charitable, but what right does the government have to force me to be so? Why can’t I choose where my charitable contributions are deposited?

The state of California re-imposed the healthcare mandate in 2020. At the time I found out about it, I was mildly annoyed, because I felt that it was still far cheaper to just eat the penalty rather than pay for health care all year. With insurance premiums of $300-500 per month, that’s several thousand per year and it just didn’t make sense to me to pay that much for a service I never use. I haven’t had any health insurance at all for several years now and it has never been a problem. Sure, I would be out of luck if I had a catastrophic health problem, but we all take risks and I’m personally not a fan of wasting money on a maybe. If it happens it happens and I’ll deal with it when it comes. That’s my responsibility, not yours.

When I received my W2 a few days ago, however, I started filing my taxes and found out it was too early to file my state taxes via the service I use. No problem; I’ve reached the point in my career where I don’t get returns anymore, so I’m in no rush to pay. Still, knowing there was a penalty in my future due to the mandate, I wanted to find out how much that was going to be. The state website has a convenient penalty estimator, so I plugged in my information and the result was splashed on my screen: more than $1,300!

I am completely outraged that the state of California believes that it has the right to charge me more for a state program than the federal government was charging in penalties for a nationwide program. The penalty for me back when the federal mandate was active was less than $1,000. I was expecting the California penalty to be something around $500 because generally the numbers on my state taxes are quite a bit lower than the federal number, but I was completely shocked to find out how much I’m actually going to be penalized for not purchasing a service I don’t want.

When did our country become a place that compels you to spend your money on things you don’t want? I am aware that we have been taxed from the beginning and that it isn’t completely voluntary, but most of the things that comprise the significant part of our taxes paid are for services that benefit us directly. We pay taxes so that we can have a military force to protect us from outside threats. Our taxes pay for infrastructure like roads and traffic lights and bridges. It helps us find a little more security in our police forces and firefighters and even emergency medical services. We pay our taxes and, in return, we receive something for our money.

The healthcare penalty is completely different. It punishes you for not participating in a system. It takes your money regardless of whether or not you receive any benefit. The money I will be losing this year is a complete loss; there is nothing gained for the money I will pay. The cry of the colonials in 1776 was “taxation without representation“. Today the cry should be “taxation without compensation”. It is just as bad because it amounts to legalized theft.

We have reached a critical point in our country where the government has become convinced that it has the right to impose whatever rules and extract whatever money it deems necessary to achieve the goals that the people in charge choose to prioritize. It has been building for decades, but to my knowledge this penalty idea is completely new. It represents a fundamental shift in the way that the government involves itself in our lives. It is a dangerous precedent.

It used to be the American dream that even if you were poor, you could someday become wealthy if you worked hard and made the right decisions in your life. Within a generation or two, a hard working family could rise from poverty into the upper middle class, or even millionaire status. It was the goal of every American to make more money so they could provide a better life for themselves and their families. Because of the way taxes have changed, more and more that just isn’t the goal.

For a large portion of my life, my point of view has been to avoid making a large amount of money. Partially, it is because of the amount of work required to make that kind of money. Time is far more important to me than being rich, and most of the people in the upper echelons of earning work 60-80 hours per week. I choose not to do that. Even if I ignore that, however, the other part of that decision is the knowledge that the further I climb up the income ladder, the more the government is going to take from me. I put in twice the work and only get back a fraction of that back in income. It is a system of steeply diminishing returns.

This is the problem of ideological taxation. Rather than being a system that provides basic services that everyone benefits from, it pulls money from people who work hard to give to those who don’t. This is an altruistic goal to be sure, but it ignores a fundamental part of how human beings work. We always perform a cost to benefit analysis when we decide what we are going to do. There is a certain amount of cost we are willing to pay to achieve a certain goal. When the cost exceeds what we are willing to put up with to achieve that goal, we stop pursuing it. Only truly obsessive people will continue pursuing a goal with no regard to cost, and they are an extreme minority.

So what does that mean for everyone else? When people start to realize that they have to put in more effort to receive less reward, they stop producing as much. It just doesn’t make sense to continue working hard if the money you earn is increasingly taken away from you. As more and more people start deciding that making more money just isn’t worth it anymore, they stop working hard and producing what it was they were producing. When production starts falling off, the economy starts suffering and prices go up. When prices go up, people at the low end can’t afford what they could before and begin needing assistance to survive. The government steps in to keep people from falling, which forces an increase in taxes. More taxes further decreases the benefit of hard work, which further reduces production. It is a feedback loop of negative returns.

It is a struggle for me to understand how anyone can defend this idea that taxing those who perform well to bolster those who don’t is a good idea. It makes sense on the surface that helping others is good and right and something we should do. I don’t think any reasonable person would disagree with that. It is the method in which it is being done that is objectionable. Perhaps if the government didn’t cram charity down our throats, more people would be willing to be more charitable on their own, and this is evident in the multitude of private organizations that provide charitable benefits to those in need, but when you steal our money it becomes not only more difficult to even have the ability to be charitable, but it also forces us to become more selfish because we have less available to us to maintain the life we want.

Will this post make a difference? Certainly not. No one knows me and, even if they did, this problem is bigger than one person making a statement. Our country, and specifically my state, has reached the point where the people just accept what the government tells them to do. I personally will be leaving California as soon as I am able to. This won’t free me from the federal government, but it will allow me to extract myself from a place where the government has reached such an oppressive level that it feels perfectly justified in taking my money without giving me anything in return. I can’t abide such an abusive relationship and will not tolerate it any longer. As beautiful as California is, it isn’t worth what it has come to cost to live here.

I truly hope that at some point the people will rise up and stop allowing the government to abuse them the way that it does…not with violence or rioting, but by voting the people who do these things out of office. The unfortunate truth is that the majority group tends to be the more quiet group because they have had things the way they want for a long time and they don’t really notice the small changes moving things against what they want until it’s too late. Until the oppression truly starts affecting their daily lives, they aren’t bothered enough to raise their voices in opposition. I believe that time is coming soon, but not soon enough for me. I will not stay to live under that sort of oppression.

Good luck, California. I wish you the best.

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A Life Wasted

I’ve spent most of my life just cruising along and doing whatever seemed right at the time. I avoid conflict and tend to be pretty lazy. Like most Americans from my generation, I was brought up to believe in patriotism and self-sacrifice, but that instruction came from a generation who didn’t really believe in what it was preaching. The current state of American politics today displays that very clearly. You can’t really put it on one specific political party, because one side actively works to unravel the fabric of what America was intended to be, and the other refuses to stand up for what those ideals were intended to accomplish.

For nearly 40 years I have sat on the sidelines, refusing to participate in the argument because it just didn’t seem worth the effort. I’ve never been a very confrontational person, not because I’m afraid, but because I tend to not like wasting my time and effort on things I know won’t change. It always seemed that there were better things to do with my time than try to convince someone that their viewpoint is wrong. When someone has come to inhabit an idea and choose to live their life in that house, you’re almost never going to bring them out of it. That goes for any ideology you might think of. We tend to go all in on belief systems.

As I get older, though, I’m starting to feel this need to put my thoughts out into the world. I look back on my life, and while I have done some pretty amazing things, I feel like my contribution to our country is sorely lacking. I spent more than a decade of my life in military service, and while I realize and accept that this is a positive contribution to our society, I’ve never felt it lived up to my potential as a human being. I suppose I could go out and volunteer for things, but I just can’t bring myself to go that far, so maybe dipping my toe into the arena of advocacy for personal freedom is something I can do to make a real and meaningful contribution to society.

I used to say that I am a Libertarian, and that’s mostly true, but like a lot of things in my life I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to put a label on myself. Once you’ve decided to put the moniker of an organization next to your name, you’ve railroaded yourself into a certain way of thinking, and more and more I’ve started to believe that this just isn’t a healthy way of looking at the world. It’s much better to have principles that you accept as the truth, and form your opinions with those as the starting points.

So this forces me to think about what principles I believe in. When you discard the templates and actually have to start thinking about these things on your own, how do you know what makes sense and what doesn’t? Despite what many people think, very little of it is intuition. Most of it will spring from logical thought. That doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance, because we would tend to think that truly logical thought would bring us all to the same conclusion, but when you really look at logical thought, you start to understand that logic in and of itself can never provide a single answer to any question. It is a method to get from one point to another, not a perfect formula that provides the most pure answer possible.

So before we can start down this journey of logical thought to reach a rational conclusion, we have to start with some very illogical processes. Logic will help you take the journey and find the destination, but only you can choose where the starting point is. For example, if you want to get to Los Angeles, there is a logical route to get there, but that route completely depends on where you start from. If you’re in San Diego, then you take Interstate 5 north until you get there and it’s very simple. If you’re in New York, though, then the route is much longer and far more complex. The destination is the same, but how you get there is completely different. So it is with life.

So what is the destination? I think most people would agree that it is a state in which we are filled with joy. Because we are individuals, what that means is different for each of us. No matter how much we have in common, we are each unique and we each have a different idea of what a purely joyful state would be. Joy is the destination of every human being, regardless of creed. What creates that joy is unique, but it is the one thing we universally have in common. No one wants to exist in misery.

Now that we have a destination, we have to identify our starting point. For me, it is the idea of personal sovereignty. If we are all unique, it doesn’t make sense to me that we should be promoting ideas that encourage “group think” or force people to act or live in a certain way. Like most starting points, this is a personal belief and while it does have some basis in logic, it requires that I make a decision based on what feels right to me. I can’t ignore the fact that there are aspects of humanity that are heavily influenced by social constructs, but when I pare all of those things back and look at the core, I see a world of individuals.

So now we have a starting point and an ending point. If we being with the idea that we are each individuals with our own ideas of what joy is, and the universal goal of all human beings is to attain that state of joy, then we must start applying logical thought on how to get the most people into that state of being. Many people think that by removing certain obstacles we can usher in an age where joy is maximally distributed to the largest number of people. Others think that it is the overcoming of hardships that bring us joy. The truth is far more complex than that.

I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking pretty hard to get to this point. My upbringing helped me arrive at the starting point, but upon reflection I agree with the principles that our country was founded on. It is clear that we as people fail utterly in our attempts to embody those ideals, but I believe that they are pure. Certain truths are simply irrefutable, not because you can’t come up with an argument against them, but because the way we are as humans causes those ideals to ring true in at least some part of our being. I can’t believe that there isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t at least partially agree with the idea that a person should be able to choose their own path.

The title of this blog post is “A Life Wasted”. It may be more harsh than is warranted, but for a long time now I’ve felt like I’m just existing. A person needs to feel like they’re doing something with their life, and maybe this is something I can do that will take me into the next phase. It is my hope that this will somehow turn into a place where meaningful discussion takes place and perhaps makes a difference in someone’s life. At the far end of the journey, perhaps it will grow into something that makes a difference in the country, or even the world. That is the dream, but for now I’ll be content with just putting my thoughts into writing and hoping it sparks something in whoever is reading it.

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