Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Troop Doesn't Want Your Support

I wrote this essay back in 2005. I was still in the military then, and quite disgusted with the "support" I received with regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2007 I left the military after ten years of service and have never looked back. This message is meant for those who "support the troops", and if you support bringing them home then you are not one of the people I accuse with this article. By posting it here I'm probably "preaching to the choir" but after finding it recently when going through old papers I really felt strongly about publishing it.

Every time I go out, I see magnetic ribbons in yellow, or red white and blue, or worst of all desert camouflage, bearing the logo "support our troops", with the proceeds for the purchase of that ribbon going to a factory in China. Sometimes the ribbon also includes the image of a cross, incorporating the Christian message of peace into the ribbon's message of war.

As one of the troops that you are supporting with that ribbon, I have to say I do not want and I do not need your support. I know what your support means, and your support is unwelcome. It is possible that your support means that you want to keep me out of harm’s way, that I can stay with my family. I very much want to stay at home with my wife, to watch my infant son grow up, and I do not want to die in a pointless conflict started by politicians. I joined the military to defend the constitution, and if I must fight I would prefer that be the reason.

Yes, it is possible I would fight for that reason, but that is not what your support means. Your support means that I have to go fight for political causes. The more you support me, the more likely it is that I am going to be sent to Iraq to be shot and killed by those who do not want me there. Your support means that I am more likely to die.

Because you support me, it means that I may spend at least six months, possibly several years, apart from my wife. I will not see my son grow up because you support me. I will not be there to see his first steps or hear his first words because you support me. Because you support them, my fellow troops who have completed their contractual obligations cannot be released from their service contracts, and because you support me that might happen to me too.

Because you support me, I am more likely to get killed.

Because you support me my son would grow up without a father.

Because you support me my wife could become an untimely young widow.

Because you support me I may be sent over there to be killed.

Because you supported others and they were sent over and killed. You say you do not want the deaths from your support to be in vain. You want to honor their deaths by supporting the yet more deaths.

If your support kills me, you will honor me by supporting other troops while they are sent over there to die, so that my death would not be considered vain. You will support me by creating more widows and more orphans.

If your support kills me, which is what you ask for when you say you support me, then the way I want my death honored is by ensuring there are no more deaths to honor my death.

That is what your support means. That is why I do not want any of your so-called support.

There is only one way to truly support me. You can make sure my wife does not become a widow. You can make sure my son does not become an orphan. You can support me only by keeping me out of harm’s way. If you want to support the mission, you can still show support for the troops by taking the place of the troop. Until then, you can keep your support.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do Authoritarians understand Libertairans?

Sometimes, after hearing anti-authoritarian arguments, a question comes up: do those who are against libertarian ideas even know what they are arguing against? It seems that some are confused when someone takes a principled stand against government wrongdoing in the abstract.

Take the case when someone argues against police abuse invariably suggest that the only reason someone could take a stand against police activity is due to personal animosity due to a personal bad experience. Very shortly in the conversation the topic will turn to what individual personal experiences one has had that could cause someone to actually have a bad opinion.

If someone takes a stand about taxation, especially taxation in whole as a concept, the assumption is always that the person taking that stand is doing so because he simply wants his own taxes lowered. Often it is simply assumed that the actual argument is nothing more than a cover, in order to create the illusion that there is theory behind the anti-tax argument.

It is the same with arguments about drug use, in which advocating legalization is assumed to be because it is a cover for personal use of drugs. And the Tea Party protests are assumed to be angry because a particular party is out of office and not because of the policies of the party that is in office. Arguments against business licensing reduce to wanting to got to unscrupulous or unqualified vendors, or wanting to be an unscrupulous or unqualified vendor.

Over and over the one thing missing is any recognition that someone is actually making a principled pro-liberty argument. Authoritarians seem incapable of believing that a pro-liberty argument is being made.

Are libertarians capable of understanding authoritarians? In general later societal stages can understand earlier ones. If they try barbarians can understand tribesmen and citizens can understand barbarians. Libertarians can understand that authoritarians believe people need to be taken care of. Do authoritarians understand that libertarians believe people don’t need to be taken care of?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Third Party Distractions

In 1992, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ross Perot entered the race, left the race, and then entered the race again. The result was that any genuinely independent movement had its energy taken over by a solidly establishment third party candidate.

In 2000, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan balanced each other out with Buchanan destroying what was left of the Reform Party and Nader giving Democrats solid reason to reverse their prior opinion of third party “interlopers.”

In 2010, in California, both of the major parties are fielding uninspiring candidates for governor. It would be a promising year for a solid third party candidate, so all of the third party energy is being focused instead of Chelene Nightingale as a way to vote for someone other than Meg Whitman (R) or Jerry Brown (D).

There really is only one truly solid and independent third party, only one that can honestly claim to be equally distant from both of the major parties. Although “wasted vote” is a fallacy, almost all of the third and minor parties can be considered more closely aligned to one of the two major parties. The Libertarian Party is exceptional in that regard in that it honestly is not closer to either party.

Although neither will mention the subject, both the major parties are cognizant of the special status of the libertarian party. That may be why, whenever there is a third party threat, it appears than an effort is made to find a third party contender that is not a member of the Libertarian Party.

A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can be more easily accused of stealing votes. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can have the constituency more easily reabsorbed. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties does not challenge the status quo as a whole. And if the third party candidate is eccentric, all the better.

That may be why, whenever both the major parties field weak candidates at the same time, the press is even less eager to cover libertarians. Andre Marrou was more serious than Ross Perot. Harry Brown was more serious than Patrick Buchanan and Ralph Nader. That’s why Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan, and Ralph Nader got all the press.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Near-miss Libertarian

Although the world is full of unpleasant examples of socialism, apparently not a single country that embraced central planning has ever counted as an example in any discussion of the subject. In each and every case the country in question wasn’t “real” socialism. It is a giant international game of "No True Scotsman" with regards to socialism. Every country in the Warsaw Pact, as well as China, Cuba, and North Korea are not examples of real socialism.

It may be necessary to deny all the examples of the failures of central planning are examples of socialism. After all, if one were to admit them as evidence, it would be necessary to conclude that socialism as an economic system does not work.

This stands in stark contrast to classical liberalism, where imperfect examples are embraced, with the caveat that they are imperfect examples and there are aspects of those examples that are illibertarian.

One of the first examples is the United States, usually prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve but often prior to the New Deal. Libertarians will grant that the setup had the flaws, most notably slavery. Other examples include many other western countries during the time between the final defeat of Napoleon and the outbreak of World War One, in spite of their colonialism. Or further back in history, there is Medieval Iceland, which lasted three hundred hears before becoming a territory of Norway.

Although each example had flaws, libertarians embrace them as examples because they show that the closer a country has gotten to the classic liberal ideal the better off that country has been.

Statists have counter-arguments to the trend the examples show. The first counter-argument is The Temporal Fallacy wherein they argue that, due to technological advancements since then, that today’s situation is clearly better in every respect. The truth is that technologically today’s situation is improved, and the rest does not follow.

A second argument is to deliberately confuse the flaw with the example. If a libertarians says "although this example had the glaring flaw of slavery…" the statist will respond as if the libertarian had said “this example has the virtue of slavery” and accuse the libertarian of being a defender of the flaw instead of condemning the flaw. The statist will then feel free to ignore the point of the example.

Either of those arguments is easily countered. The principle stands as a shining one – the closer a country has gotten to liberty the better off that country has been. This includes many countries that count as examples, and even a few that are decidedly not libertarian countries but have become more free in various areas, such as when communist China decontrolled various parts of the economy creating an economic powerhouse. The principle is clear to anyone willing to see.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Libertarian, Liberal, Progressive

Most of the debate between different political ideologies (as opposed to “our guy is better than your guy” debates) occurs between liberals and libertarians. The ideological debates that pit conservatives versus liberals or libertarians come in a weak second.

Why is it that the fiercest debates occur between liberals and libertarians? It is not out of any leanings towards conservatives that these debates occur. Conservatives allege they share economics with libertarians but a closer examination proves otherwise. Conservatives are quick to steal libertarian rhetoric but fail to follow through on it. The real reason there is so little debate is because there is so little to conservatism. Mercantilism isn’t a school of economics as much as it is a way for people to use the government to line their own pockets and the rest of what is commonly called “conservatism” is a morality platform based loosely on religious concepts. That is why Jerry Pournelle listed conservatism as irrationalist, while he listed both liberalism and libertarianism as rationalist.

Liberalism and libertarianism spring from the same root, classical liberalism. One side emphasizes liberty, and the other equality. Both see the other as essentially missing the point, which is somewhat ironic given that essentially the two are trying to achieve the same thing but by entirely different methods. The programs suggested, the laws sponsored, are opposed to each other to achieve what is ultimately the same goal. Liberals and libertarians both have their root in the enlightenment and try, in different ways, to seek justice. One seeks it through equality, the other through egalitarianism.

That is why there is plenty of room for debate. But that is not a full analysis of why there is such fierce debate between liberalism and libertarianism. Another reason is that many who would be called liberal are instead progressive. Libertarians and liberals pursue opposite policies for identical goals. Liberals and progressives pursue identical policies for opposite goals. Progressivism doesn’t share the Classic Liberal root of both libertarianism and liberalism, but instead uses the tools of liberals for their own ends. Since they advocate the same policies they seem to be the same.

There is no common ground between progressives and libertarians, other than also both being listed as "rationalist" by Jerry Pournelle. One seeks justice through liberty. The other seeks control through dependence on the government. The programs advocated by liberals are precisely the tools progressives can use because the argument can be easily made that the programs are there to help the recipient. And in being helped, they become dependent until the progressive achieves his goal: everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.

One argument is a civil war. The other is oil and water. In both cases, unlike the conservative, there actually is substance though. And the progressives do worry every time the phrase "liberaltarian" comes up or liberals and libertarians find common ground, because if the two children of classical liberalism were to ever rejoin the progressives would be through.