Category Archives: philosophical

Your Rights As They Exist On An Island, By Your Lonesome

I saw a sign at the Occupy Wall Street protest that, well, sort of boggled my mind.

To Say That a Job is a Right is the Same Thing as Claiming You Have the Right to Enslave

How can you claim a job to be a right? Are you not claiming ownership over the product or service of another person?

And this is where the “rights on an island” scenario comes into play. My dear friend Justin used this analogy. Imagine if you were on an island and you were the only person there. No other human exists on this island. Additionally, there are no merchants or health care providers or attorneys or–yes, that’s right–employers.

Consider the way in which your rights exist in this setting. On this island, you have freedom to do as you please. If you wanted to spend time doing jumping jacks, that is your right. If you wanted to build a home* on this island, you could do that too. But your rights are limited to what you can provide for yourself, without infringing upon another.

You have the right to pursue (your own, unique, personal, individual) happiness. You have the right to liberty. That is all.

You do not have the right to another man’s product or service. Or, in the case of the employer, you do not have the right to a job. A job is a value the employer has created for themselves. They worked to achieve a status that affords them the freedom to hire. That is their achieved liberty. They can hire, and that is their choice.

You do not have a right to a job. A job is product that is created and carefully constructed; to be offered, only at the will and desire of the employer who created it. If they deem a candidate of worth and relevance for the job, then they have the liberty to choose said candidate.

Just as a job is a product, so is, let’s say, a lamp. The Lamp Store sells lamps. Do you have a right to the lamp? What about the dentist? Her product is dental care. Do you have a right to that?

No.

Remember, you are on an island. Your rights exist only as if you were on said island, all by your lonesome.

I don’t have a right to a job. I do have the right, however, to make myself relevant and of value to the employer. I do this by honing my skill. Gaining experience. Contacting people in the industry.

I own a small business. It’s new and, week to week, I work hard to build something that will, in time, be enough to support my family. It’s not easy work. It takes dedication. Toil. Sweat. Patience. Do I have a right to this job? Heck no.

I imagine a scenario in which I walk into the office of a local marketing firm and tell them that I have a right to procure a writing project from them. They’d laugh me out of their office and possibly call the police. And rightfully so.

So, please, don’t claim you have a right to a job. You don’t.

*The island is only metaphorical. It doesn’t exist. The home you build is also metaphorical. No private/public property arguments.

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Don’t Judge Based Upon Irrelevancies

The other day, a friend of mine jokingly poked fun at a nose. Yes, a nose. It was a large nose, surely. And it was, from my subjective angle, perhaps unattractive in the way it silhouetted, or got stuck in the doorway. But it was just a nose. And, above all–and most importantly–a nose that this individual did not choose to claim. So one shouldn’t, as this friend did, and I did for sake of argument here, judge.

My running comrade Justin recently explained this idea as follows: that it makes no logical or rational sense to judge/discriminate/evaluate/value someone based upon a factor that they did not choose. And I wholeheartedly agree. Things we do not choose hold no inherent value because we don’t choose them. It’s merely happenstance.

We don’t choose our race. So it doesn’t make a lick of sense to judge based upon race. It’s irrelevant. We don’t choose our ethnicity. So we shouldn’t value someone based upon their ethnicity, based upon what they did not choose, something they were born into. Similarly, we don’t choose our gender or sexual orientation. So we should not judge/value based upon something that was not chosen, as it doesn’t hold any inherent value.

If you do make judgments/valuations based upon race, gender, sexual orientation and/or ethnicity, you are saying that you believe a person’s value or character is determined before they are born, by something they did not–and could not–choose and evaluate/judge themselves.

Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand said it quite well: “Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination” (The Virtue of Selfishness, 126).

Things we do choose are fair game for open evaluation and discrimination because we are, in fact, making a conscious decision, using our “rational faculty” to make an evaluation. We choose our religion. We choose our philosophy. We choose the clothes we wear. These are things that can be judged. Not race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity. These are irrelevant and hold no inherent value.

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Scooby Finds His Wee Wee

So, we have a dog. His name is Scooby and he’s a black Labrador. At four and a half, he’s still very much a puppy, at least in his excitability and playful mannerisms. When I met Jessica, Scooby hadn’t yet reached the age of one. With that said, I can rationally say that I know Scooby well.

I know what he likes and dislikes. I know that he loves to chase rabbits with the sole intention of playing patty cake, or some such innocent tete-a-tete. I know that he loves to retrieve the tennis ball, and then keep the ball in his mouth until he’s certain that the other dogs aren’t cherry picking to get to the next toss first. I know that he was once scared to jump into the Dobson pool, but has since shed that fear, thanks to my patient instruction. Now, he’ll jump, but not before he crouches to ensure he’s propelling himself into the pool with the least amount of air time possible. I know that he loves to get as close to the bed with Jessica and I as possible without actually laying on the bed (a rule mandated by myself; but a rule, mind you, that is often broken in moments of weakness, or moments in which Jessica chooses Adorable over Non’s Allergy Monster). This usually results in half of his body laying on the bed, with his lower half on the floor beside the bed.

Mostly, I know that he is fond of me, as I am fond of him. But the other day, my perception changed.

Scooby and His Ball

I was in the house, and the dogs (Scooby, Scooby’s mom Lilly, Schein, Gamble and Watson) were outside. I looked through the window to see what they were up to, only to find the most revolting thing I’ve ever seen. Before I get to that, I’ll say this. As a young lad, I had to initiate a conversation with my mother for the purpose of asking her to keep the noise level down in the–ahem, cough, shudder–bedroom. It was traumatic, and may have been a repressed memory if she hadn’t laughed and told me that my “grandfather was having sex all the time; and he’s an old man!”

And so, as I peered out into the backyard, I found Scooby humping (I use this term in an attempt to propel the act to some elementary, perhaps easily forgotten level; sadly, it’s already failed) Schein. I must point out that Schein is Scooby’s aunt. His aunt! Okay, incestuous relations aside, the image was still very much awful. But allow me to explain further.

You see, in this moment, we parents (yes, he’s my boy dammit) get a bit irrational, emotional, exaggerating in our interpretation of events. To others, it’s simply a dog humping another dog. That is, they say, what dogs do. But no, I say! Not Scooby! Not the innocent playful pup that I know so well! In that moment, Scooby was not responding to boredom. He was raping his aunt. With his incisors showing and everything. In that moment, Scooby was an aggressor. And, to make matters worse, my mind filled with all these sick thoughts of Scooby doing this regularly, like he’s trying to hide it from me, like he knows that it’s wrong but he just can’t stop his sexual urges.

But I say, it can’t be! Scooby is fixed. He doesn’t even know what’s going on down there! And yet, in my head, he knows exactly what he’s doing. Scooby is his name no longer. Scooby the Rapist, forever he will be.

Shudders.

I love you Scooby. I always will. Even if I know now that you recognize your wee wee.

*Note: While I am surely exaggerating this experience (yes, I know that dogs hump), there is truth to the irrational, emotional reaction that I had.

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Blood is Blood

“Well, they are blood, so you got to love them.”

I heard someone say this the other day. They were speaking to the concept that if one is related to you by blood, then you must share with that person a certain level of love, care and respect. I think this argument is somewhat irrational. For instance, I love my brothers. They are related, by blood. But it isn’t their blood which keeps me close, or inspires me to express gratitude or care or respect or love. It is their actions, their intents. Not the fact that we are related by blood. That doesn’t mean anything.

If, for example, a brother of mine chose to act in a way that was expressive of disrespect, lack of care or concern in keeping in touch, I wouldn’t be obligated to mend such a relationship by the simple fact that we are related. I could, however, choose to mend to discover if the lack of care was disingenuous, or shadowed by some protective facade. If I found out it was genuine, I’d surely be upset, but I wouldn’t be moved or persuaded by their relation.

You have to give me a reason to care for you, to love you. Blood, by itself, is not enough. Or, more accurately put, blood doesn’t amount to much at all, if anything.

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I Want My Kids To Do Drugs

I want my kids to do drugs. Wait, perhaps that’s not entirely accurate. What I want, as a parent, is to create an environment in which my (future, as in it will happen sometime in the future; not as in they are from the planet Zorbatron some 75 years into the new millennium) kids are given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. I was discussing this with a friend recently. We decided, when we do become parents, that we wouldn’t provide all of the answers; nor would we strip the child of the opportunity to glean from a poor choice, or unreasonable decision. And I want to provide the emotional and intellectual support in order for those choices to be made.

So, do I really want my kids to do drugs? Probably not. But do I want to provide them with an environment that fosters and values deductive reasoning? Absolutely. I don’t wish to be strict, or choose to limit the opportunities for mistakes simply because I, as a shit-scared parent, don’t want to deal with the consequences. And for those parents out there, you’re probably thinking that this is wishful thinking; that I am naive; that I simply need to start having kids, then I’ll change my mind. You know what? You may be right. I may give in. But I don’t intend to. If the urge to intervene is present, I’ll do what I can to fight it.

I don’t want to be like Senator Adams.

(Hat Tip: Hit & Run)

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The Irrelevancy of Age

I’m nearing 30 and I’m wondering what all the fuss is about. I don’t feel any different. A few more “wisdoms,” (wisdoms is what Jessica and I call gray hair, and perhaps that’s a denial or a camouflaging of age in itself) but that’s all. Or perhaps it’s just too soon. Perchance I turn 40. Then 50. What then? Metabolism slows. Mind wanes. Kids weaken. Or you can say that I’m just not there yet. I’m 30, still young, still “in the prime.” But again, aren’t we only limited by our will? I know guys nearing their 60s who still run around and do all of the things they were doing when they were in their 30s, only with more aches and pains. But they keep it up. Age, and the activities socially constructed for said age, are irrelevant to them. They do what they want to do. And I wish for the same. I yearn for the same.

What do you think? Do you agree, or do you think I am just being naive, the young whippersnapper who just doesn’t know any better. I mean, hell, you’re only 30 for christ’s sake.

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Modern Toilets as Harbingers of Misery

I am reading Jeffrey Tucker’s wonderful Bourbon For Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo at the moment (you can find it in PDF form online). It’s exceptional in many ways, but I do enjoy the parts in which Mr. Tucker provides the reader with a picture of the practical consequences of certain specific government regulations. One in particular I am truly fond of, and that is the chapter called “The Relentless Misery of 1.6 Gallons.”

In this chapter, Mr. Tucker outlines a few of the consequences of the Energy Policy Act, which was passed back in 1994. Allow me to quote the first paragraph from this chapter:

My order at my favorite Chinese restaurant was taking too long. I stopped into the men’s room. There I witnessed a common scene: the modern toilet disaster. An otherwise clean business had a restroom calamity on its hands, one so grim that I hesitate to describe it.

He then goes onto describe how this “calamity” had probably resulted in a series of disgusted customers and loss of business. But it’s not the fault of the business, he says. It’s that the Energy Policy Act mandated that toilets go from 3.5-5 gallons of water per flush to 1.6 gallons. If you didn’t comply, as a toilet manufacturer, you’d be fined and/or sent to jail.

I think upon this, and I picture that grimy, bacteria-laden plunger next to the toilet, or as far back behind the toilet as possible, so as not to gross your guests at too much. I think of the oval brush wand that sits on that odd pedestal- the one that is meant to scrape the “leftovers” off the toilet bowl. Naturally, these items wouldn’t have been needed (or, let’s say, they wouldn’t have been as prominently featured and utilized) if it were not for the Energy act.

As Mr. Tucker puts it,

So let us remember way back when:

  • Toilets did not need plungers next to them, and thank goodness. Used plungers are nasty, disease carrying, and filthy. It doesn’t matter how cute the manufacturer tries to make them or in how many colors you can buy them. In the old days, you would never have one exposed for guests. It was kept out in the garage for the rare occasion when someone threw a ham or something stranger down the toilet.
  • Toilet paper was super thick and getting thicker. None of this one-ply nonsense.
  • You never had any doubt about the capacity of the toilet to flush completely, with only one pull of the handle. The toilet stayed clean thanks to five gallons of rushing water pouring through it after each flush.

He goes on to say that the Energy act was essentially a step backwards “from a central aspiration of mankind to dispose of human waste in the best possible way.” I have to agree. I want my toilet to flush; and I want it to flush the first time I pull the lever. I don’t want to have to pull it twice, or three times. I don’t want to feel it necessary to keep a trusty plunger available at all times. Nor do I want to keep that fecal scrubber nearby.

But of course, as is often the case, government has the power to make these decisions. And society thinks that government is in the business of deciding what is best for us. I will steadfastly disagree. The environmentalists that pushed this decrease in flush per gallons forget about the unintended consequences. Ah, the unintended consequences. They never think of that. For instance, remember that push to get all babies into cloth diapers? But they easily forget that by doing so, there involves more cleaning, and as an unintended” consequence, more water usage. Same is true for the toilets. The unintended consequence is that people are having to flush two, three, four times before they feel comfortable enough to exit the stall, or home bathroom.

And sometimes, “conserving is not a good idea.” Some activities “cry out for the expenditure of resources, even in the most generous possible way. I would count waste disposal as one of these. ”

I wholly agree. I want my 5 gallon per flush toilet back. I want to witness the power of the flush, and see that everything is clean and porcelain white. There are ways humankind can do things better, and sometimes these ways are to be mindful of our environment, and with the intent of conservation. There’s value in some of those things, certainly. But not in this. This is a step back to the primitive.

Read all of Jeffrey Tucker’s excellent book online here. The toilet chapter is on pages 25-28.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Mimi and Eunice: Status Quo

As Nina comments on, this is how it often goes. Knowledge gleaned solely by nepotism, or without challenging oneself- the stubborn aversion to all that is new, and different, and against the grain as interpreted by your family or friends or lovers. But when you do encounter someone with non-conventional ideas, or an innate willingness to discover, it’s quite refreshing.

Mimi and Eunice: Status Quo - Courtesy of Nina Paley

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Sweatshops, Welfare and Poverty

As Ben Powell says, “defending sweatshops is not about defending corporate profits, economic efficiency. It’s about the welfare of the third world workers.” I think this has some merit. Sweatshops are notoriously lambasted for exploiting individuals, and/or providing “too little.” But I think it’s much more complex than that. To start, I’d recommend watching the below video. Ben Powell, PhD (from Suffolk University), along with the Institute for Human Studies, lends some insight into this:

To lend additional insight, for sake of argument, Professor Matt Zwolinski, over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, says this:

Even if they are unfair, there is very good reason to believe that all of the exchanges described above are usually mutually beneficial.1  In other words, both parties come away from the exchange better off than they would have been without it.  This claim is supported, I think, by the rather impressive empirical data on sweatshop wages.  But even apart from the empirical evidence, there’s a fairly strong a priori argument to be made in favor of the assumption of mutual benefit.  After all, if workers didn’t expect to be made better off by working in a sweatshop – if they didn’t think it was all-things-considered their best available alternative – then why would they take the job?  And the poorer workers are, the more dramatic the impact on their overall welfare will be of even slight improvements to their material conditions.

So sweatshops are doing something to make poor workers better off.  On the other hand, I assume that most of us do nothing to make any serious improvement in the lives of people in desperate poverty.  We might give a few dollars to the Red Cross when a tsunami hits and makes the evening news, but most of don’t do anything on a regular basis that is going to have any real long-term impact on the lives of poor workers in the developing world.

I think this is a tremendous point. And yes, surely it sucks that they are making a choice between meagerness and starvation, but it’s a choice that they own. Hell, sometimes, “sweatshops are a dream.” But to ridicule the sweatshop owners isn’t going to do anything about the poverty, or the welfare of the workers.

I say keep up with the sweatshops. Let them be. I want to provide them with the choice. Meanwhile, as Kristof says, let’s “promote manufacturing” in these countries. Encourage imports and exports. Open up trade barriers. Set them free.

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Aren’t You a Feminist? Nah, I’m an Individualist

Yesterday, Jessica told me I should wear this t-shirt that says “this is what a feminist looks like.” I told her that, while I do believe that all are equal, I have qualms with the term.

Isn’t it, to call oneself a feminist, inviting gender into the equation? As I see it, that undermines, and is contradictory to the intent. Their intent is to say that all are equal – men and women. I certainly agree with that. But to employ “feminist,” one is quite blatantly concerning themselves with gender.

I think it’s more apt to say “I am an individualist.” And that’s what I am. Men. Women. There’s no difference. We should all treat each other as individuals. Gender shouldn’t play a role, unless it’s relevant for the context (i.e. you are a woman or man and you are seeking a mate in another woman or man, or man or woman). Of course, there are other (minor, irrelevant) differences, but in consideration of the most relevant, we shouldn’t be evaluating others based upon their gender. We should be evaluating them based upon their value as an individual – not as a man or a woman.

Voltairine de Cleyre - the Great Individualist - Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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