Category Archives: Political

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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Environmental Quandaries

I try to implement some sense when faced with choices that are, on the face, or as dictated by the masses, environmental, ecological and/or related to sustainability. The problem I run into more often than not, however, is that the so-called quandaries I encounter are not in the slightest bit rational. On the surface, they very well could make sense, but are typically conflated to such levels that invariably render them nonsensical.

For me, it nearly always comes down to the unintended consequences of the environmentally friendly choice. As an example, consider cloth, or reusable diapers. Putting aside the carbon footprint argument, (which I don’t put much stock in, but has, in this case, found to be on equal grounds, more or less) what about the immediate environmental consequences of choosing the cloth diaper? Compared to the parent of the child with the disposable diaper, you would inevitably be using more water to clean the diapers and more energy to run the washing machine. This point never seems to be considered. The argument, of course, against the disposable diaper is that it is plastic and will end up in a landfill someplace, spoiling the earth. I am skeptical of this claim. And frankly, it seems to me that if these landfills were a problem, that we’d find a way to strip-mine for petroleum products to be used as a fuel source.

Now, as I’ve mentioned, there are certain things that just make sense. Sustainable living, for instance, need not require the worship of Gaia. A certain level of respect, surely, but I don’t intend to sacrifice myself, or others, for its sake.

Another aspect of this argument I must comment on is its tendency to pervert or retard the market process. A perfect example of this is the decision of the federal and state governments to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs of 72 watts or more starting in January of 2012 (this wattage will gradually decrease until 2014 where it will cease at the 29 watt maximum). Now, if it made sense for the consumer to purchase more expensive, less effective light bulbs, they would. But it doesn’t. There is a reason why the attempted ban in New Zealand was overthrown, and that people are stockpiling 100-watt bulbs in droves. Also, what about the proper disposal of these new light bulbs? According to the new guidelines, one has to recycle them, but not as part of your regular recycling, because there is neon in them, which is a hazardous material. Does one need to drive them to a special disposal site; maintain a bin of neon in the corner of your living room so as to point out to future guest, “here’s the living room, and over there the lovely bin of neon.”

To back up for a moment, I do think the shift towards more effective, less energy consuming light bulbs will happen. It makes sense, surely. But I don’t think that should be up to the government to decide. It’s no surprise that big box retailers are following suit, reducing their inventory of incandescent light bulbs. With the pressure of the federal and state government on their shoulders, and the looming “ban,” how could they not? They need to survive.

At the end of the day, I want to make rational choices. Some of these rational choices are, in fact, mindful of sustainability. I think that’s important. On the other side, however, I wish for cognizance of certain invariable unintended consequences.

Go Green or Die, Bitches

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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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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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Feed the Homeless, Go to Jail

Now, I am not entirely one to go out of my way to feed the homeless. In fact, I’ve had previous attempts to do so thrown back in my face, quite literally. But this is fucking retarded.

From Reason’s blog comes this story about two folks who were charged with “violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks.”

I don’t understand it. Why on earth does the state have to intervene? Answer: because they have the power, and the “extra” resources to make it happen. What benefit are they providing in doing so? Answer: absolutely none.

More power grabs. More statism. Diminished freedoms.

Original article here.

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To Tenure is to Disregard Value

The notion of tenure is despicable.

No, it’s not a matter of justifiably rewarding those teachers that have “done their time” and that may “deserve” such treatment. That is silly and irrational. And no, I am not a teacher-hater. I adore the profession and deem them to be of inestimable value. And no, I am not saying that all tenured teachers are complacent slugs. What I am saying is that tenure, the idea and the practice, should be banished; and that slugs exist everywhere.

Think about the concept for a moment. You are rewarding an individual for what is more or less their ability to last awhile, or some such similar euphemism.

Consider the consequences if a business decided to implement a similar rule. The business would go under in a heartbeat. Undoubtedly. Because, at the end of the day, you’re telling a working employee, after a certain, predetermined time period, that their job will be secure. That they don’t have to work as hard if they choose not to. That they may simply, and rather casually, go through the motions.

But those are really just the results, the reactions to implementation; and I don’t care much about that.

The crux of my concern is with the following:

Tenure is attained and maintained without (much, if any) regard to the only attribute that matters: the merit of the individual, and the value said individual brings to the institution. If the merit isn’t of worth, assessment should be made, and individuals of desired worth should come in and replace those of lesser worth. And this should be done constantly.

Never to rest on one’s laurels. Never to consider the duration of one’s employ as anything more than a number.

If you want to better schools, better the process by which you evaluate teachers.

Get rid of tenure.

If you want to get a taste of how difficult it is a task to fire a tenured teacher, take a gander at this in-depth LA Times article.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons

 

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Dept. of Energy vs. Rand Paul

In a post at Hit & Run entitled It’s a Toilet, Not a Choice! Rand Paul Flushes Out Anti-Freedom Logic of Dept. of Energy, Nick Gillespie links to a clip of Mr.  Paul facing off with a few bureaucrats on the topic of freedom of choice as a consumer. It’s a pretty darn splendid bit of video. Worth a gander.

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