Category Archives: Social

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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Perception. Not In That Way.

I read Stick, a book from Andrew Smith. It’s incredibly powerful and relevant. So much so that I felt compelled to email him, tell him how much the book and its characters meant to me. I haven’t felt that way about a book in quite some time. Not since Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing. Not since Wilson Rawls’ Where The Red Fern Grows (Andrew, I am so with you on this. I’ve read this book at least a dozen times).

The book brought up all sorts of different emotions and memories. But there is one particular memory. One having to do with what my sister and I had to wear for church growing up. It wasn’t just that we had to wear nicer clothing than the typical garb, but that we had to wear it a certain way.

To him, we had to show the others at church that we were dressed up. They had to see it. And a t-shirt or a pair of shorts spoke of carelessness and non-conformity and being not too serious about the reasons for being at church.

To him, it was about the image we presented–to friends, to acquaintances, to strangers.

We had to (were often forced to) look like a tight-knit, well-oiled machine; perfectly happy and cohesive and strong.

And I think we were in certain ways. Certain, and small, yet meaningful ways. But not in the way he wanted it.

Not in that way.

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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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My Children, the Troll Fighting, Bloody-Kneed Individualists

I want my children to grow up in a world that provides them with a choice. I want them to weigh options and learn from their mistakes. I want them to grow up and discover what is best for them as individuals. I want them to learn that they alone know what is best for their needs. I want them to choose, without the philosophical meddling of their parents.

I want them to get dirty and break bones. I want them to use their imagination, build forts, fight trolls in the backyard.

But I suppose I’m simply meddling. Yearning for something that is mostly out of my control. As is just and moral. I want my children to be individuals first. Family members second, if they so choose.

Mostly, I want for them to want that too. And so I sit here wanting and wishing, in realization that I am already meddling; in realization that I am romanticizing the entire notion. I admit it. I have a weak spot for troll fighting, bloody-kneed individualists.

*Note: we do not have children. Not yet anyhow. And I am fairly certain Jessica hopes that they wait to brandish swords. You know, at least until the breach the surface.

Wonder King Wiki - Courtesy of Wiki Commons

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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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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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Feed the Homeless, Go To Jail: Part Two

As I wrote last week, people are being thrown in jail for exercising their own goddamn right to feed whomever they goddamn wish. Why are we concerned with the volitional interactions between those that wish to provide a service to those in need of said service, or product?

Sadly, the incarceration continues.

(HT: Hit & Run)

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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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