Moral Absolutism is True

Moral Absolutism maintains that there is at least one, or maybe more, moral values or duties (rules) that are not condition specific, but instead apply always everywhere all the time under every possible case. Repeatedly, I’ve heard objections to this when people demonstrate exceptions to certain commonly held moral rules. For example, one might say that there are exceptions to the rules “Don’t lie”, and “Don’t kill” that mean they don’t apply in certain rare types of cases, and therefore no absolute moral rules exist. They’ll also usually say something about how complex the world is, so it’s too simplistic to believe that any moral rule can be true always. This is nonsense. Demonstrating that some *particular* rules aren’t absolute doesn’t mean that there aren’t other rules that *are* absolute. Remember that even if one rule is absolute, absolutism is true, by definition above.

What the objector is observing is that some rules are merely “rules of thumb” that are true most of the time, but not always. But, there may be a higher level rule that is more generally applicable which covers both the rule of thumb and its exceptions. For example, I agree that “Don’t lie” is merely a rule of thumb. So, if my wife likes surprises, and I start leaving to go out to the mall to buy her a gift, and she asks me at the house, “Why are you leaving?”, it is morally permissible for me to lie and say, “I’m going to have lunch with Bob”. This way, I can later surprise her with a gift. The higher level moral rule that governs may be something like “Love other people”, or the Golden Rule, or something of the like, which dictates that one usually shouldn’t lie (for deceitful or harmful reasons), but that it’s ok to lie in my gift-to-wife case because my lie is actually acting lovingly in favor for my wife, and she would actually admit that she is glad that I lied after the fact once she already receives my gift. So, it’s possible that higher level, more general rules govern the rules of thumb and also their exceptions. If ALL exceptions and cases are covered, then this higher level rule might even be an absolute rule. But, hypothetically, if you found an exception to the rule “Love other people”, or maybe the Golden Rule, then that still doesn’t disprove moral absolutism because there could still be an even higher level rule that governs the “Love other people” rule along with the exception you might have found.

Now, why should we think moral absolutism is correct? First, I’ll explain why we shouldn’t be surprised if it were correct. The parallel is the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc). The entire history of the natural sciences over the past few centuries is the story of scientists gradually discovering a smaller and smaller number of natural laws, usually simple laws, mind you, which are more and more widely applicable and “general” (the scientific word for “absolute”) to govern all the immensely complex phenomenon we observe. It’s been established that biology is governed by chemistry and physics, and chemistry is governed by physics, and so all nature is governed by a small number of physics laws. Even systems which are too complex to model with supercomputer simulations are still governed by these few laws of physics. So, clearly, complexity of particular situations does not mean that general or absolute laws do not exist. Second, if general absolute laws exist for everything we observe in nature, it shouldn’t be surprising if they exist in other fields of study, such as ethics.

To prove moral absolutism more explicitly, at least for my Christian brethren, I offer this. The rules “Love God” and “Obey God” are always and everywhere true and binding under all cases, and therefore absolute. Therefore, moral absolutism is true. There may be more absolute rules, but here’s two for starters.

Negan’s a Great Reformer

Negan, from Walking Dead, isn’t really that bad of a guy once you think about it. He’s very community-oriented; no one has their own anarchistic atomistic individual names, but everyone is named “Negan”. He and his crew offer protection services. Sure, he demands half of your stuff (reminds me of Bernie Sanders…), but that’s the price we pay for living in a civilized orderly society. Actually, he says he owns everything, so really he’s very kind to let you have half of his stuff. He made great progressive reforms on gun control:  no one in the Alexandria community can have guns. The number of gun murders, particularly against Negan’s enforcers, will go down. Notice how the Alexandrians are peaceful and docile now? You can thank the order that Negan brings. Also, he’s centralizing authority and unifying people across vast lands into one great polity. Gone are the old days of disorganized local community rule. The people implicitly consent to his rule by deciding to stay withing his territory. If they don’t like Negan, they can always leave his territory; therefore, they actually do consent to everything he does. Sure, he’s hurt and killed people, but only because they broke his rules. They brought it on themselves. If you don’t break his rules, you won’t get hurt. Instead of saying, “F@*k Negan”, how ‘bout they just obey the rules? As he frequently admits, he’s quite reasonable in dealing with you as long as you don’t break his rules.

Russel Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” (1953), & Immigration Innovations

Kirk is a famed conservative historian and one of its revivalist intellectual leaders back in the day. He wrote on the history of conservatism over the past couple centuries in the US and Britain. I recently read this as a recommendation from a conservative friend so that I can learn about “true conservatism” from a learned source. I think half of Kirk’s arguments are poor, but I won’t get into that right now. Interestingly, one of the main tenets of “true conservatism”, and the most prominent theme throughout the book, is the principle that we should hold fast to old ways and institutions even if they don’t seem rational, and not adopt new ways (thus the name *conserv*ative).

Even though I disagree with Kirk, I’d like to point out a contradiction for people who call themselves conservatives. Most of our immigration restriction laws were passed in the early 20th century during the Progressive Era (an era where everyone believed govt should control everything “for the greater good”). Before that, immigration was relatively free and open, usually. So, these restrictions are relatively new innovations, not old fashion tradition. Accordingly, today’s conservatives aren’t “real” conservatives, but fake ones, at least on the topic of immigration. Interestingly, and although Kirk wasn’t referring to immigration specifically when he wrote this, Kirk even says that “true” conservatism mostly died in the early 20th century. I now see that it’s not a coincidence that this is the exact same time that the US starts ramping up its immigration restrictions. So, my recommendation to conservatives is to go back to our older traditions of more open borders and start acting like a “true conservative” in the immigration department.

On a separate but related note, I wonder if modern conservatives believe that the US began in the early 20th century instead of 1776 (or 1789). After all, they say that “a nation that allows easy immigration is a nation without borders”, and “a nation without borders is no nation at all”, so therefore conservatives must think that the US didn’t even exist between 1776 and the early 20th century when we had more open borders.

Illegal Redheads and Their Anarchistic Criminal Ways

I frequently hear conservatives emphasize the fact that illegal immigrants are in fact illegal and breaking the law. They also say things like “this is a nation of laws” and “I’m not against immigration, I’m just against illegal immigration” and “What is it about ‘illegal’ that they don’t understand?”.

These conservatives are bypassing the real issues at hand. The question is not, “Is illegal immigration illegal and breaking the law?”. Of course it is. The relevant question is, “Is the law that blocks immigration a just or unjust law, and *should* we have this law in the first place?”. Another relevant question is, “If the law is unjust, is it also unjust and immoral to enforce unjust laws?”. Also, we must remember that the question of whether or not a person should follow the immigration laws is a separate question from whether or not it’s morally right and just to have said laws and enforce said laws. So, even if you think the Mexicans or whoever else should follow our (unjust) immigration laws, this does not demonstrate that the laws are just and right. The purpose of this post is not necessarily to convince you that immigration restrictions are unjust. I make those arguments elsewhere in other posts. My purpose here is to emphasize that it is not enough to merely say “it’s illegal” and “we’re a nation of laws” and “we’re only deporting illegal immigrants”, as if these phrases justify the govt’s enforcement actions. Conservatives must focus on arguments of justice if they wish to even attempt to adhere to good reasoning.

So, let’s consider a hypothetical example. What if the govt passed a law that says, “All people, citizens or not, in the US with red hair are not allowed to have a job and work for money unless they have a special permission slip (permit) granted by the govt.” And, this same law has a clause within it that says, “Only 5% of redheads shall be granted permits”, leaving most red heads in the position where they cannot legally work. Then, what if we see that some non-permitted red heads are actually secretly working and getting income from employers who would like to hire them. These disorderly anarchistic criminals, as conservatives might call them, would be breaking the law. The police would be looking for them, ready to kidnap them and confine them in a cage (jail) by force, doing harm to the redhead and their family. Conservatives would start saying, “What is it about ‘illegal’ that they don’t understand?”. They might also say, “I’m not against redheads working for a living, I’m just opposed to illegal redheads working”. Of course, the logical person would reply, “If so, then why not just grant permits to all redheads so that they all can work legally?”. Now, surely you would see how ridiculous and unjust this law is. Just because it’s a law doesn’t mean that it *should* be law or that it’s a good and just law. This hypothetical redhead law would be unjust and an immoral use of govt force and violence. Also, it would be unjust to enforce this law even if it did exist.

If these redheads were Christians, they might even be obliged to obey the law because the Bible tells Christians to obey all laws even if they are unjust and wrong, out of self-denial and to suffer unjust persecution by govt. But, this requirement to submit and endure unjust suffering under unjust laws does not imply that the law itself is just and right, and does not imply that it is just for the govt to have the law and enforce it. So, conservatives must grapple with the more important questions that I outlined above, instead of bypassing them with the trivial saying of “it’s illegal”.

Conservatives say that they are in favor of “legal” immigration. If this were true, then they would have no problem legalizing immigration. Do they not know that the US places arbitrary limits on the number of immigrants that can come from each country. The number of people that wish to enter far exceeds the number that govt allows, which is why people come illegally. The US govt is not denying them on the particularized basis of known disease or criminal records, but is denying them in aggregate solely based on numerical limits to keep immigration levels down. The only reason most immigration is illegal is because the govt has simply made it illegal to reduce immigration. It would easily become legal if the govt just legalized it. So, if conservatives are ok with legal immigration, they should have no problem with lifting the numerical limits and allowing immigrants to come in legally in larger numbers. This is what I meant in my analogy of the redheads in that the govt only grants permits to a small fraction of red heads. If you are ok with legal red heads, you should advocate that more redheads get legal permits.

Lastly, I understand the conservatives’ concern about public funds being used to aid immigrants who are poor. I’m against all wealth redistribution by force. Although the numbers don’t actually work out and they don’t actually cause a net burden on the govt’s budget (especially in the long term), I appreciate their concerns and share them to a degree. In this case, the solution is easy:  We can simply have a law that forbids immigrants from receiving govt aid for life, and they would have to sign a waiver as a condition of entry. That way, they can come legally, but they won’t be allowed to receive govt aid. You can even deny them citizenship so that they can’t vote “incorrectly”. What matters is allowing them to enter and work and live here if they wish.

Should Christians Unite with and Support President-Elect Trump

Now that the divisive election is over and Trump won, many conservatives and Christians are calling for everyone to unite with and support Trump since, after all, he’s about to be our new President. However, even if you voted for Trump and saw him as a lesser of two evils compared to Clinton, you can still agree with my following statements now that the election is over and you are safe from the supposedly greater evil. Christians should be careful to clarify exactly what they mean when they say that we should “unite” and “support” the new President Trump. “Unity” can sound good to Christians because it sounds like peace, a very Christian theme. “Supporting the new President” can sound good to Christians because it sounds like submitting to government, something the Bible calls Christians to do. However, these perceptions are wrong.

Firstly, yes, it is true that Christians are to submit to govt and Trump, i.e. obey their commands/laws as long as these do not force us to sin. My following statements are not about submission and obeying the law, but on unity and support.

Now, let’s talk about unity. The Bible does not teach us to be united in a general unqualified sense. Christians are to be united in the body of Christ and seek to resolve disagreements. But, the scriptures teach that Christians are to separate themselves from evil behavior and not join others in the practice and advocacy of evil actions. We should not unite with evil. We are to be separate and holy. Therefore, if a person or group of people plan to do evil, it is right for Christians to speak against them (in regards to the evil actions) and against the evil plans and actions, and use appropriate methods (those permissible by scripture) to oppose the evil actions. I’m not referring to the stereotypical topics that leftists talk about in regard to Trump, such as his poor personal behavior and offensive language. I’m talking about Trump’s actual policy agenda and platform that he touted during the whole campaign, such as his plans to restrict immigration and trade.

Matthew 10:34-39 comes to mind as just one small example of what I’m talking about in regards to the rightness of some kinds of division and conflict, as Jesus says:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

If the unity of the family is subordinate to unity with Christ and opposition to evil, than so is “national unity”. This does not mean a literal sword to kill non-Christians, but there is spiritual warfare between God’s kingdom and the worldly darkness. While being physically nonviolent and still loving our enemies and seeking to win them over, we must also not join ourselves to evil actions and plans. We must be separate.

Similarly, this leads to the topic of “supporting” Trump. Obviously, it is wrong for Christians to support evil actions or to advocate or cheer them being implemented, and to actively assist an evildoer in carrying out evil plans and actions. Therefore, Christians should not generally support Trump, but only support Trump on those occasions (which will probably be rare) where he plans to do good instead of evil. Otherwise, for the likely majority of cases, lending support is wrong.

You may think that my labels of “evil” are rather harsh. You may even think that many of Trump’s plans aren’t evil or sinful. In that case, the debate should be on that question of whether or not Trump’s plans are evil. This would be the appropriate debate. But, we should not promote unity and support in a general sense because this can cause us to not only confuse others, but confuse ourselves. We should support Trump in a contingent dependent sense, dependent on whether or not the particular thing to be united and supported at a given time is good or evil. Then, we should debate the contingencies.

Lastly, you may think it strange that I consider most of Trump’s plans to be evil and sinful. Indeed, most of his plans will be sinful if he does what he says he would do. And, this is not just a Trump thing. I would be saying the same for Clinton. In fact, I believe that 95% of everything the govt does is sinful and evil, in addition to being practically harmful and destructive. But, you may disagree. So, I’ll ask this one question: “Is it sinful to *initiate* violence, forceful coercion, robbery and/or aggression against another person who is not themselves violent, forceful, and aggressive, and who has not violated anyone else?” By *initiate*, I am ruling out defense of one’s self or others against pre-existing violence and force. So, I’m not talking about whether it’s a sin for a police officer to use force to *stop* a pre-existing fight or save someone from pre-existing violence. I am also ruling out defense and restitution against property violations (stealing, arson, etc). Instead, I’m asking you if it’s wrong to be the initiator and first actor of violence, coercion, robbery, and aggression against a peaceful person. If you answer “yes” that it is wrong and sinful, then it directly follows that 95% of govt actions are wrong and evil, and that the vast majority of Trump’s plans will be no different. This is true particularly with his plans to restrict immigration and international trade.

Both immigration and international trade involve peaceful people simply crossing a jurisdictional line (not a property line) or voluntarily exchanging goods, but Trump plans to have government agents initiate force (more than they already do) against these people and punish them if they do not follow the government’s commands to cease this peaceful activity. He may even have them kidnapped and placed in a cage for prolonged periods of time (prison). He may also initiate robbery against them (via fines, etc). Again, even if these people should submit to the unjust commands of govt, this is a separate question than whether or not the government should initiate unjust commands and enforce them. The biblical command to submit to government in no way implies that government is right or just. The bible teaches to submit to unjust government and unjust treatment. By analogy, just because we ought to turn the other cheek when struck, this does not imply that the striker is just and right when he hits the person in the first place. For more details on the principles of submission to government, see here. For a brief introduction to why immigration restrictions are immoral, see the category “Immigration” on the blog page, and here’s one sample post.

Prohibition Itself Makes “Hard” Drugs Dangerous and Harmful

There is no end to stories we hear in the news or from friends about cases of tragic deaths or other health emergencies from the use of hard drugs, like cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. However, it is the government itself that exacerbates the health risks associated with drugs. Most of the sudden deaths and emergencies associated with drugs are ultimately on the hands of govt. There are many reasons to legalize drugs, even hard drugs. I’m talking for adults only, not minors. I could talk about the ethical question of whether or not it’s morally appropriate to initiate violence, coercion, and kidnapping (prison) against a peaceful person for the sole purpose of “protecting” them from themselves, or I could talk about the organized crime and gang/cartel violence that prohibition creates, or the astronomical prison rates and associated harmful effects of incarceration on people, families, and communities, or the high govt budget costs of enforcement, or the gradual growth of govt and erosion of civil liberties, but right now I want to focus on the narrow topic of how the govt actually makes drug use much more dangerous than it would be in a free society. To clarify, I’m not suggesting that legalizing these drugs would take away the long term health risks and deterioration associated with heavy drug use. If legalized, I recognize that some people will still get addicted and heavily use drugs, causing their overall health to gradually deteriorate. I don’t generally blame govt for this type of harm caused by drug use. Instead, the point of this post is that govt’s prohibition is the cause of the severe and acute health emergencies and sudden deaths associated with hard drugs. Here is a list summarizing the basic points.

  1. Labeling, purity, and composition: In a free market where drugs are legal and can be bought at a store like other alcohol or over-the-counter drugs, the product’s composition is known and clearly labeled, and the manufacturer has an interest and incentive to give the customer a consistent and good quality product (partly because of the normal customer satisfaction incentives, and partly because the company could get sued if the product is laced with harmful incompatible substances). When you buy alcohol or Advil today, you don’t have to worry about it being laced with other dangerous chemicals, or that it’s composition or strength varies greatly from one purchase to the next, because these products exist in a legalized marketplace. However, the govt destroys this system in its prohibition and creation of the black market for drugs. In a black market where you buy from some shady dealer on the corner, it’s hard to know what you’re getting with any degree of confidence. The black market causes the composition to be highly uncertain. Black market drugs are sometimes laced with other harmful drugs or chemicals which may be relatively safe by themselves, but very dangerous when mixed with the main product. In fact, most deaths from “overdose” are actually due to mixing of incompatible drugs. When you consume drugs of uncertain quality and composition, the results can be disastrous, and sometimes lethal. Such deaths and other emergencies are ultimately caused by govt prohibition.
  1. Labeling and Dosage: If drugs were legal in ordinary stores, the label would clearly state how much of the carefully measured drug is contained in each serving, and what the appropriate dosage is for the desired effect. The strength, purity, and dosage would be known. However, under the govt’s black market prohibition system, this information is unavailable. Black market drugs vary widely in purity and strength over time, across dealers, and from city to city. Many overdoses are due to a user expecting one strength, yet getting another. The govt’s prohibition causes these deaths and health emergencies.
  1. Fear of Help: Prohibition causes users to fear getting help publicly, so they stay “underground” abusing until some crisis happens, even death. If drugs were legal, they wouldn’t fear prison time, and so they wouldn’t fear asking others for help, or going to various health organizations, rehab organizations, or hospitals. As long as they live in fear, they will keep their problem isolated in the dark, or only with other “underground” users in the same boat. Prohibition also makes friends and acquaintances of users who need medical attention reluctant to call for help on their behalf, because they don’t want their friends and family to go to jail. The govt exacerbates the addiction and health emergency problem.
  1. Little Education: When drugs are banned, there is less education available publicly on how to properly use them in a more safe and controlled manner and setting. Legalizing drugs allows people to feel safe and secure in their efforts to seek out education on the safe use of drugs. The govt decreases access and production of safety education.
  1. Higher Concentrations: Legalizing drugs would decrease the trend of drugs becoming more concentrated. Banning drugs drives drug producers and transporters to produce more and more concentrated drugs so that it is easier to hide them, either at stationary locations or during transport. Drug dealers are always trying to make it easier to hide their drugs, and smaller volumes are crucial in this, thus the drive for higher concentrations. If drugs were legal, this incentive is much weaker, and drug producers/distributors would feel safe and secure storing and hauling a load of ordinary volume drugs at ordinary concentrations. This will help drug users’ safety because sometimes an overdose is the result of a drug being much more concentrated than expected.
  1. Harder Drugs Due to Higher Concentrations: The above driver of producing and transporting less volume of drugs so that they can be more easily hidden also helps, partially, to drive the drug trade towards harder more dangerous drugs, because such drugs can be more compact in volume per amount of high experienced, and per price. Thus, a drug dealer would rather produce, transport, and hide $1 million in cocaine than $1 million in medium strength marijuana. The govt actually helps steer the drug trade towards harder drugs.
  1. Addiction-Relief Products: If people are addicted and want to end their addiction, the govt’s prohibition makes this difficult to achieve. In a free market society, businesses would cater to this desire and innovate to produce and sell various medications and other remedies that can counteract addiction, or at least produce and sell drugs/medications that satisfy the biochemical addiction, but are much less dangerous, all as part of a plan to gradually get off the addiction altogether or alleviate its worst effects. Currently, there is no free market for such addiction relief medications/remedies. I suppose there might be a few medications that exist for this, but you’d have to go through formal prescription avenues to get such medications, and this may be difficult for drug users, not just because of soaring health care costs (caused by govt) and various regulatory obstacles to getting the medications, but also because a typical user may be very afraid to seek out a doctor and seek these medications if drugs are outlawed and they fear being arrested or getting a blemish on their record.
  1. Quality Generally: Market processes spontaneously produce good quality products at low prices. One of the major market mechanisms is reputation and repeat business. This mechanism matures in an open market setting where a business can advertise and last long. However, in the govt’s black market system, a drug producer can’t advertise their quality and consistency. Also, customers can’t easily ask others in public or online what their experience was with a particular drug producer, so it’s difficult to get a patronage following through quality performance. It’s hard for customers to be able to steer to the higher quality sellers. Also, with the police frequently breaking up various drug production and distribution organizations, it’s difficult for a high quality drug dealer to gradually gain a good reputation. If he’s well-known and successful, his days may be numbered. Reputation requires open communication in the public. The black market suppresses open communication, keeping everything in the dark. The govt disturbs the normal free market processes that help ensure high quality and safe drug distribution to customers.
  1. Lack of Legal Recourse for Negligent or Fraudulent Distribution: In an open marketplace, producers are liable for harm that they cause due to gross negligence or false information about composition or strength on the label. This is technically fraud, which is one of the few appropriate roles of govt to restrict, since fraud (and contract violation generally) is effectively stealing and thus a property rights violation. This is yet another incentive and check on manufacturers to produce good quality drugs with correct labeling. However, in the govt’s black market system, if you get harmed (or die) from a laced drug or because the strength or composition was different than what the dealer stated, there’s nothing you (or your family) can do about it, besides taking your illegal patronage to a different dealer and trying your luck again. You can’t sue someone in the black market and bring them to court. The black market drug dealer has less incentive and little check to ensure consistently safe and high quality drugs.

Drug use in itself does not necessarily have to be dangerous. The danger comes with improper use, improper dosage, and using drugs laced with unknown dangerously incompatible substances. The govt’s prohibition is the cause of these latter problems, and thus the cause of most of the tragedies we associate with hard drugs. Remember that the tragedies that you hear of in the news of drug abuse happen under the current system of drugs being outlawed, during the age of prohibition and the war on drugs. Yet, these tragedies still occur under this prohibition, demonstrating that prohibition is not very effective in its goal of preventing these tragedies.

The “Taking Our Jobs” Argument Against Immigration is Immoral

Suppose your daughter is one of two finalists applying for a job. Both finalists are US citizens. You know that the other finalist is willing to work for less than your daughter. On the day of the other finalist’s interview, you decide to use force to physically prevent him from getting to the interview (maybe you hold a gun to him and/or kidnap him) in order to ensure that your daughter gets the job at a higher salary. Clearly, your use of coercion against your daughter’s competitor is not justified and is immoral.

Now, what if the other finalist was not a US citizen, but was named Juan and he was born on the other side of an imaginary border line? Does this change in nationality change the moral equation? No. Not at all. Just because someone is born in a different place than you does not mean that it’s morally permissible to initiate aggression, coercion, and violence against them if they are peaceful (self defense is a different issue). Yet, this physical coercion is exactly what many people want our US border patrol agents to do. Generally, it is immoral for me to use violence and coercion against other peaceful people just because I don’t want to compete with them in the marketplace.

I’m not saying that you have to do anything positively good for immigrants, I’m just saying you should refrain from harming them. I’m just saying that you should not actively initiate harm against them. The “taking our jobs” anti-immigration arguments violate basic moral principles. Luckily, most economics studies show that immigrants don’t actually “take” our jobs on net overall, but even if they did (which they don’t), immigration restrictions based on that would not be justified.

The above thought experiment is based on Michael Huemer’s work, as adapted by Chris Freiman and Javier Hidalgo.

Whom Did God Give Rights To?

I often hear Christian conservatives say that fundamental human natural rights are “God given”. For brevity, without getting into too much detail about the nature of natural rights and which ones actually exist, I will say that I basically agree with this. I’m not talking about “legal rights” listed by any particular man-run govt. Rights are not given by govt, instead we have them by the gracious gift of God, and a govt may or may not recognize such natural rights and may or may not “grant” them legally in its own particular laws. So far, so good, these conservatives and I probably agree. Now, what about the basic human right of freedom to move around and live in different places, and to go to various market places to trade and work? If I, a US citizen, wanted to move from Austin, TX to Dallas, TX and then also work and get a job in Dallas, but the Dallas City govt said I’m not allowed to do so, you and most people would probably say that the govt is being unjust and violating my fundamental rights of freedom to live and work where I please (so long as I do so through nonviolent, noncoercive, and mutually voluntary means, and some Dallas employer wishes to hire me).

So, what’s the difference between my case and the case of a, let’s say, Mexican named Juan, who wants to move to the US to work, besides the fact that he was born by chance outside of the US and is not a citizen? Is Juan not a person made by God and in God’s image? Did God decide to grant fundamental human rights only to people born within the US boundary, or to all people on Earth? If Juan also has these basic rights, isn’t the US govt violating those rights by restricting his freedom to move and work here? What does birthplace have to do with it?

As a separate example, what about Muslims who are merely SUSPECTED of terrorism. Many conservatives say that we don’t have to give them a fair trial, and that we can detain them (like at Guantanamo Bay) without trial or conviction, because they aren’t US citizens. Of course, the presumption of innocence (aka “innocent until proven guilty”, meaning you can’t punish someone just because you *suspect* that they did a crime, but you have to provide strong evidence to show guilt) and a fair trial are things these same conservatives would say are fundamental rights that US citizens have. So, do they think that God gave only US citizens these rights? Can some conservative explain these?

Was Lao Tzu a Libertarian? Ancient Chinese Passages from Tao Te Ching

I’m not a Taoist, but I was reading Tao Te Ching (aka Daodejing or Dao De Jing) by Lao Tzu, written roughly 400 BC, considered one of the greatest philosophical/religious works in ancient Chinese history. I came across some great quotes that have some libertarian messages. Lao Tzu was a very wise man. It’s astonishing to see libertarian ideas being revered and advocated so long ago, roughly 2,400 years ago.

Translation by Charles Muller. Also, this version translates “The Tao” into “The Way”, whereas some other versions leave it as “The Tao”.

Chapter 57

[…]
The more regulations there are,
The poorer people become.
[…]
The more picky the laws are,
The more thieves and gangsters there are.
 
Therefore the sages say:
I do not force my way and the people transform themselves.
I enjoy my serenity and the people correct themselves.
I do not interfere and the people enrich themselves.
 
I have no desires
 
And the people find their original mind.
 
Chapter 58
 
When the government is laid back
The people are relaxed.
When the government is nitpicking
The people have anxiety.
[…]
 
Chapter 75
 
The reason people starve
Is because their rulers tax them excessively.
They are difficult to govern
Because their rulers have their own ends in mind.
[…]
 
Chapter 29
 
If you want to grab the world and run it
I can see that you will not succeed.
The world is a spiritual vessel, which can’t be controlled.
 
Manipulators mess things up.
Grabbers lose it. […]
 
Hence, the sage shuns excess
Shuns grandiosity
Shuns arrogance.
 
Chapter 30
 
If you used the Way as a principle for ruling
You would not dominate the people by military force.
 
What goes around comes around.
 
Where the general has camped
Thorns and brambles grow.
In the wake of a great army
Come years of famine.
If you know what you are doing
You will do what is necessary and stop there, not daring to use force.
 
Accomplish but don’t boast
Accomplish without show
Accomplish without arrogance
Accomplish without grabbing
Accomplish without forcing.
 
When things flourish they decline.
 
This is called non-Way
The non-Way is short-lived.
 
Chapter 32
 
[…]
And even though a sapling might be small
No one can make it be his subject.
If rulers could embody this principle
The myriad things would follow on their own.
Heaven and Earth would be in perfect accord
[…]
 
Chapter 37
 
The Way is always “not-doing”
Yet there is nothing it doesn’t do.
If the ruler is able to embody it
Everything will naturally change.
[…]
 
Chapter 42
 
[…]
I also teach:
“The forceful do not choose their place of death.”
I regard this as the father of all teachings.
 
Chapter 48
 
[…]
You can possess the world by never manipulating it.
No matter how much you manipulate
You can never possess the world.
 
Chapter 51
 
[…]
Therefore, the Way gives birth.
Its virtue […]
Leads without forcing.
 
This is called “Mysterious Virtue.”
 
Chapter 53
 
[…]
The court is immaculate,
While the fields are overgrown with weeds,
And the granaries are empty.
They wear silk finery,
Carry sharp swords,
Sate themselves on food and drink
Having wealth in excess.
They are called thieving braggarts.
 
This is definitely not the Way.
 
Chapter 59
 
In governing the country and serving Heaven
There is nothing like frugality.
Only by being frugal can you recover quickly.
[…]
 
Chapter 62
 
[…]
Therefore, even though there are great jewels brought in by teams of horses at the coronation of the emperor and the installation of the three princes,
This is not as good as staying where you are
And advancing in this Way.
 
Why did the ancients so value the Way?
 
You can’t say that it was for seeking gain
Or to have punishments to deter crime.
 
Therefore it is the most prized in the world.
 
Chapter 65
 
[…]
If you use cleverness to rule the state
You are a robber of the state.
If you don’t use cleverness to rule the state
You are a blessing to the state.
 
If you understand these two points, you know the proper norm for governing.
To be continuously understanding the proper norm is called Mysterious Virtue.
[…]
 
Chapter 66
 
The reason the river and sea can be regarded as
The rulers of all the valley streams
Is because of their being below them.
Therefore they can be their rulers.
So if you want to be over people
You must speak humbly to them.
If you want to lead them
You must place yourself behind them.
 
Thus the sage is positioned above
And the people do not feel oppressed.
He is in front and they feel nothing wrong.
Therefore they like to push him front and never resent him.
 
Since he does not contend
 
No one can contend with him.
 
Chapter 68
 
The best warrior is never aggressive.
The best fighter is never angry.
The best tactician does not engage the enemy.
The best utilizer of people’s talents places himself below them.
 
This is called the virtue of non-contention.
It is called the ability to engage people’s talents.
It is called the ultimate in merging with Heaven.
 
Chapter 72
 
When the people do not fear your might
Then your might has truly become great.
Don’t interfere with their household affairs.
Don’t oppress their livelihood.
 
If you don’t oppress them they won’t feel oppressed.
[…]
 
Chapter 74
 
If the people don’t fear death
How will you scare them with death?
If you make the people continuously fear death
By seizing anybody who does something out of the ordinary
And killing them,
Who will dare to move?
 
There is always an official executioner to handle this.
If you play the role of the official executioner
It is like cutting wood in the capacity of Master Carpenter.
 
There are few who will not cut their hands.
 

Sweatshops are Awesome! And They’re Good for the Poor.

One of the most misunderstood things in pop-culture is the role of sweatshops in third world countries. Most people speak ill of them and feel morally smug when condemning them. Most people think they are the plague upon humanity, and one reason why capitalism is bad. This is all false. The “sweatshop phase” of economic development is just one of the first stepping stones toward a modern economy with a high standard of living. Every economy goes through this phase before becoming more developed. It’s the lower rung of the ladder toward prosperity. The US went through this stage long ago. If you removed this lower rung, you’d actually stop growth and a society would remain in agricultural poverty. The sweatshop phase represents the early part of a continuous growth trend.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, it’s actually an improvement over the condition that preceded sweatshops, which is subsistence farming. If you think a sweatshop has unpleasant conditions, consider how much more miserable subsistence farming is. The only reason why a person would leave the farm life and instead voluntarily choose to work in a “sweatshop” is because they believe that the sweatshop conditions and pay are relatively better for them and their families than their other alternatives, usually subsistence farming. They CHOOSE to work there because they see it as their best alternative. It is an indisputable economic statistical fact that, in less developed economies, sweatshops offer better compensation and a higher standard of living than other options available to the people. And, as people in the sweatshop phase become more productive and wealthy, the next generation picks up where they left off, gaining even more wealth, until eventually the sweatshop phase fades away and a more modern economy develops.

Considering a timeline of economic development, the important thing to remember is that the sweatshop phase does not represent a temporary dip, or drop in well-being, preceding a more developed economy. It’s not an early “necessary evil” for a better future life later on. The sweatshop phase is actually relatively good in itself and represents the early part of a continuous growth pattern. What came before sweatshops was even worse. Be glad for sweatshops. Sweatshops in a free market capitalistic setting are the reason why global extreme poverty has been dropping so much. If you care about the poor, then celebrate sweatshops, and feel good when buying from them. Feel proud when buying a shirt made in a poor country across the globe. You’re effectively hiring poor people when doing so. Sure, sweatshops seem bad compared to our first world US standards (we’re pampered because we’re rich enough to afford pampering as a luxury, and we now consider our luxury as normal and as a minimum standard), but sweatshops represent progress for the poor around the world.

(FYI: a “sweatshop” is a workplace that has conditions that are unpleasant or dangerous relative to social standards of modern rich nations like the US.)