Nonviolence and Freedom

I’ve decided that Dr. Ron Paul would be the best next President of the United States, and it comes down to two principles: Nonviolence and Freedom, which may just be two sides of the same coin.

To understand my train of thought it’s important to understand two principles:

  • Fundamentally, government is the sanction use of force. Nothing gets done by means of government without the threat of men with guns showing up to take you away or kill you if you resist being taken away. This was illustrated for me this summer when the Federal Government conducted a siege of the house of a local dentist and her husband for several months until they were finally apprehended and taken away to prison for not paying taxes they feel are unconstitutional. The only thing that stopped a military-style assault on their home in June was a call from a well-placed official in Washington after the assault was already underway. Without buying their logic, legal strategy, or motives, I can sympathize with how they must’ve felt.

  • The natural state of the human being is freedom, and government should exist to maximize the freedom of each individual, only limiting it where one person’s actions will limit the freedom of another. One can derive this principle from history, religion, or game theory, but regardless of motivation, Freedom is the central notion in the founding of the United States of America.

Now, there are some other ideas that are important to keep in mind to build upon those principles:

  • Government is part of Society – deal with this via set theory if it’s easier, as the current state of affairs of the Nation may lead one to think that Government controls Society. This is a corruption of the natural order of things, and Society is the moral superior of the two, as Society operates through consensus, not violence. Charity is one key element of Society, and Government has been working hard over the last century to get a lock on Charity, as a means to ensure power. Besides that, Charity done through the threat of violence can scarcely be given that label.

  • Government is very hard to fire – Let’s take a concrete example of this: Road maintenance. Let’s say that a stretch of road, Stretch A, has its maintenance contracted out to it by a local government (assume government ownership of the road for this thought experiment) to Company A. Stretch B’s maintenance is contracted out to Company B. Now, Company A does a lousy job. The road gets potholes and people damage their cars, they don’t salt and sand it properly in winter, people get into lots of accidents, the road washes out where it’s not maintained, etc. Company B’s stretch of road is kept very nicely. They fill potholes, do the proper maintenance, and people go about their merry way. So, what do you do as the local government? The answer is strikingly clear – you fire Company A and assign Company B to maintain Stretch A of the road. This is basic, basic, free market principles at work. Now, suppose the Government maintains the whole road. What do you do when it fails to maintain the roads? The process to fix it is far more complex, and far less certain to achieve the proper result. This is a simple illustration of why the Government should be involved to the smallest degree as possible in each of its affairs – we have no competition in Governments.

  • You don’t have a right to steal from your neighbor. The logical extension of this principle is that all of the people on your block don’t have a right to steal from a given neighbor just because they decide they’d like to. However, a tipping point is reached, typically at a town level, where a large enough group of people decides to take from a person a portion of the fruits of his labor, and the general consensus these days is that this is OK. It’s balanced to a degree by the uniform application of taking across the citizenry, but it’s still inconsistent to the starting principle. To the extent that there isn’t yet a suitable replacement for taxation, the degree of taxation must be minimized to maximize Freedom and the ethics of the citizenry.

  • The Ends Don’t Justify the Means – the most common rallying cry of the Socialist is that ‘everybody will be better off in the end’. The justification “The ends justify the means” has been used by the most gruesome dictators throughout history, and is a lift ticket up the Slippery Slope. A virtuous people do not pepetrate evil, no matter the outcome.

  • The Rule of Law Ensures our Freedom – The United States of America was a unique experiment built upon the principles of the greatest thinkers in human history and these values are enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution limits our Government’s power, ensuring that our personal freedom should flourish. To the degree that we ignore it, we imperil our freedom, as if our founding principles are ignored, the only thing preventing an oppressive government is the righteousness and incorruptibility of those holding government offices. We would be wise not to count on that.

  • Corruption Increases with the Square of Distance – This is a name I’ve put to an observation – that the further away from the people power is rested, the more likely it will be influenced by corruption. Just ask yourself how much corruption is present on your Selectboard vs. how much corruption is in the State government, vs. how much corruption is present in the Federal government, and I think you’ll agree that it clearly gets worse at a distance. This is both a function of how easy it is to make a change, and how easy it is to keep an eye on the policy makers. Also factor in how easy it is to organize opposition, and how easy it is to concentrate corruption when it’s centralized.

So, deriving a set of policies from those principles is fairly easy in practice, and I believe this is why Dr. Paul often sounds so prepared on TV – it’s not all that hard:

  • The government should be as small as possible at every level.

  • Taxes should be as low as possible.

  • Charity should be returned to Society, where it can be done better.

  • Citizens should be allowed to make their own choices, so long as they don’t harm others.

  • Citizens should be treated as adults, and allowed to fail if they make poor choices. Only through this process can poor choices be eliminated.

Now, the biggest issue of the current campaign seem to revolve around issues of charity, so it’s worth expanding on that briefly. The current thinking among the Socialist-leaning candidates (please, ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ are meaningless labels) is that ‘somebody’ needs to do ‘something’ about [insert favorite issue here]. This thinking is a combination of laziness and guilt. Penn Gillette recently told a story about a conversation he had with an affluent friend of his arguing for government healthcare for children. This man asked Penn, who was arguing for small government, “but who will take care of the crack babies?” Penn answered with a pointed finger, “You. You will take care of the crack babies. If you care about them, then you will donate your money, you will donate your time, you will give of yourself.” But it’s easier to just make other people do it, isn’t it? This is part of treating the Citizenry as adults – they can make their own decisions, and we need to respect people’s decisions, even if they are the wrong ones. Sure, try to peacefully convince them otherwise – I’m all for it – but don’t ignore them and then send men with guns to their houses anyway.

So, if you can follow my line of reasoning, there’s only one candidate for President who agrees with nearly any of the above: Dr. Ron Paul.

He has many great ideas. For instance, taking the budget-neutral stance of returning Federal spending to Year 2000 levels and abolishing the personal income tax. Participating only in declared wars, so that our soldiers are afforded the protections of the Geneva convention. Unleashing the free market on our energy problems so that we can get out from under the thumb of the Middle East and other oil-rich thugs and dictators. Returning as much power as possible to the States, so that our Laboratory of Democracy can operate effectively.

And, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding: At the last debate, the candidate to volunteer to tackle the question of gasoline prices was Dr. Paul. He pointed to a Wall Street Journal article from the previous day comparing the price of gas compared with 8 years ago. It’s up about 300% in US Dollars. But it’s only up 200% in Euros. And it’s flat in terms of the price of gold. Dr. Paul has talked for hours about monetary policy and argues for pegging the US Dollar to a reserve, most reasonably gold. I’d sure like to be paying $1.03 for gas today, wouldn’t you? People complain that he prattles on about fiat currencies, fractional reserve banking, and the weakening of the dollar, but c’mon, people, this is a country of 300 Million people and the world’s largest economy we’re talking about putting somebody in charge of, we need somebody who understands this stuff cold, not someone who plays a mean riff on guitar. If we’re asking to be treated like adults we ought to start acting like ones.

In closing, I’ll be taking a stand tomorrow on what I believe in, not based on what some talking head on national TV has told me is reality. If everybody does so, we’ll prove those taking heads wrong.