Feminism (and Social Justice) Are Not About Equality

I have heard a lot of talk lately from people, really smart people even, who defend feminism as a movement advocating for the equality of women. They all love to go to the dictionary and read the actual definition of feminism. Fem·i·nism noun: feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. To be honest, this is a pretty weak definition because there are more than one type of equality. Depending on the lens in which you look at the world, that definition could mean vastly different things, polar opposite things even. Not to mention that almost mainstream feminists reject this definition, (until they are debating an anti-feminist and it becomes convenient to use it), and hold that there is no set in stone definition of today’s modern 3rd wave feminist movement. For the purposes of this writing, let’s just stick to the dictionary definition. I don’t intend to imply that the definition of feminism is wrong, just the worldview behind the movement itself.

What do I mean when I say “the lens in which you look at the world”, or “worldview”. They mean the same thing. The structure by which our societies are built, shape in a large way how we see the world. Worldview. In modern times, the two most prominent worldviews that shape western society have been socialism and capitalism. In olden times we could throw monarchy and theocracy in there, but those aren’t major players in western society anymore. I may get to them later though. Aren’t these just economic systems though? What does buying and selling stuff have to do with how we view equality? Well, based on which system the society you live in chooses, a government is formed and laws are written. These laws should, if done properly, protect the rights of people.

So what’s the difference on how socialism and capitalism look at equality? In America, our society has been built with the worldview of capitalism. We think of equality in terms of equal opportunity. This means that the government has one set of laws that apply to everyone in the same way. What you make of your life is your choice. Every citizen has the same opportunity to follow their dreams as every other citizen under the law. Yes, some will succeed while others fail. Yes, some have an advantage based on a multitude of factors. No one has access to laws that give them any advantage over another person. Capitalist societies use terms like egalitarian to describe equality.

In the socialist worldview, places like the old Soviet Union or modern Venezuela, the concept of equality is more in the line of equality of outcome. This means that the laws will favor people who have less over people who have more in an effort to make everyone more equal in what they have, compared to what everyone else has. To do this the government must have some way of determining who the laws should favor. The most popular way to determine who is privileged and who is not today is through a philosophy called Critical Theory, the Frankfurt School or sometimes Cultural Marxism. It takes privilege from those who need it less and grants privilege to those who need it more to create a balance of equal outcome in society.

Leaders in the modern feminist movement, as well as the larger social justice movement, have embraced the socialist worldview and developed a system of hierarchy, sometimes called the “progressive stack” to determine who is privileged and who is not. The stack itself goes something like: 1. Race 2. Heteronormativity 3. Gender 4. Sexuality 5. Ability 6. Class 7. Religion. The group with the most privilege using this hierarchy would be white, cis-gendered, male, straight, able bodied, rich, Christian. The devil incarnate. It’s hard to say who would be at the bottom of the list because there is a constant fight for who can claim the status of most oppressed. I’ve written before on Social Justice Warriors, and Why Feminism Fails.

Ultimately, the reason the social justice and 3rd wave feminism movements fail everywhere except college campuses, is because in western countries, women do enjoy political, social and economic equality to men. In fact, women enjoy more protection in many areas of the law. Women are generally given less jail time for the same crimes and child custody and divorce laws favor women, for instance. Feminists cling to myths like the gender wage gap where women supposedly make $.77 for every dollar a man makes for doing the same job. A myth that has been debunked dozens of times. Feminists don’t care that women work less hours, take more time off and generally quit working earlier, they just want them to make the same amount of money no matter what. Equality of outcome. Not equal opportunity. They cling to myths like the 1 in 5 sexual assault on college campus for women, which has also been debunked several times over. This study was debunked by the very person who created the myth in the first place. Doesn’t matter.

There are, in fact, places in this world that could use feminism. These are places that still rely on monarchy and theology as worldviews. These are places that take part in female genital mutilation, openly value women less than men by law and generally treat women as property rather than people. You will rarely see a modern feminist criticize these countries or their culture and practices. Islam is lower than Christianity on the scale, you see, so they are less privileged and more oppressed than all these social justice/feminist keyboard warriors and therefore can’t be criticized. Because of this it doesn’t matter that women who are raped get stoned while the man who raped her gets a slap on the wrist. It doesn’t matter that gays get thrown off buildings for being gay. It doesn’t matter that Christians get beheaded for being Christian.

I’m not a feminist because I don’t believe in their version of equality. I believe what is good for everyone regardless of race, herteronormativity, gender, Sexuality, ability, class or religion is the freedom of equal opportunity. Free markets make for a free people. Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried. I have hopes that the 4th wave of feminism embraces the free market and they see the fallacy of the segregation and regressive laws they are supporting. High hopes, low expectations.

Is “Democratic Socialism” Different Than Plain Old Socialism

I hate to keep harping on this topic and hopefully I won’t have to as Bernie Sanders becomes less and less likely to win the Democratic nomination. It is quite apparent that many people, mostly under 35, think that “Democratic Socialism” is a new thing, maybe a more compassionate and modern take on the socialism of old that has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in the last century. Maybe the Bernie Sanders socialism takes all the good things out and throws away all the bad things? Let’s just see about that.

As a comparison between old world socialism and Bernie Sanders socialism, I’ll use the 1936 Constitution of the U.S.S.R. and various parts of BernieSander.com and other Bernie Sanders websites. If you remember in my previous blog on socialism, I explained the difference between capitalism and socialism. I think it’s only fair to point out that socialism is not inherently evil. It is a political system devised with the best intentions, I’m sure. Socialism advocates for the very poor people that, in the end, suffer at its hands. This is because of a very simple principle, as it turns out. The cornerstone of freedom and prosperity is the right to own things. Sounds simple right? How can you pin 100 million deaths due to starvation and mass murder on the right to own things? Well, in socialism, the cornerstone of the philosophy, what really makes it work is that individuals can’t own anything. The state allows citizens to own personal property, like their clothes and maybe a home, but stuff you would use to make money, called the means of production, including your building, machinery and all the other things you would need to run a business, are owned by the workers and more generally, the government. It stands to reason that if an individual can’t own the means of production, then they can’t really own anything.

That’s a bold claim. So how can I say that? Well, take a quick look. I think we would all agree that we own our own bodies right? My thoughts, what I’m good at, nobody can take away. So far so good, I hope. I also own my time, because I can choose to use my time here on earth however I choose. Good, bad or ugly. Let’s take that a step further and say when I trade my time, thoughts or talents for things like money or food, I also own those things I gain in the trade. Stated differently, if I trade my time by working, for money, since I own my time, I then must also own the money. By this logic, I can also truly own things by trading that money which I own for other things which I must also own. So far I don’t think many people would disagree with me. Even the Soviet Constitution agrees with me so far. Here’s where I must depart from socialism, and why in that system a person really doesn’t own anything.

This is a line of logic based on the socialist system:

  • I buy a home. Do I own it? Yes
  • I buy a printing press. Do I own it? Yes
  • I buy a typewriter. Do I own it? Yes
  • I start a home based newspaper with myself as the sole employee. Do I own it? Yes
  • Sales increase and I need help, so I hire a few employees. Do I still own my business? No, the employees take ownership of the means of production.
  • Do I still own the typewriters? No, they are part of the business.
  • Do I still own the printing press? No, they are part of the business.
  • Do I still own the home? No, it is part of the business.
  • If I purchased those things with money I gained by trading my time and talent, how can I say I own my time and talent? I can’t.
  • If I don’t own my time and talent, do I own myself? No

With this simple illustration you can see that in a socialist system you not only can’t own things, you don’t own yourself. Your time, talents and treasures are effectively owned by the state government. In socialism the collective group is more important than the individual. This system is enforced by workers unions and cooperatives that are organized by the state. These entities take ownership away from the person who started the business and give it to the workers in those unions and cooperatives. The state dictates the wages based on the income of the business to ensure everyone gets an equal share. This is outlined in the Soviet Constitution I linked to above in the section about “The organization of Society“. Just to recap, in the old socialist system the government, through unions and cooperatives takes over your business, dictates your wages and hours worked by the employees.

What about Bernie Sanders? Well in fact, he absolutely does believe in union and cooperative employee ownership of business. Dictated through government mandates. He absolutely does believe in government dictated wages for employees. Under the guise of income inequality, a socialist mantra, he proposes to steal from the rich and give to the poor, dictate the minimum wage, which is arbitrarily set by government bureaucrats. Class warfare, pitting the rich against the poor, is a classic socialist tactic. Bernie calls the rich the 1% and the poor the 99%, in the old socialist system they called the rich the bourgeoisie and the poor the proletariat. Same exact thing. Create a boogeyman to fight, divide the people, making it easier to control everyone.

How did the old socialist system deal with the needs of the people? In chapter X of the Soviet Constitution, it outlines the “Fundamental Right and Duties of Citizens“. This is mostly a list of positive rights, with a few negative rights thrown in at the end: freedoms of speech, press, assembly and street processions and demonstrations. The positive rights include: the right to a job, leisure time (set workday and paid vacations), free healthcare and social security, free education from elementary to college and vocational school, paid maternity leave for women along with free daycare for their children and the right to join trade unions and cooperative associations.

If any of that sounds familiar, that’s because you have heard it before. Bernie Sanders thinks you have the right to a job, free healthcare and social security, free education from elementary to college, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for women and expand public unions and grow cooperative businesses.

In chapter X of the Soviet Constitution, not only did they outline workers’ rights, but also the duties they were expected to perform. This is crucial to socialism. Everyone likes the rights because they benefit, but in the end the state has to have a way to provide all those benefits and therefor has to require that the citizens do their part. In the case of 1936 Soviet Union people were required to work, unemployment was illegal. If you did not have a job, a job would be designated to you. If you don’t work, you are an enemy of the state. Military service is mandatory, if you do not serve you are an enemy of the state. If you break any rules, you are an enemy of the state. You have freedom of speech, but if you speak out against the state, you are an enemy of the state. There is freedom of the press, but the state controls the press. There is freedom of assembly, which is state controlled. This is the ugly part of socialism, the part Bernie Sanders won’t tell you about. Without the Capitalist notion of competition and market incentives, a void is created that can only be filled by force.

This is the downfall of socialism and why it has never really worked anywhere it has been tried. It all stems from ownership of things. When a person does not own things, that person does not care as much about those things as when they do own them. Think about things in your life. Do you treat public restrooms as nicely as you treat your own bathroom at home? If you have rented a car, do you care as much about that car as you do your own? When you win a gift card in a contest do you spend that money as wisely as you spend your hard earned money? If you are honest, the answers are all probably no. That does not make you a bad person, just a bad socialist. There has been no system in the history of the world that has propelled people into health, happiness and prosperity like capitalism has. This is because capitalism gets around the problem of incentive by acknowledging the natural right to ownership. When you own it, you have an incentive to take care of it. As we drift closer and closer to a socialist state, we will also go the way of the old Soviet Union.

At the very least, you can at least now see that there is very little, if any, difference between the Democratic Socialism proposed by Bernie Sanders and that of WW2 era Soviet Union. To be fair to Bernie, he’s not the only one with this ideology. He’s just honest enough to admit it. Always vote for freedom.

The Problem With Corporations

“There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve seen this meme, or some variation, floating around social media a lot this week. I guess it’s supposed to prove that Bernie Sanders is right and we need the government to control all these out of control corporations that control the government. I am assuming that it is supposed to carry more weight because Teddy Roosevelt was a republican, so republicans must think what he says makes sense. Well it doesn’t. It reeks of 100 year old garbage, said by a garbage president, and would only make sense to people who don’t bother to think about the words they read beyond the mouth that those words came from. In other words, a typical Bernie Sanders supporter.

So what’s so wrong with this statement? Let’s break it into its parts to find out.

The first sentence is ok. There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. ” That makes sense. When you limit the power of the government, the people under that government are freer. That is to say, a less powerful government would have less authority to make rules that would affect your life.

The second sentence is the problem. “In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.” This is a nonsensical statement. To explain why we first have to understand what a corporation is and does, generally, and the part the government plays in the role of a corporation.

A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by the people who have invested money into the business. These people are called shareholders. Usually, there are a main group of people that decide which direction to take the business of the corporation in order to make the most money for the shareholders. These people are called the board of directors. When people sue corporations, they are not suing the shareholders or even the board of directors, they are suing the actual corporation, which is legally considered a person. Some people have a problem with this, I don’t. The goal of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders. No more, no less. They have a self-interest in making the government work for them and they are very good at doing just that. I have a huge problem with that.

A government is wholly responsible for the existence of a corporation. Governments rely on experts in various areas of life for the purpose of regulating commerce for a variety of purposes. Since the government is not an expert at anything really, it makes sense that they would rely on bankers to draft banking regulations, and manufacturers to write regulations for manufacturers and farmers to make farming regulations. Of course, the experts writing the regulations have an interest in writing them in such a way as to make competition from new ideas easier to battle. New business regulations are easy to afford if you are already rich, it’s the little guy with a great idea that will have trouble getting off the ground due to these regulations. On top of these regulations, governments pass laws allowing people to copyright and trademark their ideas so that no one else is able to use them to improve on the products or ideas being protected by the government. The truth is that without government corporations would not exist.

So why the second sentence in Teddy’s quote nonsensical? Well, because without corporations the government could still function as it does today, but without the government corporations could not function as they do today. Corporations, at the end of the day, just want to sell you stuff. They can’t force you to buy their products unless a government helps them to create a monopoly, like with your internet/cable providers or your healthcare options. At the end of the day, you can tell the corporation no. With governments, they are able to write laws that force you to act in a certain way and to deem your behavior illegal, even when you are not hurting others. If you tell the government no, bad things will happen to you.

I ask you, which entity is more dangerous? The one with the power to control your life or the one that wants to sell you stuff? Is it a rational position to say that governmental policies have made corporations too powerful, so we need more governmental policies to make them less powerful? Wouldn’t a simpler solution be to eliminate the governmental policies that made them too powerful in the first place?

If it is a true statement that when a government is smaller people have more freedom, then making the government bigger to deal with a problem strictly created by the government cannot by definition make you freer and to the contrary, will make you less free. The truth is that you have much more control over the corporation than you do over your government. You vote for an American president once every 4 years, an American senator once every 6 years and an American congressman once every 2 years. We vote for and against corporations on an almost constant basis with our dollars. Corporations fear you more than your government does and it’s not even close.

When you hear politicians speak about the problems with big business controlling the government, listen to make sure their solutions are not making government bigger. When they start sentences with: “We will make those corporations…” what they really mean is that “We will make the government more powerful.” When the government gets bigger corporations get more powerful, no matter what they tell you. Who do you think is going to write all those anti-corporation laws?


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.

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.

The PATRIOT Act and You

Ben FranklinThis week I’d like to talk about the PATRIOT act. It’s been in the news lately because certain provisions are set to expire this week. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), has been in stark opposition of the PATRIOT act since he was elected to office. The PATRIOT act has been surrounded by controversy ever since the bill was passed by congress in 2001. Like many horrible bills, this one was passed quickly, without being read by the people voting for it. It was given a ten word title that created the acronym USA PATRIOT. As we all know, when a bill has a nice sounding name it must be really good. Right? At any rate, why should we care about the PATRIOT act? If it makes us safer isn’t it worth it?

How about we start by figuring out what the PATRIOT act is for. Passed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the PATRIOT act was not a completely new concept. Instead it brought together and strengthened several other laws that were already being used at the time, most notably the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). The goal of the new law was to make it easier to discover and stop terrorist plots that would otherwise be carried out in American cities. If you were a grown up during the 9/11 attacks you heard the phrase, “connect the dots” a lot. This is because previous to the PATRIOT act it was very difficult for different law enforcement agencies to communicate with each other and it was thought that 9/11 may have been prevented if that was not the case. The law was sold to the American people as a way to allow the different agencies to connect the dots and make it easier to collect information from non-American terrorists from outside the US communicating to terror cells within the country. I was a supporter of the law in 2001, believing that we would only be able to conduct warrantless wire taps on terrorists in foreign countries, and that federal law enforcement was just being given the power that local law enforcement already had. In my defense, in 2001 we had just been attacked and the vast majority of both parties had voted for the bill. I, like my fellow Republicans and Democrats, blindly supported the bill. After all, how bad could it be if 98 senators voted for it?

So, what’s wrong with the PATRIOT act? Isn’t preventing terror attacks on American cities important? At this point it would be very easy to pull the low hanging fruit and invoking Ben Franklin’s quote about liberty vs. security, so I won’t. Instead, how about I just concentrate on what the government can and can’t do, or should and shouldn’t do? Let’s talk about a little thing I like to call the Bill of Rights. Contrary to apparent popular belief, the Bill of Rights does not tell us what we as citizens can do without penalty from the government. The Bill of Rights says what the government can’t do to the citizenry of the country. For instance, the first amendment does not say you have the right to free speech, it says the government cannot abridge your freedom of speech. The difference is that your freedom was there before the government existed, not the other way around. This is an important distinction. The amendment that would apply to the PATRIOT act is the 4th amendment. Here’s the text of the bill:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

You can see what I mean about this amendment not granting the people the freedom of privacy, but limiting the government’s ability to violate the rights you were born with to be secure in your own home and communications with others. The reason that is important is because if it was the other way around and constitution said “You have the right to free speech, religion and the press.” Or “You have the right to be secure in your person, house, papers and effects.” That would imply that your rights were granted to you by the government. But it doesn’t say that, and they weren’t. If they were, the government would legally be able to remove your rights as easily as they were granted, and I would not be writing this blog right now.

So what’s the connection between the PATRIOT act and the 4th amendment? This is why the PATRIOT act has been in the news for the last couple weeks. A provision called section 215, is set to expire on June 1st. This provision makes it possible for government to have access to all the phone records and emails of every citizen of the country without having to get a warrant issued for any of them. Basically, they can get one warrant, say for Verizon, and be granted access to every single customer’s phone records, or an email provider and gain access to every single customer’s email records. One warrant, millions of people’s private information. This is a blatant violation of the 4th amendment. Not only that, but when they issue the warrant it is illegal to tell anyone that a warrant has been issued and they are possibly looking at the phone records of innocent people.images (8)

Aren’t we safer because of the PATRIOT act? There have been over 50 terrorist plots thwarted since 9/11. The vast majority have been from information gathered in terror-likely countries around the world. It is impossible to say whether we would have been able to catch them without the PATRIOT act or just using intelligence gathering methods available to us before 9/11. Let’s take it for granted that the program works and terrorists have been caught directly because of the PATRIOT ACT. It should still be stopped. In this country, we have the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. The PATRIOT act treats everyone as guilty until proven innocent. The thinking is along the lines of, “We have to be proactive in our search of terrorists in order to keep our citizens safe.” The problem with that is that when you tell a free society that there is no privacy, and nothing can be done outside the watchful eye of the benevolent government, the free society turns into a police state to keep them safe. When a society becomes a police state, they are no longer a free society. The citizens mighty be safe from each other, but not safe. I’m getting dangerously close to that Ben Franklin quote again, I better stop.