Monthly Archives: August 2015

Liberty – Ends or Means?

If you’ve ever had a moral debate with anyone, invariably the argument will come down to an idea of the Ends and the Means.  The case is laid out something like this:

In one camp, the person has a final goal / utopia in mind.  Because you know it’s a righteous goal, getting to your destination by any means necessary is permissible.  So for example, if your ultimate goal is to ensure every human being has food to eat and clean drinking water, then anything it takes to achieve that goal is of secondary importance, as long as you able to feed every person on earth.  Your END defines your morality.

The other side of the argument is that the Means is of utmost importance.  You may have a standard of morality which defines good and bad behavior.  Wherever your morality takes you is secondary because you believe if you honor your moral code, the resulting society will be, by definition, just and moral.  So for example, if your morals forbid you from stealing property that belongs to someone else, then theft will never be a part of your utopian road map, even if that potentially means some people would suffer when theft is no longer on the table as a solution.

Now, as much as we’d like to believe in our own moral purity or consistency of beliefs, and although most people will generally favor one over the other (the Means or the Ends), oftentimes we find ourselves in a little bit of both camps.  That’s to say, though philosophically these sound pretty cut and dry and mutually exclusive, in reality moral arguments are hardly ever so black and white.

When you are debating morality, you can usually tell whether your opponent has a Means or and Ends worldview by the evidence that they use to support their argument.  And Political Party lines do not fall one way or the other.  Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, Libertarians, Anarchists.  You’ll find Ends and Means proponents across the board.

I’ve found that many of those that favor the End have little or no problem with inconsistency of behavior or decisions they support.  For this reason, pointing out inconsistencies does very little in changing their opinions because they are marching toward an END.  One might say they’re illogical / irrational at times.  Critics will also point out the unintended consequences of their END but again, these usually don’t matter to someone driven to a goal.

I’ve also found that those that favor the Means are oftentimes accused of being rigid or overly-calculated.  Each decision, each idea must pass through a series of evaluations against one’s moral code of conduct.  The downside is that these people get caught up in analysis-paralysis.  They can quickly tell you what’s wrong (morally) with your proposal, but they might not have a well-defined alternative.  For these reasons, arguing against advocates of the Means can be frustrating for End advocates because there’s no guarantees the Means will get you where you want to be.

If you’ve read any of my posts, it should be abundantly clear that I tend to favor pure Means and allow the End chips to fall where they land.  The pursuit of Liberty can only come about through righteous Means.  To me, I can’t simply ignore illogical or inconsistent behavior in pursuit of an End because how we get there is of equal, or even greater, value.  Here are just a few examples of inconsistent and illogical behavior –

  • if you advocate “equality of rights” by giving preferential / protected treatment to one group over another
  • if you support “open markets” but shut out competition (including foreign competition) and use the government to subsidize some of your costs
  • if you favor “smaller, fiscally responsible government” but you want to increase military spending and our global footprint
  • if you want to advocate “freedom of speech” but you censor racist, sexist, religious, blasphemous, obscene, or anti-American rhetoric
  • if you support “our bodies / our choice” but won’t allow grown adults to choose to drink, smoke, take drugs, drive without seatbelts, eat trans fats and super double Big Gulps of Jolt cola

Then there are my critics.  But, but but . . .

  • Roads may fall into disrepair or never even get built.
  • Children will become illiterate or go hungry in the streets. 
  • Pregnant mothers will die in labor because doctors were not allowed to perform 39th week abortions. 
  • ISIS and Al-Qaeda will be running free throughout the world recruiting and bombing homeless animal shelters. 
  • The polar ice caps will melt from all the greenhouse gases we create, literally out of thin air, and the third rock from the sun will be Kevin Costner’s Water World.

As silly as this all sounds, particularly in light of the fact that these tongue-in-cheek, doomsday scenarios are no less likely to happen under the End advocates’ plans, these absurd “but what about __” Straw Men are realities that most of you probably have to deal with every day you engage in thoughtful conversation.

Understanding whether your opponent values Means or Ends can help you overcome their objections.  But the great thing about Liberty is that it is both.  Liberty is an End and a Means.  I don’t see how you could pursue Liberty as one and not the other.  In this way, I’m pretty sure Liberty is unique.  For example, Equality may be something that’s important to some.  But you can’t pursue Equality as an End by using it as a Means.  As I pointed out above, the only way to pursue Equality as an End requires some exertion of force over some people for the benefit of others.  (Psst. That’s the opposite of Equality.)

The mechanism and resulting end of Liberty are just and righteous.  And in pursuing Liberty, there’s no contradiction or conflict between the Ends and the Means.  You have to decide whether you are a Means or an End kind of person, but I challenge you to pursue something that is consistent in both views.

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Random updates

Been on a long break from blogging, though there’s been plenty going on.   First, I got a new job.  Same company, still in Finance, different department.  It’s a good career move for me, giving me a lot more exposure to other areas of the bank.  The role, however, requires me to move my family to the Charlotte, NC area.  After almost 10 years in Texas, we’re venturing out to the East Coast.  My wife has been feverishly searching for homes in South Carolina — the Rock Hill / Fort Mill areas.  SC has lower taxes, you get more bang for your buck in housing, it’s much more homeschooling friendly, and the commute to Charlotte isn’t too bad.  I’ve been working from home for over 5 years, so any commute is going to be a change for us.

We’re still very early in the process.  Repairing / upgrading a few things around the house to get it ready for the market.  Then we have to go to SC to start looking at homes.  My new manager has been very gracious in allowing me ample time to pack up, sell our house, and move.

Looking back over the last 10 years in TX, we’ve had a wonderful ride.  3 boys were born in TX.  I’ve promoted several times within the same company, each time to more challenging and interesting positions.  And yes, we’ve done well financially despite a housing market crash (in which we basically bought at the top).  I’ve earned my MBA while working full-time.  We’ve made many wonderful friends here and thanks to technology, we’ll continue to stay in touch even after we move.

The free market is a wonderful thing if we would just leave it alone.  In a free market, employees can search for more opportunities to fit their career goals, skill set, family needs, or intellectual curiosities.  We can weigh the costs and benefits of getting more education to help us meet those goals.  We can look beyond our home towns, state, or even country for better opportunities and greener pastures.  The free market rewards those that innovate, work more efficiently, and drive productive value rather than engaging in mindless activity.

Employers in a truly free market can hire and fire based on their needs and available resources.  They will compete against other employers to attract or retain top talent by offering competitive salaries, benefits, vacation time, and a host of creative perks.  Savvy employers will embrace diversity in the workplace, not because of a government mandate, but because their customers and business partners are diverse.

Tradesmen, artists, craftsmen, and service providers thrive in a free market as long as their goods and services are in demand and are competitively priced.  The market will dictate and communicate fair prices and relative value, not some bureaucrat thousands of miles away.

As mind-boggling as it is to daily read how ignorant and clueless the average Statist is –whether they’re left-wing socialists buying into the “Bernie stands with the people by stealing from everyone” nonsense or the right-wing “bigger military / police state” hawks and crony capitalists — I am thankful that God continues to provide and bless my family, despite the growing State.

The next few months will be intense and volatile for our family, but I’m excited to see what God has in store for us in the next chapter of our life.