A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

What Happens When You Look at Groups Instead of Individuals

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As humans we like to categorize things. Categorization is useful for many things. Categorizing books by subject and author makes them easier to find in a library or to search for online. Categorizing lumber by tree species makes it easier for consumers to find wood that fits their needs. But categorizing people presents some significant problems.

Each individual is unique. That uniqueness doesn’t stop when they become a member of a group. Two Democrats can have wildly different views about gun ownership, two Catholics can have wildly different views about same-sex marriage, and two Muslims can have wildly different views on women’s rights:

Akram’s work, al-Muhaddithat: The Women Scholars in Islam, stands as a riposte to the notion, peddled from Kabul to Mecca, that Islamic knowledge is men’s work and always has been. “I do not know of another religious tradition in which women were so central, so present, so active in its formative history,” Akram wrote.

Women scholars taught judges and imams, issued fatwas, and traveled to distant cities. Some made lecture tours across the Middle East.

[…]

If there was ever proof that a pious Muslim woman need not be a submissive wife and mother, it is the life of Aisha, the third of the Prophet’s eleven wives. She has divided opinions ever since the seventh century, among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

A top Islamic scholar, an inspiration to champions of women’s rights, a military commander riding on camelback, and a fatwa-issuing jurist, Aisha’s intellectual standing and religious authority were astonishing, by the standards of both our own time and hers.

Aisha is not the only wife of Muhammad whose life explodes notions of what constitutes a “traditional” Muslim woman. Khadija ran a caravan business in Mecca. A wealthy and successful trader, she was also a twice-widowed single mother, fifteen years Muhammad’s senior, and his boss.

Her marriage proposal to the future Prophet was forthright: “I like you because of our relationship, your high reputation among your people, your trustworthiness, your good character and truthfulness.”

I’m not sharing this article to start an argument about how Islam views women, I’m sharing it to show that there is disagreement within Islam about the religion’s views on women.

I hear too many people say, “Muslims believe killing infidels is acceptable,” or “Muslims believe that women shouldn’t have any rights.” Truth be told, there are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. It’s difficult enough to get three coworkers to agree on where to go for lunch so getting 1.5 billion people to agree on what a holy book says about anything is impossible.

Treating groups of individuals as a single entity is foolish. Each member of that group is likely to be quite different from the other members. They might have a single idea that holds them together but even their views on that idea are likely to differ.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26th, 2017 at 11:00 am

No Combatant is Innocent in War

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Expanding on my previous post, here is an example of what happens when people refuse to see evil when it’s perpetrated by people they view as human.

After every terrorist attack there is usually a great deal of outrage at the fact that the attacker(s) targeted and killed civilians and rightfully so. However, when terrorist attacks against civilians are perpetrated by “their” side they’re willing to either justify the action at necessary or unavoidable or they throw the entire incident down a memory hole:

Air strikes carried out by the US and its coalition partners in Syria have killed the highest number of civilians on record since the bombing campaign began, a war monitor has said.

A total of 225 civilians, including 36 women and 44 children, were killed in the period between 23 April to 23 May, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

No combatant is innocent in war.

Middle East attackers have killed a lot of civilians in the United States and Europe and the United States and its European allies have killed a lot of civilians in the the Middle East. Unfortunately, people living in the United States and Europe have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. I’m sure that a lot of people in the Middle East also have a tendency to look the other way when their militaries kill civilians. Justifying or ignoring the crimes of your tribe while condemning the same crimes of another tribe is common human behavior, which is also why we can’t have nice things.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Without Government Who Will Provide Services to Those in Need

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Without government who will provide services to those in need? Anarchists:

ATHENS — It may seem paradoxical, but Greece’s anarchists are organizing like never before.

Seven years of austerity policies and a more recent refugee crisis have left the government with fewer and fewer resources, offering citizens less and less. Many have lost faith. Some who never had faith in the first place are taking matters into their own hands, to the chagrin of the authorities.

[…]

Whatever the means, since 2008 scores of “self-managing social centers” have mushroomed across Greece, financed by private donations and the proceeds from regularly scheduled concerts, exhibitions and on-site bars, most of which are open to the public. There are now around 250 nationwide.

Some activists have focused on food and medicine handouts as poverty has deepened and public services have collapsed.

In recent months, anarchists and leftist groups have trained special energy on housing refugees who flooded into Greece in 2015 and who have been bottled up in the country since the European Union and Balkan nations tightened their borders. Some 3,000 of these refugees now live in 15 abandoned buildings that have been taken over by anarchists in the capital.

Without government who will build the roads? Who will care for the homeless? Who will care for the elderly? These are questions statists ask because they believe they shut down the conversation. They think that providing those goods and services is so complex that only a government can do them and therefore any arguments against government can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. However, every good and service that is provided by government was previously provided by nongovernmental entities. When governments collapse those goods and services are again handled by nongovernmental entities. Why? Because people see a need for those goods and services and therefore find a way to provide them.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 24th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Is It OK to Disassociate with a Nazi

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Voluntary association is a touchy subject here in the United States. Most people seem to believe that an individual has the right to associate with or disassociate from whoever they please… until they start a business. Once they start a business they can only disassociate from approved individuals. What makes this phenomenon more fascinating is how a lot of people will cheer such restriction when the people being disassociated with subscribe to ideologies they hate and then decry the very same restrictions when the people being disassociated with subscribe to ideologies they like.

When a Christian bakers wishes to disassociate with a gay couple who want to buy a wedding cake a lot of people scream bloody murder. But when a national socialist is booted from a gym the very same people cheer:

An Alexandria gym terminated the membership of white nationalist Richard Spencer last week after he was confronted by a Georgetown University professor who recognized him and lambasted him over his alt-right views.

Is it OK to disassociate with a Nazi? I believe it is. The only way you can truly be considered the owner of yourself is if you are allowed to choose who you associate and disassociate with. If you, for example, want to disassociate with somebody but a government steps in and says you have to associate with that individual can you really say that you own yourself or are you the property of the government?

Written by Christopher Burg

May 23rd, 2017 at 10:30 am

Unpredictable Government Actions Encourage Short Term Profit Seeking

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A lot of people, socialists especially, like to criticize market actors for prioritizing short term profit gains over anything else. I actually agree with this sentiment. However, unlike most critics, I don’t believe that the solution is more government because I believe the government is the cause.

Let’s say your company spent 10 years of research and development time to create a new product. You’re happy as can be with it and all signs point to it being a tremendous success. But just as you’re about to release the product the government creates a regulation that makes the product as it currently exists illegal. You’re now faced with a decision, do you redesign the product to make it compliant with the new regulation in the hopes the regulatory environment won’t change again or do you abandon the product?

This problem is a tremendous burden, especially in countries like the United States where the party in power can change every handful of years. One moment the party that favors your product is in power and things look good but then the next year the other party comes to power and things look grim.

I’m sure you can see how this kind of environment favors immediate profits over longterm profits. If you cannot predict what the regulatory environment will be four years from now you will have a hard time making plans that extend longer than four years. So you’ll probably seek as much profit as you can within those four years just in case your product line becomes illegal after that.

Anybody who wants companies to stop prioritizing short term profits at all costs should be demanding that the government step aside and allow the market to be free.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Nice Place to Live

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I’ve been keeping an eye out for a nicer place to live. For me, a nicer place to live is a place where taxes are low (preferably nonexistent) and the government is ineffective (or, again, preferably nonexistent). I may have found such a place:

The story examines repeated voter rejection of tax increases in Oregon’s timber counties—Douglas, Curry and Josephine—and the resulting cuts in basic services.

Douglas County is closing its libraries. Josephine County has a catch-and-release policy for nonviolent criminals because voters defunded the jail. Curry County has no sheriff’s office staffing after midnight, and is running out of money to conduct elections. The Times reports: “Even conducting an election this fall could be beyond reach, said Reneé Kolen, the Curry County clerk, who has one full-time staff member left in her elections division, and is facing another possible 30 percent cut in funding this year in her budget.”

The police have to catch and release nonviolent criminals? The horror! And democracy may not be able to continue because there isn’t a money to have a poll to ask residents how other people’s money should be spent? That’s a shame!

The people of Douglas County appear to be some of the few people in this country who have their heads screwed on right. If everybody had the same attitude this would probably be a pretty nice country.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Socialist Hiding Behind the Curtain

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It seems like there’s a socialist hiding behind almost every libertarian. If you prod most libertarians enough you’ll eventually find that one hot topic where they’re willing to put a bullet in the head of individualism and hang its corpse for all to see. For a lot of these libertarians that topic is international socialism. While they claim to be against socialism in all forms they will gladly join the ranks of the national socialists if they’re fighting international socialists. Another one of these topics that’s starting to creep up is universal basic income. A few libertarians have fallen for the automation scare and are using that as justification for why society must implement universal basic income.

Interestingly enough, this tendency of self-proclaimed anti-socialists to have very strong socialists sentiments isn’t isolated to libertarians:

I’ve critiqued that idea elsewhere, but what I find interesting about it is that for all these years, Murray wasn’t really an opponent of big government or the welfare state. He was just looking for a more effective way to administer it. So his legacy as a critic of welfare is in danger of being eclipsed by his advocacy for universal welfare.

You could make similar observations about how it was the Heritage Foundation that cooked up the “individual mandate” at the center of Obamacare, how “cap-and-trade” global warming regulations were dreamed up under the Reagan administration and pushed as a “free-market” solution, and how it was Milton Friedman who helped develop income-tax withholding.

I believe one of the reasons socialism has enjoyed such great success in spreading (even though it has been an abysmal failure when implemented) is because it has been able to infiltrate its opposition. Even people who consider themselves ardent anti-socialists have been infected with socialist thinking.

How could socialism become so pervasive in society? I attribute it to statism. Individualism is the antithesis of statism. That being the case, believers in the State have to believe in at least some amount of collectivism. If a person claims to be an anti-statist but advocates some amount of statism they have already established the cognitive dissonance in their head that allows them to claim to be individualists while promoting socialist ideas. Statists then push their belief onto children through the public education socialist indoctrination system. After all, it’s always good to them while they’re young! The children who were subjected to the indoctrination system then grown up, become teachers, and being the vicious cycle anew. Within a few generations the idea that individualism can even exist is almost completely removed from society.

Libertarianism can’t hope to win the fight against socialism if its biggest supporters are advocating socialist ideas.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Religion of Science

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One might get the impression that I’m opposed to science based on how much I’ve been harping on scientism as of late. Truth be told, I’m actually a huge advocate of science, which is why I’m investing so much time into criticizing scientism.

Science is supposed to be about using observations to develop hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experimentation. It’s supposed to be different from faith. But most of the people cheering the greatness of science are treating it as a religion. Scientists are being treated like priests, their words are being treated as law and their characters are being treated as sacred. This has lead to religious zealotry:

In late July 2014, a Twitter user named @dogboner posted a photo of a man on a subway train working on his laptop, accompanied by the caption, “Some guy using his laptop on the train like a dumbass nerd lol.” The “dumbass nerd” in question was astrophysicist, author and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson. Instantly, “@dogboner” (whose real name is Michael Hale) faced a tweet-storm of abuse and haranguing from social media users for whom Tyson has emerged as a kind of messiah of modern rationalism.

The photo was shared on the popular Facebook page “I Fucking Love Science” (which currently engages some 25 million-plus users), leading to even more angry call-outs. Hale was called “stupid,” an “underachieving burnout,” and worse. One person encouraged Hale to “fall into an ocean of A.I.D.S.” Few had bothered to consider that the original tweet was nothing but the sort of stupid, ironized joke that savvy Twitter users major in. Legions of self-satisfied rationalists and armchair logicians who pride themselves on their superior intellect were effectively fleeced.

Beyond being (really, really) funny, the incident was revealing. It spoke to the vehemence and belligerence science seems to inspire in popular culture. It also laid bare the frothing cults of personality surrounding people like Tyson, Bill Nye, Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield (who live-streamed parts of his 2013 mission to YouTube, including a much-shared acoustic guitar rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”), and other modern pop-star scientists.

The irony, of course, is that most of the people who lashed out at Mr. Hale probably don’t know any scientists who don’t regularly appear on television. In this way they mimic many self-proclaimed Christians who are only aware of popular televangelists and wouldn’t recognize the names of even well-known historical theological scholars.

I’m going to blame the government indoctrination system that is often mistakenly called an education system. Government indoctrination centers tend to teach by authority. What the teach says is supposed to be accepted by the students with blind obedience. Everything written in the textbooks is supposed to be accepted as truth. Students who question the teachers or the textbooks are often dismissed with a wave of the hand or outright punished. Unfortunately, imprinting this system on children at a young age likely makes them seek out authority figures instead of seeking out knowledge.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who I have never met but would enjoy getting a beer with sometime, has become one such authority figure. People seeking out an authority figure on science have latched onto him, as many Christians latch onto televangelists, because he’s charismatic and entertaining. However, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of him, especially if one’s interests aren’t in astrophysics. Likewise, it’s no crime to be entirely unaware of Aziz Sancar. Who is Aziz Sancar? He’s a microbiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I’m not a chemist so I was also unaware of him and only found him when doing a search for scientists who have made notable accomplishments but haven’t enjoyed appearing on every television channel known to man. My point is that most self-proclaimed lovers of science are probably entirely unaware of his existence and that’s OK.

Science ceases to be science when it becomes blind faith and cults of personality. The masses currently demanding science-based policies appear to be primarily composed of worshipers of scientism, not people with an actual understanding of the scientific method. They don’t want science-based policies, they want policies inspired by the sermons of their priests.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Continuing to Debate Insanity

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This article sums up my attitude towards Marxism succinctly:

Every Marxist government in history has been a repressive nightmare. Marxists — aside from the ones who defend the remaining Marxist regimes — consider this a strange coincidence that has no bearing on Marxist ideology. I recently pointed this out, in light of the resurgence of Marxist thought among some left-wing intellectual circles. In an essay in In These Times, Tyler Zimmer writes what he purports to be a response, but that in fact confirms my point for me.

The problem with Marxism, I argue, lies in its class-based model of economic rights. Liberalism believes in political rights for everybody, regardless of the content of their ideas. Marxists believe political rights belong only to those arguing on behalf of the oppressed — i.e., people who agree with Marxists.

There are still advocates for Nazism so I’m not at all surprised that there are still advocates for Marxism. Of course the advocates for Nazism are far more likely to own what they’re advocating. Seldom do I hear a Nazism advocate claim that Nazi Germany wasn’t real Nazism. Marxism advocates, on the other hand, seem to have a strong tendency to wash their hands of the terrible things Marxism has wrought upon people by claiming Marxist regimes weren’t real Marxism.

Unfortunately, the Marxists had better public relations people than the Nazis so we’re still left having to deal with widespread debates about their tried and failed philosophy.

Marxism advocates like to claim that Marxism is about establishing equality for everybody but they seem to believe that doing so can only be achieved by first making people unequal. Marxism, like Nazism (yes, I’m going to continue to compare the two since they only differ in minor details), divides people into groups. An individual’s group membership, which is arbitrarily decided by an all-powerful government, determines what privileges they enjoy. If an individual is lucky, they’re categorized into a group with significant privileges. If an individual is unlucky, they’re categorized into a group that gets hauled off to death camps.

The idea that some animals are more equal than others is the foundation upon which tyranny is built. Statism in any form creates at least two classes of animals: the rulers and the ruled. Classical liberalism at least attempts (although it always fails) to limit the inevitable damage by saying that the same privileges must be granted to every member of the ruled class. If, for example, free speech is granted to one member of the ruled class then it is granted to every other member. Marxism and Nazism are different in that they divide the ruled class into a bunch of subclasses. Members of the Communist or Nazi parties respectively may enjoy the privilege of free speech while members of the other subclasses may not.

This means that it’s far easier under Marxism and Nazism for the rulers to cement their power. If a group of individuals are criticizing the ruler’s actions they can be labeled counterrevolutionaries and effectively stripped of all privileges (including the privilege of living). Through this process the rulers can easily eliminate almost all challenges to their power. Without any challenges to their power the rulers can begin doing what every ruler ultimately does: expropriate wealth from the ruled.

Classical liberalism at least recognizes that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. By making it more difficult for the rulers to eliminate their opponents, classical liberalism adds speed bumps between rulers and absolute corruption. Marxism and Nazism, on the other hand, build a multilane highway between the two and the results are predictable.

Logical deduction shows that Marxism is unworkable if the end goal is anything other than establishing a tyrannical regime. History has shown that the deductive logic plays out in reality. Yet we’re still debating this insanity.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Fighting Fascism

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A lot of people have expressed an interest in fighting fascism here in the United States. Most of the people expressing such interest like to start off a lot of their sentences with, “We must…” “We must stand together!” “We must shutdown fascist speakers!” “We must run fascists out of town!”

Fascism is only made possible through collectivism. Using words like “we must” is where the disease begins. By using the collective term “we” it establishes a group identity, which is the beginning of developing an “us” vs. “them” mentality. By using the word “must” it establishes a requirement one must meet in order to be a member of the speaker’s collective.

Fascists love starting sentences with “We must…” “We must secure the fatherland.” “We must eliminate the immigrants who are the source of our strife.” “We must give our loyalty to our nation first.” In the case of fascism, the “we” is generally citizens of a nation and the “them” is everybody else. The use of the word “must” indicates that being a member of the nation requires securing it from “them,” removing “them” from “us,” and ensuring people’s loyalty is with the nation before anybody else including family members.

By identifying themselves first and foremost with a group, individuals can begin to justify any action, no matter how atrocious, so long as it benefits the group. This is the most dangerous aspect of fascism and the people who claim to want to fight fascism seem determined to rely on it.

I have a proposal for fighting fascism. Instead of relying on the very collectivism that makes fascism possible, why not rely on radical individualism? Perhaps people would be less susceptible to collectivism philosophies like fascism if they recognized themselves first and foremost as individuals instead of members of a group.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2017 at 11:00 am