Archive for July, 2010

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Getting Closer to The August 3rd Primary

It won’t be long before I’m headed to the August 3rd primary to vote for myself; sounds a little self‐serving, but I don’t expect a giant wave of supporters to throw their weight behind someone they don’t know or to vote for someone in a position very few know exist. But any Republicans in the precinct will be limited to the choice of me in that position, so if they do not abstain from voting for that position, I’ll get a vote.

This is a little problematic for me; the fact that I’m the lone Republican running for the position in my precinct should set off a few alarm bells for county leadership. A most disconcerting fact if you think about what my role will potentially entail–I’m supposed to communicate with the residents in my area and act as a sort of liaison between them and the party in order to determine what they find to be important. Will party principles line up with common issues?

I’m getting a little nervous about the responsibility this will entail; as a libertarian I don’t always agree with the Republican party. We’re in agreement on some things, but I will be required to potentially fight for candidates that I do not agree with 100%. Is the compromise OK? I don’t know. At the same time, what are voters after in the various candidates in my district, and are these the same things I’m willing to fight for?

I’ll find out in a few short days.

What Does It Mean To Be Libertarian?

I’m always unsure how to answer this question. I have at least some knowledge of what this label means in broad terms, and so I have applied it to what I believe best characterizes my own philosophical leanings, but is it an accurate portrayal of my day to day thoughts and methods?

There is nothing in the basic principles of liberalism to make it a stationary creed; there are no hard‐and‐fast rules fixed once and for all. The fundamental principle that in the ordering of our affairs we should make as much use as possible of the spontaneous forces of society, and resort as little as possible to coercion, is capable of an infinite variety of applications. –F.A. Hayek, Road to Serfdom p17‐18

Using “the spontaneous forces of society” and resorting “as little as possible to coercion” in “ordering our affairs” is as apt a description of my philosophy as I could develop on my own. No small wonder that this quote comes from Hayek, then is it?

The only problem with my line of thinking is that it is so highly criticized as ineffective, heartless, and leads to inequality. The assumption is that the “spontaneous forces of society” are ineffective at dealing with the inequalities it might breed; when left to one’s own self‐interests they are unlikely to care much about the interests of others unless those interests are in competition with their own or can be of help in achieving one’s ends. But can this be true? Western society has been dominated by institutions that turn this thinking on it’s head–and these institutions are not coercive in the way that government is.

The idea that society organized under these rules and conditions can breed inequality is no secret; the question is, what amount of coercion helped push this inequality forward? And what makes an unequal state of affairs so unpalatable? As I saw in a link that I posted earlier, people are not all rational actors, and markets are inefficient. Sometimes decisions are made that are detrimental to the actor1 and the market2 in question suffers greatly.

But is that it? Is it those in poor conditions that gives some the notion that a libertarian society breeds heartlessness and suffering? Nothing in such a society would prevent it from creating an institution to care for these people. A society organized around a different philosophy, however, could use the coercive powers of government in order to give the appearance of alleviating this unequal suffering without the need for a social organization to fill this role; I have to argue that this is likely to produce apathy amongst members of that society. There is no need to care directly for the suffering of others as your interest in their well‐being is served by contributing to whatever power is placed over you.

I don’t know, am I crazy in thinking this way? Couldn’t the well‐being of others in a libertarian society be of consequence to you as a rational actor? Why might helping them be in your best interests? To fulfill some sense of altruism? To ensure individuals can afford and want the products/services you provide?

I propose more questions than answers–all of it rambling.

  1. What is the actor in any case? It could be a corporation, an individual, or anything in the economic marketplace making decisions. Abstract. Very abstract.
  2. This is a market in the abstract. The group/place in question that is affected by the decisions of the irrational actor.

There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.

John Adams

Charges of Racism Undeserved–And Hard to Defend

Tainting the tea party movement with the charge of racism is proving to be an effective strategy for Democrats. There is no evidence that tea party adherents are any more racist than other Republicans, and indeed many other Americans. But getting them to spend their time purging their ranks and having candidates distance themselves should help Democrats win in November. Having one’s opponent rebut charges of racism is far better than discussing joblessness. — Mary Frances Berry

This is a rather poignant statement from Mary Frances Berry. She summarizes the strategy that is most effective in discrediting one’s critics–a strategy I have discussed on numerous occasions. The method? That of labeling an opponent as holding some socially unacceptable position that is nearly impossible to refute; this is a most effective strategy because any arguments against such charges are not believed due to the heinous nature of the charge.

The Tea Party has been called out on numerous occasions as a racist group. A group that must denounce racism within its ranks, or else be forever tainted as a political movement. The only problem is that real evidence of supposed racism is hardly prevalent. It is, of course, entirely possible that some small percentage of members hold views that are racist in foundation, but this does not manifest itself in the Tea Party ethos any more than ant‐white sentiment manifests itself in the NAACP’s core principles.

What we see evidence of instead is a group attempting to steer political discourse and fight for principles they truly believe will benefit all citizens. This can be said for the NAACP, Republicans, Democrats, and just about any other political organization. Disagreements around core principles and philosophies on governance have become toxic and are hardly good examples of discussions and debates, particularly when such charges effectively end it.

While the Tea Party isn’t my bag–haha–I do have a certain affinity for the small government philosophy they seem to be espousing; with that in mind, it is difficult for me to tell how racism has any part in debates concerning their ideas. From the few meetings I’ve attended, which makes my sample size prohibitively small, I’ve seen very little to no evidence of any racism to believe they are discussing anything other than what they claim.

Why is defending one’s character against this charge such a difficult proposition? Imagine having a lively discussion about the color of the sky. You and your opponent are deadlocked in a debate about the shade of blue the sky typically is on a sunny day. “I feel it has more purple undertones,” you might say. Your opponent claims, “it is more blue‐green.” The discussion continues like this for another ten minutes, when suddenly your opponent says, “well those who see purple in the sky probably dislike children, and are inherently unfriendly to them.”

Well now, the debate has shifted from the color of the sky to whether or not your like children. You’ve gone no further in discussing the sky or the implications of it being one color or another, you’re stuck defending something that has nothing to do with the debate at hand. While this illustration is rather crude, it should give you a good idea of why accusations of character being related to certain political philosophies have no place in most discussions involving matters of government.

Take my man of straw with a grain of salt, but please don’t accuse me of a character flaw because of my beliefs; instead, debate my philosophy on its merits alone.

The NAACP Is Calling The Tea Party Racist?

This is a very interesting move on the part of the NAACP. Accusations of racism make fighting back incredibly difficult for the Tea Party; not because the Tea Party harbors any sort of racist tendencies, but because when a group or individual is accused of something as strong as racism, outside actors will tend to see any following action or reaction in the light of said accusation.

What this means is that no matter how often Tea Party members claim to have not seen any racist displays amongst other members, outsiders will say, “but that is only your small group, what about the others you aren’t a part of?”

From NPR1:

The NAACP has approved a resolution condemning what it calls “racist elements” within the Tea Party. The vote has sparked a war of words between the two groups, and NAACP leaders hope the move will help fire up its membership with midterm elections approaching.

The fray began when NAACP President Benjamin Jealous issued a challenge to the Tea Party:

“You must expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions.”

Liberal groups, like the NAACP, are rarely ever responsible for the actions of a few fringe members. And they shouldn’t be. Those elements rarely ever represent the thinking of rational members, or the overarching goals of the group–one hopes–but painting this sort of picture of conservative groups is a rather routine occurrence. Why?

Why is the belief in limited government racist? I’ve been to a couple of Tea Party gatherings. The speeches aren’t particularly unique, noteworthy, hateful, racist, et cetera, but what they have to say is representative of a group of people that are troubled by the actions of the government; this is simply because they have an opposing view of governance. Nothing more.

Since I guess I’m a little dumb, could anyone out there explain the racist angle to me?

  1. NAACP, Tea Party Volley Over Racism Claims: Accessed 7/14/2010.