Meet the New Terror, Same as the Old Terror

There has been a huge debate lately regarding the new terror group ISIS, or ISIL, or IS or whatever they call themselves this week. Exactly how big a threat are they to our freedom? Should we be worried about a possible ISIS invasion and subsequent war on American soil? Is this threat large enough that we need to start another pseudo-war in the Middle East? The short answers are, not very, no and no.

ISIS (what I will call them), is a group that is estimated to have about 20-30,000 members. That may seem like a lot, but if you compare that number to the number of soldiers in the American army, or even the Iraqi army it is very small. There are 100 times more American soldiers, and about 10 times more Iraqi soldiers. They mostly operate in small groups. I would wager that your local police would be enough to control any ISIS threat within the American borders. They are in no way a direct threat to any American citizen’s freedom while walking the streets of the good ole’ US of A. Outside of our borders, ISIS becomes slightly more of a threat. This is evidenced by the many televised beheadings, rampant terror in the streets of the Middle East and parts of Europe. Still not enough of a threat to spend billions of dollars fighting a rehashed boogey man with no face, no uniform and no country.

ISIS began under a different name, Al Qaida. That’s right, they are just the latest rehash of the same old terror group. They decided to separate themselves from Al Qaida this year because apparently Al Qaida just wasn’t serious enough about the goal of creating the worldwide caliphate. This group and the many groups that share this vision of an Islamo-Facist world are clearly made up of very dangerous people. People not to be trifled with, if you are a tourist, woman, journalist, or just happen to find yourself in the Middle East, these are people to be avoided at all costs. The question becomes, then, what do we do about them?

We are not without options. We could, as our president has done, pay some terrorists to fight these terrorists. That is to say, pay the same Syrian rebels who have ties to Al Qaida, which we fought for the last 12 years, with money, weapons and training to fight the new boogey man ISIS. We could skip the middle man and send American troops into Syria, Iraq and the surrounding areas to clean up the mess ourselves. This is a strategy favored by several senators and congressmen, because it worked so well the last time apparently. There is a third option, however, we could take care of our own borders and let other countries take care of theirs. I won’t give you any hints, but this one’s my favorite. My thought is that if a sovereign country wants to protect itself against the brand of terror that is ISIS, or Al Qaida, they will. If they don’t want to they won’t, this is not our business. If a country asks us for help, we may give it. I was brought to this conclusion when 800 ISIS rebels defeated 30,000 Iraqi soldier. That tells me they don’t want freedom. I am not willing to spend hard earned taxpayer money forcing people to want freedom. Forced freedom is an oxymoron. When they get to the point of wanting something other than being controlled by brutal dictatorship, Iraq will free herself.

The argument I hear from too many people is that we need to root out and destroy radical Islam, or Islamo-Facism. Here’s the thing, by polling data and intelligence gathering it is estimated that 15-25% of all Muslims are to some extent radical. Islamic groups counter that only 7-10% are radical extremists. Let’s split the difference and say that 15% of all Muslims believe to some extent in the tenants of radical Islam like sharia law. There are 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. That means we would have to kill around 240 million people in order to completely destroy the threat of radical Islam. Considering that they tend to hide around women and children the death toll could easily top 500 million people, virtually all of them Muslim. I can’t think of even the most hawkish president, senator or congressman who would be ok with the extermination of half a billion people, more than all wars combined even if it meant totally getting rid of terrorism. Also, the surviving billion Muslims would probably not be too happy after a third of its population was exterminated and we would eventually have to do it again. Where does it end?

I have never been accused of being a pacifist. I have no problem protecting Americans from direct threats to our security and safety. This is not one of those times. A quick glance at our recent history shows how futile it is to go to war not against a country, or an army, but a ragtag group with no uniform mixing among locals to the point of invisibility. We have armed terrorists to fight a common enemy before. Does anyone remember Osama Bin Laden? Ask Charlie Wilson. It simply does not work and always seems to backfire. The best strategy for ISIS and any other terror group is to fight them at home using intelligence gathering and good police work. Let other countries fight for themselves. If ISIS gains a whole country at least we know where to drop the bombs. If a country refuses to fight ISIS, stop giving them money and consider them no longer an ally. Start refining the massive amounts of oil we have in America so we can choose not to deal with countries that support terror.

ownership and private property rights

I have had several discussions with people who identify as liberal/progressive or socialist on the subject of private property rights and the concept of ownership. A common argument I hear is that of course we can own things and have stuff, but money is not private property because we work for the common good of the economy. When people work it is so that they can contribute towards the goal of keeping the community. This leads me to ask a few questions.

What can anyone truly own?

What is happening when we work?

What does it mean to own things?

How can you tell if you own something?

Personal property can mostly be put into three main categories, time, talent and treasure. This is not an original idea. I have seen personal property described this way in many different writings. Let’s go through them one at a time.

Time. A person has a life span of roughly 80 years on average. We can break this up any way we choose, decades, years, days, hours, minutes and seconds. These increments of time belong to the individual living them. When someone says they don’t have time for something it means that the benefit gained from spending the moments necessary to preform whatever task is being asked is less valuable than moments themselves. Time, in effect, becomes the currency by which we live our lives and for this reason is probably the most valuable thing we own. Time cannot be taken away without the consent of the individual. In the summation of time are the moments that make up one’s life. We own our time.

Talent. Everyone is born with natural talents. Some people can sing, others may have a knack for math, etc… These belong to the person with the talent. If we don’t want to sing or do math we don’t have to. The thoughts in our head might be considered talent, when we use them to solve an equation or write a new song, or even complain about a bad movie. Talent is wrapped up in the things we can do, and the things we can think. Talent could also be considered our natural currency. We own our talents.

Treasure. This branch of ownership is different in that we are not born with it. Treasure encompasses what we acquire while we are alive. Treasure can be made, won or traded, it’s our stuff basically. A house, car, groceries, money, etc… Beyond this, we own things we make if we own the materials the new thing came from. For instance, if I own a loaf of bread, a jar of jelly, and a jar of peanut butter, and I endeavor to make a sandwich, I also own the sandwich. How does one own things that they are not born with? A great question. The answer is that we trade our natural currency, time and talents, for things we want or need. This is done through a process called work. Logic follows that if we own our time and talent, we also own the things we trade them for.

So what is happening when we work? Work is a voluntary exchange between two people whereby both parties benefit. For instance, If one person has an idea for a business and he asks another person work for him, what he is actually doing is requesting to trade someone’s time and talent in exchange for money. The business owner views this as a good trade because he gains more in production than it costs to pay the person. The person trading his time and talent views this as a good trade because the money received in trade is more valuable to him than the time he used to get it. Money, then, is the physical representation of our time and talents. Logic follows that we own our money and the business owner would own the fruits of our labor.

We can tell that we own things by a few simple tests. If you own something, you can sell it, hold it (not use), rent it, use it, let others use it or destroy it. I’m sure anyone could think of many other tests of ownership, but this post is long enough already. Let’s use an example for illustration. I have a couch in my family room that I own. If I choose I could sell the couch and would violate no one else’s rights, I could sit on it, not sit on it, I could let my friend sit on it, I could rent it to my friend for a party, I could take it out to the backyard and destroy it with an axe. I could do any and all of these things without physically harming anyone else or their stuff, therefor I own that couch. This test works with anything that you think you own from simple things like your food to more complicated things like your body.

Of course what we choose to do with our personal property can have adverse effects on the people around us, so while we might be perfectly within our rights to destroy that couch, we must always be aware that others also have the same rights and could refuse to let us sit on theirs.

At this point the smart reader might ask “If I own my stuff, why can the government tell me what I can and can’t do with it? That is a question that is bigger than one blog. I may try to tackle that in parts in later posts, but this was was long enough for now.

 


 

What are “rights” and where do they come from?

What are “rights” and where do they come from? In attempting to answer this question, I will try to be as unscientific as possible, and rely as little as possible on outside sources. It is almost impossible, of course, not to mention quotes from the declaration of independence, or FDR’s 2nd bill of rights, or the constitution, or any number of other sources, but I’ll try my best.

From my many conversations with people, in person and in social media settings, I have found that very few people give any thought to what a “right’ or a “human right” really is. The word gets bandied about quite frequently, from patients bill of rights, to fliers bill of rights for airplane travel, etc… When I try to dig a little deeper with these people, usually liberals but also to a lesser extent republicans, I find that the discussion always tends to lead to a discussion about personal property, but I’ll save that for next week.

Let’s jump right in. In my opinion rights come from nothing. They are part of the laws of nature. Rights predate people, and governments. All living creatures are born with a set of natural rights. It does not matter weather a person is born in a first world country, or to abject poverty, or a remote Amazonian tribe that has no word for “rights” in its language. A flower has the right to germinate, a lion has a right to hunt for food, a gazelle has the right to  attempt to evade being captured by that lion. We as people are born with our own set of rights. What is a right? A right is something that does not need another person to fulfill. A right is universal. A right is free of cost. A right can be exorcised by everyone in the world at the same time if so chosen. It stands on its own. Let’s look at a few examples to see what I mean. The right to pursue happiness does not transfer any responsibility to any other person to make us happy, it costs nothing, everyone on earth could pursue happiness, it simply means we can look for happiness. There is no guarantee we will find it, but we can look. If on the other hand we look at the statement, we have a right to happiness, it would infer that if we were not happy someone would have to make us happy, thus the right to happiness is no right at all because forcing someone to make me happy infringes on their right to be happy themselves.

let’s take a look at what many in Europe and most liberals in America would call “human rights”. The “rights” I hear about most are the right to a house, food, healthcare and a living wage. One thing that blatantly stands out with all of these is that they are all dependent on other people to make them happen. If you have the right to a house, but are not a carpenter, could you not force a carpenter to build a house? It is your right after all. This makes every carpenter a slave. If you have a right to food but are not a farmer, does this not make the farmer your slave? If you have a right to healthcare but are not a doctor, is the doctor not your slave? If you have a right to a certain wage does this not make your employer your slave? if you follow this logic to its end it would have to be conceded that every person is a slave to every other person. The only free people in this scenario are the least productive who give nothing to the benefit of society.

This brings me to the other side of “rights”, our responsibility. Much is written about our rights but little is written about what is required of man by natural law. Of course we can pursue anything we desire, but we have a responsibility to respect other peoples’ “right to refuse”. If I decide that a million dollars would make me happy, I cannot force you to give me a job toward the end of making that money. This concept is best described as the “non-aggression principle”. It is the defining responsibility for all human beings and basically says one person cannot injure another person by forcing them to give up their rights or personal property without their consent.

This brings me to my last point, and teaser for next week. People have a right to own things. Feel free to put this statement to the tests that I outlined for other rights above.

See you next week.

How do we get to where we are politically speaking?

I have noticed lately a lot of discussion on social media regarding the underpinning of certain belief systems, or lack thereof. I credit this with an upsurge of the libertarian movement. This is a movement that I am proud to be part of, albeit on a very small scale. I don’t give speeches, I don’t have a youtube channel or facebook group. I merely go about my life trying to learn why people I know believe the way they do, and how they came to believe it. I challenge my own beliefs on a regular basis just to make sure. I ask myself questions, that I thought most people ask themselves when developing a political ideology and try to stay true to the answers to the best of my ability.

I haven’t always been a libertarian, in fact this is a fairly recent shift from conservative republican. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, to admit to myself that what I believed for  most of my life was wrong. I had what one might call an epiphany during George Bush’s second term. It was at that point I realized that there is no such thing as a good politician. Paraphrasing Milton Friedman, you can’t elect good politicians, you can only make it politically advantageous to make bad politicians do the right thing. I came across that quote years later, but it summed up what I felt perfectly.

The first person I heard that really changed how I thought about what it meant to believe in small government was Dr. Walter Williams. This was years before I stopped calling myself a republican, and I honestly thought what he was saying conformed nicely to what I believed at the time. He was guest hosting Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and explaining the difference between socialism and capitalism. He described socialism as being very pretty on the outside but very ugly on the inside. Everyone gives to a large federal government all they have and the government spreads it among the people according to what they need, so no one every goes hungry, or has need for charity. A beautiful concept to be sure…on the outside. When you dig a little problems pop up, like who decides what each person needs? What if an able person does not give as much as their ability would allow them? What motive does an able person have to produce more than he consumes? These questions have been answered time and time again in real socialist societies. It never ends well. Capitalism, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Ugly on the outside but beautiful on the inside. Dr. Williams described capitalism as a system where in order to benefit from society, you must first prove that you have served society. This was a new concept for me. He made some understandable analogy whereby money became the proof of that service. The ugliness is apparent. What about people who can’t or won’t take care of themselves? What about those who can’t find a good paying job? The beauty comes from the fact that what you make is yours. Knowing there is no one there to catch you if you fall except for your friends and family provides incentive to get back up when you fall. Being self reliant is empowering. The concept of charity comes from capitalism. The concept to serve yourself first and give what you want to others as long as you don’t hurt yourself in the process is the best lesson anyone could learn.

This is my first attempt at a blog and I doubt many people will be reading this. I think I’ll treat it like a journal. A way to organize my thoughts. My plan for the future is to tackle such questions as what are human rights, and what do we really own? What should we really own? Hopefully by the end I’ll be better able to explain to people who don’t think about these things at all.