Category Archives: Philosophy

He Said That? 2/19/17

Hat tip to The Burning Platform for today’s quote, from Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), American financial journalist, author, and editor:

The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects – his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity.

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“As ye sow…” by Robert Gore

Our deranged world is a product of deranged minds.

Philosophy begins with invariably difficult questions. Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Is there a god or gods? What is right and what is wrong? How should groups of people be organized and function together? Ironically, when such questions are infrequently asked, when philosophy is generally ignored or disparaged, as it is now, is when it’s needed the most.

Political philosophy is the branch that addresses the question of how coercive power is to be distributed in a society. It’s a knotty issue, but one question provides clarification, enabling further analysis and leading to useful conclusions. Who owns a political unit’s resources? This question differentiates between governments that protect individual rights and property and those that don’t. It also highlights a key problem: on planet earth, every government falls into the latter category.

DERANGED: Prime deceit could be TAKEN FROM CURRENT HEADLINES

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The United States’ founding documents pay tribute to individual rights and private properly. Some of the founders may have thought they were establishing a government subordinated to protection of individual rights, which would have been an historical first. However, none thought such a government would be easy to maintain, and their fears were borne out. The US government places prominently on the inglorious list of governments claiming ownership over everything within their dominion, defined as any place where they can exercise their coercive power.

To those who say the institution of inviolate private property still exists in the US, what asset can the US government not seize? The income tax gives it first claim on income. No real estate is exempt from eminent domain. Intellectual property claims are at the sufferance of the patent, trademark, and copyright authorities. Financial assets held within the banking system can be “bailed in,” and plans are afoot to ban cash. The already extensive range of assets subjected to civil asset forfeiture continues to expand. More ominously, assets can be seized from parties never adjudicated guilty. Conscription grants to the government the lives of the conscripted. The US government is no exception to the general rule, nothing is inviolate except perhaps a person’s thoughts, and undoubtedly it’s working on that.

Individuals who assert the right to initiate aggression against whomever they choose are philosophically unhinged, candidates for an asylum or a penitentiary. Rejecting the first principle that must guide human interaction—that no one may rightfully initiate force against another person—such individuals have no rational foundation for their thoughts or actions. The “garbage in” of their philosophical premises produces “garbage out” emotional states, mental processes, and ultimately, lives. Having abandoned reason for coercion and violence, reality becomes a chaotic, incomprehensible void.

Governments’ coercive power allow them to take: might makes right. A philosophy that recognized a right of some individuals to steal from others fails on first principles; there is no logical distinction possible between the privileged and the subjugated. Does the aggregation of individuals into a unit which calling itself a government give them a right which none of them have individually? One could say that the aggregate was for the protection of its constituents’ persons, property, and rights, but a government so limited is acting as their constituents’ subordinate agent, exercising and enhancing their right of self-defense. Efforts have been made, notably the American experiment, but no government has ever been restricted in this manner.

No matter its guiding “ism,” every government has granted itself the power to initiate violence against its citizens. Just because the ruling agglomerate asserts this privilege doesn’t render it philosophically valid. What it does is legitimate the initiation of violence for any and all causes—domestic and foreign—the government deems proper.

Having violated the first principle of nonaggression, nothing can stop that philosophical default from trickling down to the subject population. The ragged thief who holds up a liquor store lacks the polish and articulation of the politician who asserts the government’s first claim on a nation’s production, the central banker who depreciates its currency, or the general bent on global dominance who wages offensive wars, but philosophically they’re soul mates. In fact, the thief has a moral one up on the others: he doesn’t claim to be protecting the values he destroys.

Millions have decried the violence that prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at the University of California at Berkeley, just as millions on the other side decried mostly illusory violence among Trump supporters during the campaign. However, not one in a thousand of those denouncing the violence as violations of fundamental civil liberties denounce the daily violations of fundamental liberties visited upon them by their own government. America’s corruption is so complete that those who insist that they are not fodder for the government, that their lives are their own, and that the only proper government is one subordinated to the protection of their individual rights—and maintain positions consistent with those principles—could hold a convention and not fill a high-school gym.

This small group is the victim of a terrifying pincer movement from above and below. When a society abandons itself to violence, “legal” and otherwise, it abandons itself to mindless irrationality driven by hate and antipathy towards every positive value. Violence is not a means to any end other than destruction and death; violence itself is the end. Humanity has been fed the same tripe for centuries: noble ends justify evil means. Violation of the first principle—the stricture against initiated aggression—bars consideration of the purported ends. A “discussion” with a gun is no discussion. Violence exercised in self-defense protects positive values, but when violence is initiated, destruction, death, and the depraved pleasure of loathsome minds are its only ends.

An individual who claims by word or deed the right to initiate violence—and the consequent rights to subjugate, injure, and kill—is a rabid, deranged, and dangerous animal. A government that asserts that right is a pack. In self-defense, the virtuous, if they are to protect their liberty, rights, and lives, must quarantine or kill the rabid. A necessary corollary of the stricture against initiated aggression is that we have the right to use all means necessary to defend ourselves from it—with pity, perhaps, but no remorse.

The chaos, the terror, of our deteriorating world is a true and faithful reflection of souls abandoned to hate. The free mind and its methods—intrepid curiosity, truth, and logic—stand as their ultimate enemy. If those who would oppose this destruction and death abandon their souls, they become the mindless evil they opposed. Those who defend their rights, values, and lives without surrendering their morality will rebuild from the rubble the kind of world in which they deserve to live. They will do so unobstructed—hate inevitably leads to its own destruction.

WHEN THE LIGHT WAS ALLOWED TO SHINE

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He Said That? 2/1/17

From Lysander Spooner  (1808-1887) American individualist anarchist, entrepreneur, political philosopher, abolitionist, supporter of the labor movement, and legal theorist of the nineteenth century, No Treason No. 1, (1867-1870):

The principle that the majority have a right to rule the minority, practically resolves all government into a mere contest between two bodies of men, as to which of them shall be masters, and which of them slaves; a contest, that—however bloody—can, in the nature of things, never be finally closed, so long as man refuses to be a slave.

The Great Disconfirmation, by the Zman

SLL has pointed out that belief in government amounts to a religion, although acolytes worship a diety that demonstrably and repeatedly fails to answer their prayers. The Zman reaches the same conclusion on a guest post at theburningplatform.com.

In one of his recent communications with the resistance, John Derbyshire mentioned this Joel Pollak column about the demise of the Obama cult. Pollak does not come right out and say it, but Obama was essentially a totem for the Left. His election was not about him or his polices, but instead it was about returning the Ark to the Temple, so to speak. The long war with the bad whites over racial justice was finally won and the blessings of the void where God used to exist would now descend upon the righteous.

As Derbyshire points out, Pollak is not the first guy to notice this as readers of this site certainly know. The only way to properly understand the American Left is to look at it as a civic religion. Because the American Left adopted European anti-Christianity in the 20th century, it is easy to think they are anti-religious. That’s a mistake the Right has made for half a century. The New Religion, what Progressivism is today, evolved out of the Social Gospel Movement, so it carries with it many of the same habits.

The most obvious of those habits is the obsession with public morality. Public Protestantism starts from the assumption that society is judged as a whole. The righteous, like the virtuous in revolutionary France, have a moral duty to raise up the fallen into the righteous life. This is what gives them license to nose around in your business and order you around. It’s not about fitting the economic pieces together as with European socialists. The American Left is consumed with building the City upon a hill.

To continue reading: The Great Disconfirmation

Donald Trump and the Libertarian Future, by Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy

Two libertarians from Reason’s take on Donald Trump and the age we live in. From Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy at reason.com:

We need a new, individualized operating system for politics and it will happen on the new president’s watch, whether he wants it or not.

Donald Trump is nobody’s idea of a libertarian but his presidency provides a tremendous opportunity to advance libertarian policies, outcomes, and aspirations in our politics and broader culture. Those of us who believe in reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government and expanding the autonomy, opportunities, and ability of people to live however they choose should welcome the Trump era. That’s not because of the new president’s agenda but because he enters office as the man who will inevitably close out a failing 20th-century model of governance.

Liberal, conservative, libertarian: We all understand that whatever the merits of the great political, economic, and cultural institutions of the last 70 years—the welfare state built on unsustainable entitlement spending; a military that spends more and more and succeeds less and less; the giant corporations (ATT, IBM, General Motors) that were “beyond” market forces until they weren’t; rigid social conventions that sorted people into stultifying binaries (black and white, male and female, straight and mentally ill)—these are everywhere in ruins or retreat.

The taxi cab—a paradigmatic blending of private enterprise and state power in a system that increasingly serves no one well—is replaced by ride-sharing services that are endlessly innovative, safer, and self-regulating. Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s campaign slogan—Uber everything—was the one self-evident truth uttered throughout the 2016 campaign. All aspects of our lives are being remade according to a new, inherently libertarian operating system that empowers individuals and groups to pursue whatever experiments in living they want. As one of us (Nick Gillespie) wrote with Matt Welch in The Declaration of Independents, the loosening of controls in our commercial, cultural, and personal lives has consistently enriched our world. The sharing economy, 3D printing and instantaneous global communication means businesses grow, flourish, adapt, and die in ways that perfectly fulfill Schumpeterian creative destruction. We live in a world where consuming art, music, video, text, and other forms of creative expression is its own form or production and allows us to connect in lateral rather than hierarchical ways. Pernicious racial and ethnic categories persist but they have been mostly supplanted by a tolerance and a level of lived pluralism that was unimaginable even 20 years ago, when less than [SIC] of Americans approved of interracial marriages. Politics, Welch and Gillespie wrote, is a lagging indicator of where America is already heading and in many cases has already arrived.

To continue reading: Donald Trump and the Libertarian Future

He Said That? 1/17/17

From Eric Hoffer (1902– 21 May 1983) American writer on social and political philosophy, The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements (1951):

Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, “to be free from freedom.” It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?

He Said That? 1/7/17

From Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Danish Christian philosopher and theologian, considered to be a founder of Existentialist thought and Absurdist traditions, Journals of  Søren Kierkegaard, (1837):

There are many people who reach their conclusions about life like schoolboys; they cheat their master by copying the answer out of a book without having worked out the sum for themselves.