Time to Break Government Addiction

When an addict’s supply is cut off, it’s usually an agonizing journey through withdrawal to the other side of the addiction; where the poison finally loosens its grip on the person, giving him a new chance at life.

I’m not talking about a chemical dependency this time, but a far more deadly condition: government addiction.

If you are feeling effects from this imaginary government “shutdown,” even as simple as having noticed it, you are most likely somewhat addicted to government.

Do you feel as though you are suffering because you don’t have enough government? Are you buying into the hysterics coming from the government extremists wanting the shutdown to end?

Other signs of addiction can include a desire to see taxes increased, a call to build border walls, the obsession to outlaw tools of self-defense while saying that’s what police are for, and many other things.

Those aren’t the cravings of a healthy mind or spirit.

If you’ve ever wanted more government than you have, you are addicted and on a self-destructive path. Are you suffering any discomfort or emotional distress at all? If so, you are feeling the effects of withdrawal caused by your government addiction.

I’d love to help you kick your habit. You may think I’m joking; I’m not.

Like all addictions, breaking the addiction to government is going to hurt. Withdrawal is never fun. It is so much easier to chase after one more hit; one more law to ease the pain for the moment. If someone offers you a hit of government, and you take it, you’ve fed your addiction. You’ve kicked the can down the road. You’ve delayed healing rather than facing the problem and dealing with it in a responsible manner. It’s your choice.

Addicts are responsible for their choices. No one is obligated to bail them out or save them from themselves. Yes, it is hard to watch someone hurt themselves. Worse, irresponsible behavior always has innocent victims; those who never asked to be a part of the sickness, but who get dragged down with the junkie.

This unique chance to break your addiction won’t last forever. When it ends, and someone offers you a hit of your old vice, I hope you’ll be strong enough to say “no.” To say you don’t need the poison anymore. If you need someone to talk to, to help you through the pain of withdrawal, I’m here for you. I’m completely serious.

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On Entitlements

An entitlement in the context of government is a promise of something, be it a good, a service, or money. Because government only has resources it has first taken from other people, the fulfillment of entitlements requires future takings. If those who call themselves “government” are unable to prove a right to that which they take from others, they are simply robbers engaged in extortion. It then follows that entitlements necessarily violate the liberties of other people. To demand more entitlements from government is to demand that liberties be violated. Entitlements are thus antithetical to liberty. You must prioritize one over the other not only for yourself, but for your neighbors as well. “If I don’t choose entitlements, then they will” does not justify or excuse what amounts to unethical behavior. Do you believe that you have the right to violate other people’s liberty? Do you?! If so, what class of human being does that put you in, hero or villain? And that’s today’s two cents.

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Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go

The New York Times reports that “[i]n the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

That’s an interesting way of putting it, but let’s try another:

Enraged at the firing of their director, and suspecting the firing might portend a threat to their place and power in the American political establishment, FBI officials went to war with the president of the United States. They redirected taxpayer money and government resources away from anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement mission, putting themselves instead to the task of drumming up a specious case that said president is an agent of a foreign power.

This is exactly the kind of bovine scat subsumed by the recently popularized term “Deep State” — an entrenched bureaucracy, jealous of its prerogatives and bent on the destruction of anyone and anything it perceives as dangerous to those prerogatives.

I’m far from the first writer to point out that this latest news reflects nothing new. Yes, it’s over the top, but it pretty much sums up what the FBI does, and what it has done for the entirety of its 111 years of existence. It attempts to protect “America”  — which it defines as the existing establishment in general and itself in particular — not from crime as such, but from inconvenient disruption.

That’s why the Bureau under J. Edgar Hoover surveilled (and attempted to blackmail) Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s why its COINTELPRO projects illegally infiltrated and attempted to disrupt domestic political groups in the Vietnam era. That’s why the FBI had the material that COINTELPRO operator Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”) leaked to journalists  by way of attempting to succeed Hoover as the man who brought down Nixon.

Trump is no Martin Luther King, Jr., but he’s certainly disruptive. That, not some cockamamie theory about a Russian mole in the White House, explains the FBI’s declaration of war on his presidency.

Almost exactly a year ago — after the FBI officials got caught destroying evidence in a  probe of its investigations of Trump and of Hillary Clinton — I suggested that the time has come to abolish the Bureau.  This latest news confirms that judgment. The FBI guards its own power, not our freedoms. It’s just too dangerous to keep around any longer.

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Tucker Carlson Needs Love from His Leaders

Fox News host and Trump cheerleader Tucker Carlson is a culturally conservative, big-government, nationalist populist. As such, he’s upset that establishment politicians and their sponsoring elite don’t care enough to promote his and his fellow Americans’ happiness. (See his recent commentary.)

That’s weird. Why would he want them to?

Timothy Sandefur has exposed Carlson’s failure to grasp that individual freedom and its spontaneously emergent arena for peaceful voluntary exchange — the marketplace — make possible what Carlson insists he values most: “Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence,” which Carlson correctly identifies as “ingredients in being happy.” In his view, those who oppose government interference with markets, that is, with our freedom to engage in mutually beneficial trade, prefer material things to higher goods like family and “deep relationships with other people.” That’s ridiculous: freedom is a higher good, and it underlies other higher goods.

But that’s not all that Carlson fails to grasp. Among other things, he misses the distinction between the libertarian’s appreciation (not “worship”) of markets and corporatism, or anti-market government support for favored business interests, such as tariffs and direct subsidies. He also engages in what I call the dark art of the package deal by assuming that America’s global empire and free markets are integral to a single rational political doctrine. On the contrary, war, big military budgets, and deficit spending make markets less free.

Let’s look at Carlson’s major complaint: that America’s so-called leaders (Trump excepted, I suppose) don’t love us. He spends a good deal of time whining about this. Rather than demand that our (mis)leaders get out of our way and leave the pursuit of happiness to us through private consensual interaction, Carlson calls on the politicians to care for us and even to make us happy. Why he doesn’t find that prospect disgusting is beyond understanding. Politicians could only do what Carlson asks by deciding what ought to make us happy and by forcing us to obey them. Thanks, Tucker, but no thanks.

“They [“members of our educated upper-middle-classes” whom most politicians represent] don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function,” Carlson writes. Really? Then why does the elite-controlled government prohibit all kinds of peaceful conduct? For example, why does it impose behavior-distorting taxes, tariffs, occupational licensing, land-use restrictions, and intellectual-property rules, all of which impede economic mobility and harm families? Carlson disparages the private pursuit of wealth as detrimental to the pursuit of cultural values, but he ignores that prosperity can relieve the pressures that obstruct the cultivation of those values. He believes that marriage and family are paramount, but costs of government interference with private economic activity can take a toll on those institutions.

When Carlson disparages private decisionmaking in the marketplace, he shows himself to be in bed with the ruling elite. Contrary to his position, “market forces” don’t “crush” families; the government does. America’s problem is not an exaggerated desire for iPhones and “plastic garbage from China.” It’s political power.

In recent years the oppression of people who engage in victimless acts has diminished in some ways, for example, through the legalization of marijuana in some states. For Carlson, however, this is bad: “Why are our leaders pushing [marijuana] on us? You know the reason. Because they don’t care about us.” Carlson forgets that people have voted for legalization. But in his view, removing a restriction on liberty is equivalent to promoting what he regards as a vice. Freedom be damned. Remember, this is the same guy who claims to value dignity, purpose, self-control, independence, and family. He sees little relationship between those things and freedom, and anyone who does understand the relationship is impugned as a shallow materialist who cares little for his fellow human beings.

“The goal for America,” Carlson says, “is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness…. But our leaders don’t care.”

Note the two problems here. First, “America” as a collective should not have goals. Goals are for free people to set, individually and within families and voluntary communities, according to their own values. Second, looking to “leaders” to promote our happiness means trusting rulers over free persons.

Carlson is an elitist in populist clothing.

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Rainwater’s Motivated Reasoning

Lee Rainwater was one of the most prominent liberal sociologists of the Great Society era.  He spent 23 years at Harvard; here‘s the Harvard Gazette‘s memorial to his work.  To be honest, though, I never heard of him until last week.  Yet after I stumbled upon his 1966 Daedalus article, “The Crucible of Identity: The Negro Lower-Class Family,” I was surprised that any academic would so candidly admit to motivated reasoning.  When I discovered that he was an intellectual leader of his generation, I was stunned.

Here’s what stunned me; Rainwater’s in blockquotes, I’m not.  He starts off promisingly enough:

The first responsibility of the social scientist can be phrased in much the same way: “Tell it like it is.” His second responsibility is to try to understand why “it” is that way, and to explore the implications of what and why for more constructive solutions to human problems.

Then he runs right off the rails:

Social research on the situation of the Negro American has been informed by four main goals: (1) to describe the disadvantaged position of Negroes, (2) to disprove the racist ideology which sustains the caste system, (3) to demonstrate that responsibility for the disadvantages Negroes suffer lies squarely upon the white caste which derives economic, prestige, and psychic benefits from the operation of the system, and (4) to suggest that in reality whites would be better rather than worse off if the whole jerry-built caste structure were to be dismantled.

If you wanted to “tell it like it is,” of course, your goal would not be to “disprove” any ideology, but to fairly evaluate it.  Similarly, your goal would not be to “demonstrate” that responsibility lies squarely upon anyone, but to accurately apportion responsibility.  In any case, it’s hard to understand how both (3) and (4) could be true.  If whites would be better-off if the system were dismantled, how can the “white caste… derive economic, prestige, and psychic benefits from the operation of the system”?  I suppose you could treat “the white caste” as the subset of whites who profit, but then the claim is almost tautologous.  Or you could be really defensive and say, “He means ‘gross benefits,’ not ‘net benefits.’”

Are Rainwater’s words really so damning to his own intellectual tradition?  Well, imagine I wrote:

Social research on the situation of the American immigrant has been informed by four main goals: (1) to describe the disadvantaged position of immigrants, (2) to disprove the nativist ideology which sustains the caste system, (3) to demonstrate that responsibility for the disadvantages immigrants suffer lies squarely upon the native caste which derives economic, prestige, and psychic benefits from the operation of the system, and (4) to suggest that in reality natives would be better rather than worse off if the whole jerry-built caste structure were to be dismantled.

Would any judicious reader trust my work on immigration after this declaration?  No.  Why not?  Because I’m talking like a trial lawyer who wants to win a case.  The whole point of research, in contrast, is to stay open to the possibility that you’re wrong.  Sure, you’ve got suspicions.  But you’re supposed to not only verify your suspicions, but energetically look for counter-evidence!  Furthermore, you’re supposed to not just follow these standards yourself, but monitor your intellectual teammates.  The fact that your intellectual subculture wants X to be true urges self-scrutiny, not self-congratulation.

Speaking of that, how’s this for self-congratulation?

The successful accomplishment of these intellectual goals has been a towering achievement, in which the social scientists of the 1920’s, ’30’s, and ’40’s can take great pride; that white society has proved so recalcitrant to utilizing this intellectual accomplishment is one of the great tragedies of our time, and provides the stimulus for further social research on “the white problem.”

What’s most striking about Rainwater’s article, however, is that he provides a wealth of empirical evidence against his own point (3).  Indeed, most of the article is standard “culture of poverty” sociology, documenting high levels of irresponsible and criminal behavior among the underclass.  How then does Rainwater reconcile his theory with the facts?  Again, by the power of motivated reasoning.

Yet the implicit paradigm of much of the research on Negro Americans has been an overly simplistic one concentrating on two terms of an argument:

White cupidity———–> Negro suffering.

As an intellectual shorthand, and even more as a civil rights slogan, this simple model is both justified and essential. But, as a guide to greater understanding of the Negro situation as human adaptation to human situations, the paradigm is totally inadequate because it fails to specify fully enough the process by which Negroes adapt to their situations as they do, and the limitations one kind of adaptation places on possibilities for subsequent adaptations. A reassessment of previous social research, combined with examination of current social research on Negro ghetto communities, suggests a more complex, but hopefully more vertical, model:

White cupidity creates

Structural Conditions Highly Inimical to Basic Social Adaptation (low-income availability, poor education, poor services, stigmatization)

to which Negroes adapt by

Social and Personal Responses which serve to sustain the individual in his punishing world but also generate aggressiveness toward the self and others

which results in

Suffering directly inflicted by Negroes on themselves and on others.

In short, whites, by their greater power, create situations in which Negroes do the dirty work of caste victimization for them. [original punctuation]

Notice: As an ethnographer of black poverty, Rainwater offers little or no data on “white cupidity.”  Furthermore, a straightforward reading of his own evidence is that irresponsible and criminal behavior is, as usual, maladaptive.  All he directly documents is the final clause – the intra-racial “dirty work of caste victimization.”  Only motivated reasoning allows Rainwater to casually interpret these facts as proof of that the “white caste” is to blame for anything.

You could naturally protest that Rainwater is right for the wrong reasons.  Maybe so, but this protest misses the meta point.  Namely: If a brilliant, eminent, and mainstream scholar of the 1960s could be right for such wrong reasons, the brilliant, eminent, and mainstream scholars of today could easily be mired in their own brand of motivated reasoning.  Indeed, so could you.  Or me.  There’s no easy remedy, but the first step is being hyper-aware that we have a problem.

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Portray a Sense of Confidence

People often feel agitated and uncomfortable in the presence of religious/spiritual people. This is because holding any strong moral ideology infers judgement on behavior and that judgement implicitly means judgement of other people’s behavior. This makes people uncomfortable partially in the same way that overly dramatic people make people uncomfortable … their emotional disposition dictates the underlying tone and culture of the interaction.

While this isn’t how it emotionally works with religious people, the higher moral/ethical/personal standards make it so it strongly affects the behavioral culture within the climates they are involved and people don’t wish to be subject to judgement within an ideology they haven’t subscribed to. Additionally, most people feel various subtle feelings of guilt, confusion and a lack of purpose … the presence of someone who seem to have resolved these issues make them feel incompetent and diminished.

While many religious people intentionally elicit these feelings in others as a means of setting the culture, and attaining power/control/dominance, most probably don’t. Most people have these standards and don’t desire to use it as a weapon to hurt or control (at least in Western society). Sure, they might think your behavior isn’t a good idea, but they have no desire to control you or treat you as an inferior.

If you set a culture of tolerance and portray a sense of purpose, confidence, and a coherent value system, you can often feel very comfortable around religious people. You won’t feel subject to their ideology, and the religious person won’t believe it is appropriate to use their values and beliefs in any way to distort the situation. They will often respect the difference and no one will feel feelings of inferiority/superiority.

I believe our discomforts around people who aren’t malicious often reflect our own perceptions of inadequacy and/or insecurity.

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