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Friday, October 31, 2014

 

Ebola Quarantine


It seems to me that when we look at the issue of Ebola and how quarantine fits in terms of liberty it is important to look at who the responsibility of avoiding spread of the disease, and subsequently harm to others, falls upon.  If a person is knowingly infected or even possibly infected, the onus falls upon that person to take the necessary precautions to prevent spread of the disease.  In the case of Ebola the appropriate way to do so is go under medical treatment and subsequent quarantine until all signs of the disease are no longer present.  The question becomes what happens when the infected person refuses to follow those orders, and is the state in the right to force quarantine upon an individual who may be infected?  As discussed in class today the action of quarantine itself falls constitutionally to the individual states as a police action.  I believe a person who violates quarantine, and in so doing causes potential harm, up to and including death to others, is violating others personal liberties and therefore worthy of police action.  I say this realizing that it is not unfathomable to think that government controlled quarantines could quickly become excessive.  In a perfect state of liberty, should a person be detained inappropriately they would have recourse for their own liberties being violated, but we know in the current state government will likely not be held responsible for undue quarantine in the interest of “the common good”.  All in all it seems that finding a clear cut ruling on grounds of liberty in cases of quarantine would be difficult due to the transition period from personal responsibility to police action and where that line is drawn.

 

Property Rights and Environmentalism

     The discussion today and the readings this week made me think about how influential property rights and private ownership are on environmentalism and the environment itself. While I wouldn't categorize myself as a tree-hugger, I definitely do care and find it important. It was for this reason that I found the idea of private ownership an important one when it came to protecting the environment. The idea that there's a personal responsibility towards preserving the land or species or whatever it may be was profound.
     With private ownership, there's that obvious incentive to maintain and care for what you've got. It only makes sense. If you've got a piece of land you're developing or using, it would only be best to use it to its full potential and do your best not to spoil the land if you're to sell it. No one wants their property in whatever form it may be to lose value, so they'll care for it rather than if it's just there like the example of the grasslands in the Rothbard reading.
     My next reason is not necessarily tied directly to property rights but as to why the power should be taken away from the government when it comes to pollution. There's no incentive for politicians to investigate pollution or certain cases. In what way could it benefit them? There are no repercussions for them just kind of paying as little mind as possible unless it becomes an issue of personal responsibility. There's also this typical tact of taking the stance against polluters to drum up votes, but usually it doesn't go beyond that nor is there any further educating on the subject itself.
      Another reason for having private ownership on land or animals is the fact that it can fall into the hands Audobon Society and Natural Conservancy. The readings this week were great in capturing the importance of preservation societies. It explored the idea that if land went unclaimed, it suddenly became untouchable. The example of ANWR was good at exposing a kind of hypocrisy of these preservationists. If there's no mutual benefit, then it shouldn't be done at all. But if the land were owned by an entity like the Audobon Society and there could be some kind of agreement to reap the benefits of both the natural form of the area as well as the resources that could lie beneath.
      In conclusion, this was only brief, but this is something that captured my attention in a great way. I think private ownership and the idea of property rights is something that fits well with environmentalism and that's something I'd never even thought of. There's all the incentive in the world when you've got to care for something that's yours.

 

Civil Forfeiture

The Police. We see them as the eye of the government and the best example of what we consider as government “force” when we see them out there serving for us citizens - protecting us. While Police Officers are there to serve us, are they all doing it for us? I am not talking about the events that have been occurring in Ferguson, Missouri – I am talking about the fact that things like racial profiling is still an issue in a lot of cities, and not only that – Civil Forfeiture.

We all know about racial profiling, so I am going to leave that subject be. However, Civil Forfeiture is a huge issue. If you do not know what that is, Civil Forfeiture gives the government (the police in this case) the right to take away your property with absolutely no charge or conviction of any crime. This property can essentially be anything: Houses, vehicles, even money (cash). The police can do this during a simple traffic stop and take away whatever they find “suspicious” without ever convicting you, or even charging you of a crime. This is a huge threat to our property rights.

Basically, the police can take away these items and proceed under legal fiction that cash, vehicles, or even houses can be “guilty” for their involvement of criminal activity. When this occurs, the agency that takes these items are free to sell them and/or use them – they essentially own them once they force you to forfeit these items without ever charging you of any crime. This is causing a profit-hungry ideal that is causing officers to attempt to seize or forfeit as much property as possible for the financial benefit of their agency.

First of all, your property should not be taken away if you are not even charged of any crime. A “suspicion” isn’t a valid reason for seizing property. This is a violation of YOUR rights. Second, these items can be used or sold by agencies for their own profit and financial benefit. Now, I completely support making sure law enforcement has the money they need to make sure they can do their jobs at the best of their ability, however this is encouraging a “police-for-profit” trend that is causing quite a stir and people are finally noticing how much of a problem this is after thousands of cases of abuse from law enforcement.

It is too easy to abuse Civil Forfeiture. Your property shouldn’t be taken away from you if you are not charged with a crime. Your property should not be sold for-profit or used by the agency that seized it without being charged and convicted. This violates your rights. If you have not heard much about Civil Forfeiture, I encourage you to look this up and read up on it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

What Should Government's Role Be?

              What should be government's role? Is a question everyone should be familiar with. It is the question I use when I am curious about another person's political views. Asking a person what party they belong does not help me understand: Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Libertarian mean different things to different people and many times starts them thinking in a combative way. But, if a person can answer the simple question of what the government's role should be, then I know where they stand. My view on what government's role should be is boiled down to enforcing property rights.  So I am always asking myself this question, "what's governments role in this area?" Most of the time the my answer to the question, "should government be involved?" is "no" right off the bat. I've asked this question on a few new areas recently, area's I've given little or no thought to before.
               One of these areas, is the idea of private courts instead of public courts. Before I've always dismissed this idea as crazy before given it any thought. I thought without the courts set up by the government, there would be chaos everywhere since there would be no universal court system to enforce laws. However, now I believe private courts could do the job well. How this would work, an individual would have the choice to be a customer of a court system. Whenever a crime is committed against an individual, one would go to their court to have a trial. If the defendant belongs to the same private court as the plaintiff, since they have the same court, then that court decision is binding. If the defendant belongs to a different private court than the plaintiff, then both courts can have separate trials. If each court has a different verdict, then the two courts can either negotiate between themselves or if that doesn't work, go to an arbitrator. I'm afraid this arbitrator would have to be the government though. This is because a private court 'A' could always rule in favor of their customers when a trial was between one of their customers and another person who not a customer of this particular court. So if another court 'B' would come to different outcome than court 'A', court 'A' could just stall and never agree on another private entity to be the arbitrator since court 'A' knows its verdict is wrong. There would have to be some force to get an outcome between 'A's and 'B's different verdicts. If there is a private way to resolve this problem of a rogue court, I would love to know what it is.
               After I came to the realization that a private court system would be feasible, I pondered if national defense could be privatized. I've thought of different ways this would look. The first way was just everyone using what weapons they owned to fight back an invasion. Some people might have just have a hunting rifle, others might have tank or something, but this disorganized group could never protect itself from another country's organized military. Then I went on to imagine a several private military groups an individual could pay into, and the private military would protect that person from an invading country. However, to repel an invasion all groups would have to work together, so why not have only one group? This would be just the same as national military. I can't think of a scenario where a private option would be better than a nation military, unless the nation military abused its power. It would be critical to have the national military set up in way where it did not abuse its power.
               I would encourage everyone to ask themselves "what the role of government should be?" Where is government needed and where should government stay out of because a private option is better?

 

Quarantine is Just

Recently we all heard in the news about the Ebola virus and those who have been put in quarantine because it is the greater good for society. In class we have learned "do what you want with yourself and your property as long as it does not cause harm to others" (L. Eubanks). Quarantine is just a precaution that is being used because a person who is suspected of having the Ebola virus could bring harm to others. It is violating another person's liberty in this cause their health.

Recently a nurse is making an issue that quarantine is a violation of liberty. They are kept away from the rest of society with strict limitations. Quarantine is government's way of protecting its people from the deadly virus. We have the right to refuse medical treatment, but when it puts the health of countless people in danger I would hope that the government uses their force for the greater good.

It isn't like the government can just have a person be put in quarantine for no reason. Government has to have just cause to have a person be put in quarantine. If the government did not have to have just cause to have someone be put in quarantine then yes a person's liberties would have been violated.

Quarantine might seem like a violation of liberty, but when you break the quarantine and potentially put others at risk your liberties are no long being violated. Instead you are violating the liberties of others. Ebola is not that big of a threat in the United States, but still I would not like my liberties to be violated just because someone else choose to ignore the risks of traveling to an African nation that is currently dealing with an outbreak. Please do not violate my liberty by putting me at even a minute risk.

 

Bush/Obama Bailouts

       Given the historical economic crisis of our generation, I find it difficult to talk about any other issue. Libertarians consider government intervention as a bad thing for progression in the economy. Government intervention in the form of bailouts just delays the inevitable. By that, I mean if there was no government to bail whatever business needs bailing out, the free market system would chew them up and spit them out. Not that the free market economy is full of savages, but no business will last in a free market economy if it is not fit to do so.
        The Great Recession led to the dismal fall of many gigantic corporations, even industry leading corporations. One example of this is General Motors. The car manufacturing giant needed a government bailout of 50 billion dollars. Why is this a bad thing? It is bad because GM is in essence being rewarded for poor management of a company and the bailout does not encourage reform in an economic downturn. What it encourages is stagnation in technology.
       The car industry was so heavily impacted by the recession because fossil fuel prices skyrocketed and there was a huge demand for fuel efficient cars. GM obviously lacked the technology at the time to produce that type of technology so they went bankrupt. In a free market economy with no governmental intervention, GM would have gone under and others would have risen with the new technology demanded. Instead, government used force to give GM the money to mass produce half-ass fuel efficient cars while keeping their massive market share of the automotive industry. They did not keep their market share because they produced a superior product in demand, but were given the market share by force.
       Although GM was once a revolutionary and innovative company, they failed to keep the innovation going. Their bankruptcy proved that and that should have been the end of GM. Ideally, another company with the technology to increase the progression of the economy would come along and take the market share that GM left behind. This chance for innovation and progression was brought to a screeching halt when the government used force to bail out GM. Government intervention is always bad.
     

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

 

Liberty and Social Justice

Liberty and Social Justice

It's nearly impossible to watch or read the news without someone discussing, or indirectly referring to, social justice.  Because the phrase is difficult to define with much accuracy, people apply it to a variety problems that they think can be solved through a more socially just society (ie inequality, poverty, crime, etc.).  When discussing social justice, pundits usually do so in terms of equality.  It's not enough that the "rules of the game" are equal (or just) for all; promoters of social justice want equality in terms of material well-being.  To achieve their ends, promoters of social justice must use force.  This, inevitably, leads to the state enacting laws that allow it to forcibly seize and redistribute wealth.  This clearly goes against liberty in the most fundamental sense.  To demonstrate my point, I find it useful to look at taxes.  

Promoters of social justice generally support a progressive income tax.  Since the rich make more than enough, they should be forced to spare a little more for the needy.  Its almost as if they believe that the most well off members in a society have a moral responsibility to take care of the poor.  Whether one believes this is the case or not is irrelevant to my argument.  What is more important is how property rights are defined in this society.  If they are defined in terms of private ownership (in terms of liberty), then each person is entitled to do what they want with themselves and their property as long as it doesn't harm the person or property of another.  In this light, a tax on income (especially a progressive tax) can be viewed as going against liberty in three particular ways.  

First and foremost, it can be viewed as outright theft.  The state is stealing money from the rich to give to the poor.  Whats more, they are stealing more money from the rich than from every one else in society.  This type of banditry is akin to Robin Hood.  Clearly taking what is not yours (or theft) goes against liberty; I don't think any further explanation is required.  If one doesn't like viewing taxes as theft, then they must accept that maybe they didn't own that portion of their income to begin with.  Since we are still discussing property rights in terms of liberty, the portion of their income that the government takes as taxes clearly must not have been owned by the worker to begin with.  If it was, the government would have no right to take it, or it would have to be considered theft.  Again, this notion goes against liberty.  Finally, when looking at taxation and the redistribution of wealth from a non-aggression axiom, it is very easy to see how it violates liberty.  The non-aggression axiom simply means that it is always wrong to aggress (or harm) the person or property of another.  This brings us back to theft.  If the government is coercively taking what is not theirs, even if it is in the name of social justice, they are aggressing against the property of another.  The non-aggression axiom makes it clear that this type of action is always wrong.   

It should be clear from the examples given above that attempts to make society more just through taxation clearly goes against liberty.  In fact, it may now seem that social justice is damn near the opposite of liberty.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that tax policy is just one of many failed government actions aimed at social justice (in particular equality).  Instead of trying to "fix" the "game" (or system), its time people acknowledge the fact that if the rules to the game are just, then the outcomes that they create must also be just.  If poverty and inequality are outcomes under a "justly" structured system, then we can't say that this outcome is unfair.  In conclusion, a more effective way to structure the welfare system would be to set it up similarly to insurance.  Because the future is unknown, paying into insurance for future security (especially in the case of decreased welfare) certainly seems more reasonable and just than the current system.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

 

Who Really Owns Ted Williams' Head?

For my first blog post, I wanted to go a little out there compared to the typical talk about something boring related to the economy. One of the major points of emphasis in class so far has been about property rights and who really holds them. Seeing that it is almost Halloween, I went with a more morbid aspect to this topic.
For those who aren't big fans of baseball, Ted Williams may not really ring a bell to you. He was arguably one of the greatest players to play for the Boston Red Sox. Williams suffered from cardiomyopathy which inevitably lead to a cardiac arrest and his death. So far there is nothing to special besides his Hall of Fame celebrity and a bad heart. Like most people, he had wanted his remains to be cremated and wanted his ashes to be spread in the Florida keys. Here is where the topic of property rights kicks into full swing. Williams' son and daughter, John-Henry and Claudia decided to have his remains cryogenically frozen. Disturbingly, due to the high cost of keeping a person's remains frozen, they chose to keep only his head frozen. Normally not much could be done considering the siblings wanted their father's remains to be frozen but the problem was his oldest daughter wanted to keep Ted's wishes to remain as in he be cremated. Keeping government intervention out of this conversation, we had two sides fighting over what the will was of their late father on how his remains would be handled.
We discussed in class about how there is a tax on death and other factors that come about when someone passes away. In reality, the body of someone who passed away is still technically there's so why is it that others have the rights to their valuables; even their body? In the case of Williams, his oldest daughter brought about a lawsuit to have his remains cremated at the wishes of Ted himself but inevitably lost when they found evidence that Ted was a strong advocate for science and allowed his family to "use" him in scientific ways if they decided to. It is hard to say who really had the right to decide what to do with Williams' remains. On one hand, you have Ted who wished to be turned into ashes and spread in the Florida keys, on the other you have siblings fighting it out to either continue his will or to turn him into a popsicle. Although this case is somewhat unique due to his celebrity and the idea of freezing his head, millions of people face this challenge everyday. If its not siblings fighting over rights of a person's body, it may be governments or other outside forces. You would assume that someone in close relation would take over those rights but in most cases, there are multiple people who believe they have a say in the matter. It is hard for the person to have a say in what happens with their body when they are no longer living. Property rights of an individual will always be a strong conflict when a body can no longer talk.

-Dustin Kosley

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2002/03/habeas_corpses.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2632809/We-did-love-Baseball-legend-Ted-Williams-daughter-finally-speaks-brother-spent-100-000-fathers-body-cryogenically-frozen.html
http://deadspin.com/what-it-took-to-get-ted-williamss-head-off-his-body-1475054922

Saturday, October 25, 2014

 
The Marketplace of Ideas and Gaming

Recently, there has been some amount of controversy in the gaming industry over a phenomenon known as GamerGate, so called due to a hashtag coined by popular actor Adam Baldwin.  The movement itself appears to have two primary stated goals: the imposition of journalistic ethics on the gaming journalism industry, and the extreme diminution of so-called “Social Justice Warriors” (vocal progressives that advance the positions of minorities, in their own words: primarily feminists) from positions of influence within gaming as a whole.  It is the second that concerns us.

The Social Justice Warriors, self-labelled progressives, disapprove of independent thought.  This is not, in fact, hyperbole.  They desire nothing less than the elimination of all hostile views, the aggressive and unchallenged promotion of their own, the silence of all potential critics of their agenda, and, indeed, such a change in gaming culture that there will not exist anyone who holds contrary beliefs.  (To get a feel for the SJW elite, readers are invited to look up Anita Sarkeesian, Jon McIntosh, Leigh Alexander, and Matthew Binder).  In fact, the progressive side, as is their wont, disapproves in the strongest possible terms of the free market.  According to them, large video game businesses (EA, Activision-Blizzard, Bungie, 343 Industries, Ubisoft, etc.) “cater” to games culture, which is degenerate and utterly unworthy of continued existence.  Don’t believe me: let them tell you themselves.

[Gaming Culture is] Kind of embarrassing… a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences… an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior… young white dudes with disposable income who like to Get Stuff… lonely basement kids… [playing] games that sold the promise of high-octane masculinity to kids just like them…  By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming. Public conversation was led by a games press whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies… young white teen boys in hypercapitalist America… had an anxiety in common, an amorphous cultural shape that was dark and loud on the outside, hollow on the inside… These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers… There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.  There is what’s past and there is what’s now.

Leigh Alexander, “'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.”, Gamasutra


In other words, the evil, despicable capitalists have so warped the feeble young minds of men and brainwashed them into being misogynistic are the reason that women are not a particularly large part of the gaming industry.  The remedy to this, to their way of thinking, is quite simple.  The sexist filth that pervades gaming culture must be expurgated by any means, fair or foul.  Women must have just as many jobs as men, if not more.  “Sexist” portrayals of women in video games must not exist (enacting this can be rather confusing, as feminists have a habit of denouncing a thing as sexist with one breath and empowering with the next).  Games must “advance a narrative”: entertainment is no longer to be the primary purpose of games.  Above all, contrary opinions can only arise from institutional sexism, misogyny, regressivism, and bigotry, and thus are intolerable.  At first glance, this is arrant, economically illiterate nonsense; so much so that I actually laughed aloud upon viewing these materials.  When examined deeper, however, this illuminates a deeply disturbing pattern of thought.

First, the economics of the situation.  There is a concept called the Marketplace of Ideas.  Essentially, various sides will offer certain ideologies, and people are free to choose whichever one most closely mirrors their own beliefs.  Freedom of choice is essential for this to work.  So, in the games industry, the multitude of interests will offer different products in different packages, and consumers will purchase whichever ones they most like.  Someone who is looking to turn their brain off and just shoot things will probably buy Call of Duty or Halo and pop in the multiplayer, someone who wants an in-depth story and complex ethical questions will buy a game like Mass Effect, etc.  In this situation, SJWs are not only free to offer their ideas, they do, and frequently.  Their ideas are practically never featured in AAA games for a very simple reason: it will not be profitable.  If someone pitched a game to a major executive, that executive will ask two questions: “Will people buy this, and can we make a sequel?”  (There will also be issues of production, but ideologically, that will pretty much be the criteria.)  Gamers, as a rule, do not like to be preached at when playing games: there is no ingrained misogyny.   Simply witness the massive success of the most recent Tomb Raider reboot.  By all accounts, the new Lara Croft is a very strong female character and not sexualized in the slightest.  The game sold over 1 million copies within 48 hours of release, and has sold over 6.5 million copies since.  Gamers do not have a problem with strong female characters: they have a problem when the game gets preachy about it.

This is intolerable to SJWs.  To them, the righteous must constantly be filled with a zealous fury at that which they find abhorrent.  It must be the air they breathe and their daily bread.  Anyone who is insufficiently ardent is, therefore, a wicked and depraved sinner (to convert that sentence into their parlance, simply replace “sinner” with any “ist” that you may please; racist, sexist, misogynist, ableist, etc.)  Clearly, the free market is decadent and corrupt: after all, how else can one explain that they are not railing against institutional bigotry every hour of the day?  Consumers cannot be trusted to choose that which gives them the most utility: corporations cannot be trusted to advance the cause of progressivism: it falls to the SJW clerisy to cleanse the degenerate industry of its sins.  Following the example of Brendan Eich, anyone who deviates in the slightest from progressive orthodoxy must be hounded from business.

This is a very disturbing way of thinking.  I will not compare it in its present form to communism, because (as yet) they have not yet called for government intervention.  I will, however, compare it to the Inquisition or Mutaween.  The free market cannot be trusted, and thus morality police are necessary to hound out any heterodoxy that may rear its ugly head: video games, as the newest form of medium, are to be monitored for any signs of deviation just as thoroughly as books, even going so far as to burn anything that runs contrary to the grand narrative.  This is not exaggeration.  I could not find the original video, but follow the link and go to about 10:20 or so. 


No part of society is to be considered sacrosanct: everything must adhere to strict progressive orthodoxy.  If followed to its logical conclusion, the end result will be fascism as Mussolini preached: “Everything within the State, nothing without the State.”  In the words of such people as Alexander and Sarkeesian, “Everything within Progressivism, nothing without Progressivism.” 


If progressives wish to compete in the marketplace of ideas and goods, that is their prerogative.  If they are successful, good for them.  If, however, they find themselves unpopular, outpaced by people who simply wish to make an entertaining game, they should gracefully wait until the next round of sales, not attempt to raze their opponents.

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