I’ve Said it Before and I’ll Say it Again: Democracy Simply Doesn’t Work

I’m a classical liberal.  I support capitalism, free trade, flat taxes, low taxes (including low corporate taxes), minimal regulations, federalism, free speech, gun rights, individual freedom in general, government transparency, reasonable but not restrictive immigration limits (with preferences for culturally compatible immigrants), and a strong defense of those things from people who would like to destroy them.  I oppose communism, socialism, populism, economic nationalism/protectionism, fascism, public sector unions, ethnic nationalism, racism or bigotry of any kind, mandatory unionization, fear-mongering, demagoguery, appeals to emotion, inflammatory rhetoric, corruption, totalitarianism, speech codes, feminism, monarchy, giving politicians power on the basis of climate change, and universal healthcare.  Social issues aren’t of much concern to me, not even abortion, which I think should be illegal but I don’t care about it as an issue as much as most other things.

The funny thing about democracy is that, in order to elect the least of several evils (Stephen Harper, for example, who I’m not a big fan of due to his inaction on reforming the healthcare system), I would have to “work with” people are diametrically opposed to me, ideologically, merely because we happen to agree on who the least evil candidate is.  For example, a populist union guy who votes Conservative because he is concerned about women going around in burqas and other ethnic minorities “invading” the country, while supporting economic protectionism and other anti-capitalist, big government policies.  Or someone who votes Conservative out of a blind sense of loyalty to the party, because that is his “team,” and automatically supports whatever Harper supports.  Or someone who is conservative in the sense that she is categorically opposed to any kind of societal change, regardless of the actual merit of the change.  I have about as much in common with those kinds of people as I do with Liberal and NDP voters, and yet, they are on my “side” for some reason.  And, therefore, politicians I am forced to support because they are ostensibly not leftist pander to these people.  In fact, they likely make up the bulk of the electorate, because most people just don’t pay that much attention to politics, and they certainly wouldn’t put much thought into forming well-thought out, logically consistent political philosophies.

My complaint here isn’t just that I, and most things I support, pretty much lack a voice (especially in Canadian politics, which due to our dumb constitution is further removed from its classical liberal roots than the US is), but it’s also that what these people support affect me (and everyone else) in a negative way.  Because people who don’t think have power, freedom is restricted, and government eternally grows.  Not only are these not people who don’t consider individual liberty a priority, they probably couldn’t even accurately define that term.  Why should the “unalienable” individual liberty everyone is entitled to be subject to the whims of people who don’t put any thought into exercizing the power they wield?

Of course, democracy also gets you shit like Justin Trudeau, who has no business leading a Boy Scout troop, let alone a freaking country.  He’s really more suited to being a reporter for Entertainment Tonight.  And look at the US election.  Some possibilities for the next president: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush (family members/close personal friends of former presidents/prime ministers should probably be banned from running for office), and the damn socialist Bernie Sanders.  And look what’s happened to Ted Cruz.  Remember when he was a conservative?  Now he’s kissing the ass of someone who thinks Canada’s healthcare system is just dandy, while attacking someone who is far more conservative than Trump (i.e. Marco Rubio) and has done more than any other single person to destroy Obamacare.  In other words, he’s appealing to the lowest common denominator, because that’s what savvy politicians do.  And then there is the farce that was the 2008 US election.  Just like Canada in 2015, Americans elected a god damn celebrity to lead their country (with disastrous results).  All this is thanks to democracy.

By criticizing democracy, I’m not supporting authoritarianism or some other political system that lacks any voting.  Democracy is a necessary component of a functioning political system, but only if it works as a safeguard against tyranny.  It certainly shouldn’t be the whole political system, or have as much influence as it does now.  The actions of the government should be strictly limited by the constitution (as it is supposed to be in the United States), and the populace should be tought that.  Of course, I’m just speaking in terms of ideals, not what is actually feasible.  But that is all I can do to lessen my frustration at politics.

People are always saying that politicians ought to listen to their constituents.  The problem with that is that their constituents aren’t all telling them the same thing.  If you listen to one constituent, you piss off half of your other constituents, and probably strip all of your constituents of their natural rights.  Democracy is basically mob rule.  Why it is held up as the paragon of civilization is baffling.

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Force

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, responsibility for which has been claimed by ISIS, have given me clarity of thought.  Much like Bernie Sanders, foreign policy is not an issue I am very interested in (although that is where my similarities to Bernie Sanders end).  I would much rather read, write, or think about economics, society, or natural law.  And the reason for that,  I believe, is because, unlike on those issues, my views on foreign policy are not as well-defined.  I fall about halfway between isolationism and neoconservatism, and I think straight isolationism and straight neoconservatism are both insane.

There are two separate things relating to the attacks in Paris that inform my views on foreign policy: the attacks themselves, and how people reacted to them.  But while I now know firmly where I stand, I’m going to start from where I always prefer to start: first principles.  I dislike big government, and I tend to agree with the idea, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that security is not worth your liberty.  The purpose of any government is to protect individual rights as best it can, not to ensure that every individual is maximally secure.  However, individual rights imply some degree of security.  A country’s government can’t protect the rights of its citizens if that country is susceptible to terrorism.  Ideally, the government of a given country would intervene in foreign affairs the moment such affairs become directly relevant to that country’s own defense, or when it is necessary to do so to uphold any existing treaties.

Now to apply that principle to the current situation.  With the attacks in Paris, it is clear that ISIS poses a significant threat to security, especially given the Syrian refugee crisis (considering some, albeit likely a small minority, of Syrian refugees are sympathetic towards (or maybe even belong to) ISIS).  And, considering most Western countries are taking in some Syrian refugees, and ISIS has recruited people from all over the world, who knows where the next attack is going to be.  Even my own unassuming city has sent residents to the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS.  It must be defeated, preferably soon.  Many Western countries have been embroiled in war for several years, but I think it would be foolish to delay war on ISIS any longer.  Real war, not just air strikes and military aid to the Peshmerga, Syrian rebels, and other local forces.  Not this wishy-washy war that Obama is fond of and seems never to get anything done.  The United States has the military capacity to crush ISIS quite rapidly, I would think.  It just needs to be willing to use adequate force.  There is a reason Harry Truman is likely my most admired Democratic president: he was a real leader during World War II.  He made the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, levelling the two cities and ending over 100,000 lives (many of whom were innocent).  But that ended the war, and likely ended up resulting in less death and suffering than if the war had continued in a more traditional fashion.  Furthermore, it allowed Japan to start re-building (with US help) sooner than it would have otherwise been able to.  Now, Japan is a friendly and extremely advanced nation.

I could never see Obama dropping a nuclear bomb on Raqqa, and I’m not saying a nuclear bomb is the best course of action, especially given that the idea of bombing Japan was to get Hirohito to surrender.  I’m guessing bombing Raqqa or some other ISIS stronghold would only embolden ISIS.  Then there is also Russia to think about, and probably lots of other things.  My overall point, though, is that, going by recent history, a full-on war against ISIS is not going to be effective unless the goal is to destroy ISIS in an efficient manner.

Another consequence of the Paris attacks is the inevitable anti-Muslim rhetoric, the condemnations of the anti-Muslim rhetoric, and blaming the West for bringing this attack on itself.  Obviously, ISIS is not the only terrorist organization out there, and defeating ISIS won’t eliminate the problems of terrorism or radical Islam.  Then there is also the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.  Is the West to simply turn away all these refugees?  My own view is that it is not possible to ensure that the individual rights of everyone in the world are protected, so the first priority must be a country’s own citizens.  Take in as many refugees as you can without destablizing your own society or putting too much stress on your own resources.  The best way to do that would probably be to focus on Christian and Kurdish (especially Yazidi) refugees, who tend to be more culturally similar to the West and a bigger target for ISIS.  In the case of young, healthy Muslim men and women, they might be expected to defend their own countries themselves, rather than expecting charity that is simply beyond the capacity of the West to provide.  As for the anti-Muslim rhetoric, the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, but obviously not all Muslims are terrorists or even necessarily backwards.  Your typical anti-terrorist Muslim shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable or persecuted.  On the other hand, it is ridiculous to say that there is anything “problematic” or “Islamophobic” with anti-terrorist rhetoric or making the obvious connection between contemporary terrorism and Islam (which, by the way, doesn’t imply that all terrorists everywhere are Muslim.  But Buddhists in Burma, et cetera, are driven by fundamentally different motivations and thus don’t pose much of a threat to the West, as despicable as some of their actions are).  Islam seems to inspire a uniquely subjugative ideology.  As for blaming the West, while it is potentially prudent to examine the effects of some of the West’s past actions in the interest of informing future actions, let’s not pretend that the terrorist attacks are the fault of anyone other than those who committed them.

Saying Nothing: The Latest Hate Speech

It’s a sad day for free speech.  The pandemic of anti-free speech attitudes on university campuses is getting out of control.  Some university students are demanding to be coddled and protected from anything that they don’t personally like, which, as someone who isn’t certifiably insane, I find baffling.  I mean, how do you expect to get through life like that?  Are these people so sheltered that they have never before encountered something that hurts their feelings?  I suppose this is a product of the “self-esteem at all costs” mindset of modern education, which is something I encountered as a kid, but I seemed to have managed to avoid its toxic effects for whatever reason.

The situation at the University of Missouri is particularly ridiculous.

Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri, is resigning his post, an act of extraordinary cowardice on the part of the university. The University of Missouri is purported to be convulsed by racism. How so? A drunk white student walking down the street used a racial slur in reference to a group of black students; he has been exiled from the campus and probably will be expelled when the disciplinary process comes to its conclusion. … [T]he university administration was silent on the matter of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., a year ago. Multiple investigations of the Brown shooting, including the one conducted by Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, have concluded that there was no criminal conduct by police in the case. But even if there had been, what business is it of the University of Missouri? … A student says he was twice described with a racial slur, and a swastika was found applied to a dormitory wall with feces.

To summarize, the hysterical protests that led the university president to resign were caused by the racial slurs of a single drunk guy that has since been disciplined, a swastika, and the failure of the university to say anything about an incident it had nothing to do with.  That sure sounds like an assload of systemic racism, indeed.

Considering the modern left seems to believe that everyone is filled with caustic racism that is at all times this close to bubbling to the surface and incite riots and violent assaults on racial minorities, unless all speech conforms to their strict yet undecipherable codes, these things start to make sense.  Of course, that premise is abjectly absurd.  Society is filled with prejudice and general ugliness, which is exactly why it is necessary to develop a somewhat thick skin if you have any hope of succeeding in it.  And the best way to do that is to become secure enough in your own intellect that you are not afraid of being challenged, and in order to do that, you have to accept that maybe you are not completely right about everything.  That is a hard lesson to learn, especially for someone who grew up constantly hearing how special and smart they are, but it’s true for everyone.  Even people like Albert Einstein aren’t smart enough to know everything.  Even though his Nobel prize was won for a discovery he made that resulted in the field’s early development, Einstein was a critic of quantum  mechanics right up until he died, and he even invoked God in his arguments against it (which is doesn’t typically pass for scientific evidence nowadays).  Of course, quantum mechanics is consistent with what is observed, so he was most likely completely wrong about it.   Humility is incredibly liberating, as is the realization that you’re not important enough to be outraged at every slight, and certainly not important enough to demand everyone else heed to your every fragile sensibility.

Of course, the left isn’t the only side that is at fault.  The right has its share of people who would limit free speech if they had their way as well (of course, I would argue that such people are inherently leftist, but that is a matter of semantics and is therefore irrelevant).  The fundamental difference is that the right is far more willing to self-police (not that there aren’t leftists, such as Bill Maher, who are critical of the left’s frighteningly despotic fantasies, but they seem to be a relative minority), and I actually have yet to see any example of what I am about to say is something that happened.  But according to this, it is, and I tend to tune out the crazy people anyway.

What I am referring to here is Starbucks’ use of cups that do not feature the word “Christmas.”  So therefore, they are waging war on Christmas, and therefore Christians, and therefore America and all that is good and holy.  Frankly, these people (assuming they exist, and they almost certainly do on the bowels of Twitter, and they’re probably also all your relatives on Facebook) are pretty much the same as the people at the University of Missouri complaining about the systemic racism that haunts every corner of their campus.  Their personal feelings aren’t constantly validated, and therefore they are outraged.  This isn’t the only example of this kind of thing happening on the right, either.  Christians don’t like being mocked (or discriminated against) any more than any other group.  The actual discrimination against Christians that occurs is worthy of attention, but putting in the context of a “War on Christianity” not only misses the point, but is engaging in identity politics.  The very same identity politics the various constituencies of the left like to engage in.  The salient issues here can all be solved if you treat people as individuals and not members of some arbitrary identity-based group, and if you respect the rights of those individuals.

I mean, it does annoy me that some people are afraid of saying “Merry Christmas” because it might offend some people who don’t celebrate Christmas (although it probably wouldn’t since they would most likely be mature enough to realize they live in a country where the vast majority of people celebrate Christmas, either as a religious or  secularized and commercial holiday.  And if it did offend them, they would be just as ridiculous as everyone else here).  But is that seriously that big of an issue?  Firstly, it is well within people’s right to free speech to say whatever they want, even if it is something as demonic as “Happy Holidays.”  Secondly, we’re living in a time when people are losing their jobs for failing to manoeuvre the Kafkaesque rules of allowed speech (or lack of speech) that is arbitrarily devised and re-devised by a group of self-righteous, litigious millennials on a seemingly hourly basis.

Actually, come to think of it, the outrage has persuaded me that the phrase “Happy Holidays” is a much bigger threat to society than that, so disregard everything I’ve said here.

ADDENDUM: I didn’t mention the situation at Yale because the situation at the University of Missouri is more absurd, but the stuff going down at Yale is ridiculous as well.  Professor Erika Christakis and her husband got in trouble for criticizing an e-mail that suggested students avoid potentially offensive Halloween costumes, saying hurtful things like “free expression is important” and “Halloween is supposed to be fun” (paraphrasing).  Of course, that kind of thing is beyond the pale, and activists at Yale have been out for blood since.

The activists at Yale have been rightly mocked, but, of course, that is problematic because pointing out that the e-mail Professor Christakis sent was a silly thing to get worked up about ignores the context of why people are upset.

Of course, the context doesn’t make all this any less absurd, and it hasn’t been ignored either.  The context being that minority students feel unwelcome and unsupported at the university.  Now, I’m not saying that that wouldn’t be important to address, if there was more evidence than a couple swastikas drawn on the wall or drunk people acting stupid.  That that seems to be the crux of the problem leads me to beleive that these people are just way too sensitive and need to stop putting so much stock in their feelings.  It’s not like the swastikas are going to climb off the wall and start beating you up.  And if you do feel that threatened, take a self-defense class.  If you’re that sensitive and emotional that you can’t tolerate these minor things, that’s your problem, not everyone else’s.  Everyone has some kind of adversity in their lives; you aren’t anything special.

Of course, there is also the issue that racial minorities often grow up believing they are second-class citizens.  I can only assume the root of the problem here is viewing people as members of groups in the first place, as opposed to individuals.  We need to stop doing that or no progress is ever going to be made.

Toxic Emotion

I admit, I used to subscribe to in the “burn it down” school of thought.  After all, if the current system is too corrupted to be fixed, you might as well scrap it and start over, right?  I was an optimist back then.  But optimists are fools, at least when it comes to politics.  The fact is, politics attracts the very people who are exactly the people you don’t want to have power.  It can’t be reformed into anything else.  Sure, there are ways to fix that, but only to an extent.  That is possibly the biggest argument against socialism I can think of (other than maybe the legacy of mass-murder and the denial of basic freedom).

The “burn it down” philosophy is essentially an expression of frustration.  Contrary to what I may have argued in the past, it has no rational foundation (like theoretical socialism in its mindless utopianism).  It is purely emotional.  If you have any principles at all, it is pretty much inevitable that politics will frustrate you.  Well, aren’t you special.  You’re frustrated at the “Republican establishment” or whatever.  Well who, among the segment of the population with a conscience, isn’t?  Trump supporters, and anyone else belonging to a similar political movement, like Bernie Sanders supporters, are basically just infants throwing tantrums because not everything is exactly how they want it to be.  It’s so unfair!  Given that a lot of these people are apparently otherwise intelligent, successful adults, you would think they would be more mature than that.  But I guess not only young people are millennials (who don’t know how the real world works).  Or maybe all this massive Trump support is just an illusion created by the fact that a lot of people probably aren’t paying close attention to politics and Trump is merely the only person they’ve heard of, or they at least want to support an outsider but haven’t been paying attention to how abjectly dumb (not to mention leftist) Trump is.  Still, the fact that so many people would actually be willing to vote for someone who is essentially a reality TV star that is only famous because of nepotism is troubling nonetheless.  But I guess this isn’t the most appropriate place to talk about Canada’s recent election.  Anyway…

The thing that motivates me more than anything else to speak up is anger or frustration.  And I admit that is a weakness of mine.  But it is normal to want to say something when you are frustrated, especially when that frustration is based on something reasonable.  Actually acting on that is completely different, and giving no thought to your actions is reckless.  I have nothing but disdain for the kind of person who gauges the legitimacy of his or her actions on their emotional state at the time.  Frankly, I don’t give a shit what your feelings are, and neither should any competent adult with a functioning brain*.  That’s not how adults behave.  Conservatives are supposed to be the responsible people saying stuff like that, not the ones engaging in the adolescent behaviour.  This isn’t meant to be condescention; I would hope this stuff is blatantly obvious.  But apparently not.

Emotions are what leftists operate on.  The right ought to value reason and facts, not petty self-indulgent tantrum-throwing.  That does nothing but cede ground to the leftists.  I guess my main point here is that all the Trump-supporters who are supporting an actual leftist who supports universal healthcare, abortion, and economic protectionism merely because he “fights” and therefore validates their feelings are essentially leftists themselves, who don’t want to admit it.  After all, leftism and nationalist populism are merely closely-related branches of the same authoritarian ideology.

*In the sense that society doesn’t, not necessarily people who legitimately care about you.

An End to the Left’s Hegemony over Academia is Necessary

Universities offer courses on things such a women’s studies, gender studies, and all other kinds of nebulous, pseudo-scientific “academic disciplines” that are not only heavily biased towards a particular viewpoint, but entirely based upon them.  I mean, women’s studies, for example, is explicitly feminist.  And feminism isn’t exaclty “objective.”

However, these inherently ideological academic studies are all leftist (unless maybe you go to Hillsdale College, BYU, or some other non-leftist university).  And even nominally “objective” social sciences, such as linguistics and (especially) sociology can be influenced by (particularly leftist) ideology.  These so-called “soft-sciences” are so-called because their experimental results can (and usually are) highly susceptible to personal bias.  To be fair, even the hard sciences are susceptible to personal bias and it is never possible to be completely objective, but the hard sciences tend to deal with more concrete (i.e. experimentally replicable) or logical (i.e. logically or mathematically demonstrable) subjects.  Whereas the social sciences tend to deal with more nebulous subjects, like society.  That isn’t to say that social sciences have no value; they often produce valuable insights.  And things like women’s studies can’t even be considered soft-sciences.  There is nothing scientific about the methodology of women’s studies, and they are explicity derived from inherently subjective assumptions.  But again, that isn’t to say that such fields have no value.  Even if I don’t agree with the ideologies such fields are based on and even if I think such fields often have pernicious consequences, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to the different ways of thinking such fields tend to produce.

Anyway, my point in all of this is that there is no well-established ideological academic discipline on the right.  I would argue, in order to gain more of a foothold in academics and present alternate theories to those presented by fields like women’s studies, and even to advance the intellectual side of the right, such disciplines should be established.  One reason women’s studies has been so influential is that it influences people when they are young and tend to be more impressionable, creating a lasting impact on the paradigm from which they view things.  And given that the right-side of academics isn’t well established, it might also have the effect of leading to novel ways of thinking about things.

I’m approaching this from maybe more of a hard-sciences perspective than others might, because I am a chemistry student and I have little exposure to humanities and soft-sciences (although I do have exposure to those things, even in an academic context, having taken some social science classes in the past, specifically geography and linguistics.  But given that the social sciences/humanites are less removed from society than the hard sciences are, especially if you are as into politics as me, it’s hard not to be exposed to some of their aspects).  It’s also hard to completely divorce my ideological and moral views from the hard sciences, not because science is ideological or supports my views (ideological is something that science should, ideally, never be, although it is inevitable that it sometimes will appear to be.  But when it does, that is a good indication that it’s junk science), but because my views are based on the same principle that led to the philosophy of science.  Namely, “objective” reason.  Of course, “objective reason” is barely a real thing in actual science, and when you start clouding it with less concrete concepts, it strays farther and farther away from that ideal.  That is important to keep in mind, and it is something I am cognizant of as I write the following.

A coherent ideology should be derived from first principles (some relatively simple assumptions, observations,  objectives, etc).  This is probably the biggest factor in determining your political views, because what first principles you subjectively decide are the most important to base your ideology on will vary.  If you develop your ideology from the objective of equality of outcome, your ideology will be very different from one that makes the assumption that equality of outcome is impossible to attain.

The more “intellectual” variety of modern American conservatism is often informed by the founding principles of the United States, the most important of which, I would argue, is natural law.  Conservatism also often draws inspiration from other sources, such as Christianity, but I will leave those kinds of conservatism be because those aren’t the ones I am advocating for and thus I have no interest in addressing them.  Because “conservative” is often non-specific, I tend to use “classical liberal” to describe my views nowadays, since that is more specific.  The term “conservative” is often interchangeable because natural law is fundamentally classically liberal, and the natural law-based constitution is what is being conserved in this case.  But if the “conservatism” being referred to is based on the principle that things should not change due to possible unexpected consequences, that is not at all what kind of conservatism I am addressing here.  Ultimately, though, these are just labels, and labels aren’t very important.

Back to science, the fundamental principle of science is that there is some objective reality (even if that objective reality sometimes relies on randomness).  The nature of this reality can often be elucidated through experiments or logic (an example of a logically elucidated objective reality is the existence of black holes, which was predicted mathematically as a means to explain observed phenomena and only experimentally “confirmed” after the fact, not that anything can really be proven beyond all doubt), and sometimes it can’t be, but the main idea is that all of reality can theoretically be elucidated with those things.  That is, reality has some kind of objective, predictable order to it (again, not predictable order in the sense that every outcome is predictable or deterministic.  That statement simply means that things are a certain way and that is possible to know what way things are).  That is an assumption made in science, and it usually seems to be correct, basically on humanity’s ability to explain a whole crap ton of phenomena using scientific inquiry and develop technology using that knowledge.

The assumption of an objective reality is the first assumption natural law is based on.  As I said before, no ideology can be completely objective, but objectivity is the ideal of the ideology.  That means that subjectivity is meaningless, just like if someone was convinced that water is made of fire.  Just because that person believes water is made of fire doesn’t mean that water is actually made of fire.  Subtectively, to that person, water might be made of fire, but objectively, water is not made of fire.  That person’s subjective “reality” has no impact on actual, objective reality.  Water isn’t made of fire simply by decree of that person.  Therefore, any one person’s subjective “reality” doesn’t supersede any other person’s subjective “reality.”  No one has the ability to decree that reality is a certain way because they arbitrarily believe that is how it is.

If the assumption is made that there is such a thing as “human rights” (and the basis of that assumption is more complicated than what I want to get into right now, so I’ll just summarize my thoughts on it quickly by saying that human rights exist because humans have nominally free will, and according to that will, humans do not want to be subjugated), and there is an objective reality, then it follows that the definition of human rights does not get to be arbitrarility made by one person.  It also follows that the natural state of being is one in which no one human has any rights that aren’t available to all other humans, because any other state would require the supersedure of one human’s rights over another’s.  From this basic premise, almost everything else pertaining to law and government can be derived.  Or, at least, it should be able to, theoretically.  That doesn’t mean it will always be clear.  And that is one reason why I believe there should be academic disciplines devoted specifically to this kind of thought, so the many questions left unanswered by it can be answered.  If the premise is that there is only one objective reality, no other manner of thinking is completely valid.

More importantly, though, the left’s hegemony over the humanities and social sciences is harmful not only to people who disagree with the left, but also to the state of ideas in general.  There is little alternative presented to things like women’s studies in an academic context, which is potentially intellectually limiting and therefore dangerous for everyone.  While the concept of natural law used to be common, it would be alien to most young people today.  All the implications of such a radical way of thinking don’t need to be considered right now, but it is important to get some kind of foundation in place so better solutions that don’t rely on the paradigm that “the government is needed to solve society’s problems” can be conceived of.  Regardless of how effective that paradigm actually is, approaches to solving society’s problems should never be that constrained.  As a society, it seems that we have collectively succumbed to tunnel vision when it comes to thinking about policy (and I’m not saying that everyone always goes to the government to solve every societal problem, but reducing government’s role certainly doesn’t seem to be an option and it is turned to solve many problems that it shouldn’t necessarily be).

NOTE: I also want to draw a fundamental distinction between the kind of thinking I propose above and the kind of thinking that occurs in fields like women’s studies.  Women’s studies draws from critical theory, which is meant to observe society and “criticize” it (hence the name).  I don’t think that is the way to think about society.  Instead of reaction to society being foundational, foundational principles should be established beforehand and then solutions to societal problems should be proposed based on those principles.

Always Question the Conventional Wisdom, Especially When You are Told Not To

As any actual scientist will tell you, in science, you do not prove anything to be true.  You can prove something to be false, and you can make a strong case for why something is probably true, but there is no way to prove that anything is true.  Competent scientists are expected to question conventional wisdom, because that conventional wisdom may be completely wrong. For example, the Ptolemaic model of the universe, which was geocentric, was accepted as conventional wisdom for well over a millennium.  The more accurate heliocentric model wasn’t accepted until after a very long, controversial debate.  It’s not comfortable for what you always held true to be questioned (by the way, the true center of the solar system (i.e. the spot around which the bodies of the solar system orbit) isn’t actually the sun, but the solar system’s center of mass, or its barycenter).

There are a lot of things that are generally accepted as “true” regardless, such as the shape of the Earth.  It is reasonable to conclude that the shape of the Earth is roughly spheroidal, based on all available evidence and the fact that there is no evidence it isn’t.  In this case, the evidence is so overwhelming that it would make little sense to question the shape of the Earth, at least not until there is evidence that the Earth is anything but a spheroid.

However, there is little else in science with such overwhelming evidence supporting it.  One controversial example is “climate change.”  It is obvious that the climate changes. Otherwise, there would have never been an ice age.  Whether or not the climate changes is not controversial (which makes it amusing whenever people use examples of the climate changing to support their political agenda).  What is controversial is the existence of anthropogenic climate change.  We are told that questioning the existence of anthropogenic climate change is “anti-science” because “97% of scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change.”  It may very well be true that “97% of scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change,” but accepting the existence of anthropogenic climate change as irrefutable fact is what is fundamentally “anti-science,” especially based on nothing more than an appeal to authority.

The vast majority of people who attempt to bully everyone else into accepting their position, that anthropogenic climate change is the reality, are not scientists.  They are politicians and political activists.  They have an obviously heavily biased agenda (and, for the sake of full disclosure, I do as well).  If their ultimate devotion is to their political agenda, it is not to being impartial.  They are susceptible to confirmation bias.  As is everyone else, even scientists.  That, in addition to the fact that the issue of anthropogenic climate change has been heavily politicized, as well as potential issues with the methodology of climate science itself, gives one more than a good reason to question anthropogenic climate change and refuse to merely accept the conventional wisdom and shut up about it, and give more power to the people that are demanding power so they can solve the problem.  You shouldn’t need any specific reason to be skeptical of it, though, or skeptical of anything else for that matter; what is important is that you investigate the issue and make a logical conclusion based on the evidence available (and, for the record, “there is inconclusive evidence to make a conclusion” is a perfectly valid conclusion.  Conclusions can be uncertain, and should be uncertain if the evidence leaves open a lot of questions).

Personally, I am not a “climate denier.”  I am a skeptic who believes that anthropogenic climate change is most likely occurring based on my limited knowledge of the subject.  Now, logically, that means I must support governments in their efforts to combat it, right?  Because that is what everyone who is concerned about climate change wants?  Nah.  Climate change is scary and it gives politicians a good reason (from a public relations perspective) to increase their own power, so they can do something about climate change.  That is, it is the perfect opportunity for fearmongering, which can be very politically lucrative.  But that is exactly why they shouldn’t be given that power.  As with every instance of government power, it will be abused.  And, as with most other problems the government has tried to solve by giving itself more power, the problem of climate change likely wouldn’t be solved to any great degree.  If anything, based on past examples of new government programs, it would create a whole new batch of unforeseen problems.

The solution to the problem of climate change, if there is a solution, lies in technology.  Technological advancement tends to occur in the private sector (or specialized government programs such as the military or NASA), which, unlike the government (generally speaking), is dynamic and able to respond to all kinds of unexpected issues because it is decentralized and because those issues are potential new sources of profit.  That is the great thing about profit; it is an incentive to produce something that is valuable to society.  No, not everything that occurs in the private sector is ethical (ethics is outside the realm of economics, just like it is outside the realm of science), but, holistically, the private sector is a force of “good” and is responsible for the prosperity we enjoy in the first world (of course, “good” governance is a requirement for the existence of a reasonably free private sector, which is why places like Somalia have no free market).

Of course, this is all a generalization.  Government can accomplish things sometimes, usually in the military (it can create an atomic bomb and land on the moon, for example.  But I’ll just point out that both of those things occurred when the US government was in a state of competition with Nazi Germany or the USSR (that threatened US security), so there was a very large incentive to minimize bureaucratic impediments to those results).  My overall point here is to question the conventional wisdom that giving the government more power is the only way to address problems caused by climate change, as well as the conventional wisdom that not immediately embracing wholeheartedly the truth of anthropogenic climate change makes one “anti-science” (because, if anything, embracing wholeheartedly the truth of anthropogenic climate change without questioning it at all just because “the experts” tell you should is what makes you anti-science).

It’s Now Politically Correct to Be Racist

Not to mention politically incorrect not to be racist.

This isn’t anything new, but just another reminder that we are all doomed.  The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point has a new chart to apparently instruct faculty on racial microaggressions (h/t Andrew Stiles).  It helpfully instructs faculty, who might inadvertently commit the sin of not being a racist, to avoid the following offensive mistakes, among others:

  • “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
  • “There is only one race, the human race.”
  • “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
  • A college or university with buildings that are all names after White heterosexual upper class males.

Some of the things it lists are legitimately racist.  But, by these standards, Martin Luther King would have been considered a virulent racist.  I’m not trying to say that I know exactly how he would have reacted to this kind of thing, but his message was pretty clear: people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  It is just infuriating that such a noble principle has been relinquished in favour of what is essentially the opposite.

I’m not going to deny that a lot of racial minorities have it worse than a lot of white people, and they often have to deal with systemic and cultural racism. But as with anything, one’s attitude towards this issue should be based on logically coherent and consistently applied first principles.  And the only morally defensible first principles relating to race are those that state racism is unacceptable in all its forms.  People are all different; just because two people might have the same skin color (even if it is a minority skin color), that doesn’t mean they are at all similar or grew up in a similar environment.  Or that two people who have different skin colors doesn’t mean they are very different or grew up in different environments.  It is a superficial generalization that ultimately has nothing to do with people’s character or abilities, which, to society, are what is really important.  Even if the people who push this kind of convoluted social justice nonsense have good intentions (which I’m not convinced is the case), or even if there may be some truth to what they are saying (see first sentence of this paragraph), it is inconsistent to believe that people should not be judged based on their skin color and then use any justification (regardless of how compassionate it sounds) to judge people based on their skin color.  Which is what the left now apparently wants people to do. Is considering “a person of color’s racial / ethnic experiences” any different from looking at a Black person and assuming they grew up in the ghetto?

Racism is still obviously a problem in modern society, as is the fact that there is disparity between the races when it comes to things like income, education level, and incarceration rate.  But the solution to eliminate racism offered by leftists is literally to be racist.  I would suggest treating everyone equally.  Try to make it so that equality of opportunity is the reality.  Allow inner city kids to go to schools that aren’t terrible, eliminate the welfare state to eliminate dependency and promote self-reliance, eliminate the minimum wage to promote job availability, increase access to training and education, cut/eliminate businesses taxes and regulations to promote economic activity, privatize budget drains like pensions that are causing cities to default, etc. Those are just some reforms that I think might be helpful.  The cultural aspect will take care of itself; race as an issue would go away if people stopped thinking about it all the time.  Racism, like race, is a social construct that is not intrinsic within people.  The way attitudes towards different races have improved so drastically over the last century is evidence of that.

As I said, I’m not convinced that all this race stuff being promoted by the left is rooted in a desire to eradicate the inequity associated with non-white skin. Politically, it benefits the left (and the government) to divide society into groups and have those groups in opposition to each other.  Not only does that focus their attention away from the government, but it also makes people aggrieved, which allows leftists to come in and rescue them from their injustice. As long as inequality and injustice exist, people like Al Sharpton continue to have jobs and “relevance” and organizations like the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign continue to have a reason to exist.  I’m not accusing all people who believe in this social justice nonsense of such opportunism, but I’m completely convinced that that opportunistic element is a major force on the left.  On the right, we envision a society in which people are treated on their merits, accomplishments, and character without consideration of superficial qualities like skin color and sexual orientation. Well, most of us on the right envision such a society.  And we have ideas on how to acheive it.  The left likes to mock that vision, but I’m not sure what the problem is; it’s not as if true capitalism has ever actually existed (unlike true socialism, which has failed spectacularly every single time it has ever been tried.  On the other hand, systems resembling capitalism have been tried in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.  Free markets have a pretty successful track record).

In summary, it is never morally acceptable to judge people on their skin color, which is exactly what this social justice stuff does.  I don’t care what your intentions are, it’s not acceptable.  Ever.  Period.

Annual Gay Pride Rant

Gay marriage has been legalized nationwide in the USA, and the world has erupted in a gigantic gay orgy.  So this seems like an appropriate time for my traditional gay pride post.  My personal position on gay marriage is that marriage is not within the legitimate domain of government power.  When it comes to whether or not it is preferable for government marriage to extend to gay couples or other kinds of non-traditional relationships, I don’t really care.  A lot of social conservatives seem to believe gay marriage is a portent of the apocalypse, even though, if gay marriage caused an apocalypse anywhere it probably would have started in Utah, which already had court-imposed legal gay marriage (as did 37 other states).  But it turns out that some of these people actually have a point; it seems that a lot of gay activists are not content to be satisfied with gay marriage; they now must force everyone to be okay with it (including churches).  My general position when it comes to this kind of thing is to do whatever is morally right and not be concerned with the political consequences.¹  Not only is that the principled thing to do, but I believe that it is also the pragmatic thing.  There is nothing pragmatic about undermining your principles and making them meaningless.  But there is nothing morally right about government control over marriage.  There is a reason for traditional marriage supporters to agree with me on this: everything the government touches turns to feces.  Marriage is no different.  Give control over the institution of marriage back to the people who care about it (which would also prevent any one entity from having a monopoly over it, allowing each entity to give it their own definition, satisfying everyone except for power-hungry statists).

Having said all that, I am turned off by the victimhood that has infected the Right. That used to be the Left’s domain, but now the Christians are convinced that they are the new “oppressed minority.”  Regardless of whether or not there is some truth to that, adopting the Left’s questionable tactics isn’t the way to deal with it.  There is no dignity in playing up your victimhood.  Also, while it is a worthy cause for the right to be attacking the left’s desire to silence dissent, I can’t help but notice that it was the gay marriage decision and not the Obamacare decision that has the Republicans up in arms.  It’s almost as if banning gay marriage is a bigger priority than repealing Obamacare (Canada has both gay marriage and universal healthcare; guess which one is more detrimental to Canadian society).  Whatever ridiculous reaction (some of) the right has to this decision, though, is dwarfed by the ridiculousness (and vileness) of (much of) the left’s reaction, as it usually is.  The left never has been gracious in victory, has it?

There is, though, a legitimate point to be made about religious liberty (although that is not how I would characterize it).  The most frightening thing here has been the left’s desire to force small businesses to serve gay weddings when gay weddings go against the business owners’ religious beliefs (which, by the way, was happening long before gay marriage was legalized nationwide).  As I said, I wouldn’t characterize this as a “religious liberty” issue because private entities should be free to do whatever they want as long as it is not illegal (according to what should be illegal based on natural law).  If you own a bakery and you want to refuse to serve black people just because you’re a big ol’ racist, you should be free to (although that would be stupid of anyone to do because you would lose a lot of business).  That has nothing to do with religion; it is just none of the government’s business how business owners run their businesses (again, assuming no illegal activities).  It’s the same thing with churches and other religious entities; I don’t think churches should be treated any differently from any other private entity, as a matter of principle.  So their refusal to perform gay weddings (if they choose to do so) is not a matter of religious liberty, just a matter of liberty in general.  After all, religious liberty is merely a corollary to freedom of thought and therefore (true) freedom in general.

Now for the fun part.  Gay pride.  It is an embarrassment.  Regardless of whether or not everyone who participates in it behaves like a histrionic libertine, that is the image you see when they report about it on TV or when you search “gay pride” in Google Images.  In addition to rainbow flags, you also get lots of almost-naked people, people who are fully naked, people dressed up as genitals, sex toys, drag queens, etc.  Is this really the image gay people want to associate with themselves? As a gay guy myself (although I use the term “gay” loosely), it is mortifying. Especially to the gay kids who are watching that on TV and becoming ashamed of their sexuality as a result.  I’ve written a lot of posts on gay pride in the past (it is a tradition to rant against every year, after all. Because it’s fun), so I’ll just quote some other posts I’ve made in the past on the subject now.

Gay Pride is where gay guys march around in speedos and/or dresses making themselves look like idiots and confirming all the worst stereotypes about homosexuals.  I guess, more than anything, posts like this are meant to distance myself from those homosexuals who have no dignity and to remind people that homosexuals aren’t all about bright colours, dancing suggestively to electronic music, and dressing up as penises.  Many of us have several characteristics, and, in some cases, our characteristics do not include a tendency to do any of that (or to act in any stereotypically gay manner, for that matter).

I’m gay, so it should be second nature to me to march around wearing nothing but glitter and a pink jockstrap while thrusting my pelvis and dancing with drag queens and giant penises to techno music.  I mean, that is pretty much all gay people do, right?  Of course not. Stereotyping is appropriate for The Simpsons, to an extent, but this is real life, not The Simpsons.  And people can’t be shoved into boxes (or, they shouldn’t be able to be shoved into boxes).  And that is essentially what Gay Pride parades are doing.

I hate the word “queer.”  As I said, I generally fit pretty well into mainstream society.  But, I have my quirks, like everyone does.  So, why exactly is homosexuality uniquely weird to be designated with the word “queer,” which literally means “weird”?  I know it isn’t “normal,” but if there was a person who fit the definition of normal in every way, then that person would be a freak.  Homosexuality, to me, is basically incidental.  It changes how I live my life in a fairly minor way (I just date guys instead of girls.  Between the period before I even realized I was gay and now, I have changed how I lived my life in exactly one way because of that realization, and that is the change I just mentioned.  I eat the same foods, I have the same career plans, I have the same basic daily routine; pretty much everyting is the same (or is different because of some other, unrelated reason)). Being gay doesn’t inherently make me any more abnormal than anyone else (other things probably do, but that is another issue).

The narrative that the gay pride parade represents “progress” is universal (on the left, at least).  Any sort of statement to the contrary is promptly stifled with accusations of homophobia or worse.  Well, gay pride is stale. True progress for gay people would mean that there would be absolutely nothing to celebrate, which I believe is the case, and also that most people would recognize that there is nothing to celebrate, which obviously isn’t the case.

It is insulting to be reduced to the most negative stereotypes about gay people and have that celebrated.

On that note, it would make so much more sense to have pride in your accomplishments than it does to have pride in some characteristic you were born with.  But, you see, the problem with that would be that it goes against the left’s vision of equality, since not everyone has the same level of accomplishment and it would hurt the feelings of less successful people.  The left doesn’t believe in individual rights (or individuals), so people are reduced to their ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation (as well as what animal they identify as and their “traumas” they suffered at the hands of the patriarchy). That is a noble thing to do now (unlike in the 1800’s when the Democrats were doing basically the same thing), because it puts everyone on the same level (as least on the same level as everyone else with their same privelege score).

That is why it makes more sense for gays to be conservative (or libertarian or whatever).  The left debases (what they define as) minorities.  It is insulting. But, of course, the right is anti-gay, so all gays must be, by default, leftists.  Or they are self-loathing Auntie Toms.  It’s so liberating being required to think a certain way; we sure have come a long way since the ’50’s.

In actuality, the right is anti-gay in that it opposes “gay rights.”  Which it should, because gay rights don’t exist except as a subset of individual rights. And, being an individual (who merely happens to be attracted to men instead of women), I am all for individual rights.  That is why I am not a leftist.  “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities,” as Ayn Rand said.

So, if everyone is an individual, does that necessarily deny the legitimacy of a “gay identity”?  That is not necessarily what I am saying, although I do think the concept of a “gay identity” is a ridiculous anachronism.  Gays are well-enough integrated into mainstream society.  But, I am ultimately indifferent to however people want to identify themselves.  That is up to them.  Just don’t force that identity on people who don’t subscribe to it, which is what the left wants to do. Incidentally, this is the dumbest thing I have ever read.  The kind of person who wants to be a part of an “outsider culture” doesn’t need to be gay, they just need to be that kind of person. There are a lot of different “outsider cultures” that are not predicated upon sexuality.  It seems that a disproportionate amount of gays are like that, but a lot aren’t.

So, that is my annual gay pride rant (and overarching homosexuality-related post). I’m sure any leftist reading this would assume that my intention is to ban gay pride parades, which would be consistent with their way of thinking. However, I want to do no such thing.  People should be free to behave how they want to within the law. It seems to me, anyway, that gay pride parades have evolved into an excuse to have fun (by acting like a moron in a lot of people’s cases) more than any kind of gay rights rally.  But I’m also free to sit in my room and bittery complain about people having fun like the cantankerous old man yelling at the kids on his lawn that I really am trapped inside my 23 year old body.

See also: this spot-on Onion article.

1 – With the confederate flag issue, for example.  It is simply wrong to say that the confederate battle flag represents anything other than slavery, and I would be embarrassed to live in a place on whose capital grounds flies that reminder that it was once a horribly racist Democratic stronghold.  So while the Left might want to ban every instance of that old Democratic Party flag from public view, which is moronic, it is morally right to remove it from public property (i.e. government owned property).  I see no difference between opposing the Left’s desire to take down the flag and opposing their desire to ban it from public view altogether, other than the fact that one of those desires is actually justified and the other isn’t.

Statistics Support the Right to Bear Arms

In Canada, it’s not uncommon to hear Canadians say things about Americans, their guns, and their stubborn refusal to join the civilized world and enact “sensible gun control,” even in the aftermath of tragedies like the one in Charleston, South Carolina.

I’m not going to say that Canadians shouldn’t be talking about non-Canadian issues, since I do that all the time.  But, in my opinion, it makes you look foolish to do so when you don’t understand all the issues at play (I’m sure I’ve done that before too, but whatever).  The issue of guns in the US is not as black and white as most people make it out to be.

It is a pretty easy conclusion to come to that guns need to be “controlled” in the US to reduce gun violence.  After all, the US has far more guns per capita than any other country in the world, and it has more gun violence than the enlightened European countries.

However, within the United States, the statistics suggest something else.  Wyoming has the highest rate of gun ownership in the United States, and one of the lowest murder rates (that is Wikipedia, but the statistics come from the FBI).  Vermont has very few gun control laws, and it has the second lowest murder rate.  The District of Columbia has a much lower gun ownership rate than any state, but it has an astronomically high murder rate.

International statistics are also interesting.  Switzerland has a very high gun ownership rate, much higher than Brazil.  And yet, Brazil has a much higher murder rate (Switzerland is one of the safest countries in the world).  Another interesting country is Norway, which has the 11th highest rate of gun ownership in the world, but only had 2 gun-related homicides one year (less than 10% of homicides in Norway were by firearm).  It has one of the world’s lowest rates of gun violence.  Iceland had no gun-related homicides and 30.3 guns per 100 people (the 15th highest rate in the world).  Honduras has 14 times fewer guns per capita than the USA (only 6.2 guns per 100 people, compared to the USA’s 88.8) and 23 times the firearm-related murder rate (Honduras, a country of 8 million or so, had 5,201 firearm-related murders in whatever year these statistics are for.  The United States had 9,146 firearm-related murders.  It has 40 times more people than Honduras but less than 2 times the total number of firearm-related murders).

It is obvious that there is no correlation between gun ownership and crime rate (or even gun-related crime rate).  If you think about it, that makes sense, since most gun owners aren’t going around shooting people.  The kinds of people that shoot other people with their guns are those that are predisposed to criminal behaviour.  The root of the problem of American gun violence isn’t guns.  Most of the violence in the United States is gang-related, so whatever factors promote the widespread existence of gangs are more relevant than gun availability.  Those would be things like poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of parental guidance, etc.  Instead of lecturing responsible and law-abiding gun owners, a better approach might be to increase opportunity in the inner cities (perhaps by opening up the markets, allowing inner city students to attend better schools, and generally doing things that Democrats.  Democrats have almost invariably been in power in these cities for decades).  As for mass shootings, which, while tragic, account for a very small fraction of overall gun violence, improving mental health infrastructure and eliminating gun-free zones (which seems to be where most of the shootings happen) would probably be more effective than gun control.  How mental health infrastructure should be improved is another issue, but it is obvious that it is deficient in the United States.

I titled this post “Statistics Support the Right to Bear Arms” because they do; the statistics indicate more of a correlation between gun ownership and low crime rates than gun ownership and high crime rates.  So it seems that it is true that “an armed society is a polite society.”  But, as leftists are entirely incapable of grasping, the right to bear arms is a fundamental right that it is no less relevant than it was in Revolutionary America.  Perhaps the most important right there is, because it is necessary to defend every other right.  It is the ultimate expression of individuality.  If you own a gun and know how to use it, you don’t need to rely on the government to defend you from criminals (which the government can also be).

Conflating People with Ideology

I often see comments made by people growing up in “ultra-conservative” households or areas and becoming a “liberal” as a result.  Similarly, my early exposure to hippies living in the area of Nelson, BC was probably a major reason I was driven to the right.

There are still a lot of “conservatives” who are genuinely homophobic, transphobic, probably racist, or generally hold views that a lot of people would consider regressive.  On the right, there are people who consider faith more important than reason, people who put all their stock in tradition as opposed to what makes sense, people who think in terms of buzzwords and slogans, people who make personal attacks and fallacies in place of logical arguments, and people who seem to attack conservatives more than leftists.  In general, there are lots of people on the right who I do not agree with, as well as some that are rather despicable.

These kinds of experiences with people affect people’s perception of an ideology.  I like to think that I have arrived at my beliefs through careful, rational consideration, but I am not under the illusion that I haven’t been affected by this kind of thing as well.  As I said, I saw a lot of hippies when I was a kid.  Conservatism appeals to my personality; I am generally cautious and I don’t like to be the centre of attention, and thus I tend to wear pretty conventional clothes (that I buy at Walmart) and I speak quietly and generally fade into the background when I am around people.  I like to be in control and dislike chaos (one reason I don’t want the government to run my life for me; it takes control away from me).  And when I think of a leftist, I generally picture an unkempt and perhaps effeminate guy with a high-pitched voice who wears lots of bright-coloured clothes and hipster glasses.

But what kind of people you associate with a particular ideology or what kind of personality you might expect those people to have doesn’t have much to do with the underlying ideology.  Leftists can live like Mormons (or be Mormons) and conservatives can look like hippies (although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a thing) or use drugs and have a lot of anonymous sex (with people of either gender).  I can understand the frustration you might get as a young person growing up in a strict, conservative household, but that doesn’t imply anything about right-wing ideologies.  Which are quite diverse, and conservative/right-wing people themselves are quite diverse (in many ways).

On the other hand, there is probably some kind of correlation between a political ideology and what kind of person it attracts.  People who like to be in control of other people might be attracted to totalitarianism of some kind.  But thinking about politics in terms of people obfuscates the actual merits or demerits of the ideology in question.  You don’t need to consider communists to realize that communism isn’t a good philosophy, for example.