I sincerely wish I could claim credit for this, but I can’t. I didn’t make it. It’s one of those delightful things making its way around the globe via email inboxes. If you want to claim that I created it, that’s awesome…
Archives For Liberalism
Two accomplices get arrested for a number of crimes. The police have enough information to assure they both get a two year sentence. But they think they could connect them to another, much bigger crime, so they make both criminals an offer. If one informs on the other, he’ll go free, while the other will certainly get a ten year sentence. However, if both inform on each other, the police will have enough to ensure they both get five years.
The above scenario is commonly given to explain one principle of what has come to be called Game Theory: that when everyone works in his own best interest, it is possible to end up in a far worse position than if everyone had worked in the best interest of the collective. In the above situation it is always in one’s best interest to inform. If the other prisoner informs, you only get five years instead of ten, and if he doesn’t inform, you go free instead of getting two. Nonetheless, when both prisoners follow their best interest by informing, both get five, whereas paradoxically both could have gotten only two if they’d kept their mouths shut.
Conservatives, Libertarians, and Classical Liberals* tend to hate the above conclusion. And perhaps hate is too soft a word. It is an anathema to liberty, and one is a despised Communist merely for thinking it. As we all know, unbridled liberty is the source of all prosperity. America won the Cold War, after all, by each of us concerning ourselves only with our individual prosperity, whereas those collectivists sank into economic malaise, which ruined the Soviets, and would have ruined China if they hadn’t reformed their economic system to be more free-market. At least, this is the prevailing wisdom among modern Conservatives.
The above argument does a serious disservice to the principle of individual liberty and small government. It reduces what is essentially a moral argument into utilitarianism. Classical Liberal thought is based on the idea that people have foundational rights, that these rights allow one to choose to do anything which is not directly belligerent to another person’s rights, and that no one’s rights may be morally infringed for the benefit of any number of others. The utilitarian expresses the last principle differently: that when no one’s rights are infringed, any number of others will benefit. Now, if we were to apply that to, say, our first amendment rights, we would arrive at the conclusion that we are permitted freedom of speech because it benefits society. But from here it is no great leap to conclude that where freedom of speech does not benefit society, it need not be granted. No such conclusion could be drawn from the moral argument, that no amount of benefit to society can ever justify the suppression of speech. For this reason, the moral argument is superior to the utilitarian: it isn’t weakened when the collectivists put forward arguments along the lines of the prisoner paradox.
What then should the response to collectivism? Friedrich von Hayek, perhaps destined to be considered the greatest of the 20th century’s Classical Liberals, wrote extensively on this topic. In his work, the Road to Serfdom, the argument was put forward that the level of regulation necessary to achieve any benefits from collectivism would effectively end human liberty. Our choices would all need to be made for us by central planners, because we wouldn’t comply with the best interests of the collective on our own.
Put another way, let’s return to the first scenario. The reason this situation is regarded as paradoxical is because it is always in one’s best interest to choose the option that leads to prison for five years, whereas it is never in one’s best interest to choose the option that only leads to two years. Even if both prisoners are allowed to get together and talk out their options, and they both see that a better outcome is assured if both of them keep their mouths shut, and they agree to this course of action, it still remains an even better option for each one to double cross the other. If the first double crosses the second, he gets even fewer years than the two he’d agreed to earlier, and if both double cross, he gets five instead of ten. The paradox of this situation is that if each individual is allowed to have any individual choice whatsoever, his best choice leads to the worse result, and his worst choice leads to the better result. In order to obtain the better result, these criminals can’t be allowed any say in the matter, and a central planner must step in and choose to make both of them keep silent whether they want to or not. So long as they have any kind of individual choice, this problem cannot be resolved.
The Classical Liberal’s only recourse then is to try to eliminate any personal involvement in situations where these kinds of paradoxes occur, and they do occur often enough in our economy. When given a choice between an economic disaster or the loss of personal liberty, abstain altogether! I’ve harped on health insurance before, and have said most of what I think needs saying, but I think it provides a good example of how we ought to approach these problems. When health insurance is used as a payment mechanism for general medical care, the quantity of medicine you individually purchase has very little correlation to the premiums you pay, so frugality is not rewarded: you may as well use it to cover as much as you can; your costs will be divided among so many people that it’s hardly noticeable. But when everyone adopts this mindset, the costs of hundreds of millions of people splurging adds up, and premiums are forced to skyrocket just so insurance providers can break even. There’s still no point in being frugal, because that won’t lower your premium by more than a minuscule fraction of a cent, and even if everyone else in the country acted in the best interest of the collective and lowered their consumption, that only returns us to the position we were in at the beginning, where everyone is encouraged to buy lots of medicine for cheap, once again leading everyone to splurge. Just abstain: get catastrophic coverage, a cheap policy with a very high deductible, but pay for day to day expenses out of pocket and you’ll probably be able to save money. (That is, provided Washington gets its act together and allows tax-free personal health savings accounts.)
And, incidentally, this is another reason why the people in Washington trying to pass their insurance regulation “reform” bill (which I still doubt is going to make it into law, although the Dems are apparently more suicidal than I gave them credit for when I wrote after Scott Brown’s election and are trying to go Kamikaze to get it passed) are writing a simple disaster. The use of insurance as a funding mechanism for ordinary, expected health-care expenses puts everyone in the above paradox, which is causing the higher premiums we want to prevent. Abstention from non-catastrophic insurance is the only solution, yet the bill in question makes it illegal to abstain. This leaves us with one of two choices: premiums can go up forever, or a (death) panel of central planners will make our decisions for us, based on our value to the collective. The Democrats swear the latter will never happen, so in other words they plan on reducing premiums by forcing the market to raise premiums. Brilliant.
*Try as I may, I cannot find an appropriate word for the philosophy upon which the idea of a limited government is founded other than Liberal. The word Liberal, from the Latin root meaning “free,” was applied first to the same people as invented the idea of defined and limited government powers as a vehicle for protecting freedom. This Classic Liberalism finds its expression most clearly in modern fiscal conservatives, whereas fiscal liberals, being statist and all too often authoritarian, do not deserve the term. Doubtless calling conservatives liberals and liberals illiberal is confusing, but it needs to be done, as the alternative is becoming more problematic. Fiscal conservatives, being unable to call liberals illiberal, have taken to calling them by names of other historically illiberal groups: socialists and fascists. This is not precisely accurate, and illiberals are all too ready to point out minor distinctions between their views which are supposed to deflect the accusation. A wider, blanket term for statists is required, and that term is illiberal. But to use that term, the fiscal conservative must also become comfortable with calling himself a Liberal.
The TWG Podcast surpassed 5,000 listens this week. Here’s Goose with a celebratory look back and some favorite moments…
The Top 5 Most Listened to Podcasts….
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Last year’s blockbuster hit “Avatar” amazed audiences with incredibly beautiful vistas, intense action, and… humanistic naturalism with anti-military undertones?
If you’re inclined to see the film, which I highly recommend doing if just for the gorgeous CGI work, I won’t spoil anything for you. That said, the film’s protagonist is a paraplegic marine sent to the alien world of “Pandora” to help a mega-corporation. The corporation is after a precious mineral that the ‘post-Green movement’ Earth needs. Unfortunately, the planet is inhabited by a blue-skinned alien race and their home is directly over the largest deposit of the substance. However, a team of scientists have come up with a solution; create mind-controlled clones of the aliens called “Avatars” to study the people in the hopes of creating a dialogue between the aliens and the humans. But what does the industrial-military complex wish? Forget the aliens, relocate them, then blast their home away!
Waaaaaaaaaait a minute… Haven’t we heard this story before? Oh! Right… the Trail of Tears! More than a few people have commented on the facial similarities between the aliens and Native Americas and Africans. Indeed, the aliens even call themselves, “The People,” a rather clear allusion to the Native American name “First People.”
And, hey! A mega-corporation hellbent on capitalism? What is this? The 1980’s? At what point in the film will the “A-Team” come driving out in their van? Will Mr. T deliver a rousing, “I pity the foo’ who doesn’t respect these people’s belief”?
I don’t mean to be disparaging of environmentalism. I believe that some theological and pastoral resources should be used to define exactly the relationship between God’s people and God’s creation. I believe it’s there and it doesn’t involve hacking down millions of trees or driving species into extinction. However, I also do not believe it involves the anti-human (also read, anti-white guy) sentiment seen in the film.
The anti-military aspects of the film are apparent too. In one scene, a marine is trudging through the foliage of Pandora, spewing flame from a flamethrower, a clear reference to Vietnam footage of the same. The climactic battle of a technological and militaristic underdog winning against a superior force also has throwbacks to Vietnam. One character makes a reference to a “shock and awe” campaign against the aliens.
Several of my immediate and extended family members have been or are in military service. Two of my college roommates are also currently in service. This move into military service is an anti-Darwinian, wholly God-honoring sacrifice. The movie paints a vast majority of the military as being self-unaware, immoral animals with nothing but destruction and death on their minds. This flies in the face of everything that it means to be in the military. The military trains you to head towards almost certain death, when everything in you is screaming to run away, so that your family, friends, and country can be safe.
It surprises me, really, that an American film, made by Americans, and shot in America can be so anti-American. Now, before you think that I’m equating pro-military with patriotism, let me set the record straight. I am! The military is made up of, you guessed it! Americans! And what do those Americans do? Protect other Americans with their lives! What can be more American? As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
My point is this; America has no idea who she is. She has no identity as yet. In the British TV show Doctor Who, a woman brings out a thermos of tea during a time where the Earth is being destroyed. Another character comments, “Tea. While we’re waiting for the world to come to an end. Very British.” I don’t mean to be pedantic, but is there a common bond, a common item, that all Americans can identify with? Or has our individualism completely stripped our culture of anything relatable between people? Sure, when I say, “White House party crashers” everyone knows what I’m talking about. But, who’s going to remember that next year? Or this year in fact!
Our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness. We are a tossed salad of cultures and experiences. My wife was part of a church who had services for Eritreans, led by an Eritrean pastor with whom my wife was good friends with. She also grew up next to a family of Hmongs and often joined them for festivals and meals. I like hearing stories of these people groups and their experiences. However, there’s a danger to this grandeur; because we have Chinese, Japanese, African, Spanish, etc. living in this country, trying desperately to hold onto their traditions (which I encourage), we, as Americans, have none of that. Almost all of us go out for Fourth of July to see the fireworks, but do we ever think about the Revolutionary War and the thousands that died to bring this country into being? We love the time off during Memorial Day, but how often do we think of the sacrifices of men and women that we are supposed to be memorializing? For goodness sakes, we can’t even shake hands at the end of a political debate! Our country was built to be a system of checks and balances; various political parties going at it for the mutual benefit of all. Now we have Democrats and Republicans practically throttling each other to get their way. These divisions will someday be our downfall.
We, as a country, have no identity, and an anti-human, anti-military, anti-capitalistic movie like ‘Avatar’ drives the wedge deeper between us and what it means to have national unity. For how can we have unity if we believe that the military will kill to get its own way and corporations have no heart? These are American institutions, run by people like us. Perhaps our distaste for these practices reminds us of our darker impulses. Perhaps what we’re raging against is not the fact that the military is elitist or that the mega-corporations take what they want, but rather that’s exactly what we want to do, if only we had the power and inhibitions. After all, “the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and(B) madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecc. 9:13).
To All My Democrat Friends:
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010 , but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!
Here’s wishing we could claim this as ours, but it’s actually an email forward that’s been going around with multiple claimant authors. Thanks to GooseRadio Facebook Friend Andrew for bringing it to our attention.
All over America today, people are taking to governmental locales with representations of tea bags to protest the hearty spending of our new President (the man who is playfully referred to by GooseRadio as The Child. If you are a political junkie you already know what it’s all aboot, but if not suffice it to say that people are harking back to the Boston Tea Party of the 1770s in which colonists dressed as native warriors went ape on a British merchant vessel carrying tea. These folks were displeased that King George III and his parliamentary hosers were hefting taxes on the 13 Colonies in the wake of Britain’s dust up with France for control of North America. While it’s an interesting idea to intertwine this patriotic vandalism of yester-year with a fervent desire for The Child to staunch the flow of trillions from Washington, I do think the Tea Parties are missing the mark ever so slightly. I’ll explain! But first…Continue Reading...