Saturday, June 17, 2006

Iraqi War Blues

Tibor R. Machan

It is blues because it’s such a torment—to most Americans, to those who have died—and to a lot of families who have lost members—in this war, and to the supporters because they can’t advance a convincing reason to stay the course.

President George W. Bush may have wanted to hit Iraq even before 9/11 and his reason may well have been that he thought Saddam Hussein did hide some weapons of mass destruction. I have no idea whether Bush was honest but even if he was, it’s no excuse because believing that WMDs were hidden in Iraq doesn’t appear to have been justified. Believing something that’s unjustified to believe doesn’t count as a reason for acting on the belief. Say you irrationally believe your spouse is cheating on you and so you decided to meet out punishment. It’s no excuse to say, “But I believed you were cheating on me” even if you did but in fact had no reason to.

Did Bush have good reasons, compelling ones, to think Iraq had WMDs? There seems to be no support for this view anywhere now. So then attacking Iraq, while not anything most reasonable people could be too upset about so far as Saddam Hussein is concerned, doesn’t appear to have been justified.

How does this bear on the current debate as to whether the war in Iraq is “a war of choice”? Yes, this seems to be a big deal now—was the war necessary or did Bush decide to wage it as a matter of preference, something he didn’t need to do?

Some—for example Republican pundit Morton Kondracke of weekend TV news program “The Beltway Boys”—think since Bush believed there were WMDs in Iraq, the war was not one of choice but of necessity. But this is the kind of justification I sketched above for punishing one’s spouse because one honestly but irrationally thinks one has been betrayed. Even if Bush honestly thought Iraq had WMDs, if that belief was ill founded, as it evidently was, the war could be considered a war of choice. There was no objective necessity for it.

Mind you, most of Bush’s critics from among the liberal Democrats have no good case against him either. They haven’t ever objected to preemptive public policies that intrude on innocent people, let alone those under serious if mistaken suspicion. Just consider as a perfect current example how eagerly former VP Al Gore is urging his various precautionary measures—ones that would intrude on millions of us without any regard for civil liberties and due process—because he feels there are big risks we face from environmental hazards (global warming, climate change, what have you). Gore and his supporters who complain about Bush’s preemptive war policies because they were preemptive are hypocrites.

Only those who consistently uphold what we might dub the George Washington doctrine about getting America militarily entangled have a case against Bush & Co. These folks believe that free countries may only go to war when there is a justified and dependable belief that the country is under attack or about to be attacked. The emphasis here is on justified and dependable. Forcibly intervening in other people’s lives is only justifiable when these other people are mounting or about to mount an attack. A war is just, in other words, only when it is defensive.

George W. Bush’s war against Iraq was never defensive, not because he may not have believed the country needs defending from WMDs but because his and his administration’s beliefs about Iraq’s WMDs were unjustified, ill founded. Nothing in the meantime, since the war commenced, has changed this fact. Not that there was nothing at all murky about Saddam Hussein and WMDs. Yes there was, what with all that hide and seek involving the United Nations’ team of inspectors. But war is too big a deal, military and indeed any other kind of aggression is too big a deal, to start in a murky situation.

Bush, of course, is no consistent follower of the George Washington doctrine. Nor are most of his liberal Democratic critics. So their quarrel about the war in Iraq is mostly incoherent. The only part that has some bona fide relevance concerns the issue of how long to keep American troops in Iraq now that the American military is there.
Report on PETA is Journalistic Malpractice

Tibor R. Machan

When recently Borders Bookstore refused to display the Danish cartoons that were deemed insulting to many Muslims who responded by going on a rampage, some people expressed the view that Borders was being cowardly. Borders management explained they properly didn’t chose to place members of their staff in harms way. So, Borders wasn’t being cowardly but justifiably prudent. It isn’t necessary for Borders to sacrifice some innocent employees for the sake of taking a stand. There could be better ways to show solidarity with champions of freedom of speech and artistic expression.

More recently some members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) invaded a dinner where the pop star Beyonce Knowles was the host to various invited guests. PETA members “peppered the pop star with questions about her fur use,” reported the Associated Press. In the report AP gave a short characterization of PETA as “known for its untraditional methods of raising awareness about animal rights.”

Never mind for a moment about PETA’s agenda. Certainly, AP’s characterization of PETA’s way of bringing attention to it should not be described in the cowardly fashion of calling them “untraditional methods.” PETA has been guilty of assault, battery, trespass, and harassment against numerous famous individuals who refuse to accept PETA’s viewpoint. These are way beyond “untraditional methods.” They are frequently out and out criminal and AP is plainly mischaracterizing PETA when it refuses to say so. Unlike Muslim radicals, who are reasonably feared to go on a rampage and perpetrated violence against Borders’ employees, AP wasn’t in harms way from PETA. Its conduct is, therefore, pretty clearly cowardly.

But there is more. Using the expression “raising awareness about animal rights” is totally misleading, akin to writing about some group that they are invading people’s private parties in an effort of “raising awareness about ghosts.” There are no ghosts! There are no animal rights! AP might as well be writing its report as if the tooth fairy were something real.

Animals aren’t the type of living being that can have rights; AP and anyone else might as well come to terms with this fact. Rights are what human beings can and do have. That is because they are moral agents—living beings who after infancy begin to make choices in their lives, choices that can be morally commendable or blameworthy.

It is this fact that gives rise to the existence of rights in human community life. Choice brings on moral responsibility and rights provide the criteria by which people’s moral sphere of authority, their sovereignty, is spelled out and translated into law.

To say that animals have rights is like saying that animals have guilt, or moral and legal duties, or can engage in insult or commit murder; none of that makes any sense outside of imaginative fiction or fantasy (like that produced by Walt Disney and thousands of children’s book authors). At its best, talk of “animal rights” is moral hype. It involves claiming for animals something that is false so as to bring to light what could in fact be true, namely, that human beings often abuse them, treat them inhumanely. But it is utterly confusing to mistake the hype for truth.

When AP fails to put quotation marks around “animal rights,” it shows partisanship with PETA and is abandoning its journalistic position of the impartial reporter. In the incidence with Beyonce Knowles, AP did two things that demonstrate either carelessness of out and out bias. It downplayed PETA’s methods, perhaps because, as the AP report states, the organization “had previously attempted to reach Knowles through faxes, letters and rallies outside her concerts.” Ms. Knowles was clearly being victimized in ways that are reminiscent of the methods of the KKK and neo-Nazis, not of civilized advocacy groups and failing to indicate that involves biased, partisan reporting. PETA is a rogue group, frequently engaged in what comes very close to terrorism—attacks on innocent people with whom PETA disagrees and which disagreement is no justification for treating the likes of Ms. Knowles in their criminal fashion.

AP might have noted that by any standard of civilized conduct, PETA ought to straighten out its policies and confine itself to communicating via ”faxes, letters and [perhaps] rallies outside her concerts.” Invading a dinner to which no PETA members were invited and which PETA members attended on false pretenses should not garner this violent group favorable treatment from the Associated Press.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How to Go Green

Tibor R. Machan

Some influential, even powerful, public policy pundits, like former VP Al Gore and columnist Thomas L. Friedman (of The World is Flat fame), have gone on a crusade to champion what they vaguely call “green.” Among the measures they promote is high taxes on gasoline, so as to wean drivers from fossil fuel and encourage some alternatives like solar energy and wind.

Not that this is anything new—it’s been in the air for decades. Sadly, those pushing for it pretty much reject the best way to encourage switching from gasoline to various alternatives, some of them not yet invented. This is to promote privatization—to build up a legal infrastructure that emphasizes private property rights.

Though a bit late by now, perhaps, without the massive and decades long public subsidization of the gasoline fueled automobile and other vehicles, there would have developed a diversified production and use of fuels throughout the world. Indeed, it is nearly always the centralization of decision-making about such matters (as what kind of fuel people will have to use to move about) that brings and prolongs problems—waste, environmental destruction, over-dependence on a particular type of fuel, etc.

Yet once the world was steered toward reliance mostly on fossil fuels, along with the fact that vehicle movement began to be seen as a natural right, dependence on gasoline became a fact. Here and there small inroads have been made to come up with alternatives but for most of us these haven’t yet become cost-effective. So what do the champions of “green” promote? Higher fossil fuel taxes, that’s what. Yet another attempt to deploy top-down problem solving, which invites all the problems public choice theorists warn about and encourage the growth of bureaucratic tyranny and mismanagement.

For champions of “green” this is an especially counterproductive policy to pursue. And warnings of it have been aired all along. Just the other day news came of a huge cloud of nasty pollution emanating from China, the biggest of the few remaining official, centrally planned economies in the world. It is quite natural that it would be a country in which official legal acknowledgment of the right to private property is lacking where pollution is most severe. That’s because private citizens and groups there are legally ill equipped to fight what economists call negative externalities—the bad environmental side effects of various industrial and farming activities.

In relatively free societies if pollution gets severe enough, one need not wait for some remotely initiated central government to begin to defend against the impact of it. The fact that pollution moves from one individual’s—or, more likely, company’s—region into another’s makes it possible in a substantially private property based economy to contain it by private and local legal action. The government need not be involved much. And since moving a central government’s policies is akin to turning around an aircraft carrier—meaning it can take a very long time—problems such as air pollution must await decades to be addressed. This was evident throughout the rule of Soviet style socialism and is still very much with us in such places as Cuba, North Korea and China.

But the dirty secret is that the governmental habit is still the norm among all those who champion “green.” Al Gore & Co. just don’t get it and even when they do manage to identify problems, their suggested solution is Neanderthal. Always wait for government to step in and rescue us, never mind that that’s the most unreliable source for solving problems like air pollution, the world wide use of fossil fuels, and so forth.

It is better late than never! When it comes to dealing with macro political-economic problems, it is best to decentralize. Instead of having to rely on changes at the top and on some imaginary team of virtuous and wise “leaders,” a decentralized system can get down to business in people’s and various firms’ back yards.

Unfortunately, Al Gore, in his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” or Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times columnist who is about to come out with his Discovery Channel movie, “Addicted to Oil,” seem to be oblivious to all the problems of entrusting governments with problem solving. They never learn from the malpractice perpetrated by FEMA and other central government agencies and keep putting their faith in the state.

If one is seriously interested in steering the world toward “green,” do not count on governments to help with the task.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bill Gates, Shut up Already

Tibor R. Machan

No doubt he is a genius when it comes to software and innumerable gadgets and such; I am really pleased he got into computers big time. I certainly got a lot from that in my own line of work.

But Bill Gates really needs to shut about some other things he is confused about. Like his claim the other day, when he announced his impending retirement and turn to full time philanthropy, that he “needs to give back to the community.” Why? Did he steal something from people? Did they lend him something he needs to return? What on earth was he talking about?

People who get rich ordinarily aren’t stealing the wealth they obtain—they trade for it what they have to offer—what they have invented or invested in or created, produced, however one wants to put it. When Picasso painted his works and then sold them and made money from them, he wasn’t a thief. When Shakespeare and Arthur Miller wrote their plays and made money from this, they didn’t steal anything from anyone. And when Bill Gates invented all the things he could and then sold it all to people who were willing to buy it, he didn’t confiscate anyone’s wealth but earned it.

Doesn’t Bill Gates understand this elementary fact of commerce? That’s sad. He must have blindly, thoughtlessly picked up some of the nonsense being peddled by rich-bashing folks across the centuries without making the crucial distinction that many of the early rich did, in fact, steal their wealth from others—through military conquests, through out and out theft, through extortion and other violent means. But the wealthy today can easily go about making their wealth, not stealing it. Bill Gates, for example, made most of his wealth by doing what others wanted done for them for which they paid him and from which he became wealthy. He owes nothing “back” to anyone.

Which is not to say there is anything amiss with Gate’s wanting to be of help to millions of Third World poor and sick people. Indeed, his generosity is clearly evident and ought to be widely appreciated, not only by those who receive his largesse but also by others who are not able to give much and can rest easy that someone else is doing so.

None of this has anything to do with “giving something back” to society, the community, the world, to humanity or whatever. That idea is a relic of a perverse, reactionary theory that when someone gains in trade, someone else must lose. It was called “exploitation” by Karl Marx and has swept the world to such an extent that not only out and out enemies of capitalism but some major capitalists have bought into it. But it is completely wrong.

Exploitation has two senses. One means taking unfair advantage of someone—like if someone is inordinately sensitive to, say, cold weather and you are the only one with a blanket but in some special situation demand that you be paid for it way above the ordinary market price. There are undoubtedly such cases. But if I am at dinner time hungry and someone who owns a restaurant sells me food, thus exploiting the opportunity to feed me for pay, that kind of exploitation is not just innocent but out and out admirable. It’s entrepreneurship. Of if you love classical music and you pay an orchestra to perform some of it for you at a symphony hall, you are exploiting their skills in a most benevolent way, as they are exploiting your interests in their performance.

Bill Gates did exploit the fact that millions and millions of people found what he produced very helpful to them, as they all exploited the fact that he was very interested in his work. And there is absolutely nothing amiss with this, quite the contrary. It is admirable when people seek out a market for their skills and deliver to potential purchasers what they want and get rich in the process. Nothing needs to be given back—they have already done the “giving” in the exchange that has transpired. This is no different from what happens when we trade with basketball, tennis, baseball, or football players, entertainers of all kinds, doctors, dentists etc., and so forth to mutual benefit. No one is left with obligations to do any paying back.

Another thing that’s wrong with Bill Gate’s claim is that it makes it appear that generosity or philanthropy should be confined to the very wealthy. They made a lot and now they need to give some of it back, whereas the rest of us who made not so much have no business worrying about those who are in dire straits. But this is entirely wrong. Generosity is something we all should cultivate in us, be we rich or poor. Bill Gate’s claims about his unique obligation to “give back” could encourage some people to get a very warped idea about the nature of generosity.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Team Sports and Nationalism

Tibor R. Machan

Ever since I left my native country, Hungary, I have been a rebel about rooting for the home team. But I have to modify this in the light of my subsequent education. I do not mind rooting for club teams. I also find rooting for teams affiliated with private colleges and universities unproblematic. What really irks me is all those people who root for national teams. As you can imagine, I resisted rooting for Hungary’s teams in soccer or water polo or anything else. That’s because doing so seemed to me based on an irrational love of country.

What exactly is love of country anyway? Let me think—I do love Hungarian food and music and some of the landscape and the lay out of the city of Budapest. In fact, I think this last is awesome.

But does this have anything to do with their being Hungarian? I have no idea—Hungary is actually made up some many different ethnic, religions and national groups that it is nearly impossible to find anything specifically Hungarian other these more cultural than national elements. Yes, a gulyas soup is Hungarian. So is the csardas, which is a dance, although for all I know it may be danced in Rumania or Slovakia, too. I can say it rings my chimes when I hear music to which the csardas can be danced.

All in all I have had a very hard time watching sports that involve national competitions, like the World Cup. All this fussing over whether Germany or Italy or England or America is going to win, without much heed about who really is doing well at the sport other than for the sake of national victory. These are, as I see it, remnants of the rampant tribalism that has ruled the world from time immemorial.

Just how seriously even people in the most cosmopolitan regions of the globe embrace such tribalism can be appreciated from what is called the Cricket test, devised by one Norman Tebbit in 1990, a member of the Conservative political establishment in England. It is hypnotically administered to people from ethnic minorities in Britain to see if they have become British. Not until they supported an cricket team from England, in preference to the team from their native country.

Why on earth does one wish to test for such loyalties? What if some of the minorities are more familiar with members of teams from their native country and simply root for these teams for that reason, having nothing to do with politics, global or otherwise? What if I root for Hungarian fencers because my mother was a champion fencer back when I lived there, not because Hungary’s government or national history is swell?

Team sports encourage this nationalism, especially on the part of people who otherwise probably have little interest in politics. Root for the Americans, not because the country is superb to live in, certainly not because the team has earned respect for its skillful playing, but only because, well, its is the American team.

Maybe it is only a matter of taste. But I prefer tennis. There it is the individual for whom one can root, no matter where he or she hails from. If Andy Ruddick or Roger Federer plays the way you admire, you root for him regardless of where he is a citizen. Not that all of tennis avoids nationalism, of course. But it is simpler to ignore it. Of course, when an Australian plays in big tournament, there will always be a bunch of Australians in the stands waiving Australian flags. And so with other plays from other countries. But you need not take note of that at all. Even the players’ uniforms show you nothing about their countries, unlike so many of the uniforms of national teams.

I look forward to the time when all sports will be fully privatized and have nothing to do with politics at all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Growth of Green Hype

Tibor R. Machan

Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” is but the most visible of “green” hypes these days, containing doom and gloom galore, the very predictions and prophesies that have been around for centuries and get repeatedly discredited by subsequent events. Gore is now being joined by the highly visible and widely respected New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, with his upcoming June 27th, 2006, Discovery Channel program, “Addicted to Oil.”

This is not the place to analyze the content of these programs. Gore’s film has been scrutinized and the conclusion of most careful commentators has been that while Gore assembles credible evidence for global climate change, he hasn’t proven by a long shot that such change is due to anything that human beings have done or have failed to do. Indeed, it seems that over the centuries there has been ample and oft repeated climate change, not unlike what is being experienced now, in both directions, the warming and cooling of the planet. The misanthropic spin is largely gratuitous, reminiscent of the more faith based doctrine of original sin, not based on scientific reasoning. But never mind that.

What can be noted here is how much hype surrounds offerings such as those by Gore and Friedman. Both of these men receive the most plentiful exposure on the media, yet they complain endlessly about how little attention they are receiving.

The other night I tuned into Charlie Rose, whose daily program I watch loyally enough to have a sense of what themes get treated and which are neglected. (Rose just came back from a hiatus because of an heart operation, which was the main topic of the program I saw on Monday, June 12th, the first day of his return. He seems quite fine. He had Bill Moyers on, one of my nemeses but whom Rose seems to cherish! Yvette Vega, his executive producer and friend, was with him too, so all in all the somewhat self-indulgent show turned out tolerable enough.)

The second half of this come back program featured Thomas Friedman, who has been on Rose’s show two dozen times or more. Friedman, who, as noted above, has what promises to be (based on the trailer) a doom and gloom program coming up on the Discovery Channel, spoke fairly reasonably about Iraq and Bush’s options there but when he started in on the topic of “green,” he went overboard by all reasonable measures.

To begin with, he complained a lot about how “green” isn’t being taken seriously enough in the media, how it is deemed to be “sissy, girly man, soft, too liberal,” what have you, and thus, allegedly, marginalized. Consider—here is a guy who has The New York Times practically all to himself with whatever message he wishes to get out; he gets to put on what promises to be a clone of Al Gore’s movie on the Discovery Channel, a hugely influential media outlet; he gets to peddle this program over and over again on venues such as “Charlie Rose” and Comedy Central’s immensely popular “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Yet he whines and whines about how little attention he is receiving, how the world isn’t giving him a proper hearing.

How do these folks get away with such deceptive hype? How do they manage to put out these endless, relentless prevarications?

If there is anything that has become an orthodoxy in our time it is that “green” is holy and anyone who doubts it is doing the devil’s work. Unless I have missed it, there has never been a global warming skeptic on “Charlie Rose” or on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” not even one who simply takes issue with the misanthropy that’s part of the “green” mantra. There is never a word of doubt about “green” in forums like The New York Times. (When I pointed this out to the editors of THE WEEK, a British magazine which now also has an American clone, they finally ran a short item giving some voice to the skeptics, but it took some prodding to get even this much accomplished.)

I suppose some would consider it fair to bellyache about how your viewpoint is neglected even while it is center stage on nearly all major media. The more the merrier, if it is important enough, never mind how much lying it takes to get the message out there. However, anytime such lying is perpetrated in the service of some idea, that idea immediately loses much of its credibility. That is just one of the many reasons I find the “green” message highly dubious.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The NY Times’ Crusade Against Internet Gambling

Tibor R. Machan

Each Sunday morning I bring in The NY Times and start reading it, eventually ending up looking through it’s magazine section, but not before checking the book reviews. Yes, it is a bit masochistic—very little in the paper pleases me. Most of it is slanted toward a Leftist agenda of more government regulation and America bashing. I can relate to some of this but not to the evident glee with which The Times shells it all out.

In this morning’s issue there was something especially disturbing. The New York Times is usually on the side of at least one element of the American founders’ political, legal philosophy, namely, freedom of speech. Alas, no more.

It looks like the editors became convinced that Internet gambling by college students is such a terrible thing—“Researchers say that Internet poker is addictive,” “Players say it’s addictive,” “The federal government says it’s illegal,” etc., and so forth they go—that it must be banned. “Administrators who would never consider letting Budweiser install taps in dorm rooms have made high-speed Internet access a standard amenity, putting every student with a credit card minutes away from 24-hour high-stakes gambling.” Such a horrible policy needs to be brought to a screeching halt.

It used to be conservatives who bellyached about how freedom of speech provisions in the U. S. Constitution made possible the degradation of society, via pornography and the like. Now it is The New York Times that peddles the idea with its sensationalism about serious gambling by college students. And they do it with a lousy analogy to boot.

The Internet isn’t like a Budweiser tap. It’s more like a telephone line. Budweiser taps would deliver one thing alone, namely beer. Of course, even that could well be something students should be trusted with—these are, after all, adults who have the civil right to vote, to drive, to travel wherever they choose. They aren’t children any longer. And if I recall correctly, it used to be a cause célèbre of modern liberals to free young college students from the traditional doctrine of in loco parentis at colleges and universities. But never mind that—never let a good scary story be ruined by principles, even if they are your very own.

What these folks at The New York Times magazine need to grasp once and for all is that a free society is risky—in contrast to, say, a concentration camp or the gulags. In a free society young men and women have the option to waste their money on gambling to invest it wisely for their old age security or purchase gifts to send to their parents, etc., etc. This is what comes with freedom.

Ah, but at this point of the discussion the modern liberal will chime in with the story about addiction. If one is addicted, well one isn’t really free to make choices.

But the addiction story is a phony. These folks like gambling, no less so than all those who flock to Vegas or Monte Carlo. Sure, some go overboard, just as some do so when it comes to mountain climbing or eating at fast food restaurants or whatever. We have that liberty, to overdo stuff, often stuff that when overdone becomes bad for us.

But the remedy isn’t to deploy coercive measures but to embark on localized assistance, including education and persuasion. Instead of recklessly writing off these students as addicts—who cannot make decisions for themselves—they need to be viewed as people with free will but unfortunately bad choices, perhaps.

This bit about all questionable conduct being a matter of addiction can backfired good and hard—will we consider voting for various political agendas a matter of addiction if we disagree with it, if we consider it bad judgment? Should voting booths be shut down because those going to them are too feeble-minded to vote right?

It looks like The Times in on board with these developments. Let’s resist as much as we can.
Hail to the Fourth

Tibor R. Machan

One reason I consider the Declaration of Independence such a marvelous document is that it states better than anything else the fundamental principles of a free society.

First, the Declaration makes clear that signers held the truths stated to be self-evident, which is different from considering them to be self-evident. That’s a subtle distinction most people miss, saying falsely that the signers believed the truths were in fact self evident. “Holding” them to be so for purposes of making a declaration and “believing” them to be so is not the same by a long shot.

Second, the signers made it clear that however human beings came to be—whether God or Nature created them—they have certain unalienable rights. And “unalienable” is a crucial term here—no one can lose those rights so long as he or she is a human being. Which means no government creates them and no government can take them, be it a monarchy or democracy or theocracy. If one’s rights are unalienable then one has them, no matter what.

Third, the rights we have are ours not as citizens but as human beings. Our citizenship makes a difference but not as to whether we have those rights but concerning their protection. Governments are instituted so as to secure the rights we have, so citizenship comes with the legal infrastructure that gets those rights secured. Other people have those rights, too, but not being citizens of a country in which they are properly secured makes a big difference—that’s why millions have kept flocking to these shores. Not because they would gain the rights when they get to America but because they were promised proper protection of their rights. (Of course, because the government has from the start gone way beyond its proper powers, becoming not a protector but violator of individual rights, those dreams are now in shambles.)

Fourth, contrary to what too many prominent scholars hold, the rights we have are prohibitions, not entitlements, because they forbid anyone from violating our sovereignty. The government comes in after this fact has been properly acknowledged, as an agency established or instituted to make sure those rights are given proper protection. Government is indeed established in line with these rights—we have the right to our lives, liberties, etc., and the corresponding right to secure them by means of a legal authority that is itself bound by those rights. Our only entitlement is to having our rights secured, nothing more. So, the rights we have are not only to be secured by the legal authorities but those very authorities may never violate those rights. This is very important and not awfully difficult to understand: a police officer, for example, has the job to protect us but that protection must not itself involve attacks upon us. Police officers must perform their job without violating the principles they are hired to defend.

Fifth, there are implications for foreign policy from our having the rights we have by virtue of our human nature. The main one is that no war of aggression can be justified since that would mean the government has lost its proper authority. That authority is confined to securing the rights of American citizens, not to violating anyone else’s. Sure, governments of free societies are duty bound to protect the rights of citizens but they are also duty bound not to violate the rights of anyone else. This follows from the Declaration’s recognition that all human beings have the basic rights it lists.

Sixth, and this is also nearly forgotten, the Declaration makes clear that if a government, like a police officer, systematically breaches the principles by which it is supposed to conduct itself, the citizens may abolish it, too. Indeed, it states they have the duty to do so. That’s like saying if our body guards have become corrupt and instead of protecting us, they are now bossing us around, we not only may but ought to fire them. Governments, like body guards, have limited authority and power and if they fail to act accordingly, they must be shown the door. It may be complicated to do this—and the Declaration acknowledges this too—but nonetheless, that’s what needs to be done.

A Declaration is not a full blow political philosophy. The declaration of the American founders makes clear, however, that individuals have certain basic rights they may hire government to secure for them and that government must keep to its job, period. That implies a free society with strictly limited government.

Too bad it is still only but a sound idea, far from a reality!