When you realize that even the justice system—arguably the most basic function of government—does not work for the people, but for the government itself, you begin to wonder, “Which parts of the government are working for me?
Roget Roots explains:
Today, most federal crimes are felonies, and conviction brings more or less automatic prison time.
Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers? Up to 5 years in Federal prison. Using the telephone to incite or to “organize, promote,” or even encourage a riot? Up to 5 years. Attempting to coerce any federal employee into “any political activity”? Up to 3 years. Removing or affixing a U.S. Customs seal on any merchandise without government permission? Up to 10 years in prison. Transporting “terrorists” on your boat? Up to life in prison. Engaging in “street gang” activity? An additional 10 years may be added to your sentence. Knowingly using a misleading domain name on the Internet in order to attract viewers to online porn? Up to two years in prison. Sending a letter in the mail urging insurrection? Up to 10 years. Trading with known pirates on the high seas? Up to 3 years.
The book seems to provide dozens of separate laws exposing unwary Americans to federal prison for simply filling out paperwork wrong. (Note that these provisions are almost never applied to people in government, who regularly fill out paperwork incorrectly.) There are provisions subjecting Americans to life in prison for cocaine possession. There are open-ended provisions which may (or may not) criminalize pouring a cup of coffee on the ground (and thus violating the Clean Water Act) or accidentally catching certain breeds of fish from the oceans. It remains only for a savvy prosecutor to fill in the blanks and add to the list of crimes that Congress may (or may not) have created.
Few people are aware that the Federal Rules (not just of criminal procedure but of civil procedure, appellate procedure, bankruptcy procedure and Supreme Court procedure) are riddled with provisions that grant more time to the government to file and respond to pleadings and briefs, greater privileges of appearance, and greater ease of prosecuting and defending litigation than individuals in the private sector. The governing advisory committees that produce these rules of procedure have offered no explanation for these filing requirement disparities.
Here is a mental exercise. Consider any assertion that you believe is true. It doesn’t matter what you pick. Now form a “how”, “why”, or “what” question from this assertion that essentially asks “How did you come to this conclusion?” And from the answer you present yourself, ask another “how” or “why” question. And from that response do the same. Keep doing it until you get stuck. Here is an example:
People are conditioned to believe that either the left or the right is their enemy. Maybe this is confusion.
The left sees in the right advocacy of corporate exploitation, oppression of those who opt for alternative lifestyles, and the enforcement of correct religion in our country and throughout the world. The right sees in the left the exploitation of the productive for the benefit of the unproductive, oppression of those who opt for traditional or religious lifestyles, and the enforcement of particular behaviors deemed to be healthy and/or sustainable.
This is an excellent video that hits on several of the key points in my essays on government as force, and the problems with collectivism. I’m rather unenthusiastic with his conclusion that the masses are insane and therefore inconvertible. I see it as a matter of momentum. Statism and tyranny currently have the momentum, however that isn’t necessarily inevitable—particularly with the Internet that now allows for instant widespread truth dissemination. I believe there is cause for optimism. Still, in spite of the pessimism, it’s a thought-provoking piece for those losing faith in the capability of government to solve problems.
So my About page implies that I would have been regularly updating my blog with brilliant thoughts and insight originating from my conversations. I wrote that early this year (2010). Sadly, my updates have been minimal. The reason for this is that I’ve spent far too much time trying to complete essay length posts that would make up some kind of a curriculum for the idea of liberty. I’m realizing that this is too large a bite for me to take at this point. Still, if you haven’t yet, I would encourage you to take a look at my “curriculum” thus far:
Politics is Force: What is the fatal flaw with political discourse, as it exists today?
Collectivism vs. Individuality: Group identity compels the abandonment of our basic ethical principles.
The Money Machine: Unlimited money creation is the greatest threat the world has ever seen.
Because they will serve as context for future posts, I have created links to them on the right. I will be referring to them regularly—I think.
So, moving forward I think I’m going to worry less with delivering a systematic treatise and more on just tossing out my stream-of-consciousness. I’ll talk about liberty, but I’ll also talk about culture, logic, and probably some out-of-place nonsense as well. I don’t really know exactly. We’ll see how this goes. 🙂
What do you think of when you ask yourself, “Who am I?”
Is it those things with which or with whom you identify? Maybe the company for which you work? The team for which you play or cheer? The religion in which you believe? The country in which you were born? The culture into which you were born? The brand of a particular product you wear, drive, consume, or carry everywhere with you? The type or class of people you befriend or associate? Your family?
Or is it those things that are unique to you? Maybe things you have done? The people you have helped? The things you have learned? The things you have accomplished? The things you enjoy? The experiences you have had? Your talents? Attributes of your personality?
Your collective identity consists of the former, while your individual identity consists of the latter. When we think of our collective identity we say that, “I am one of them,” or “This is what we are like,” or “This is what we can do.” With our individual identity we say “This is what I am like,” or “This is what I can do.”
Why is political debate such a volatile affair? It usually seems pointless and even counterproductive. Rarely does anyone convince anyone else of anything. Even worse, these discussions tend to become quite emotional and heated; they seem to end with everyone more solidified in their existing opinion, except now they are also angry with the opposition. For these reasons many people simply opt to avoid political conversation altogether. What is the point if we are just going to create conflict and perhaps even damage relationships?
Consider that we can debate almost anything else (except maybe religion) relatively safely. We make arguments for our musical taste, the merits of a particular film, the best city in which to live, fashion, etc. People may have strong feelings about these things, but all except the most intolerant recognize that everyone is different and that we simply aren’t going to agree on these things. We may even good-naturedly tease each other for the “silly” music or movies our friends like, but it is highly unlikely that we will become angry over any of this.
But what if I argue that a particular movie isn’t just great, but that it is so great that everyone should have to watch it. It’s not just that the themes the film explores are relevant and well developed through the plot, it’s that the message is so important that people (including you) should have to watch it whether they want to or not. Whoah! All of a sudden our conversation assumes a very serious tone. You may very well be in a state of shock or disbelief at this assertion. What do I mean that people should be required to watch a movie that I like? This is craziness! What gives me the right to forcefully impose my will on people that way?
We may roll our eyes or shake our heads in disgust when we see another subscribe to, or do something that we perceive as absurd, but that is usually the end of it. However if that person attempts to impose their viewpoint on us, we rightfully become defensive. “You can do what you want, but count me out,” would be our response. But if a man corners us in an alley and tells us to, “watch this move or else”, this is no longer a simple matter of differing opinions about a movie; we are now dealing with the use of force. Who wouldn’t feel violated in this situation? This is clearly an injustice, and every sane person knows that it is.
So what does this example have to do with political debate and angry conflict? This is what:
The political debate is the process of determining against whom, and for what reasons force will be used.
Even if the tone of the discussion seems civil and cordial, beneath everything said is the implicit threat of force. Our brains are wired to engage the “flight or fight” response when we perceive a threat. So it is impossible not to get angry during political debate.
While the slideshow in its current form has been highly effective, it needs to be developed into an engaging video with animation and music. I can handle the music (electronic music production is a side hobby of mine) and verbiage, but I am not a graphics person! The Shift Happens video is an excellent model. I’m thinking a Flash animation that can be posted in full original quality here on matt.com, and then also posted to YouTube for greater exposure, would make the message much clearer to people.
A well produced video could go a long long way toward grabbing people’s attention long enough to teach them what is happening with money and economics in our world. For example, the Cannot Print Wealth slide, without any detail or elaboration, simply states that doubling the supply of dollars makes every dollar worth half as much. Most people can see this after a moment of reflection, although if you asked them to explain why they would struggle. However, with visual representations of goods, services, consumers, and dollars we could show the number of consumers and the supply of goods held constant, with the supply of dollars being the only thing that changes. By seeing what is happening it would be painfully obvious that the same number of people chasing the same supply of goods and services cannot possibly obtain twice the supply of goods and services. Doubling the supply of dollars doesn’t double the supply of goods and services. Explaining this textually in detail would require a lot for reading, and if we lose the interest of the viewer, we lose the battle.
Many principles in the slideshow that are stated very simply and matter-of-factly could be visually explained very quickly. This way we can help people digest a lot of concepts, and really comprehend them, very quickly.
I’m not thinking of anything terribly sophisticated. I really like the clean simply line-drawing animation in the Shift Happens video. It seems clean and effective to me. (Although I’m not committed to any particular approach; if you have a better idea, let me know.) If you or someone you know is good at Flash and would be interested in working with me to develop something along these lines, please get with me!