The Coronavirus Trolley Problem

The coronavirus and governmental responses to it are one messy trolley problem. Should you sacrifice some to save others? No, I don’t think you should. It’s a fake choice.

As always, I think it’s better to choose to do nothing than to make a forced choice to do something which will violate someone’s life, liberty, or property. In fact, I believe that’s usually the only responsible choice– to refuse to be forced into a choice which will kill (or otherwise violate) others.

So, if a thug is holding me and some others at gunpoint and tells me I must choose who he shoots or he’ll shoot us all, I think it would be wrong of me to cooperate and play his “game” (unless I saw a way to stall and turn the tables on him).

I get that I’m in the minority on this. Most people believe you’ve got to act, even if by acting you’re going to sacrifice someone no matter what. That’s also apparently the thinking behind v*ting. I don’t buy it.

If my choice is to sacrifice Individual A or sacrifice Individual B, I may refuse to make any choice and let physics, biology, or chemistry do its thing. I accept I don’t know enough to make choices for other people.

I also think you can’t know which way is better in many cases. You might believe that by sacrificing Individual A you’ll save lots of people, but it turns out you killed Individual A for nothing and people died anyway. Maybe more than otherwise would have. Everyone would have been better off if you didn’t allow arrogance to cause you to make a choice that was never yours to make. Politicians (and often, the politically-minded non-politicians) are full of that kind of arrogance.

So, yes, I am saying that while I believe it would have been OK for government employees (as long as they exist anyway) to have made recommendations and suggestions aimed at reducing the coronavirus cases, it was unequivocally wrong of them to make and enforce any policies regarding the pandemic. By pulling that lever, they made a choice they had no right to make. Choosing who lives and who dies in such a case is NOT an “adult decision”; nothing is more childish and self-centered than to fall into that pit.

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Smallest Actions Can Have Big Effects

It’s a quirk of human nature that a crisis can bring people together, bring out our best, and give our lives meaning. Sure, it can also bring out the worst in some damaged people, but we can acknowledge their existence then continue to ignore them as insignificant.

A threat to life, liberty, and property is terrible, but you can find some good in it if you look. People love to unite against a common enemy, whether it’s a virus or grotesque alien overlords from a galaxy far, far away, Washington D.C., or Santa Fe.

Like them or not, the protests against the shut-downs are a show of unity between people who might otherwise have little in common. As are the hordes of people joining together online to complain about the protests.

There are others who ignore the political bickering; staying busy doing what they can to help. Legions of people are currently hunched over their sewing machines at home, whipping up face masks and gowns for those who want them. There are business owners all over the country exploring new ways to serve their customers, keep their businesses running and their employees employed.

What can you do?

Even if you don’t quite know what to do, the smallest things can have big effects in your own life.

A walk in the sunshine and fresh air can make you feel like you’re actively fighting the coronavirus. At least you’re getting a little exercise, which is known to be one of the best ways to boost your immune system. Plus, letting others see you out doing something rather than cowering at home can encourage them that this is not the end.

Lending a hand when you find the opportunity has also been shown to help you while you help others.

I’ve been writing almost every day since 2006 to promote liberty and to encourage people to accept their responsibility to not violate others. Giving hope to those who value liberty, and trying to help people keep their heads together during these strange times, while others apparently want to stampede them, is something small I can do.

Do you feel as though your contributions to society are now more meaningful? If not, you may be missing out on something special. Something that will make you feel better while doing the same for those around you. It doesn’t need to be something big. It’s probably something you already know how to do.

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No, the Politicians Didn’t Save Us From COVID-19

Writing at Reason magazine, Eric Boehm notes two trends revealed in data released by Apple and Foursquare.

Trend One: Americans began reducing their outings and social interactions before, not because of, “shelter in place” orders issued by grandstanding, opportunistic politicians.

Trend  Two: Americans started coming back out and resuming something like normal life before, not because, those politicians started lifting those orders.

In other words, with COVID-19 as with everything else, government policy is a trailing, rather than leading, indicator.

Politicians don’t start parades. They notice parades that we regular people have spontaneously organized, then run as fast as they can to the front of those parades, hoping to be seen “taking charge.”

And yet, for some reason, large numbers of Americans remain devout congregants of what Libertarians call the Cult of the Omnipotent State.

At the beginning of every perceived crisis or emergency, the priests and parishioners of the Cult of the Omnipotent State assert that the only way society will survive is if we all act in lockstep obedience to the commands of the politicians.

And after every perceived crisis or emergency, those same priests and parishioners assert that the only reason society survived is that we all DID act in lockstep obedience to the commands of the politicians.

They’re always wrong, of course. In fact, it invariably turns out that the politicians and their strutting authoritarian commands made the crisis or emergency worse rather than better — sometimes in a big way, sometimes just at the margins, but at least a little, always and every time.

For some reason, though, we always let the Cultists of the Omnipotent State re-write history with the politicians as the heroes. That’s a mistake that costs lives.

As America “re-opens,” we should put our minds to avoiding that mistake in the future.

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Licenses Don’t Impress Me

Licenses are BS. Yes, all of them.

I don’t care whether you have a license; I care that you can do whatever you claim you can do.

I have nothing against training, certifications, endorsements, etc. I might even be impressed if you can show me credible proof of such training.

But licensing is none of that.

Licensing doesn’t mean you are capable; it means you have gained the approval– the permission– of some political gang. It means you have paid the gang for that approval and permission, and in exchange, the gang won’t (might not) murder you for doing what the license allows you to do– something you probably already have a natural human right to do.

For some pitiful people, a license means they believe the gang is a legitimate source of competence. Either by feeling proud of their license, or concerning themselves over the licensing of others. That’s not how I see it at all. A license will never impress me– competence will.

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Expectations Create Your Subjective Reality

The mind can play tricks. Your expectations can alter the way you experience reality.

Years ago I experienced this effect and have never forgotten the lesson it taught me.

In the pet store where I worked, my boss had placed a solid air freshener in the hallway. We were always doing this to fight the smells that some customers find objectionable, even in a clean pet shop.

As I walked by the new air freshener I picked it up to smell it. The waxy material inside was a nice creamy off-white color. I lifted it to my nose and took a whiff and smelled the most delicious vanilla scent. Then I looked at the label. It said “unscented”. No, it couldn’t be. I smelled vanilla. I was positive.

I sniffed it again, but this time the vanilla scent wasn’t there. There was no detectable scent at all. The vanilla had been all in my mind, just because the color had made me expect to smell vanilla– or, that’s my theory.

This experience has made me question how I experience reality. If I expect something, I often question whether my expectation is coloring what I experience– I try to recognize my expectations and guard against them. I know it’s probably not possible to completely rid myself of expectations and false experience, but I do believe I’m better at it than I was before I was punched in the face with that wake-up call.

So, when people expect government to be a credible source, I understand why they experience it as one. Even though the scent of credibility is all in their imagination. That’s the only place where political “authority” resides.

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Failing in a Crisis – And All The Time

Government-supremacists are desperately trying to interpret government’s actions during the pandemic in such a way to make them seem smart– or at least honest. And they are failing. Hard.

As I have said before, political government is never a credible source. If your argument depends on government being a credible source you’ve set yourself up to fail before you began. You’ve hitched your wagon to a mirage and kicked off down a steep, winding trail full of big rocks, potholes, and ditches. Things can only get worse from there.

Don’t take medical advice from government without checking credible sources first. Government is not your doctor, and any doctors working for government have rejected medicine for politics. You can’t mix medicine and politics without contaminating the medicine to the point of uselessness at best, and lethality at worst.

Don’t take government’s claims of scientific accuracy without checking credible sources first. Government is not a scientist. Any scientists working for government gave up real science when they became political. For that matter, any scientist promoting a political agenda has betrayed the scientific method for politics and scientific thought for superstition. That’s not science.

Government is not an economist, a charitable organization, your parent, your master, your superior, your servant, a protector of rights, or a promoter of liberty. Government is not a safety team and is not on your side.

Government is a gang of thieves that uses initiated force to make you treat it as though it is all the good and helpful things it claims to be.

Government will not save you from the pandemic. Not even under the best-case scenario where they were right about the risks, did the right things at the right time, and didn’t do anything to make things worse.

This truth is something government-supremacists can’t take when it doesn’t align with “their side”– which it never will. It doesn’t matter whether they are the government-supremacists who support what was done or the government-supremacists who say government should have done something different. The truth is not with them. And they just keep digging themselves in deeper, to their discredit.

But it can be sort of fun to watch them flailing and failing– if you can ignore the fact that they are harming you with everything they advocate.

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