Friday, August 29, 2003

Mysticism Alive and Well
Alexander Marriott August 29, 2003

The United States of America was a country founded upon human reason by some of the most adept political and philosophical minds the world has ever seen and today it is a country mired in an almost barbaric mysticism from sea to shining sea.

There have been three stories in the headlines recently that illustrate this perfectly.

The first of course has been this controversy in the State Supreme Court in Alabama over a giant stone monument to the Ten Commandments. Of course many commentators have insisted that the Ten Commandments stand at the “Foundation” of American law and endorse no particular religion.

Are these claims in any way accurate or are they merely rewrites of history driven by mysticism?
The latter point these commentators make is utterly preposterous. One cannot find these Ten Commandments anywhere but in the Holy Scriptures of the Jews, Christians and to a lesser extent, the Mohammedans. The first four commandments are strictly religious and have nothing to do with American law and the others are so basic that for the Jews and Christians to claim that they came up with them when other cultures had them on the books before them is just foolish and historically wrong.

To say the Ten Commandments stand at the foundation of American law is also clearly wrong as they aren’t codified anywhere in our system. When the Founding Fathers decided to found a new government who did they look to for their inspiration? Did they look to the dictatorships of Soloman and David? Clearly not. They took their inspiration from the Greek city-states, primarily Athens, and the Roman Republic.

They also drew inspiration from the city-states of Northern Italy, but in no way do they ever point to the Judeo-Christian despots as model governments. Nor do they point to the Christian philosophers as authorities on politics, but to Aristotle and the other Greeks and Romans.

The clauses in the Declaration of Independence that modern mystics point to, in order to solidify their ridiculous claims, that mention our “Creator,” are references to the God of nature, not Yahweh, the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Jefferson was a deist, which means he used God as a metaphysical base from which to start reasoning, but he didn’t rely on mysticism, commonly known as faith, to arrive at his conclusions.

In another more immediately fatal example, a young boy was allowed to die because his heinously negligent and foolish mother thought that by wrapping the boy in sheets and praying with her minister they would drive the evil spirits afflicting him out. The boy, who had autism, laid suffering as the stupid savages around him prayed. The result? The poor lad died of suffocation under the sheets. Fortunately the priest was arrested and will be charged with homicide, but the mother is equally at fault and should receive the same treatment.

Not all mysticism resides with the religious though. Communists are just as mystical about the state and collective to which they are willing to sacrifice everything. The Eco-Terrorist group, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has recently claimed responsibility for destroying a number of SUV’s on an auto-dealer’s lot. Of course environmentalists don’t worship or pray to the magical man in the sky, but to the earth and non-human animals instead.

It’s always a recurring theme in history, that barbarians have destroyed the civilizations of history periodically. But today, one might say, there are no more barbarians left running about causing destruction so that won’t happen anymore. But this is foolish. The savages are still here, but they are tearing the civilized world down from the inside instead of from without. They are the religious mystics who, while proclaiming to uphold the great intellectual legacy of this country, destroy it by latching onto it. They are the environmentalists who wish to return to the primitive barbarism that existed before we came here, which means just about everyone will have to die first.

Of course reversing all of this is really not as daunting as it may sound. To quote the philosopher, Leonard Peikoff, “To save the world is the simplest thing in the world. All one has to do is think.”

Friday, August 15, 2003

Who’s Afraid of Smoking?
Alexander Marriott August 15, 2003

To those of you who think such things matter, I will say now, so as to not have this piece tarnished later, that I indeed do smoke tobacco pipes and cigars, but ones own preferences or affiliations do not and cannot change the truth or falsehood of one’s reasoning.

Just about everyone who doesn’t smoke, that’s who.

Though I don’t intend to enter into the scientific fray over whether or not secondhand smoke is dangerous or not, because 1) I don’t think it particularly relevant to the point of my article and 2) I’m not a scientist. However, there are a couple of general observations worth making. First, it’s convenient that the government bans tobacco companies from advertising, a somewhat dubious act in what is supposed to be a free country, and then spends millions of dollars demonizing tobacco companies who cannot respond. It’s also convenient that the Federal government and most of the states force the tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars supposedly to make amends for all the smoking related illnesses that these governments are unconstitutionally treating, but which is then spent on things like the Nevada Millennium Scholarship and other such non-healthcare programs. These are just two observations that merely tell us that if science did truly back the assertion that smoking and secondhand smoking were the most dangerous things on the planet, then why can’t tobacco companies publicly respond through advertising? Opponents claim that they would merely lie to the public, but when the government lies, as it has done many times particularly during wars, it’s perfectly ok. In addition I can’t sue the government for their fraud like I could a tobacco company that lied in a commercial.

However, the point of this article is to examine the public hysteria about smoking that has led to smoking bans in California, Chicago, New York, and many other places in not only governmental buildings, but private establishments like restaurants and bars. What drives this, and who is behind it? Do the motives involved simply amount to a misguided desire to save people or are they far more sinister? Why should we care?

What drives people to think they can ban things in property over which they have no rights or, in other words, that which belongs to other people? The answer to this question is quite simple, collectivism and altruism. It is the same idea that says anyone, particularly a bureaucrat, can tell any business owner who they can fire and who they will hire. Private property under this auspice of collectivism is subservient to any pressing “group right” or “societal goal.” These are terms that are entirely meaningless simply because a group can have no rights beyond those of the individuals in it and a society cannot have any goals beyond the goals of the individuals who make up that society. The other justification is that all rights must be sacrificed to save others, or a sort of civic altruism. There is a perceived threat of breathing cigarette smoke that may or may not cause harm at some point, therefore all private property rights ought to be sacrificed to possibly save the person or people at risk. The immense dangers in both of these credos ought to be obvious to even the most dimwitted.

Those pushing the smoking bans probably fall into two general groups. The first is the stupid college kids who walk around pestering people about smoking, make those incredibly dumb Truth commercials, and genuinely think they are doing something worthwhile in dictating to people what they should or should not do. The second are the intellectuals who teach the dopey college students and there goal is, in most cases, socialism. The reason for this is obvious; smoking is generally unpopular and makes for an easy way to further degrade private property, which is a giant stumbling block for a socialist state. Of course there are more than just college students and academics in the anti-smoking crowd and many of them sympathize with these or other similar goals in one form or another.

But Alex, what if secondhand smoke does kill and we let it just happen in bars and restaurants, what kind of country would this be? A free one. Most things can kill you if you aren’t careful. A staircase, alcohol, a pair of scissors, an electric outlet, and a bolt of lightning can all be mean your death and have meant the death of many thousands. But if it were the policy of the government to stop all instances where people may get killed then we’d have to have a police state to monitor everyone all day and night to make sure they didn’t do something dangerous. If you hate smoking, smoke, and smokers then go to a restaurant or bar that doesn’t allow it, or if there isn’t one of those, start one, or help someone else start one, or, and this may sound nutty, you could stay on your own property which would be, presumably, smoke-free all the time.

The great thing about owning your own property is that you can do away with those things about the property of others that you don’t like. Whereas if everyone collectively owned all property, and let’s assume for a minute a government wasn’t in place to hold it for everyone, you’d be at the mercy of all other people. If you hated smoking how could you ever stop Bob from smoking in “your” house, because technically, Bob owns the house too, or at least part of it? There is a reason life in socialist and communist countries (i.e. France, the Soviet Union, Cuba) stinks. Not only is there an oppressive government that will either take all of your money or kill you or both, but there is no other way for it to be, if one cannot own the products of one’s own labor then one will not produce anything above subsistence except with a gun in the back, and that is never a great motivator. Smoking may be a bad habit and perhaps it will kill you someday, but this current route of destroying property rights is certain suicide.
Getting Away With War and Terror
Alexander Marriott August 14, 2003

At a time when the United States of America are fighting a war against International Terrorism and Terrorist States, the last thing the country needs is the appearance of weakness or appeasement. But the settlement that is looking more and more likely between the families of those who perished in Pam Am flight 103 and the Libyan government, that had that plane destroyed, is just such an act of appeasement and weakness that, if it comes to fruition, will only embolden clandestine acts of terror by states hostile to the United States.

In just the latest chapter of the disturbing story of letting victims (and their families) of not only crimes, but now acts of war, to decide upon the punishments, the relatives of those aboard the Pam Am flight have now reached a deal with the Libyan government for up to ten million dollars per family. The way it works is that the Libyans admit what everyone already knows, they blew up the Pam Am Flight. Then they pay the families millions of dollars as the various sanctions and embargoes are lifted by the United Nations, the United States, and Great Britain. Net result, a terrorist regime under a brutal dictator successfully gets away with outright murder and war against the West, with only having to pay a paltry sum that can be covered easily enough by squeezing out some oil.

It was one of the greatest and saddest failures of the Ronald Reagan presidency to let the Libyans under Gadhafi commit wanton acts of terrorism and war against the United States without any real recourse, except one bombing campaign and a series of sanctions that have left the Libyan government in place. It would be equally calamitous for President Bush to consent to this current plan to lift even these paltry punishments.

Daniel Cohen, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, aptly said of this “settlement” that, “This is supposed to be about justice, it's supposed to be about punishment. It is not supposed to be about blood money and a tawdry payoff and that's all I'm afraid we're going to get out of this.” He makes a good point; justice ought to be the goal of any settling of this affair. The only Just route is to make those responsible for the atrocious actions of the Libyan government pay, and not with money.

The troubling thing about all of this is that instead of rectifying all of the mistakes this country has made in dealing with terrorism from the 1950’s until September 11, 2001, we are returning to the old formula of appeasement and no punishment at all, which will only serve, as it did before, to embolden terrorists and the states that support them to attack us. Gadhafi will be free of restraint and actually taken off our State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism, and will, and of this I have no doubt, return to his old game, but with an emphasis on achieving a deterrent threat against the US Army through nuclear arms.

If he succeeds we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves and this administration for trusting a murdering thug with no credibility so that the families of the victims could divvy up 2.7 billion dollars. The loss to those families was very great but all they are doing is assuring more families will have to suffer from this man’s terrorism, whether those victims are Libyan or otherwise.
The Problems of California Governor Gray Davis
Alexander Marriott August 12, 2003

Those who have read my writing before know I have a severe distaste for democracy. For those of you who have not, my objection lies primarily in the fact that democracy (NOT OUR CURRENT GOVERNMENT!) is merely an un-objective lawless rigmarole of majority opinions that may be right or wrong, depending upon whatever 51% of any group of people think at any given time. Given this highly dangerous and highly sporadic nature, democracy is highly undesirable and would only last as long as is necessary for any aspiring tyrant to take it over.

So when I heard there was a recall in the works of Governor Gray Davis in California two thoughts immediately came to mind. First of all, didn’t they just reelect that incompetent? And second, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. The first thought reflects my own aversion to all forms of direct democracy now in many state governments today, these being Ballot Initiatives, Referendums, and Recalls. As I oppose democracy in all of its forms I naturally oppose recalls of elected officials. There are elections for reasons, poor leadership normally is rewarded by a boot out of office, but Gray Davis managed a reelection in 2002, and California is paying for it, as they should considering they already had him as Governor for four years and knew he wasn’t too sharp, effective, or knowledgeable.

But who can resist the irony of it all? It was the intellectual forbears of men like Davis and the Democratic Party that spearheaded all of the direct democracy in the government today. Including the three things already mentioned, but also the direct election of senators by the people instead of the state legislatures and the extension of the franchise to everyone regardless of any standard at all, by which I mean property and not arbitrary things like sex, religion, or race. Despite all of these efforts to make a Republic into a Democracy, the reaction when the recall option finally came to fruition, but against someone of the wrong party, was to call it an evil abomination. Had it been Ronald Reagan or Pete Wilson who had faced a recall the same people in the Davis camp who claim that the whole thing was somehow bought or is fraudulent would be cheering from the rooftops about the greatness of democracy and the virtues of living in such a “progressive” state.

Whatever happens let it be a lesson to those who are in California and everywhere else for that matter. A lesson that electing mediocrities and liars, and then rewarding them with reelection only serves to embolden their mediocrity and lying. A lesson that direct democracy is a mess and shall always remain one, whether the outcome is just and correct or monstrous and cruel. And a lesson, hopefully, that when you enact Soviet style policies all businesses will begin to pack up and leave.

Will any of these lessons be learned? Probably not, but at least, since I don’t live there, I can sit back and watch the whole thing fall apart without too much sadness about it.