Saturday, September 24, 2005

Column on Back to the Toads?

[Please proof read my column before using it.]

Back to the Toads?

Tibor R. Machan

Is it the toads? Maybe this time around it is hazards to some other
critter that prompts the rangers on California?s Silverado Canyon Road,
near where I live, to bar entry to the forest, by the gate. They have the
sign up, no apologies thank you, saying ?Gate Closed 5 miles Ahead.?

Each time I drive by the sign I am inclined to stop and ask the rangers
by whose moral authority they bar us from the forest, given that it is
maintained at taxpayers? expense, which also pays for their services. (I
know, of course, they have some laws backing them, but laws, as history
teaches us, can be very unjust.) Who are these people who believe so
firmly that they have the moral?and should keep the legal?authority to bar
us all from the wilds of Orange County?

At one time, as I recall, it was because some specie of toad which now
and then?actually very rarely?crossed the dirt road up there, and this
supposedly authorized those in charge to keep all human beings away. Why?
So the toad didn?t have to face the hazard of a hiker?s boots or, heaven
help us, a Jeep?s tires. So what? After all, these critters face hazards
from other critters and from the elements all the time?indeed, this has
been their lot from time immemorial. It is how nature is?some living
things live at the expense of some others.

No one seems to mind when one animal feeds off another, or off the
vegetation, thereby destroying these. It is understood to be how the world
works thereabouts, so why when people get into the picture is it supposed
to be forbidden?

My suspicion is that there?s just altogether too much misanthropy afoot
among people attracted to environmentalism. They don?t like, maybe even
hate, human beings?perhaps starting with themselves?so much so that some
of them are calling for humanity?s outright destruction. As David M.
Graber said, in his review of Bill McKibben?s The End of Nature, ?Until
such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can
only hope for the right virus to come along? (from The Los Angeles Times
Book Review, October 22, 1989, p. 9).

Notice how this remark assumes that people aren?t part of nature. But
that is entirely off the wall. People and their developments, bridges,
parking lots, museums, concert halls, SUVs and all the rest are every bit
as much part of nature as are the tunnels built by termites, dams by
beavers, or nests by birds.

What may be true, but entirely irrelevant, is that human beings are not
normally part of the wilds, that what they bring into nature is a very
creative capacity. But there is some of that within the rest of the animal
world as well?some birds, it appears now, sing just for the hell of it,
not because it serves some utilitarian function. And there is word from
research on great apes that they, too, develop various cultural artifacts,
such as games.

Now it is also true that human beings have the unique, so far unmatched
capacity, to mess things up. They are, unlike other animals, not hard
wired to carry on properly, on the whole. So they need to be criticized
and sometimes set right, including in how they comport themselves toward
the wilds.

Yet, to tell just what they do wrong and how to do things right,
standards are required and what environmentalists offer along these lines
is mostly incoherent. They seem to want for us all to ignore what benefits
human beings and only concern ourselves with non-human life. Why? What
could be the reason if not a deep seated misanthropy?

As to the toad or any other critters, let them fend for themselves, just
as they have done for millions of years before people showed up on earth.
And we, in turn, should focus on what truly enhances our lives. If that
includes caring more about other animals than we now do, so be it. But
here there is at least a source of some workable standards?our own lives
and flourishing can be our priority, just as, by the way, the lives and
flourishing of other animals is theirs, only in a hardwired way, not by
conscious choice.

What is really ironic is that in their enthusiasm for the wilds, many
environmentalists betray their own human nature by turning against
themselves, namely, people. Given that no other animals follow suit, they
ought to revise their attitude and become more pro human.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

From Tibor Re: Proof reading of my columns

Tom Whom It May Concern:
I at times ask, at the top of my columns, to please proof read what you
plan to use. This is because I have noticed that almost no matter how
often I read over my columns, I do not manage to catch all the
typographical errors (and, of course, spell checks do not manage this
either, for a variety of reasons).
I have heard back only from one person who receives--although in fact
never has used--my columns, admonishing me that it is my responsibility to
do such proof reading and my asking for this help is unprofessional, etc.,
etc. I am not a prominent enough columnists to have the kind of experience
that would give me full confidence about this matter but it does appear to
me that proof reading and even copy editing are received by many writers
from editors. Certainly publishers of my books have nearly always done
this, with the exception of cases when camera ready copies were used to
print the book (yet even then the publisher often provides a penultimate
proof reading). Newspapers often employ proof readers. Most people I have
had experience with along these lines seem to appreciate that writers who
try to proof read often get sidetracked by focusing yet again on the
content and meaning of what they write, thus risking missing the typos
that others can find more readily. Indeed, as a reader of much fiction and
non-fiction from some of the most prestigious publishers, I often catch
typos in the finally published works.
So, all I can say is that if you find it unprofessional of me to request
help with proof reading, just drop me from your list. Otherwise, thank you
very much for putting up with the inconvenience of needing to do a final
read through.


Tibor R. Machan

Machan teaches at Chapman University, Orange, CA, and is a research fellow
at the Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA. He advises Freedom
Communications, Inc., on libertarian issues.

Column on Germany's Election

Why The Germans Blinked
Tibor R. Machan
Jana Henselis, who is herself from the former Easter Germany, wrote about
the winner by only the slightest margin of the German election for
chancellor, held Sunday, September 18, Angela Merkel, that she is ?a woman
almost without qualities.? She noted that Merkel ?thought that she could
represent the whole of society by the strength of her reformer's will and
her neoliberal conception of the state.?
Merkel ran on a platform that came to the following: "I want to serve
Germany." As Henselis put it, Merkel ?described the communist system as a
sort of prison in which she learned to love freedom more than people who
were already used to it.? She didn?t approach the election from the usual
special interest perspective but argued, in general terms, again quoting
Henselis, that ?it was necessary to reduce the role and responsibility of
the state in almost all sectors of society.?
According to Henselis, this ?was too radical for most West German
voters.? And that is a very good point to make, not just of German voters
but of most people around the world, when it comes to their attitude and
understanding of the principles of the free society.
Ayn Rand, the Russian American novelist and philosopher who has been a
lifelong defender, on complex philosophical ground, of the fully free
society, told The New York Times, on February 20, 1966,
It is earlier than you think. The status quo of today is a mixed economy
with a fascist, rather than socialist, trend....Today, the advocates of
laissez-faire capitalism...are and have to be radical innovators....

This comment was made with reference to the 1964 US presidential contest
between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater and it pointed up the problem
of trying to attain a free society without an electorate that has a clear
idea of why such a society is best.

In today?s Germany, too, there are many people who have a vague notion
that a country that?s free is better than ?the communist system [which is]
a sort of prison.? Indeed, the bulk of the European?and even
world?population has a vague notion to this effect. What they lack is the
firm conviction and understanding that freedom is indeed better for people
than even the slightest measure of oppression, even for the most appealing
of reasons (e.g., various types of security or safety).

In other words, if one only feels good about freedom, has a vague notion
of its value in human community life, one will not very likely be able to
answer those who have umpteen reasons for compromising it. The passion
with which millions of people want to compromise liberty is considerable,
since this passion is directed toward various immediate personal and
vested interests, not the long range or general interest. The general
interest is about basic and purportedly lasting ideas?for example, the
essentially free infrastructure of a country and the resulting long term
public policies sustaining free institutions?while personal and vested
interests have to do with what concerns folks in the here and now. Unless
they have a solid grounding in why their general interest, namely, the
regime of individual liberty, is ultimately to their own personal
benefit?a grounding that can overcome the more emotionally immediate
desire to serve narrow personal and vested interests?they will not be able
to sustain a movement toward a genuine free society.

What was true back in 1964 in the United States of America is far more
true around the globe, including in Europe and the former Soviet bloc.
Following the fall of the USSR, what most of the citizens heard from their
leaders was a call for some kind of compromise between socialism and
capitalism. They were taught, in the main, to place their hopes in and
champion the welfare state (despite being warned by some that this is
ruinous, especially with poor economies).

Germany is still in the grips of this ambivalence that comes from a
failure to understand that a regime of freedom is indeed best suited to
human community life. Most people there, as elsewhere, including even the
United States of America, live by the ?principle? of ?trying to eat one?s
cake and having it, as well.? And this principle can only be unseated, as
it should be, by learning the lesson of why any compromise of liberty is
ultimately hazardous both the personal and public welfare.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Column on Governments "Giving Back"

[Always proof my columns if you plan to use them, please!]

When Governments "Give Back"

Tibor R. Machan

In a recent column I characterized those who want government to provide
them with even emergency support as looters of a kind. There are those,
however, who have been looted by government so much that when they accept
what the government ?gives back? they cannot reasonably be considered
looters. They are, after all, simply taking advantage of getting back
some of what was taken from them without their consent.

Matters can get complicated here, of course. What about when government
extorts from you and you do, in fact, take advantage of much of what the
government provides? Most of us use roads, the mail, the police now and
then, sometimes social security money and even unemployment compensation.
And we indirectly benefit from all kinds of special interest provisions,
such as subsidies to industries in which we may be employed. At what point
is one taking more than he or she was forced to pay for? And does it even
matter that one makes use of some of what governments offer?after all, one
wasn?t consulted, one?s consent wasn?t sought. (If someone sends you an
unsolicited package with stuff you can make use of, may the sender then
come around, after you have used up the stuff, to collect funds for it?
No, not really.)

I personally have draw salaries from several state colleges and
universities that were supported by taxes extorted from people who had no
choice but to pay (or to go to jail). All the while, of course, I was also
forced to part with my money each April 15th and throughout the year when
funds where withheld by my employers (who, quite unjustly, were forced to
be the collector of the extorted monies). I never asked for a raise but I
did accept the checks. Was I looting or was I getting back what was taken
from me and friends of mine who actually urged me to take even more so
what was robbed from them would go to something of which they approved,
namely, my work?

The principle is this: You should never initiate or support any policy
that involves confiscation from others. If, however, government has
usurped the
market in providing employment or insurance, you may accept a job or
provided you also work to end this policy ASAP. And if you are mainly the
victim of
extortion, then when there?s a chance of recovering some of the loot
taken, you should not hesitate to have some of your wealth restored to
you. If, however, you are not mainly a victim of government?s extortion,
then to demand and receive government support amounts to the sort of
legalized looting I wrote about in my previous column.

Both are, of course, rough principles. Indeed, one of
the tragedies of wealth redistribution at the point of a gun is that
justice is virtually killed off in the process. (This was the point of one
of my earliest papers, ?Justice and the Welfare State,? published back in
1969, in The Personalist, a now defunct philosophy journal edited by
Professor John Hospers at the University of Southern California School of
Philosophy.) The welfare state completely destroys the connection between
acting and the resulting consequences since it places the government in
between nearly all of people?s productive efforts and what will result from
them. The causal relationship is thus severed. People receive support
though they weren?t selected for this by those who produced the support
they receive. People get protection from competition by the government so
where they end up economically has no relationship to whether they have
satisfied demands in the free market place. It is all a big mess.

Nonetheless it is clear enough when some claim that
they are entitled to be taken care of by uncooperative others and receive
the extorted funds taken from these others. That is an unmistakable
of official, legal looting, far more insidious than the looting that goes
on in broad
daylight. Such people are responsible for the perpetuation of public
that destroy justice in society. And they do this, in part, by distorting
a sensible
idea of justice by redefining it, substituting for it the notion of
"distributive justice,"
one that assumes that some are authorized to take from certain people and
hand the loot to others.

This idea of justice is perverse because it removes
from our midst the
most important element of justice, namely, freedom of choice. Without
freedom of
choice, the quality of a person?s conduct is impossible to ascertain. If
you put a gun
to another?s head and order him to kill, who is responsible for the
killing? But if you have a
very long daisy chain of this, with elements of coercion spread out nearly
imperceptively, the
answer becomes very difficult to find. Who is doing what?s right? Who

The only sure thing is that those who promote the
system of such coercion are clearly doing things wrong, supporting
policies that are uncivilized by encouraging as a rule not peaceful,
voluntary human intercourse but layers and layers of interference,
intervention, meddling, regimentation, compulsion, forced labor, and
expropriation. Whoever champions such a world is doing something immoral.

Column on Varieties of Looting

Why Condemn Looting?

Tibor R. Machan

When looters took advantage of Katrina?or any other disaster for that
matter?everyone seemed to have in mind only the people who were ransacking
stores and robbing them in plain sight. These were the looters who were
widely condemned, against whom the police and military took direct action
and who, if caught, will probably pay for their deeds.

Yet in some ways these looters were at least honest and up front. There
are many, many other looters who go about it in more circumspect fashion.
They do not admit outright that they are looting but hide behind the
fa├žade of government sponsored wealth transfer or redistribution which has
the appearance of legitimacy.

In point of fact, all those who insist on getting the government to bail
them out by getting funds out of the various treasuries that are supported
from taxes are looters, only less honest than those doing it in broad
daylight. For the essence of looting is to take advantage of a confusion
caused by some natural disaster by taking other people?s resources so as
to shore up one?s own. It doesn?t really matter at all that one fills out
some forms and instead of directly robbing others, has politicians and
bureaucrats do the dirty work. And it doesn?t matter if the goals to be
supported are themselves decent.

Of course, there is this myth about how when one goes through the
political process as one takes from others who have not be asked to give,
one is simply following the democratic process. As some people see this,
such an approach to ?wealth transfer? is one that ?we have decided to
use.? Yet, this is a farce. No one has decided apart from the people with
political clout. And that clout is very far from justly obtained. It isn?t
at all one of the just powers of government, quite the contrary.

The only just power of government is the very opposite of embarking upon
all this looting. Just powers must be acquired by means of the consent of
the governed, but, in fact, the governed give their consent but to very
few powers of the government. They do consent to having government secure
their rights, including their right to private property. That is the tacit
consent everyone gives who lives among others, namely, to respect and
protect everyone?s basic rights. Which is to say governments may only be
justly empowered to protect all persons from looters, including looters
who dishonestly go through government to accomplish their looting.

Of course, some will cry out, ?But this is an emergency.? That?s however,
disingenuous. The looting I am talking about goes on all the time, not at
all only in emergencies. Governments have nearly always been part of the
problem for which the American Founders had believed they might be turned
around and made part of the solution. They had believed that governments
could be restrained, limited, to protective powers, to securing our rights
instead as they have done for centuries and centuries, being their most
persistent and consistent violators.

Sadly, they failed to set things up so as to achieve this goal. It is a
reasonable goal, after all, since the one area where force is justified is
in self-defense. And one would hope that one could limit government to
using only such force that defends people instead of attacking them. Alas,
that reasonable hope seems to have been a pipedream.

No one disputes that some of the looting goes for ends that are
unobjectionable. One may be sure that this is so even with the honest
looters?many of them steal and rob so as to feed themselves, to stock up
on resources so they can survive. Yet, that doesn?t justify the looting,
not a bit.

In a civilized society even in emergencies people seek voluntary help,
not force others to provide them with aid. And in a civilized legal system
the same would hold. However urgent the need, however great the goal,
support for it must be gained without resort to murder, assault, robbery,
extortion and other types of rights violation. Just because the need is
great, it doesn?t follow at all, in morality, law or politics, that
someone may coerce another to alleviate it.

Sadly we are far from such a civilized society.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Column on Why Ignore the Ninth

[Please always proof columns if you use them]

Why They Fear the Ninth Amendment

Tibor R. Machan

Quite interestingly many politicians are afraid of the Ninth Amendment of
the US Constitution. Many of their intellectual cheerleaders in the
academy and media show equal disdain for this portion of that legal
document. Why?

The Ninth Amendment states, unambiguously, that there exist individual
rights Americans have that are not explicitly listed in the Constitution:
?The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.?

Why should the Constitution make this point anyway?
Because, actually,
people have innumerable rights and to list them all is impossible, whereas
listing the powers of government, which in the American system are taken
to be limited, restricted to just a few, can be listed without having to
produce a mammoth document.

I mean, just consider: You have the right to brush your teeth, to smile
at your significant other, to whistle your favorite tune, to worship the
devil, and on and on and on?everyone has these rights as free adult men
and women. That is what a free country is about, having virtually
unlimited rights to do what one wants, barring the right to violate other
people?s rights.

The powers of government in such a free country, in
sharp contrast, are
confined to what it takes to protect these innumerable individual
rights?to keep criminals and foreign aggressors at bay.

This may not have been spelled out in the US Constitution?although it was
made very clear in the Declaration of Independence?but the idea is exactly
what has been identified so closely with American political philosophy and
legal theory. It?s about individual rights?the freedom to do as one will,
provided that one is acting peacefully, non-aggressively.

So why then are all these sophisticated people, such as Professor Robert
George of Princeton University?writing in the Sunday, September 18, 2005,
issue of The New York Times?so eager to evade the Ninth Amendment? Why,
curiously, are Left leaning politicians the only ones bringing it up these
days, even though they actually disagree with the individualist philosophy
behind the Ninth other then in some very special cases?

On this last matter, just consider. People like Joseph Biden and Teddy
Kennedy make a lot of a right to privacy with reference to issues such as
abortion and gay marriages, but is this really consistent with their big
government philosophy? If a woman has the right to seek and obtain an
abortion (from someone willing to provide one), why is she not free so
seek and obtain marijuana or even harder drugs or hire anyone she wants in
her business? Why are we free to join in same sex unions and have them
declared marriages but not, in say, be free to discriminate against people
we do not want to hire to work for us? That, too, would be a choice that
someone with the right to privacy ought to enjoy, after all.

The limited scope of the right to privacy the Left embraces is indicative
that most of the Left is no different from most of the Right?such as
Justice Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork?who dislike the Ninth Amendment.
They all fear that taking the Ninth Amendment seriously would communicate
to the American people a simple but undeniable fact: The American Founders
had pretty much meant to treat them as free adult men and women, not wards
of the Nanny State. And if this is so, what role do these politicians all
have in our lives? Not a very important one, apart from perhaps standing
firm in defense of our liberties, to protect our innumerable individual
rights to do with our lives as we but not they choose.

The Right doesn?t want politicians to be forbidden
from banning assisted
suicides and gay marriages; the Left doesn?t want politicians to be
forbidden from banning the freedom of contract between employer and
employee if it doesn?t meet the requirement they want to place on
employment (for example, a minimum wage). You can just examined the
thousands of pieces of legislation passed by federal, state, county all
the way to municipal politicians to see that I am right. If the Ninth
Amendment were acknowledged as part of the federal constitution, along
with the idea that this constitution has a very broad reach indeed since
it is supposedly the law of the land, all these laws would have to be
considered unconstitutional. All these politicians would have to be
considered acting in violation of the basic laws of the land.

In short, taking the Ninth Amendment to the US
Constitution really
seriously implies that politicians would have no just powers to do 99% of
what they are doing. That is why they and their cheerleaders in the
academic world insist on ignoring and belittling this most freedom loving
provisions of the most freedom loving?though by no means infallible--legal
document in human history.