Friday, April 24, 2020

Here's a revolutionary idea: Is what you mean by 'rights!', compatible with Liberty?

When you have a problem, it's important to identify what it is, and to not misidentify it as being something other than what it is, right? Because... we know we can't fix the right problem, by working on the wrong problem, right? And the more serious the problem, the more that applies, right?

For example, if you were outraged over how the police misused and abused their power while making an arrest, would it help to expose their misbehavior by protesting "We have 'rights!' so it's wrong for the police to arrest people!"? Whatever your intentions might've been, or how sympathetic people probably would have been to what you might have told them you'd seen, by instead telling them that a well established, necessary and rightful norm of policing, is a violation of 'rights!', you'd be discrediting yourself, you'd be deflecting from whatever wrongs actually had been done, and the result would probably be that those who should have been brought to justice, would walk free under the cover of the "crazy talk" distractions your ill-considered words enabled them slip away under.

Such thoughts as that have been on my mind a lot lately, and are why when my friends have recently asked 'Why aren't you out defending our 'rights!' with us?!', I've essentially been answering "Why are you attacking our liberty and trying to yank our individual rights out by their roots?" Both those saying 'Govt can't make me stay home!', and those saying 'Govt must order everyone to stay home!', are threatening our liberty, less from the words they do say, than for the reasonable discussions which their reckless words ensure won't be had.

Don't mistake me, there are a dangerously large number of governors, county executives, mayors and various tyrannical ticket jockeys, who are misusing and abusing the powers they've received through the Communist Chinese Coronavirus emergency (some aspects of which I've gone into here, and here, so I won't belabor those points here), and those abuses range from shutting down the businesses of an entire state, to arresting parents taking their kids to play in the park. Those are abuses, dangerous ones, and they do need to be corrected.

But to expose and fight the actual abuses in such governmental misbehavior, you need to cite the instances and contexts wherein such measures & actions are wrongful. We need to  engage in a reasonable discussion of the real concerns on either side of the fence. For instance, my position might be,
"Given what we know about conditions, how is it justifiable to impose the same restrictive rules on a park in a congested city, as to one in the suburbs or rural areas? The circumstances of traveling to, accessing, and using them, involve vastly different conditions and proximities between people, so imposing the same rules to all parks cannot be sensible, and if they're not sensible, they cannot be effective, and to knowingly enforce such inappropriate rules across such differing contexts, is a reckless use & abuse of power - from the level of parks, on up."
, while a reasonable concern from the other side of the fence might be something like:
"Given what we know about conditions in how the virus persists on surfaces, travels up to 15' by cough or sneeze, and that people can think that they're perfectly healthy, when in fact they're infected and spreading the virus for 10 to 15 days before they feel a single symptom, we need to restrict everyone's activities even in parks, and not to do so would be a reckless & negligent abuse of power."
, either or both of those arguments at least warrant consideration, they raise points that should be considered, and which deserve a reasonable response. But when you ignore the reality of people's concerns, especially while we're in the midst of a global pandemic of a deadly new infectious disease, when you ignore all of the relevant contexts and wail instead that:
'Govt can't make me stay home!'
, (which, BTW, contradicts over 230 years of American legal history in dealing with quarantines and public health emergencies
, or from the other side insist that:
'Govt must order everyone to stay home!'
, (which, BTW, flies in the face of over 230 years of American legal history, and people's right and need to earn that wealth which you might be counting on for the govt to redistribute to you)
, both of them are aiding and enabling the misuses and abuses of power to continue on unabated, both are pushing ideologies instead of pursuing justice, and both are failing at the fundamental requirement of living in Liberty - dealing with disputes with your fellow citizens by reasoning, rather than by forcing (which the ignoring of context is the intellectual equivalent of) your view over theirs .

I've spent multiple years acting for and writing on the importance of individual rights and liberty, and against centralizing power under increasingly abusive govt, so I'm not going to focus on those arguments again here (though you can find a few of them here). But centralizing power under government, isn't the only threat to liberty that we face; centralizing your concerns to only furthering your narrowed wishes and whims without regard to how they might affect your community, is also a threat to your, and our, liberty, and the failure to see that, is just as important for you to look into.

The fact is that the ability to see and show how and why the various governmental overreactions are wrongful, requires our utilizing and taking note of the very same contexts and reasonings that are excluded and denied by the claim of having an absolute and total 'right!' to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it, without a reasonable regard for the rights and concerns of your fellow citizens. The specious claim of 'rights!' made without a reasonable regard for the common good (note: the 'common good' is a very different thing from 'for the greater good!') is itself an individual affront to Liberty, as John Finnis, a respected professor of Natural Law (which is the theory of law that our Founder's era conceived of our nation through), noted in a comment on the nature of tyranny, that:
"...tyranny, in the classic conception, is bad one-man rule; ... But tyranny is any self-interested rule (where self is any number, not concerned with the common good but with their own interests)."
John Finnis, Natural Law & Natural Rights, pg. 469
Moronic memes, like this one (Redcoats: "Put on your masks." Minutemen:"Kiss our ass"), not only trivializes what the Minutemen showed up at Lexington & Concord 275 years ago this week to fight for, it isn't compatible with what they fought for. Those patriots, with liberty and the 'traditional rights of Englishmen' very much on their minds, were fighting for a much deeper conception of Liberty, than having their society & government yield to every 'rightful' whim a person might want to act upon, and they did so because they had the knowledge, understanding and wit to know that Liberty means something more than simply 'an absence of restraint'. They did not fight for a govt that could do and did do nothing, or for a society in which they could do anything they felt like, but to have a voice in the decisions that their govt made in securing their liberty - which is what "No taxation without representation!" meant. To reduce their understanding of Liberty, to 'Govt can't make me!' shows an amazing ignorance of the laws that those 'Sons of Liberty' themselves had chosen to write into their laws before, during, and for decades after the time of the American Revolution, laws which had to do with everything from what styles of clothing were acceptable to wear, to not being able to work, gamble or drink alcohol on Sundays, to state sponsored support of church attendance.

Are you seriously going to call those Minutemen 'Sheep'?! Or call them petty tyrants?!

As I said in a previous post "Context Matters: Individual Rights are neither privileges nor blank checks; Limited Govt is neither dictatorship nor anarchy in drag". Our Rights are Inalienable, and though exercising their powers IS contextual, it's always within the context of upholding & defending them - but you have to give reasonable consideration to the full matter, to be able to say.

Patriotic Perspective
To get some perspective on our original patriots understanding of Liberty meant to them, it might be useful to take a quick look at the oldest functioning Constitution in the world, drafted during the American Revolution by John Adams, where the constitution of the state of Massachusetts's Preamble, stated:
"The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals; it is a social compact by which the whole people covenants with each citizen and each citizen with the whole people that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them."[emphasis mine]
If you pay attention to their words, you'll see that their goal, their understanding of liberty, was that it was to be realized through a government of laws respecting their citizen's rights and privileges, which were to be reasonably formulated, debated, and passed into law by the people and their representatives, and administered in accordance to the laws of that written constitution. That process was what they understood to be the fundamental requirement for making liberty possible, respected and enjoyed by all. They were obedient to their laws not in the manner of obedient subjects, but as reasonable people governing themselves by reasonable means in both agreement and disagreement - THAT is what was meant by living in liberty. Whether or not the final outcome of a particular law agreed with their own personal position on it, was a distant and secondary consideration.

One thing the people of that time were not lacking, was a concern for their individual rights, as can be witnessed by the fact that prior to the constitution drafted by John Adams being taken up, another constitution had been proposed and was quickly rejected outright, largely because it lacked security for the individual rights of the people. Adam's version remedied that deficiency right off the bat with its first Article, a "...A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants...", which, stated:
Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness."
Yet as mindful as they were of their rights, there were measures that were written in law, ranging from the sorts of local blue laws noted above, on up to their state constitutions requiring that all citizens residing in a town, be members of their parish church. There were citizens who disagreed with those laws, yet they all abided by them, not because they were either 'sheep' or tyrants who took their hard-fought liberty lightly, but because they took Liberty seriously, they understood that living in liberty meant governing themselves through a system of laws which respected their individual rights and were reasonably made and administered. If you want to argue against that, you also have to argue against the fact that their idea of individual rights and liberty were solid enough for slaves to begin suing for, and winning, their liberty under it (leading to slavery being effectively ended in Massachusetts, soon after their constitution's adoption). Those who might have chaffed at the dry Sunday laws didn't grab their muskets and say "F'you, I'm having a drink!", because they weren't little children who put more value in stomping their feet over losing an argument, than in living in liberty with their fellow citizens. That also didn't mean 'It's the law! It's settled!', as is evident by the fact that most of those measures were repealed by the 1820's - reasonable discussion continued, according to laws that were respectful of their inhabitants rights, and by that means the Liberty of all was enjoyed and maintained.

No serious person believed that Liberty was, or could be had, either under a system in which you did whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted, without restraint, or a place where order was arbitrarily imposed upon the people by governmental decree.

And yet they were also fully capable of recognizing and handling emergencies throughout the 1790's, when diseases like small pox and cholera, repeatedly put the question of what was reasonable and what was tyrannical, to the test, and by civil discussion of disagreements over what was best, they understood their issues and implemented laws at the federal, state and local level of governments, for the quarantining & confinements of those who were sick, or who might reasonably be suspected of having been exposed to that sickness.

So there again, what was meant by Individual Rights in our Founder's era, is entirely incompatible with the popular notions of stompy footed zealots declaring that 'I do whatever I want!' today, and it is just as incompatible with 'You will obey for safety's sake!', so once again, is your idea of 'rights!', liberty and government, compatible with the concept of Liberty that this nation was founded upon?

'What are these 'rights!'of which you speak?'
And in answering that question, it's worth recapping a bit about what is (should be) understood, by 'our rights'. Your individual rights are inalienable, because they are inherent in your nature as a human being who must think (well or poorly) and act, and interact, etc., in order to live as a human being. Those rights are innumerable (see the 9th Amdt), as are our powers in exercising them (see 10th Amdt), but that does not give you unrestrained right and power to exercise them as you see fit.

Identifying the fact that you have unalienable rights and powers to act upon them, is not the same thing as saying that you have the liberty to act on them however you might choose to. Why? Because although the individual right to think & act, is inherent in your nature as a human being, it's also unfortunately inherent in your nature as a human being, to act upon irrational thoughts, and even to act abusively and violently towards others - those too are self-evident truths about human nature, but those are Not what our Founder's had in mind when they spoke of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. Why? What were they aiming at? They - unlike seemingly most people today - understood that doing what you want because you want it, wasn't an example of human liberty, but only of the freedom enjoyed by the animals. Having a thought come into your head, and choosing to act on it, was not seen by our Founders as a self-evident blank check which society had to stand by and watch you cash.

Nowhere in either our Constitution or our Declaration of Independence, does it presume or imply that you have the unquestionable power to exercise your rights however you want to, whenever you want to, and in any way that you want to, free from any reasonable regard for the lives, rights and property of others in the community, or to act without regard for the reasonable requirements needed for government to uphold and defend the rights and powers of the governed (without which those rights and powers become powerless in the face of anarchic force).

No, stop it, not even in the Bill of Rights! If you read how they were first proposed and reasonably reduced in number during their ratification (let alone the debates in their being introduced to congress), our Bill of Rights is full of the sorts of words ('respecting ','peaceably','being necessary to','consent of','against unreasonable', etc., etc., etc.,) that injected the 'reasonable' context into their declarations and meanings. To claim that your individual rights give you license to ignore the laws which your community has (or at least should have) reasonably written and designed to uphold and defend everyone's individual rights, is to seek loudly to be the most pettiest of tyrants (as noted above: "...tyranny is any self-interested rule (where self is any number, not concerned with the common good but with their own interests).").

Surely you've heard the phrase:
"Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose."
, right? If you've never paid attention to the implications of those words, there's no time like the present to remedy that. Your thoughts & actions do need to be exercised within some scope of what is reasonable for that context, and they need to be undertaken with a reasonable regard to the lives, property & rights of your fellow citizens.

Is your idea of 'rights!', compatible with that understanding of which our founders era formed their idea of Rights from? What led them to their conclusions, and what shaped their understanding of our unalienable rights, and of what they understood 'reasonable' to mean, came to us through what Thomas Jefferson referred to in his writing of the Declaration of Independence, as those 'harmonizing sentiments of the day', which were derived from the '...elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c...'. If you are unfamiliar with those works (not just their names, mind you, but their works), how likely is it that your idea of 'rights!', is compatible with theirs?

It was, and is, only within that framework of Western thought which Jefferson spoke of back then, and within which our Constitution was framed, and in respect to which We The People demanded that the proposed Constitution be amended with a few essential Individual Rights. That is where the revolutionary concept of restraining government from abusing and infringing upon those few essential rights (freedom of speech, assembly, religion, press; of security of property & compensation for reasonable govt takings, freedom from unreasonable search & seizure, trial of peers, and of unreasonably cruel & unusual punishment), came from - did your understanding of what you mean by 'your rights' pass through those same 'harmonizing sentiments', or did they just... 'mean' what you feel they should 'mean'?

Is your idea of 'rights!' compatible with what the Minutemen fought for? You cannot simply reach out and pluck those prized fruits from the tree of liberty that you most desire, while at the same time denying the nature and existence of the very tree that bore them!

I'm sorry for the merciless drumbeat here, but the common thread in the formation of our laws, and the common thread in what govt actions are permitted in times of calm or peril, is that the required measures and actions be reasonable, and that central to their being considered reasonable, was, and is, the people and their representatives reasoning over the proper context which they are to be applied to. Any laws and measures which do not abide by that, should be thrown out, those which do, may be upheld. Without that, no reasonable actions, or state of liberty, could be enjoyed, aided or maintained, by either you or me.

IOW, your individual rights DO NOT simply amount to your saying "F'You! I do what I want!", and it is disheartening, and more than a little despicable, that supposedly 'liberty!' loving people would promote memes that reduce the patriotic Minutemen's revolutionary concepts and the noble struggles which they put into motion at Lexington & Concord, to that of costumed fools who'd risk their own lives, and shed the blood of others, over such a triviality as "Kiss our ass, I'm not wearing a mask!"

On so many different levels, such notions as that diminishes, degrades, and insults, the ideals that our Founding Fathers risked their lives and comforts for, in order to secure an infinitely deeper ideal of liberty for themselves, and for their posterity (you & me).

The moving target of emergencies
That same understanding applies in emergencies, though the means of implementing them, necessarily changes, according to the context of the Emergency. Keep in mind that an emergency is "an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action", while Laws are a codification of rules that a reasonable person can in normal circumstances be expected to consider across time, or as Aristotle put it: "the law is reason unaffected by desire". But the very nature of an emergency means that normal circumstances do not apply, and pretending that they do would make following those rules contrary to the purposes which those same rules were meant to apply to. Emergencies require and permit governments to take actions that they would not be permitted to take in normal circumstances. In an emergency, they are permitted to take unusual actions, not in order to violate your rights, but in order for government to fulfill its responsibility of performing its function of acting to preserve the lives, rights & property of the citizenry. For example:
Police, Firemen & other state officials in normal circumstances cannot enter your home without a warrant, and to do so would violate several of your essential rights, but if your house is on fire, they can not only break into your home, but carry you out of it without your permission, without violating your rights or the laws that were written to uphold and protect them.
Note: Is it necessary for government to have that power? Yes! Is it dangerous for that power to be in the hands of government? Yes! Is it important for the citizenry to keep a careful eye upon government's us of that power? Oh Hell Yes! And it's important that their emergency powers stop when the emergency ceases to be an emergency! An emergency needs a start and an end date. Yet is is still true that the nature of an emergency requires action to be taken within the context of the moment, it requires that government has an ability to act upon what seems to be known, then and there, yet that same space of time for acting on the moment, requires a continual re-evaluation of the nature of what is known, and how to respond to it. When the Coronavirus appeared to be a highly communicable and extraordinarily deadly new disease, officials had good cause and a responsibility, to declare lockdowns and quarantines (though I believe they failed to respect the context and subsidiarity necessary for respecting our individual rights).

Given the worst case scenarios assumed at the opening of this mess just a few weeks ago - that the Wuhan Flu was highly contagious, that it appeared to have an alarmingly high death rate, that people could become infected and be contagious for days, even over a week, before feeling any symptoms of infection, and being mindful that we didn't yet have the means, supplies, or facilities for coping with the scale of infection exhibited in Italy, and suspected to have occurred in communist china - then in that context, in those places that showed evidence of being emerging 'hot spots' of infection, some measure of lockdowns were warranted, and especially for the protection of those persons willing to risk becoming infected in order to do jobs that their community depended upon for the daily necessities of life - everything from working at the supermarket, to gas station workers, to truck drivers, police, fire, medical and hospital workers - the fact that they were willing to run the risk of getting infected, in order to provide what their community depended upon, should be welcomed, not taken for granted, or put at heightened risk by other residents, for trivial reasons - for a reasonable period of emergency (I begin to max out at 30 days on that, but that requires a detailed discussion of the actual circumstances by those in a position to know).

For someone who lives in a 'hot spot' area of infections, knowing that there's a heightened likelihood that they could unknowingly be carrying the virus and have no way of testing to find out, for them to circulate in public for no better reason than having the whim to do it, that is not an example of their exercising 'their' liberty, but a pathetic display of having a petulant disregard for the well being of others. Far from being exemplars of 'liberty!', they are examples of the pettiest of self absorbed tyrants. By the same note, those claiming to be 'responsible', who demand that people abandon their livelihoods, for periods that extend beyond their ability to sustain their (and our) lives, are also examples of petty tyrants (more on that in a coming post).

As more information is developed, some of the information, and assumptions of their severity, will necessarily be revised, and as we become more prepared to meet those conditions, and to handle the expected severity of them, those actions also must be re-examined, as does whether or not we are still operating within the context of an emergency. Those are the given moving targets of working through an emergency, it is inappropriate to look back on the little that was known at the start, from the context of what becomes known later, in order to condemn decision makers on the basis of what was not yet known. It is unreasonable to do or say so, and will very likely put your society in a position where people will be unwilling to help out in such situations in the future. But it is also inappropriate to fail to re-examine your situation in the now, in light of any new information available, to determine the best course for the immediate future.

Whether we are referring to times of calm or emergency, to meet them justly and in respects to liberty, requires our being reasonable. Coincidentally, being reasonable is also required in the writing, administering and obeying, of those laws. Also coincidentally (not), exercising your rights requires your behaving reasonably within the range of that context.

So I'll ask again, is your idea of 'rights!' compatible with the understanding of liberty that this nation was founded upon? Answering that is the real emergency that we are facing here in the year 2020. What needs to be protected and debated is not the government's powers, but how reasonably those powers are being exercised, and that requires not only your having given some serious thought to what your rights and powers are, but also giving considerable active attention to who you elect to government, and to what you and your children are taught, and to how aware those in power are aware of your knowing it.

Liberty depends upon you, and it is up to you reasonably involving yourself and your neighbors in self government.

If you shrug, if you prefer the ease of spouting the appealing positions given to you by your favorite ideology; if they leave it to you... you will be left to them.

Good luck with that. And may there be a posterity that can forget that we were once fellows.

Pay attention, learn what you should know, and ... be reasonable.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The shot heard 'round the world, drew blood - Lexington & Concord, April 19,1775

The shot wasn't heard around the world to protect an adolescent desire to do whatever you please, it was heard and echoed on down through the ages to give birth to Liberty, and to take up its often weighty responsibility.

Before you blather thoughtlessly on about 'my rights!', take some time to think upon what they actually mean, and what heavy costs are attendant to them. Honor those who first made Liberty a reality, treat it as something more than a glittery trinket.

The shot heard 'round the world, drew blood. If you've forgotten that; remember it. If you never knew it, it's your responsibility to give more than a little consideration to it, and to why it might be that you were never made aware of that self-evident truth.

The shot heard 'round the world was fired at Lexington & Concord, April 19, 1775, may it echo ever on.

Concord Hymn
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
   And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
   Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
   Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
   We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
   When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
   To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
   The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Virtue Signalling and the viral Banality of Evil

Hannah Arendt was a political philosopher in 1930's Germany, was briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo, released and fled, eventually, to America, where in 1961 she was reporting for the New Yorker magazine on the Nazi war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann had helped in devising and ordering the enslavement and slaughter of millions of Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and others, yet as the trial progressed, she found herself perplexed. She'd come expecting to witness the unmasking and comeuppance of a monster, but he didn't look like a monster, and he didn't act or speak like a monster, and his defense wasn't that of a zealously demonic Nazi, but only "I was just following orders." The most frightening thing about him was that he looked and spoke like an everyday average person, and a boring one at that. Eventually Arendt hit on a phrase to describe what she was witnessing, and it rang shockingly true: "the banality of evil'.

Along those lines, what worries me about our world today, is similar to what's struck me as being a central flaw in the last 65 years of our efforts to ensure that something like the rise of Nazism & the Holocaust is 'Never Again!' allowed to happen, and that flaw is that we assume that to do battle that form of evil, we need to steel ourselves for physical battle. We publicly occupy ourselves with looking high & low for menacing monsters to expose and do heroic battle with, and so are missing out on the darkest lesson of recent history, which is that the monsters we need to look for those that are lurking within the mundane ideas that people unthinkingly populate their everyday thoughts with. Thoughts we tend to think of either as not being worth our time to give much thought to, or more likely, thoughts whose catchphrases we thoughtlessly nod along to as being normal, boring even, and we do so because they provide us with a Politically Comfortable signal for dealing with controversial issues that we really don't want to trouble ourselves over. So we repeat, or nod along with these thoughts, memes and comments, in order to avoid being drawn into the everyday controversies that threaten to disturb our daily distractions. The popular words, slogans & rhythmic phrases, attitudes & postures, slip so easily into our minds and provide us cover by nodding along with them, and we take not a little bit of pleasure in basking in the pretense that they are 'the right thing!' to believe and support, and in echoing them, we get to feel 'admirable' on the cheap.

The problem is, that these posturings are like the facades of old movie sets. There's nothing of what they appear to be, behind them, only poles & wires propping them up for appearances sake. There's no there there - except... in the popularity which we contribute to, and enhance the banality's authority over our approval each time we absentmindedly nod along with them on  subjects we are too bored by to give any real thought to.

Our dictionaries define Banality as:
"the fact or condition of being banal; unoriginality.
"there is an essential banality to the story he tells"
triteness · platitudinousness · vapidity · pedestrianism · conventionality · predictability · staleness · unimaginativeness · lack of originality · lack of inspiration · prosaicness · dullness · ordinariness · corniness
something that is banal.
"the banalities of contemporary celebrity culture""
Another more modern synonym I'd suggest for Banality, would be those predictable, trite repetitions of vapid platitudes that are so lacking in inspiration, yet they unfailingly rally our communal recognition of their 'rightness' and provide pedestrian cover for a stale escape from dealing with issues that we'd rather not think too much about, AKA: Virtue Signalling, and like the actual virus plaguing us at the moment, those who are entirely unaware of the infection they carry, spread it to everyone within range of their mindless signalling.

The really frightening thing about the 'banality of evil', and what it reveals about ourselves and the history of totalitarianism that has claimed 100 million lives over the last century, is how easy it is to get people to cheaply nod their heads in agreement to its phrases, even getting us to contribute a posturing 'Yeah!' when we're amongst a crowd listening to a speaker (and watching each other for signs of ideological purity). And under the cover of being someone who really cares about the banal phrases of: "All lives matter!", "#MeToo!", "A living wage!", "Save the Planet!", "Free Trade!" "Women's rights!", "in liberty!", it is precisely the absence of thought which such phrases promote, that permits real evil to travel amongst and between us, lets it seep into the air, into the airwaves, and into us, and does so with our enthusiastic and Politically Comfortable approval.

A friend, a really nice, kind, helpful guy, is, in his politics, a hard Leftist. He recently sent me and a number of others a video which apparently had gotten his head to nodding, perhaps even with a 'Yeah!', or maybe an 'Ooh! Burn!'. I don't know what he was thinking about it for sure, you see, because he doesn't really remember listening to the video, and when I asked if he agreed with its message, he said "Well if I forwarded it, I must have, but I don't really remember". Almost as if it was too banal to recall.

My friend may not remember much about the video, however from the discussions we've had in the past, I've little doubt that he thought this videogram of 'Virtue Signalling, titled "A message to Republicans", was just the sorta zinger that, like a late night comedian's punchline, would be sure to put 'The Right' in their place.

This 'Message' comes from a documentary director & TedX speaker, named Matthew Cooke. I'm going to quote the entire message in full in this post, and will try to limit my responses so as to fit between its paragraphs. It's been tough to do. It is packed full of the banality of evil (much of it indistinguishable from what Adolph Eichmann himself endorsed and promoted - the ideas, not the actions - as part of doing his job & following orders), and I've no doubt that my friend suspects nothing of that... but I also have no doubt that his memory is notched with comfortably correct reactions to its predictable posturings, so that he can effortlessly and delightedly peddle and promote its messages & digs, while having to do little more than smile and nod as the keywords skate across a surface whose deeper meanings go untouched and unexplored.

What that amounts to in fact, IMHO, is a kind of moral negligence, of the sort that I pray that no one ever has to answer for in a future courtroom, for future court observers to puzzle over.

Replying to 'A Message...'
Something particularly ironic, is that in every discussion my friend & I have had in the past, where he was willing to discuss a point in enough depth to get into the details, has always ended in revealing a number of flawed assumptions he'd held, and exposed contradictions in his stated beliefs (though as far as I know, without his ever modifying those beliefs). With that in mind, this 'Message's opening lines, are hugely ironic:

A 'Message' that's jam packed with the banality of evil
"This is a message to Republicans. You keep saying 'we want free stuff', and that government can't do anything right. So you need an education."
He seems so earnest, doesn't he? And personally, as Education at root means "To lead out", to free from the chains of falsehood and ignorance, I'm all ears. Unfortunately, after giving his message a thorough listening to, it turns out to be full of fine sounding ideological statements which are '...held for reasons which are not purely epistemic"'... meaning that he supports the positions he supports, because he likes those positions, and not because they are true (see my previous post on 'Ideology'). His words have no roots in reality and truth, signalling that his 'virtues' are little more than decorations for his feelings to emote around. I'll avoid going too deeply into most of this supposed 'education', and will simply try to point towards those roots in reality which his own words leave his message severed from. Of course, as always, if anyone would like to pursue any or all points further, I'll be more than happy to oblige in the comments.
"The microchip, the internet, GPS, Touchscreens, Space Travel - those are a few examples of world changing technology created by our government, or required massive financial support from our government. Now I paid for that with a third of my money in the form of taxes, but I didn't get a return, because all of our tech was just given away to private industries, then it was sold back to us so someone else could profit."
First of all, the govt is not an investment house, and what it purchases in products or services, doesn't in any way become the property of its non-existent investors (AKA: You). When you, or the Govt, hires someone to solve a problem for you, you don't own their service, and you don't own the products they produced in order to solve your problem for you. Second, as the rest of his 'message' will make clear, Matthew is deeply opposed to private for profit businesses, and especially to financiers - so where does he get off with complaining over not receiving the financial and property ownership benefits, which a private investor might expect to receive from risking their investment in a potential product or service? Third, the urge to lay claim to what you have no right to, is fundamentally a tyrannical one, and Matthew is nakedly advocating for brute force being used to punish good deeds.

Finally, his line about the microchip, the internet, GPS, Touchscreens, Space Travel, coming from government, is lifted almost verbatim from an economist (go figure) named Mariana Mazzucato. I'll spare you a deep dive into the details (if you're interested, more detailed rebuttals can be found in: an interview with her here, a commentary on that here & here, and an indepth analysis here), but there are a couple key points that need to be made. One, the development of those technologies came about as government was pursuing one of its legitimate purposes, defending the nation during the Cold War. The technologies in question were developed by private researchers (in and out of research colleges) which the govt contracted their services from, and to the extent it was controlled by the govt, for instance with the Arpanet, it was made to meet the limited purposes which Govt had asked for, and then promptly stagnated at that level. It was only as those 'products' were declassified, and private industry was permitted to utilize its concepts more freely, that their wider potential began to be realized in additional services and finally in the Internet and World Wide Web that we know and love today, a point which even Mazzucato acknowledges, as she attempts the economic holy grail of having her cake and eating it too. Additionally, the technology and the industry of 'space travel' had also stagnated under the control of NASA, and it was only once President Obama withdrew Govt from that occupation (yay!), that an actual market could be created and the *private sector* was finally able to enter it and attempt to innovate, especially visible with Scaled Composite's winning the XPrize, and even in the less ideal public/private usage of SpaceX & Bigelow Aerospace, etc., that it is finally beginning to take wings.
"That's what free stuff looks like."
No, that's what the benefits and profits that come from recognizing and protecting private property looks like, and none of it is, or was, free. In short, Govt didn't produce those items itself, and in those cases where any 'investment' was provided by it, neither it, nor you, have any claim on those innovations & patents, and to demand it after the fact is pure thuggery. The envious attempt to lay claim to their products, is the same mindset we see in rioters who break into stores during times of unrest to take all of the 'free stuff!' they see sitting there on the store owners shelves. That mindset of "Free Stuff! Take it!" is how socialists, communists, and other criminals think, and that is what criminality looks like.
"Am I supposed to pay money to breathe? Or access water or community or civilization or is that my natural right being born on the planet, because that's what economic rights mean. They mean I have a right to participate in the economy without having to be born into the Trump family or some other social predator's bloodline."
The air you breathe while walking around in this nation or any other, is naturally available to you without any assistance, and so it is free for the taking, and you, having the "inalienable" individual right as a human being to think and act, are free to breathe it in. The air you would need, OTOH, to breathe when diving a hundred feet under water, would have to be compressed into a canister, and fitted out in such a way that you could dive with it on your back, all of which requires the efforts and industry of others to produce and provide, and so, assuming that you respect their "inalienable" individual right as human beings, to think and act, then and only then are they free to produce it for you, and you are free to purchase it from them, should you wish to enjoy scuba diving.

Similarly, the water you drink from a stream out in the wilderness, isn't produced or packaged by others, and so it is free for you to drink (best to pray that a dead animal isn't lying in the water just up stream from you). BTW, should you choose to act and fill your canteen with that free water, by your thought & actions, you've transformed that water from a think of nature, and it becomes your property. The water that you receive filtered, cleaned, put into pipes and transmitted to your faucet, requires the efforts and industry of others, and that water is not free, and should be paid for. For you to demand that their services must be given to you for 'free', is to demand that other people are to be forced to serve you, which, of course, is best described by a word that Democrats have historically been very familiar with: Slavery.

Those, BTW, are not 'economic rights' - there is no such thing as that stolen concept - those are individual rights, which are inherent in the nature of being human. Before there can be a Free Market, and before there can be an Economy worthy of the name, there must first come a widespread respect for each person's right to think and act, and a respect for the property that is subsequently created from that, which is what the Rule of Law is properly meant to serve. When the people formally agree to devise and abide by a fair system of rules, Law, to uphold and defend everyone's rights, while providing a means for reasonably resolving any apparent conflicts & disputes between each other's claims, then " secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...", that is how a people comes to live in a state of Liberty, a state where men can reasonably expect to deal with their fellows, even in the midst of heated disagreements, by means of known rules of methodical reasoning, rather than by intimidation and brute force. Participating in the formulating of those laws and the administration of them; laws that are dedicated to upholding and preserving the individual rights of every citizen equally before the law, regardless of whether a person is rich or poor, of one color or another, popular or unpopular, in the majority or minority, that is what a Constitutional Representative Republican Government is, and means. How well or poorly such a system as that is put into rational practice, is what an economy results from - and never the other way around. There is no 'economic right' that precedes such a system as that, and there is no 'economic right' that can be added to such a system, without detracting from it, and every effort, whether Socialistic, or Libertarian 'anarcho-capitalist', which denies such a system as that, is promoting a system for the enslavement of its people, by sealing them off from those rights and the means of securing them.
So now I'm going to teach you another word: Democracy.
If you read ahead, you'll discover that Matthew never actually bothers with defining what he means by that word (which would be the first step he'd take, if 'teaching' was of more interest to him than posturing for appearance's sake) - he only brays about the goodies he'd like to see being seized through it - so I suppose it's left to me to teach you what the word 'Democracy' actually means.
1a: government by the people
especially : rule of the majority
, and as Dr. Johnson's 1755 dictionary noted for our Founder's time, Democracy meant that:
The majority having the whole power of the community, may employ all that power in making laws, and executing those laws; and there the form of the government is a perfect democracy. Locke.
Democracy means the rule of the majority. A Democracy cares nothing for individual rights, or for property, or for what is Right or Wrong, it cares only for pleasing what most excites the passions of the majority, today, which may very well change on the next day. In Thucydides "The Peloponnesian War", which once was a central book in any American's education, the reality of what Democracy actually means was clearly understood through lessons of history on the original Democracy of Athens, where in Imperial Athens (oh, yeah, in case your textbooks left that out, Democracy historically - from its very start - tends towards Imperialism), on one day 'The People!' democratically condemned the male population of the entire city of Mytilene to death, and then on the next day they changed their minds and sent another ship to try and stop them from being slaughtered, which, fortunately, arrived just in time (no lesson learned though, as a few years latter they followed through on that with another city). That's true Democracy in action. What Democracy means in practice, without the additional representative and constitutional restrictions of Constitutional Republican government, true Democracy means authorized violence, theft and murder on the scale of entire populations, and our Founding Fathers thankfully did everything in their power to ensure that we would never become a true Democracy.
Wannabe mobsters, they love saying the government is bad at everything. When the government is ruled by the people, it's called our voice, so it's not bad, and you're not going to silence our voice, and whether it's the oil industry, or the criminal justice system, or the International Monetary Fund, or Facebook or Congress, or the presidency; if any organization becomes oppressive, and unaccountable, that's tyranny, and then when we make them accountable, that's Democracy.
Actually, mobsters do not care much for efficiency, because they thrive in murky, inefficient and unjust conditions; it's only honest people who do. Govt is bad at what it isn't fit to do, just as a screwdriver makes a poor hammer, and of course when using the wrong tool to do a job, the job is done poorly and inefficiently, which is exactly the sort of scenario where mobsters thrive - see Prohibition (that darling of progressivism, whose constitutional amendment was soon after repealed) for reference. To say that those in power have decreed what 'You The Woke' have 'voiced', that makes what was voiced, good? What if what their Democratic voice demanded, was that Socrates should be put to death because his questions annoyed 'You The Woke' (and lacking those protections in our Constitution, they could, and did, and will again if allowed to)... did that 'voice!' of Democracy make his murder 'good'? Even eight year old's see the problem with that, Matthew's an adult, what is wrong with you? Unfortunately the problem is that banality doesn't promote thoughtfulness, it promotes posturing, aka: Virtue Signaling, and in the long run that costs lives.

As just mentioned, when power is wielded by the numbers of the majority alone, and without the restraints of reasoned thought whose judgments are limited under systems of good law, that is bad, and as history has shown over and over, it quickly becomes extremely bad as it gains more power from from the loud chorus of banal voices, and as Matthew's passionate desire to enforce his... sorry 'The People's' will, on any person or industry that 'they' find displeasing, because they displease them - if successful, they would condemn us all to repeat the bloodiest lessons of history from France, Russia, Italy, Germany, Communist China, Cuba, Cambodia, and so on, in all of their miserably gory detail.

BTW, there are a couple words that Matthew's using here, that you'd do well to learn a little more about: "oppressive", "unaccountable", and "tyranny". Should you bother to give actual thought to the words he's cobbled together into this video of Virtue Signalling, you'll find that the word 'oppressive' has no meaning unless you first define what behavior is right and what is wrong, and which also can have no meaning without first defining why someone should be held accountable for their actions and how to fairly do so (AKA: Justice), and that tyranny involves the use of power to satisfy the passions voiced by the ruler or rulers, without regard to the individual rights of others, and without a constitutional system of justice which would make respecting their rights and property, possible. These word salads of his are little more than fascist fodder to lure the unwary and uninformed.
"Republican leadership today, they're against democracy [oh, how I wish that were true], and they're not even trying to hide it. They're only in power because of an undemocratic Electoral College, created by slaveholders. They're only in power because we have an undemocratic institution called the senate, that gives a single resident of Wyoming, as much voting power as 68 people in California, becasue every state gets two senators. Doesn't matter how many people live in them, and Republicans love that. They love how millions more Americans vote for Democrats, but don't get any representation."
As just noted, these weren't 'undemocratic' bugs in our Constitution, they are its anti-democracy features. And if you've never heard of the debates over the matter (and if, like Matthew, you're a college graduate, it's highly likely that you were never exposed to what is so thoughtlessly being denounced here), the House, the Senate, and the Electoral College, were revolutionary breakthroughs in the development of representative govt. Such statements as Matthew's indicate that he is either ignorant or disdainful of factors such as "The Connecticut Compromise", brilliantly - through lengthy, reasonable discussion and debate focused upon how best to represent the people's interests in local, state and federal government, struck a principled compromise to balance the means of representation between small and large states, in the federal government, which entailed having the House of Representatives be proportionate to each state's population (which satisfied the large states concerns over fairness), while each state was to be equally represented by having two members in the Senate (which reassured the smaller states fears of being oppressed by the larger states). As to the Electoral College, it provides the means for the people of the states to have those the people have directly elected, usually their State Representatives & State Senate (each state decides that for themselves), to select delegates as electors in the Electoral College from their localities, to best represent the interests and sentiments of their districts, and reducing the influence of the federal government or national movements, in the election of the President of the United States. These were hardly the actions that served the interests of tyrants, or represented the values of 'slave holders', but were the actions of free men who were wisely wary of the tactics of demagogues of both 'Democracy' and/or unlimited 'Statist' powers. That this fool's ideological rant is tone deaf to the Electoral College's real purpose and benefits, should in itself be extremely telling.

The fact that this "Message" misrepresents these features, and actually seeks measures which our Founder's wisely feared, displays Matthew's own lack of understanding of the nature and perils of carelessly placing power into the hands of interested men. Go figure. If he wishes to deride our Constitution as being a slave document, there's someone who has far more credibility on the subject than either Matthew or me, someone who once pointedly examined the question of "The Constitution of the United States: Is It Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?", and that's the great essayist, and escaped slave, Frederick Douglass. Look into what he had to say, and get back to me on that, umkay?
"They love Free Stuff. Just like the Founding Fathers."
The Founding Fathers loved Liberty, and as they both knew Liberty, and the lack of it, they well understood that liberty wasn't free, and they knew that propositions of 'free things' and 'privileges', were the tyrants preferred means of seducing and depriving a people of their liberty. You, who seek to empower those of your ilk (whether that be the passions of the minority you wish to give dictatorial power over a majority, or to a majority who wishes to impose their desires over those of the minority, should make no difference whatsoever - that is, if Justice was Matthew's goal. But the underlying meaning of his every comment makes it manifestly clear that Justice is not his goal. Power is.
Well guess what: Slavery is over. States are not people, Corporations are not people, concentrated power and wealth, and a master race, and master culture; none of that is Democracy, and your sacred constitution is long overdue for a rewrite. As holy of a document as you've been thinking it is, conditionally of course, because even the Empire-Hungry Colonists would have been disgusted by your handing over everything 'Sir, yes Sir', to the Lords & Ladies of Big Box Stores, Oil, and Money, that Republicans are worshiping today.
Slavery is over (in America) because Americans refused to allow the Democrat Party to not only continue its 'peculiar institution' (an early exercise in Politically Correct phrasing. Some things never change) past the period the Constitution intended for it to cease (see Article 1, Section 9, and/or refer back to Douglass's essay above), but to expand and spread slavery across the nation. Slavery ended, because Americans who understood the concepts behind the words of the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, demanded that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, be fully realized, despite the Democrat's desire to follow the 'voice of Democracy'.
Frederick Douglass on Dred Scott decision

Matthew is correct in saying that States are not people, but he appears to be oblivious to the implications of that. States have powers but not rights (see 9th & 10th Amendments), which is one of many reasons why states do not vote as people do in presidential elections, but only through those features of the Electoral College (see above) which still, thankfully, remain. Corporations, also, are not people, but corporations are made up of people, and oppressing their powers directly oppresses those who work for, and/or hold stock in them - many of whom are union retirement pensioners - is those people's status as employees and shareholders of corporations, supposed to cost them 'their voice' in your Democracy (Answer: Yes, it is)? I'd ask who it is that Matthew envisions himself to be, to presume to 'speak for' the 'acceptable' people's voice, but there's not really a need to, is there, as imagining themselves to be the Experts and Betters, is just the sort of 'Master Race' image that Progressive Democrats have always seen themselves as being.

The Democrat Party, especially under the influence of 'Progressives' (Left & Right), are most responsible for concentrating power into the hands of administrative agency bureaucrats who are entirely unanswerable to the people, and for writing laws which give preference to the wealthy and powerful, over those who cannot afford the expensive lawyers required to navigate their loopholes. And of course, it was the Democrat Party and its Progressive wing, see especially their SCOTUS darling in Oliver Wendell Holmes, who sought to insert eugenics into the nations laws through from the Bench, with the aim of protecting a master race (them), and a master culture (made by their elite experts). One very clear lesson of history that we dare not forget, is that Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebels wrote fan mail to American 'Progressive Democrats', and it was the 'Progressive Democrats' of FDR who rounded up Americans of Japanese descent, and threw them into concentration camps, during WWII. You might want to educate yourself on that matter, Matthew. And of course 'Democracy!' has been their favorite means and justification for every tyrannically abusive step they've ever taken.

If the Constitution needs to be amended, it will be done by We The People and in accordance with the rules We The People established, and not by the hysterical demands of the You The Woke (see Article V for hints on how that works).

I wonder if you've noticed how the #MeToo!, #BLM & #antifa!, are used by You The Woke to impose an identity politics of "'Sir, yes Sir'" submission upon the rest of your fellow Americans who still have some interest in a system of Justice? I also wonder if you are aware of how sensationalist agitation against "Big Box Stores, Oil, and Money" were the chosen notes (against 'Capitalists', Property Rights and Department Stores, among others) to arouse 'the voice of the people!' by Fascists in 1930's Germany? Again, perhaps you ought to educate yourself on that score as well.
The American Dream made us famous, all over the world; we gave people hope, but Republicans love it so much more, now that people have the worst chance at making it there than any other rich nation.
Despite the anti-American measures of the Administrative State, 1st outlined by racist 'Progressive' (D) Woodrow Wilson, 1st implemented under 'Progressive' (R) Teddy Roosevelt, and solidified under 'Progressive' (D) FDR, 'Progressive' (D) LBJ, and expanded under 'Progressive' (R)Nixon and perfected under 'Progressive' (D) BHO (noticing a trend there?), all of which have painfully undermined our individual rights, and made our laws ever more oppressive, America is still high on the list of destinations of people's around the world who wish to escape those states which most closely reflect Matthew's own ideals (Cuba, Venezuela, Communist China, etc), and immigrate to our shores in hopes of living in Liberty, even at great personal effort and expense. Perhaps you should investigate why that is, Matthew?
They prefer The Class System, The Caste System, extreme inequality, and poverty, because keeping other people down - the Communist, the Mexican, the Scary Pronoun, whatever word they want to give them, it makes them feel superior, like the old days, scared and demonizing whatever's out in the woods outside of the colony. Doesn't matter that their lives aren't much better, they're living through the achievements of their gods, icons of money, power, cruelty, and dripping arrogance, and that's why they love a fabric flag, more than the human flesh and blood that live and die under it: Because they're idol worshipers. And that is exactly what Jesus, and muhammad(pbuh), and Moses, told you not to do.
Reminding you once again, that the 'Class System' and the 'Caste System' were goals of the Democrat Party prior to the Civil War, and as the Jim Crow laws evidenced long after the Civil War, I'm reasonably sure that you cannot point to one major admission of, or change of 'principles', by the Democrat Party, the Progressives, or any of the Marxist variants that Matthew favors, which have substantively disavowed the power based beliefs which those systems are derived from and depend upon. And what is the Left's attacks upon conservatives (particularly, as befitting racists & bigots, against Whites, Christians & Conservatives), and even nuclear families, but an effort to empower a new caste system of 'the right kind of people', while forcibly imposing upon 'the wrong sort', via 'Democracy'?. The only disagreement which Matthew Cooke has with them, is who will be in power, over others. That some should have oppressive and tyrannical power to enforce their wishes, has nowhere been disavowed in any meaningful way by any of them, on the contrary, the various strains of Leftist 'intellectuals', from Derida, to Alinsky, to AOC, have consistently declared that individual rights are myths & fancies, and that all that matters is power for those classes & castes that Leftist's declare to be 'The People!' (who matter) and so are 'more equal' than others, for wanting what their 'leaders' say they should.

As to Matthew's fear of pronouns, 'Communist', should be understood to be not only a 'scary pronoun', but a clear and present danger of epically murderous dimensions, being responsible for the 100 million deaths across the 20th Century. The mouthing of its tenets and propaganda is, and should be considered, shameful. Being a Mexican, or any other nationality, is unworthy of being used, as Matthew does, to try and divide us, and his attempt to use it as if being of any nationality, should give anyone, preference or power over our laws that are to be applied equally to all, is disgusting. The fact that he does so, with such self-felating, no cost, virtue signaling rhetoric, and with such arrogant proclamations as he does, without a (any) 'decent respect to the opinions of mankind', bares the empty and vile nature of his beliefs.

As to examples of "living through the achievements of their gods, icons of money, power, cruelty, and dripping arrogance", I'd direct everyone's attention to Matthew's own profession's many and unending self congratulatory awards shows, their conspicuous displays of wealth, and their willing toleration for the raw desire for unlimited power over others, their cruelty towards any who dare to disagree, and the arrogance of such blanket statements.

BTW, while it may be difficult for someone of such a hidebound materialist mindset to grasp the importance and significance of symbols to invoke and convey the power of intellectual concepts, the importance of the American Flag is not lost upon those who do. Matthew's remarks display his own conceptual nakedness. The importance of such symbols were also not lost upon Jesus (see his own use of parables and his followers's use of the Cross), or of Moses (see the Torah & Ten Commandments), and the inability to distinguish between meaningful symbolism, and idol worship, once more shows Matthew's own leanings towards idolatry.
How dare you invoke the name of the Almighty and his messengers against the weak, the meek and the poor. The prophets led movements of the persecuted before they were overtaken by the persecutors who allied themselves with totalitarians like you're doing now, with modern day Saudi Arabia, and Israel under Netanyahu, and this radical Christian cult, all for a dirty oil empire, that is soaked in the blood of men and women and children and all the creatures of the earth
You who seek to empower the mob of democracy, over what is the first instance in human history of Liberty being secured, under a republican form of government, in order to hold the rights of each individual as being its primary purpose for existing, you dare say 'how dare you!'?! Irony abounds. Every murderous totalitarian of the 20th Century, from Mussolini, to Hitler, to Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, etc., they ALL espoused Matthew's beliefs, and they did so in order to stir the mob of 'Democracy!' into action, and then to enslave them with it. And this 'Message' is what he is Virtue Signalling out into the internet, as if the 20th Century's rivers of blood had not been shed for these same hollow shams. Shameful. That he derides a 'radical Christian cult' (without which the concept of 'individual rights' would not exist), while mouthing 'muhammad(pbuh)' untempered by any reference to the plagues of murderous islamists who terrorize people in the world here & now today, is once again, showing his own blind ideological nakedness and negligent disregard for reality, reason and truth.

And as to equating a tyranny like Saudi Arabia, with the nation of Israel, which provides the most liberty available in the entire region of the Middle East, is a breathtaking exercise in thoughtlessness and irresponsibility. And that Matthew does so, while espousing those very ideals that fascists & socialists & communists have used again, and again, and again, in order to enslave their own peoples under totalitarian dictatorships, displays his own unwillingness and inability to think through the meaning of the words that he's wrapping himself so tightly up in - the banality of evil, incarnate.
Now when Republican leaders say they love freedom, they love the freedom of unchecked domination, and they're followers, they love the freedom to live out some paranoid revenge-fantasy, of needing a firearm in case their superiority gets challenged in a WalMart or on some street in Portland.
This coming from the likes of those who endorse 'free speech is violence', 'punch a nazi!', '#MeToo!', whose rhetoric has stirred Berni Bro's to attempt to assassinate a park full of Republicans practicing for a baseball game, and attempted firebombing of an ICE facility on the streets of Tacoma, WA. Does no one possess mirrors to see themselves in? Are you so blinded by your own Virtue Signalling, that you cannot see the contradictory emptiness of your own words? And you seriously expect the rest of us to leave ourselves defenseless before you?! Stunning.
If you're wondering what set me off, I just saw how the Right-Wing PR Machine is uplifting war criminal soldiers that the Navy condemned, and their Dear Leader pardoned, and I guess some people on the Right want these savages to campaign with their master as heroes, and they think a Navy Seal calling out War Crimes, is somehow Political Correctness. Well my Grandfather would disagree with you.
Yes, when Political Correctness is used to condemn military members acting in a time of war, as war criminals, exposing and overturning such judgments, is carrying out justice, and that should be done publicly, and the politically correct ideology which drove that injustice, should be publicly called out and condemned, again, and again, and again.
This Republican Goon Squad worships the government when it gives them illegitimate authority over the people, then they march in their lock-step, drunk with their abuse of power.
Again, you who are seeking to overturn the Rule of Law, demanding to impose the will of the mob upon the rest of us, because you want it, is the very image of illegitimate authority being chased in pursuit of power over your fellows.
No. You can't have our Democracy. You can't make it a Great Republic for Slaveholders and Wage Slavery. Not again, not now, not ever. We beat you, and your masters, in the Civil War; we beat you on the beaches of Normandy; we beat you in Birmingham, and we're going to beat you again, because the truth wins. And you can stand by while all our communications networks get drowned with some Russian psychological warfare, you can redraw all our maps, you can keep suppressing the voting rights of our Black, Brown, and First Nation brothers and sisters, and go ahead, keep using the old slave laws to False-Multiply your votes; keep tricking all your scared, angry, ignorant old White People into supplication before your Orange-Golden Calf, but we're going to beat you, we're going to replace you, and we're going to change the culture - if not this election, then out in the streets, because you cannot have this land, you cannot have this country, it was never yours in the first place.
No, you do not have, and cannot have, a Democracy. Not here, not now, not ever. Because America is a great Republic, she was able to overthrow your like minded Democrat forebears who were the slaveholders who refused to allow their 'peculiar institution' of slavery to die. The Right, led by the Republican Party, whatever its current ills may be, was founded for the purpose of ending slavery, and The Right beat you and your slave masters in the Civil War, and it was that same Jim Crow Democrat Party that The Right defeated in Birmingham, and 'we' are going to beat you again, because you stand against and in opposition to what is true and just. Your Democrat Party aparatchiks attempted a legislative coup through 'Russian Collusion' impeachment, you and your ilk have tarred the names of good men, from Clarence Thomas to Brett Kavenaugh, to schoolboys wearing the 'wrong' hats, and you have called them racists, rapists and fascists, and have actually demanded that rules of evidence be cast aside to declare them guilty without trial, for no other reason than the fact that they disagree with your pro-regressive ideology.

You, Matthew, by your own unreasonable words and actions, show yourselves to be the modern day fascists - those who urge violence to suppress dissent and force compliance with an ideology - and despite your filthy marxist propaganda for actual slavery, we are defeating you, because as purveyors of lies and hatred, you are in substance, nothing, nihil, you and your ideals are less than chaff in the wind, and the winds of history is going to blow you into the nothingness that your banal Virtue Signalling truly is. You deserve to be forgotten by posterity, except as a cautionary tale to be told so that your ideas will prevail, never again.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Context Matters: Individual Rights are neither privileges nor blank checks; Limited Govt is neither dictatorship nor anarchy in drag

Here's a conundrum to occupy your 'social distancing' moments:
  1. I do most heartily and absolutely believe in, and insist upon, defending those essential Individual Rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights (as well as a due regard for those not explicitly identified in them).
  2. I fully understand and support Govt's power to declare Quarantines.
  3. I entirely reject the idea that either the Federal, State, or County Governments should issue blanket lockdowns or quarantines.
If those seem to you to be contradictory statements... then one of us is missing some important context in the matter. How about we take a few moments to consider what that context is, and whether it's either you, or me, that's missing it? Sure, it'll take some time to do, but what, you got something better to do with your 'social distancing'? Seriously? Here's a thought, if you don't know that answer for sure, yet don't think it's worth your taking the time to consider important issues that are most definitely affecting you and your entire life right now, then it's a good guess that you're less interested in what's true, than in the feel-good trivia of ideological positions, how fit for living in liberty does that make you?

And if you're one of those just waking up to the fact that our government hasn't been operating by the constitution in nearly a century, well, sorry for the wake-up call, but you've already hit that snooze button way too many times: Welcome to the Administrative State. If you'd like a chance to get back to a government where supporting your individual rights is understood to be its purpose, then you need to learn a bit more about those rights (and the laws relation to them) than just some of their names. First comes the Cause, and then the Effect.

I would have preferred different circumstances to bring this discussion about, but the fact is that the COVID-19 Coronavirus has at least brought about the necessity of 'We The People' doing what we've avoided doing for multiple decades now: having a national discussion about what individual rights are, what powers and responsibilities those rights entail, and what role Government should occupy in our lives. And we surely shouldn't ignore the question of how we should exercise and 'police' both ourselves, and those we've put into positions of power amongst and over us.

As you begin giving these issues some responsible thought, here are a few of the thoughts that just might begin jumping out at you:
  • Our Individual Rights are not merely a list of stuff that THEY can't tell us not to do.
  • The Law is not simply a set of rules for ruling us by.
  • Govt is not a perpetual power we provide for those who know best, to do good unto us.
Puzzles pieces or Lego blocks
I saw a revealing meme this weekend, that "Having some states lock down and some states not lock down is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool." There's of course a certain humor to it that's worth a giggle, but on the other hand to think of states as being as uniform and fluid as one pool of water, is nearly as bad, as that of thinking of our individual states as being as interchangeable and easily interconnected as Lego blocks. Far more appropriate to such a meme, though less giggle worthy, would be that of individually cut puzzle pieces, making up the nation through unique states, counties, cities, wards & persons, each having different shapes, sizes, images and particular purposes in that puzzle. The generic approach of either a uniform pool, or interchangeable lego blocks, however, is a perspective that is very natural and common to the mindset of the 'Expert' who has spent a great deal of time examining various indicators and attributes of behavior which are tracked in generalized sociological, biological, medical and economic schemas of thinking, and are accustomed to focusing upon impersonal similarities, which if given no further thought beyond the range of their expertise, lends itself to supporting those collectivist positions which such experts often express as being their preferred ideology (see those calls for nationwide quarantines & lockdowns by 'experts' in healthcare, politics, economics, press & pro-regressives of the Left & Right).
Dangerous humor

But the fact is that neither people, nor cities, counties or states, can be reasonably thought of as having some common lego-like uniformity such that Wyoming might in some meaningful way be interchangeable with New York ('Social Distancing' is an entirely different proposition on a sidewalk in New York City, than on a sidewalk in Caspar Wyoming). It isn't reasonable to treat those as if they can be snapped together with policies & orders to form a single seamless shape that serves a supposedly legitimate purpose. That, however, is common to the thinking of those who have not spent a reasonable amount of time reflecting upon what it means to be human, and has not spent a reasonable amount of time thinking about the unique patterns of thought, the strengths & weaknesses, virtues, vices & habits of various cultures and ethnicities that go into making up the individual lives, which we then clumsily turn around and think of as being 'a people'. This shouldn't be too surprising, as that less common form of thinking, which was once common, was discarded by us the better part of a century ago. Ideas do have consequences, and those consequences extend outwards over time.

Yes, I object to Governors locking down entire states, as if each urban, suburban & rural locale could ever be treated as uniform lego blocks, while actually expecting to enjoy benefits, rather than lasting damage, from treating such different populations as being interchangeable. While I'm 'fine' with the President and Governors giving general advice to "Stay at home, wash your hands", even reallocating resources and closing down their particular offices and schools (which truthfully, I'm always ok with), I'm not ok with their giving particular and specific orders from their level of government, for individuals to do, and not do, 'this & that' - more on that towards the end of this.

But I also object to those 'friends of liberty!' who look at our individual rights as if they are, can and should be, dealt with and defended as uniform lego-like labels to be snapped onto some sort of 'constitutional' placeholder of 'Freedom of ___', as if 'Rights!' are absolute givens, contextless and freeze-framed onto our lives ("You can't quarantine me, that violates my freedom of association! Police State!!!"), could somehow be supportive of our individual rights, rather than undermining and torpedoing every aspect of what is required for understanding, upholding and defending them.

I am not saying that there are no such things as 'Absolutes' (Sith or otherwise). Absolutes absolutely do exist, and they do absolutely apply within a given context. But the meaning and applicability of those being identified as Absolutes, are destroyed when we attempt to apply them indiscriminately, and without regard to those contexts which initially give rise to them.

The attempt to claim an Absolute Right - whether that be Freedom of Speech or Property Rights - without regard to those reasonable contexts which give rise to them, does not strengthen those rights, it batters, undermines and flattens them into shallow cardboard cutouts, and the reactions to them invites the clamor of popular demand for government to exercise its powers to 'Help You!' without regard to any context, and serves only to eliminate what protections we do still manage to enjoy today. These would be 'defenders of liberty!', should keep in mind that using Saul Alinkey's lucky #13th rule "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.", continues to do its work in destroying individual rights, even if you somehow intended it to preserve them.
John Finnis, Natural Law & Natural Rights, pg. 469

Context matters
: Individual Rights are neither privileges nor blank checks; Limited Govt is neither dictatorship nor anarchy in drag. If you read even just the debates over Madison's proposed amendments to Congress that eventually became our Bill of Rights, each of those proposed measures involved an extensive discussion over the context in which it would be appropriate for people to have the power to exercise those rights, and when it would be inappropriate.

In the context of a criminally insane person who fails to exercise their rights responsibly, they're afforded little or no power to exercise those rights in prison. For an innocent person to be stopped on the street under normal circumstances and questioned about his recent whereabouts, then taken to jail for further questioning, would be a downright tyrannical violation of their (and our) individual rights. But for that same person to be stopped, in the context of their bearing a strong resemblance in appearance and dress to a known criminal who had just committed a crime in that area, and who was seen leaving the scene of the crime in a similar vehicle, and who had been in possession of articles similar to what was used or taken in the commission of that crime, then in that context it would be permissible for that (innocent) person to be stopped by the police, and even to be taken in for further questioning, without having violated any of their (or our) individual rights. Furthermore, if the (innocent) person's answers and manner didn't allay suspicions, it would be a dereliction of duty for the police not to do so.

Context matters, and in the context of Quarantines, our Founder's implemented quarantines in their times, even in the 1790's when our Constitution was practically hot off the presses. They did so because as cities such as Philadelphia & New York were repeatedly being struck with outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Small Pox & Cholera, they formulated and passed laws at both the state and federal level, to allow for imposing quarantines upon persons, ships and if need be cities - and they were right, and mindful of our rights, in doing so. They didn't take those measures in an effort to abuse anyone's liberties, but to uphold and defend them in the face of a mortal threat to their "...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...", which is, after all, why "... Governments are instituted among Men...", right?

And by the way, despite the idiotic meme I've seen circulating among libertarians, to the effect that :
Quarantines are for confining sick people,
Prisons are for confining healthy people!
Quarantines have always been applied to people who appear to be healthy at the moment, but who are suspected of, or known to have been, somewhere in the area of an infection, and so they were quarantined for a period of time (Quarantine: "...from Italian quaranta giorni, literally "space of forty days,"..."), not to abuse those who were quarantined, but in order to preserve the health and rights of those they would otherwise come into contact with and might reasonably be expected to jeopardize the health of.

Context matters, and the claim that it doesn't matter, such as J.S. Mill's pernicious notion that liberty always and everywhere means nothing more than 'the ability to act without restraint', eviscerates the understanding of what individual rights are and what liberty requires, and relegates the responsibilities inherent in exercising those rights to the sidelines. Such narrow notions of liberty serve more to hasten a wholesale loss of liberty, as the irresponsible behavior of individuals is more and more given a pass (and even an 'atta boy!') under the cover of such notions. One example of that attitude comes from the Murray Rothbard branch of Libertarians, who ascribe to 'anarcho-capitalism', who persist in philosophically 'Begging the Question' by wanting to replace government with business contracts, when it's government that is the means of preserving the rights and judicial system which makes such business contracts possible and enforceable. To think that a system of contracts, property & individual rights, could exist and persist in a (literal) state of anarchy, which, by its nature, means that there is no governance, no authority, no law, and so no means of, or final word in, resolving disputes, or of recognizing and upholding an individual's rights, property or life, beyond their own muscular or monetary ability to overpower, or at least intimidate those who might feel like depriving them of one or more of those, is an amazing feat of dropping context from your thinking (and no, proposing 'Justice Co's' doesn't solve any issue, it just creates multiple cans to be kicked down the road - here's a pithy exploding of the notion).

Individual Rights are inherent in man's nature,that's absolutely true, but without a means of implementing and impartially upholding them, they're just notions blowing in the wind (see below). Even that Libertarian idol, the Austrian Economist Ludwig von Mises (who Rothbard was a student of), called out that silliness as being "...A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists..." (you should follow the link and read the full passage). Such 'liberty minded' folk as that, and those who lend credibility to them (such as Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is such a 'liberty!' minded constitutionalist, that he thinks the Constitutional Convention was a coup), are to my mind only just a little less responsible for the erosion of our individual rights in society today, than those of the pro-regressives Left & Right. Why? Because the shallow notions which they promote as being 'Rights!', and 'Free Trade!', reduce the deeper structures inherent in our Founders revolutionary concepts of Liberty, to that of thoughtless, flat, lego-like labels, which adulterates and erodes the 'liberty!' they prattle on so much about caring so much about, and lead directly to their rejection of Intellectual Property, which is the very root of Property (and rights), in law.

None of this should be taken as being dismissive of the fact that there are people today - lots of them (see especially James Clyburn & Nancy Pelosi... even Bill Gates (once again), and of course the 'good intentions' of our entire government) - who are attempting to seize upon this crisis in order to 'restructure' our government and bulldoze our individual rights in pursuit of their own political passions - that is absolutely happening. But peddling false notions of what our individual rights are, and entail, does not serve to strengthen our liberty, it, as all errors, falsehoods and lies do, serves instead to undermine, confuse and corrupt our understanding of what is right and true. Behaving as if we should all go out and do whatever the heck we please, and that Govt would and should have no recourse to such irresponsible behavior, will absolutely lead to conditions where bad actors will become empowered to take advantage of ever worsening conditions to the detriment of all of our liberties, nearly as speedily as would tyrannical edicts being issued 'for the greater good!'.

Our modern turn towards ideological conceptions of liberty and government, are diluting and corrupting the very thing that we profess to 'care!' about, progressively turning us into a people who are unable and unwilling to act responsibly. Such developments should call to the minds of Americans today, something that Edmund Burke said of Frenchmen a the start of the French Revolution in our Founder's day:
"...Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters...." Burke and the French Revolution IV - Online Library of Liberty
Both those who're saying "You must obey our rules!" and those saying "...I will ignore all of your rules and do as I damned well please...", are both busily forging our fetters. Stop it. Read and reflect upon that history which it would be best not to be repeated. Extend your interests beyond your normal preferences, and THINK beyond those snap judgments which when unchallenged, seem so obviously 'true'. The

Thinking beyond snap judgments
About thirty years ago now, as I became aware that much of what I'd 'learned' was largely false or misleading, and I became interested in how and what teachers had historically taught the members of their society, from the furthest reaches of antiquity, on down through the ages to the opening of modernity, and from there on down to the present day. That interest has familiarized me with an oddly wide (for today) range of materials and subject matters in literature, art, philosophy, history and so on, and having given those materials a good deal of study and reflection, I've come to a number of conclusions, much of which our Founders (most of whom were far more familiar with those materials than I am) beat me to making by the better part of three centuries. Frustratingly, communicating those ideas to others, requires much more than simply extracting catchy phrases onto picket boards and Instagram pictures, and then being liked and tweeted about in viral memes. You may very well disagree with my conclusions, but I've got to ask: do you actually disagree with me on the basis of having substantive reasons of your own for that disagreement? Or do you simply prefer not to not bother thinking about it, and so opt out of any further need of thinking, by repeating those ideological positions you're more comfortable with doing your thinking for you?

If you glance at the points in this post and either shrug them off as 'wrong' or 'right' and so give no more of your time to considering them, then you should know, as I do, that you are not interested in understanding what actually matters (which requires engaging in reasoned reflection), but instead are only interested in performing the near thoughtless action of calculating ideological positions which you already personally find to be pleasing to you. If you are of the sort that confuses that with thinking, whether you identify as being on either the Left, Right, or Libertarian, it is you that are an active part of, and cause for, our present troubles. In either case, please, read on and see if you can find some issues to reasonably disagree with me upon - either way, we're both going to come out of that with a better understanding of what we believe.

From the top
So, starting from the top, human beings live by acting in accordance with a process of reasoning (well or poorly), across all avenues of their lives - from producing the material necessities of life, to who we associate with and make agreements with, to what we say and do, reverence, revile, entertain and make light of, worship or curse.

The reason why our individual rights were considered by our Founding Fathers to be 'unalienable', is because they are derived from the nature of being human beings, and are self-evidently reflected in those actions & powers that any and every person reasons to be necessary to take in the course of their own ", liberty and pursuit of happiness". Our rights are as innumerable as the circumstances that a person may need to resolve or overcome in life, which is the reason for our 9th Amendment. What products follow from our having engaged in those actions, rightfully taken, are called Property, and because some portion of our lives actions were tied up in the creating of that, the wrongful taking of our property strikes at the very center of the living of our lives.

Because we are not omniscient, what we know to be true, we know by reasoning upon the reality that our senses and experiences furnish us with (and for those who might want to restrict our thoughts from there to an empiricist, nominalist and materialist views (AKA: Where the West went wrong), keep in mind that our sense of wonder cannot be contained by any one of those, and that the truths which those systems of thought do contain, are themselves contained by a higher truth that their systems of thought can't comprehend. See Gödel's incompleteness theorems, to roundly sink such notions), and yet because we are not gods, we can and do make honest errors, and we are all also - some moreso than others - at times willfully ignorant, and are even fully capable of being conveniently forgetful...or even of engaging in deliberate forms of guile and deceit, in our interactions with our fellows.

Given that, when human beings gather together to live in society with each other, they as a people have a decision to make: How are disputes between them to be resolved? Among the methods of reasoning and rules of evidence that have been evolved over millennia, there is one fundamental legal maxim which all others rest upon, and it emphasizes the need to be able to appeal to impartial judges to aid in resolving disputes between parties who are otherwise very partial and interested in the outcome of such a judgement:
"Nemo judex in causa sua (or nemo judex in sua causa"
Latin for 'no one should be a judge in his own cause'
Liberty is not Freedom
Our Western understanding of Law and of Justice rests upon that, as I noted in this post on the development of Western Law, no one should be a judge in their own cause, because even the best of us will tend towards (or be suspected of) permitting himself to decide a matter because it would be to their benefit to do so, which leads right back down to the passionately savage struggles that a system of law is intended to lift our societies above. If you'd rather not read the dusty tomes of history and law to get a better understanding of that, but you do want a better understanding of how that system developed and the reasons for it, the Greek playwright Aeschylus gave the foundational Western illustration to this concept in his trilogy of plays, the Orestia, which I touched upon (and are linked to) in this post.

For those who choose to go in the opposite anarchic direction, when a person is either living alone, or within a family or clan, in the wild, their actions aren't made in conformance to impartial 3rd party judgments, but are determined by their own whims and the muscular power to do, and get away with doing, whatever it is they might want to do. That is real freedom, and it can just as easily be used to live nobly, as it can be used to live in savage brutishness. But when such people as that gather together to live in society, they have to decide whether to either continue on living under those conditions of 'Freedom!', whereupon violence, retribution and subjugation are the inevitable results - AKA: Anarchy - or they can try and devise a system of rules and procedures to get them as close to living by sound judgments, that are as true and right as possible, which then forms a basis for their system of justice.

There is of course thousands of years of tragic & bloody history, comprising both the dangers of anarchy (see Greece), and of its cure, Government. And because governments can and have been formed and organized in such way as turn out to be as dangerous and destructive as the anarchical disease they were devised to be a cure for, the playing out of those two extremes has provided much of the driving force behind most of recorded human history. Those who were raised in our Founder's era was very closely acquainted with those thousands of years of history that preceded them, and it was that their understanding of history that led them to understand that an essential set of individual rights needed to be preserved and protected, not only from the depredations of their fellows, but from those in their own governments who were charged with preserving and protecting them. To sum that up, as I noted in an earlier post upon our Constitution,
"...before going any further into it, a couple fundamentals on the Founding Fathers, Americans, and the Constitution.
  • One, they knew that man can be virtuous.
  • Two, they knew that you can't rely upon men to always be virtuous.
  • Three, Govt is necessary, for as Madison summed it up
    "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controuls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself."
  • Four, as that quote points out, because govt is power, and is run by men - flawed & unflawed - it needs to be restrained by something which will be in plain sight of everyone - our Constitution"
The revolutionary developments that America's Founding Fathers contributed to the political philosophy of mankind, was to not only recognize the importance of "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed", but the need to also single out those individual rights that were essential to living in liberty, and which if securely fixed in both the hearts and laws of the people, no tyrant would ever be able to stand up in the face of them. The means that they found to "...enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself...", was to bind our government's powers down by a higher set of laws than the active legislature could write or alter, and to do so by means of a written Constitution, whose purpose was to uphold and defend the individual rights of their people, so that "...if people can speak, associate, worship, discuss, be secure in their homes and property, secure from judicial harassment and able to defend their lives and other rights from assault, then no nascent tyranny can ever rise up any further than its hands & knees."

The system which our Founders' established for us, was not created to satisfy the urge to act without restraint - which is a freedom that is possible only to the savage in the wild. Neither was its system created for Govt to primarily establish order and act for 'the greater good!'. Such systems as those, as they well knew, were not only prone to growing tyrannical, but were so in even their initial and best intentions, right from the start. Just as importantly, neither was our system of government established to secure that exercise in 'Begging the Question' known as securing ''Economic Rights'' - which are but gaudy decoration$ pasted upon the actions of responsible men, whose individual rights are already secured under that Rule of Law, so that they might enjoy the liberty to engage in society with their fellows (which is what an economy results from). Confident that disputes could be resolved reasonably and peacefully, their individual rights secured under their form of government, they could engage in "...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...". That is our government's purpose, its primary goal, and is what was meant by our Constitution's Preamble:
" Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."
With both purpose and means secured, men were finally able to put their liberty into action, and what resulted from that, was a Free Market which led to an explosion of wealth, health and prosperity, the likes of which the world had never seen - but that followed as a result of those prior first causes, not as a cause itself.

Central to their understanding of what the meaning and purpose of Justice and Law, was captured in a line from a Roman they knew well, Cicero, who had said:
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature"
Law is not a royal edict. Law is not a flat rule to be blanketly applied in exactly the same manner in every instance no matter the individual circumstances. Law is right reason in agreement with nature, or IOW reasoning in respect to the reality of conditions, by systematic and verifiable means, so that its conclusions can be seen to justifiably follow from the circumstances involved.

To put it more bluntly, our system of government:
  • ... is not established so that you can do whatever the hell you want - that freedom is free only to the savage, and only then if he's stronger than those in his way.
  • ... is established to provide a means of establishing a Rule of Law that promotes Justice,
  • ... is established in order to uphold and protect the lives, rights and property of its people.
And unfortunately for those who think no further than doing whatever they want to do without any external restraints, sometimes the proper operations of Justice and Liberty will compel government to 'tell you what to do'. With the thinking exemplified by James Madison's essay on Property very much in mind, you'll see that the 'takings clause' and 'eminent domain' in our Constitution, show how wrong it is to imagine that government cannot ever, under any circumstances, touch, compel, or deprive you of your private property. The reason why those clauses are there, is that when unusual circumstances arise and such actions are determined to be necessary, by due process of law, then you should be compensated for those actions. And in times of emergency, those who have been put into positions of power within government, by the consent of the governed, may need to act in ways that in calmer times would not be permitted; that too is a reflection of the propriety of taking action within the context of the moment. Emphasis on 'moment', as when the next moment comes, We The People had better examine just how justified those actions were, and if We don't do that, you'd better believe that Govt will do whatever we let it get away with.

Once again, Context Matters, and while in normal circumstances no govt official may enter your house unannounced, and they certainly may not do damage to your house, that changes in the context of emergencies. For example, if your house is on fire in the middle of the night, firemen may not only enter your home unannounced, but can forcibly pull you out of it, and even prevent you from reentering it. Why? Not only to save you from harm while under their authority in that emergency, but to prevent your putting them into additional danger from having to rescue you yet again. Just as that applies to house fires, building fires, and wildfires consuming entire neighborhoods and townships, similar instances can be drawn out in regards to the emergency situations faced by police when in pursuit of criminals, or in active shooter scenarios, or in wider scale disaster responses to tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.

When the emergency is over, normality returns. Lessons learned from those experiences may prompt new rules and laws, but they will be framed within the laws and norms that ruled prior to the emergency situation.

What Emergency Measures does an emergency justify, and for how long?
What this should be leading you to ask, right about now, is what is an Emergency, and for how long are those actions taken in an emergency situation, valid to continue taking?
Definition of emergency:
1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
2: an urgent need for assistance or relief
The unforeseen outbreak of a contagious disease which poses a real threat to the health and lives of individuals in your society, certainly qualifies as the type of emergency which governments can and must act upon in order to preserve the lives, property and rights of their citizenry. When there are reasonable grounds to believe that your travelling around amongst others, could expose them to a potentially life threatening illness, there is a reasonable cause for discussing measures of restricting travel, because in that context, your freedom to move about as you please, can constitute a threat to others. That is not in any way similar to a normal travel situation being interrupted by a jackbooted official demanding 'Papers please!', and the use of the example is not one that helps the cause of liberty.

There are of course several other factors involved in that context, which affect the reasonability of authorities imposing travel restrictions
  1. how widespread is the exposure?,
  2. what are the number of cases in your area?,
  3. are you infected?,
  4. have you traveled to heavily infected areas?
, those and other factors would affect the legitimacy of such actions, but given the current context, and especially that of #3, in that part of the danger of the COVID-19 is that most people carrying the virus have no reason to suspect that they are carrying and able to infect others with the virus, travel restrictions are not unreasonable measures to discuss. In regards to #1 & #2 in the area of a neighborhood or township that is experience an elevated infection, or is bordered by an area which has, it is reasonable during that emergency, to ask, and if necessary enforce, travel restrictions.

There are some who are going about today who object even to proper quarantines and lockdowns, that "... but I don't have the virus, so I'll do whatever I want! ". These folks seem to have somehow missed out on one of the most dangerous issues we are facing with this disease, which is at the root of our inability to deal with it at the moment, and which has elevated dealing with it to the status of emergency measures: No one, including you, knows for sure whether they are carrying the disease, and their sense that "I'm fine!", is what is most responsible for its rapid spread.

Until we're able to easily test for it, then in a time of an outbreak, it is entirely reasonable - where there are signs of its presence, and there are reasonable indicators to apply to particular areas - and it is justifiable, for authorities to go beyond the measures of simply advising people to stay at home, and to require that they don't risk exposing others to what they might be caring and cannot know for certain that they aren't infected and 'shedding' the virus. At this point in time (here where the emergency is), there's no way for anyone to know whether or not they're a danger to those who are taking a risk and going to work to provide the food and other services which the rest of us are depending upon. That fully meets a reasonable criteria for emergency measures (again, with many caveats), and it is just such powers that we delegate from our own individual rights, to government, in order for it to uphold and defend our lives, rights and property.

Any conception of Liberty which fails to see that, fails at what is central to liberty: a reasonable & responsible regard for the lives, individual rights & property of their fellows. The person that does not, or will not see that, has far more fundamental problems than these emergency restrictions to deal with, they have fundamental disagreements with our entire system of laws and form of constitutional government.

However in regards to #1 & #2, unless an entire state, or county, is known to be thoroughly saturated with infections, imposing blanket quarantines and lockdowns upon those regions, are, I think, unreasonable, unwarranted, and illegitimate.

Somewhere between the two, is a reasonable discussion to be had, and any respect and regard for Liberty, requires reasonably discussing the matter, and reasonably complying with such emergency measures that are determined to be required, for the legitimate duration of that emergency.

The main problem we're faced with today, is that too few are interested in or willing to reasonably discuss the matter, too many have jumped straight to either "You must submit!" or "You can't make me!" - neither of which shows much regard for individual rights or liberty - and too few are willing to try and find a responsible course of action for this time (and of course, we'll need to define what 'this time' covers).

Yes, in times of emergency govt can and must act to preserve the lives, property and rights of their citizenry. But that is not a blank check, either in regards to what actions it can take, or the reasons for them.

How long is an emergency, an emergency?
There comes a time when what may have once been an unexpected circumstance, begins to become a predictable, even a normal, expectation, at that point the emergency ceases to be an emergency, and all such 'emergency measures' must be cast off. It may be that new decisions and definitions of 'normal' will be warranted, but not at the expense of the fundamentals of normal behavior.

The proposal to violate those protections of our individual rights, upon the banality that "If it saves just one life, we should ___!", is not a valid reason for passing laws that violate the individual rights which our laws are established to uphold and protect. Such proposals are themselves attempts to extend and impose emergency situations upon, and into, normal conditions, and they must be opposed and denounced as forcefully as possible. Such measures, intentionally or not, will smuggle tyranny in under a sympathetic sheep's clothing, and it will naturally compound itself from there. Do not permit it, and do not treat it as a respectable proposition. It is not.

Which prompts the question: How long does an emergency last? How long can the situation endure and still be called an emergency? Days? Certainly. Weeks? Okayyy... Months...?! Possibly... one... or two, depending upon the nature of the emergency. Several Months?! I'm exceedingly doubtful about that, and I'd be very much inclined to heatedly criticize and become suspect of the motives of anyone proposing such a duration. At some point, an ongoing set of circumstances are no longer "an unforeseen combination of circumstances", and normal circumstances must be allowed to return, no matter how much matters might need to be tweaked to match lessons learned from that experience, those lessons must be made so as to fit within the normal framework and purposes of our laws. Period.

But what if those abnormal conditions which properly warranted the situation being called an emergency... don't go away? What if what had been unexpected, and so was rightfully determined to be an emergency, becomes expected? Can its continuance, or its routine return, continue to be called an emergency?

If it is predictable, if it ceases to be "an unforeseen combination of circumstances", can it still be called an emergency? I think you can find the answer to that, in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918... and its now 'normal', seasonal, annual return. Even though it routinely brings about the death of some 20,000 to 30,000 Americans, every year, its foreseen circumstances, while warranting preventative measures, is and can no longer be called, an emergency situation.

When this Coronavirus Pandemic passes, all emergency measures passed, and those opportunistically pilled onto its back, must needs be lifted and rescinded.

Ignore one key concept and "...we should soon want bread...."
There's one more issue that needs to be focused upon, which follows after determining that you are indeed in an emergency, and after you've determined what measures in general need to be taken, you need to decide who, and at what level, it will be appropriate for those actions to be taken by?

As much as I disagree with the people hollering about their being stopped as an indication of our living in a police state, there is a thread of truth they may have tangled their thinking up in, and that is what actions are appropriate, and at what level is it appropriate for quarantines and 'voluntary' lockdowns to be issued in? Answering that involves a concept that had not yet been given a name in our Founder's era, and yet it is one which our Founders implicitly understood and acted very much in accordance with, which this line from Thomas Jefferson nicely illustrates:
"...Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread...."
The understanding which that points towards was partially reflected in the nature of Federalism, where the Federal Govt mainly exercised only those powers that individual states could not, but it is also reflected within the structures of our state governments, whose laws acquire more direct power in each of our lives, in proportion to their distance from the actual circumstances to be acted upon, which is most distant at the level of the state, and moves closer at the level of the county, city, township, and ward levels.

The vital principle behind that, of allowing decisions to be made at the lowest appropriate level, oddly enough, though it was a vital in the defining of America, the word for it didn't exist in English until the 1930's: Subsidiarity:
"the principle that decisions should always be taken at the lowest possible level or closest to where they will have their effect, for example in a local area rather than for a whole country"
And in the wider context of the Coronavirus Emergency, that understanding animates what Thomas Jefferson described here in his autobiography, which the preceding quote came from:
"But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within it’s local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by it’s individual proprietor. Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread. It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all…"
This principle in practice, is vital to the nature of our Constitutional system of government and to the preservation of our Individual Rights, which should be understood to include not only those explicitly protected by the first eight amendments, but also those implicitly warranting protections under the 9th & 10th amendments, and to federalism, and to how, and who, writes our laws. We are not individually, or collectively, the same, or even easily snapped together and into line, to be served well by having general, top-down laws, imposed upon us. Laws are not cookie-cutters. We are more like individual puzzle pieces, than uniform lego-blocks. That understanding is what enables and permits the good people of Utah, and the good people of their neighboring state of Nevada (some of whose counties permit prostitution), to live under the same federal laws of the United States of America, while also living as law abiding citizens under the very different laws of their respective states, as well as the differing laws of neighboring communities, and it is what we should be thinking of when we hear ideologues of the Left, Right & Center, speaking of imposing state or national lockdowns.

The Federal Govt cannot, either by President Trump or Health experts such as Dr. Fauci, they cannot have useful and actionable knowledge - an awareness of relevant facts and detailed circumstances which give rise to them - of what is happening on the State level, they are too distant from the relevant reality of the moment. Likewise, the State Governors cannot have useful and actionable knowledge as to the what is comprehended by those within the state's various counties, just as those County Executives are unable to have useful and actionable knowledge of vital particulars in regards to situations of infections that are present at the various City, Township, or Ward levels, contained within them. In such situations, as President Trump has echoed, the more distant levels of government can and should compile, coordinate and direct requested resources which would aid with what the next lower levels are able to see would be helpful in handling the emergency, such actions are warranted, and are the only level where intelligent decision making can take place. With each overstepping of boundaries of separating the general from the particular, the 'stupid' slips in - see most cases of bureaucratic efforts 'to help you', whether they be public or private institutions, which end in bungles of frustration and disaster.

That is the secret power of Subsidiarity: It alerts us to the fact that truly intelligent decisions and actions can only be taken by those who are close enough to the realities of the situation at hand, and recognizes that the further removed that 'decision makers' are from those realities, the 'stupider' their decisions must of necessity become.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the most egregious violator of both context and subsidiarity, the regulations, and the entire system of our administrative agency's 'Regualtory Law', and as has been repeatedly demonstrated in this Coronavirus emergency, those regulations interfere with, slow down and often prevent sensible behavior, and they kill. That is a far more insidious virus in our lives today, than any plague could hope to be.

Government can and must act to contain the spread of disease that can jeopardize the lives of those it is instituted to protect, but for it to attempt to act at such a far remove from the actual realities involved, it must needs actually jeopardize the well being it supposedly is acting to serve.

In the St. Louis Model, during the Spanish Flu of 1918, after seeing how the virus ravaged the cities of the east coast, St. Louis officials acted to quarantine buildings and blocks where the virus had been detected, and they also acted to forbid conditions that would spread the flu - which included everything from food festivals to church services. These were not assaults upon liberty, and they were no more evidence of living in a police state then, than they are now. These were emergency measures, with definite expiration dates and purposes, and they were imposed, not by the federal govt, not by the state governor, and not by the county executive, but by the mayor of the city - the lowest possible govt entity at the time with active knowledge of conditions, needs, and ability to act.

In our current situations, it is proper for the Federal Govt to act, in regards to its responsibilities of borders, interstate movement - it can, and should where necessary, shut down travel into the nation. It can also, by virtue of systems and laws that may or may not be constitutional, provide assistance to the states (which the recent 'stimulus package' was most definitely is not an example of). The states, can perform similar measures in regards to their borders and travel into and out of the state, and between counties. But IMHO, states and counties cannot, and should not, act at their level to 'lockdown' or quarantine communities by laws, each of which contains unique clusters rather than uniform conditions, which at a distance may appear to be warranted by certain hotspots in a ward or city, but are not visibly uniform in other wards, townships, cities, or counties.

So there you have it, I:
  1. I do most heartily and absolutely believe in, and insist upon, defending those essential Individual Rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights (as well as a due regard for those not explicitly identified in them) - within that reasonable context which gives them meaning and substance
  2. I fully understand and support Govt's power to declare Quarantines - when made at the lowest possible level or closest to where they will have their effect
  3. I entirely reject the idea that either the Federal, State, or County Governments should issue blanket lockdowns or quarantines - such actions follow from the affected sites themselves, because "...Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread..."
It's our responsibility to ensure that those temporary emergency measures are appropriate to their time and place, and also to see to it that they don't become permanent (see St.Louis in 1918 Spanish Flu, WWII Rationing, etc.). And if we've allowed the election of officials who openly seek to make them permanent... whose to blame there?

How active have you been in forging those fetters? How active have you been in preventing those fetters from being forged?

Don't allow yourself to be 'Socially Distanced' from liberty. We get the government we deserve, if we want better, we'd better work on ourselves and ensure that we actually do deserve better.