Saturday, September 16, 2006

Muslims’ Handling of Dissent

Tibor R. Machan

Sure, not all Muslims are like that but even those who don’t join in seem not to have enough influence to stop the large mass of troublemakers. This was brilliantly uncovered by the recently deceased Oriana Fallaci, the firebrand Italian journalist who gave some instances of the Arab leadership’s thinking, including this from George Habash, the nominally Christian Marxist-Leninist: “Our revolution is a part of the world revolution,” he told Fallaci (as reported in her book The Force of Reason [Rissoli, 2004]). “It is not confined to the reconquest of Palestine.... The Palestinian problem is not an aside problem. A problem separated from the Arab Nation’s realities. Palestinians are part of the Arab Nation. Therefore the entire Arab Nation must go to war against Europe and America. It must unleash a war against the West. America and Europe don’t know that we Arabs are just at the beginning of the beginning. That the best has yet to come. That from now on there will be no peace for the West. To advance step by step. Millimeter by millimeter. Year after year. Decade after decade. Determined, stubborn, patient. That is our strategy. A strategy that we shall expand throughout the whole planet.” Or how about this from a bona fide Muslim, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, reported in Asia Times Online recently: "We must believe in the fact that Islam is not confined to geographical borders, ethnic groups and nations. It's a universal ideology that leads the world to justice. We don't shy away from declaring that Islam is ready to rule the world. We must prepare ourselves to rule the world." Although there may well be millions of moderate Muslims, they seem not to have managed to take the leadership position in the Islamic world but left it all to these imperialists.

Recently Pope Benedict made some critical commons about Islamic doctrine. As reported by Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, the Pope said, “in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Mohammed, but it's an eternal word. It's not Mohammed's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it, whereas in Christianity, and Judaism, the dynamism's completely different, that God has worked through his creatures. And so it is not just the word of God, it's the word of Isaiah, not just the word of God, but the word of Mark. He's used his human creatures, and inspired them to speak his word to the world, and therefore by establishing a church in which he gives authority to his followers to carry on the tradition and interpret it, there's an inner logic to the Christian Bible, which permits it and requires it to be adapted and applied to new situations.”
Now whatever you may think of this, agree or disagree, what’s vital to note is that in response to the Pope’s views a large mass of Arab Muslims demonstrated with several thousand flag-waving Palestinians marching in the Gaza Strip in protest against his views. "This is another Crusader war against the Arab and Muslim world," Hamas official Ismail Radwan is reported to have said in an address to some 5,000 chanting demonstrators. Even the Pakistani government got into the act, with its National Assembly, unanimously passing a resolution condemning the Pope's comments.

Contrast this with how the recent call by Roman Catholic bishops in California for us all to abandon our search of earthly joys and pleasures was met. With, well, not much. Is that because everyone agrees with the bishops? No. Quite evidently millions of Californians prefer living well here on earth, making the most of mundane pleasures and showing, what the bishops call, “spiritual indifference.”

OK, so the California Roman Catholic bishops are insulting the life style and belief systems of millions of not just California Roman Catholics but people around the Western World. Yet, do these insulted, offended people insist that the bishops be censured? Do they march against them and have their political bodies pass legislation against them?

No, not as a rule. And that is a fundamental difference between the current crop of Muslim leaders and those against whom they urge their jihad, the bulk of the population of the non-Muslim world. The latter mostly leave such disputes and controversies to be conducted in forums of civilized discussion—magazines, newspapers, university seminars, journals, conferences—and do not make it all a political and military matter, at least not in recent times. We may thank, I submit, the influence of classical liberal social political philosophy for this civilizing influence that the Muslim world clearly lacks.

It is interesting to notice, by the way, that here is where the Marxist-Leninist Left is very close to the radical Muslims. They, too, make everything political, everything subject to a physical conflict, to coercion.
Defending Wolfowitz -- Maybe

by Tibor R. Machan

Paul Wolfowitz hasn't been my hero by a long shot, given his hand in getting the United States government into the Iraq war mess. Sure, Saddam Hussein deserved to be deposed and jailed for life, although not by the American government and military. But leave that aside for now. Wolfowitz may redeem himself as President of the World Bank, what with his reported efforts to end corruption in the countries where the Bank is supporting efforts to reduce poverty.

OK, the World Bank is itself a fundamentally corrupt organization
because it lives off taxes and taxes are extorted funds, collected
coercively by governments that threaten to rob people of everything if they fail to pay up. Yes, Virginia, taxation is on par with serfdom -- the latter is the subjugation of human beings to the will of monarchs (thus the term "subjects" to designate such people, as in "a British subject"), the former a confiscation of their property, expropriation at the point of a gun.

But if one is going to be extorted, perhaps the funds could be used with some measure of prudence and wisdom. But no. As William
Easterly shows, in his The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006), nearly all efforts to aid the poor abroad have ended up making various crooked leaders rich while leaving the poor just as they were. The corruption in these countries is staggering and apparently irreparable.

Wolfowitz, who not long ago became president of the World Bank, has made some moves toward insisting that before further money is sent to these countries, the corruption must stop. For this, however, he has been getting a lot of flak, and no wonder. The report about it in The New York Times, rather sympathetic to Wolfowitz's critics, notes that as much as 10 to 25% of funds sent to such countries have been "improperly diverted."

That's way below the far more reasonable estimate in Easterly's book and what can be expected given the kind of dictatorial rule that is routine in most of the recipient countries. But Wolfowitz and others, such as John Githongo, an anti-corruption activist from Kenya "who has fled to safety in Britain" but continues to advise Wolfowitz, are criticized by anonymous UN officials -- who else, given that body's sterling record of above-board dealings -- such as the unnamed "senior French finance official," whom The Times quotes saying, "We must not use corruption as an excuse for a massive withdrawal of our help."

Oh, Yeah? What if that "help" in fact does no good at all, as
Easterly shows, other than to keep the corrupt rulers living in
obscene luxury, with enormous Swiss bank accounts? Well, I guess this French finance official isn't interested in actually helping those who need the help but in continuing the expropriation of citizens in the countries which supply the World Bank and the UN and who knows how many other organizations -- governments or NGOs -- with the funds that are being wasted. One may suppose that the French financial official knows that if it really came about that no money would be moved to these countries until they stopped their massive corruption, (a) folks may start resisting the extortion and (b) the poor of those countries might actually improve their lot on their own, given that what they produce wouldn't be robbed from them constantly as it is now and has been for decades on end.

Problem is, of course, that the World Bank cannot really occupy the moral high ground when it comes to corruption, Wolfowitz or no
Wolfowitz. As noted already, the Bank itself flourishes -- and most of its staff live about as high on the hog as do the corrupt
officials in the poor countries it is supposed to be helping out of their poverty -- because of the corrupt practice of taxation. All that first class flying about, attending of conferences in plush places around the globe, funding luxurious housing and education for their kids that World Bank officers and staff receive is not exactly an example of frugal living for the leaders of the poor countries. Quite the contrary -- it looks to me like a bunch of "respectable" crooks in fancy suits wanting to reform a bunch of disrespectable crooks in fancy uniforms. One might even suspect a bit of racism here -- it's OK for the World Bank's high and mighty to rip off the rest of us but not OK for those leaders of the poor countries! Well, maybe not.

Still, in this instance I side with Wolfowitz and wish him well in
his efforts to make something of a dent in Third World corruption.
But I am not holding my breath!
"Progressives" Aren't Progressive

Tibor R. Machan

At my university I was sitting at one interminably long meeting where sadly much time is wasted and little gets done. But during one of the discussions the person who was the leader made the point that there are faculty members of different political persuasion (a piece of vital information we all needed to be provided) and divided them into two groups, conservative and progressive. By this was meant something simply descriptive and showing not kind of bias at all.

Sadly, many people even at universities and colleges, ones who ought to know better, accept some of these labels without question. Yet given how the labels derive from words that have pretty clear meaning in our language, what those words from which they derive mean has an influence in how the labels will be understood.

Thus, conservatism derives from the perfectly ordinary word “conserve.” And this means to hold over, to stay the course, to avoid changes, at least basic ones. Conservatives, in fact, are generally taken to be those who promote forging laws and public policies by holding on to what had been the practice in the past. Those who actually embrace this method have a very interesting argument for why they promote this, nothing to dismiss blithely. So to label people “conservative” is to suggest, pretty strongly, that they want to keep with customs, laws, policies of the past. Yet one can bet that a whole lot of those called conservatives aren’t exactly like that at all. Many of them simply urge that we be careful when we make changes, not embrace some untried fad, not abandon something that has worked rather well even if not perfectly. But the label “conservative” does not include these necessary qualifications.

It is even worse with “progressive.” It’s usually the people on the Left who joyfully choose to be called “progressive”—there are several left of center and far Left publications that contain “progressive” in their title, for example. In this instance, however, the designation fails to fit altogether. That is because instead of moving forward, getting away from past practices, in short, instead of making progress, those on the Left are actually regressive, even reactionary, in their politics. I give you one major example.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the fathers of the modern Left, proposed, in their Communist Manifesto, as their first order of business the abolition of private property. They and thousands of intellectuals who followed in their ideological lead over the last century and a half have believed, often sincerely, that this made them all progressives. But that is just not so.

In the era prior to the rise of modern capitalism there was virtually no acknowledgement of the right to private property for all but some at the top. It is government—by way of the monarch such as the king or czar or pharaoh—who was deemed to own everything. So when ordinary folks like you and me occupied and worked some plot of land, for example, the government had to grant this privilege. We had no right to private property, only a grant of privilege and we all had to pay taxes for it to boot. (Remember that Robin Hood didn’t steal from the rich but from those who took taxes from us all, seeing how unjust this was!)

Clearly, then, the rejection of private property rights was part and parcel of much of pre-capitalist political economy, where it was government that deemed itself authorized to grant people rights. The idea that the individual has a natural—pre-political, pre-legal—right to private property was a radical, actually progressive notion which unseated government from its high and might position, robbed it of its phony sovereignty.

Contemporary Leftist “progressives,” then, want to return to something very old fashioned and misguided, namely, the idea that government is supreme and we are all its subjects. (Sadly, the U. S. Supreme Court has given them support in this recently, via its July 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, Ct.)

There is absolutely nothing progressive about what the Left wants and please realize that the term is applied either because of rank ignorance or as a simple ruse. The Left is, in fact, reactionary and regressive.
The Vegas Fallacy

Tibor R. Machan

It’s not just in Vegas but wherever there’s gambling (Monte Carlo, the river boats in Mississippi, etc.), a good many people who wish to win big—as opposed to those who just want to have some fun playing around at the tables—believe that somehow, against all odds, they will luck out. And a very, very few do, while thousands and thousands do not. All one needs so as to grasp this is to look at how fabulous the facilities are, how well the house is doing virtually everywhere, and how many people go home poorer than they were when they got there.

But they keep coming back. This is how the welfare state works, as well. Millions of people pay into the system, supporting massive bureaucracies and thousands of politicians, hoping that they will walk away the big winners some day. The politicians and bureaucrats keep promising the winnings but only here and there do they deliver. After all, even though the treasury gains its resources through taxation—in other words, extortion—and borrowing and printing, it still hasn’t enough to satisfy all the hopes and wishes that keep millions of faithful hanging in there rather than demanding that the game be shut down. Except that Vegas is more honest—no one promises that everyone will be a winner, only that some will be, whereas the champions of the welfare state tell everyone that government will help out—government will save us all from disasters, bankruptcies, ill health, ignorance, whatever. Vegas, yes, is far more honest.

But something similar to what keeps certain people coming back to the tables and the "one arm bandits" also encourages millions of citizens to keep their faith in the welfare state. "The next time my lobbyists, my representatives, my bunch of cheerleaders will surely succeed and I will collect the big benefits." Or perhaps, miracles of miracles, we will all be winners and no one will lose—so Social Security will never go broke! The educators, scientists, farmers, artists, merchants and all who hold out their hands waiting for the bacon to come home will all, very soon, get to be big winners.

Only it is a total ruse. Not even the extortionists who collect funds for the government have the kind of power that can get blood out of a turnip, who can make something from nothing. Even where honest budgetary constraints are absent, there is still scarcity, if only because the desire to get the benefits from the government is insatiable. Once a company, person, union or club is on the dole, the habit has been fed and the system is safe.

There are some folks, of course, who understand what a Ponzi scheme it all is but that teaching is drowned out by all the hucksters being paid to keep our hopes alive. The politicians will not tell us that they are ultimately powerless to satisfy us all. They will keep promising but delivering only bits and pieces, just to keep the habit alive. Entire industries have sprung into existence, teaching people how they need to apply for this or that government grant or subsidy. Weekend seminars abound, filled with hours and hours of instruction, banking on the largely empty hope that we can all get rich off the government, that there is some Peter out there who can be robbed so that we all, the Pauls, will benefit. Of course, Peter believes he is also a Paul, and so a daisy chain of attempted rip-offs is generated and continues with only a few souls out there yelling, “But it’s all a ruse.”

Is there a way out of this? The late Mancur Olson, author of The Logic Of Collective Action (Harvard, 1971), was pessimistic. He believed that only when a widespread and serious crisis occurs that destroys all the special interest organizations in a country, could lasting and fundamental remedies be implemented—such as a constitutional principle banning the financial corruption at the centers of the welfare state. Barring that, stupidity will pretty much impel most of us to continue to want to raid the nearly empty treasury and thus to keep the system going.

Perhaps, however, if there were widespread enough economic education—informing the citizenry that the bulk of us are losers, not winners, in the welfare state Ponzi scheme—we would not have to wait for the crisis Olson said might rescue us. But this brings up another problem: the educational system itself feeds off this scheme, relying as it does on taxation. Who in our high schools and colleges will tell students that the very system they rely upon to "educate" them is based on extortion and ultimate economic catastrophe? Maybe a few economist, but hardly anyone else. Once I was asked to be on a committee at my university that was considering what courses a public policy concentration should make a requirement. I proposed: economics. My chair at the philosophy department immediately removed me because I was supposed to promote philosophy courses, never mind what actually made any sense.

Multiply this several thousand times and you will see what an uphill fight it is to bring some economic (and, in particular, public finance) sanity to college students across the land!
Demeaning Work?

by Tibor R. Machan

So my CBS TV morning news program reports that whereas on average
Americans take 10 days vacation per year, the Germans, French,
Italians and other Europeans are up there with 25 days or near it.
OK, so what? The report suggests one interpretation of these data:
Americans cannot relax, while Europeans can. Americans are
workaholics, while Europeans have a more sensible approach to work.

As usual with stories like this, CBS TV latched on to one guy in
Boston, I think it was, who works very close to home and spends
nearly all his time at is work station, although he seems to involve his small child in what he does (the kid was in nearly every clip shown of him by his computer, for example). This resonated with me because, I too, happen to be fond of my work, to the point that if I go on some kind of holiday or vacation, very quickly I get bored with sunbathing or sauntering about some old European city and its museums and want to get back to writing and teaching. And maybe, just maybe, the average American, whoever that might be, is more like that -- he or she actually likes doing work and doesn't crave idleness too much. Does this have to do with some malady like workaholism? I seriously doubt it.

From when a child is born in America, most parents try to learn what it is the child likes to do, what talents the child has, so the child's education falls in line with these and he or she will find the kind of work that is fulfilling, satisfying. Let's assume there is a substantial culture following this pattern of child-raising. If so, then would it be reasonable to expect grown ups to crave going on vacation all the time? Why? If they did indeed manage to find a line or work or career that is self-satisfying, that fulfills their hopes for matching their preferences and talents, why would they be looking for work that gives them so much time off?

Some would say, well the only reason American workers do not, on
average, have a good deal of vacation time is that labor unions in
America are relatively weak and aren't able to bargain forcefully
enough to give their members the benefits they would really like. But this begs the question -- why are labor unions so weak? Maybe it is because they cannot come to American workers with a good deal, a better one than they receive from their employers. Perhaps most American workers do not see the employer-employee relationship along adversarial dimensions but see it as more of a win-win situation instead of a zero-sum game. It may even be that those being hired by others regard themselves as joining a company instead of being conscripted by some alien force.

There is in the wild a relationship between animals that's called
commensalism -- benefits are reaped all around with no harm coming to either side, no one is ripping anyone else off, there is, in short, no parasitism. It might be best to start understanding the relationship between various parties in the business world along such lines, not the contorted idea propagated by Marxists who see employers as exploiters and employees as victims. That world view emerged when some business worked along those lines, yes, but even then it was exaggerated. The normal circumstances of business, meaning those not contaminated by a bunch of Marxian ideology, may well be cooperation and friendly competition, not acrimony and
hostility. Just consider that in athletics there is a good deal of
competition that's vigorous as well as civilized, friendly even.

Indeed, if the socialist notion that people who hire us must want to exploit us, take unfair advantage of us, hadn't gained prominence over the last two hundred years, it might well have turned out that employees would have formed companies, kind of like partnerships in the professional world (law, engineering, medicine), and instead of being employed by firms they would be hired as a team to perform services the way a construction company is today. The whole model of employer versus employee would then have been bypassed and the idea of work being a chore from which one needs extended relief might have been avoided. After all, many who work, say, in the sciences, the arts, entertainment, even farming see themselves as doing what they
want to do and while taking a break now and then could be beneficial, the notion that they must get away from it all for as long as possible would seem odd. It is difficult to think of Chopin or Rembrandt or Einstein and their less famous colleagues looking at their work that way.

As with all generalizations about human affairs, there are many
exceptions here but, all in all, it seems more reasonable to see the working habits of most Americans as characterized by a kind of love of their work, thus their vacation habits shaped by this rather than some kind of conspiracy theory.
Kudos to Agassi, et al.

by Tibor R. Machan

Next to tennis, for me, there's only the blues that really rocks. The blues is more a participatory art for me, since I love dancing to it. Tennis, on the other hand, is my only pure spectator sport. I do play a little but not enough to speak of.

Over the years I have been witness, sometimes in the stands but
mostly via TV, to the brilliant play of such champions as Jimmy
Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, and many, many others from even earlier days, men and women both. I should admit, however, that one aspect of tennis that appeals to me very much is how close-up and personal one can get to the players merely by watching a match and some of the interviews that follow it. The enormous value of the technology that brings this game to my home is totally under-appreciated -- TV is a priceless asset here, what with all those who shoot the games with such superb skill so that I and millions of other fans can enjoy those fantastic rallies and serves and drop shots.

Of course there are other sports -- bowling, baseball, track and
field, football, golf, soccer and the rest (some, sadly, rarely shown on TV, like fencing and rowing) -- but for me tennis tops them all. No, I am not claiming some kind of universal superiority for the sport. One size does not fit all, here or elsewhere. But for those like me, this sport is dazzling, as perhaps the most individualistic of them all.

Which is just one reason I was so touched by Andre Agassi's farewell remarks after he lost to Germany's new (Benjamin) Becker in the third round of the 2006 US Open championship. The two matches Andre played before were ever so thrilling events; Agassi never dropped the ball, as it were, despite suffering enormous pain in his back, something many of us can relate to big time.

Anyway, Agassi has won eight Grand Slam singles titles, being one of only five players who won all four Grand Slam singles events over the span of his career. A great many tennis connoisseurs consider him to be, as Wikepedia put it, the most "complete and natural talent tennis has ever seen." (I actually think that in his prime Jimmy Connors was every bit as good, as was Bjorn Borg, but they didn't manage to last so long at the top as did Agassi, the only one to have won "every Grand Slam singles title, the Masters, the Davis Cup, and an Olympic gold medal." In all of this he managed to be an extremely pleasant, even sweet guy, with only his garb suggesting some measure of childish rebellion.

In his farewell remarks at the US Open this September 3rd, Agassi was eloquent, a bit overly humble for my taste (I believe someone as good as he ought to show that he understands what he himself put into it all). That stuff about "standing on your shoulders" Agassi told his New York audience is nice and good for the game, I suppose, but a little demonstration of his understanding of just how much his achievement is due to his own input would have been even more refreshing. (No, I wasn't hoping for some kind of Bobby Fischer arrogance, only a bit more of the whole truth.)

In any case, I wish to give my thanks to this wonderful tennis player and, from what I can tell, fine human being, as well. He has certainly contributed some great thrills to my life as to that of millions of others. I should even confess that as with Fred Astaire, Johnny Carson, Louis Armstrong, Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, and, especially, Henre de Toulouse-Lautrec, I am very glad to have been alive during or after these people did their best work so I could enjoy it in museums or on film. (Again, hurray for that technological factor!)

Let us hope that Andre has a good, fulfilling life now that
competitive tennis seems to be in his past.
The End of Free Association

by Tibor R. Machan

Not all of the past had been the good old days but in the matter of the right to freedom of association there had been a golden age not so very long ago. What I am referring to is how people could, for a good while, freely associate for various purposes with no one from the outside breaching their terms of association. It is in this spirit, indeed, that divorce, for example, had been legalized against the desires of various religious leaders who wanted to force couples to stay together even when neither wanted to remain married! Even in Ireland and Italy, if I am not mistaken, it is now possible to obtain
a divorce, although people still need to jump some hurdles to do so. (And maybe, if they have children, some of those hurdles are
reasonable -- after all, producing offspring comes with responsibilities one shouldn't be able to dodge.)

But in a different area divorce is more and more difficult to obtain. If you hire someone for a job, the government often forbids you to discontinue the employment relationship even though when it commenced, there was no contract binding either party to continue it in perpetuity. It used to be employment "at will" as far as both the employer and employee were concerned. More and more today, however, the "at will" provision applies only to the employee -- just as if only one of the spouses would have the legal right to leave a marriage.

The same is happening in the rental market. Those who have rented an apartment are often able to remain put even though those who rented to them want them gone and no contract has specified anything different. It is as if the tenants acquired some kind of property right in the apartment just because they rented it for a while, even though by all rights both may sever the arrangement. These days, in many places, it is only tenants who have the legal authority to do this, while if the owner wants the tenant to leave, he or she faces innumerable bureaucratic hurdles. Instead of treating both parties to the relationship as having the basic individual human right to freedom of association, in many localities today only one of them has this right protected by the legal system. They are required by law to prove that they really "need" to evict the tenant, a truly bizarre notion if you ask me.

It is interesting because there's a clear case of unjust discrimination against some, while others are treated as having the right to do as they choose. The apartment owner's right to
discontinue the relationship by following the agreed upon terms is
denied, although the tenant's is upheld. (Yes, it can easily be that the owner will suffer economically if a tenant moves!) But do we hear champions of equal rights speak up about this? Do they protest the outrage of such unequal treatment of human beings -- for example, in the Los Angeles area where tenants receive such legal favoritism all the time?

Unfortunately the practice of treating tenants and renters unequally in the law has an insidious precedent born of sheer sentimentality. Rent control is the culprit. It was started, supposedly, to help out returning veterans who didn't like being subjected to market forces as they coped with their living arrangements. As if those who owned the apartments didn't have their burdens they might have wished relieved as well! Of course they did. The volatility of the free market does not favor anyone, nor does it pick on anyone. Free men and women make choices and change their buying practices. And, also, there are innovators who displace older producers and service providers -- we are all in the same boat, except for a little luck here and there for some.

The same holds for the employment relationship. Just consider --
often the departure of an employee imposes hardship on the employer, yet there should be nothing done to prevent it. Only the acceptance of an offer of a better deal should be able to change matters!

Still, too many people believe that certain others may rightfully be coerced into serving them whether they choose this or not! It is rather mystifying -- certainly seems to go against something
everybody tends to profess, the Golden Rule. Or that everyone
opposes, namely, slavery or involuntary servitude.

Of course, throughout human history people have violated the Golden rule left and right, in big ways and small. And this is still going on, especially among so-called "progressives." Chain the employer, chain the apartment owner, never mind about the gross injustice of it all!
Crime and Coercion

Tibor R. Machan

Crime, the violent type which involves murdering, assaulting, robbing, kidnapping and otherwise violating the rights of fellow individuals in one’s society, is said to be on the rise again. After a few years of decline, the figures for 2004 are up about 5 %. And, of course, people across the country are up in arms about this. Yet they have no explanation. The economy is doing reasonably well, they note, so why the rise in crime?

It is not my line of work to pour over the statistics concerning this topic, so I am being trusting here of the mainstream media where this news has been making the rounds. However, I would like to suggest one possible cause for why crime is on the increase. Couldn’t it be how widespread official coercion has become?

Our governments, whatever level you wish to include, are more and more intrusive in people’s lives. And this is so with the sanction of the highest of courts in this country—in the summer of 2005 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that cities may rob people of their property if the city officials believe they can make better use of it than those who own it. Right here we can see clearly how the principle of criminal behavior as regards private property has gained official sanction: for surely the policy of those who engage in robbery is to regard their purposes for the use of what they take from others as of greater importance than respecting the right of the owners to make use of their property as they see fit. The criminal steals someone’s car or bicycle or money out of a bank with the belief that his needs supersede the rights of the owners. Indeed, the criminal, like the U. S. Supreme Court, probably doesn’t think the owners really are the owners—the owners are we all. And we decide to what use the stuff is to be put.

Generally, once the policy of officialdom in a society is in part to seriously, systematically undermine individual rights, is it a great surprise that ordinary citizens turn to conduct that echoes what these officials proclaim: if someone’s property is used in ways one believes is not quite fruitful, not quite advantageous, well, let’s take it from the person. We can do with it as we deem more worthwhile.

Even the more violent crimes, like murder and assault, receive encouragement from the official attitude. Since property rights are tossed out the window, why not toss other rights as well? Why bother respect the rights to life and liberty? After all, the criminal may well have a strong conviction that what he wants to do with another person’s life—someone who may stand in the way of the criminal's goals somehow—can be ignored. If a majority of the people has the authority to violate individual rights, or if the representatives of that majority do, then what principle is to stop anyone from doing just like the majority does? The “people” have decided to override individual rights, well, the criminal is one of the people, so what’s wrong with him or her doing likewise?

Criminals are joined in this attitude by some major corporations where management has decided that one way to get ahead is to bar other people from competing. The way to do that is to go to the Department of Justice and sic them on others, claiming they are in violation of anti-trust laws, some of the most coercive economic policies a government can pursue. But it is official policy, so why not take advantage of it. Or to gain subsidies from government which entails robbing Peter to help Paul. So when some owner of a small business sees another getting ahead due to business savvy, the thing to do is to stop the competitor, and since it is too complicated for small businesses to seek help from the Department of Justice, perhaps it is OK to, say, just burn down the competitor's establishment? Why not? Government is doing what amounts to pretty much the same thing by targeting companies—that are guilty of no more than being more successful than others—with the violence of anti-trust charges.

Crime is certainly not something from which governments abstain—not crimes of corruption and similar malpractice but officially sanctioned violent crimes similar to those of the Third Reich, the Soviet Union or South Africa, to name just some obvious cases. When our governments ban medical marijuana, that is a crime! When they forbid the conduct of business at certain times of the day or week, that is a crime. When they use the police with which to enforce these policies, the governments perpetrate violent crimes since, in fact, these are all peaceful activities.

The challenge is for us to figure out how to teach our children and show our fellow citizens that what governments exemplify is quite often improper, indeed criminal, practices no one ought to emulate. Then may violent crime will begin to subside.