The Most Dangerous Candidate

“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” said an unidentified man to Donald Trump at a question-and-answer town hall event in Rochester, New Hampshire last week. “You know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American.” Mr. Trump is under fire for not correcting the man.

Institutions (government, corporations, media) limit what can be said on television by refusing to provide a forum, but, evidently, restricting what can be said is not enough for the speech police; they are now deciding what people must say.

Trump irritates the media because he goes off script; he veers from the narrative that every minority is a victim of racism, that rich Republicans are evil and poor Democrats noble, etc., and because Trump is not dependent on TV deals, television can’t easily control him.

Trump was not obliged to defend Obama. The man who accused Obama of being a Muslim was not even out of line. According to a CNN poll from a week ago, 29% of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim (based largely on his refusal to disclose his records). But Obama’s religion is not the issue. Freedom of thought and expression is.

After Trump’s non-response, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about POTUS & hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing, & just plain wrong. Cut it out. –H” (How you “cut out” not doing something is unclear.)

Ms. Clinton’s tweet reveals her mindset. She thinks that if she is offended by something, everyone should be offended, that if she denounces it, everyone must. It’s the mentality of a mafia don: “Everyone eats what I eat.” She tries to correct individuals’ opinons via censorship, which of course presumes that there is a correct opinion and that it’s hers.

A Republican president in 2016 would create an adversarial relationship between the federal government and the media, as is proper. But a Clinton administration in lockstep with television could “disappear” words and whole lines of disliked thinking just by labeling them “racist,” “inappropriate,” or “hateful” (the magic words used to censor any “wrong” notion). If Hillary Clinton were to deem a word or phrase unacceptable and stop using it the media would follow, expurgating it. Thus, ideas Ms. Clinton disapproves of would be rendered difficult to verbalize and disseminate.

For people who work in big media, the suppression of non-approved opinions is well underway: baseball great Curt Schilling was recently demoted by ESPN for retweeting on his own time a meme whose point was that Islam created too many terrorists. Schilling was punished for being straightforward, as opposed to our president, who won’t use the word “terrorist” and who refers to acts of Islamic terrorism as “man-caused disasters.”

Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty is less troubling than her need to control communication. She has demonstrated that your concerns don’t matter to her. And they won’t matter to anyone if you can’t share them.

 

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Livertarian v. Paternalist

A libertarian says to a paternalist, “I’ll let you be if you let me be.”

The paternalist refuses.

That’s it. Sadly, it’s not a joke.

Paternalists don’t recognize the right of the individual to be let alone. As a parent manages a child for the child’s own good, paternalists want to do the same for adult strangers and for society. They feel that people often make choices counter to their longer-term interests and that limitations would help them choose more wisely.

No question, we do things that are bad for us. And it’s part of government’s job to tell us they’re bad for us, but it’s not government’s job to ban an unhealthy personal choice unless it directly harms or threatens others. For ourselves, if we don’t have the freedom to choose wrongly, we don’t have freedom of choice because government can designate any choice “wrong” and penalize it, leaving only State-approved options.

Some statists maintain that the world has become too complicated for people to navigate without government guidance. That’s why products have ingredient lists, disclosures, and warnings, but it’s not a reason for the State to make the choice for the individual. Others claim that if a restriction saves the nation money it is legitimate, but you don’t ignore individuals’ rights because it saves money.

Paternalists claim that using mild coercion to help people make better choices is moral, but it is in fact immoral to use lawmaking power to limit choices. Morality requires freedom of choice. If someone blackmails you into donating to cancer research, you are not acting morally because it wasn’t your choice. If Fred shoves you into Joe, injuring Joe, Fred is at fault. You had no choice in the matter, so your sense of right and wrong (morality) played no part. Remove free choice and you remove morality from the equation.

Paternalists presume that we aren’t well-informed enough to know what we should want. (This is how the NSA rationalizes its unconstitutional behavior too – the fools don’t know what we know, so we must usurp their rights to protect their interests.) Or, the “choice architects,” as some call themselves, feel that we don’t have the self-discipline to choose rightly, so they favor penalties or restrictions to help us correct our drinking, unhealthy eating, sloth, whatever.

Authorities are induced to ban anything new for its potentially dangerous effects. Attempts by the State to thwart “wrong” personal choices underlie America’s most unconstitutional laws. At times, US government bodies have banned alcohol, condoms, gay marriage, and even banned being gay. Due to the War on Drugs, the US prison population rose from 200,000 to 2.3 million over the past 45 years and the US rate of incarceration is now eight times that of Europe. In 1970, “choice architects” decided that recreational drugs should be prohibited, creating a policy that has marred far more lives than drug use.

“It’s for your own good,” is an untenable reason to legislate. If your pet is somehow harming himself, you act – because you own him. But government does not own people. It may not treat us as if we are its pets. When young, we leave home because we want to make our own decisions even if some of them turn out wrong. When old, if we listed the ten best times we ever had, some of them would not have happened without the freedom to pick the irrational-but-fun choice.

Paternalism is government by consent of the overbearing, by people who believe that their goals for society supersede the rights of the individual, overlooking that society is individuals, each an end in himself.

The Five Rights of the Individual

The Libertarian Philosophy in 7 Points

1. Each person has five fundamental rights, the first two of which are the rights to life and liberty. The right to life means that no person may harm another. The right to liberty lets each person do as he chooses. Thus, a free civilization’s premise is, each person can do as he chooses provided he does not harm another.

2. Property is the fruit of one’s labor. A dwelling gives liberty a place to exist. The property line establishes the protected sphere. It separates public (majority rule) from private (personal choice). Property is a mini sovereignty in which the owner is autonomous within common law, where he may act without asking permission or giving explanation. Property shields the individual from government’s tendency to treat every issue as a public concern.

3. Property also enables liberty by increasing the number of choices. More money, more choices. Higher taxes, less net income, fewer choices. When the individual is permitted to spend his money, he buys what he wants. When government takes and allocates his earnings, he’s forced to serve the ends of others.

4. It is not government’s role to produce model citizens. Whereas common law and rules of organization are needed to protect rights, directives of government policy are intended to make private citizens healthier or more productive, or, to force some individuals to contribute to others. But these virtues – self-improvement and generosity – cease to be virtues when they’re imposed.

5. Every personal choice is up to the chooser alone. It’s irrelevant if others find his actions foolhardy or self-destructive: their findings are not silage for legislation. The area between actions that harm others and those that merely offend requires defense, however, because individuals have a double standard that reduces to, what I do is my business; what you do is your business unless I have a real problem with it.

6. The libertarian’s opponent is the dominator. His position is, if I’m right, why shouldn’t others have to act as I recommend? He seeks to manage adult strangers as if they were his children, imposing “correct” behavior. Dominators in and out of government try to tell us what foods and drugs we can’t have, how we must raise our children, what safety devices we must wear, and what things we can’t do even within our four walls.

7. Libertarians don’t try to restrict or ban personal choices, even those they find objectionable. Whereas many Democrats and Republicans say, “I don’t like it so you can’t do it,” libertarians say, “I don’t like it but the choice is yours to make.” In the larger view, libertarians want government to avoid wars, abolish bad laws, cut spending and taxes, and protect the rights to property and privacy.

From The Five Rights of the Individual.

How to Handle Political Correctness

When selling your home, be careful how you word the listing. Federal judges have ruled that the phrase “ocean view” discriminates against the blind; “family room” discriminates against singles; and “walk-in closet” discriminates against wheelchair-bound persons. The biggest, nicest bedroom is now the “owner’s suite” or “bedroom one,” but not the “master bedroom” because that phrase, it has been decided, is racist.

Federal judges have held that gender-related terms like “foreman” and “draftsman” are discriminatory. Nursery schools have stopped singing “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” replacing it with “Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep.” The term “brainstorming” is considered offensive to epileptics. (Now “thought showers.”) “Easter eggs” are now “spring spheres.” It’s not just words but symbols too. In California, five students were sent home from school on Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day, for wearing shirts that displayed the American flag because it was “insensitive to Mexicans.”

The rules of political correctness are ubiquitous and trying to ignore them implies a racist or sexist intent. If opinions and language are not crafted to fit the rules, they will get no airing other than social media, and there too, discourse is limited. For a severe violation of PCness, a person can lose his livelihood, his friends, and be sued.

The rules of political correctness are not based on equality or intent but on the reaction that “wrong” language is likely to trigger. People who identify with some group notice that the group is being referenced in a callous or misleading way. They petition publishers and media outlets to use more sensitive wording. Television then promotes the change until it becomes the standard and the formerly-unnoticed language is rendered lame.

But television goes further, taking on each “injustice” as a cause, which over time creates changes in attitudes that are not always for the better. For example, TV teaches us that racism, and not innocence, is to be presumed. It teaches us that even being aware of a racial stereotype is wrong. And it treats all violations of PCness as equally odious. Appalled TV pundits don’t distinguish between a tossed-off remark to a friend, a verbal shot in a moment of anger, and real racism (“We don’t want them around here.”) Television promotes intolerance of all non-prescribed views by labeling them racist, sexist, homophobic, or fanatical and it uses the accusation as a club, periodically beating someone to set an example, enabling television to restrict speech and opinions.

So people measure their words, fully aware that for practical purposes the First Amendment now only covers “appropriate” speech. (e.g. “My, the emperor’s new clothes are gorgeous.” “Isn’t every religion just as wonderful as every other?”) Authorities enforce the rules via college speech codes and laws pertaining to discrimination, “hate speech,” and “creating a hostile environment.” Said Jefferson: “I feel the blessing of being free to say & do as I please without being responsible to any mortal.” Today, friends must whisper to one another to determine what it’s okay to say out loud.

Political correctness began as suggestions for better manners – words and phrases to be altered or discontinued because some found them offensive. And it worked. PCness got rid of racial epithets and crudely racist or sexist jokes. Then it eradicated more subtle insults and it forced people to examine their language for inadvertent affronts. Next unfashionable observations came under fire. Then, unfashionable facts. Now, any reference to race or gender, even a relevant fact, raises eyebrows.

The trouble is that free expression and never giving offense are incompatible, especially since a person can take offense arbitrarily. (In a physical assault, the victim cannot simply “decide” that he has been attacked.) The option to take offense has become the option to censor. When people can talk openly, they can attempt to resolve problems that currently can’t be discussed or even mentioned.

Political correctness inhibits free speech, but opposing it on that basis in personal situations doesn’t work. When someone accuses you of an impropriety and you respond with a free-speech argument, you’re effectively saying, “I’m allowed to be a boor,” which is true, but it’s an unappealing position. To your accuser, you seem to want free speech specifically so that you can insult people.

First, take a moment to consider the accusation. It may be valid. You may have said something unacceptable without realizing it. But if the accusation is picayune, do not apologize. Political correctness thrives on acquiescence. Take umbrage and respond in kind to your accuser. Accuse him of speaking wrongly. Point out that he is offending you by presuming malice when there was none. Explain that although you know he has been taught to respond as he did, it was unkind. No one has to take offense. People choose to take offense. And they can choose not to take offense, as he could have.

In more severe cases, when it’s clear that selfishness is masquerading as victimhood, you might suggest to the plaintiff that that he get off his high horse. Suggest that instead of trying to control what others say, he try controlling his reaction to it. Tell him you think he’s collecting wounds, playing the martyr. To focus on something a person has said in order to deter him from saying it again may not sit right with you, but that’s how the purveyors of PCness have spread it and it’s the best way to contain it.

Challenge editors, producers, and journalists who go too far. Invert situations. Use analogies. Substitute races or genders to demonstrate inequities. React to each instance of television’s double standards with the same outrage television tries to elicit from each race-related incident. The goal is to make it politically incorrect to penalize people for political incorrectness. (An opportunity to react to excessive PCness came in April 2014 when Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to retire after it came out that he had donated to an organization that opposed gay marriage.)

If you’re a member of a minority and you dislike PCness, one way to contribute is to avoid taking offense. For example, if you’re an American of Asian ethnicity and someone asks you where you’re from, don’t take it as an insult. Even if he’s assuming you’re from Asia, he’s probably asking because when someone doesn’t seem local he seems more interesting. It’s like noticing a person’s accent and asking where he’s from.

No matter what your race, don’t cry wolf unless there really is a wolf. There’s plenty of real racism in the world; no need to manufacture it out of flawed manners or imperfect wording. It’s America. Let people talk.

For more on political correctness, see The Five Rights of the Individual.

Anti-Defamation League Overreacted in Gary Oldman Case

In the July/August issue of Playboy Magazine the well-known film actor Gary Oldman made some controversial comments that made national news. Here’s what Oldman said:

“Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? But some Jewish guy in his office somewhere hasn’t turned and said, “That fucking kraut” or “Fuck those Germans,” whatever it is? We all hide and try to be so politically correct. That’s what gets me. It’s just the sheer hypocrisy of everyone.”

Shortly after, Oldman added, referring to political correctness, “It’s dishonesty that frustrates me most. I can’t bear double standards. It gets under my skin more than anything.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) took issue with Oldman, especially his comment that Hollywood was “a town that’s run by Jews.” The ADL demanded an apology. Oldman apologized, saying in a letter to the ADL that he was “deeply remorseful” that his comments “were offensive to many Jewish people.”

The ADL was not satisfied, responding, “While his apology may be heartfelt, Mr. Oldman does not understand why his words about Jewish control were so damaging and offensive.”

I didn’t find Oldman’s comments damaging or offensive, though it’s understandable that some people could interpret them that way. The ADL may be equating Oldman’s remark about Hollywood being “run by Jews” with the hateful propaganda cartoons employed by the Nazis 1932-1945 to promote anti-Semitism in which sinisterly caricatured old Jewish men with long beards were depicted crouching over a globe, dividing the world among themselves. This is the kind of thing the phrase “vicious stereotype” was invented to describe, but Nazis accusing Jews of taking over the world is very different from modern westerners contending that Jews have a lot of influence in Hollywood.

And that appears to be what Oldman meant – influence. His words “run by,” could be construed to have a negative connotation, though I suspect that if Oldman had said, “Hollywood is a town in which Jews have a lot of influence,” the remark, less pithy and sensational, would still have brought the obligatory gasps.

Oldman’s comments were not malicious because having influence doesn’t qualify as an ugly stereotype. (Influence comes from success and stature, which come from hard work, being honest, intelligent and creative, having talent, persevering, etc.) Lost in the repercussions from the interview is the fact that Oldman didn’t stereotype Jews or anyone else. He did not call Jews such and such or say Jews were any certain way.

For that reason, the ADL’s reaction was disproportionate. The ADL also took an unnecessary shot at Oldman: “It is disturbing that Mr. Oldman appears to have bought into Mr. Gibson’s warped and prejudiced world view.” Oldman didn’t do that. Mel Gibson’s comments (e.g. “Jews start all wars”) were idiotic and racist. Oldman’s only sin regarding Mel Gibson was in not striving to distance himself from Gibson, not skewering Gibson when he had the chance.

Incidentally, Oldman was right about political correctness double standards. Consider the general statement, “Not every Christian is a perfect person.” Being self-evident, even the most devout Christian would not have a problem with it. But substitute the word “Jew” for “Christian” and it becomes anti-Semitic – to everyone. There could hardly be a milder criticism than “not perfect” yet it would be seen as sarcastic understatement and thus a slur because years of political correctness have conditioned us to presume insult. First way, not a single raised eyebrow. Second way, an ugly remark.

PCness gives whoever wields it the means to edit discourse…and censorship is loathsome. As Garrison Keillor put it, “The most un-American thing you can say is ‘you can’t say that.’” The feeling of not being able to speak freely so irritates people that it can promote animosity and backlashes. In the Oldman case, it doesn’t make sense for the ADL to waste energy fighting a relatively innocuous stereotype, especially when the effort might possibly be counterproductive.

I think Mr. Oldman was treated unfairly. His name appeared in newspapers all over the world along with the words “anti-Semitic rant,” and “another Mel Gibson,” but if you read the interview neither is true. He is suffering worldwide public humiliation without valid reason. He was just speaking his mind, which ought to be okay in the land of the free.

If this battle needed to be fought at all, it did not require artillery.

The Five Rights of the Individual

Each person has Five Rights – to life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, and equality before the law. All other [valid] rights are specific applications of these five.

The right to life is founded on two human traits – reciprocity and empathy. Our drive to reciprocate produces our sense of justice. Our tendency to empathize motivates us to treat others as we’d like to be treated, generating our notions of objective right and wrong.

Our regard for justice and morality led us to a fundamental construct: no one may intentionally harm anyone. This construct renders each person protected by a right to life, which is the source of the other four rights.

The right to life protects a person from bodily injury, restraint, or compulsion. It requires that coercion be banned among individuals and used sparingly by government. The right to life generates laws against murder, assault,rape, harassment, arson, blackmail, and harassment.

The right to life implies the right to liberty because when you let people be (honor their right to life), they do as they please (exercise liberty). Liberty is unfettered choice of thought or action. It’s the absence of man-made impediments, allowing the individual to pick from a menu untrimmed by authority, permitting him to pursue his aims, making each individual an end in himself.

The right to liberty includes freedom of opinion and speech, and freedom of association and assembly. It includes the freedom to travel, to choose a mate or an occupation (by mutual consent), and to plan and shape one’s life according to his priorities. Liberty allows the individual to criticize government, to publish unpopular opinions, or to make films that offend.

For the right to liberty to be meaningful, the individual must have a place to exercise it where his personal actions can’t be overruled by government in the name of the general welfare. Private property is that place.

The right to property includes the right to set boundaries, establishing a protected sphere within which the property owner’s rights take precedence. The property line separates public from private, majority rule from owner’s choice. It affords privacy and allows the owner to shape his surroundings to himself.

Possession of a thing means the ability to manage, alter, or sell it. Property rights include the right to earn, inherit, or allocate money, and to make contracts and hold parties to their agreements. An owner of physical property has the right to use it as he sees fit within preexisting general rules, to exclude others, and to keep any income derived from the property.

The right to property also lets the individual earn and spend money, transforming liberty from a concept into real options. Liberty is freedom of choice of present action; property permits freedom of choice regarding the fruits of past actions – savings. Without the right to allocate his earnings, the individual can be forced to serve interests other than his own.

Liberty’s upside is the right to pursue happiness. It permits fun and foolishness. It permits the individual to risk his health or safety if he chooses. The right to pursue happiness includes the right to do “wrong” things – to eat the wrong foods, drink, smoke, take drugs, have the wrong interests or relationships, or to espouse the wrong political views. The pursuit of happiness is personal. A choice may be unwise, but to force individuals to act “rightly” is a greater evil than allowing them to act self-destructively, however damaging the pursuit might be for some.

The right to equality before the law requires that all individuals are subject to the same rules. Laws cannot favor or penalize any group. Laws must be general and abstract, referring to unknown future cases involving unknown parties. Disputes must be resolved impartially, and being equal before the law, individuals convicted of the same crime should receive the same punishment.

The Five Rights – to life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness, and equality before the law – are not separate entities, but facets of the right to life. The Five Rights are supreme. Put the individual first and no individual can be sacrificed. Put something else first like “society” or “national security” and individuals can be sacrificed to that word or phrase. Government can impose restrictions, rescind options, and assign duties as it sees fit, practices that are incompatible with the Five Rights.

To read about how our rights apply to today’s issues, see The Five Rights of the Individual. Available hardcover, paperback, Kindle ($3.03).

The 10 Rules of PCness

“Newspeak,” from George Orwell’s “1984,” is a language invented by a future totalitarian state to aid in controlling thought. Words and phrases deemed undesirable are censored on the theory that as words are removed so are the ideas conveyed by them, leaving no language with which to voice opposition except to add the prefix “un” to permitted words. What remains is mechanical, unconscious orthodoxy.

Our Newspeak is called political correctness and here are the current rules:

1. Never use an epithet (of which there are hundreds). Drunkenness or rage is no excuse, nor is revenge. If someone decapitates you, your severed had better not utter one before expiring. If ever within earshot of someone who does use an epithet, wince.

2. Never get close to a stereotype, even a positive one. Pretend to be unaware of it. Never muse about the cause of a stereotype because officially no cause exists.

3. Exhibit an exaggerated racial sensitivity. PCness requires more than just opposing racism. One must react to any hint of it as he would a bad smell. Any reference to race at all should make bells go off.

4. When a racial incident is making news, condemn the accused in front of witnesses to demonstrate how much you’re not a racist. Be severe. Take the position that a person should be judged by every remark.

5. Moms, kids, and parks are always politically correct. Favor public servants over businessmen, and suburbanites over villagers, who are to be considered rubes. Favor environmental regulations over natural resources, small business over big, employees over employers, and museum-goers over church-goers. Regarding spirituality, favor tradition over religion, but religion over atheism.

6. Be pro social programs and pro all laws claiming to improve health or safety. Be pro affirmative action and pro government involvement. Oppose guns, corporations, capitalism, and “suits.” Consider poor people good and rich people greedy.

7. The right also has PC requirements. Never oppose an increase in military spending (“un-American”) or support anything disapproved of in the Bible.

8. Denounce cigarette smoking at least as frequently and severely as hard drug use.

9. At work, make no references to ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Say nothing risque. The rule is, anything you would not say in front of young children, do not say at work. You could lose your job by repeating a line from a network sitcom if it offends anyone.

10. Generally, be false. Choose your politics as you would a baseball cap. Honesty is less important than acceptance. Better to be dull than to speak your mind and get fired or ostracized. Silence is survival.