Friday, June 26, 2015

How Government Created the Gay Marriage Controversy

There are many unrecognized implications of the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing marriages between (among?) gay and lesbian (couples? groups?). I frame the ruling in those terms not to disparage loving relationships of any kind, but to raise a point lost in this ruling: essentially, the unintentional obliteration of "marriage" as a legal concept. Which is to me a good thing.

Like so many issues in which government (i.e., politics) is improperly involved -- education, agriculture, energy, housing, charity, etc., etc. -- the bitter, divisive social conflicts over "gay marriage" arise precisely from the very fact of government involvement in defining "marriage" in the first place. Why?

Because government -- that is, law -- is force and coercion. Government "solutions" to problems are inherently coercive impositions by some people (the politically dominant) on others (the politically subordinate). Such solutions never result in social harmony, peace, love, etc.; they only exacerbate social hostility, conflict, and division. They allow some people to "win," but only because they force others to "lose."

Force children to go to "public" (i.e., politically run) schools, and force taxpayers to pay for it? You will then pit taxpayers against each other over the content of that "education" (indoctrination), over schedules and hours, over homework, over grading systems, over teacher qualifications, over social engineering schemes (busing students all over the place to achieve racially integrated schools, etc.). over options for dissenters (home schooling, tax credits, vouchers, "magnet" schools, "charter" schools), over "reforms" (Common Core), over testing, etc. Everything concerning education becomes a political battleground...because of the conscription of children into politicized education, and the conscription of taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Put government into the agriculture business, or energy business, or auto business, or banking business, or ANY business, and what happens? You use force (the IRS extracting money from all taxpayers) to support crony businesses (e.g., politically connected ethanol agribusinesses, "green" windmill and solar panel manufacturers, GM and Chrysler, the big New York-based banks) over all their politiically unfavored competitors, who must fund, through taxes, their politically favored rivals.

Put government into the charity business -- all the programs of the welfare state -- and you undercut voluntary, private charity alternatives by sapping them of trillions of dollars of potential funds, which are taxed away from potential contributors. Simultaneously, you create what are called "moral hazards" by providing incentives for millions of people not to work or to solve their own problems, but instead to dump their endless claims of ailments, needs, wants, desires, whims ("Obamaphones"? Really?) onto their hard-working, taxpaying neighbors. Everyone resents this "spread the wealth around" process: those forced to foot the boundless bills, and those issuing endless demands of their "rights" -- i.e., their phony claims of "entitlements" against "society" (which means: their neighbors). In the redistributionist era -- as 19th century economist Frederic Bastiat famously put it -- "The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."

All of this stems from trying to use government -- law, politics, force -- to solve essentially personal or social problems. Politics invariably creates "win-lose" relationships, in which some people benefit but only at the expense of others. For every political beneficiary, there are victims. For every political winner, there are losers.

Now, let's contrast this world of politics and the "public sector" with the world of economics and the "private sector."

Imagine a world in which education were entirely privatized -- in which schools were like grocery stores, auto dealerships, bookstores, or any other private companies. No parents would be forced to put their kids into a school system they didn't like, with teachers they didn't trust, with curricula they loathed -- or to pay taxes to support such private companies. Just as you don't have to subsidize your local bookstore, grocery, or Ford dealer, you wouldn't have to pay for somebody else's school. With all the money you saved in school taxes, you could afford to send your kids instead to one of many competing private schools, with teachers you preferred, teaching courses you decided were most beneficial to your kids' futures. Or, you could homeschool them, utilizing course material from a host of competing sources, including online offerings. You would have no reason or motive to fight with politicized school boards and teachers unions over content, schedules, social-engineering fads, or anything else -- because you wouldn't be forced to be involved with any educational company except the one you freely chose. Imagine: No more wars with your neighbors and fellow taxpayers over textbooks, the teaching of Common Core or evolution or liberal propaganda or conservative propaganda, over teacher salaries and hours, over school taxes, over whether the building ought to have a new gym. You get to pick an educational company for your kids from a host of competitors, just as you pick your own car, your own grocery store, or your own TV provider. Ultimately, just as with those other companies, marketplace competition would determine which educational companies and options succeed. And unlike today's subsidized, bloated public-school monstrosities, those that succeeded would be those that offered the best educational value.

Imagine a world in which government were banned from any involvement with business -- a separation of Economics and State, for the same reasons that we have a separation of Church and State. Imagine businesses having to survive on their own, demonstrating their value to willing, paying customers in a competitive marketplace -- and not by forcibly extracting subsidies from taxpayers, via their crony relationships with politicians and bureaucrats. Imagine how much money would remain in your pocket if we shut down the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development (just for starters), gave pink slips to their thousands of meddling bureaucrats, and sent them off to seek productive jobs in the private sector. Would you care if somebody started a windmill firm or a bank or an auto company...if you weren't forced to subsidize or patronize it? Would you feel hostility and hatred and anger if your associations with them were not compulsory?

Imagine a world in which you got to keep vastly more of your own money -- and thus have the means and choice to fund your own preferred charities and social causes -- rather than being forced, by law, to subsidize (say) Planned Parenthood abortions, AIDS research rather than (say) cancer or Alzheimer's research, political agitation by ACORN, the politicking of environmental activist groups, the healthcare of illegal aliens streaming across unguarded borders, "voter enrollment" of those same illegals, mosquito control in Africa, typhoon relief in Bangladesh, "public broadcasting" and opera houses for upper-middle-class patrons who could easily afford to pay for their own entertainment, and on and on and on, endlessly. Americans are the most generous people in the world. But they are tired of being played for suckers, forced to fund the politically connected champions of "good causes" who get favored treatment by their friends in court. Does that mutual fleecing further social harmony, peace, love, and mutual respect?

The governmental (political) realm, run by force and coercion and taking, necessarily creates "win-lose" relationships. The economic (private) realm, run by free choice and voluntary association and trade, necessarily creates "win-win" relationships. Yet for many generations, people have been conditioned to seek coercive, political "solutions" to every social problem or personal need -- coercive, political "solutions" that only breed mutual hostility, disharmony, and hatred.

The "gay marriage" controversy is but the latest example of how social disruption has been manufactured -- not solved -- by governmental (political) involvement. The entire controversy stems from the fact that government has been involved in defining what a "marriage" is. 

But why? Why is that necessary? And what have been the consequences?

Government, as our Founders proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, exists to "secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Period. Not to solve personal problems or social ills, but to protect individual rights. Not to take sides in disputes, but to be an impartial umpire.

Thus, there is a proper role for government (law) in recognizing and enforcing private contracts, and also in protecting individuals in relationships (spouses, children) from violations of their rights by other parties. But recognition and enforcement of private contracts, property arrangements, and the rights of spouses and children, do not require government (i.e., politicians and the force of law) to confer some kind of "legitimacy" on the ceremonial and symbolic aspects of a "marriage."

For all the reasons stated above, marriage should be privatized. A "marriage" should be defined and celebrated by the participants, according to whatever religious or philosophical values they ascribe to that state of long-term commitment. Politics should play no role in that determination whatsoever.

But ironically, the Supreme Court's ruling has -- unintentionally -- pointed us in that direction. Why?

Because (to paraphrase the classic line from the film "The Incredibles") if everything is a "marriage" under the law, then nothing is. The Court ruling and reasoning today opens the door not just to same-sex "marriages," but to polygamy, group marriages, and pretty much anything else. Who can now say that such arrangements are not "marriages," and on what grounds?

Liberals, wedded to governmental (read: coercive) "solutions" to all social problems, won't grasp any of this, sadly. They refuse to realize that their "solutions," rooted in seizing and wielding political power by themselves over others, cannot ever result in that woozy, utopian, John Lennon "Imagine" world of peace-and-love.

Liberals, above all, are complete captives to the zero-sum, class-and-racial warfare, tribal worldview: a social worldview of winners vs. losers, of powerful vs. powerless, of perpetual gang warfare in which each gang seeks power and advantage over its rivals. Economic ignoramuses -- who think every economic relationship is about some people taking from others -- liberals can't even conceive of peaceful, voluntary, trading relationships. They thus can only interpret free market capitalism through the distorting lens of "taking," of "exploitation."

Now, with this new Court decision, they will predictably try to use their new "marital rights" as a bludgeon against private individuals, businesses, and religious organizations that do not share their own elastic definition of "marriage." Rather than take this as an opportunity to celebrate live-and-let-live social arrangements, in which everyone can associate voluntarily as they choose, they will instead eagerly try to use the power of law to force and coerce any private, peaceful individuals who disagree with them to associate and deal with them -- to bake their wedding cakes, cater their weddings, provide venues for their ceremonies, even perform their ceremonies. Why? 

Because the main thing that "liberals" are "wedded" to is not some definition of marriage, but to their zero-sum, tribalist, coercive, us-vs.-them worldview. No, they don't really want peace and love and harmony: That's just their cover story.

They want power and control over others.

In short: Liberalism is sociopathy, masquerading as a political doctrine.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yes, You Have a Right to Be a Bigot

In March 2015, a controversy roiled in Indiana over passage of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That divisive controversy is the latest fruit of a terrible legal precedent established during the Civil Rights era -- which was in turn based on terrible confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of "rights."

Protestors of the Indiana law (which in fact mirrors the federal RFRA law and similar laws in 30 states) claim that, by protecting the rights of (say) Christian business owners not to serve or deal with (say) gays, the RFRA violates the "right" of the latter to be served by these private businesses, without discrimination.

But does any such "right" exist? Let me attempt to untangle this mess.

Our individual rights have a moral basis: They are based on the moral premise that every individual is an end in himself -- not a means to the ends of others. Rights are moral principles established to institutionalize that premise as the basis for peaceful social relationships. Individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Which brings us to the role of government. The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is "to secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government is established to protect these rights of individuals from acts of force, fraud, and coercion by others. And to enforce those protections of rights, government may use force and coercion only in retaliation against those who violate the rights of others.

In other words: Since government is an agency meant to protect the rights of all, and because it is funded by all, it therefore must afford equal legal protection to all. As an impartial umpire and protector, it cannot "play favorites" in its actions without operating unjustly.

To this end, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did some very good things. In the Act, the Titles (or sections) numbered I, III-VI, VIII, and IX were aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and similar traits by government bodies, officials, and laws. For many decades before passage of the Act, various government bodies did operate unfairly and prejudicially, especially against blacks. Such officially sanctioned bigotry and bias was a moral and legal outrage, and it needed to be put to an end. So, these particular sections of the Civil Rights Act are rightly celebrated as a boon for the cause of individual rights.

However, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act took matters a step too far. They banned owners of private property from exercising their own individual rights of freedom of association on and with that property. In other words, those sections violated an individual's right to choose his own associations, and on his own property, for whatever reasons (rational or irrational). 

To repeat: The basic premise underlying and justifying government and law is that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. But that very premise -- which demands that government act neutrally and impartially toward all -- also protects the right of individuals in the private sector to associate freely with whomever they wish, for whatever reason they wish. Those reasons don't have to be admirable. Let me be clear: I think that discrimination based solely on race or sexual orientation is disgraceful and stupid. However, it is an individual right to be a fool and a bigot.

To compel, by law, some legally specified people to associate with other legally specified people means that...

(1) the first group are not being treated as ends in themselves, but are being forced into the role of being the servants of others;

(2) the government -- which is supposed to be impartial -- is favoring the second designated group at the expense of the first; and

(3) the rights of individuals to peacefully use their private property as they see fit are to be subordinated to collective social purposes.

Ironically, (1) imposes "involuntary servitude" -- exactly what the 13h Amendment made illegal. From Wikipedia: "Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs." To compel a business owner to serve someone not of his free choosing meets the very definition of "involuntary servitude." That may include compelling (say) a Christian baker, who does not believe in "gay marriage," to provide pastries at a gay wedding reception. If you think that is okay, then what would you say if a white racist or -- even worse!!! -- a RICH CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN (say, Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin) demanded, under the same "non-discrimination" laws, that a liberal, Democratic, gay, female, African-American baker provide pastries for his or her daughter's wedding?

Ironically too, in the name of "non-discrimination," (2) lets the government coercively discriminate on behalf of some people over others in what otherwise would be private, voluntary relationships.

And (3) represents a de facto nationalization of private businesses. Ownership, by definition, means the right to freely and peacefully use and dispose of property as the property holder sees fit. But under those two titles of the Civil Rights Act, property is no longer to serve the individual ends determined by its owner; instead, it is now to serve the collective ends of his customers, by governmental decree. The businessperson's private property rights are thus subordinated to collective ends, just as the businessperson himself or herself is subjected to involuntary servitude on behalf of customers.

I said above that "individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion." To use force and coercion in order to compel the owners of private property to deal with or serve you, is a direct violation of the owner's individual rights.

The fact that these violations of rights are rationalized because they are "for a good cause" is irrelevant. Just as the First Amendment protects the free speech of individuals, even if we despise  what they say, so too does the rest of the Bill of Rights protect the freedom of business owners to hire or serve whomever they wish, even if we despise their specific hiring choices or service policies. The way to deal with bigots, in either case, is through boycott and ridicule -- which is perfectly within the rights of any protester.

But now, the law has been stood on its head: It has become a tool to discriminate against and violate the individual rights of people whom we don't like . . . perversely, in the name of "protecting rights" and "non-discrimination."

As I write, Republicans such Governor Mike Pence of Indiana are back-pedaling frantically, trying to rewrite Religious Freedom Restoration Acts so as to prohibit private acts of "discrimination." But in doing so, they are caving in to those who are using such demands to destroy what little is left of individual and property rights. And they are thus joining the mobs that treat individuals as nationalized means to social ends, and no longer as moral ends in themselves.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BAD DEEDS Wins CLFA Book of the Year 2014

I am delighted to announce that my second Dylan Hunter thriller, BAD DEEDS, just won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “Book of the Year 2014 Award.”

Given the quality of the finalists — books by prominent, bestselling authors Larry Correia, Sarah A. Hoyt, and Mackey Chandler — I sincerely didn’t think my thriller stood a chance of winning. But thanks to Dylan’s devoted fans, the book won the final vote.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all of you who have made my stories and characters a part of your lives. I am touched and grateful to you for your loyal support, and my special appreciation goes to those of you who voted for BAD DEEDS. Thanks to you, this award will bring the book and its unique vigilante hero a lot more attention — and that is why I entered it in the competition in the first place.