Why I’m Not a Socialist and You Shouldn’t Be Either

I am writing this blog mainly for those under 30 years of age, who have no working memory of what socialism looked like in the world of grownups 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. I’m not much older than you, 42, but I can still remember watching the news about the “arms race” and negotiations between the US and Russia. I wasn’t old enough to be scared, but the older people around me were.

Today’s socialism bears very little resemblance to the bad old days of the cold war. Nuclear bombs have been replaced with safe spaces, trigger warnings and social justice. Make no mistake, one is no less dangerous than the other. Socialism today has been made to feel safer because the word “democratic” has been placed before it, as if people voting for it makes it any better. I’m not going to be talking about the socialism that you see in the black and white films in your history class today, although the ideas you think are great did come from those people, no, I’m going to be talking about modern socialism. Hopefully, by the end of this you will understand why you should not be a socialist.

One of the main problems, I think, is that young people have no idea what socialism, or it’s opposite, capitalism, really are. Let’s take a look at each system and see if we can determine the attraction that each may have. The truth is that on the outside, socialism has much more appealing selling points than capitalism does. In actual definition there in only one word of difference between them. In the history of the world there has never been a bigger difference from just one word.

Socialism- A system where the means of production are controlled by the public segment of society.

Capitalism- A system were the means of production are controlled by the private segment of society.

Now that you have a basic definition let’s get a little more descriptive. Karl Marx described socialism as a system that “takes from each according to their ability, and gives to each according to their need.” That sounds really good on the outside. Everyone contributes, and is given what they need to live. But let’s dig a little deeper by asking the questions, who decides? Who decides how much I am able to give? Who decides how much I need to live? Your answer may very well be, the people we vote for will decide! Ok, fair enough, the people you vote for how much you work, at what job, at what wage. The people you vote for decide how much of that wage they decided you should make you get to keep. Do you see where I’m going here? In a socialist system, you lose your personhood. You lose your right to own property. You lose your right to be an individual. The collective group of the community becomes way more important than any single individual. “But we are all in this together! The community is more important that the individual!” I hear you saying this, but let’s just put that on the shelf for now and get back to in in a bit and talk about capitalism.

One of the people responsible for my becoming a libertarian was Dr. Walter Williams, he describes capitalism as a system where in order to reap the rewards of society, one must first serve society. Admittedly, that does not sound quite as enticing as the description of socialism on the outside. Making a person work in order to benefit from society seems mean. Let’s use an example to illustrate what he meant by that description. Bobby wants to buy some food. He goes to the store and asks for some BBQ chicken. The store owner asks Bobby if he has served society and Bobby says yes, he served society by delivering newspapers. The store owner asks for proof of this service and Bobby produces money given to him by the owner of the newspaper. With this money Bobby buys the chicken to eat. So who decided what Bobby had the ability to give? Who decides what Bobby needs? The answer to each of these questions is Bobby. A capitalist society empowers the individual to serve themselves. A community is broken down into interactions between individuals where both parties feel better off after the interaction. While socialism looks better on the outside, once you peel back the layers, capitalism is much better vehicle to freedom.

Still, this is not a perfect picture of modern socialism, Bernie Sanders socialism or Scandinavian socialism. Social justice and 3rd wave feminism are just trying to empower oppressed groups right? Well, let’s take a look at that and see what the connection is to what I have described above. To understand “social justice”, you have to google the terms, “Frankfurt School”, “Critical Theory”, “Cultural Marxism”. Yes, that Marx! The same guy who I used to describe socialism above. “Social justice” assigns a hierarchy to groups of people based on their standing in society. It’s a ladder system, the higher you are on the ladder, the less oppressed you are and therefore the less rights you have. It’s ok for any group lower on the ladder to attack any group higher on the ladder. If you don’t see the ugliness here, I’ll just go ahead and point it out. It’s a system not concerned with elevating the rights of the oppressed, it’s a system concerned with lowering the rights of the oppressors. Still don’t get it? It tears people down and punishes them if they try to build themselves back up. Until we all share the misery equally. “Wait a minute!” you say, “How can standing up for the oppressed be that bad!” you say. Well ask yourself some questions. Who decides which groups are oppressive and which are oppressors? That’s right! Your benevolent dictators do! Your elected officials that you have given all your individuality to get to decide where you belong on this ladder. “So what!” you say, “I’m a gay, female, ethnic minority and low on the ladder, I can only benefit from this system!” Yes, I guess for now you do. At least until your particular group passes someone else on the ladder, then you too will need to be brought down a peg or two. In this philosophy of life, you are giving away your freedom to a benevolent dictator because you feel like your group is too weak or stupid to take care of themselves. 3rd wave feminists think women are too stupid to compete in the job market and must be protected from evil men. LGBTAQ’s are too weak and stupid to get along in society full of straight people so they must be protected and sheltered from the evil breeders. This philosophy denigrates who you are. You make yourself less than in a grand competition to see who can get to the bottom first.

When you look at the big problems we have today in our government, like the corporate lobbying, special favors, bank bailouts, etc…, understand that crony-capitalism, where the corporations control the government, is actually a form of fascism and the government is really the one in control. The people who enforce the law are always in control. Fascism is just another branch on the socialist tree. The problem is not too much business, the problem is too much government.

This is why being separated from your individuality to benefit the collective is so bad. When you lose the power to decide what is good for you, society as a whole suffers. When you hear terms like “safe space”, “inclusion”, “multi-culturalism”, “patriarchy”, “rape culture”, “misogyny”, “trigger warning”, “micro-aggression”, “feminism”, “problematic”, and all the other “social justice” buzzwords, run the other way. As fast as you can. Learn the power you possess as an individual. These buzzwords do not reflect the reality of the world you live in. You are more important than the collective.

This socialist movement of “social justice” is more dangerous than the bad old days of the cold war because it entices free people to become slaves. You freely give up your liberty for social equality. What you are doing in essence is giving up freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and all your other freedoms for free college, free food, free healthcare and free housing and all the other “free” stuff promised by the benevolent ruling class. I get that you are probably at an age where you have up to this point been taken care of most of your life and the dangers of what I have described are not immediately apparent, but one day you will understand what it means to be on your own. I know the notion that you can remain a child of the state is attractive, but once you give away your freedoms, you can never get them back. It doesn’t work that way. One day, the odds are that you will be working at a job that will allow you to take care of yourself and you won’t need the governments help. Do your future self a favor and learn earlier rather than later the dangers of modern socialism. Please don’t vote away you freedom, and mine, to the highest bidder.

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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.

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.

Immigration and Welfare Reform

Many of us on the libertarian spectrum would love nothing more than to have open borders where people can come and go freely. People of every stripe, coming from every part of the globe looking for a better opportunity to provide for their families. The problem, as many point out, is that while we welcome poor people in, our government does their best to keep them poor by incentivizing them not to work. Let me be a little more generous and say our government incentivizes them not to strive to get out of poverty. The fact is that being poor in America is exponentially better than being poor in a 3rd world country. They do this through entitlement programs, otherwise known as welfare programs. The problem with immigration isn’t immigrants, it’s the ever-growing burden of welfare programs that now takes up about 85% of our federal budget each year.

This wasn’t a problem in the early 1900’s when millions of people were coming to Ellis Island in search of a better life. There was basically no safety net for those people, they lived or died by their own effort. The vast majority of them survived, mainly because they had to. Of course there was poverty, how could there not be, but they worked hard and within a generation or two became the middle and upper class. That all changed with the social programs of FDR and later Lyndon Johnson. The war on poverty became an all-out assault on the poor. This was done purposefully to keep power in Washington and in the hands of the Democrat party. Even today, generally liberals love South American immigration because they get them on welfare and have voters for life. Republicans are seen as hate mongers for wanting to put a fence up along the border. They know full well the effect South American immigration would have on elections and the national debt. The reality is that these poor people are just pawns in the games Republicans and Democrats play with each other to see who can steal the most power away from a public much more concerned with pop culture than what is actually happening in the world that could affect their life.

So what’s the solution? How do we fix the problem, a broken government, so that immigration into and out of the country would at worst, not matter and at best, would be a net benefit to society? This is actually a challenge from a great blog that notices that lots of people are recognizing the problem, but not many are proposing solutions. This is my attempt at picking up the gauntlet of that challenge.

For this challenge, let’s keep the pie in the sky solutions such as ending all welfare programs and the Federal Reserve, repealing the 16th amendment and stick with things that would not require too much in the way of congressional backbone. Of course, this will take a major overhaul in some areas, so some backbone would obviously be required.

Solution 1:

Institute a flat tax with no deductions– Why a flat tax? A flat tax with one bracket and no deductions would not require the repeal of the 16th amendment. The revenue generated would be roughly the same as what we see today as far as which income bracket would pay what percentage of the taxes. No deductions means no lobbyists for tax favors. It would also mean a fair and transparent tax system. The tax code could literally fit on one piece of paper. We could in essence come close to eliminating the IRS with a flat tax, almost.

Get all entitlement programs under one roof– While searching for a list of every welfare program, I came across this, which lists the 13 main categories of entitlements, although there are over 100 welfare programs in total. Seems like half of the federal departments have their own welfare programs. While getting rid of most of the federal departments would be an ideal fix, it’s not doable, so we need to have a quantifiable way to figure out what is going where and to whom.

A massive audit of the regulatory structure of our government– There are so many regulations that it’s hard to tell what is legal and illegal sometimes. Eliminating bad regulations would save job creators billions of dollars a year. All regulations that have an estimated cost to business of 50 million dollars or more each year should be removed from the books immediately. This would include environmental and banking regulations. This could get done if the political motivation was right.

A balanced budget amendment- In order to keep most of the welfare programs we have today, we would absolutely have to force by law, a balanced budget amendment. The increase in tax revenues caused by the flat tax and reduced regulations should be able to pay for the increases in entitlements brought on by more immigration, but only if we tie the hands of the people who spend the money.

Root out government waste– It’s time to take seriously all the money that our government wastes each year. They would not have to spend a dime to compile a list of programs to cut. There are countless lists of waste that could be cut with one vote. These lists are gathered by any number of think tanks and taxpayer watchdog groups. Hundreds of billions of dollars are knowingly wasted each year on stupid stuff. Can that not be a thing anymore please? Here is a good read regarding federal spending. At the end of it you will find one such list of government waste.

By my standards, this solution is very noninvasive from the perspective of the welfare recipient. They would not see a noticeable change in benefits. It does nothing to address the big problems in entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). It would simply pay for most of what we have now by streamlining the government. If we had the right people in the House and Senate, this could be done. That’s a big if, though.

Solution 2:

Take solution 1 and add:

Privatize Social Security- Partially or fully privatizing Social Security would give the power of retirement back to the people. They would get better returns on investment and the government would not be able to steal their money for pet/wasteful projects. This would mean for brand new citizens, they could start saving for retirement without inadvertently taking money out of a system they did not pay into.

Replace Welfare programs with cash payments- This is often called a negative income tax (NIT). The idea here is that you could take all the welfare programs, eliminate them, and replace them with a minimum income guarantee. This would have the effect of transferring the responsibility of taking care of ourselves from the government officials back to us. We could literally take what we are paying for in welfare payments and half it with direct cash transfers. Think about the prospect of reducing the size of government by almost 50% while taking better care of the poor. The nice part about this program is that it’s not all or nothing. Right now the working poor have to worry about making too much money lest they lose government benefits. These welfare programs are creating giant incentives to not work, or work as little as possible, or work under the table. With the negative income tax, you can make more money and still get a proportional share of money back. It incentivizes work and self-reliance. We actually have a form of this right now, it’s called the “earned income tax credit”. That was a kind of compromise for the NIT and continues to be the most efficient form of welfare. There are many different types of NIT proposals, here is a more modern version. Any one of them would better for the country and for any immigrants who decide to come to this country and work. It also incentivizes becoming a citizen, but citizenship would not be necessary to work in the country if there were no benefits to abuse anyway.

These extra proposals would have a bigger effect on the welfare recipient, but in the end I believe it would be positive. These two things would be very hard to pass due to the fear involved in this type of change.

Anyway, this is my set of initial ideas to create a situation where mass immigration from South America would not be considered a problem by anyone. This should by no means be considered comprehensive. Just a conversation starter. Please feel free to add or subtract any idea to this list of things. And thanks to the Anarchist Notebook for inspiring me to blog again.

Bernie Sanders and Economics Don’t Mix

I have to apologize. I haven’t blogged in a while. The truth is that the current political climate is so disheartening that it makes it hard for me to want to write about it. With Donald Trump leading the Republican field and Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic field, there’s not much to want to write about. I don’t think I’ll ever waste another blog on Donald Trump because in my mind he is a joke, and in the end is unelectable (hopefully). Bernie Sanders seem like a much more viable candidate. He is honest, forthright and I get the feeling that he truly believes what he says. Best of all, all his solutions involve giving away “free” stuff! What’s not to like about that?

Bernie Sanders seems, to a rational, thinking person to be unelectable. His economic plans, even to a guy like me with only basic college level economics under my belt, seem to be coming from a virtual land of unicorn fairies, farting rainbows and pixie dust. He is constantly pining for the socialist systems used in the Scandinavian countries. He seems to not understand the American system or the different Scandinavian systems. The problem is that both systems are mostly socialist, just in different areas.

The American economy is socialist from the viewpoint of heavy governmental taxation and inefficient regulations in virtually every aspect of business. There is literally nothing that you buy or use that is not regulated by the government. The fastest growing costs to business are costs associated with compliance to governmental regulations. We are also a highly militarized society, with troops around the world protecting our freedom by trying to force people who don’t think like we do to think like we do. That in itself is a very socialist notion. Even though we have comparatively low personal income taxes compared to Denmark, over half our government spending is on entitlement programs. Because of those low taxes, we are not considered socialist in the area of personal freedom. We have a lot of say in what we do with our own money. Money that we earn.

If you look at places like Denmark or Sweden, the socialism mostly stems from the opposite side of the equation compared to the US. They have very high personal income taxes which allow the government to redistribute the wealth. What this means is that the income inequality is less pronounced, but the chance to become very wealthy is almost impossible. The rich in Denmark theoretically only make about $50,000 more a year than the poor. This means a rich person in Denmark would be considered solidly middle class in America. This is made up for with the vast number of social programs afforded to every citizen. When it comes to the relationship between government and business, these countries by and large are more capitalist than the US. The markets and trade systems are generally freer than the American system.

I think Bernie Sanders is right that we could learn things from Denmark and Sweden, just not the things he wants us to learn. I would love to adopt a more Scandinavian attitude towards efficient regulation, transparency and taxes on business. If we did that, America would be able to go past #12 on the freest economies list. What he actually wants us to learn is the other side of the equation, the side that relies on wealth redistribution. What he doesn’t realize is that it is the free markets that support the social programs in those countries. Bernie Sanders is unwaveringly against free markets. He wants the American socialism and Scandinavian socialism, with none of the capitalism from either. I have news for you, it’s the capitalism that pays for everything.

The other thing Bernie doesn’t realize is that in order for that type of system to work, the people need to buy into the idea that individual freedoms no longer exist, or at least don’t matter nearly as much as the needs of the many. That flies in the face of the American culture. We are a country made up of the most diverse group of people in the world. We are almost every ethnic group, almost every religion, color, creed, and whatever else I can’t think of. But one thing almost all of us have in common is our inherent drive to be individuals. Even those among us who would vote for all the “free” stuff are steadfast individuals. They would not readily accept the fact that the majority of what they earn would need to go to the government, because some government bureaucrat knows what to do with their money better than they do. Most Americans would not accept that, even with the “free” stuff.

Everything that I’ve seen and read regarding places like Norway, Sweden or Denmark tells me that the people there buy into their system. They all for the most part conform to the system and very few people step out of line. I am no saying that it’s negative in any way, to the contrary. If a group of people find a way that works, more power to them. What I am saying is that it won’t work in America any more than the American way of life would work there.

I am honored to know that a few people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark have read my obscure little blog. They seem like wonderful places and are definitely on my bucket lists for places to visit before I die. I would love to hear from anyone living there to see if what I am saying makes any sense. I would also to ask what part of your system that you would like to see exported to the US, as well as what you would import from the American way of life.

Freedom of Religion and Your Job

I thought I would write about our 1st amendment right to exercise religion. So much has been written on this topic since the Kim Davis affair that it seems a little redundant at this point, but I’m going to try to attack it from a different angle. If you are unaware of what the Kim Davis affair is, in a nutshell, she is an elected official who, after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, refused to issue any marriage licenses on religious grounds. She didn’t want any gay people getting a marriage license under her watch. Christian conservatives are crying religious persecution, while everyone else, other conservatives included, are saying no, she should have quit her job if she found it at odds with her religion.

Kim Davis was obviously wrong, and the religious persecution argument has been busted by multitudes of other writers, most of whom can do it much better than I can. I thought I would take a slightly different approach. I would like to talk a little about the freedom of speech and religion and where and when we can exercise that right. “Don’t we live in America?” You ask. “Can’t we exercise our 1st amendment rights anytime, anywhere?” You ask. Well, actually no, no you can’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start from the beginning and hopefully you will get what I mean.

When I say the beginning, I mean the very beginning. Let’s establish that you have the natural right of self-ownership. That means that you own yourself, your talents, and most importantly your time. This is important to establish because if you own something then you get to do with it whatever you choose. “If it’s my time,” you ask, “can’t I spend it revolting against gay marriage?” Yes, you most certainly can use your time revolting against anything you wish. You own your time. There is a catch though. You can’t go into a store and spend your time to get things you need. Store owners need more tangible things in the form of payment for their goods. Store owners need dollars. So how do you convert your time into dollars? You sell your time to someone who needs help performing a task. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you agree to let a bookstore owner buy 8 hours of your time each day so you can help her put books on a shelf. In the place of your lost time, she agrees to give you money. You are both happy with the arrangement. During these 8 hours every day, you have no freedom of speech and you have no freedom of religion. You are the tool of the person buying your time. Your speech is their speech. Your religion is their religion. During those 8 hours you represent that business owner’s speech and religion. When your shift is over, you can say and think whatever you want. Part of having a job is giving up your time and talent to another person in exchange for equal compensation in a different form.

Part of the process of agreeing to the terms of trading your time for money is the comparing of the task to your belief system. If someone is asking you to do something that goes against your belief system, you could either look for a different job, set a wage that would make you feel better about going against your beliefs, or suck it up and do it anyway at the asking price. Let’s say you are an actress in a movie and the director asks you to do topless scenes. If you have moral objections to such a request, you could quit the movie and let the director hire another actress, you could ask for more money to overcome the objections, or you could do the scenes at the agreed upon rate. Those are the choices whether it’s a job you’ve had for years or if it’s a job you are looking to get.

Those are the basics. Let’s add another dimension to this. The government. Whether you like it or not, America is a Christian nation of people, with a secular government. That is to say that as individuals, the vast majority of Americans are Christian. Virtually all of politicians, as individuals, claim to be Christian. The constitution that politicians swear to uphold is not a Christian document. As a matter of fact, the founders went out of their way to make it secular. The constitution adheres to no religion. When you are elected by vote to hold a government office, you swear to uphold the law and the constitution. You give up your freedom of speech, and your freedom of religion while you are serving in the capacity of your office. This is true even if you were not elected, but just hired to work for the government. Ask a soldier if he has the freedom to speak out against his commander in chief publicly without any repercussions. I’ll give you a hint, he or she doesn’t have that right. This is very important, because not only are you face and voice of the people to the state government, you are the face and voice of the government to the people. You are the government. The opinions you have while on the job are given to you by the law and the constitution. If you do not like the laws you are asked to enforce, your options are the same as a private sector worker.

To be honest, my first thought when Kim Davis was sent to jail for contempt of court after ignoring a judge’s request to resume issuing marriage licenses was that it was too harsh a punishment. After a second thought, I changed my mind. I think a big problem that we currently have is that there are way too many laws. There are so many laws, in fact, that it is impossible for anyone to know exactly what to enforce and what to ignore. It is said that an average citizen breaks 3 laws a day without knowing it. The main problem with all these unnecessary laws is that not only do we lose a little freedom every time a law is passed, but it make the laws that really matter meaningless. Laws should not be ceremonial in nature. There should be no gray area with our legal system. Laws should be there to protect people, not punish them. There should be no need for morality in a law. The constitution protects the citizens’ rights to life, liberty and property. Laws should only deal with those subjects. When I say no morality in law, I mean that a law has to be applied equally, no matter who you are protecting. There are 320 million Americans, who represent every conceivable religion, or lack of religion. In America, there hundreds if not thousands different sects of Christian churches. All with their own moral code and way of life. There are hundreds of non-Christian religions, each with their own moral code and teachings. The law should be able to serve every one of them equally and without controversy. If there is a law that anyone finds objectionable on moral grounds, it probably shouldn’t be a law. If your religion is contingent on murder, rape and the destruction of other peoples’ property, you are probably living in the wrong country. I’m not the government, so I can make that moral statement.

In the end, having a secular government and secular laws only strengthens your power to exercise your religion. The church and state were separated not only to protect the state from the church, but also to protect the church from the state. If you give the state the power to dictate moral authority, your church becomes less relevant and the state becomes more powerful. Once the state has the power, it rarely if ever gives it back. With respect to marriage and marriage licenses, it was the church’s influence that allowed the government to dictate who could get married, which benefitted the Christian morality at the time, (they didn’t like all the race mixing). Now 100 years later, the government has the power, but the morality has changed. The state will always come back to bite you in the butt.