Browsed by
Tag: rights

Discussion on Life-Extension Advocacy – G. Stolyarov II Answers Audience Questions

Discussion on Life-Extension Advocacy – G. Stolyarov II Answers Audience Questions

The New Renaissance Hat

G. Stolyarov II

******************************

Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party, answers audience questions regarding life-extension advocacy and possibilities for broadening the reach of transhumanist and life-extensionist ideas.

While we were unable to get into contact with our intended guest, Chris Monteiro, we were nonetheless able to have a productive, wide-ranging discussion that addressed many areas of emerging technologies, as well as trends in societal attitudes towards them and related issues of cosmopolitanism, ideology, and the need for a new comprehensive philosophical paradigm of transmodernism or hypermodernism that would build off of the legacy of the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free. Apply here.

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2016
******************************

Who Is the Western Man?

On the fourteenth anniversary of The Rational Argumentator, it is fitting to consider the tagline that has been featured on TRA since its founding: “A Journal for Western Man”. But who is this Western Man for whom The Rational Argumentator is intended? In 2002, the answer to that question seemed rather apparent for at least a substantial segment of then-prevalent libertarian, conservative, and Objectivist thinkers who, each in their own way, understood the Western Man to stand for the general cultural ideals and noblest aspirations of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, the decade of the 2010s and the past two years especially have seen the rise of a noxious and fundamentally anti-Western, anti-modern, and anti-civilization movement known as the “alt-right”, which has attempted to appropriate the rhetoric of Western culture and even of the Renaissance for itself. The Rational Argumentator will not allow this appropriation to remain unchallenged. TRA stands resolutely in opposition to all forms of bigotry, racism, nativism, misogyny, and any other circumstantially rooted intolerance – all of which are contrary to the ideals of high Western civilization. But at the same time, The Rational Argumentator also cannot cave to the “social justice” campus activism of the far Left, which would have even the very identification of Western culture and civilization banished, lest it offend the ever-more-delicate sensibilities of firebrand youths who resolutely refuse to let knowledge of the external world get in the way of their “feelings” and subjective experiences. TRA will not abandon the Western Man, but will continue to explain what it is that the Western Man represents and why these principles are more important and enduring than any tumultuous, ephemeral, and most likely futile and self-defeating activist movements of our era.

So who is the Western Man? It is a not a particular man from the West. It is not a descriptor limited to a particular subset of individuals based on their birth, skin color, national origin, or even gender. Indeed, my original intent behind the “Western Man” descriptor was specifically to salvage the generic term “man” – meaning an archetypical representative of humankind – from any suggestions that it must necessarily be gender-specific. This subtitle was meant transparently to imply, “Of course, ‘Western Man’ includes women, too!”  Some of the greatest and most courageous Western Men – from Hypatia of Alexandria to Mary Wollstonecraft to Ayn Rand to Ayaan Hirsi Ali – have been women.

A Western Man can have been born anywhere, have any physical features, any age, any gender (or lack of gender identity), any sexual preferences (or lack thereof), any religion (or lack thereof) – as long as he/she/it is a thinking being who accepts the valuable contributions of Western culture and civilization and seeks to build upon them. If self-aware, rational artificial intelligences are developed in the future, or if an intelligent alien species comes into contact with us, these beings could potentially be Western Men as well.

A Western Man will respect and seek to learn from the great philosophy, literature, art, music, natural and social sciences, mathematics, and political theory that flourished in Western societies throughout the past three millennia – although by no means is a Western man required to focus exclusively on ideas that originated in the West. Indeed, Western culture itself has unceasingly interacted with and absorbed the intellectual contributions of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese thinkers and creators – to provide just a few examples. Likewise, a great deal of hope for the future of Western civilization can be found among entrepreneurs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who have endeavored, with notable success, to spread the technologies of the digital age, construct great buildings, and lift billions of people out of abject poverty and into humane and respectable living standards accompanied by ever-increasing longevity.

A Western Man is someone who embraces the ideal of cosmopolitan universalism – a rejection of circumstantially defined tribalism, of the casting of people as “one of us” or “the other” based on attributes that they did not choose. This cosmopolitan universalism is the product of both a long-evolving philosophical framework and the material abundance that enabled the broadening of what Adam Smith termed our circles of sympathy to encompass ever more people.

The edifice of Western philosophical thought has been built upon by thinkers since the times of Thales, Socrates, and Aristotle – but its greatest intellectual breakthroughs were made during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment. The Western Men who embraced these ideals were often personally flawed; they were men of their time and constrained by the practical realities and social mores that surrounded them. Some Western Men throughout history have, unfortunately, owned slaves, respected individual liberty only in some instances, or been improperly prejudiced against broad groups of people due to ignorance or gaps in the consistent application of their principles. Nonetheless, the legacy of their work – the notions of universal, inalienable individual rights and the preciousness of each person’s liberty and humanity – has been indispensable for later accomplishments, such as the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and liberation, civil and privacy rights, cultural and legal acceptance of homosexuality, and recognition of individual rights for members of religious minorities, atheists, and children. If we are able to see farther and know better than to repeat some of the moral errors of the past, it is because, to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, we stand on the shoulders of intellectual giants who paved the way for our embrace of the aforementioned great cultural achievements.

The ideals of peaceful commerce and cultural exchange – indeed, cultural appropriation (in an educated, informed, and deliberate manner) of the best elements of every time, place, and way of life – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in warfare, a general decline in nationalistic and tribal hatreds, and a widespread understanding of the essential humanity of our fellows in all parts of the world. Were it not for the intellectual achievements of Western civilization and the global commercial and industrial networks to which it gave rise, humankind would still be embroiled in a bitter, Hobbesian war of all against all. A Western Man is anyone who gives the essential achievements of modernity their well-deserved recognition and admiration, and who studies and offers justified respect to the forebears and authors of these achievements. A Western Man is also anyone who seeks to build upon these accomplishments and add his, her, or its distinctive bricks to the edifice of human progress.

A Western Man is not a fanatic or a bully, and sees fanatics and bullies as the threats to civilization that they are. A Western Man does not use ideology to stifle peaceful expression or compel others to dutifully “know their place” within some would-be totalitarian static social order. A Western Man knows that some people will disagree with him, her, or it, and they have the right to disagree peacefully. However, they do not have the right to be protected from attempts at persuasion or the presentation of diverse and possibly contrary views.

A Western Man embraces reason as the way to discover more about the external world and about human beings. Reason is not the exclusive province of any subset of people; anyone is capable of it, but it takes training and effort – and great respect for the intellect – to utilize consistently and properly. From reason stem the empirical scientific method, the deductive processes of formal logic and mathematics, and the application of empirical and logical truths to the development of technology which improves the human condition. A Western Man does not vilify technology, but rather sees it as a key driver of human progress and an enabler of moral growth by giving people the time and space which prosperity affords, making possible contemplation of better ways of living and relating to others – a prerogative only available to those liberated from hand-to-mouth subsistence.

The ideal of the Western Man is to maintain the great things which have already been brought into this world, and to create new achievements that further improve human life. There is thus both a conservative and a progressive motive within the Western Man, and they must combine to sustain a rich and vital civilization. A Western Man can go by labels such as “liberal”, “conservative”, “libertarian”, “progressive”, or “apolitical” – as long as they are accompanied by careful thought, study, discernment, work ethic, and an earnest desire to build what is good instead of, out of rage or spite, tearing down whatever exists. Conservation of great achievements and progress in creating new achievements are not antagonists, but rather part of the same essential mode of functioning of the Western Man – transcending petty and often false political antagonisms which needlessly create acrimony among people who should all be working to take civilization to the next level.

The next level of civilization – the unceasing expansion of human potential – is the preoccupation of the Western Man. This – not descending into contrived identitarian antagonisms – is the great project of our era. Building on the philosophical groundwork laid by Enlightenment humanism and its derivatives, a Western Man can explore the next stage of intellectual evolution – that of transhumanism, which promises to liberate humankind from its age-old shackles of death, disease, severe scarcity, Earth-boundedness, and internecine conflict.

Who is the Western Man? If you accept the challenge and the honor of supporting and building upon the great civilization which offers us unparalleled opportunities to create a glorious future for all – then the Western Man can be you.

TRA Statistics and Achievements During Its Fourteenth Year

TRA published 211 regular features during its fourteenth year, a rate of publication comparable to that of the eleventh and thirteenth years, while remaining below the extremely active tenth and twelfth years, as shown in the table below:

TRA Year Regular Features Published Page Views in Year
10th 306 1,302,774
11th 208 1,077,192
12th 314 1,430,226
13th 228 892,082
14th 211 823,968

With slightly less content published during the fourteenth year, and a similar average number of page views per published feature (3,905.06 in the fourteenth year versus 3,912.64 in the thirteenth year), it could be expected that total page views would decline slightly. While TRA did not reach the milestone of 10,000,000 cumulative page views during its fourteenth year, it did come the overwhelming majority of the way toward it. Total lifetime TRA visitation currently stands at 9,892,636 page views. However, I am confident that the 10-million page-view threshold will be exceeded within the next two months.

I have reason to expect that publication activity will again accelerate during TRA’s fifteenth year, although this may not occur immediately. Over the past year, I have been occupied with satisfying some of the last remaining requirements of my actuarial studies, and their successful completion is in sight. In the meantime, I collaborated with ACTEX Publications to produce a major 400-page commercial study guide, Practice Problems in Advanced Topics in General Insurance, for SOA Exam GIADV.

Several large-scale endeavors within the transhumanist and life-extensionist movements were pursued over the past year. TRA’s anniversary (August 31) coincides with the date of formation of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, a non-election-oriented, non-donation-accepting, policy-oriented party that advocates for the widespread adoption of emerging technologies, individual liberty, and the pursuit of indefinite life extension. The Nevada Transhumanist Party has grown to 107 members during its first year and has been a forum for numerous thought-provoking discussions. Nevada Transhumanist Party activities have occurred online via its Facebook page and its hosted video panels, such as the Panel Discussion on Hereditary Religion, a conversation among Transhumanist Libertarians and Socialists, and the panel for International Longevity Day, in collaboration with MILE – the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension – entitled “How Can Life Extension Become as Popular as the War on Cancer?” In-person activities of the Nevada Transhumanist Party included attendance at a university political lecture, a local Libertarian candidate’s campaign event, and RAAD Fest, the largest in-person gathering of life-extension supporters to date, where I personally met and spoke with such luminaries of the life-extension movement as Aubrey de Grey, Bill Andrews, and Zoltan Istvan.

Gradual but fundamental shifts are occurring that will contribute to more frequent and impactful activity on The Rational Argumentator’s pages during its fifteenth year. As the overview of the Western Man in this manifesto indicates, the importance of TRA’s work and ideals remains paramount. TRA will remain a bulwark of thoughtful consistency in an era where it seems entire societies have become unmoored from core principles that are integral to a successful civilization. We will steadfastly champion the virtues of reason and deliberation, discussion and civil debate, individualism and classical liberal tolerance, creation and maintenance. Even when the tumult of current events calls into question the foundations of civilized life, TRA will be here to reaffirm and uphold them.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

Government by Contract – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Government by Contract – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
******************************

Government should be by contract only. The citizen and the state should come to a mutual, official, legal agreement. All adults, upon turning 18 or 21 or so, should sign a formal, written, binding, social compact in which they agree to abide by the constitution and the laws of a given country in exchange for government services. This means in exchange for the defense of their liberty and the protection of their rights.

This essentially means the systematic, careful, full-time safeguarding of their person and property by professionally trained and armed government agents or civil servants. The would-be citizen or resident should freely agree to pay a certain fee – say 3% per year of his local income or .5% per year of his local net worth – in trade for expert police and military defense, plus court and jail services, plus the government administration thereof.

In theory the contractee of the state might be commanded to surrender some of his rights — such as serving one year of military duty, or a lifetime of no slander or defamation in speech, or being subjected to subpoena coercion at any time. But the potential citizen or resident is always perfectly free to quit, or to refuse to join, such a slightly despotic state.

It’s understood that at any time, for any reason, the citizen is free to immediately, unilaterally cancel his contractual agreement by giving brief, official, public or written notice. Thus he renounces his citizenship — and consequent legal obedience and political loyalty — to his former country and government. It’s also understood that the government can strip him of his citizenship or political rights — also by providing official, public notification slightly in advance — for major violations of the constitution or law.

In both cases the person involved can either join another government or become a temporarily or permanently stateless person. But no fines, jail terms, or other civil penalties are allowed due to his “treason,” especially not any property or wealth confiscation. If the former citizen owns land, and so chooses, he can theoretically become a one-man country. Or the previously-signed government contract may require him to sell his land for a fair price and then leave.

Because the former citizen or resident is no longer bound under political contract to some social group, and thus is no longer paying his service fees or “taxes”, the old government will now stay off his private real estate, and will no longer necessarily protect his person or property from criminals and invaders, i.e. from any attackers or rights-violators. He must defend himself.

Moreover the newly independent person can no longer visit his former country without government permission, such as a visa of some kind. When such a person does visit he must temporarily subject himself to the local laws of the foreign government, and perhaps also pay some sort of visitor’s fee.

Government by contract ensures that any given state is fully legitimate and proper in that it clearly and openly enjoys 100% of the consent of the governed, from its voluntary members. Convicted criminals may dispute this, but they freely chose to become citizens or residents prior to conviction. Their arrest, trial, and punishment should be entirely open, and a matter of public record, as well as completely based upon the principles of justice and individual rights, and a product of laws that the convicted criminal previously freely agreed to.

Any given government should follow the legitimate and proper course of attaining a formal, serious, contractual assent from the totality of its adult citizenry, and all free, sovereign individuals therein. A government not founded on the consent of the governed is a type of criminal syndicate or imposed tyranny which desperately needs to be avoided.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and author of Pure Liberal Fire: Brief Essays on the New, General, and Perfected Philosophy of Western Liberalism.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek: A Side-by-Side Comparison – Article by Edward W. Younkins

Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek: A Side-by-Side Comparison – Article by Edward W. Younkins

The New Renaissance HatEdward W. Younkins
August 1, 2015
******************************

Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek did more than any other writers in the Twentieth Century to turn intellectual opinion away from statism and toward a free society. Although they are opposed on many philosophical and social issues, they generally agree on the superiority of a free market. Rand’s defense of capitalism differs dramatically from Hayek’s explanation of the extended order. In addition, Hayek approves of state activity that violates Rand’s ideas of rights and freedom. The purpose of this brief essay is to describe, explain, and compare the ideas of these two influential thinkers. To do this, I present and explain an exhibit that provides a side-by-side summary of the differences between Rand and Hayek on a number of issues.

In their early years of writing, both Hayek and Rand were dismissed by intellectuals, but they were heralded by businessmen. Hayek began to gain some respect from intellectuals when he published The Road to Serfdom in 1944. He wrote a number of scholarly books, attained formal academic positions, and earned the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974. Rand never did write scholarly works or hold a formal academic position. Her philosophy must be extracted from her essays and her fiction.

Hayek was read in college classes sooner, and to a much greater extent, than was Rand. He was viewed by intellectuals as a responsible and respected scholar, and Rand was not. His vision of anti-statism was more acceptable to intellectuals because he called for some exceptions to laissez-faire capitalism. In his writings he permitted concessions for some state interventions. In his immense and varied body of work, he touched upon a great many fields, including anthropology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, philosophy, economics, linguistics, political science, and intellectual history. During the last 25 years or so, Rand’s works have been increasingly studied by scholars. There is now an Ayn Rand Society affiliated with the American Philosophical Association and a scholarly publication devoted to the study of her ideas—The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In addition, her writings are now being covered in college classes.

A Summary Comparison

Exhibit I provides a summary comparison of Rand and Hayek based on a variety of factors and dimensions. With respect to metaphysics and epistemology, Rand holds that “A is A” and that reality is knowable. Contrariwise, Hayek argues that reality is unknowable and that what men see are distorted representations or reproductions of objects existing in the world. The skeptic Hayek goes so far as to state that the notion of things in themselves (i.e., the noumenal world) can be dismissed. Whereas Rand’s foundation is reality, the best that Hayek can offer as a foundation is words and language.

Hayek supports the view that the human mind must have a priori categories that are prior to, and responsible for the ability to perceive and interpret the external world. He adds to this Kantian view by making the case that each individual mind’s categories are restructured according to the distinct experiences of each particular person.   Each person’s neural connections can therefore be seen as semi-permanent and affected by his or her environment and experiences. The mind’s categories evolve as each specific person experiences the world. According to Hayek, there is pre-sensory knowledge embedded in the structure of the mind and the nervous system’s synaptic connections which can be further created and modified over time. For the neo-Kantian Hayek, knowledge always has a subjective quality.

Reason for Rand is active, volitional, and efficacious. It follows that she sees rationality as man’s primary virtue. She sees progress through science and technology as the result of the human ability to think conceptually and to analyze logically through induction and deduction. Rand also contends that people can develop objective concepts that correspond with reality.

In his philosophy, Hayek relegates reason to a minor role. He argues for a modest perspective of people’s reasoning capabilities. He contends that reason is passive and that it is a social product. Hayek’s message of intellectual humility is primarily aimed at constructivist rationalism rather than critical rationalism. As an “anti-rationalist,” he explained that the world is too complex for any government planner to intentionally design and construct society’s institutions. However, he is a proponent of the limited potential of critical rationalism through which individuals use local and tacit knowledge in their everyday decisions. Hayek views progress as a product of an ongoing dynamic evolutionary process. He said that we cannot know reality but we can analyze evolving words and language. Linguistic analysis and some limited empirical verification provide Hayek with somewhat of an analytical foundation. His coherence theory of concepts is based on agreement among minds. For Hayek, concepts happen to the mind. Of course, his overall theory of knowledge is that individuals know much more than can be expressed in words.

Rand makes a positive case for freedom based on the nature of man and the world. She explains that man’s distinctive nature is exhibited in his rational thinking and free will. Each person has the ability to think his own thoughts and control his own energies in his efforts to act according to those thoughts. People are rational beings with free wills who have the ability to fulfill their own life purposes, aims, and intentions. Rand holds that each individual person has moral significance. He or she exists, perceives, experiences, thinks and acts in and through his or her own body and therefore from unique points in time and space. It follows that the distinct individual person is the subject of value and the unit of social analysis. Each individual is responsible for thinking for himself, for acting on his own thoughts, and for achieving his own happiness.

Hayek denies the existence of free will. However, he explains that people act as if they have free will because they are never able to know how they are determined to act by various biological, cultural, and environmental factors. His negative case for freedom is based on the idea that no one person or government agency is able to master the complex multiplicity of elements needed to do so. Such relevant knowledge is never totally possessed by any one individual. There are too many circumstances and variables affecting a situation to take them all into account. His solution to this major problem is to permit people the “freedom” to pursue and employ the information they judge to be the most relevant to their chosen goals. For Hayek, freedom is good because it best promotes the growth of knowledge in society. Hayek explains that in ordering society we should depend as much as possible on spontaneous forces such as market prices and as little as possible on force. Acknowledging man’s socially-constructed nature, he does not view individuals as independent agents but rather as creatures of society.

According to Rand, the principle of man’s rights can be logically derived from man’s nature and needs. Rights are a moral concept. For Rand, the one fundamental right is a person’s right to his own life. She explains that rights are objective conceptual identifications of the factual requirements of a person’s life in a social context. A right is a moral principle that defines and sanctions one’s freedom of action in a social context. Discussion of individual rights are largely absent from Hayek’s writings. At most he says that rights are created by society through the mechanism of law.

Whereas Rand speaks of Objective Law, Hayek speaks of the Rule of Law. Objective laws must be clearly expressed in terms of essential principles. They must be objectively justifiable, impartial, consistent, and intelligible. Rand explains that objective law is derived from the rational principle of individual rights. Objective Law deals with the specific requirements of a man’s life. Individuals must know in advance what the law forbids them from doing, what constitutes a violation, and what penalty would be incurred if they break the law. Hayek says that the Rule of Law is the opposite of arbitrary government. The Rule of Law holds that government coercion must be limited by known, general, and abstract rules. According to Hayek certain abstract rules of conduct came into being because groups who adopted them became better able to survive and prosper. These rules are universally applicable to everyone and maintain a sphere of responsibility.

Rand espouses a rational objective morality based on reason and egoism. In her biocentric ethics, moral behavior is judged in relation to achieving specific ends with the final end being an individual’s life, flourishing, and happiness. For Hayek, ethics is based on evolution and emotions. Ethics for Hayek are functions of biology and socialization. They are formed through habits and imitation.

Rand advocates a social system of laissez-faire capitalism in which the sole function of the state is the protection of individual rights. Hayek, or the other hand, allows for certain exceptions and interventions to make things work. He holds that it is acceptable for the government to supply public goods and a safety net.

For Rand, the consciousness of the individual human person is the highest level of mental functioning. For Hayek, it is a supra-conscious framework of neural connections through which conscious mental activity gains meaning. He states that this meta-conscious mechanism is taken for granted by human beings. The set of a person’s physiological impulses forms what Hayek calls the sensory order. Perception and pattern recognition follow one’s sensory order which is altered by a person’s own perception and history of experiences

Aristotle is Rand’s only acknowledged philosophical influence. They both contend that to make life fully human (i.e., to flourish), an individual must acquire virtues and make use of his reason as fully as he is capable. Hayek was influenced by Kant and Popper in epistemology, Ferguson and Smith in evolutionary theory, Hume in ethics, and Wittgenstein in linguistics.

Although Rand and Hayek are opposed on many philosophical questions, they generally agree on the desirability of a free market and are among the most well-known defenders of capitalism in the twentieth century. The works of both of these intellectual giants are highly recommended for any student of liberty.

 Exhibit I

A Summary Comparison

 

Rand

 

Hayek

Foundation Reality Words and Language
Knowledge Reality is knowable. Skepticism – The idea of things in themselves can be dismissed.
Reason Reason is active, volitional, and efficacious. Reason is passive and a social product.
Progress Based on power of human reason and conscious thought Evolution and social selection
Analytic Method Logical analysis, including induction and deduction Linguistic analysis and empiricism
Theory of Concepts Objective concepts that correspond with reality Coherence or agreement among minds
Freedom Positive case for freedom Negative case for “freedom”
Free Will Man has free will. Man is determined but acts as if he has free will.
Subject of value and unit of social analysis Individual happiness Perpetuation of society (i.e., the group)
The Individual Independent Dependent—man is socially constituted
Rights Based on the nature of the human person Created by society through law
Law Objective Law Rule of Law
Ethics and Morality Rational objective morality based on reason and egoism Evolutionary and emotive ethics based on altruism which is noble but cannot be implemented because of ignorance. Established through habits and imitation
Desired Social System Laissez-faire capitalism Minimal welfare state that supplies public goods and safety net
Highest level of understanding and mental functioning Consciousness of the Individual Meta-conscious framework—neural connections
Philosophical influences Aristotle Ferguson, Smith, Kant, Hume, Popper, Wittgenstein
The Intellectual Intolerance Behind “Check Your Privilege” – Article by Gary M. Galles

The Intellectual Intolerance Behind “Check Your Privilege” – Article by Gary M. Galles

The New Renaissance Hat
Gary M. Galles
July 19, 2015
******************************

A decade ago, no one had ever been told to “check your privilege.” Now it commands an appreciable “market share” in academia and social justice rhetoric. But it does so despite sharply opposed interpretations of its meaning. In fact, its expanded footprint is partly because of its ambiguity.

It Could Be an Invitation to Debate

In a sense, “check your privilege” largely amounts to “check your premises” behind your views, and many are willing to recognize that such a reminder can be useful in advancing conversations about social issues.

However, I question whether people are so bereft of concern for, or understanding of, one another that they need repetitive “check your privileges” reminders that imply they would believe more accurately and act more effectively if only they were more empathetic. I tend to agree with Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that:

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it … we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others.

Further, repeatedly sermonizing to fix people as a way of “uplifting” them becomes little more than nagging, and any insight it may add gets crowded out. In the same way, repeatedly invoking “check your privilege” tends to destroy its usefulness leaving increased irritation and disharmony.

But the Phrase Could Simply Mean “Shut Up”

And when does “check your privilege” become code for “be quiet” rather than “evaluate your premises”? “Check your privilege” is about shutting down discussion when the user is making the assertion that you are hopelessly confused in your understanding, and that your opinions amount to aggression (whether “micro-” or “macro-”). This position was wellarticulated decades ago by Robert Heinlein, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:

Where do you start explaining when a man’s words show there isn’t anything he understands about [a] subject, [but] instead is loaded with preconceptions that don’t fit facts and [he] doesn’t even know …?

The assertion of your hopeless confusion then becomes the basis for claims that, unless you are a member of some accepted victimized class, you must be part of the oppressor class. Therefore, as Max Borders put it,

Your rights and opinions are invalid and you have no real complaints or suffering because you belong to X group. Or, more to the point, you are obligated to pay because people who look like you in some ways did bad things at some point.

In other words, others assert that they don’t need to listen to you, much less respect your arguments.

The Ad Hominem Attack

That leap involves several logical failings. Included in that list is the idea that any guilt for what was true of some members of an arbitrarily defined class or group (rather than treating people as the individuals they are) at some point in time passes on to every current and future member of that class or group. In addition, it incorporates the ad hominem fallacy that because you are judged as bad or part of an oppressor class, your argument is false, while conversely, their self-defined goodness and non-oppression means theirs must be true, both of which are unrelated to the logical validity of an argument.

Given that “check your privileges” could mean either “remember to be empathetic, so we can better understand and help” or “we can disregard your beliefs and violate your rights,” how can we tell which one is intended?

Where confusion reigns, to better understand and help requires the confusion to be replaced with clear, accurate understanding. That, in turn, requires a serious, ongoing “give and take” conversation.

However, when “check your privilege” is used to preemptively cut off conversation by stopping those who disagree from any chance to be heard, much less to rebut their demonization and targeting, no improvement in either empathy or results can result. So the key to evaluating “check your privilege” is to ask what would be entailed if it was intended to advance such a serious conversation.

How Real Dialogue Happens

Importantly, any conversation would not stop at “watch your privileges.” It would only begin there. By itself, the phrase says you are wrong in your understanding or views, but it leaves how completely unspecified, beyond having something to do with membership in some allegedly dominant or privileged group. Stopping the conversation there leaves “check your privileges” as an insult, without any ability to clarify understanding or reduce disagreements or disharmony.

Progress toward better understanding and results would require several more steps.

It would start by precisely specifying what faulty premises, assumptions, or arguments someone supposedly holds, either included or excluded inappropriately. Then it would explain why it is inappropriate for the issue being considered. It would lay out the correct or appropriate premise that would take its place and articulate the reasons why.

Building on that foundation, it would show how the “new and improved” premises would change one’s conclusions. Consequently, it would lay out the appropriate remedy based on the alternative analysis. In the process, it would have to explain how the proposed remedy cannot be explained solely on a narrowly self-interested “more for me” basis, completely apart from the argument offered, as part of laying out the new special privileges that would be created for those put forward as victims. It would also have to explain how others will be affected in order to address the asserted problem, including whether there would be coercive impositions on members of the supposedly dominant or victimizer class who had nothing to do with the “sins of the fathers.”

When “check your privilege” means think more carefully about others’ circumstances, which may be far different than yours, and to be empathetic, it can be useful in advancing our potential for mutual understanding. But it has to be only the beginning of a much farther-reaching discussion to bear fruit — a discussion which, carefully and earnestly pursued, would lead us back to the self-ownership and voluntary arrangements of liberty.

In contrast, when “check your privilege” is used as a magic phrase to peremptorily end “social justice” discussions, it is the assertion of a special privilege for some to be allowed to define themselves as white hats and those who disagree as black hats, without ever having to make a real argument. It also allows users to turn it into an epithet of social demonization to try to impose their “solutions,” always at the expense of the supposed black hats. In the process, it undermines social cooperation by undermining the rights upon which it is built.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read. Send him mail. See Gary Galles’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

More Guns Plus Less War Equals Real Security – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
November 2, 2014
******************************

Last week’s tragic shootings in Canada and Washington state are certain to lead to new calls for gun control. The media-generated fear over “lone wolf terrorists” will enable the gun control lobby to smear Second Amendment supporters as “pro-terrorist.” Marketing gun control as an anti-terrorist measure will also enable gun control supporters to ally with those who support any infringement on liberty done in the name of “homeland security.”As with most infringements on liberty, gun control will not only make us less free, it will make us less safe. Respecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the original and best homeland security policy. Restricting the right of people to arm themselves leaves them with no effective defense against violent criminals or a tyrannical government.

Every year, thousands of Americans use firearms to stop violent criminals. One notable example occurred in September, when Oklahoman Mark Vaughan used a rifle to stop a knife-wielding co-worker who had already killed one person and wounded another. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage focused on speculation that the assailant was motivated by “radical Islam” rather than on Vaughan’s use of a firearm to protect innocent lives.

It is no coincidence that states that pass “concealed carry” laws experience a drop in crime. Since passing concealed carry in Texas in 1995, murder in the state has declined by 52 percent. In comparison, the national murder rate declined by only 33 percent.

Perhaps the best illustration of the dangers of gun control is federal regulations forbidding pilots from having guns in their cockpits. Ironically, this rule went into effect shortly before September 11, 2001. If pilots had the ability to carry guns on 9/11, the hijackers may well have been stopped from attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon or persuaded to not even try.

Shortly after 9/11, I introduced legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms in the cockpits. Congress eventually passed a bill allowing pilots to carry firearms if they obtain federal certification and obey federal regulations. Aside from the philosophical objection that no one should have to ask government permission before exercising a right, the rules and expensive approval process discourage many pilots from participating in the armed pilots program.

It should not be surprising that the anti-gun Obama Administration wants to eliminate the armed pilots program. I actually agree that the program should be eliminated, so long as pilots who can legally carry a firearm in their states of residence can carry a firearm on the planes they fly. Allowing pilots to carry guns is certainly a more effective way of protecting our security than forcing all airline passengers to endure the TSA.

Both gun control and foreign interventionism disregard the wisdom of the country’s founders.

An interventionist foreign policy, like gun control, threatens our safety. A hyper-interventionist foreign policy invites blowback from those who resent our government meddling in their countries while gun control leaves people defenseless against violent criminals. Returning to a foreign policy of peace and free trade and repealing all federal infringements on the Second Amendment will help guarantee both liberty and security.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

SWAT’s Military Tactics Put Cops at Risk – Article by Daniel J. Bier

SWAT’s Military Tactics Put Cops at Risk – Article by Daniel J. Bier

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel J. Bier
October 2, 2014
******************************

“Democracy means that when there’s a knock on the door at 3 a.m., it’s probably the milkman.”
—Winston Churchill (apocryphal)

On the morning of May 5, 2011, a Pima County, Arizona, SWAT team pulled up to the home of Jose Guerena, a Marine veteran who had served in Iraq. Sheriff’s deputies threw flashbang grenades as a diversionary tactic and broke down the door.

Inside, Guerena told his wife and 4-year-old son to hide in the closet and went into his hallway holding a rifle. Officers let loose, firing 70 rounds in 10 seconds, hitting him over 20 times.

From the time of their arrival to the final shot, it was all over in less than a minute. Guerena’s rifle had the safety on; he never fired a shot. Police found no evidence of criminal activity.

Police organizations sometimes defend the prolific use of military equipment and tactics as necessary precautions against criminals arming themselves before cops can arrest them. But the overuse of tactical raids carries its own risks, and not just to citizens (and their dogs) who are subjected to battering rams, flash grenades, and automatic weapon fire.

Although SWAT teams were originally developed to handle rare and violent events, such as bank heists and hostage situations, they are now increasingly deployed to handle routine law enforcement functions. Paramilitary units are often the first point of contact in any investigation, and there are some places where all warrants—regardless of the suspect, evidence, or crime—are served by SWAT.

St. Louis County, Missouri—home of the city of Ferguson—is one such jurisdiction. As the county government explains the reasons for its SWAT team, “The Tactical Operations Unit … is capable of dealing with hostage situations, armed and barricaded subjects, suicidal persons and executes all search warrants issued in St. Louis County” (emphasis added).

One of these things, you may notice, is not like the others.

St. Louis is not alone. In a typical case in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a SWAT team burst into a man’s home, shot his two black Labradors, and left his family handcuffed on the floor. A drug dealer had mailed a box of drugs to his address, intending to intercept it before it was delivered. The man was Cheye Calvo, the town’s mayor.

A subsequent lawsuit by Calvo revealed that Prince George’s County uses its SWAT team to serve every single search warrant, even when the police don’t know who the suspects are, if they might be dangerous, or if there are children present.

Calvo succeeded in lobbying for the nation’s first law to track the use of SWAT teams. The data soon revealed that 94 percent of tactical deployments in Maryland were for ordinary search warrants, not for the kinds of violent situations that might typically justify such aggressive use of force. In Prince George’s County, more than half the raids were for misdemeanors or non-serious felonies.

Statewide, only 60 percent of tactical raids actually resulted in arrests for any crime, and Maryland is far from exceptional in using SWAT for trivial issues. In Florida, paramilitary teams perform business license inspections on black and Hispanic barbershops. Tactical raids have also been conducted for such “crimes” as hosting unlicensed poker games, defaulting on student loans, violating copyrights, and making fun of a politician on Twitter.

But there is a price to be paid for sending masked men crashing unannounced through windows and doors into people’s homes 45,000 times a year, often in the middle of the night. Using SWAT to serve minor warrants introduces violence into otherwise non-violent situations, creating, rather than defusing, volatile and dangerous conditions—the very opposite of what SWAT teams were originally meant to do.

It is not unusual even for innocent people awoken in such circumstances to believe that the police are thieves or violent criminals breaking into their homes. Like anyone else confronted with such a disorienting and frightening situation, they may reach for guns or other weapons to defend their home and their family, sometimes with tragic results for both citizens and officers.

Consider just a few recent examples:

  • Ryan Frederick was charged with first-degree murder after he fired on someone smashing their way through his door one night in 2008. The intruder turned out to be Detective Jarrod Shivers serving a no-knock warrant for a non-existent cannabis farm.
  • Henry Magee was a small-time marijuana grower who in December 2013 awoke in the middle of a no-knock raid on his trailer and opened fire on the intruders, killing Deputy Adam Sowders. A grand jury refused to indict him for capital murder.
  • Marvin Louis Guy opened fire on someone breaking in through his window before dawn on May 9, 2014; the intruders were police serving a no-knock drug warrant. They found no narcotics, and no drug-related charges have been filed, but Guy faces the death penalty for killing Detective Charles Dinwiddie.
  • Aaron Awtry, a 72-year-old South Carolinian, assumed that the SWAT team members battering down his door were criminals trying to rob his small-stakes poker game. He opened fire through the door, hitting Deputy Matthew May in the arm, while vice officers returned fire. Awtry was wounded and charged with attempted murder; the other players each received a $100 fine.

Cases of disastrous raids abound, and they reveal a serious problem with the assumption that paramilitary tactics are always safer for police. Some crazy or desperate suspects may indeed justify such preemptive force. But in many other cases, the dangerous and volatile conditions put officers at risk who otherwise would not be.

If a policeman in a blue uniform had knocked on Frederick’s door in the middle of the day, what are the chances that the innocent man would have shot a cop? And surely there are many others like Magee: guilty of something, but otherwise non-violent—or at least not suicidal enough to intentionally shoot a cop—who could be frightened into using a weapon in self-defense.

The most serious problem with the overuse of aggressive, militarized raids is one of information: Residents of the home don’t know who is breaking in, and police officers often don’t know who is inside, so both sides assume the worst and act accordingly. From the perspective of a sleeping homeowner, a no-knock SWAT raid is indistinguishable from an armed robbery. And as Guerena’s case shows, these events can escalate to lethal force in the blink of an eye. It is no exaggeration to say that lives have been ruined and ended because of unnecessary and violent tactics for petty and non-violent offenses.

Before we can address such problems as the use of military equipment by local law enforcement, we must first understand what is driving their demand for armored vehicles and high-powered weapons. The overuse of SWAT and the associated overuse of military gear in civilian policing are in part a result of overblown fears about police safety. But they are also based on a false dilemma between keeping cops unsafe and turning them into an army.

Officer safety is a legitimate problem, but that does not mean more force is always a legitimate answer. The best way to keep officers safe is to try to de-escalate conflicts—reserving SWAT for only the worst situations—and to end the War on Drugs that is at the heart of the breakdown of trust in law enforcement. When that’s done, Americans may once again go to sleep knowing that if you hear a bang on your door at 3 a.m., it’s probably just the newspaper.

Daniel Bier is the executive editor of The Skeptical Libertarian. He writes on issues relating to science, skepticism, and economic freedom, focusing on the role of evolution in social and economic development.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

The Human Rational Faculty and the Necessity of Property Rights (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The Human Rational Faculty and the Necessity of Property Rights (2005) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2005 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014
***
Each individual is, by his fundamental and inextricable identity, a rational being, with a means of accurately identifying and analyzing reality with his mind. The individual’s rational faculty is his sole gateway to knowledge, and the sole means by which he can direct the application of his knowledge to the external world.
***

Nobody else’s activity of any sort can substitute for the individual’s own thinking, just as nobody else’s activity can substitute for an individual’s own digestion. Each individual is also fundamentally a volitional being, and can choose to default on the responsibility of thinking for himself, thereby also choosing to bear the consequences.

However, whatever he chooses, it remains irrefutably true that he still possesses the capacity to be rational. From this capacity it is implied that he ought to be allowed to be rational, i.e., that he has a natural right to use his reason and benefit from the applications thereof.

Nobody should be permitted to intervene with another individual’s use of reason, nor to substitute his reasoning for another’s and force another to agree with or accept the consequences of his reasoning unless the other explicitly consents.

When two individuals come to an agreement, each has used his own reasoning to embrace it. When, however, such a clear, unambiguous agreement is not present, the individual who presumes to place his thoughts in the stead of another’s is committing the initiation of force, which is the opposite of reason.

Since all natural rights are derived from the human capacity to reason, all violations of natural rights are derived from the initiation of force by some individuals against others.

The only manner in which reason can have any concrete, material expression is by means of property, i.e., those material entities which belong to an individual as a consequence of his use of reason. Even the very capacity to reason itself is dependent on property, as the individual mind is a material entity, and, were it not for the concrete biological mechanisms of the brain, there would not be abstract thought.

Thus, to be able to reason, the individual must have a property in his physical mind. In order for his physical mind to function, an individual must also have property in his physical body, since, not only is the mind part of the body but, without the proper functioning of the remainder of the body, the mind would not be able to survive. In summation, the right to the use of one’s reason implies the right to property in oneself and, as a corollary, the right to use one’s reason to determine what shall happen to one’s mind and body.

Investmentocracy: A Challenge to Conventional Democratic Principles and a Framework for a New Free Society (2009) – Treatise by G. Stolyarov II – Second Edition

Investmentocracy: A Challenge to Conventional Democratic Principles and a Framework for a New Free Society (2009) – Treatise by G. Stolyarov II – Second Edition

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 8, 2014
******************************
The Second Edition of my 2009 treatise “Investmentocracy: A Challenge to Conventional Democratic Principles and a Framework for a New Free Society” has been released in PDF format. It can be freely downloaded here.
***

Abstract

            The system of investmentocracy, described and defended here, offers a viable alternative to the conventional democratic principles of “one man, one vote” and the illegitimacy of vote transfers and vote pooling among individuals. Investmentocracy, which rewards contributors to the government with a number of votes proportional to their contributions, permits a viable elimination of compulsory taxation. Investmentocracy also entails remedies for voter irrationality and strong protections for all individual rights, including the rights of non-contributors. I use the Freecharter, a constitution of my own design, to provide a specific framework within which investmentocracy can be viably embedded. Here, both protections for individual rights inherent to investmentocracy itself and protections contained in other parts of the Freecharter will be examined.

***

Table of Contents

Section Page
Abstract 2
Introduction 2
I. Existing Literature Regarding Investmentocracy and CDPs
    1. Literature Regarding Investmentocracy 3
    2. Literature Critiquing Conventional Democratic Principles 5
II. Problems With Conventional Democratic Principles
    3. Incompatibility of Compulsory Taxation With Individual Rights 9
    4. Ownership Shares in Governmental Entities 10
    5. Lack of Sanctity of the One Man, One Vote Principle 10
III. Mechanics of Investmentocracy and the Transition from CDPs
    6. Investmentocracy and the Elimination of Taxation 11
    7. Transferability of Votes Under Investmentocracy 12
    8. Pooling of Votes Under Investmentocracy 12
    9. Cosmopolitanism, Non-Discrimination, and Investmentocracy 13
  10. Investmentocracy and Incentives for Voter Rationality 14
  11. Defeating the “Social Quacks” Through Investmentocracy 15
  12. The Transition from CDPs to Investmentocracy 16
IV. Resolution of Objections and Concerns Regarding Investmentocracy
  13. The Incentive to Invest 17
  14. The Welfare Loophole Addressed 18
  15. Why Investmentocracy Will Not Create a Hereditary Aristocracy 19
  16. Why the Wealthiest Few Will Not Take Over 21
  17. The Elimination of Forced Carrying and the Mitigation of Free Riding 25
  18. Protecting Rights Under Investmentocracy

18.1.Protections for Individual Rights Inherent to Investmentocracy

18.1a. Desire for Additional Government Funding

18.1b. Fewer Reasons to Oppress Non-Contributors

18.1c. Friedman’s Four Types of Spending Under CDPs and Investmentocracy

18.2.Protections for Individual Rights External to Investmentocracy

18.2a. The Bill of Rights and the Restrictive Clauses

18.2b. The Tricameral Legislature

18.2c. The Nullifier

18.2d. The Opt-In Constitution

29

29

29

30

31

32

32

36

38

40

Conclusion 42
Appendix: The Freecharter: A Constitution for a Society of Lasting Liberty 44
Works Cited 69
About Mr. Stolyarov 72

***
Find out more about the Freecharter.

Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal – Article by Ron Paul

Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 18, 2013
******************************
Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the US government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually miniscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the US federal government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the federal government responds by naming a federal-government panel made up of current and former federal employees to investigate any mistakes the federal government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more federal government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.