Political Supersymmetry

I came across this video the other day and it got me to thinking. It seems like there is a parallel between the concept of supersymmetry in science and the abstract political philosophies we have about government and society. Specifically, I was thinking about our current systems of government. We have all these different types of state systems, but are there any “cousin particles”, or political equivalent, that we can look to? Surprisingly, I was able to find a “stateless” version of almost every type of “state” government.

In this visual representation, it becomes apparent that they are not exactly symmetrical. As you move left on the political spectrum the resemblance between the state and stateless options become less apparent. State communism and stateless communism, for example are interchangeable, there is virtually no difference between them. You can also see that the gap between anarcho-capitalism and classic liberalism is bridged by minarchism, which is allegedly where most self-described libertarians live. A minarchist generally thinks the state is irrelevant in most situations, but a few things such as the military and justice system are best done by a state of some sort, at least until a better alternative can be described without a state.

There are several major dividing lines between left and right philosophies that are symmetrical between state and stateless philosophies.

Private property-

As you move left on the scale, the belief that property can be owned diminishes on both state and stateless philosophies. Both leftist systems hold unions in high regard and consider the means of production in private hands as immoral. As you move right on the scale, the concept of private property and ownership become more important, for both rightwing philosophies.

Individualism vs. the collective-

As you move left on the scale, the concept of the individual diminishes and the importance of the collective increases. As you move right the importance of the individual increases and the collective decreases. This is true for both the state and stateless philosophies.

Positive rights vs. negative rights-

As you move left on the scale, the importance of positive rights increase. As you move right on the scale the importance of negative rights increases. This is true for both the state and stateless philosophies.

Of course, I left out a lot of different philosophies and each category can be subdivided countless times. I don’t have the space or patience to list every single type of socialist or fascist or libertarian. But you get the point. This thought does beg the question though: If something can be done without a state, why is the state necessary?

By the way, one of the reasons I find libertarianism superior to the main political parties, is that it forces me to think about things that democrats and republicans never do. A person’s political party is acquired much like their religion, by birth. You are what your parents are, until you rebel and become the other party. Not much thought goes into it. Very few people are born libertarian. It requires first, an epiphany that something is wrong with what you believe and second, research. That’s partly why I didn’t make each word in that word triangle a link to a further description, the other part was I’m too lazy to make that many hyperlinks. Happy researching!

If you are a republican or democrat, progressive or conservative, here is a little exercise to get you started. Answer these questions:

  • Do I own my own body, my time and my talents?
  • If I trade my time for goods do I own those goods?
  • Are my needs as important as the needs of my community?
  • Should my rights obligate you to serve me or take action? (positive rights)
  • Should my rights be able to be exercised without requiring action from others? (negative rights)
  • Should I be able to decide what is best for me and my family?
  • Is freedom more important than security?
  • How much freedom am I willing to give up to be secure?

When you answer these questions, take your answers to their logical conclusion and see if any of your answers contradict each other. They will contradict each other. At this point you will need to make a conscious decision about which way you want to go. Take that decision to its logical conclusion. Feel free to use the word triangle above to see where you place on the spectrum.

I would love to hear about your results. Tell me where you fall and why. Please feel free to ask me where I fall and why.

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The Politics of “Rights”

In the coming election year we are going to be bombarded with promises of free stuff. It’s inevitable. Phrases like, “basic human right” are going to be bandied about like candy on Halloween. Let’s take a look at the most common things that are described as human rights, or natural rights to see if they would truly fit that description.

Before we begin, let’s talk a little about human rights. Not all rights are created equal. Rights fall into two camps, positive and negative. I know what you are thinking, “positive” sounds like a good word and “negative” sounds like a bad word, so positive rights must be better! Right? Well no, not exactly. Positive rights are things that, when exorcised, would require action from a 3rd party, whereas negative rights can be exercised in the absence of action from a 3rd party. To illustrate the difference, let’s say “I have a positive right to food”. If this were true and I could not feed myself for whatever reason, another person would be obligated or required to feed me. If I say “I have a negative right to food”, and for some reason I could not feed myself, no one would be required to work in order to feed me.

Hopefully, it is clear that rights that need no approval from anyone else to enjoy are superior to rights that require others in order to be enjoyed. This point is fairly well acknowledged by most philosophers and political scientists. Therefore, negative rights are the only true set of natural or human rights we have. Positive rights, in my opinion, are not rights at all. Positive rights are, however, very important aspects of living with each other, in communities, as human beings.

I should also point out that it is a much different thing when private companies use “rights” in their marketing campaigns than when governments do it. When you hear a commercial airline use the phrase, “passenger’s bill of rights”, they are marketing their services and not using the term literally. When advertisers tell you that you have a right to fast, friendly service, they are trying to get your business by insinuating that their competition does not give fast, friendly service. It’s a marketing ploy that I despise because it dilutes not only the word “rights”, but also the concept.

So what are the politicians going to tell you that you have a basic right to? Off the top of my head, I can remember hearing that I have a basic right to:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Healthcare
  • employment
  • Living wage
  • Speech
  • Bear arms
  • Privacy
  • Life
  • Liberty
  • Property

The list is truly endless, so I’ll stop here. So are all these things rights? Which are positive and which are negative? Conveniently, I put the positive rights in the top half and negative rights at the bottom half.

  • If I have a right to food and cannot feed myself, you must feed me. Therefore you are my slave. You have no choice, it is my right.
  • If I have a right to clothing and cannot make my own clothes, you must cloth me. Therefore you are my slave. You have no choice, it is my right.
  • If I have a right to shelter and cannot build it myself, you must build it for me. Therefore you are my slave. You have no choice, it is my right.
  • If I have a right to healthcare and I am not a doctor, you must treat me. Therefore you are my slave. You have no choice, it is my right.
  • If I have a right to a job, you must hire me. Therefore you do not own your business. You have no choice, it is my right.
  • If I have a right to a living wage, you must give me that wage. Therefore you do not own the money your business makes. You have no choice, it is my right.

Let’s contrast these 6 rights with the next 6 rights on the list:

  • If I have a right to free speech, I may speak, but you have no obligation to listen to me. We are both free.
  • If I have a right to bear arms, I may purchase a gun, but you have no obligation to sell me one. We are both free.
  • If I have a right to privacy, I can protect that privacy, but you have no obligation to protect that privacy. We are both free.
  • If I have a right to life, I can defend my life, but you are not obligated to help me. We are both free.
  • If I have a right to liberty, I can defend my liberty, but you are not obligated to help me. We are both free.
  • If I have a right to property, I can buy whatever I want with the money I make, but you are not obligated to sell it to me. We are both free.

The dangers of empowering governments over positive rights are apparent. Positive rights are the main reason we are in $20 trillion in debt. The majority of the federal budget does not go to the military industrial complex or infrastructure (muh roads!). The majority of the federal budget goes to entitlements. Proving food, shelter, healthcare and a living wage to people who cannot or will not endeavor to provide it for themselves. The problem with this that government becomes the middle man between the people who endeavor to take care of themselves and the people who cannot or will not. Taking from one group and giving to the other, all the while telling them that they are “entitled” to what other people have earned through hard work.

In my opinion, only negative rights should be protected by the government. I say this because it costs nothing to exercise these rights. The proper role of government is to protect me if someone infringes on one of my negative rights. Positive rights are best left to the private sector, enforced through contract. Too much power has been taken away from private individuals and groups, and too much has just been given away freely. Churches and other social groups have given away almost all of the moral authority they once had to the government. Deciding what is moral and immoral used to be up to social groups and churches, now the government makes those decisions. The churches freely gave away that authority by lobbying for such things as marriage licenses and sin taxes. Charities used to be the ultimate decision makers as to who received their charity and who did not. Now the government decides who gets what. Charities don’t mind as long as they get their cut. Even charities with the best of intentions get government funding, but what hoops did they have to jump through to get it? Now that we have a government that has taken the power of moral authority and ultimate decider of what we need, we are all a slaves to the state. The recipient of the benefits because they need it to live and the citizen who gets their money taken because they no longer own what they produce.

As more and more people get into a situation where they are living paycheck to paycheck, the temptation to just let the government take care of certain things that they may not be able to afford gets stronger and stronger. Beware when a politician makes a positive right sound like a negative one. Beware when they demonize those who make more than you, stoking your envy. More than likely outside your own decisions in life, the politician is much more responsible for your financial situation than that rich person is. When you use the government to punish the wealthy, you do so at the risk of ceding your freedom. No matter what that politician tells you, you will not get richer by making a rich person poorer. But they will. I implore you to think about your own long term freedom over any short term comfort they might be promising you.

It’s Time to End the EPA

Any reasonable person would tell you that the environment is an important thing that needs to be protected. Pollution is bad. Most reasonable people would agree that there should be some mechanism by which large polluters are held accountable for their actions. In this way, most reasonable people don’t think twice about letting that mechanism be implemented by the national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). What I’m going to argue is that the EPA is the wrong mechanism. Let’s get started!

So when I say “mechanism” what do I mean? The mechanism is the process that we use to define what is and is not harmful to the environment and the way that we encourage people to treat the environment with care. The mechanism that the EPA uses are called regulations. Regulations are rules made to force manufacturers to adhere to certain standards in order to keep our air clean and to curb climate change. If they break the rules they have to pay a fine. In order to obey the rules they have to pay to upgrade their systems. How much does it cost businesses in America each year to keep up with the regulations? Well depending on who you ask anywhere from the hundreds of billions to multiple trillions of dollars each year. The claim from the EPA is that more money is saved with the benefits of better air quality, etc. has on our health than it costs to comply with the regulations. I have a problem believing that claim when it is impossible to count the people who don’t get sick, but for the sake of argument let’s just assume that it’s true. We should still get rid of the EPA.

My biggest problem with the EPA is that it is redundant. We have 50 states, each with their own version of the EPA. Each with their own standards and regulations. Some of these standards are more stringent then the federal standards and some are not. I firmly believe that in every area of life that the closer you are to a problem, the better you are at solving that problem. Since each state already has these mechanisms in place, they are the best ones to solve the environmental problems in their state. I think most people think that if the federal government isn’t doing something that it must not be getting done. That’s simply not true. If we get rid of the EPA, or the Department of Education, or whatever, it does not mean that we won’t be protecting the environment or that our kids won’t have public school, far from it and possibly the opposite in fact. Those things would become better.

The other problem I have with the regulations imposed by the EPA is the toll it takes on people, especially the poor. Millions of jobs and entire industries have been lost due to overbearing regulations. The vast majority of our electricity comes from fossil fuels. The costs of complying with these regulations drives up utility bills which disproportionally harms the poor who have less income to spend on those things. These regulations make your groceries more expensive, your car, your cloths, almost everything in fact. Luckily we live in America, so bankrupting the coal industry, or making their product cost prohibitive only kills a few thousand a year here. When they do this stuff in Africa millions die. What is most maddening about articles like the one linked to in the previous sentence is that these places have the natural resources, but since they aren’t deemed “clean enough” they can’t use them, so millions die while these rich countries search for billions of dollars that go towards solving a problem of CO2 that literally cannot be solved even with 100% reduction in CO2 emissions. The basic premise of these types of articles is that a few rich white people need to solve the problem and if a few million dark people die, well, it’s for the greater good so who cares. Well, I care.

So what would America look like if the federal government just outright got rid of the EPA tomorrow? The only thing that would change is that more jobs, better paying jobs would be available, your stuff would get cheaper and your state would be the only one regulating the environmental standards. That’s it. There would still be an agency protecting the air you breathe and the water you drink. A state agency that is more directly accountable to you, the citizen voter. There would also be billions of more dollars available to entrepreneurs to open factories that make things here in the US. When you don’t have to spend millions of dollars wading through the hundreds of thousands of regulations, you tend to use that money to make more money which includes making things to sell. Which includes hiring people to make and sell your things. See how that works?

Just on a side note. I consider myself to be a skeptic. I implore you to also be more skeptical in your life. When someone makes a claim, don’t just take it as fact because they belong to the same political party as you do. Make them prove it. If they can’t prove it, don’t believe it. That includes me. Check to see if the state you live in has an environmental protection agency of their own. If they do, ask yourself why that is, since we also have a federal one. Then ask yourself why we have a federal one if we already have a state one. Try to answer each question fully and decide which should stay and which should go. If you think both are necessary convince me why that is. Once you pass this hurdle, move on to another federal agency that is also being handled by your state, if you are honest, you may start to decipher a pattern.