Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Today was Earth Day. I guess its all about saving the environment. To most people, pollution means contamination of air, land, or water… anything that “hurts” the Earth. Of course, with Climate-Gate... "An Inconvenient Truth" is looking more like "An Inconvenient Maybe". The debate on climate change apparently isn't over, and the entire discussion on pollution needs a reboot. There is better way to talk about "pollution", and it involves property rights.
Set aside the simplistic notion that pollution is about saving the animals and the planet. Consider “noise pollution” where motorcycles or parties disturb neighbors with loud decibels. Consider "electromagnetic pollution", for example if power lines installed on your street interfered with cordless phone and wifi reception. You see, pollution is simply contamination of "public property" (for lack of a better term)... meaning anything of shared, common, or collective use. This includes: the air and water around us, the paths we share, the sun shining on us.
While private property is produced, traded or earned... public property is just there. Public property can be owned by people in varying degrees based on variables such as proximity, frequency of use, and right of way. If someone dumps toxic waste on your lawn it’s not considered “pollution”. It’s damage to your individual private property, and tort law lets you sue them for damages. However, if someone dumps waste into a river it is considered pollution. It affects anyone downstream, or potentially even those who fish upstream. In both cases, the individuals holding rights to property deserve compensation for damages. It doesn't matter whether property is owned by an individual or shared by many.
On this Earth Day, I hope our culture will learn how pollution and property rights go hand-in-hand. This would do much to improve our laws and freedoms. Today, we have government created "freeways", which are polluted and congested messes because they are provided for free. Every car on the freeway near my home spews fumes into my neighborhood without compensating me. If highways were privately run toll roads, at least communities could seek compensation from the business for polluting the air in the same way they would sue a factory with a smoke stack. However, such pollution lawsuits are not even permitted. Instead, we have bureaucracies which attempt to regulate and fine pollution away. Government takes the money instead of the polluted individuals who deserve compensation. Everybody loses.
Happy Earth Day.
Now I will shed a tear with my native american friend, for pollution caused by failed enforcement of property rights.
Monday, April 19, 2010
- Most Americans believe in God.
So, there should be tyranny of the majority? The founders thought democracy is mob rule, which is why we have a Constitution to protect individuals. This is the lamest argument that could be made by a so-called 'conservative'.
- "Under God" and "In God We Trust" are time-honored traditions of our nation.
Check your facts. So-called "conservatives" who praise the founders conveniently ignore that "God" was not once mentioned in the Constitution. It was not institutionalized onto the dollar and pledge until 1950's McCarthy anti-communist paranoia.
- Rights derive from God. The Declaration of Independence says "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights".
This was a eloquent letter of grievances written by Thomas Jefferson to King George. It was historical document, not a legally binding one. If you want to quote Jefferson, he also said: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god" and "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God". Jefferson admired John Locke and "natural law". He coined the term 'separation of church and state'. The founders view on rights derived from the reason and logic of enlightenment philosophy, not spirituality. It was based on equality, individualism, and anti-statism. If individual rights require God, then how did atheist Ayn Rand become one of the greatest advocates of individualism?
- The founders were christian.
Even if this were so, what does it matter? They were also white. They wore powdered wigs. Should we institutionalize these characteristics as well? The truth is, many of the founders were simply "deists" (i.e. God of Nature), which would today be closer to agnostic than it would christian church-goer. Jefferson even went so far as to write his own bible, leaving out the hocus-pocus. They were thinkers who valued reason, not writing the Constitution under trance of prayer or by divine prophecy.
- So what, "God" is just a word. It doesn't hurt anybody.
If you make this argument, you should be okay with having "There is no god" on the dollar, or "...one nation, under the Flying Spaghetti Monster..." in the Pledge of Allegiance. It doesn't hurt you. However, many christians would scoff at this suggestion. Hypocrites.
- Our laws and morality come from judeo-christian values, like the Ten Commandments.
Sorry, but it's the other way around. Those values happen to overlap nicely with "natural law" in the areas of justice - like protecting property rights ('Thou shalt not steal') or preventing aggressive threats ('Thous shalt not kill'). The other rules like "no god before me", "no eating pork", etc. have no place in a courthouse... even for display purposes. As for taking oath on bibles? No thanks, I'll swear on a plate of spaghetti & meatballs.
Religious folks get riled up when anyone argues to take "God" from their dollar or pledge. They shouldn't... it's simply a stance for freedom and proper limits on government, not an anti-religious or atheist one. The religious right does more damage to the conservative base with their fear-based "Gasp, what if society loses God!" mentality. There are plenty of free-thinking independents and libertarians like myself who value rationality, agnosticism, and empiricism over spirituality and mysticism (especially in civics and politics). We are those voters who cringe at the thought of a politician using a Bible to legislate. You can pretty much find a quote from the Bible to justify anything. Keep government neutral and out of it. Let a christmas tree be put up in a public square, just not on taxpayer dime or time. While you're at it... let the Kwanzaa/Festivus/FSM display go up alongside if someone desires. Let parents make the choices for their children's education, instead of school boards. Let spirituality be a personal, private, and family matter. Let the word "marriage" be used by religious ceremonies, instead of being a word licensed by government. Keep government and God separate... period.
P.S. God is a libertarian.