In his seminal work 1984, George Orwell imagined a dystopia where “Big Brother” government monitors every aspect of society. The technology of the surveillance state is here and becoming ever more pervasive. But Orwell missed something: the state didn’t get a lock on the technology, and now it’s being used by regular folks to surveil the state right back.
By Mike Cronin
Yet another mass shooting has shattered lives and sensibilities across the nation. While the dead bodies were still warm and the facts opaque, the usual demagogues began firing off the usual salvo of blame-storming. Guns, or types of guns, or parts of guns, or gun accessories, were to blame. Angry white men. Congress. Gun manufacturers. Republicans. The NRA. You get the idea.
As usual, the only solution to the believers of The Narrative is to ban firearms. Not all firearms, of course (at least not all at once), just the evil ones.
Such people are often impervious to reason. Even so, I feel compelled to once again offer some reasoned, logical thinking on this issue.
Either we have the right to life or we do not. Our Founders believed we do. They enshrined the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. If we have the right to life, then inherent in that right is the subordinate right to self-defense from any threat, to include the threat of tyrannical government. Our Founders ensured we had the capability to fight any and all such threats by means of the Second Amendment. During the centuries between the ratification of the Constitution and today, Americans have amassed hundreds of millions of firearms and billions, if not trillions of rounds of ammunition.
Since so many guns legally exist in the hands and homes of millions of people who have the protected right to possess them, and since a legal ban on guns could not make all guns everywhere magically evaporate, it follows that the only way we could eliminate all (privately held) guns everywhere in this country would be for well-armed government agents to confiscate them. One small problem. A government that once protected the rights of its people that then abolishes those rights by force is by definition tyrannical!
Therefore: Because guns exist and can be used against the people, the people must have the right to have guns. Put another way: Infringing on the right to keep and bear arms is infringing on the right to life. Banning firearms would be nothing less than banning our right to exist.
You might ask: “What about the victims of these mass shootings? Didn’t they have a right to exist? Doesn’t allowing criminals and crazies access to (insert the detested firearm variety here) give them all the power to kill and destroy?”
Of course the victims had a right to life. Of course we should limit the power of criminals and crazies to kill and destroy. The best way to do that isn’t by eliminating everyone’s access to firearms, it’s by limiting the criminals’ and crazies’ access to society!
It is my contention that people with histories of violence, or diagnoses of psychological conditions making them prone to violent behavior, or those using prescriptions that have side effects that include tendencies toward violence, must be escorted in public, incarcerated, or institutionalized.
“But Mike, criminals and crazies have just as much right to access society as you do!”
No, they don’t. Rights come with the responsibility to respect the rights of others. Those unwilling or incapable of fulfilling such responsibilities have less claim to any rights than those who are responsible. The rights of the incompetent do not outweigh the rights of the competent.
To paraphrase an analogy proffered by Bill Whittle: There are predators and there are prey. The leopard hunts the gazelle with stealth and claw and fang; the gazelle can fight back with numbers, speed, hooves, and horns. We cannot defeat, or even deter, the leopards of the world by erecting “no cat zone” signs (pro-tip: leopards can’t read) and cutting the horns off all the gazelles. However, we might improve the situation by trapping or “belling” the cats!
Oh, one other thing: note that I did not mention the name of the latest mass murderer. Another mitigation we might consider: A significant number of the criminals and crazies out there want nothing more than notoriety. Lets deny it to them. Our media can stop mentioning or publishing the names of the shooters. Yes, doing so is well within the bounds of “newsworthiness” and the names are indeed part of the facts of the case – but why fuel these monsters’ cravings?
By Mike Cronin
As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, politicians only “care” about your issues after they have taken care of their own goal: to get (or stay) elected.
The mainstream media cares about 1. Getting ratings, and 2. Trying to tell you what your issues are, so that they can make a crisis out of them in order to 3. Get ratings.
Back to politicians. Guess how politicians figure out what to campaign on? Polls, certainly, but also by watching the news to figure out what the big issues are. Who else uses polls? That’s right, the media.
Hmmm. The politicians who care about getting votes leverage mass media. Mass media cares about getting ratings, so they leverage and influence political discourse in order to “sex thigs up.” What we have here is a “self-licking ice cream cone.” The missing ingredient? Your interests. Who cares? Not your elected officials, and not the news media.
As a college professor once mentioned to me, any organization that reaches a certain critical mass will begin to behave like an organism. The first goal of an organism is to survive; the second is to reproduce. Thus, governments at almost any level don’t care about you, they care about expanding. If they can do that by seeming to care about you, that is what they will do. If they grow by steamrolling you, then they will do that. Often, government manages to both at the same time. Who cares? Not the government.
big corporations behave like organisms, too. They are different from governments in that they must make a profit to prosper and grow, and they cannot do that by killing or alienating their customers – so they take care not to purposely end you – but they are not so caring as to be above hooking you on their products (cigarettes, alcohol, medicine, sugary and fatty processed foods, etc.), and they have big PR machines to show how they (pretend) to care about virtuous causes. Who cares? Not big corporations.
College and universities care about bringing in the revenue, and they’ve found the easy button. Every year they raise prices, and every year the uncaring government (led by the uncaring politicians who are watching the uncaring media) obliges them by increasing the amount of money it gives, or loans, to students (or their parents), who then fork it over. Meanwhile, outside of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), the knowledge, skills, and abilities of graduates continues to decline in value to the employers who might hire them. Who cares? Not Academia.
We can keep going, but the answer to the question should be becoming apparent. The universe doesn’t care about you. The world doesn’t care about you. Government and politicians and corporations and the media and academia don’t care about you. Only individuals care about you, or can care about you.
Why should you care?
Because much of the political ideologies popular today (socialism, communism, fascism, etc.) are geared towards promoting some form of collectivism – subsuming your individuality into a massive, unthinking, uncaring organism where every transaction, or even thought, is either compelled or forbidden. These are the ideologies of people who would kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
How much better to live in a society where the only forbidden transaction is the involuntary one? Where the competitive-cooperative nature of individuals can flourish, and where the more aggressive aspects of some can be channeled into more productive directions? That is the essence of capitalism – it is the ideology of traders, i.e. it is the philosophy of people who care – about themselves certainly, but also about breeding the geese that lay golden eggs!
While solar eclipses may be “rare” in any given place, and while it may be rare to be in the path of totality, solar eclipses are not “rare” overall. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil Degrasse Tyson has pointed out, solar eclipses happen about every two years or so. They are more common than presidential elections!
Overall rarity notwithstanding, the eclipse on Monday was unique in at least two ways. It was the first solar eclipse since the late seventies to cross nearly the entire US, and thus it was the first one in the US to be covered by millions of cell-phone and Go-Pro toting Americans in the age of social media.
This led to an amazing phenomena the news media have largely ignored: Far more Americans, of all colors, creeds, and classes, voluntarily gathered in peace across the country to observe the spectacle of nature than ever willingly gather together to hate and destroy, a la Charlottesville or Phoenix.
So we have at least two cases of the media presenting an alternate reality: One is in perpetuating an inaccurate understanding of astronomical phenomena in order to increase excitement…so that they can be seen to be reporting on the excitement of the “once in a lifetime” event, in the hopes that if you weren’t out looking at the eclipse yourself, you’d be tuning in to catch it on live TV.
The second case is more insidious. The mass media, so jaded by their constant purveyance of crises, largely neglected to report on, or even notice, the good news that Americans can be far more united in common cause than we are supposed to believe. No, it might even be worse than that. The second case may be an example that the media actively ignores, or even tries to “reverse engineer” facts and events that run counter to the lie narrative that America is being destroyed by greedy, right-wing, white, trans-, homo-, and Islamo-phobic, Christian middle-class men, as alluded to in several political cartoons about the eclipse:
Instead, too many media personalities have been indoctrinated to believe, and worse, promote, the idea that the solution to all our ills is to let the anointed class do our thinking for us and lead us to more “diversity” (of grievance groups), more “rights” to the time and/or property of others, and more restrictions on freedom and liberty. That idea has proven to be destructive in every time and place it’s been tried.
All news is fake; some news is useful.
By Mike Cronin
Today we celebrate our nations’ birthday, codified by the Declaration of Independence. It is one of the watershed documents of human history – not for its eloquence (though it is wonderfully written), but for what it accomplishes. In modern parlance, it is the “vision statement” of a new country (the preamble of the Constitution is the “mission statement,” while the body and the Bill of Rights are the “operating manual”) – one founded on the concept that the purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of the citizens – and not much else.
The kind of freedom espoused in the Declaration does not come freely. An individual free from government oppression must by definition also be “free” from dependence on government – he or she must be self-reliant. He or she must produce what they need to survive, either directly, through the hard physical work of living off the land, or indirectly, by doing the hard physical or mental work of producing something worthy of exchanging for the food, water, shelter, clothes, and other goods and services one needs to survive. Under this vision of freedom, survival is the basic underlying motivation for producing: either you make your own shelter and grow/kill your own food, or you make something to sell to others, or work for someone else in exchange for money so you can buy those things, or you don’t eat and don’t have a roof over your head!
Basic survival is the foundational motivation, but it is not the only one. Since any surplus produced belongs to the producer who created it, it can be saved for a rainy day, or exchanged for something else – a luxury, perhaps, or something that will make the future effort of producing “a living” go a little easier, i.e. an investment. In this manner, the “rugged individualists” are producers of wealth. They have no expectation that anything will be given to them, and they demand that nothing be taken from them – but they trade value for value amongst each other. All economic exchanges are conducted voluntarily to mutual benefit. This is how wealth can be created. It is the essence of Capitalism.
Critics either cannot or will not see this creation of wealth, this “enlargement of the pie.” To those folks, the “pie” is finite. There is only so much wealth, and if someone has more if than another, they must have stolen the excess, or received it unfairly. The “pie” (wealth) is distributed, not produced! They also argue that no one, not even the “rugged individualist,” can go it alone, that each of us must depend on the benevolence of others, or of the state (i.e. the same thing) – under the threat of force, if necessary. They use that formulation to argue for and justify all manner of violations of our rights by the government (that is supposed to defend those rights), and then point to the artifacts of those intrusions (roads and railways and schools are favorite examples) as proof of their assertions – as if those things have not been and could not be made by private parties. This is the essence of all forms of Collectivism.
To make it work, they have to cram the word freedom through the Orwellian doublespeak machine. What comes out the other end is all but unrecognizable. To this crowd, freedom means the absence of want or need or responsibility for one’s choices. Since they “can’t” handle the requirements of individualism, they must first hook as many people as possible onto the drug of state dependency, and then they must vilify and penalize those who insist on being individualists. Therefore, you must want government regulation and government assistance for everything, right? It’s what’s best for you. Surely, then, you‘ll understand and appreciate the tax man taking 40-50% or more of everything you produce, right? And when that doesn’t cover the costs of all the “benefits” and “entitlements” the government is “bestowing” upon your neighbor, you’ll understand when the bureaucrats will take even more of your wealth by manipulating the value of the currency, right? (Oh, wait, they forgot to teach that part at the government –run schools they “bestowed” upon you.) Thus, the 1800 square foot house your parent’s bought in the Denver area in the 1960’s for $18,000 goes for $350,000 to $400,000 today. The value of the house might have gone up – it might have even doubled or tripled, based on the popularity of the city and the neighborhood, but it didn’t go up 22 times. Rather the dollar has been devalued that much or more over 50 years – and salaries haven’t kept up. An $18,000 house was an affordable investment for an engineer with ~3 years’ experience, making a $7K or $8K annual salary in the sixties. How does the salary of an engineer with ~3 years’ experience compare now, relative to the house that has “gone up in value” 22 times? The median pay for an electrical engineer in Denver, CO is $76K per year now. The value of the house “went up” 22 times, but the pay of an engineer only “went up” 10 times during the intervening 50 years. The lag between rising prices and rising salaries is the stolen wealth zone.
The Collectivists don’t want you to look behind the curtain. They don’t want you to realize that their formula requires you to be a producer so that more and more people who won’t produce can ride on your back – until it gives out and you beg for assistance yourself – but at that point there won’t be anyone left to provide assistance, and we will have become Venezuela…or worse.
When you celebrate our independence today, will you be celebrating independence from tyranny, or independence from reality?
- Everyone has the right to life, but not at the expense of other’s rights, such as their right to dispose of their time, skills, knowledge, and materials as they see fit.
- Socialized medicine, AKA “universal healthcare,” violates those rights by demanding that others must pay for my care (or vice versa), and it violates the rights of providers by coercing them to to give said care to me at government prescribed rates vice market rates, which means: at a loss.
By Mike Cronin
I have been accused of being a conservative. I am not, though I could more easily ally with conservatives than with liberals, and I find conservatism less objectionable than liberalism. Here is my take on the tenets of each movement.
Progressivism/Liberalism/Socialism: A corrupt philosophy that promises…what, exactly? A “more just, verdant, and peaceful world?” Some of its key tenets:
Greedy politicians can protect us from “selfish” business people.
Wealth is not created by productive effort; it is magically distributed unfairly and must therefore be redistributed until it reaches some undisclosed ratio to be determined by the (greedy) politicians mentioned above. Similarly, outcomes are not the products of input, but of luck. In order to achieve equality, those with better luck (i.e. more wealth/higher income) must give to those with worse luck until parity is achieved. The “fortunate” are to be penalized for productivity, while the “less fortunate” can, of course, be forgiven for certain criminal activities meant to register their displeasure or to make the transfer (as long as the greedy politicians gets their cut).
Group identity is more important than individual rights – so you can gain synthetic sympathy proportionate to the number aggrieved populations you can “identify” with. For example, if you’re merely female, or of a minority race, you are just a run-of-the-mill potential Progressive. On the other hand, can you identify as a minority, transgendered, homosexual, handicapped, low-income, single-parent, Muslim illegal-immigrant? Hallelujah! Mazel-tov! (But be careful – if you become too unique, then you’re an individual, a pity party of one, and therefore the enemy.)
Free speech only exists for the benefit of fellow Progressives – and includes the power to force everyone else to listen. Publicly-funded broadcast systems are built for this purpose.
The purpose of government is to shape society. The law must be interpreted to reflect the rule of the majority over the minority (especially the minority of one – the individual). To that end, public schooling exists to create a mass of people smart enough to operate machines, but not skilled enough in the arts of critical thinking to question their shepherds. School choice, charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, and merit-based teacher advancement threaten the agenda, so they are to be resisted. Since they do exist, we must spend more on public schools to counter their influence.
Reality is a collective illusion created in the minds of the masses, so morality is pliant and facts don’t matter. We’ll fund science that promotes our agenda, and quash science that does not. If we all wish for and work towards the same Shangri-La hard enough, evil and inequality will go away!
Conservatism is a movement that seeks to preserve (or restore) what it perceives to be the founding principles of the country. To that end, the actions of the conservative movement suggest the following Conservative tenets:
Conservative politicians are “right,” all other politicians are evil.
Wealth is created by productive effort. The most productive among us are “blessed.” The government will help them “give back.”
Individual rights are more important than group identity…unless we are talking about the right to do something immoral, like using illegal intoxicants or engaging in prostitution.
Some free speech that opposes conservative values can be tolerated, but only late at night, or behind a pay-wall, or in a walled-off part of the store, or in special zoning areas…while some publicly-funded places, such as schools and courthouses, are legitimate venues to promote Judeo-Christian values.
That the purpose of government is to shape society, and the law should promote Judeo-Christian morality, not just protect individual rights. To that end, schools must be allowed to promote religious concepts.
Reality was made by God, and the Lord works in mysterious ways. Science is the realm of Progressives/Liberals/Socialists – our political enemies, so it often contradicts Biblical truth and is mostly to be discounted…unless it can be used to refute our leftist colleagues.
By Mike Cronin
Comfortable Lie: Healthcare is a right. The US is the only developed country without universal healthcare. Obamacare reduced the gap. We must close that gap, but the Republican just tried (and failed) to open it back up.
Painful Truth: We have the right to life, but not the right to live at the expense of someone else. We have no more right to use the coercive power of government to take our neighbors’ money than we do to rob our neighbors in person, regardless of whether the loot is to be used to pay for healthcare. Universal healthcare has been made to sound wonderful by the people who stand to gain the most power by implementing it; and it has been made to sound ghastly by the people who stand to gain the most by not having it. The fact that the US is the only developed country that does not have universal healthcare is irrelevant. We have been the first, or only, country to do, or not do, many things – one of which is to be the first nation established on the principles of individual liberty and freedom – which require individual responsibility and self-reliance. Reliance on the state leads to stagnation and mediocrity and the erosion of liberty and freedom.
Comfortable Lie: “fake news” and “alternative facts” are a recent phenomenon born of the 2016 election and social media.
Painful Truth: All news is fake; some news is useful. This has been the case since the days of the town crier and before. Events that make the news involve, and/or are witnessed by, people – some of the least effective or reliable data recording and play-back devices known! (Remember the game called “telephone” from grade school? Line everyone up and whisper a story into the first kid’s ear, then have him whisper it to the second kid, who whispers it to the third, and so on. By the time the story gets to the last kid, it’s unrecognizable.) Sometime the “fakeness” of the news is due to misconceptions; sometimes it is deliberate, as mentioned in previous posts. Sometimes the reason for the deliberate fakery seems not worth the effort, as when, in the days long before Photoshop, Life magazine retouched this shot of the infamous 1970 Kent State incident. Were they worried that somehow the public would assume the girl is screaming because a fence post seemed to be growing out of her head (right) in the original, and not because her friend lay dead in the street?
Or: What return on investment did the publishers of TV Guide gain by grafting Oprah Winfrey’s head onto Ann-Margaret’s body? Did they think a genuine picture of Oprah would not sell as well at the check-out stand?
Comfortable Lie: The “experts” know when to raise interest rates, “inject liquidity,” or otherwise enact some control over the economy.
Painful Truth: An economy is an incredibly complex interaction between independent agents, the items they wish to buy and sell, and the relative scarcity of those items. “The economy” is impossible for even the most brilliant humans to understand at a level sufficient to make effective control decisions. Invariably, those that try end up making small problems bigger and big problems into disasters. They also manage to steal from us by devaluing the currency we have left after paying taxes. Consider: The humble candy bar cost a nickel a century ago, now it costs $1.25. The chocolate didn’t become 25 times more valuable in that time; our dollars have lost 75% or more of their buying power!
By Mike Cronin
So? That headline is meant to make us hate the rich and want to see them taxed into submission. It is meant to create envy and division. Did those 85 people steal that wealth from the “bottom half,” or did they produce it? If they produced it, it’s theirs. If they stole it, then prosecute them. If you want to help the “bottom half” improve their lives, then help them. Appeal to the wealthy for donations all you want, but don’t believe that you can cure poverty by ostensibly playing Robin Hood. He didn’t steal from “the rich” and give to “the poor,” he stole from the government and gave back to the taxpayers!
The Israelis are doing__ against the Palestinians again!
So? There is a meme circulating that states: “If the Israelis wanted war, the Palestinians would be wiped out. If the Palestinians wanted peace, there would be peace.” It’s not 100% perfectly factual, but there is a high degree of “truthiness” in that statement.
___member of the Trump Administration had contact with Russian diplomats while serving in Congress (or some other governmental or international corporate position) before the election.
So? That’s what the Russian diplomats are here for! That’s why we send American diplomats to Russia! It is far better that our leaders have contact with their diplomats than that we stop talking to each other and start rekindling the Cold War in earnest, isn’t it? We’ve already had Vietnam and Korea, and we’ve been stuck in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years. Syria could easily become the next quagmire if it isn’t already. Do we really need to increase the likelihood of that happening by not having any dialogue with the Russians?
Sports stars get paid more than military troops and teachers!
So? Stop paying them! If you think star athletes get paid too much, don’t go to the games, don’t buy the fan merchandise, and don’t pay for sports packages on satellite or cable. If you think teachers and troops deserve more, write your school board and your congressional delegation and tell them you want to donate more money on top of your paid taxes so they can get a raise. Better yet, gift some money to a teacher or troop of your choice (but less than $10,000, please. We don’t want to make them pay higher taxes for getting your gift!)
Somebody offended me!
So? Call the whaaambulance and wait for it in your safe space, ya simpering snowflake! You have a right to free speech AND you have a right not to listen to the free speech of others. You don’t have right to not be offended.
They gave the Best Picture Oscar to the wrong movie.
So? Does that have any bearing at all on your life? It’s mildly interesting to watch the antics of celebrities, but we only fuel the worst aspects of their personalities by obsessing over their affairs and faux-pas. Maybe we need that spectacle to distract us from the real issues, which would be fine if that’s all Hollywood did (i.e. produce distractions). But that’s not all is it?
(Pick any Hollywood celebrity) said (something pontificating or pious about national or international issues)
So? How does a career as a professional pretender confer to anyone the bona-fides to provide a value-added perspective on …anything that matters?
By Mike Cronin
I left off last week by asking, “…how can we overcome the pain of the past without inflicting all new pains now and in the future?” In my world view, the answer lies in the opposite direction from what most politicians, pontificators, and pundits would have us follow. The answer lies in treating human beings as individuals first and foremost, not as mere units of whatever contrived victim or oppressor collectives the “divide and conquer” crowd has tried to bin us into. In other words, quite often the pathological power seekers in this world seek to divide us in the name of diversity, while the way to a just, peaceful, and united society is by recognizing and protecting individual rights and liberty.
That means tolerating all kinds of behavior and relationships one might find personally distasteful – so long as such behavior violates no one else’s rights. In my view, there simply should be no government purview to ban any intoxicants a competent adult might chooses to use – but neither should it allow intoxication to mitigate any criminal or negligent act taken while intoxicated. It also means the government should have no interest in regulating consensual activities between competent adults. That means there should be no laws against – nor any kind of tax breaks for – any kind of consensual domestic relationships. The only role government should play is in the realm of contract enforcement: Those who choose to register their relationship and codify any such agreements in writing may turn to the government for dispute resolution if necessary.
Of course, that would also mean the tax code would have to be reformed. As well it should be. There is only one reason for the government to levy taxes: to pay for the legitimate, Constitutional functions of government. Likewise, there is only one morally acceptable way to apportion taxes: According to how much government one “consumes,” not according to how much income one earns. Of course, collecting taxes via income confiscation is right out. A consumption tax, such as The Fair Tax, is the way to go in my book.
Speaking of books, when did the United States of America become a democracy? According to more than one of the social studies text books my kids have used over the years, the US is just that: a democracy. That can be taken in two related ways. The first is simply common usage. At some point in the past, the term “democracy” was corrupted from its original meaning to accommodate nearly any government that has adopted some form of constitution, has separation of powers, leaders chosen by elections, and has a more-or-less open market. The other way to take it is that some of the same corrupt people who want to chivy us into collectives are in charge of the education-industrial complex. They want to smuggle into our heads the idea that our government operates according to the concept of majority rule (i.e. pure democracy) vs. the rule of law (i.e. as a republic) – with the ultimate goal being to amass enough of a collectivized majority to gain control of all three branches of government at the same time, undo the Constitution, and turn the US into a Venezuela – all the while believing they are making it into a Sweden (or at least, what they imagine Sweden to be like).
Indeed, one such lament we are always hearing from such quarters is that our “public” school system is failing, always accompanied by the clamor for more and more money to fix it. What if our government schools are not failing? What if they are doing exactly what they are designed to do? Given the model our school system is based on (Prussia’s) and the sentiments expressed by many of its promoters and pioneers, (e.g. “The role of the schoolmaster is to collect little plastic lumps of human dough from private households and shape them on the social kneading board.” Edward Ross, Sociologist, and “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” –Woodrow Wilson) a strong case can be made that our school system is just fine: It is not designed to produce critical thinkers; it is designed to produce compliant mass consumers, and it does. When the most pious prophets of the public school systems tell you the system is failing, they mean that it hasn’t yet succeeded in removing all independent thought from the labor and middle-management classes quite yet!
Now don’t go thinking that because I’m critical of government schools that I must be a snob for a snob for parochial schools. Faith-based private schools, at least of the Catholic variety (of which I have some passing familiarity) may have a better record of producing literate, college-bound graduates than government schools, but they are very comfortable following the Prussian model as well, in some ways to an even greater degree than government schools (case in point: Uniforms and corporal punishment). It just would not do to give your flock too great a taste of independent thinking, lest they come to question their faith, and ultimately the Church!