Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

16 February 2016

Rationally Choosing a President

As an American with the right to vote for President, how does one rationally exercise that right?

The first task the rational individual has is to determine what the legitimate purpose of government is and how government acts to achieve that purpose.  It is easier to understand how government acts to achieve its purposes, than it is to understand what its legitimate purposes are.  Government achieves its purposes by using force.  If challenged by any of the people it governs, it is willing to use overwhelming and fatal force.  It is the nature of government that it achieves its ends through the use of force.  Without a clear understanding of that and which of many purposes it may have that are legitimate, it is not possible to make a rational choice of that government's chief executive officer.

Many people believe that government exists to enforce a morality upon a society.  Thus that portion of the left which is long educated in the government-controlled education system commonly believes that some groups deserve to be treated by everyone nicely.  These groups are usually people they see as systematically discriminated against or as rather helpless.  If those of the favored groups are not treated nicely by someone, the government should use force to see that those who are not nice will act nice.  On the other hand, that portion of the right which believes in religious fundamentalism largely believes that everyone should be forced to live in accordance with what they think Christianity requires of moral people.  There is some overlap in these two groups' ideas of morality, but there are also important differences.  What they have in common is a belief that it is right to have government enforce their idea of moral behavior upon those whose ideas of moral behavior differ from theirs or upon people who sin by not living up to the morality they themselves may recognize.

Neither group believes in a broad concept of freedom of conscience.  Because both groups are broadly willing to use force to achieve their goal of moral uniformity in individual's relationships with one another, neither believes in a broad concept of freedom of association either.  The socialist elitist group of the left and the Christian fundamentalist group of the right are the most polarized groups willing to use force to make every individual comply with their moral beliefs, but this is actually a trait of most Americans.

It does not dawn on most Americans that it is from a broad individual right to freedom of conscience and freedom of association that all of the individual rights that most think they should have arise.  Why should an individual have freedom of speech?  Because freedom of speech enables people to develop, with feedback from others, and trade the knowledge they need to survive and flourish on Earth in the midst of powerful natural forces and other people.  Freedom of speech is often opposed by those who wish to suppress the knowledge and understanding that may result.  A crucial portion of that knowledge and understanding is about a moral code suitable to sustaining life as a thinking and living being.  Freedom of speech is critical as a support for developing learning, identifying values to pursue, earning a living by production, and trading values with other individuals.

Today's socialist elitists are often weak on freedom of speech because they argue it can be hurtful to some among those groups they favor or think are incapable of managing their own lives.  Not infrequently, they even believe that scientific pursuit of knowledge should be suppressed if it might cause people to disagree with part of their belief system.  This is most apparent if those who disagree are pursuing profits in trade or disagree with their ideas about evolution or man's relationship with the environment.  The fundamentalist right sometimes forces the teaching of Intelligent Design or forces counseling prior to a woman having an abortion.  Freedom of speech means we have the right to say what we think, but also that we have the right not to be forced to listen to those we disagree with.  Real freedom of speech also rests in freedom of association.  We have the right to speak to those who want to listen to us.  Freedom of the press is just the right to put our thoughts on paper or electronic media and distribute them to those who want to read what we have written.  Consequently, freedom of press also has a foundation in our broad freedoms of conscience and association.

Of course, freedom of religion is just a subset of our broad freedom of conscience.  Indeed, the two were often conflated when the early state constitutions were formulated and in the debates about the federal Constitution.  Freedom of religion is clearly both about a set of beliefs and the freedom to gather with others of similar belief, as is our broader freedom of conscience.  Freedom of conscience, really the freedom to think and to act upon what we think, is inseparable from freedom of association in our interaction with others in a society.  Thus, when a socialist elitist has the government use force to make a Christian fundamentalist baker bake a cake for a gay wedding or to make one pay for a woman's abortion, that socialist elitist is violating the Christian fundamentalist's freedom of conscience and his freedom of association.  It is not of primary moral importance that the socialist leftist may be right that discriminating against gay people and their marriages is wrong or that a woman has a right to have an abortion.  If these are fact as I think they are, this is still not justification for using force to violate the individual rights of the Christian fundamentalist.  Neither would it be right for the Christian fundamentalist to deny the government contract for domestic partnerships to gay people or to force those who do not share their religious beliefs to attend and financially support their church.

Our Declaration of Independence correctly identified the legitimate and very limited function of government.  Its legitimate functions are limited to the protection of the individual's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It accomplishes this purpose by not allowing individuals to initiate the use of force upon others and by not itself using any more force than is needed to prevent individuals or aliens from initiating the use of force against its citizens.  Legitimate government is not in the business of doing harm to some in the name of a greater good claimed for others.  Legitimate government lives under a rule that it must first do no harm to anyone who has not initiated the use of force.  Legitimate government minimizes the use of force in a society, including its own use of force.  This is why the Constitution gave the federal government very limited and enumerated powers.  Those powers have been expanded by present-day interpretations far beyond the context of this very limited role of simply protecting individual rights.

Legitimate government rests on the foundation of a People who are mostly competent to comprehend their lives and environment, choose their own values, and pursue those values in a robust and choice-rich private sector.  It is in the private sector that individuals can best exercise their quest for knowledge and understanding, learn about the many values they might pursue, and exercise their choice of values by acquiring them, often in cooperation with others who wish to enter into trades of values with them.  No such enabling environment is possible in a society following a large government model.  The nature of laws and regulations that go beyond prohibiting the initiated use of force is to reduce choices of values and reduce their free trade.  Such a society suffers a reduction of knowledge, the reduction of the happiness of many, and a subsequent reduction in the production of goods and services.

The socialist elitist thinks it is crass to argue that their web of laws and regulations lead to a reduction in the growth of an economy.  They believe it is fine to impose these limits on human activity in pursuit of their moral ideals because trade and business are immoral, or at least not endeavors suitable to the most enlightened minds.  Never mind the fact that a free society with limited government whose private sector production of goods and services may easily grow at a 4% rate will provide 1.83 times as many goods and services in a generation (about 31 years in America) as one growing at a 2% rate characteristic of their partially enacted agenda under Obama.  They never consider how many of those with lesser abilities or drive will find it much easier to live and to enjoy a much more interesting life in a society with 83% more goods and services in a generation.  They never ask if the medical achievements, the development of new life-enhancing products, the advancement of knowledge generally and its teaching, the increased wealth available for charities, and the shortened work hours in such a more developed private sector might not easily be much preferable to the society with more public housing, free food, long term unemployment benefits, higher taxes, less investment, more corn subsidies, more Import-Export Bank subsidies, more renewable energy subsidies, more college loans, incalculably less pollution, and higher minimum wages now at the expense of this growth.

A moral society starts with a government that does not itself act immorally by using any more force than it must to keep individuals from using force unnecessarily.  A harmonious society starts with this minimization of the use of force.  It allows individuals to choose their own values, manage and own their own lives, and to trade freely with others for each trader's mutual advantage.  Such a society prospers in happiness and security.

Being happy is less about having a good or service than it is about being free to choose what you want and being able to act for the purpose of achieving your values.  The competent individual is capable of doing this.  The individual who is free to do this is more likely to feel competent.  This esteem that follows from the act of using one's own mind to understand reality, to identify and choose one's own values, and to act to achieve those values is essential to happiness.  Self-chosen values are the food of dreams and the freedom to act to achieve them is the basis for hope.  Good government does not kill our individual dreams and does not subvert our hopes.  It does not squash any individual's dreams and hopes in favor of a chosen group.  It provides equal freedoms for all to choose their values and to pursue them.

The man to vote for to become President is the man who best understands this and will try his best to reform government to make it legitimate.


Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Anoop Verma apparently posted this to the Facebook page of The New Intellectuals, but I cannot find it there. It seems to have been removed for reasons unknown to me. But I first received this e-mail:

Anoop Verma
February 16 at 8:04am

"The first task the rational individual has is to determine what the legitimate purpose of government is and how government acts to achieve that purpose. It is easier to understand how government acts to achieve its purposes, than it is to understand what its legitimate purposes are. Government achieves its purposes by using force. If challenged by any of the people it governs, it is willing to use overwhelming and fatal force. It is the nature of government that it achieves its ends through the use of force. Without a clear understanding of that and which of many purposes it may have that are legitimate, it is not possible to make a rational choice of that government's chief executive officer." ~ Charles R. Anderson

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

I was also notified of this comment there:

Keith Weiner 9:10am Feb 16
What does self "owned" mean? Ownership is a transitive concept, one owns a thing. But before one can own a thing, one must be.

Often, I see anarchists use this term as they try to derive everything from property rights, which they think minimizes controversy.

My reply to Keith is:

Yes, I exist. Collectivists assert that they own me or at least have shares in the ownership of my mind and body. I say they do not own me, I own myself. This is the most fundamental form of ownership. I own my own mind and body, the hours of my life, the output of my mind, and the output of my physical labor. I do not own any part of these to the collective. This is a critical ownership to assert. I have to make this assertion since I am under constant attack by collectivists who assert that their ownership of my mind and body justifies their forcing me to submit to the health care and insurance requirements of ObamaCare. They assert that their ownership of my mind and body and the productive hours of my life gives them a right to use force to take the income, wealth, and property that I generate or acquire as a result of my investment of my mental effort, physical effort, and use of my hours in productive endeavors generally.

It is really very strange to be challenged on such a basis by someone who regularly posts on For the New Intellectual.