Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sharpening the saw for liberty

In recent discussions, the questions has been raised as to the best actions a person living in the United States can take to improve our society.

For those with a bent to liberty, it is important to remember that sharpening the saw is as important as using it. (Thanks to Stephen Covey).

One of the advocates for freedom whose writings have been influential on me is Leonard Read, and in particular, his book "Elements of Libertarian Leadership". I highly recommend this book to any who would make themselves more effective in the cause of liberty in this world. In his closing remarks, Read says:

Those who have been liberated can and do help one another — the educable aiding the educable! That we need more liberated individuals is self-evident; for among the non-liberated are, unquestionably, some of the greatest potential writers, thinkers, talkers of the freedom philosophy. But what can any of us do about it? How can we liberate them?

At the outset, it might be well to consider some of our limitations. The individual not yet liberated is no more educable as to the free market, private property, limited government philosophy than you or I are educable on subjects in which we have no interest. Thus, it is patently absurd to scold or rant at them, to be impatient, to regard them as not bright, to try poking our ideas down their necks. Such tactics will only send them scurrying.

The best counsel is to take it easy. First, we must recognize that most of the individuals among our personal contacts... have no aptitudes whatever for this subject... Work naturally; make freely available such insights as you possess, but do not entertain any notions about setting someone else straight. Go only where called, but qualify to be called.

The few within your orbit who are susceptible to the freedom philosophy will find you out. We need never worry about that, only about our own qualifications. In this manner we will liberate as many minds as will open to our own keys.

Some will complain that this approach is too slow, but I think that it is the best hope for the long run.

It is somewhat akin to the history lesson of the conquest of Jericho by the Israelites. As the Israelites marched round the walls of Jericho the first twelve times, there was no outward evidence of any progress being made toward their goal. But the foundation was being laid for the last time around, and when the victory came, it was dramatic.

The battle for more liberty is first won inwardly, in the minds of men, and only later is it visible outwardly.

"It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men." ~ Samuel Adams

"The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable." ~ H.L. Mencken

" One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas." ~ Victor Hugo

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Some thoughts on the Jim Irsay arrest

I read an Associated Press article in the paper today that says police found multiple prescription drugs in the vehicle of Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay, during a Sunday night traffic stop.

The AP also reports that Irsay acknowledged a painkiller dependency more than a decade ago.

I know little about Mr. Irsay, but I have trouble understanding why either of these things amounts to a case for government action against Mr. Irsay.

The article gives no indication that the prescription medicines were not legally obtained, nor whether Mr. Irsay caused any injury or property damage while driving, or seemed to be at any significant risk of doing so.

I don't see why what a person voluntarily puts into his own body, whether for pleasure or for pain or for some other illness or condition, is any business of the those we pay in government to help safeguard our life, liberty, and property.

In our culture, the government requires a recommendation from a government-approved medical specialist (aka doctor) in order for a person to legally acquire certain medicines. Whether that is a good idea in a free society is a matter for another time.

Presumable, Mr. Irsay received such a recommendation, and he then made the decision to see whether the benefits of taking such medicine seem to outweigh the drawbacks for him.

That is the same type of decision that we all make on a daily basis, whether it has to do with the amount of sugar in our foods or beverages, taking medicine to control cholesterol, medicine to control blood pressure, medicine to control pain, medicine to control anxiety or depression, recreational use of alcoholic beverages, etc.

Other than listening to whatever advice we choose to from specialists and other parties affected by our choices, such as family, friends, and business associates, these decisions are, in the end, individual choices that each of us make, in our pursuit of happiness.

Unless our choices result in injury to others or damage to their property, there is no proper role for government in deciding whether our choices are allowed or forbidden.

I concur heartily with Lysander Spooner on this subject.

"Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property. Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another. Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property. In vices, the very essence of crime --- that is, the design to injure the person or property of another --- is wanting."

"It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practices a vice with any such criminal intent. He practices his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others."

"Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property; no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property. For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth."

I also concur with Ron Paul, who write in "Liberty Defined", "Laws that prohibit the use of certain substances -- food, drugs, or alcohol -- by  adults is a dangerous intrusion on personal liberty."