Archive for the ‘Your Government Doesn’t Love You’ tag
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Every government needs scapegoats. The United States and Europe have Islam. Islamists in the Middle East have the United States and Europe. North Korea has South Korea. Every government has somebody. In fact, almost every government has multiple somebodies. In addition to Islam, the United States also has North Korea and North Korea, likewise, has the United States. Islamists in the Middle East have the United States, Europe, and Israel.
The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous. If a government doesn’t have multiple scapegoats, it runs the risk of running out. Russia has had the United States for a long time but it, like every other government, is constantly looking for more. Recently, if found a new scapegoat in the form of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants.
The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.
What threat could a small non-violent denomination have to the Russian people? None whatsoever. But that’s not the point. The point is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a minority religion within Russia, which means a lot of Russians aren’t familiar with them so the State can therefore mold the believers into whatever it needs. The Russian government also knows that ordering the religion disbanded won’t work, it will merely push the believers underground. This, again, is exactly what the government wants. If the religion is allowed to exist above ground then its believers can openly present themselves to the masses. This makes it easier for them to show Russians exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses really are all about. If their religion is forced underground, they cannot openly present themselves so the State is more or less free to propagandize against them.
It’s an old trick but an effective one. Now the Russian government will be free to blame whatever ills it has inflicted on its people on Jehovah’s Witnesses and show the people why they need their government to protect them.
Pragmatism is my least favorite philosophy. Unfortunately, it seems to be the philosophy a majority of the human race as subscribed to.
The idea behind pragmatism is that policies should be implemented that provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people. On paper that doesn’t sound bad. In practice it has lead to a tremendous amount of death and destruction.
The very foundation of pragmatism is unsound because it never addresses what the greatest good. What qualifies as the greatest good to me may not necessarily qualify as the greatest good to you. Consider the Nazi Party (we’re brining Godwin into this conversation right at the start). The Nazi Party blamed much of the world’s problems on the Jews and decided that the world would be far better without them. This lead to the Holocaust. Now consider the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union believed that the greatest good for humanity was communism. It saw anybody who disagreed with communism as a threat to the future of humanity and, like the Nazi Party, chose to exterminate that perceived threat. Millions of people were slaughtered by those two regimes. Did they provide the greatest good to the greatest number of people? Most people today would say that they didn’t but the people who were running those regimes believed that they were.
Therein lies the biggest problem with pragmatism: anything goes so long as it can be justified as the greatest good for the greatest number of people. If a few million people have to die? Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few million eggs! That’s just the price we have to pay for progress!
Most environmentalists believe that the world’s worst polluter, the State, is the only way to save the environment. They scoff when you mention the environmentally friendly advances that have been made by market actors. Worse yet, they often disparage market advancements that have greatly improved the environment, such as the internal combustion engine:
The internal-combustion engine began improving the environment, however, long before global warming became a concern. Consider the fact that in 1900 a large percentage of the available horsepower really was horse power, or mule power, or ox power. As the power of the internal-combustion engine began to be substituted for animal power in the early 1900s, we began to substitute the emissions coming out of the tailpipes of cars and trucks for those coming out of the tailpipes of animals. The result was that the environment started becoming far cleaner and healthier.
Consider horse manure’s effect on the environment and health of New Yorkers in 1900. Robert Fogel, a Nobel Prize-winning economic historian, writes:
We complain a lot about air pollution today, but there were 200,000 horses in New York City, at the beginning of the 20th century defecating everywhere. And when you walked around in New York City, you were breathing pulverized horse manure—a much worse pollutant, than the exhausts of automobiles. Indeed in the United States, the automobile was considered the solution to the horse problem because pulverized horse manure carried a lot of deadly pathogens.
No serious person denies that photochemical smog from gas-powered vehicles is a health risk. It would be silly to do so. It would be even sillier, however, to deny Fogel’s observation that the air and water pollution from horse manure was a far greater health risk than the pollution from cars and trucks. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, and diphtheria were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans in the early twentieth century. As cars and trucks began replacing horses and other beasts of burden, these deaths began to decline dramatically. Medical improvements get some of the credit, but most of the credit during the early decades of the twentieth century goes to the reduced filth in the environment from animal waste.
People forget the past. Environmentalists, who often rant about how much more environmental damage humans are causing today than in the past, seem to have forgotten just how terrible living conditions were barely a century ago. Humanity’s agricultural knowledge was far more limited, which means farmers commonly practiced more damaging forms of agriculture. Horses were the primary mode of transportation, which introduced a great amount of biological contaminants to metropolitan areas. Trash was often discarded in place instead of collected and moved to a designated dump.
Our species has come a long ways in terms of environmentalism and not because of the State but because of rational self-interest. Having a cleaner environment benefits us so market forces have been hard at work reducing humanity’s environmental impact. This hard work continues today. Energy production continues to cause environmental damage. While the State has continued to hinder cleaner forms of energy production such as nuclear power plants, the market has been hard at work making more power efficient devices. Devices that use less energy reduce the load on power production facilities, which means less new facilities have to be built to meet demands. Mining is another activity that causes notable environmental damage and the market is once again responding. Apple has announced that it will rely on recycled materials instead of newly mined materials and other companies are likely to follow suit.
Environmentalists should be cheering the market, not condemning it.
Statists always ask, in the absence of government who will protect us? I want to know, in the presences of government who will protect us? The State commits murder on a massive scale but it also finds time to murder little guys as well. Consider the case of Terrill Thomas. He ended up in jail because of an undiagnosed mental illness. His kidnappers then turned the water off to his cell and let him slowly die of dehydration over the next eight days:
Terrill Thomas spent seven straight days holed up in a solitary confinement cell with no running water, slowly withering away.
Thomas started the weeklong stretch at the Milwaukee County Jail belligerent and loud, the result of an untreated mental illness, prosecutors said. But as the days wore on, he grew weak and dehydrated. He lost nearly 35 pounds and turned quiet, never asking for or receiving medical attention.
Barely two hours into his eighth day in solitary, jail staff found Thomas, 38, dead on his jail cell floor, the result of profound dehydration.
In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley said surveillance videos show three corrections officers cut off the water in Thomas’ cell – a disciplinary measure after Thomas flooded another cell – and never turned it back on. The same officers never documented the water cutoff or notified supervisors, leaving fellow corrections officers in the dark.
Based on the history of how these kinds of incidents are handled, the officers who cut off the water probably won’t face any real disciplinary action. If there is a trial, the officers might receive a paid vacation for the duration of the trail. If they’re found guilty, they might even be fired. But then their union representative will step in and strong arm the prison into reinstating them.
And people wonder why I have no faith in government.
Occupational licenses are sold to the public as a mechanism for protecting consumers from fraudulent providers. Licenses don’t actually provide such protections since they’re just pieces of paper. More importantly, they can actually reduce protections since their existence convinces people that actual protections, such as regular inspections by private independent inspection organizations, aren’t as necessary. So what purpose do occupational licenses server? They serve as a source of revenue for the State as well as a mechanism for it to lash out at its critics:
In September 2014, Mats Järlström, an electronics engineer living in Beaverton, Oregon, sent an email to the state’s engineering board. The email claimed that yellow traffic lights don’t last long enough, which “puts the public at risk.”
“I would like to present these facts for your review and comments,” he wrote.
This email resulted not with a meeting, but with a threat. The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying responded with this dystopian message:
“ORS 672.020(1) prohibits the practice of engineering in Oregon without registration … at a minimum, your use of the title ‘electronics engineer’ and the statement ‘I’m an engineer’ … create violations.”
In January of this year, Järlström was officially fined $500 by the state for the crime of “practicing engineering without being registered.”
How dare he practice engineering without a license? The audacity of this criminal scum!
You almost have to admire the vindictive nature of the State. An individual came forward offering information that could potentially lead to the correction of a bug in a system and the State slaps him with a fine for daring to question its authority. Welcome to America, the freest goddamn country on Earth!
Last year the government granted itself permission to widen the scope of warrants when any form of anonymity tools is involved in a case. This expansion, commonly referred to as Rule 41, allows government agents to acquire a warrant that authorizes them to remotely access any computer using, for example, Tor to conceal either its physical location or its users physical locations. Needless to say, the privacy community wasn’t thrilled when news of this expansion broke.
But the privacy community is, unfortunately, relatively small. The government doesn’t really care about it. It’s far more interested in convincing the masses that this expansion of power is a good thing. To demonstrate the value of this power the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) requested and received a warrant to remotely access systems that were infected with a botnet so it could clean the malware:
Mass hacking seems to be all the rage currently. A vigilante hacker apparently slipped secure code into vulnerable cameras and other insecure networked objects in the “Internet of Things” so that bad guys can’t corral those devices into an army of zombie computers, like what happened with the record-breaking Mirai denial-of-service botnet. The Homeland Security Department issued alerts with instructions for fending off similar “Brickerbot malware,” so-named because it bricks IoT devices.
And perhaps most unusual, the FBI recently obtained a single warrant in Alaska to hack the computers of thousands of victims in a bid to free them from the global botnet, Kelihos.
The FBI sought the 30-day warrant to liberate victims through a new procedural rule change that took effect in December amid worries among privacy advocates that the update would open a new door for government abuse. But the first use of the amendments to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure has assuaged fears, at least for the moment, because the feds used their power to kill a botnet.
How benevolent of the FBI!
This is, of course, a purely propagandistic move. Now when some pesky privacy advocate brings up the heinous nature of Rule 41 the federal government can point to this case and berate the advocate for wanting to help botnet operators. It’s a classic maneuver with a proven track record.
Who will protect the people from murderers without a government, is a common question asked by statists. Who will protect the people from the State, is a common question asked by anarchists.
Of the two dangers, individual murders or the State, which is more concerning? The State because it is capable of mass murder:
Government use of force against ethnic groups is far more effective than private use of force against these same groups. I remember that when I first heard about Hitler at about age eight, and asked my mother who he was, I was told that 15 years earlier he had used tanks and other weapons to try to take over the world. I pictured a nut with some tanks he had bought coming down our highway and invading our small town in rural Canada. I didn’t understand at the time why Hitler was such a threat; I had been raised to believe that the police would protect us. Imagine the shock and sudden surge of overwhelming fear I had when, years later, I learned that Hitler employed the police and, indeed, ran a whole government. That was scary. Even as a child I knew that the government, any government, had more power than anyone who was not in the government, and that when the government passed and enforced a law, you couldn’t legally fight back. That’s when the true terror of Hitler dawned on me.
In the 20th century alone Democide, the act of a government murdering its own people, killed more people than war. A lot more people. But combat deaths should be included as well for the purpose of this post since almost every war in the 20th and 21st centuries has been started and fought by governments.
Nongovernmental murderers aren’t even a blip on the radar when compared to governments. If protection is something you’re truly concerned about then the elimination of government should be your primary mission.
The collapse of Venezuela continues unimpeded. A couple days ago the Venezuelan government announced that it was arming loyalists, likely in expectation of massive civil unrest. Yesterday that same government decided to seize an automobile plant from General Motors:
GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”
The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.
“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.
Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.
This isn’t surprisingly. Only a fool would believe that the Venezuelan regime can be propped up much longer. Since the Maduro and his cronies don’t come off as fools, they’re probably preparing for the collapse of their regime. A lot of historical rulers when put in the same position started grabbing anything of wealth they could so they could enrich themselves before fleeing the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro seizes more valuable production facilities so he can sell off the assets to enlarge his bank account so he has a comfortable nest egg for his eventual escape.
Almost two years ago it was revealed that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) missed a whopping 95 precent of restricted items. You would think that such a damning report would have lead to a top to bottom rework of the agency’s practices. But the TSA is a government agency, which means it doesn’t suffer consequences for failing, unlike market actors, and therefore has no motivation to improve. That’s what, two years later, we still get to read stories like this:
An off-duty policewoman flew from Los Angeles international airport (LAX) to Taiwan with a gun in her hand luggage.
The weapon was not detected during security screening and Noell Grant only realised she was carrying it as she changed planes in Taipei.
At one point I noted that the TSA exists solely to provide warm and fuzzy feelings to passengers who are too ignorant to realize that the agency isn’t securing anything. But as these stories continue to role out even ignorant fools are likely becoming aware of the fact that the TSA is just as ineffective as every other government agency. When that realization sets in the warm and fuzzy feelings of ignorance vanish, which means the agency serves no purpose whatsoever. The TSA should be completely abolished tomorrow.
Tax seasons has once again come and gone. Now that everybody has filed their papers that will hopefully appease the State enough that it won’t send men with guns to your doorstep, I think it’s time to reflect on just what the income tax means. Simply put, the existence of the income tax means that you’re property:
The great essayist Frank Chodorov once described the income tax as the root of all evil. His target was not the tax itself, but the principle behind it. Since its implementation in 1913, he wrote, “The government says to the citizen: ‘Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.”
The income tax, like so many other government evils, seemed innocent enough when it was first proposed. It wasn’t going to be used to soak the poor or middle class. Heck, it wasn’t even going to be used to soak the wealthy. It was only going to be used to take an infinitesimal percentage of the income of the wealthiest Americans. Fast forward 104 years and we’re all being soaked.
Precedence is something I like to point out periodically. The government likes to grant itself seemingly innocent powers. Often these grants of power are even celebrated by the masses. But as time goes on the seemingly innocent grants of power are used as justification for overtly sinister grants of power. The income tax is the perfect example. Although it started as a tax that only targeted the rich, it established the precedence that the State has first claim to income. That precedence was used to expand the income tax until it applied to everybody’s income. Now even the poor get a percentage of their income skimmed off of the top by Uncle Sam.
The income tax may have been one of the most egregious grants of power because it established the precedence that individuals, not just the products they make or trade, are government property.