Monthly Archives: March 2014

Once you label me you negate me — Søren Kierkegaard (or Wayne’s World)

I’ll admit, I’ve never read Kierkegaard.  I’d never even heard of him until the infamous Wayne’s World bit.  But I think the quote resonates with me.

Those of you that know me know that I’ve been a Star Wars / Star Trek geek my whole life.  I grew up on the Original Series (TOS).  Later, I enjoyed the Next Generation as well, but much like Episodes IV – VI of Star Wars, my first loves were never to be dethroned by the New Kids.

I was thinking about a clip I had seen on Nichelle Nichols’s Influence On Whoopi Goldberg, and if you’re on Facebook and following any of the Star Trek personalities, you’d probably seen as well.  Nichelle shares a story she had heard from Gene Roddenberry about how she gave Whoopi hope as a young child seeing a black woman on TV. It’s a touching story and a testament to positive role models.

Here’s the weird thing, and I’m not necessarily speaking for anyone but myself.  Growing up, there weren’t any Korean actors, musicians, athletes, or celebrities to speak of.  In fact, where I grew up, 90% of my classmates had never even heard of Korea.  So, when it came time to play Star Trek, guess who I was always chosen to play?  SULU, of course.  Because he’s the Asian one.   Never mind he’s JAPANESE and traditionally, Koreans hate anything that has to do with Japan.

But as a young kid, I didn’t know I was “THE ASIAN ONE”.  I didn’t want to be the lame Helmsman.  I wanted to be the Captain or at least Spock.

Maybe I’m living in a John Lennon-esque “Imagine all the people living life in peace” moment, but our ethnic history doesn’t define us.  The neighborhood / state where we grew up doesn’t define us.  What’s even more odd to me is allowing something that took place decades or centuries ago to define who you are.

I grew up in Chicago.  I have just about as much kinship with Korea as I do with Al Capone or Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Sure, we might have walked on the same dirt at some point, but I don’t let that limit / define who I am or what I can be.

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I’m a Christian and I think ‘Noah’ deserves a four star review

Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

The Matt Walsh Blog

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On Friday, my wife and I had a very rare date night.

Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian filmmaking to come along since, well, probably just last week.

In fact, if I learned anything from Noah, it’s this: despite popular perception, you can often judge a book by its cover. Also, giant deformed rock monsters make for awkward supporting characters.

We’ll meditate on that second item in a moment, but it’s the first point that should be especially emphasized.

Christians: you’ll hear people insist that you can’t criticize the movie until you’ve seen it. Noticeably, the loudest voices in this camp are the ones who will (rather coincidentally, I’m sure) profit immensely if you meet their challenge.

Don’t.

Don’t bother.

You can hate this film without watching it, for the same reason…

View original post 2,159 more words

Is Taxation Theft?

Was scanning the news feed and came across a short blip from a Keynesian economist that wrote something along these lines —

If you’re ever debating with a libertarian, you’ll invariably end up being accused of supporting theft because you believe people have a social duty to fulfill by paying their taxes.  Taxation is not theft.  It’s more akin to paying rent.  Plus, you get things in return for your taxes, so that’s hardly theft.  You can also vote against raising taxes.  . . .  And you DO have social responsibilities.  No man is an island unto himself.

<sigh>

<deep breath>

Imagine you have $10.  You can spend it on one thing or several items.  You decide you want to buy a pair of cheap sunglasses because summer is coming up.  You have exactly enough money to cover the price at which the seller is willing to make a trade with you.  Unfortunately, there’s a 100% sales tax so the total price is now $20.  Neither you nor the seller want to have to pay the tax, but you don’t have a choice.  The government has told you that instead of sunglasses, you both need to buy math textbooks or help reduce the price of Corn (even if you’re allergic to corn) or fund a war thousands of miles away in a country you’ve never heard of against an enemy with whom you have no quarrel.

Not only that, but the government decides you’re not trustworthy to spend enough to pay the sales tax that’s required to keep all the socially responsible programs going.  So, they decide that before you even see that $10 from your hard-earned labor, they’ll snatch it from your check.

Boys and girls.  That is, in fact, the very definition of theft.

You can justify it by way of “if you don’t like it, you can always leave” or by negotiating a __% tax rate instead of 100% for those that really need a break .  You could argue that these social responsibilities are so great, but so expensive, that no one would possibly fund it voluntarily, and thus requires the use of force.  You can argue we get things in return for the taxes, so it can’t possibly be theft.  A thief would never give you back something in exchange.  (Curious if that logic would stand when a burglar takes your TV but leaves you a Big Mac in exchange.)

NONE of these points change the definition of theft.  It only attempts to justify it.  I’ve said it many times.  If you are okay with that, then that’s your choice.  Just admit that you are in favor of theft under certain circumstances.  I, on the other hand,  have a moral objection to theft.

What is your plan and how do we get there?

As a Libertarian, I’m often challenged to lay out my plan for the world. Skeptics want to know every scenario of every issue, with concrete examples and facts to prove that my plan will meet their litmus test of change. “What about the poor? Who will protect the environment? Who will keep the terrorists off of our shores? Muh roads! Who will keep restaurants clean and safe? How can we get prayer back in school? How do we get Creationism (or Evolution) in / out of the textbooks that are used to teach our children?”

So let me start w/ putting the same question to those on the Left and Right. What exactly is your ideal, Utopian society? And further, how do we get there?

Being a former political conservative, here’s some points that may get the Right to nod their heads:

  • Big military, i.e. limitless spending if it supports the military
  • Bigger jails and more of them
  • Global interventionism / pre-emptive action against potential threats around the world
  • Christian-American values indoctrinated into our common law including what we teach in schools, what we permit on TV / radio, who can be married, the pledge of allegiance, Manger scenes in Town Hall at Christmas
  • Pro-Life for the unborn / Pro-death penalty for convicted criminals
  • War on drugs, except for tobacco, alcohol, and ‘legal’ pharmaceuticals
  • No restrictions or regulation on guns / firearms
  • Corporate welfare / Cronyism
  • Tariffs / US Only / government subsidized protectionism of American businesses and interests
  • Closed borders with jail time for illegals
  • English only. Period.
  • Screw the environment

     

On the left, you may hear things like:

  • Special treatment for protected groups like minorities, women, homosexuals, disabled, elderly, and the poor by way of quotas, lowered standards, redistribution of wealth, Hate crime / speech protection
  • Completely equal pay from top to bottom.
  • 100% job security, i.e. cannot be terminated against your will
  • No religious connotation or affiliation in any aspect of public life
  • Education for enrichment / enlightenment only, no grading / testing because failure can be traumatic
  • War on drugs if it creates ‘too much profit’ for greedy corporations
  • Anti-corporatism / capitalism / profiteering
  • Free / subsidized Health Care, Housing, Food, Education, Clothing, Transportation, Postal Service, Internet Service, and Cell Phones for the poor and other protected classes
  • Free abortions for everyone regardless of age or term
  • All schools are public schools with the same curriculum / teaching / facilities available to anyone / anywhere. Education experts will decide what to teach. Atheist / science-based teaching only
  • Make all guns and firearms illegal, except for law enforcement personnel
  • The environment and animals have equal rights as humans and must be protected

 

I’m sure there are more on both sides of the political spectrum, but I’ve tried to hit the hot topics. Interestingly, both sides historically are in favor of increased government spending. They just like to spend our money on different things. The Right wants to keep funding the military / spying war machine and their business cronies. The Left wants to spend it on everything else by taxing the rich. Both sides see no problem with the FED and printing more money to make up any shortfalls.

The other thing that’s curious is that on some issues, it appears the difference in whether the Left or Right support / oppose it depends on who is in the White House. Spying / Pro-War and the use of drones were big Right Wing hot buttons during the W administration and the Left vehemently opposed. Now that Obama is the President, the support roles seem to have been reversed.

So, getting back to my opening comment here – does anyone get a sense that there are well-tested, laid out plans on either side to achieve any of these ideals?

Does the Right have an answer for how much spending / resources and lives to keep pressing into our global police force or is it really limitless? How many wars should we be actively leading? Are we making any progress in keeping ‘Murica / the World safer?

What about the War on Drugs? Do we just keep on staying the course?

How do we plan to enforce an English Only agenda? Are we saying it should be illegal to speak any other language in the country?

For the Leftists, I realize bringing up Economics is a taboo and often frowned upon because ‘not everything is just about money’. But, as I’ve said before, it can’t simply be ignored either. Things / services have costs. Even if your proposal is to completely do away with money and private property, Adam Smith proved many years ago that people will barter with things they have to create their own economies (see my previous post On Health Care).

The other point for Leftists is that they are oftentimes guilty of focusing on only the things that can be seen today. But economists like Henry Hazlitt will point out the obvious truth that every decision that can be SEEN includes countless UNSEEN decisions that are being made. You pull on one thread, there are consequences, both intended and unintended, that will take place as a result. You tell the CEO that he can’t make any more money than the janitor, who’s going to want to take the responsibility of being the CEO anymore? And will the company even survive the next fiscal year when you do so with whoever is left leading the company?

So now, where’s my plan? The answer is I don’t have all the answers. I can’t possibly tell you how to fix every problem in the world today (and those that have yet to come to pass). Libertarians don’t even completely agree on how to ‘solve’ the world’s problems. There’s no magic formula (which involves the use of force) to get people to behave. That’s the point of Liberty.
BECAUSE there is no one-size-fits-all solution and there is no human being or group of human beings that could possibly know what’s best for everyone everywhere, Libertarians generally oppose the use of force to achieve a political goal. Instead, we favor the unobstructed, voluntary, grass-roots, God-given authority for each individual to lead his own life, to reap the benefits and pay the consequences for his decisions, and to enter into his associations without coercion. The only exception would be when your choices prohibit or cause harm to another person’s equal freedom to choose (see my previous post on the Limits of Personal Liberty).

That’s my plan. That’s my solution. I don’t know what the results will look like yet, but I do know that people acting as their own agents will take power away from faceless, centralized planners that are not held accountable for the results of their decisions. Instead, people will be empowered to act in their own best interests.

The graphic below is often passed around on the internet for Libertarian political groups. Like any catch phrase or bumper sticker logo, it’s meant to be simple and generalized. But if I have to choose between the Left, Right or Liberty, I’m definitely still here in the Liberty camp.

 


 


Why do we work?

Came across two related video clips with Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton touting the ‘freedom’ that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) gives us. It’s not uncommon that different members of a political party will repeat almost verbatim the canned response that the White House has to the latest steaming hot pile on their doorstep. But if you watch both clips, their response goes something like this:

Question: We now have conclusive evidence that Obamacare is responsible for millions of people losing the health insurance coverage they once had. It’s also responsible for employers cutting back on workers’ hours, eliminating jobs, and slowing the unemployment recovery. Doesn’t this prove that Obamacare is doing more harm than good to the country?

Response: The Affordable Care Act now gives those workers that were keeping a job just to have / keep health insurance more freedom. You don’t have to work at some company just to keep your insurance. And that’s a good thing.

I started to wonder, why do we work? Why do YOU go to work? What motivates you to get out of your warm, cozy slumber and go labor? Sure, we have bills to pay. We need to eat. Our kids need an education. But have you thought about why you’re doing the job you’re currently in?

I suspect the majority of people out there will say that they aren’t in love with their jobs. They may like it. They might enjoy certain aspects of it. But maybe they feel trapped, as Joe and Hillary claim, for whatever reason (to keep health insurance, pay the mortgage, work close to / from home, etc.). In other words, if something came along with better pay, less hours, less stress, kinder co-workers / manger, was spiritually more fulfilling, etc., then I suspect most people would jump ship the minute the opportunity presented itself. If you work in a corporate environment, the movie Office Space may hit a little too close to home for you. BTW, it’s one of my favorites.

The Bible tells us that because of the Fall of Adam, we’ve been cursed to have to work at everything – the food we eat, the homes we live in, the animals we raise. It all requires work. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 tells us that if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat. So from very early on after Creation through the NT, it’s clear we must labor / work instead of sitting around idle. That’s not to say that we must all be employed. Some of the most important labor that takes place each and every day is done by stay-at-home parents, retired seniors, and volunteers.

That being said and getting back to my original question, why do YOU go to your job? For me, I’ve had many different jobs at several different companies over the last 16 years of my post-college career. But even while I was still in school, I had several part-time jobs that I had taken – everything from washing dishes in a Bohemian bakery to bagging groceries and bussing tables. I did phone sales, traded stocks online, and finally landed in a Finance role, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years or so.

Looking back, the reason I took my first part-time jobs was to get some spending cash. I wanted to buy things, so I traded my time and energy for a pay check. Sure, I would rather have hung out with my friends, but I also wanted to buy some tapes / CDs or a new guitar or go on a late night Taco Bell run. I weighed out the cost (my time and energy) and the benefit (the negotiated salary with my employers) and we made an exchange.

Rock Star

Now, as a teen, I really didn’t have a budget. I was blessed to have parents that paid for my housing, 3 squares a day, my clothes, even my car and gas. So 100% of my take home pay was ‘disposable’ income. Play money.

After I got married, we now had bills. We had a mortgage and groceries and not too long afterward, we had a baby coming. At first, Jenny and I both worked which meant we paid for Daycare. One of the first pivotal moments in our marriage came when Jenny had missed a ‘big moment’ in the life of our daughter. While she was in daycare, Ruth did something for the first time (can’t remember, but I think it was she turned over). It completely crushed Jenny that she missed it.

As a result, we made a decision. We would go from being a dual income household to one. Jenny stayed home with Ruth (and eventually 6 more) to raise them and witness all of their big moments. Obviously, there was a cost to our decision. We could have more money to buy nicer things, more toys, dine out more frequently, buy a bigger house, and take more vacations if we had 2 incomes. But, we had decided that the Total Cost to our family was not enough for the benefit of more pay.

Later, we made a decision to homeschool our children. Unfortunately, that meant we had to pay for all of our educational resources out of pocket. (Homeschoolers that are homeowners get slapped twice with the cost of education – our taxes pay for everyone else’s children to go to school and then, we have to buy our own materials / curriculum with post-taxed income with no write off / deductions.) Again, this decision had a cost, but we decided it was important enough for us to make the sacrifice.

Everything Jenny and I do with our finances comes down to our values and priorities. The job I take, the hours I spend away from my family, the stress my mind and body endure, the difficult relationships that invariably pop up when you work with people – these are ALL factors in the choice I make to wake up each morning and go to work. It’s not always bad. There are moments that are quite satisfying for me. But I am FREE to make that choice to work. I am under no contract or indentured servitude with my employer. I can choose to walk away at any time.

Yes, if I quit my job today, it might be difficult to keep all the things we have. We might get kicked out of our home and our possessions may be sold off. We may lose our health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, and savings. But that’s part of the choice I make to work.

So, getting back to Joe and Hillary’s “freedom to not work and keep your insurance” claim. Unless there’s another change that they slipped into the 33,000 pages of regulation that they had passed, the way I see it is if you don’t have the money to pay for the Obamacare plan, you won’t get health insurance. They’ll simply keep your tax “refund” at the end of the year to make you pay. If you are out of a job, how exactly are you free to keep your insurance?

You were / are ALREADY free to pursue health coverage without Obamacare. There are countless options available, including having no insurance and paying out-of-pocket for the services you use. The question is how important is it to you? If you have no other priorities in your life, you don’t have kids, you live in your parents’ spare room, and you live off of ramen and cereal, your choices are pretty broad ranging, even if you worked at a fast-food restaurant at minimum wage. Maybe you won’t have cable TV. Maybe you won’t have a cell phone. Maybe you can’t afford a car or the latest fashion. But. YOU. ARE. FREE.

One of the choices Jenny and I have made is also to limit taking from others against their will. If you live in a society of heavy taxation and public provision, it’s hard to be completely disconnected. We use the library. We benefit from police and fire and military services. It’s almost impossible to buy milk or cotton or sugar in the US that hasn’t been subsidized by the taxpayer. But I would rather lose my home and my cars and live in a one BR shack with my family than take any ‘public assistance’ stolen from other taxpayers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally in favor of giving to / receiving charity that is done voluntarily. But stealing from many for the benefit of a few (and also the administrators that have to provide all the red tape) is something in which I am not willing to participate.