Category Archives: Patriotism

Vain Pursuits

It is a curious artifact of American politics that the showcasing of a soldier’s widow (as Trump did during his recent address of a joint session of Congress) has the opposite effect one might imagine. If little Johnny were brought before the class by his teacher to show them how he lost a finger playing with firecrackers, one might expect that frightful outcome would instill in the other children a sense that perhaps holding a lit firecracker in your hand is perhaps not a good idea. We would not expect the children to feel emboldened to engage in the same activity.

Likewise, shouldn’t parading the grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers instill in our “leaders” an instinct to be more parsimonious when using this scarce human capital? We would hope they would become progressively less inclined to engage in bellicose rhetoric that necessitates sending soldiers into harms way. But no, it has the opposite effect. In order ensure the recently departed have not “died in vain” and to defend the “honor” of the country, the leaders become even more inclined to retaliate or engage in new overseas adventures with the supposed goal of “furthering US interests” or “consolidating US power.” Why is that? Because for all the high-minded sounding rhetoric (equality, peace, freedom) and apparently “civilized” structure of the modern democratic state these political decisions still turn on raw emotions. The same emotions that drove primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to raid each other’s villages today drive men in suits sitting under gold domes to murder people half a world away. There is no logic, there is no thought, just raw, visceral emotions of revenge, anger, and pride, all wrapped up in some twisted nationalistic package we label patriotism and uniformly applaud like trained seals when shoved in our faces.

Patriotism, literally “love of one’s country” drives not just American leaders but every other country’s ruling elite to engage in the stupidest, most ill advised behavior – from hot wars to trade wars – all to advance the goal of autarky in an “us vs. them” board game. I suppose it is true what they say, “love is blind,” but in combination with political power this aphorism becomes lethal if love of country blinds one to reason and logic. In the war on terror reason and logic would dictate that blowback and the desire to control others is the proximate cause of virtually the entire problem of terrorism. Stop throwing rocks at the hornet’s net if you want to stop getting stung; beating it harder only makes the problem worse.

You’d think we all want no more widows and orphans resulting from pursuing inane policies. That should have been the point of shoving into the face of Congress the results of their polices. If we keep wasting these fine men and women in vain political pursuits, we will one day find no one left to defend us from an actual external attack.

The Freedom Illusion

Today I write this article on Memorial Day while visiting a country (Germany) that those we honor today arguably did fight to bring freedom to. Although to be precise that was only an indirect consequence of the war. They were actually fighting to stop the military encroachment of Germany on its neighbors. Had Germany been content to stay within its borders and continue on with the fascist policies of the National Socialists it is no doubt certain Americans would have not gone there to “fight for freedom.” I have often heard the phrase “as the world watched in horror” concerning the atrocities of World War II. But that is not entirely true. Some may have watched in horror, but the vast majority of people both inside and outside those countries run by fascist regimes (Germany, Italy, Spain) simply watched and shrugged their shoulders. Nothing to see here, after all, the law is the law.

Today with our 20/20 hindsight we can clearly see the violations of human liberty that occur under such fascist regimes. Now we beat our chests about how such violations of freedom must be opposed. All the while we remain blind to the violations of liberty occurring in our midst. If we open our eyes what do we see? Well if we can manage to wipe the fog from the lenses of our rose colored glasses we can see most ruling regimes follow that same fascist template we now so heartily decry. Fascism originated in World War I Italy and came to prominence under Mussolini. Others soon followed (Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain) along with our own FDR. Fortunately we had a Supreme Court that tempered some of FDR’s alphabet soup of new “public-private partnership” agencies, but America was clearly on a fascist path. Today we are on that path yet again. To be clear, Fascism is not Nazism. Fascism is better known today as Corporatism, or Crony-Capitalism. It is a tight alliance between business and the state wherein the state calls the shots and the businesses that are serving the interests of the state collaboratively comply (energy independence, environmentalism, healthcare, education, etc). And everyone cheers the perceived benefits of sacrificed freedom.

So on this Memorial Day honor those that believed they were fighting for our freedom by recognizing the direction the world is headed in. Consider for a moment how much freedom we have already sacrificed in our permission based society. One is not free if one must ask permission to: start a business, get a job, hire employees, drive a cab, sell a product or service, keep their income, cross a border, get married, own a home. One is not free if one is subject to search and seizure in their own home or for merely walking or driving because they might have in their possession that is not approved. And on and on.

Honor the fallen (and those still with us) by fighting to both regain freedoms lost and by not sacrificing any more freedom. What the state gives us in return is either an illusion (safety) or that which we could have achieved on our own as free individuals.

Land of the free?

Willful ignorance is the ability to be both cognizant of a fact while simultaneously ignoring it. This affords one the ability to derive some measure of comfort from pretending to live in a world where such a fact is not extant. For example, a child may know deep down there is no Santa Claus but derives more psychic comfort in pretending that there is. Any belief system that makes testable claims is susceptible to objective scrutiny and when that scrutiny undermines the belief, willful ignorance typically ensues in order to preserve the comfort of that belief. While the world has many religions, there is one belief system that transcends them all. Nearly every member of our species adheres to it (insofar as it seems to be woven into our DNA). It is known as tribalism or its more common variant, patriotism. This is the belief that ones own arbitrarily defined group is superior to all other arbitrarily defined groups. One can even stack their tribes and believe each is the best (best city, best county, best state, best country). Now while there may be no way to prove or disprove ones estimation of their group’s “greatness” sometimes the patriot will make a testable claim, such as, “America stands for freedom and independence” or “America is the freest country in the world.” The latter is easily disproven by reviewing any of the various indices of freedom (the US ranks very poorly at around 25th). But even if the US is not quite the freest it is still believed by the patriot that America is a “free” country; that we fought the Revolutionary War in order to gain our “freedom”. A close examination of the actual history shows that it was not a war of independence for the peoples of the United States but rather a war of independence for the governments of those states from Great Britain. The individual remained just as ruled after the war as before, all that changed was the accent of the ruler. But the myth persists, that America is all about freedom of the individual against tyrannical governments and that our military fights to preserve “our freedom”. This is where the willful ignorance comes in to play. Let us examine the evidence that puts the lie to that notion of “our freedom.”

Would a free country enact laws restricting the non-violent behavior of its citizens? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they exchanged an unapproved good or service for money? Would a free country throw people in a cage if the exchange were approved but the exchange did not conform to some third party’s idea of the proper conditions for the exchange? Would a free country throw people in a cage because they did not get permission from someone to work for themselves or others? To wit, a recent article in the Morgan County Citizen (3/3/16, pg. 1) or Lake Oconee News (3/10/16) concerning a lake homeowner who faces JAIL TIME for renting out her home for short-term vacations. The horror! Yes, certainly, let’s JAIL this MONSTER who clearly represents an imminent threat to public safety. The point is not “did she do it?” the point is “how can such a law even exist in a supposedly free country?” America the land of the free? North Korea would be proud.

Laws prohibiting or regulating human actions are in an absolute sense anathema to the supposed principles this country was founded on: freedom. If a transaction is voluntary and there is no fraud involved then it can’t be “wrong” in a civic sense. You might morally frown upon some activities but you have no more right to impose your morals on others than they have to impose theirs on you. If you wish to live exclusively among those sharing your exact moral code, then follow the Amish example and set up your own private communities. The public sphere does not become a private sphere just because you happen reside within it. Repeat after me: if violence (or the threat thereof) is the only way society can change the behavior of non-violent actors then there is something wrong with society.

Called to serve?

Top military leaders this past week called for expanding the Selective Service System (the registration wing of the currently idle, but easily re-activated, draft) to include women. Their narrative is that it is simply a matter of fairness. Women currently serve in all branches of the military just as capably as men, so at face value there really is no practical reason to continue excluding them from registration. The fact that this is being brought up now may be entirely innocuous; it was bound to happen sooner or later. Or, it could be an omen that signals this country is setting down a path of expanding, not contracting, its role of interfering in the affairs of foreign nations. An expanding global empire after all requires an expanding police force to maintain order. After more than ten long years of endless warfare our currently all volunteer armed forces is thinning out as they are stretched like an ever expanding net around a globe that refuses to be tamed by American hegemony.

The principled position regarding the SSS and the draft for which it stands is that it is an abhorrent violation of the rights of the individual. It treats our sons and (soon) daughters as mere chattel to be deployed by the state for whatever capricious whim those in power decide will benefit them and their cronies – all the while cloaking such moves under the flag of “patriotism”. Some try to claim it is one’s “civic duty” to serve if called upon by their country but that is but a smokescreen; all civic duties are forms of slavery, differing only in degree but not kind from the more familiar chattel slavery (lack of consent is at the heart of the evilness of slavery). Attempts to legitimizing slavery by calling it something noble is a ploy worthy of the Devil but not honest men. We may recoil in horror at stories of armed guerrillas in some far off country kidnapping young men and boys in order to dragoon them into service for their cause – but, in substance, it is no different than a draft into the armed forces of a modern state. A young person, against their will, is forced to take up arms and murder other human beings (or assist in that murder), and if they do not then they are put to death or imprisoned for decades by their own supposed “countrymen.”

Currently the draft is “inactive”, however the law is still on the books and it can be re-activated at a moment’s notice. For those without children between the ages of 18-26 this may not register on your political radar, but believe me, for those of us with children in this age group (like myself) it is cold comfort that it is inactive when we see that our next President will likely be one of the warmongers Trump, Cruz, or Clinton.

Some have argued it is actually beneficial to have an active draft in place, as it makes politicians more cautious about sending the sons (or daughters) of their constituents off to die. However I think Vietnam put the lie to that argument. President Johnson was all to happy to send 58,000 young men to their death in an utterly pointless conflict that had zero bearing on US security. Now consider that conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq also have had zero relevance to US security and we see that politicians will never tire of wasting American lives and treasure in fruitless endeavors. All the more reason to completely end the draft and the SSS once and for all. Women should not welcome this kind of equality.

If the US mainland were actually threatened or attacked the problem would not be getting recruits, it would be organizing the overwhelming number trying to join the fight. By and large most feel the instinct to defend what is theirs; after 9/11 recruitment levels sored. Declining numbers in the volunteer armed forces is not an indication of declining patriotism. Rather it is voting by deed, and this vote loudly proclaims the American population does not view with much seriousness the shrill warnings from the ruling class that danger threatens us on every front. Particularly when those fronts are 8,000 miles away.

Restore Our Freedom

This Memorial Day weekend we are once again drowning in a sea of reminders of what this holiday is truly about; honoring those servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of protecting our “freedom”. Memorial Day has become the secular state’s equivalent of Easter in the de facto state religion: the Church of the State. In this new religion we worship icons (the flag), we beatify the saints (former presidents) but above all we worship those in the military who involuntarily (the draft) or voluntarily sacrificed their lives upon the altar of the state. They, like Jesus through his death, gave us a gift – in this case it is the gift of “freedom” rather than salvation. Unfortunately the myth of that gift is a lie. This lie allows the political class to maintain their hold on power by simultaneously convincing the noble to serve and the gullible to vote.

Now don’t get me wrong, those who have given their lives are indeed worthy of remembrance and respect. It is the rare individual who will sacrifice not for just his own kin, but for strangers he has never met. Such men and women are true heroes. What I am addressing is the monstrous lie our own government deploys every time they send these brave souls into harms way. To those in government, the citizenry is but mere fodder, to be disposed of with as much regard as one has for Kleenex when blowing one’s nose. Ever since the draft ended (and we stopped forcing young men to kill others at gunpoint) a false narrative has been spun in order to convince those of noble hearts that they are participating in something grand, something larger than themselves, that they are securing “freedom” for their fellow man.

Although superficially plausible (the military protects our freedom) ask yourself, when is the last time this country engaged militarily with anybody that was actually threatening to encroach upon our “freedom” as it were? Was North Vietnam preparing to invade Florida? Was Saddam Hussein ready to roll into Delaware? Yes, I see you there in the back of the class with your hand up going “ooh, ooh, ooh” just busting to remind us all of Hitler or Pearl Harbor. Surely those are example wherein our military protected our “freedom”. Pearl Harbor falls into the same category as 9/11; situations where the passive-aggressive interference of the US (e.g. economic sanctions against Japan, US troops in the middle east) were the direct and proximate cause of these supposed “first strikes” that were in fact counterattacks. That is not “blaming America” to recognize this fact – but it is indeed blaming our politicians who provoked these events. Their recklessness resulted in events that caused us to sacrifice so many needlessly. But seriously, does anyone think Germany or Japan could have invaded and taken over the entire continental United States? Please.

Every military situation this country has been involved in owes its genesis to some initial act by our own government. Even the rise of Hitler is directly traceable to US involvement in World War I (thank you Woodrow Wilson!) insofar as our strong hand during armistice negotiations table made the onerous treaty of Versailles possible. This lopsided treaty punished Germany so harshly it set the stage for Hitler’s rise; absent that treaty Hitler would have remained a bitter nobody.

If we truly wish to honor those troops that have given their lives, we too must fight. We must fight to elect those that promise to pull our military back to our shores and end our ceaseless meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. The biggest threat to our freedom is not from some foreign invader but rather from our own government. We are fast on our way to becoming a 100% permission based society. Consider what freedoms we have already lost and then consider the irony of thanking veterans for protecting these dwindling “freedom”: we must ask for permission from government to get a job, take a drug, start a business, pay an employee, sell alcohol, cut hair, sell any product, teach our children, by a gun, carry a gun, buy health insurance, board a plane, leave the country, enter the country, get married, or leave belongings to loved ones when we die. Likewise no permission is needed from us if the state wishes to enter our homes, cars or persons, guns drawn, looking for “something”. “Papers please!” cannot be too far behind.

So I say to the troops, if you really want to protect my freedom, don’t do it rolling around in a Humvee in some dessert somewhere. Do it by getting yourself elected and being part of the turning of the tide on government trespasses against our freedoms.

Sticks and stones

The Charlie Hebdo massacre this week left the world in shock. What sort of barbarous evil would drive someone to kill – over a cartoon? Apparently emotions – emotions fed by the infallibility of one’s beliefs. Infallibility is immune from reason, logic, and rational discourse. Infallibility is a necessary, although not sufficient, prerequisite for evil done in the name of the “greater good.” The nature of the belief is irrelevant – all that matters is the perpetrator thought themselves infallible. How then does one fight infallibility? It is a belief not in ideas, but rather the egoism of one’s perfection. Honestly, I do not know. To be sure, one can harmlessly think they have it all figured out and the rest of us are just fools. But, how badly would such a person feel that if for the greater good of advancing their obviously correct beliefs, it became necessary to initiate aggression toward another? Not very, it would seem. How many of us are guilty of not objecting to the passage or existence of some law that we happen to agree with but which restricts the rights of others who are harming no one? How many of us support wars because of the unstated patriotic truth that one’s own country can do no wrong? If the state is defined as social aggression, then any given citizen is a passive-aggressor.

The beliefs of these particular Muslims led them to interpret the Koran in such a way that it was their infallible belief that they had every right to take such actions. Obviously (being infallible myself!) they were wrong in that belief. But, as crazy as it might seem, their belief is not far removed from the laws in France (and many other “Western” countries) as well as the opinion of a good number of Americans. Abstractly, the belief is that one has the right to not be offended by other people, and, if such an offense occurs, one has the right to cease further offenses, by any means necessary. Well it just so happens that France has a law against insulting people based on their religion. Violation of this law includes severe fines and jail time. It also happens that Charlie Hebdo was sued under this law in 2006 by the Paris Grand Mosque and the Union of French Islamic Organizations. Charlie Hebdo won that suit, however the precedent was set. It is ok for society to say “we think that is offensive, you must stop or else.” Had they lost the case and resisted being dragged off to a jail cell, the outcome would have been similar; a gun standoff between agents of the state (police) and Charlie Hebdo. The only difference this week is that the two gunmen didn’t get the memo: violence is only ok if a majority of people approves – morality is a function of a popular opinion don’t you know.

In other words, if Hebdo had lost their case, and the two gunmen had hypothetically been part of the French police force sent in to drag them off to prison and had killed them in the process, then instead of lamenting the deaths people would be excusing it with platitudes like “well that’s what happens when you break the law.” Just to be clear – I am in no way excusing the actions of the gunmen. I am pointing out that the actions of a state, any state, that would compel its citizens to stand trial for the crime of insulting someone’s sensibilities are equally abhorrent.

As Americans you would think we would be immune to this sort of idiocy – home of the 1st amendment as we are. Apparently not. Rapper ‘Tiny Doo’ is facing life in prison in California over his lyrics. And a recent YouGov poll found not insignificant support for “hate speech” laws (36% of all respondents and 51% of self-identified Democrats!). Yes, hate speech is vile, ugly and worthy of being ignored. However, mere words, mere ideas, should not be punishable by fines or jail, lest we fall into an Orwell novel where “thoughtcrime” is equivalent to action-crime. Ron Paul summarizes this most succinctly; “We don’t have the First Amendment so we can talk about the weather. We have the First Amendment so we can say very controversial things.” We should not be so afraid of bad ideas that we drive them into the shadows; rather, we should endeavor to annihilate them under the scorching light of our own ideas, in the marketplace of ideas that is a free society.

Tax It Your Way

The recent announcement that Burger King will merge with a Canadian food chain (Tim Hortons) and shift its corporate headquarters from the US to Canada has predictably tripped the frothing at the mouth reflex of tax-hungry statists. Why? Because such a merger and move (known in tax lingo as “inversion”) means that Burger King no longer need pay the 35% US corporate tax rate (one of the highest in the world and despite popular media propaganda that focuses on a sliver of corporations avoiding it, it is in fact paid by 99.5% of US corporations) on income earned outside the US (they will still pay 35% on their US income). They instead will pay the much lower Canadian rate of 15%.

“Unpatriotic” is the word President Obama has used in the past to describe such tax inversions (which are completely legal) and his retinue are now all too eager to join that chorus – uncritically parroting the approved talking points put out by the administration. This sentiment of “economic patriotism” demands that one’s love of country directly correlate with one’s willingness to hand over whatever the state demands.

Obama has also said tax minimization may be legal but it’s “wrong.” Really? This is a rather warped interpretation of right and wrong. Traditionally “wrong” is reserved for those actions that violate one’s natural rights (theft, murder, rape). If Mr. Obama’s use of this term is technically correct then it betrays a scary proposition: individual ownership can not exist because all is owned by the collective, otherwise how else could it be wrong to keep one’s property, unless it was never yours to begin with.

This sentiment is shared by both the left and the right insofar as both are statist at their core. While they may differ in degree, they stand in solidarity on substance: the role of the individual in society is to serve the interests of the state. A vehement disagreement over whether 35% or 25% is a “fair” tax rate is much sound and fury signifying no disagreement. Shall the master allow his slaves one hour or four hours of rest? Clearly those in favor of one hour are godly and moral men while those supporting four are raving lunatics. But truly insane is the man who says slavery itself is immoral. Pay no heed to him, what he proposes would never “work” in the real world. So you see dear citizen, the profits earned by Burger King (or any company or person) are not really theirs. It belongs to us all, to the state, to the Homeland. How dare you attempt, even legally, to reduce by one red cent your contributive fair share to the communal pot?

The usual sort of justifications for unbounded taxation is that because a company receives benefits from the state (courts, policing, military, roads, research, education, etc.) this therefore establishes an obligate contractual relationship necessitating payment (of a unilaterally determined magnitude) for such benefits. If that is indeed true, then mobster-extorted protection money is equally legitimate.

Ignored in this false choice analysis is the possibility that these supposed benefits of the state would exist in the absence of the state. Naturally they would exist except in the minds of those bereft of an entrepreneurial spirit. The only difference is that privately produced “public” goods would be of higher quality and lower cost. If you’re unconvinced of this fact, just insert the word “public” in front of any good and consider which you would prefer in relation to the privately provided alternative (e.g. toilet, school, transit, food, clothing, car, healthcare, etc.) The difference in costs and quality between tax supported goods and market provided goods is the true dead weight tax cost and represents a net loss to society no different than if the government paid a million men to dig holes and fill them in.

It seems the tax-hungry-economic-patriot can’t decide what they want. If you protest the system they claim you’re unpatriotic and hate America and should leave. But when you take their advice and do leave you are then targeted with the vilest of epithets. But that sort of inconsistency should be expected; the ethics of the statist is consistently inconsistent insofar as they owe their allegiance to the mantra “the ends justify the means.”

Irony Day

There is no holiday more incongruous with its stated celebratory raison d’être than the 4th of July, otherwise known as Independence Day, but perhaps more appropriately Irony Day. It purports to celebrate the complementary combination of political and individual independence (aka freedom and liberty). That it takes place in a country that actively thwarts the former while ignoring, for utilitarian reasons mind you, the latter, is perhaps more sardonic than it is ironic.

Consider for a moment what the representatives of the nascent United States did in July 1776: they made a declaration of secession. That is, they formally declared their disassociation from a larger political entity. Such is the right of all individuals. But from the vantage point of the state they had committed the most unforgivable of sins: treason (the crime of betraying one’s country wherein “betray” is equivalent to “desiring to no longer be ruled by”). It is curious indeed that a universal feature of states is that no crime is considered more egregious than for one to undermine its authority by leaving it. In this regard the United States is no different than every other country; from the Civil War to various state secession movements the US has been quite consistent in operating contrary to its founding principals. This is the mantra of the hypocrite: do as I say, not as I did. The propaganda of inviolable political solidarity permeates our most holy, secular prayer to the state-as-god, the pledge of allegiance. With its appeal to profession of undying allegiance to the very idea of “one nation… indivisible” we are indoctrinated nearly from birth with childish appeals to Manifest Destiny. Consider the absurdity of that idea for a moment. If Maine joined Canada or Florida became an independent nation, do we truly believe the other 49 states somehow could no longer continue on? One is left to wonder how 200 odd countries get along without being part of our union. The fear of secession movements is predicated on one thing: money. It is no different than a mob boss acting out against a business that decides to “secede” from the mob’s extortion racket; there is little daylight between what the State and the Mob are willing to do to retain their power.

It is easier to erect a fence around sheep than to hunt down the wolf.

 

While the 4th of July is one part celebration of history, it is another part celebration of what we believe that historical event granted us: liberty. All people have a natural and instinctual love of liberty. No one relishes the idea of being subjugated and told what to do. So this begs the question: why do we with one hand pay lip service to notions of independence and with the other hand pull the voting lever for politicians who enact laws that restrict our independence? I call it The Cage Effect: only those at the edge are aware the cage exists. Laws affect other people (at the edge), not us (in the middle). We have allowed the political class to build this cage around us; we naively believe them when they promise to keep us safe. It is easier to erect a fence around sheep than to hunt down the wolf. But the web of laws, regulations, edicts and arbitrary enforcement serve not to protect us but to subjugate us into dependence. The entrepreneurs, free thinkers, and non-conformists who try to break free are routinely frustrated. They, and those who witness their trials, try to rouse those in the interior to fight back, but they prefer to remain blissfully ignorant or assure us it is for our own good. The mantra of the statist is that if anyone leaves the cage, all will suffer, therefore no one may ever leave.

As a state becomes more totalitarian, its cage shrinks. Eventually it becomes small enough that all are affected. On July 4, 1776 the cage was quite large. Today it is much smaller. Perhaps one day we shall break free. That day will truly be Independence Day.