Political Agnosticism: A monopoly on violence
Intro to Libertarianism
CAIR: My first impressions
Last Saturday the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR SFBA) and the Muslim Community Association (MCA) in Santa Clara hosted a Candidates Forum with candidates running in various local races. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. Two Green Party. The Libertarians were MIA as usual. An opening presentation was made by the Executive Director of CAIR-LA, Hassam Ayloush. Then candidates introduced themselves and fielded questions from the community.
Hassam stressed that civic engagement is not merely a right, but an obligation for Muslims. As he put it, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. During his presentation he said:
“From a moral perspective there is no such thing as not being involved… All of us pay taxes. The minute you put gas in your car you pay taxes. The minute you earn income you pay taxes. That money goes to politicians who decide what to do with your money… Either you tell them you want your money to be spent on helping the needy, building more parks, more libraries, more schools etc. or you’re telling them basically, you trust them blindly to take your money and do whatever they want with it… They decided to use your money to finance an illegal immoral war. Are you happy? Did you vote?”
He suggested that if you’re not involved you’re an equally guilty accomplice, and that you’d be asked about it on the Day of Judgment. So, the choice is libraries or war? What he neglects to mention is that Muslims did vote! In 2000 most Muslims voted for Bush because he promised “A humble foreign policy with no nation building.” How’d that go? In 2008 most Muslims voted for Obama. Look where that got us. It’s clear that our political masters don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. They do whatever they want anyway. The reality is that our money is not given voluntarily. It is extracted by force. If the mafia extorts my wealth I don’t care whether they spend it on heroin or bunny rabbits. The moral issue is that taxation is theft. To use the Day of Judgment as a moral hammer to argue that I’m morally culpable for how money stollen from me is spent is extremely misguided. I’d argue that if you do vote you are accountable for giving moral sanction to the crimes your “representative” does in your name.
The candidates were equally frustrating. During the Q&A I asked, “How do you define government? What are its essential responsibilities and limitations?” Here’s their answers from from right to left.
A Republican running for the State Assembly in District 20. He was the only one who said people should keep their money instead of fighting about how politicians spend it. He was also the only one who pointed out that a growth in government is a decrease in liberty. Here’s his answer:
“Government exists because the people have decided to create a relationship between us and a body to govern us. That governance is done by the Constitution and in California the State Constitution as well. The role of the government is to provide for public safety, basic infrastructure and a level playing field for everybody to exhibit their personal behavior. If you look back to Thomas Jefferson he said the role of the government is to provide an equal field for everyone, and neither aid nor detract from the abilities of the individual.”
That’s just collectivism. Individual people didn’t decided anything. Government imposes a relationship on us whether we like it or not. But I can be persuaded to vote for Constitutionalists sometimes. Then he came out against medical marijuana. As far as I can tell no constitutional amendment exists for the war on drugs. He basically made two arguments. First, marijuana should be illegal because healthcare is publically funded and taxes shouldn’t go to drug rehabilitation. Never mind that the taxes currently go to the drug war, which is more expensive. So, basically one unconstitutional program justifies another unconstitutional program. Next he argued that medical marijuana is unnecessary because there are plenty of synthetic pharmaceutical alternatives. So, he’s in favor the free market, but thinks competition in pain medication is bad idea? Anyway, once he came out in favor of the Israeli blockade of Gaza it was pretty much over. Such a person can’t represent me.
A Republican running for the 16th Congressional District. His big issue was immigration. He supports the Arizona law and wants to build a fence and close the border because, “we’re a nation of laws” … hundreds of thousands of unintelligible, inaccessible, unenforceable laws. Basically he jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops to move here “legally” and now it’s very important that everyone else suffer the same abuse. It’s a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. The fact is, there’s no such thing as legal immigration. Here’s his answer:
“The government was created, and the Constitution was written to provide three levels of government that were co equal to make sure that everybody is treated fairly. The Constitution provides for the powers that the Federal government has and reserves all others to the states and the people. So, the main purpose of the federal government is to provide for the common defense, and to provide for the general welfare. Those are words in the constitution. The State constitution is very similar.”
A Democrat running for Santa Clara County Supervisor in District 1. He sounded like politician who’d made his career running in local non partisan races. He’d really mastered that mealy mouthed kind of non answer that appeals to everyone and alienates no one. He was unremarkably moderate, which might be what you want at a local level. His basic message is that municipal bureaucracy should be more efficient. Who doesn’t support that? I just don’t believe it can be done. Here’s his answer:
“In the Emancipation Proclamation it was stated that all of us have the right to pursue liberty, to pursue happiness, and in so doing it meant economic happiness. So, you needed to organize a structure in order to deliver those opportunities. So, government is at the mercy of the people. They vote them in. They vote them out. They tell them what they want them to do. And they structure it so that education can be provided. The things that the people want you structure. A government is there for the people. Endowed by the people. Their primary purpose is to serve the needs of the people.”
I think he means the Declaration of Independence, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It was originally “Life, Liberty and Property.” He’s got the concept right, but the idea that the government is at the mercy of the people, and here to serve the people is grade school propaganda. The opportunities of life, liberty and property preexist government. Make no mistake, the people are at the mercy of the government, which serves their corporate cronies. With the stroke of a pen they can take your property, your liberty and your life.
A Democrat running for Mayor of Santa Clara. She stressed the importance of diversity and environmental stewardship. She was by far the most polished candidate. Here’s her answer:
“The purpose of government is to create a safe environment where people can flourish, and we do that by providing some basic core services. I also believe that the greatness of our nation is that we are founded not on a common bloodline, but on a common belief in democracy and freedom. And that’s what allows for the tremendous diversity, and that’s what brings us together with a common vision for who we are as Americans.”
I think that was perhaps the best answer of the night. I’m not saying I agree, but she obviously had a clear idea what her principles are, and I got the sense that she could be trusted to stick to them. I’d like to ask her what happens when someone does not share the common vision for who we are as Americans? I appreciated that when asked about Israel’s recent flotilla raid ahe said “targeting civilians is the definition of terrorism.”
The Green Party candidate for Governor of California. She expressed shock that we still have to pay for education and healthcare while other industrialized countries provide these things for free. Here’s her answer:
“There are a couple of different styles of democracy. One is representative democracy where you vote for people who make decisions on your behalf. We have a long way to go. There are a lot of things that we can do. Proportional representation, where you have more points of view at the table. But there’s also participatory democracy, and more and more countries, whether it’s Canada, or Denmark, or Latin America, where people do direct budgeting. They actually do city budgets. Sometimes they are volunteers and sometimes they are randomly selected. But that’s where I would like to have our government go. To where we are able to take a more direct role and have our values be implemented rather than just hope that they be represented.”
She called the two major parties, “Titanic Parties” which I really enjoyed. I may adopt that term. She also rightly understood that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was about land, not religion. But she makes that classic liberal error of railing against monopolies in the private sector while demanding monopolies in the public sector. Why do they think the result will be different?
The Green Party candidate running for U.S. Senate. This guy was bold. He wants a complete withdrawal of all US military from Iraq and Afghanistan, which he called “bloody colonial wars.” He also wants to cut all US aid to Israel, which he called “funding state terrorism against the Palestinian people.” The non interventionist foreign policy is perhaps my biggest issue, but then listen to his definition of government:
“Besides protecting religious, political and civil rights I think the role of government is to be sure that everyone has access to quality healthcare, affordable housing, jobs, decent education, clean environment, and that’s pretty much it.”
So, government is a catalog of “free services.” But there’s a huge problem… a Titanic problem with promising limitless free public services in a democracy. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. For government to provide anything it must first plunder the people, which hamstrings the economy, which increases poverty, which results in more demand for free public servies, and the cycle continues. This was perhaps most beautifully articulated by the 18th century Scottish historian Alexander Tyler:
“A democracy will continue only until the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.“
No one gave the actual definition of government, which is “that entity which claims a monopoly on violence in a given area.” I’m not surprised. Most people expend a lot of mental energy refusing to acknowledge that simple fact, and certainly it doesn’t win any votes. Imagine if a politician said, “I’d like to threaten you with violence to take your money to pay someone else to threaten cancer patients with violence to keep them from taking their pain medication.” Or, “I’d like to threaten you with violence to take your money to pay someone else to threaten Mexicans with violence to prevent them from picking strawberries in California.” Or, “I’d like to threaten you with violence to take your money to provide your children with a free education to train them that threatening people with violence is an acceptable way to provide public services.”
It’s just absurd. I suppose in the grand scheme of things I prefer a thief to a murderer, and in that sense I fall on the left side of the spectrum. But the political murderer must first steal the money to buy his weapon, and the political thief must first threaten the tax cattle with death if they don’t pay. So, neither has my moral sanction. Neither can represent me. Whether you’re buying heroin or bunny rabbits I’d much rather you didn’t steal from me in the first place. So, as usual I see no one I can vote for in good conscience.
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