Maintaining Political Neutrality

We have come to see how hyper-partisan politics is destroying our social structure, economy, and the basic freedoms we once enjoyed. As the rhetoric builds higher and higher, leaders feel emboldened to implement more and more rules to tightly regulate not only our public lives, but our private affairs as well. In this highly charged political climate, there is no more thought regarding how decisions are affecting the people. The only concern is advancing an ideology. This is true regardless of which side of the spectrum we’re talking about.

The problem with grouping ourselves together into political parties is that, for the most part, most people don’t actually agree with every single policy that a party stands for. They might agree with some, or even most, but rarely does a person truly agree with every single stance of a political party. For the vast majority of people, we have maybe one or two issues that we feel strongly about, and the rest are mostly just noise. Because we are part of a political party, though, we are forced to stand up for ideas that don’t really matter to us so we have a chance for the one or two that we do care about to get some attention.

It’s interesting to note that political parties end up causing a lot more problems than they solve. Because there is a line in the sand on every one of the party’s positions, they find ways to prevent an opposing ideology from having any voice at all. If you look at the way laws are packaged today, you start to get a clear understanding of how this works. Rather than passing bills on single issues, we get packages of various things that have absolutely nothing to do with one another and it becomes an all or nothing proposition. Rather than voting on each individual issue, they are grouped together to be used as leverage against the other side.

For example, you might have a bill that contains a provision for additional military funding, further restrictions on firearms, and a new program to better fund our national park system. Obviously, the first two issues are extremely polarizing, and this the bill never gets anywhere because neither side can give any ground at all, even though both sides would probably vote for the national park portion of the bill. By grouping these bills into packages rather than voting on the issues individually, nothing really gets done because even the things we agree on become lost in the fighting.

This is the problem with joining a political party. It is absolutely true that there is strength in numbers, and I’m not saying you should just go solo in the world. However, it has been clearly demonstrated that when you completely align yourself with a group and allow them to fully speak for you, many of the things that might actually be important to you get left by the wayside. The fight becomes more about making sure our party has the power rather than focusing on what the party was formed for in the first place: getting things done that matter to us.

For myself, I have stopped identifying myself with any political party. My values most closely align with Libertarianism, but in truth I prefer to remain completely independent because I disagree with a few of the things they see as deal breakers. As soon as you start incorporating yourself into someone else’s value system, you give up what’s important to you in favor of what’s important to them. What happens if they change their mind, or become corrupted, or refuse to make any compromises at all regardless of the cost? In the end, you have to make up your own mind, because only you can look at the evidence and figure out what you think.

So what do you think about political parties? Is it time to start casting them aside? Do they really get anything done, or do they cause more harm than good? Are you willing to go against the group of people you traditionally followed if they aren’t doing what you voted them into office to do? Independence of thought is critically important to advancing society in a way that is healthy for everyone. When every idea has a fair chance to be heard and truly considered, we are all better off. This doesn’t mean we have to do everything that everyone brings to the table, but the truth is that we tend to agree on far more issues than we disagree.

Imagine what we could get done if we stop fixating on the handful of issues we can’t seem to resolve.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

Respect and Insults

It looks like today is going to be a two post day. I have in my circle a few individuals who feel like they need to ridicule others to make a point. I’ve never understood this way of thinking. I get being confrontational and forceful, because if you can’t learn to stand up against the opposition, your voice will be drowned out by the crowd. There is a difference between being forceful and being offensive, and if we are to become mature adults trying to make valid points, it is important to know the difference.

It’s incredibly easy to be offensive. All you have to do is just find something you don’t like about someone and start bringing it up in the most rude way you can think of. Our brains are wired to attack first and ask questions later. It requires no effort to listen to an opinion and then spout off any sort of vitriol that pops into your head. The first problem with being offensive is that it’s just lazy. If you can’t come up with a measured response to an opposing viewpoint, then why should anyone listen to you?

The second problem with being offensive is that it doesn’t accomplish anything. Has anyone ever said something offensive to you and your immediate response was to actually listen to what it was they were trying to say? I seriously doubt it. When we are attacked, our natural reaction is to bring up our defenses and get ready for a fight. Our goal of getting the other side to really hear us is completely washed away because the person isn’t listening to what we’re saying, only to how we’re saying it. It is a complete waste of time.

The third issue with being offensive is that our human nature starts a pattern of escalation. You look at the politics in the country today and it’s no mystery why our country is as polarized as it is. Both sides focus on attacking the other in the worst possible ways, and each side ends up trying to raise the bar to get the upper hand. Our political situation today is a prime example of why being offensive is not only ineffective, but it actually makes things worse for everyone. Instead of respectful disagreements, we have plotting and revenge. No progress can be made in such an environment.

The only way to move forward as a society is to start from a place of respect. Regardless of your viewpoint, you should be trying to treat everyone you meet as if they are the same as you. Imagine yourself in them, and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Growing up, this was taught to me as “the golden rule”. It is probably the most important relational lesson that anyone can learn. Much of human history would be very different if people had actually learned it. Our future certainly can be.

So how do we change things? Our situation today seems so hopeless, but the wonderful thing about life is that it’s never too late to fix things, and in the end each of us is responsible for our own behavior. You can’t do anything about the other guy, but you can practice being respectful even in the face of offensive behavior. While they shout and hurl insults, you stand firmly with measured responses, tempered by logical thought and a refusal to be brought down to that level of interaction. You’re better than that, and even if the other guy won’t change his own behavior, when other people see that you are behaving in a mature and respectful way they will be far more inclined to listen to your arguments than the other guy.

Something to keep in mind: you will never change another person’s belief. Once a person has committed themselves to an idea, no amount of argument is going to change it. It requires some kind of shock to force a believer out of their own ideology. Your goal is never to convince the believer, but to make calm arguments as to why you think that you’re right and they’re wrong so that bystanders without a set point of view can make their own decision. When you keep this in mind, it is much easier to argue your point because you start to realize that your effort isn’t at all for the person you’re talking to, but those who haven’t made up their mind yet.

So how do you feel about being offensive? Can you think of a time when you were offensive and it actually had a positive result? How can you start to incorporate unconditional respect into your arguments? We should never give in to ideas that don’t align with our own philosophies just because someone tries to force it on us. Careful thought and introspection are required, and logical and respectful debate is the only way to convince anyone of anything. If we can truly learn this concept, our future will be all the brighter for it.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

Fear Propaganda

Is climate change really caused by humans? Are guns really as dangerous as we’re told? Is nuclear power too dangerous to use? It’s hard to know in our modern political climate. The truth is constantly obscured under a layer of sensationalism and fear. How are we to get to the objective facts when no one seems to want to set aside political agendas and take a really good look at what’s actually going on.

I personally struggle with modern politics. It’s difficult for me to watch certain messages because I know their true goal isn’t to make the world a better place but to scare us into falling in line with that point of view. Facts are secondary to shock value, and the people in power know that if they can shock us into action we won’t think critically about what it is that they want us to do. Fear causes knee jerk reactions that almost invariably result in a negative outcome. Rarely is our first idea the best one.

This is the problem with progressive movements. While the desire to push our world toward a better place is noble, the very fact that people want to push it there so aggressively indicates a certain level of impatience that is ultimately counterproductive. As I stated in a previous article, perseverance is critically important to get where you want to go, but a goal without patience usually ends in failure because people can’t seem to understand that a big task is broken up into little tasks. Progressives want the end result right now and aren’t willing to wait for everyone else to catch up with them. More conservative people simply move too slow for these “enlightened” minds.

So rather than wait and patiently educate people on what they think needs to be done, and give those people a chance to truly look into the situation and determine for themselves if the facts bear out the hypothesis, progressives tend to bristle with anger and shout from the top of their lungs every negative factoid they can find in an attempt to shock people into action. In their view, they shouldn’t have to wait to actually change someone’s mind for real. They must convince them with fear that they just need to do what they’re told or the consequences will be dire.

This way of leading actually works for a time. When we are startled, we have a genuine reaction that causes us to act violently in a certain manner. However, once it becomes clear that whatever scared us isn’t actually causing any imminent danger, we learn to ignore that source of fear. For example, if you are walking down the street and someone jumps out from behind a corner and shouts at you, the first time it happens you will likely jump back and let out a scream. It might work again the second and third time, but eventually you will come to expect the person and it will no longer scare you at all. Fear only works when we believe whatever we’re supposed to fear as actually dangerous.

Fear propaganda works the same way. The reason things like climate change aren’t really accepted by more conservative people is that the rhetoric surrounding it has been so charged with fear mongering. At first, people were more inclined to actually listen because this was something new and we had to start really looking at the problem. Unfortunately, impatient progressives decided the process was taking too long and started throwing out wildly short, unsubstantiated timelines as to when we would start really seeing the effects of climate change. The message became incredibly inconsistent and it started to become clear that the progressive fears weren’t nearly as scary as they were making it out to be.

The same holds true with nuclear energy. In reality, fission power is one of the safest forms of energy production on the planet. Strict controls are placed on the materials used and the processes implemented to run the plants. However, the few disastrous accidents we’ve had were sensationalized to the point where much of the general public just doesn’t trust nuclear power anymore and plants are being closed. This is a shame because nuclear energy is one of the few viable green energy sources we have access to. The only thing it emits is water vapor from the cooling towers, and the actual fissile material itself is relatively harmless if stored properly. But rather than moving toward a powerful energy source that could drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air, we fixate on a few rare accidents that were sensationalized because news outlets want more viewers.

What about gun control? Mass shootings in America are certainly on the rise and no one can really argue otherwise. The disagreement centers around the cause of these issues. Is it truly access to firearms? The fear mongers would like us to believe that a person can walk into a store, swipe their card, and then walk out with a machine gun ready to mow people down in a mall. The truth is that this simply isn’t the case if you’re purchasing your firearm through legal channels. Even for something as simple as a handgun, you can’t go to any gun store anywhere in the country and just pay for a gun and walk out. Your information is recorded and you are subjected to a federal background check before you are authorized to make the purchase. If you are flagged for any reason, it is illegal for the shop to sell you a gun. I have a feeling most reasonable people would feel this is sufficient, yet we are still calling for stricter controls because people are scaring us into believing the problem is worse than it is.

This is the problem with trying to convince people through fear. It only works if the public is uneducated, and the progressive movement isn’t willing to give you all the facts because you might figure out their message doesn’t make sense and decide against them. Once the public starts to realize that the fear is unjustified, they stop paying attention and go back to the way they liked it before. No permanent change can be reached using fear. It is only when reasonable discourse is used that people’s mind can be truly changed and effective measures taken to move society forward. It is when we use respect and genuine concern for everyone that real progress is made.

So how will you use this information? Will you look at things a little differently when you watch the news? Can you set aside your fear and impatience and look at the facts in a rational way? When we can finally learn to do this, our society will be in a much better place to start making serious and meaningful decisions about the future.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

Why Does Freedom Matter?

I saw a video yesterday that had a gentleman who stated that Americans tend to be “freedom obsessed”, and it struck me as odd that anyone would view it quite that way, especially because over the years Americans have slowly given up certain freedoms for the sake of the public security. Still, there are far worse claims that can be made against us as Americans, and I know that for my part I am absolutely obsessed with freedom. While this is fueled by an emotional need, there are many good reasons to see freedom as a critical part of a meaningful life.

First and foremost, freedom is essential to a person’s emotional well being. While we tend to think it noble to put our community before ourselves, the reality is that we struggle to feel like it really means anything if there is no individual reward attached to that service. It may not be a monetary reward, but the feeling of helping others can be a powerful form of compensation that affects us on an individual, selfish level. The only way one can truly feel as is if they are helping others is if they feel as if they are freely choosing to do so. A system where a person is coerced into helping others results in a dissatisfying effort at best and resentment toward the people receiving the help at worst, which is not what charity is all about.

Security is another important result of a free society, despite what certain other ideologies might believe. While it is true that in societies with strict rules that the state itself is far more secure, history has shown us that government overreach causes far more harm to its own population than good. This is because a society that puts the state before the people is willing to do anything to those people to ensure the security of the state. It is when individual rights are put first that the safety of citizens is at its highest because no person is viewed as expendable.

Not only is individual safety objectively more likely, but we actually feel safer in a free society as well. Putting aside the more factual and logic based arguments, a person living in a free society will tend to be happier because he believes that he is generally safe from the oppression of others. He may become unlucky and fall victim to some random act, but on a daily basis he has no conscious fear that something bad will happen to him. There is an explicit social agreement that it is not acceptable to harm others for personal gain, and there will be consequences for anyone who does so. Though the state is not able to impose strict safety measures to protect its citizens, a truly free society still feels safer because there is far more chance of danger from a huge, omnipresent government than from some random person on the street.

Another very important aspect of a free society is the advancement of society in general. It is clear that countries with open and free societies display a much higher rate of progress in the fields of science, economics, and artistic expression. Every example of communist or heavily socialist countries have shown that they are generally unable to develop anything truly revolutionary on their own and are forced to receive that information from more open societies, typically through the use of espionage. This is because innovation requires a new way of thinking, and state run societies tend to discourage new thinking to protect itself from revolutions.

When a society limits the rules they place on themselves, individual people feel more free and are more willing to take certain chances. A person sees the potential for personal reward for opening a new business and takes on the risk of a loan to see if he can make it happen. Inventors spend their free time coming up with useful new things because they think they might discover something the brings them success. Activists feel free to come together and demonstrate for a cause because they feel strongly about it, and are able to make their voices heard because we agree they have the right to do so.

None of these things are truly possible in a society where individual freedom is not the primary goal. The future business owner does not take the risk because there is no longer any meaningful reward for him. Most or all of the effort he puts into his own company benefits the state, not himself. Fewer inventors are willing to spend their time coming up with amazing new things because if they did come up with something useful, the government will take that idea “for the good of the public”. What benefit is that to him? And of course activists will no longer have a voice because in a restrictive society voices of dissent are actively silenced. Even the people who pushed for that government in the first place become enemies when they finally express a point of view that doesn’t align with the current regime.

Lastly, basic human rights simply aren’t a thing in countries where the state is more important that the people. Putting aside the safety of citizens, which we discussed earlier, a country where the state is the driving force is far more likely to commit acts of atrocity against others. When a faceless committee that holds state security ahead of human dignity has the power of life and death in their hands, the result is almost always the same. A group of people, or even another nation, who have become a nuisance lose their right to life and are forcibly silenced through “relocation” or murder or war. A state centric government has no value for individual life because it can justify taking that life for the greater good. And when it becomes acceptable to take one life purely to silence dissenting opinions, it isn’t long before it is a daily occurrence on a far grander scale.

People use the phrase “slippery slope” quite a lot these days. For many things this is an exaggeration, but when it comes to individual liberty history has shown that the slippery slope is a real thing and constant care is required to guard against it. When people begin to give up their own freedom for the sake of security, we run into two problems.

The first is that any sense of security is purely false. The government can no more protect you from random incidents than you can. They can’t even reduce the likelihood of it happening to you. They just make you feel like they can, and that makes you far less safe because you lower your guard and stop paying attention. You are at far greater risk from harm from a large and powerful government than from some random person on the street, and that false feeling of safety makes you feel protected from the smaller danger and blinds you to the bigger one.

The second is that each of us has some particular freedom that we simply can’t bear to lose. It might be the freedom to travel where you want, or the freedom to protect yourself in the manner that you choose, or perhaps the ability to work in whatever career field you wish to. Whatever the freedom is, we all have at least one thing that we feel no one has the right to determine for us. When we start allowing anyone’s freedom to be reduced, we start running a very real risk that the freedom that is important to us ends up being taken away as well when enough people start to believe it is a threat. How will you feel then?

This is why freedom is important. Not just your freedom, but the freedom of the person you disagree with. You may not agree with their point of view, but if you start to understand that their right to choose is equally important to your own, it becomes much harder to suggest that laws should be pass that prevent that person from doing something that they feel should be their own free choice. When you imagine how you would feel if your own right to choose was taken away for something you feel strongly about and use that feeling to empathize with that person, it becomes almost impossible.

So how does this knowledge help you to live a more free life? Does thinking about other people more like yourself change your perspective? Could you truly empathize with someone who holds a different view from you and concede that maybe they deserve to choose their own way just as you do? The conversations in our country would be far more productive and civil if everyone thought this way, and I certainly hope that the type of message contained in this post is something that finally catches on and spreads. We need it so very badly, but it can only happen if people start listening to and sharing this idea with others. Will you?

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

Fundamental Rights

I was thinking about this in light of some of the things I’ve been watching and reading lately and I wanted to put it down in writing before the train of thought left me. One of the biggest debates going on in our modern society today is about rights. What constitutes a right and how are we to interact with them? It’s difficult to come to a consensus on this issue.

Every issue we have stems from this very topic, from gender politics to gun control to welfare. It is the definition of a right versus what the majority of people think about it that causes so many issues. For example, the right to freedom of speech is an American value that virtually all citizens agree with. We do so because we value individual freedom and the ability to express ourselves our way without being stifled by anyone else. Very few people in the United States would disagree that self expression is an important part of a free society.

On the other side is the contentious topic of the Second Amendment. A growing portion of the country has come to feel that firearms have no place in a civilized society and have campaigned for their removal. It used to be felt that a person had the right to defend himself from any danger in whatever way he felt was necessary, but more and more the government is restricting our access to the ability to effectively defend ourselves. What was once a mostly undisputed right has now become a privilege in some parts of the country. For example, in some parts of California, it is nearly impossible to obtain a license to carry a firearm on your person (“bear arms”) in public. It is a direct infringement on our right to self defense.

The problem with this viewpoint is that we are not settling on a set definition of what constitutes a right, and that causes so much confusion in our politics. A right is something that is a default part of who we are as individuals. It is something that cannot be dictated by others. It is something that applies to every person in the entire world, regardless of government or creed or any other social construct. It is inherent in who we are.

The Bill of Rights isn’t really what empowers us with the rights we enjoy as Americans. That document can be torn up and discarded at any moment if we so choose. A piece of paper has no power by itself. What the Bill of Rights does is put down in writing what we all know to be fundamental rights attributable to all human beings. They are what we intuitively understand are part of what it means to be individuals. They are immutable and not open to debate.

You can argue the finer points of how we interpret these rights, but fundamental rights are a part of the human condition. Freedom of expression is something that every person in the world longs for. No one can seriously argue that a person has no right to defend themselves from harm, physical or otherwise. Privacy is an important part of being an individual, as without privacy you can never develop your own way of looking at the world. Individual rights are fundamental exactly because we are a world of individuals. We may come together in common cause, but at the end of the day we each make our own decisions. We are not a hive mind, and our will is our own.

The purpose of this post isn’t to extol the virtues of any one specific right, but to point out that these rights do exist and we need to understand what they are and what they aren’t. A right is something that only you have the power to exercise. It is not something that is bestowed to you by someone else. No one can give them to you. It is for you to hold them and protect them.

Things like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms are not something that anyone can give to you. You choose to express yourself or not; to defend yourself or not. No one else has any obligation at all to express your point of view for you or protect you from harm. Many may choose to, but it is exactly that they have that choice that your rights are yours alone. If you have to force someone else to do it, it isn’t a right.

An example of this is health care. Many people have come to view this as a basic right, but this is directly contrary to the idea that rights only apply at the individual level. You can’t force someone to become a doctor, and even if you tried, the care they provide would be vastly inferior to someone who had a passion for healing people. Would you jail them for failing to provide proper healthcare? What then? Who would replace them? Another person who cares nothing about medicine but is a doctor now because there is a quota? No matter how much money you spend, you can’t make someone a good doctor when he doesn’t care.

This is the problem with the idea that we can engineer a society. When you start deciding that it is necessary to impose things on people you are starting to push against the fundamental rights of those people. It is when we choose our own way that we become the best version of ourselves. The freedom to make our own choices is paramount to anything else. The attempt to force a way on someone else violates those rights.

This is not to say that certain things are not good because they put the needs of the community before those of the individual. Most people would agree that there are many things in which it is virtuous to make sacrifices for the greater good. However, it is necessary to differentiate between sacrifices made voluntarily and those that are forced upon individuals who disagree. That is what makes all the difference.

Charity is a prime example of this. When a person receives their paycheck and chooses to give a portion of it to help others, that is something almost anyone would see as a good thing. However, when the government slices out a portion of that check via taxes so it can be given as charity in the form of welfare programs, the outcome may still be good, but the method violates the right of the individual to choose to not be charitable, or at the very least choose what cause to give his money to. The decision is made for him and he has no say in the matter. And if he tries not paying his taxes because he disagrees, either his money is stolen from him or he is put in jail. His right to choose how he spends his resources has been taken away.

When we look at what it is that makes us human, we can’t ignore individuality. No matter how many of us might agree on a topic, there will always be those who don’t and it is fundamentally wrong to force our ways on them. We know this to be true because we know that we would feel violated if those people found a way to force their ideology on us. This is why we established from the outset that we would specifically recognize that we have individual rights that are encoded into our system of government. The hope was that we wouldn’t have to fight for them again because it is a default part of our nation.

There are many who want to wipe out individual liberty because they feel threatened by the ideas or actions of others, or find them to be an impediment to their own ambitions. What they fail to realize is that these fundamental rights are a core part of who we are as human beings, and eventually that part of us that craves individuality will lash out when we realize that there is no other option. When we are backed into a corner and the only option is force, we will rise up against those who try to oppress us. It is just who we are.

So before you start thinking that your favorite idea is a right, ask yourself this question: is this something that someone else has to do for me? If the answer is yes, then it is not a right and it is not something you should be trying to force one someone else. Our fundamental rights give us the ability to reject the thoughts and opinions of others, regardless of the reasons, and you have no right to force your ways on others, whether that be through coercion, government, or physical violence.

You do so at your own peril.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

Racism is Back…and It Sucks Just as Bad

I have to take a break from talking about some of the more esoteric and self-motivational things I’ve been writing about lately. This morning I watched a video about the “8 White Identities“, which is basically a chart that describes what the creators believe are the different types of white people in America. It is the most appalling thing I’ve seen in a while.

According to this chart, people fall into a spectrum that ranges from full on white supremacy on one end to complete anti-white activism on the other. Among the groups included are those who are “white privileged” or “white benefited” and those who are “white confessional” or “white traitor”. There are descriptions for all of these included with the chart. The gist of the list is that at one end you are a terrible person because you love your race and at the other end you are a great person because you want to completely purge “whiteness” from society. I’m not sure how either end of the spectrum could be considered good, but racism is never rational.

The appalling part isn’t that someone created this chart and that it is making the rounds amongst the usual suspects. What’s scary is that this is being sanctioned and included as part of the New York public school system. This document attempts to convince the reader that regardless of your attitude toward racism, if you are white you are an obstacle to be overcome. Institutionalized racism has returned to not only our government, but now our public school system. Young, impressionable minds are once again being indoctrinated into the forms of racism that were once found abhorrent and evil.

This new racist movement is primarily the work of two different groups of people. The first are those who want revenge for the racism this country endured for most of its history. It is a terrible group of people who aren’t able to forgive and move on and want to force someone to suffer for what happened to their ancestors. Rather than focusing their efforts on making a better life for themselves, they would rather pull down the people around them so they can feel better about the fact that their lives aren’t what they wish it would be. It’s easier to tear other people down than to build yourself up.

The second group is even worse than the first. It is the group of people who have no moral values and are willing to align themselves with any ideology that gives them an opportunity for money or power. The first group at least has a principle they truly believe in. This second group cares only for their own position. They will do whatever it takes and hurt whoever needs to be hurt to get what they want.

When ideology meets opportunism, it becomes a deadly weapon. We have seen many times in the past how racist sentiment turned into violent action against people who were innocent and did not deserve what happened to them. After a long struggle, we finally made it to a place where racism was truly starting to fade into the past, but now it is being dragged back into the forefront to start a new conflict that will tear into the fabric of our society.

Make no mistake: racism is racism regardless of what race it is against. If your attitude is that a person’s skin color defines how you treat them, you are a racist. The idea that somehow the only way to get rid of racism is to shame white people into giving up everything they have is ridiculous. It is a ridiculous attempt to fight perceived racism with more racism. No reasonable person should ever look at any document that talks about racial equity of any kind and think it is a good thing. That kind of thinking misses the point entirely.

There is a maxim that states that two wrongs don’t make a right. Revenge is no way to move a society forward. When you hurt one group of people, they inevitably become angry and want to hurt you back. If both sides continue retaliating, things get worse, not better. It is understandable that certain communities feel hurt by what has happened in our past. There is nothing wrong with that and we should do everything we can to help those who have suffered find a way to make their lives better. Where we run into trouble is when people start thinking that we should start hurting others as a form of justice. There is no revenge in justice.

The true way to remove racism from our society is the one way that some people just don’t want to hear: remove race from the conversation. All mention of race needs to be removed from our dialogue. Our laws need to have the concept of race completely removed. There should be no structure that provides any advantage or disadvantaged based on what ethnicity you belong to. When someone brings up race as a basis for any sort of action, good or bad, they should be shamed into silence. We are human beings; the color of your skin shouldn’t matter.

Unfortunately, it seems that the fight against racism will continue on. We just don’t seem to know how to let it die. This next battle should be about removing all racial identity from our thinking, because until we are able to put aside our obsession with skin color, our society will never find any real peace. It seems that the side of hatred is making their move and it is up to those of us who value peace to stand up to it. We can’t allow this kind of thinking to become the norm.

I put it to you, reader, to examine your own feelings and decide what group you want to belong to. History will record what we do and we will be judged for the attitudes we choose to cling to. Will you push the ideology of revenge, or will you stand up for unity?

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

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.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

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.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

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.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!

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.

Join 167 other followers

If you liked this post and would like to support the blog, please visit the support page!