Monday, June 20, 2005

Crazy Libertarian Thought Summary

As Americans become more paternalistic in their acceptance of government, I get more concerned about our freedom. Not the freedom that prevents government from enforcing important laws and catch bad guys. I don't care if the government reads my library records. It is really stupid, if they think I might be making a bomb, to not let them see if I rented a bomb making book rather than going through my house looking for one I bought.

No, I'm talking about the everyday stuff. But Americans aren't really eager to give up freedoms. They are hoodwinked into it through socialistic policies. One mundane example is seat belt laws. Walter Williams discusses this in a recent column. He asks the very simple question every libertarain takes for granted: who owns you?
Let's start with the question: Who owns Walter E. Williams? Is it President Bush, the U.S. Congress, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or do I own myself? I'm guessing that any reasonable person would agree that I own Walter E. Williams. The fact that I own myself means that I have the right to take risks with my own life but not others'. That's why it's consistent with morality to mandate that my car have working brakes. If my car doesn't have working brakes, then I risk the lives of others, and I have no right to do so. If I choose not to wear a seatbelt, then I risk my own life, which I have every right to do.
I am now old enough to have seen this slippery slope encrouchment. They started out, in just about every state that passed them, as a "secondary" offense. This means that you couldn't be pulled over just because you weren't wearing your seat belt. You could only be ticketed if you were pulled over for a different reason.

Why this strange exception? Because Americans weren't eager to let government mandate something, though a good idea, that did not have any discernable victims. So how was it passed? Through slight of hand (the "secondary" offense idea) and "to save tax dollars." You see, it may be true that people wearing seat belts only hurt themselves. But then they go to the hospital with more serious injuries. If they don't have adequate insurance, then we end up paying for their health care - either through higher medical care costs because of unpaid bills, or through tax dollars. By introducing socialistic tendencies, we make something formerly just our business everyone's business.

Some might rejoin by saying, "Williams, if you're not wearing a seatbelt, and don't do us the favor of dying in an accident and become an incapacitated vegetable, society will have to bear the expense of taking care of you." That's not a problem of liberty and self-ownership. It's a problem of socialism.

There's no moral case for forcing anyone to care for me for any reason. When we buy into socialism, we buy into paternalistic government. It reminds me of what my mother used to say during my rebellious adolescent years: "Boy, as long as you're living in my house and I'm paying the bills, you're going to do what I say!" Paternalism is OK for children, but is it suitable for adults?

Seat belt advocates were never going to be satisfied with the secondary offense idea though. This was truely a slipery slope event. Get one foot in the door, wait until everyone is used to it, then take what you really want. So now states have removed the secondary offense status of seat belt laws and made them a primary offense. They do a great job to raise revenue as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an office within the U.S. Department of Transportation, just finished its annual campaign to get us to wear our seatbelts under a program called "Click It or Ticket." States receive federal subsidies to ticket drivers if they or their passengers are not buckled up. Some states, such as Maryland, are so eager that they've equipped their officers with night vision goggles, similar to those used by our servicemen in Iraq. Maryland state troopers bagged 44 drivers traveling unbuckled under the cover of darkness. The NHTSA's "Click It or Ticket" program is another step toward making Americans serfs of the state.

People who tire of the freedom chant of libertarians often complain that there is no burden of responsiblity to go with it. Of course the claim is false. The responsibility is obvious. Moreover, I am not so hard hearted or politically naive to think that no security and safety nets are in order for society. But as we demand more and more security, more and more entitlement from tax dollars, we hand over more power to our neighbor to control our lifestyle.
Where government has not taken over through legislation, juries have taken over as defacto legislatures. Tobacco companies were sued over and over again before juries finally decided to hit them. Now the flood gates of this type of new age regulation are in order. Courts will eventually let fast food companies face a jury for obesity claims. The first several will likely lose. But then someone will win, and the money will start pouring out. Guns have been on the lawsuit block for years. Some other industry will be next

Living in the nanny state, where government has a claim over one's health, also has no limits. Why do we allow anything with no health benefits to be legal at all? Salt? Grease? Tobacco? Why not make it a crime to consume more than one glass of red wine per day? These laws are all easily justifiable under the theory that gives us seat belt laws. And if they aren't passed by the legislature, they will eventually be passed through the lawsuit regulatory machine.

I have never been one to accept slippery slope arguments against a change in the law that I found just. Sometimes you should draw a new line because it is the right thing to do. But it really seems, the longer I live, that no change is ever the end in itself. It is always just the first step -- it is the frog in the water that is being heated slowly. And neither side of the political spectrum can really be trusted to tell you where they intend to stop.


At 9:06 AM, Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

I heard on the news (McLaughlin report, I think) the other day about Maryland using night-vision goggles to spot people not wearing their seat belts at night. Thankfully, apparently the governor of MD has instructed them to stop.

It's obvious to everyone that this is nothing more than revenue generation for the local PD. I think cops having the goggles may be very helpful for catching *actual* criminals, but this is just ridiculous.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Makrothumeo said...

If you want to look at some real "nanny politics" look at New can no longer smoke in any building open to the public in New York regardless of the owner's or the patrons' desires...I don't smoke, but this is a taking of private property, in my view...

If I want to open a restaurant where people smoke, and you don't like smoke, don't come to my restaurant. If there's enough people like you, somebody will build a no-smoking restaurant next to mine and might even put me out of business. But it's not up to the government to restrict my right to use the property I paid for without compensating me for it.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Jehane said...

There's no moral case for forcing anyone to care for me for any reason.

Hmmm... let's evaluate that in the context of the Schiavo case. Talk about a slippery slope.

*running away*

At 12:54 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Sure. Let's do.

Her parents voluntarily sought to take care of her. Her medical had been paid up to that point with private insurance and lawsuit money.

Oops. Not relevant.


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Jehane said...

And if her husband had just decided, early on, that he had no "moral obligation to care for her" just because she was helpless?

Paralyzed people (such as those who become paralyzed in car accidents, for instance) are helpless, too. Is there, then, "no moral case" to be made for caring for them, too?

I'll remember that when the "paternalistic government" comes to my door to tell me I do, in fact, have a *legal* obligation to care for them.

Admit it KJ, this is a somewhat specious argument. I like Williams but he got this one wrong.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger KJ said...


No, he has it exactly right. The quad doesn't have a "right" to assistance. That is different than the "moral obligation" of another to offer help. If one has a right, the government enforces it. If we have moral obligations, we enforce them on ourselves.

No one owns us, but we allow government to act as though it does. And when we sell ourselves for security, we sell our freedom also.

I think we can set up safety nets without allowing them to get so large that they demand the "right" to regulate people who "might need the safety net if they don't conform their behavior to our standards." But the people behind the safety nets want them to be entitlements, so that more nanny state regulation is possible.

So let me know when you decide just how much of you the government owns. Because if it owns any of you, the rest is just haggling.

It is like a joke I know: A guy walks up to a lady at a bar. "If I give you 10 million dollars, will you have sex with me?" After a conversation, she believes that he is serious, so she consents. "OK, will you have sex with me for $20?" She slaps him and says - "what kind of girl do you think I am?" He replies, "we've established that. Now we are just haggling."

Once you give the government part of you, the rest is just haggling. And government, by nature, keeps coming back for more.

There are, and always have been, private charities that will care for people when government won't/shouldn't. The issue is once we get government involved, how much of ourselves and our freedom are we giving up. The encroachment is small.

The bottom line is I do not have the "right" to take from you to give to me just b/c I have been the victim of an unfortuneate event. That is a different question than your moral obligation to help me, Cass. You don't have to use government to help me. And the obligation is yours. The "right" isn't mine.

You can say it is otherwise, but then we will just argue about who, and how much. How much of your time am I entitled to? I want someone to clean my bed pan. Can I make YOU do it? Or do I only have the right to your MONEY, which I can use to get someone else to do it?

If I do have that right, then pay up. I'm sad today, and I need money to feel better.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Addressing the "moral obligation" to help someone who can't care for him/herself, from a societal rather than religious perspective, I will think out loud.

Let me ask it this way. We'll use Terri (we can even pretend she is brain damaged for not wearing her seatbelt in a car wreck). Who had the moral obligation to help her, and how?

First, whose obligation?
Her husband.
Her family.
Her church.
Her city.
Her county.
Her state.
Her region of states.
Her country.
Cass in Maryland.
KJ in Gerogia.
Michael Jackson in Neverland.

Since each of these groups/entities/individuals have an obligation to her individually, please let me know what it is.

And when does that moral obligation kick in? Just when she is a quad? Brain damaged? Can't care for herself? Just if she is poor? What if she just has a bad cold and needs prescription drugs and can't pay for it?

And, don't forget, please let me know what that obligation is. Some choices.

What is our obligation?
Assist physically with care.
Visit and hold baloons over her head.
Give free medical care if you are a doctor or nurse.
Cards of support.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger KJ said...

I must be in a bad mood today.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Jehane said...

must be in a bad mood today.

You know, if you hadn't said anything I never would have guessed...

KJ, *all government* involves trading freedom for security/collective advantage. That is, by definition, why we have governments instead of just allowing me to thump your sorry butt mano-a-mano (or chica-a-mano).

And you know I can do it, too :)

Smile, counselor. Otherwise I shall begin to develop a complex. Or I could just *pout*, but I really suck at that sort of thing.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger KJ said...

Cop out :-P

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Jehane said...

Yeah well I'm practicing my feminine suck up skills.

You want me to argue with you???

I can do that, but probably not right now. Too much work to try and out-think you :)

At 7:19 PM, Blogger a former european said...

Actually, KJ, I was hoping to break this to you in private later, but I own you.

Yes, that's right, I paid 20 bucks to your local ACLU political commissar, Olga Klentsch, and I have the receipt to prove it. She was glad to get THAT much for you. She mumbled something about "bourgeouis thinking" and "counterrevolutionary agitator".

In the Great Worker's Paradise of the Soviet State sought by the Dimocratic Party, EVERYBODY is a slave to the all-powerful State. You can be shot on a whim or sent for "re-education" by any apparatchik or Party Member.

"1984" was not a nightmare imagined by George Orwell, but an accurate picture of the kind of society which Democrats wish for in their wet-dreams. Even with the Soviet and Nazi examples of the horrors of totalitarian regimes, liberals and their ilk still hate America and pine longingly for the brutal jackboots of the Soviets.

Cass: Yes, there is always a trade-off between freedom and security. The problem is that, human nature being what it is, and govts being nothing but collective human nature writ large, the citizenry rapidly loses control of that exchange rate.

Govt will always acrete more and more power to itself any chance it gets. Naturally, it will promise greater security through defense, social programs like social security, welfare, etc, and so forth. Often, govt will use some "crisis" or popular "moral crusade' to justify its power grab to the people (for example, the Civil War).

The point is, once govt gets big enough, IT, and not you, gets to decide how much freedom gets traded for security. Typically, this means as much as it can get away with, and then its welcome to the all-powerful State.

This is why I always advocate the most minimal govt possible. Govt is always evil, but it is a necessary evil. The original idea of the Founders was a good one -- keep a miniscule, limited federal govt, with the real power held by the people and the states.

If the feds tried to be too oppressive, the states could laugh at the feds. Each state had a de facto standing army (its militias) who would forcibly resist an imposition of federal demands or usurpation of its citizens' freedoms.

The Civil War changed all that. For the noblest of reasons, the northern states freely surrendered their liberties to the feds, and let the feds militarily crush any resistance from the southern states.

While not politically correct to say so, the Civil War forever established the principle of "might makes right" in regards to the Constitution, and that federal power now derived from the barrel of the gun/bayonet (i.e. the age-old principle of "do what we say or we will shoot you").

In our modern era, there are really no legal limits on federal power anymore (witness the line of cases on the Interstate Commerce Clause). Lip service may still be paid to federalism, much like the Roman Empererors still maintained the Senate as a figurehead for centuries, but everyone knew who really had/has the power.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Jehane said...

Actually, KJ, I was hoping to break this to you in private later, but I own you...

afe, you rule.
Actually I was going to post on that whole Civil War/death of federalism thing, but right now I'm tired and also scared of lawyers.

At 8:38 PM, Blogger a former european said...

Cass: Thanks for the kind words. By the way, I wanted to post on your site but you have that weird typekey thing messing me up.

Although I am pretty experienced with computers, I am not very internet savvy. For example, I thought I was registering as AFE here on KJ's site, but instead I got my e-mail tag, innerviking (still don't know how I screwed that up).

Is it possible to eliminate typekey? If not, do you have a handy manual so I can safely navigate 'tween Scylla and Charybdis and return to VC?

At 8:59 PM, Blogger KJ said...


Great to see you again. I couldn't be owned by a better former european. Which shouldn't necessarily be taken as a compliment. :-)

At 10:06 PM, Blogger a former european said...

Don't get too comfortable, KJ. When rates go down, I may refi you or sell your commercial paper to another lending institution. :)

At 5:03 AM, Blogger Jehane said...

afe, I just need to get off my butt and figure out why my spam script isn't working. Unfortunately there are upwards of 30 files in the script, making finding the problem a bit problematic. I reinstalled/upgraded hoping that would solve the issue, but it still blocks absolutely everyone from commenting when I turn it on. If Typekey isn't on, I'm overwhelmed by spammers who post spam faster than I can delete it.

I'll turn Typekey off today, but will turn it back on before I go to bed tonite.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Masked MenaceĀ© said...


Go to and log in. From there you should see "Edit Profile" on the right hand side underneath "Add your photo here".

Click on "Edit Profile". Under the second section called "Identity" there is a Display Name that you can change to whatever you want.

At the bottom you can save the profile and it will change the name on display. I think it even changes all your previous comments as well.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger a former european said...

Thanks, MM. I'se back in bidness!


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