Friday, June 13, 2014

No Amnesty for Anti-Immigration Conservatives!

Conservative media erupted in cheers when it was announced that David Brat, a Tea Party favorite with only about $100,000 in his campaign, beat out the incumbent, Representative Eric Cantor - and did so, handedly. It sent shockwaves throughout the Right, following months after the media and members of both parties had kept repeating that the Tea Party was dead. The National Journal even titled an article, “The Tea Party is Over", back in March. 

Brat’s win has been attributed by many to his stance on immigration. Conservative big names such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter have all expressed their support for Brat after months of ominously warning about the dangers of illegal immigration. Coulter even expressed her disagreement in a speech at CPAC, where she said, “[S]omething I think people haven’t really noticed — well, certainly they’ve noticed on MSNBC where they are celebrating the browning of America, but if you don’t celebrate it you’re a racist — it is going to be people who are not from America who are going to be in theory funding older white people who are getting to their Social Security, Medicare age. I don’t think that can last.” Currently the home page of National Review Online boasts an article titled “Ingraham’s Insurrection” where Eliana Johnson gives radio persona and Bill O’Reilly’s frequent guest host, Laura Ingraham, a lot of credit for rallying conservatives against immigration reform, including the so-called “Gang of Eight Bill”.

It would seem, according to these ladies and everyone who sings from their hymnals, that the fate of America rests on securing the border from lazy, slothful, moocher Mexicans who sneak into the United States the way the Hamburglar sneaks into McDonald’s to steal burgers. But in truth, the cry for “No Amnesty” is precisely what it professes to oppose: a call for amnesty, not for immigrants, but for people on the right who wish to evade the reality of the disastrous policies that have led to the swelling of the welfare state (even without illegal immigrants on the dole).

“They’re stealing our jobs!” “They’re going to be on welfare!” “We’re paying for their education!” “They broke our laws!” These are the cries that echo whenever the subject of immigration comes up, all throughout conservative social media and on the airwaves every day. At the root of these cries, however, there are huge errors being made. Let’s look at some of them.

People say, “They’re taking jobs away from American citizens!” One must ask, “Whose jobs are they?” They do not belong to American workers. They belong to employers, who have a moral right to hire and fire the people they rationally decide they must. Business owners want to stay in business to continue creating value and reaping their just profits from their efforts. Why are there some who hire illegal immigrants? Let’s ask the true question here: why aren’t they hiring American workers? Answer: they’re more expensive than immigrant workers. Why? Because immigration workers aren’t subject to immoral minimum wage laws that price American workers out of market. Business owners, when costs go up, must cover the costs in one of three ways: by raising the price of the goods they produce (which could hurt sales), by using cheaper materials to produce their goods (which could result in poor quality products, and damage the business’ reputation), or by cutting costs (and payroll is a cost, mind you). Which one of those three would you likely pick?

Others complain about immigrants being on welfare, taking Medicare and Social Security. Of course, these programs are immoral on their face because they enslave younger generations by forcing them to pay for the care of the preceding generations. Any government redistribution program is immoral because it deals with stolen money (since taxpayer funds are seized against the will of the citizens, though we are always told “it’s for you, too!”), but these programs are especially rotten because of the rotten premise of altruism that lurks underneath it. “You should be willing to pay for the care of elderly people, even if it means losing more of your money to taxes. It’s your duty!”

Funny enough, many conservatives seem to vaguely understand that this set up is immoral but cannot bring themselves to call for a complete elimination of the welfare state. Instead, they want to control who can be on welfare in America and who can’t. This may seem a practical approach, but without the moral condemnation of the welfare state, conservatives continue to evade the moral responsibility of protecting individual rights. Even their cries for “no amnesty” belies their true intentions; they seek punishment for illegal immigrants in an attempt to evade the recognition that they seek amnesty from the knowledge that they are afraid to condemn the truly immoral welfare state and call for its elimination.

One of the more incredible complaints is that American citizens are forced to pay for the education of children of illegal immigrants. With this complaint, they evade the fact that they are paying for everyone’s children to get an education in the government school system. Even if you homeschool your own children, your taxes pay for the indoctrination of other children. These people should focus their ire on where it belongs: the intrusion of government into education, via the government (“public”) schools. No criticism of paying for immigrant children carries any weight unless one understands the moral offense of paying for anyone else’s children’s education. Singles and childless couples are paying for the education of other people’s kids. If one doesn’t address this injustice, one has no right to complain about paying for immigrant children.

The main line of attack comes from those who complain, “They broke the law! They should be punished!” This contains a complete misunderstanding of what law is supposed to be in a free society.

The legitimacy of a law depends upon the legitimacy of the government that drafts it. This begs the question: what determines the legitimacy of a government? To put the point a bit crudely, a legitimate government is one that is based on the protection of individual rights. Therefore, its laws must reflect that standard. Any law that infringes on one’s rights (such as gun control laws or gay marriage bans) is therefore illegitimate.

Note that the concept of rights, hierarchically speaking, precedes the concept of “government”. Government is meant to protect rights, which implies that the concept of “rights” must come first - meaning man has rights, and as a result, government’s only legitimate function is to protect those rights. Those who say that illegal immigrants are not “covered by the Constitution” or “do not share the rights that citizens have” are reversing cause and effect. Rights do not come from government, and they are not mystical entities in some etherial realm. Rights are recognitions of man’s existence as a being with a specific nature, a rational animal who must choose to sustain his own life. They are moral principles that sanction man’s freedom to act in a social context.

Immigrants, legally here or not, still fit the description of man. They must still act on the independent, rational judgment of their mind and pursue their self-interested happiness on their own volition. The idea that rights do not exist for one group of people merely because another group chooses not to recognize them does not make the former any less comprised of Man, any less comprised of rational beings who must act of their own volition to sustain and enhance their lives as their nature demands.

The outcry against “amnesty” is the conservative rebellion against the reality of the situation: they still accept the rotten altruistic beliefs that the collectivists on the left hold, right down to their sometimes irrational defense of entitlements. Illegal immigrants are only the scape goat for their misplaced rage, a rage not against illegal activity, but against the subconscious knowledge that they are just as morally culpable as the left when it comes to the current situation. Conservatives must  attack the true immorality at the root of this conflict - a government that is operating outside of its proper size and scope and is violating the rights of workers, business owners, and immigrants…and does so with their implicit sanction.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

3 Assumptions the GOP Leadership Should Check

Before I go further, let me concede one thing:  I know, the last thing anyone wants to read right now is yet another blog post about the partial government shutdown.  I get it, I do - and I won't flout your wishes...entirely.  I want to address one aspect of it, one that has gotten a lot of attention from the media and the blogosphere - the Republican Party and its behavior.

I've been watching the news (because I'm apparently the only nerd here in Orlando that is actually interested in the shutdown) and following along with all of the developments within the GOP, and honestly, it hasn't been very...inspiring.  But even so, the most illuminating lessons can arise from the most disappointing occurrences. 

By now, we all know the Republicans have struck a deal with the Democrats in the Senate, and the government has reopened (which, for some reason, has cheered people up rather than saddened them) with many of its funding.  If you haven't heard Amy Peikoff's podcast on this "deal", you should do it.  She goes over how completely screwed over the GOP was here - they got absolutely nothing out of this deal (except for funding for a dam in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell's home state.  You know McConnell, the one who shook Harry Reid's hand before announcing the deal on the floor of the Senate...) and many of the talking heads on the political shows, everyone from Bill Bennett to Michael Medved to Ann Coulter are spouting off at all the time wasted by the few principled men in Congress (Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Mike Lee, etc.) in attempting to defund Obamacare.  "Delay is a much better option," they've said.  Senator John McCain has lamented the Republican Party's low polling numbers and its unpopularity. 

Leaving aside all this "RINO" talk that has permeated the blogosphere, let's look at some things.  We have a plethora of inductive knowledge from which we can deduce ideas, so let's begin by examining some of the assumptions held by many Republicans in the Beltway.  They might only hold one of these assumptions or all, but I want to address them and show, hopefully lucidly as it's almost 8 in the morning on a Saturday (my birthday, no less!) and I haven't even had my glass of water in the morning.

Let's list these assumptions first.

#1 - "Obamacare will fall apart on its own, and people will see it for what it is.  The GOP just needs to step aside and we'll be collecting new voters like a little girl collecting sea shells on the beach."

#2 - "You're never going to find a perfectly conservative candidate, so you have to vote for the one that is the most electable and close ranks around him."

#3 - "It's all about winning elections.  We have to win an election first, then we can have the deep philosophical discussions about our policies later."

As you know, this blog is written from the perspective of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, the best moral defense of man's right to the pursuit of happiness and the sense of life that gave rise to the United States of America, even though only implicitly.  Objectivism does not hold that dichotomies (read: contradictions) exist, and the idea that is implicit in all of these assumptions - that what is moral and what is practical are sometimes in contradiction to each other - is precisely what I want to respond to here.

Let me begin.

#1 - "Obamacare will fall apart on its own, and people will see it for what it is.  The GOP just needs to step aside and we'll be collecting new voters like a little girl collecting sea shells on the beach."

The blatant assumption here is that Obamacare's certain failure will drive people to the arms of the Republican Party.  They will be so disgusted with it, they will immediately turn around and embrace the philosophy of free markets, individual rights and rational self-interest.

As much as I'd like to believe that, this cannot be relied on.  People will have to see Obamacare for what it is - a blatant assault on our individual liberties via an unconstitutionally levied tax - and they will have to understand it on a much deeper level.  In other words you are relying on their ability to use reason - and reason is not an automatic function; if one hasn't used reason, especially if one has rejected it outright in favor of mysticism or collectivism, then attempting to reach someone through rational outreach is futile.  It's not enough for Obamacare to fail; they have to understand why it failed and why it was always going to fail.  They have to check their initial premises on things like the "right to healthcare" and rethink the morality that gave rise to this horrendous piece of legislation.

Also, let's not completely discount the idea that Obamacare has been set up to fail on purpose, so that the statists can finally have their single-payer system.  If that's the case, rest assured, those voters will not be knocking on the GOP's doors.

#2 - "You're never going to find a perfectly conservative candidate, so you have to vote for the one that is the most electable and close ranks around him."

This is usually from the people who supported McCain in 2008, Romney in 2012, and who are now lining up behind Christie for 2016.  This should be the most blatantly obvious error, but this is almost a perfect word-for-word quote from Ann Coulter during the run up to last year's election as to why pro-liberty people should vote for Romney while she was on Stossel.

The first point, the one readily addressed by the most cursory introspection, is the question - "What does it mean, 'perfectly conservative'?"  Does that mean someone who is both fiscally and socially conservative?  Someone who is one more than the other?  A libertarian-minded person?  Like "love", the word "conservative" seems to mean different things to different people.

With such unclear definitions, how can one decide who the "most electable" candidate is?  Why is there such difficulty in defining their term?  You see, implicit in this idea is that the "electable" candidate is someone who seems to be everything to everyone - fiscally conservative for the liberty movement, socially conservative for the evangelicals, militarily hawkish for the security crowd (who, by the way, tend to know absolutely nothing about how the military works), etc., etc.  But no one can be everything to everybody.  Obama tried that, and we know where he stands now on things.  The idea that an election can be won by promoting contradictions hidden by superficial talk and campaign jargon is extremely pernicious.

In politics, like in anything else, you cannot escape that A is A.  People are who they are.  Pretending that they're not who they are so you can scam votes out of the liberty movement is not a strategy to victory, at least not to the rational.

The second assumption is that people in the liberty movement - libertarians, Objectivists, voluntaryists, Tea Party, etc. - will just gleam onto anyone the GOP throws at us.  The Democrats are so heinous, so terrible, the GOP could put shit on a stick on the ballot and we will vote for it.

Or will we?

#3 - "It's all about winning elections.  We have to win an election first, then we can have the deep philosophical discussions about our policies later."

This is a paraphrase from Governor Chris Christie following a discussion on the unconstitutional surveillance program under the NSA.

I would argue that this, more than anything else, is the biggest message the GOP is sending out to people right now - and it's the one that is continuing to widen the gap.  This is an attempt to do something ass-backward - namely, an attempt to win an election before giving people a reason to vote for you.

The biggest problem with the Republican Party, expressed in these three assumptions that have made their way onto the airwaves over the last couple of weeks,  is the desire for the unearned:  the votes of the liberty movement without having to actually be the kind of candidate that the movement would vote for.  In a sense, it's an entitlement mentality.  The virtue they want to tout is not "This is what we are", but rather, "This is what we're not".  They're not Democrats, so that alone is why we should vote for them.  They think we'll vote for Christie because we hate Hillary that much.  They think we'll join them in bashing Senator Ted Cruz because of how the public feels about us.  This is how small the GOP has gotten over the years.

This is why they are attacking Ted Cruz and Mike Lee.  This is why they attacked Senator Rand Paul for his stance against drone strikes on American citizens.  These are the guys the liberty movement will vote for.  In the realm of politics, who you vote for and who you want in office are not always the same person.  In the realm of philosophy, however, there can be no contradiction.  Since politics is a branch of philosophy, trying to saw it off the tree is not a good strategy for the GOP.

If "what is moral in ethics must be made possible in politics", as the saying goes, it is up to the GOP leadership to examine what morality they are making possible by their current tactics, and it is up to us to hold the line on what we are willing to vote for...and what we are willing to shrug against.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Culture of Nihilism

What are the markers of a civilization's decline?

It's long been discussed in academic circles and in political think tanks.  Some say civilization declines when the government just doesn't do enough to lift the poor out of poverty.  Others say everything starts going to hell when one removes God from the equation.  It's a question that's been circulating since the fall of Rome; why has Rome fallen?  What knocked it to its knees?  Was it political corruption? (Yes, but that was a symptom.)  Was it homosexuality, or a laissez-faire attitude to human sexuality?  (If one believes the rantings of ministers, perhaps.)

What happened to Rome?  Most pertinently, what is happening to the U.S.?  Why did Rome fall, and what is the U.S. suffering from?

In a word:  Ideas.

More specifically:  BAD ideas.

If there's anything that sets Objectivism apart from other philosophies and worldviews, it's that it holds that ideas are essential to human life, essential to grasping reality and deriving morality.  They're not disconnected from reality, like some believe - nor are they ethereal entities zooming about out there in some astral realm for our minds to tap into.

A man's life is the summation of the choices he's made, the values he's pursued, and the ideas he's accepted.  That last one is important because it is the precondition of the other two.  Good ideas, when accepted, lead to good choices and the pursuit of self-interested values.  But this leads to an interesting question:  how does one determine what ideas are good, and which ones aren't?

Objectivism holds that man holds his knowledge in conceptual form; that is, he isolates similar attributes of two or more existents and integrates them into one mental unit, omitting particular measurements and retaining only their shared characteristics.  In other words, he omits the particular measurements of two different tables and retains their similar characteristics (i.e., a flat surface with supports upon which small, lighter objects are placed).  We all do this with our first concepts, when we're learning our letters and numbers.  We all can identify tables and chairs, and how they are similar (under the abstraction "furniture") and how they are different.  Abstractions are concepts that combine several concepts into a bigger category ("furniture", "cars", "jobs") and even then they can be integrated into other abstract concepts.

But now here we run into trouble.  Abstractions can be extremely confusing and "misintegrated" without a rational evaluation (meaning, without checking it against objective reality).  This allows for error when it comes to concepts such as "marriage" or "justice" or "honesty".  And once errors occur on this level, it's only a matter of time before any ideas, concepts or propositions you build upon said errors run you right into contradictions.

An idea can be right or wrong, but if one holds reason as their absolute and objective reality as their arbiter, it can be corrected and integrated into the sum of one's knowledge.  But if one's premises are shaky, no matter how ornate and intricate the structure of knowledge, it will never be secure.

It is all too obvious what can happen when ideas are not checked, and what inevitable culture will result when thinking ceases and ideas are resigned to the back burner.  We now live in a culture where riots break out when a trial turns out differently than what people expect, or - more recently - when a surfing competition ends in destruction; where soccer referees are decapitated by irate fans; where actors like Ryan Gosling appear in films like Only God Forgives in which he plays with his disemboweled mother's entrails; where loathsome creatures run up to unsuspecting young girls and smack them upside the head and post the video on Vine; where Boston bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev's glossy selfie is placed on the cover of Rolling Stone (an honor not given to the little 8-year-old boy killed by Tsarnaev's bomb); where government can access your information by forcing private companies to turn over their data and then lie about it before Congress...

The examples roll on.

It is no mystery why the men of the Renaissance, after wading through the mud and sewage of the Middle Ages, set their eyes upon the modern world with a hunger for new ideas and subsequently heralded a new age of enlightenment for man.  It was ideas that made the Renaissance possible, and it was their absence that allowed the Middle Ages to last as long as it had.

If we are to stem the tide of irrationality, it is in the realm of ideas where the fight is to begin.  We must fight against the altruist morality that has infested public discourse to the point where it's almost axiomatic that the good is measured by what we do for others rather than ourselves.  We must fight against the religious right's attempts to shoehorn religion into public office; we must stand against the progressive left's agenda to indoctrinate the masses into collectivism.  Only an exchange of ideas can bring us into the new Renaissance, and out of the mire of nihilism.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dear N.S.A.

Dear NSA:

There's a part of me that's hoping you really are just snooping around terrorists' phone calls and such, and even though I'm not a fan of the Patriot Act, I guess on a conceptual level I understand its necessity.  However, I'm particularly mistrusting of government (and every day I trust it less) and I know you might, in your zeal for security, find your peepers on my blog.  I'm sure Ayn Rand would love the irony of an overarching tech-tatorship (just made that up, seriously) reading a blog about her philosophy.  You know, the philosophy that says that man is an end in himself, that he's not a sacrificial animal for the public good (or for national security, for that matter)?

You might be wondering why people are in such a tizzy.  I mean, you're trying to protect us, right?  Isn't that what you've been told by your higher ups, that it's all for the greater good?  Well, here's what I say to that:


Man does not exist for everyone else's sake.  His rights are not to be abridged just because his neighbors are too scared to sleep at night.  He does not lose his right to his property (after all, secrets are property) in the name of national security.

Let me explain why people are royally pissed at you, regardless of what the talking heads in the political world are saying.

First of all, privacy amounts to having control over who knows certain things about you.  It's a learning curve, as many teenagers are learning as they enter the workforce and find out that picture of them in a bikini top smoking a spliff while flipping the camera off really isn't a good thing to have on one's Facebook page.  They might smarten up and remove the photos (or at least privatize the page as much as they can) or it might take the twelfth kick of the mule before they realize what's going on.  At the end of the day, they learn to use their reason (there's that word again) and make better judgment calls as to what they put on their social media sites.

To widen the abstraction a bit, think of privacy as a form of currency.  When you first meet someone, you don't tell them every single private detail about yourself.  As you get to know someone, and as time passes you - ideally - have developed a certain trust with regards to what you think that person might be able to handle about you.  It's an exchange - the strength of the trust for the depth of the secret.  The more trust one has earned, the more secrets they are given. 

A famous Christian music artist once said, "If you don't have any secrets, then you can't have any lies."  The idea here, of course, is that since lying is immoral (regardless of context, according to religious teachings) you might as well just have everything on front street for everyone to see.

I would counter that secrecy is important because on a social level, your secrets are the means of exchange.  You don't just give them away, the same way you most likely don't just give your money away.  It's worked for.  You have to choose who gets to know your secrets and who doesn't - and like any choice, errors may occur and lessons will be learned.  The lesson itself can be considered a value received in exchange for misplaced trust.

So let's turn to government now, and why you have riled so many people up.

Government, as you well know, is not anyone's nanny, mommy, daddy, or provider.  In fact, it's not even technically a "protector".  Government is one thing:  sanctioned force.

If man is to live a life proper to man, he has to use his reason to make judgments and grasp reality.  Secret surveillance programs obviously are an affront to the latter (you can't grasp reality when parts of it are willfully withheld from you), but what makes force destructive is the former.  When force enters the equation, it doesn't just attack your mind - it makes your mind irrelevant.

The teens above might revise their social media pages to better reflect them for potential employers, especially after feedback from others - or they might not.  They're making their choices, for better or worse.  But what you and other secret programs do is remove the choice from the equation.  You look at everything and everyone, regardless of those pesky 4th Amendment rights, and aside from becoming Amish, we have no choice as to whether you can look or not. 

So this is the issue:  people can choose what they want to put on their social media pages - and can choose to take them down and show only a part of themselves with everyone else.  It's an exchange between the person and their friends list/followers.  By your nature, you render that judgment irrelevant and hinder their rational mind.

It's like forcing religious charities to pay for abortions.  What makes it wrong is not that many religious people oppose abortion - it's wrong because it makes such beliefs immaterial.  It no longer matters whether one opposes it or not - one still has to pay for it.  Likewise, whether you live your life openly for everyone to see or you're a very private person, it no longer matters.  You can now look through anything and everything you want to.

So everyone who goes around defending you and saying you're necessary is simply ignoring what you're actually all about: you're a branch of sanctioned force.  Those who say, "This is an abuse of the Patriot Act," don't understand that your snooping is simply the inevitable outcome of such legislation because government only grows, never shrinks, and never gives power back that's been given to it.  Your spying on American citizens was always going to happen because it's the nature of force to consume every last inch of liberty.  You can't force one part of reality without forcing other parts, and then forcing more parts, until finally you fall apart. You can't successfully fight against reality and against man's nature as a rational being who must make judgments and who must use his reason.

Now, however, you've been exposed.  Your corruption is open for everyone to see - and whatever's hidden from us will be brought to light soon.

In short...your secret's out.

We the people (your employers) don't like what we're seeing.  We're discussing the future of your employment now.

We'll let you know soon what we decide.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The War On Reality

There is no more concrete proof of the facts of reality (and the willingness of people to ignore them) then observing the behavior of people in regards to the current administration.

We are told, "Raise taxes on the rich so they pay their fair share along with everyone else!"  Of course, everyone earning a paycheck saw for themselves how well that worked out, following the debt-limit deal between House Republicans and the Democrats.  It was even a Twitter hashtag:  #whyismypaychecksosmall?

It's not even worth pointing out the flaws inherent within the idea of "taxing the rich", the basic one being that the rich are already paying the biggest percentages of taxes in the country.  All of the flaws within such a rotten premise were already known to people who bothered to think things through; people who dared use reason rather than emotion to evaluate reality were screaming that this was not going to work.  From Reason magazine to late-night shows like Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld  people were already explaining why a far better idea is to cut spending rather than raise taxes.

But the laws of reality, of supply and demand, were scoffed at by the intelligentsia.  Pseudo-economists like Paul Krugman were chirping away to whoever would listen about the fallacy of the Romney-Ryan plan (and there were problems with the plan, but they were not the problems that Krugman and his ilk were referring to).  Celebrities and crony capitalists were tweeting away about what a privilege it was to be an American citizen and what better way to express that than to pay higher tax rates.

It was an attempt to deny the basic laws of reality; the law of non-contradiction (such as the belief that one can spend their way out of debt) was chief among the "kill list" for progressives who could not bring themselves to admit that their battle against reality was a losing battle.  Unable to deal with reality, they waged war against those who understood it.

Now, it is completely naked to everyone how blatantly wrong progressives have been this whole time, ever since the passage of Obamacare all the way through the disastrous debt ceiling debacle.  The truly sad part of this is that both parties are complicit in this nightmarish evasion of reality; the Republicans treated defense spending the way that Democrats treat education/health care spending.  Both parties are guilty of violating the basic Objectivist principle of A=A.

It is now up to the people of America to accept what the administration and its acolytes simply will not:  the laws of reality are incontrovertible, and man, if he wishes to attain happiness and success, must perceive reality and obey its laws...if he wants to conquer them.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Delete THIS

I would like to address the ubiquitous memes on Facebook demanding that any Republicans who vote for Romney should delete their gay friends on Facebook.  It basically goes, "If you vote Republican, you are attacking me personally and I would rather we were not friends, even if you yourself are a marriage equality supporter."  One even went so far as to chastise people for "voting on their paychecks". 

As someone who will not be voting for either Obama or Romney (as a Libertarian I will be voting for Gary Johnson - and no, that's not a wasted vote; the only wasted vote is the one cast for a candidate one doesn't believe in), I was getting irritated with these posts, especially since Libertarians really don't like either Romney or Obama.  So, I would like to offer this sophisticated, calm, polite rebuttal to those of you who think that friendships are only validated by shared political beliefs:

Horse.  Shit.

It is amazing how people demand tolerance and yet can't actually practice it themselves.  I know how it is to take things personally when debating politics, but the goal is to outgrow that, not to let it destroy your friendships.  Hell, my cousin Kevin and I rarely see eye to eye on politics, but it certainly doesn't warrant cutting off my family ties.

So should you do what the memes tell you to do?  Here's what I think:

You should delete these people from your friends' lists, if for no other reason than to spare yourself the theatrics of hysterical lefties who view any favorable comment on a Republican as an emotional equivalent to a knife in the heart. But let's look at this a little more deeply, to understand why this type of hyperbole is hypocritical when looked at objectively.

One of the memes that I saw chastised people for thinking about their taxes and paychecks instead of their gay friends and family.  It should be obvious, but I'm going to risk insulting my readers' intelligence and spell it out for them:

1.  Their paychecks are their means of feeding their kids, clothing them, providing for them.  What that statement is saying (in its total, monstrous meaning) is that you shouldn't be thinking of yourselves, your families, your interests - you should be thinking about theirs.  This is altruism at its most blatant expression; your interests should be subverted so that someone else can be happy, even though their happiness is not your responsibility (nor, I might add, in your control).  Let alone the fact that THEY should be thinking about their paychecks and taxes as well.

2.  Let's consider marriage equality (which by the way, Romney does not support, Obama had to evolve on, and my candidate, Gary Johnson, supported from the beginning):  these people claim that you should be ashamed because you're voting against their civil rights.  I maintain, as always, that "civil rights" are a derivative concept of "individual rights", but let's leave that aside for now.  A legal marriage license ensures, among other things, that in death your property and assets are left to your spouse and your family.  Fair enough.  And since Romney decided that hospital visitation is a "privilege, not a right", well, a license helps with that too.

But if you want all of that, you sure as hell shouldn't vote for Obama.  Why?

Raised taxes means that your estate will not nearly be enough to support your spouse or family in the event of your demise.  Raising taxes only on the wealthy means the people who provide the jobs, aren't going to be able to, which means your household is going to be broke.  Also, that social security thing you're banking on?  It's more dead than a slut in a horror movie.

Bought a house for your family?  Hope the government doesn't find a need for it, because under eminent domain, they can take it away from you for one of their social projects.  That's not rhetoric; it's happening now.  Google Donald Trump and eminent domain, and prepare for your blood to boil.

And of course, the big issue that no one wants to talk about, because apparently the majority of gay men only want to talk about Lindsay Lohan and Honey Boo-Boo, is the fact that at any moment your beloved can be snatched by the military and detained indefinitely without due process because of the NDAA (which, by the way, both parties support). 

Suddenly, the right to marriage is viewed in a proper context:  gay rights, like civil rights, are nothing without the true fundamental:  individual rights.  Your rights as a human being, as a man, woman, or anything in between, are under attack from both parties.  Let me stress this:  from BOTH parties.  Your right to your own life, and your right to property (the two rights that make all other rights, including marriage rights, possible) are being threatened.  This is the true fight, and too many gay men are willfully blind to this.  It is not gay rights that are under attack by Republicans.  It is your basic human rights, your individual rights, that are under attack by the authoritarian two-party establishment.  No marriage rights are possible without individual rights being protected (for everyone, including the one percent.  Yeah, I said it). 

So shut up about "delete me please" and all that nonsense, because your insistence on voting for Obama is just as immoral and ill-informed as those who are voting for Romney.  You are voting for the erosion of your rights as a human being just as surely as those who are voting for Romney, so you don't get to claim the high road here.  You don't get to chastise voters who are voting on their paychecks, because it's YOUR paychecks on the line too.  You don't score points with anyone by trying to drive them to a candidate they don't actually believe in just because you're throwing a temper tantrum.  You vote for your candidate, let them vote for theirs, and you don't - let me emphasize this by typing in all caps like a teenager on Twitter:  YOU DON'T THROW AWAY A FRIENDSHIP JUST BECAUSE THEIR POLITICS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOURS.  It's stupid, it's heartless, it's immature - and worst of all it's irrational.

Supporting marriage equality doesn't mean you throw out your views on the economy, your concern for your family's well-being, the future of your business and of your employees.  Some people feel Romney is the better option on this.  (They're wrong, of course; Gary Johnson is the best man for the job, but that's another blog for another day.)  You can disagree with them, you can think Obama is better for the job (he's not), but you don't throw away a friendship just because you disagree.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Values Come From "Evaluation"

In the midst of election season, the presidential candidates seem to be particularly invested in being seen as the champions of "values", whether they be "family values", "traditional values", or even "social values".  It's almost a cliche to listen to people in politics discussing the role of one's values in deciding who the next leader of the free world is going to be.  One certainly could say that the subject of "values" is the implicit basis of all political subjects and discussions.

The big buzz word/code phrase is "family values", usually deployed in an argument against gay marriage or reproductive rights.  The purveyors of family values, such as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, etc., have taken up the baton to be the defenders of the family unit, which they regard as the building block of society.

Just one problem:  there's no such thing as "family values".

"But of course there are," you might say.  "Being there for your family, being respectful to your mom and dad, treating your grandparents right, not fighting with your brother or sister - aren't those examples of family values?"

The confusion stems from the misunderstanding of the word "value".

Ayn Rand wrote that a value is what one acts to gain or keep, either on the physical or spiritual level (by spiritual, Objectivists mean pertaining to consciousness).  To put it in epistemological terms, a value is the mental evaluation of an existent resulting in an emotional response of either pain or pleasure.  (Evaluate = value.  Get it?) Everything in life, whether metaphysical concretes or epistemological concepts, is evaluated.  We place values on everything.

The failure to understand this is evident everywhere in the modern culture.  We are told every day "You just can't place a value on this car/house/vacation/life."  Not only can you place values on each of those things, you must do so.  Not only must you place a value on your life, you must place it as your highest value, the end-in-itself, with everything under it on your hierarchy of values working to sustain it.

We will discuss the hierarchy of values further down, but I want to address the "family values" notion that conservatives like to trumpet when cheerfully voting to deny constitutionally affirmed rights to tax paying individuals.  Since values are the result of evaluation, and values are ranked according to one's own standard of life, it should be apparent why the notion of a separate, "metaphysical" set of family values is false.  An individual can only evaluate an existent for himself, not for anyone else.  You can certainly fight to obtain your values, but you may not force other people to value the things you value, like F.R.C. president Tony Perkins attempts to do.  Mr. Perkins may value heterosexual marriage, but he may not force anyone else to value it the way he does, nor to rank it the same way he does in his hierarchy.  (While Mr. Perkins claims, and perhaps accurately so, that the majority of people in this country share those values, he cannot claim that his set of values is the standard for everyone else to follow.   And while groups may form around shared values, they are not legitimate unless they are the product of objective evaluation on the part of the individuals.)

Now, what are we talking about when we say that everyone has a hierarchy of values? 

In the same way we measure length in inches and weight in pounds, we measure our values by means of teleological measurement.  When we measure something in this way, we are gauging the intensity of a particular emotion in regards to an existent.  It's easy to discern the difference between something we like and something we dislike, but where consciously assessing our values becomes tricky is when we don't rank them properly.  You love chocolate, you love your cat, and you love your mom - but you certainly don't love all three at the same intensity.  When you introspect (i.e. when you think), you are sorting through your values and placing them in their rank in the hierarchy, so you know whether you are willing to trade a piece of chocolate for the greater value of your cat, and whether or not you're willing to trade your cat for the greater value of your mom. 

Of course, every one's values are different, and there are assuredly some people who will rank their cat higher than their mothers.  Once again, we can disagree with their evaluation, but we may not force them to adopt our value systems.

This begs a question that people ask all the time in the humanities, usually as a sarcastic quip:  "Can you measure love?"  (To quote Rand's answer to that:  "And how!")

In the same vein as the above example, we can know how intensely someone loves us by examining their value system.  If a man loves a woman, but he's unwilling to quit drinking or smoking for her, knowing that she doesn't like those habits, then he clearly ranks his smoking and drinking over her value.  If a man loves a woman, but chooses instead to marry someone else because she comes from money, then he values money over the woman.  If a man loves a woman so much that he kicks the smoking and the drinking, tells Ms. Moneybags to get lost, and risks his life to save her because without her, his life would be meaningless - it is obvious that this is a completely different intensity than the other two examples.  To quote Ayn Rand:  "Do not let a James Taggart type of mystic tell you that love is immeasurable."

So many problems of the world are the result of inarticulate value judgments.  Hollywood celebrities fall in love, get married, have children, and then get divorced when they try to continue their careers - and they do this over and over again because they do not stop and introspect; if they did, they'd realize that they valued their careers more highly than each other.  Businessmen marry the women they love, only to find themselves kicked to the curb because they were unable to learn that they valued their work over their marriage.  High school crushes become melodramatic heartbreaks because their love for each other didn't make it past the first year of college; they valued their futures more than the other person.

This should not be an indictment of what these individuals valued; rather, it's an indictment of our culture's failure to think and to grasp what "values" actually are.  Conservatives tell us to defend "family values" when only the individuals in the family are able to determine what their values are.  Liberals champion the importance of eating healthy and being environmentally friendly while being unable to answer, "important" to whom?  In both cases, both sides are attempting to galvanize a movement or force to gain political points (and unfortunately, it appears to be working).

The true defender of values in America is the rational individual who understands where values come from:  thinking.  It is our evaluation of existents that determine whether we truly value something or not, and it is our measurement that tells us what we are willing to give up, and what we are willing to climb over the barricades for.

It is no less than the future of man's life that is at stake when values are separated from the thought processes that lead one to those values.  If values are separate from man's mind, then man's life is only valued at whatever price someone else sets.