Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 5

Clandestine vs. Open Corruption
Commentary regarding the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges has almost universally failed to recognize that corruption is inherently a part of the political process.

Politicians of all stripes routinely take money from donors in exchange to supporting particular legislation. The entire purpose of lobbyists and political action committees is to influence politicians, and that influence is often gained through donations. In principle, this is no different from the actions ascribed to Blagojevich.

I am certainly not trying to minimize the seriousness of Blagojevich's actions. However, it is hypocritical to criticize clandestine corruption while casting a blind eye toward open corruption. Both are wrong, and so long as politicians possess the power to dispose of anyone's property and life, such vote peddling will continue.

Imago Dei
Writing for the Weekly Standard, Joseph Loconte laments a United Nations call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel:

How did we arrive at this dismal state of affairs? The problem is not simply that human rights have become grossly politicized. The problem is that rights have been profoundly secularized--and severed from their deepest moral foundation, the concept of man as the imago Dei, the image of God.

This argument, of course, is not new. It holds that rights are a gift from God, and therefore can be justified only through mysticism and revelation.

The truth is, rights are derived from observable facts of reality. The values required to sustain and enjoy one's life to not magically appear like manna from heaven. They require effort--human effort. Alone on an island this fact would be crystal clear--you would have the choice to work or die. This fundamental requirement does not change when we enter society. However, others can deprive us of the fruits of our labor. Others can seize the values we produce, and thus deprive us of the means to sustain and enjoy our life.

Rights protect our freedom of action. Rights allow us to take the actions necessary to sustain and enjoy our life, so long as we respect the mutual rights of others. In short, rights allow us to live as human beings. And it is reality, not God, that is the source of our rights.

Principles and "Normal" Times
Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman provides more evidence why that once distinguished award has become little more than a symbol of intellectual corruption:
The claim that budget deficits make the economy poorer in the long run is based on the belief that government borrowing “crowds out” private investment... Under normal circumstances there’s a lot to this argument.

But circumstances right now are anything but normal.
Apparently there are economic principles that apply to "normal" times and economic principles that apply to "abnormal" times. Which really means, there are no economic principles--we must judge each situation on its own merits and then do "what is necessary". This is pure, unadulterated Pragmatism.

Principles are our means for projecting the future and identifying the consequences of our actions. When principles are abandoned, the future becomes an unpredictable, mysterious unknown. Having rejected their means for projecting the future, people then turn to palmists, shamans, and Nobel Prize winners for guidance.

Taxing Cow Farts
The EPA is considering a tax on livestock in an effort to reduce air pollution. This proposal is ripe for a wide variety of crude and tasteless comments, but I will resist the temptation. But it is clear that ranchers think this idea stinks:

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and "all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them."

Even with unemployment soaring, the stock market in the toilet, and projections for 2009 looking very gloomy, our wonderful federal guardians seem intent on destroying more jobs and driving up the cost of food. Ethanol wasn't enough apparently.

Bend Over and Grab Your Ankles
The gradual erosion of our freedom is no longer fast enough for the statists. From Gus Van Horn:
According to the American Policy Center, the United States is only two states short of obliterating what is left of our government's policy of protecting individual rights.

Obama has already stated that he believes the Constitution needs to be interpreted in light of the "modern" world. Which means, through the lens of Pragmatism, altruism, and collectivism. The principles put forth by our Founding Fathers--the supremacy of reason and the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness-- no longer apply in the "modern" world.

I'm no atheist in a fox hole, but God help us all if a Constitutional Convention actually convenes. The "right" to health care, education, and hair cuts will be written into the Constitution, and we all will officially become slaves of the state.


Burgess Laughlin said...

> "This argument . . . holds that rights are a gift from God, and therefore can be justified only through mysticism and revelation."

You might be interested in this confirmation from The Catholic Dictionary, Donald Attwater, general editor:

"RIGHT. . . . [natural rights] . . . usually understood by the term Rights of Man, are inherent in the human personality . . . . Their source is the Eternal Law. They arise because the duties imposed on the creature by the Creator involve as correlatives rights to enable those duties to be fulfilled."

For an example implementation of those views, see Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels, Ch. 7, "United They Fell," for discussions of Christian influences on the Weimar Republic, the doorway to the Nazi dictatorship. The Central Party, in particular, was "the political arm of the Catholic Church in Germany" (p. 152).

Brian Phillips said...

And as Dr. Peikoff points out, Hitler came along and demanded that the German people fulfill their duties.