Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tricking Us Into Conscription

Tibor R. Machan

Most Americans seem to think it is so quaint to be taken to be a member of the huge American family or team or tribe. But it is a trick.

Being a member of some group immediately creates obligations other members may impose. Team members must contribute to the team’s efforts. Club members must pay dues. Family members must do chores. And so on it goes.

In most instances, however, one joins groups on one’s own initiative, without being forced into membership. Apart from the now nearly completely abolished draft, most Americans aren’t familiar with forced labor, with being conscripted. They do not look upon paying taxes, for example, as having their resources confiscated. Most take it as a kind of fee for services. And quite a few actually claim that taxation is voluntary, never mind that it isn’t.

The trick of getting burdened by innumerable obligations that certain self-appointed leaders spell out and enforce has to do with selling millions of people on the idea that their lives belong to the nation or clan or tribe, not to them. Never mind that this goes squarely against the American Founders’ idea that everyone has an unalienable right to his or her life. We are now in the era of a supposed second bill of rights which FDR concocted and which makes us all into conscripts. We are forced to serve and on terms we have but a little bit to do with. Certainly the idea of the consent of the governed, the consent of the taxed and taxed and taxed again and again, has disappeared from public discourse. Instead no one is asked for his or her consent now; just being born makes one part of a team, with all the attendant duties.

The best description of this comes from the French father of sociology, Auguste Comte, who wrote two hundred or so years ago:

"Everything we have belongs then to Humanity…Positivism never admits anything but duties, of all to all. For its social point of view cannot tolerate the notion of right, constantly based on individualism. We are born loaded with obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. Later they only grow or accumulate before we can return any service. On what human foundation then could rest the idea of right, which in reason should imply some previous efficiency? Whatever may be our efforts, the longest life well employed will never enable us to pay back but an imperceptible part of what we have received. And yet it would only be after a complete return that we should be justly authorized to require reciprocity for the new services. All human rights then are as absurd as they are immoral. This ["to live for others"], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] Humanity, whose we are entirely."

This is the public philosophy now in vogue, being propagated by President Obama and Co. And it is a vicious, enslaving thing, this is, certainly foreign to the unique American political tradition.

The reason many are hoodwinked by it all is that of course any self-respecting human being realizes that joining with other people is a fine and dandy thing, indeed, provided those other people are themselves decent folks and fully respect one’s human rights to one’s life, liberty and property. In other words, if these fellows do not kill, kidnap, or rob one, they are usually swell company.

But what we are having foisted upon us now is not the idea of voluntary cooperation but of conscription. And that is a no-no.

I am not sure how these thuggish people will be resisted—there are too many of them these days, sadly. But they must be. They have no authority to bully us around. And I for one will keep agitating against their perverse agenda so long as I have the energy to do so.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don’t Trust Obama Climate Change Report

Tibor R. Machan

This morning I woke to a lengthy report by NASA showing alleged imminent disaster from climate changes. The report states unequivocally that some huge percentage of the change is human induced, although nothing shown demonstrates or supports this claim. The time line of many of the videos showing erosion and melting of snow is not clear and there are no comparisons to earlier changes in the earth’s climate, no indication of whether other periods of the earth’s history have had changes similar in size or frequency. But the report has one clear feature. It is scary and anyone not in the know about these matters cannot but be worried from what it contains. And I am not in the know—I am no expert, that's for sure, nor are most American citizens.

So why should it be distrusted? Well, pretty much for the reason that virtually all government reports need to be distrusted—remember those WMDs—especially when their policy implications are the accrual to government of massive powers to control the lives of the citizenry. All of the recommendations broadcast in this report would, if followed, require massive transfer of resources from the private sector to the government, in addition to the imposition of aggressive regulations and controls, i.e., violaitons of our rights.

The bottom line here is, not at all surprisingly to anyone who has focused on how governments everywhere tend to function, that governments must have more power to deal with a crisis, with no clear proof of the need for any government intervention—no one’s rights are being violated other than by some externalities (which is nothing new). But even if something needed to be addressed, there is no reason to believe that the government is competent or suited to be the agent of remedy. That is not what governments are about. When, however, they are entrusted with—or simply grab—a job unsuited to their competence and mission, the results will be highly regrettable.

One need not attribute ill will to those who propose these massive government “solutions” to problems facing us, including at the global environmental level. The conceit that "we are the government, and we are here to help" is an old one, all the way from ancient Sparta to modern Washington, D.C. Folks with power tend to imagine themselves wise, as well, but that is a grave mistake. It has gotten many societies into terrible trouble, when government is taken to be the master who will deal with all the problems. Invariable the citizens become servants of the master.

The way the report came across from NASA, by the way, fully confirms such worries. There was no mention of any skepticism about global human induced climate change—specifically, global warming—despite the fact that world wide the number of highly educated skeptics is growing. The computer models, on which predictions are made which, then, supposedly justify various coercive precautionary measures governments, are to undertake are now in considerable dispute. (Oddly, the recent economic fiasco is being blamed by some of the analysts on the flawed models used to estimate the significance of various types of risks but no one seems to be considering that this should be a warning about trusting such models in other areas.)

For me, personally, there is virtually no excuse for increasing the power governments wield over citizens, none. The most general but also persuasive reason is simple: governments are but other people and these other people have no credible authority to control the rest of us no matter what the excuse that’s invoked this time—with numerous others, equally suspect, having been invoked before.

But the governmental habit is very difficult to extinguish and people haven’t begun to work on that task until rather recently, with the American Founders having given a major but by no means necessarily lasting impetus for such extinction. If anything, the current political leadership across the U.S.A. has all be abandoned that brilliant legacy of Jefferson, Madison, Jay and Co., that began to demote government from its pretense at superiority. President Obama seems to be entirely unaware of—or resistant to—their teachings.