What is Needed is A Wholesale Rejection of Identity Politics

The last few days have been witness to disquieting noise representing two different aspects of the same unseeing groupthink: Identity Politics.

On one hand, you have the people on the left who only talk about America in terms of collectives and their victimhood or privilege. They hate American and openly declare it a country of sexism and racism.

On the other hand, in Charlottesville, the collectivists of the right held a gathering based on white identity, and also demonstrating their hatred of the principles of America by wishing government to favor their own identity in a white supremacist agenda.

What do these groups have in common?

  • They define an in-group and an out-group. And if you're in the out-group facts don't matter. There is no objective framework for innocent-until-proven-guilty. The only thing that matters is that you give anything that is remotely sympathetic to the out group.
  • They don't believe individual liberty. Both sides believe that the government has a right to enact force on some subset of the population justified by some collective.
  • They don't believe in personal responsibility. Not only can your actions result in your guilt, so can actions of other members of the designated out-group. For the most part there is no way out of the out-group, but you may get some leniency if you capitulate entirely and give up your rational convictions.
  • They have a callous disregard for fact as they use smear tactics to direct social harrasment against their detractors.

I'm not an Extremist and I don't like crowds... What can I do?

I don't think attending counter-protests is the answer. At best you make yourself an easy target for violence. At worse, you make the crowd of bigots look even bigger.

Rejecting Identity Politics

No... The first, most important, thing is to reject the identity politics game. We need to recognize that all of the intellectualizing from victimhood is an appeal to create government programs that treat different classes of people in different ways.

The bitter irony is that this both the collectivists of the left AND the right want this. They only differ in details based on their selected in-groups and out-groups.

We can stop talking about privilege. Among the subset of people willing to see, there is nothing more to learn. The most dishonest versions of privilege talk admonish people to apologize for shit they didn't do. Nearly all discussions of privilege are fuel for the white nationalists. First of all, White Nationalists don't care who thinks they need to apologize. Further, the intelligentsia of the left is guilty as hell of a bullshit moral shell game that amounts to whites bearing the revisionist sins of their ancestors which can never be absolved.

When you judge white people automatically racist no matter what they do, don't be surprised that they don't seem to notice or care that you're calling them racist. You've already proven that you have no objective criteria for this other than the color of their skin, which they can't help. They would be right to dismiss you for making senseless noise. (It's for this reason alone that I almost can't fault the white supremacists for beating the drums of collectivism. "Fight fire with fire" is one of the classic blunders.)

Getting Clear

Enough about other people... Back to what we can do. We can get clear. We want "Live and Let Live" based on "Individual Reponsibility" to be the primary moral criteria on which government enacts corrective force. If a person chooses by his/her own individual action to violate "Live and Let Live", only then should the law should have something to do.

Voting in Primaries

With that said, we as citizens need to vote in primaries. They are much more important than the general elections in regards to weeding out the crazy.

We must reject candidates who demonstrate identity/collective/race baiting tactics (whether democrat or republican). We want candidtes who believe in an Objective framework of law and of evidence. We want candidates who believe in a government blind to demographics rather than one that will act to favor any demographic.

Government, properly conceived.

The most important principle of keeping your government from comitting atrocities has been and shall ever be the recognition of the right of each person to their life, liberty, and property. Governments don't create rights, which are implicit in our nature as human beings. Governments, properly conceived, recognize rights and act to protect them.

I recently heard a podcast in which someone described the role of government as coming up with a framework where people who disagree violently can disagree without the violence. We can't fix everyone's bad ideas but we can keep the government focused on diminishing the impact of them when people decide to express themselves with action.

Healthcare, Government Mandates, and Individual Freedom

Language choice lesson:  When you believe in the right of government to dictate to insurance companies what they MUST cover, you might also refer to it as government TAKING AWAY coverage when that mandate is removed.  (maximum hyperbole achieved... break out the torches and pitchforks)

But when you actually ask WHY the government has any business making mandates to insurance companies and you don't take it as a given... removing a mandate might be perceived as a movement from coercion toward freedom.

As an aside, it's interesting for me to ponder people who run startups but react favorably to government control of health insurance and medicine.  I think it's contradictory to do so.  Startups do well because they enjoy a large degree of freedom on HOW and WHAT they do.   And often they see no problem with DISRUPTING things like regulatory taxi cab franchises imposed by the government.

But, somehow medicine doesn't get the same treatment.  I mean it's life or death!  So questions like these don't automatically fall on the side of freedom:

  • Will government mandates will manage not to reduce innovation and investment? (blank out)
  • Don't insurance companies have a right to try to structure different business models that might change the entire industry? (blank out)
  • Wouldn't burdensome government regulation give advantages to larger businesses than smaller ones? (blank out)
  • Who the hell would want to start an insurance company given a trend of increasing regulation and decreasing freedom?  (Maybe the world just needs another social media app)
  • When costs get too high, how long will I have to wait for a procedure if I don't have political connections? (blank out)
  • When waits get too long, will I have to call my senator to get things moving along?

In the end, we still need to answer for Liberty.  Does it matter?  Do we still believe in it?  And if so, by what right do mandates like the ACA force us to pay penalties for our only real right: to get to decide for ourselves what we will and will not do.

A lot of people think of a guarantee of health care or basic income as a matter of kindness.  They think of it in terms of what kind of guarantees a prosperous society can provide.  But will society remain prosperous if we go about destroying the foundation of prosperity? What about freedom? 

Folks, I don't see it as a country that believes in freedom if the government can tell a person they MUST buy insurance or pay a few hundred dollars to the government for no reason.  

What will they tell us we must tomorrow?  I mean... all a government seems to need is the right justification, the right notion of duty which will get them 51% of the vote to support it.  And that's assuming a weak one.  

What could a guy who doesn't even give a shit about freedom like Vlad Putin require?  Because a guy like that can get elected.  (The people who use kindness as a motivation for instituting government control of medical care tend to assume benevolent government but that is neither a law of nature nor statistically probable)

Look... those of us who believe power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely, HAVE to ask this question: What happened to universal and inalienable rights?  Because everything I hear about these days sounds fucking alienable to me.

Government should begin with the premise of every person having fundamental rights to act according to their judgment in pursuit of their lives, barring violations of the same rights against others (force and fraud).  

In the age of pragmatism, these ideas are dated.  It's old-school to even believe in principles.  It's laughable to believe in absolutes.  Whatever... I am what I am and I have never been good at winning the popularity contest.  

My friends might be surprised to know that I'm with the Republicans that want to repeal the ACA entirely.  Frankly I don't even think that would go far enough.

My vision for better health care is a government retreat from regulation of it.  No mandates.  Less regulation and thus more new entrants and more stale model disruption.  New smaller organizations to organize and share the burden of medical risk (which is supposed to be the job of insurance companies).  No artificial state boundaries.  Delete tax deductions for health care insurance premiums for employers and make the playing field level for individual buyers.  Voluntary charities to help provide insurance to those in need.

Probably won't happen in my lifetime. 

Voting Pro

Rights ought to be simple to explain, fundamental to living as a human among other humans, and applicable equally to all persons. They ought to describe the things you don't have to seek permission to do and the things one may never do to another.

And neither of the major parties gives a damn about them if you look at their actions rather than their rhetoric.

The simple kinds of rights: life, liberty, property aren't sexy. No one talks about them much. They don't slice people into voting blocs that take to the streets. They are a subtle sort of thing you only notice when they are absent.

A rare event in American elections occurs whenever you choose to vote for a candidate because that candidate most closely represents your values. The "pro" vote. Most of the time we get convinced that defeating a candidate is more important than who gets into office.

But consider who benefits by getting people to think that every election balances the nation on a knife's edge. Consider who gains when you put principle aside, time after time, to deal with each threat of disaster. And, looking back from a point years in the future, consider what would we give to have voted our values all along.

We can choose the game we are playing. And if we do, we can honestly tell ourselves, "this is not a problem I will struggle with. I'm playing the long game. I'm voting 'pro'."


Gary Johnson Makes Pitch to Burned Sanders Supporters

Tyranny: "cruel and oppressive government or rule."


"cruel and oppressive government or rule."

The opposite of a "Live and Let Live" philosophy is one of tyranny. Tyrants rarely include "tyrant" in their self-conception. They think they are doing good by changing the world according to some ideal. But neither "the greater good" nor some idea of "the will of God" transforms tyranny into liberty. Oppression can never be individual freedom.

When we consider the maxim that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions", we should remember that both of the justifications itemized above are often used to force others to behave in certain ways. Entire countries have become enslaved by regimes expounding these exact justifications.

Organized religion tends toward tyranny unless specific effort is made to banish it. (Incidentally, this is true of organized government). You can see the difference between the ones that make the effort and the ones that do not. Consider the stark difference of modern day Buddhism as compared to the Roman Catholic Church of the middle ages.

Political Islam, also known as Islamism, makes no effort to banish tyranny. Neither does certain variants of American Christianity. They are the forward deployments of the forces of tyranny.

They deserve our rebuke and our material opposition. These are the enemies of liberty until they work to banish every vestige of Tyranny from their ethos.

Playing the Long Game: Attacking Liberty's Antagonists

One of the key takeaways from reading The Aristotle Adventure is that people tend to suppress ideas that they find threatening. And the forms that the threats take vary in subtlety and violence.

  • Direct physical threats to books are rare.
  • Physical threats to people by mobs, assassins, and inquisitors was much more common
  • Other forms of threats included: ostracism, ex-communication, denial of access to books (this is back before public libraries) and other scholars, loss of income, banishment, and intereference with careers.

In the 1800 years that the works of Aristotle had to survive, they had to be copied by hand again and again in order to do so. The printing press was not invented by Johannes Gutenberg until 1450. Before this, copying was a tedius, error-prone, and expensive process. As a result, the subtle challenges listed above present severe existential threats to a body of work.

Many of the tactics listed above are archaic. The Catholic church of current day doesn't have the pervasive influence on government that in the days of monarchy based on the "divine right of kings," following fall of the Roman empire through the Renaissance and the Scientific revolution.

Of the subtler tactics listed in the final bullet, many of these can still be employed in our current day and age in university settings, and government research institutions, and the think tanks funded by the government. (I'd say they could also be employed in corporations, but most corporations are pragmatic rather than ideological). Ostracism, loss of income, and intereference with career are all real threats that can be used against a person that a bully wants to silence. This helps to silence one speaker but The Internet has made it harder than ever to silence someone completely. Although I suspect that most of us feel pretty frustrated with how to make oneself heard in all of the noise.

In spite of how hard it is to be silenced completely, the work to maintain the current state of liberty is still crucial. We must fight to keep what we have attained by aggressively exposing and denouncing those who would hack at the support pillars of free speech.

We can also fight by choosing better stewards for the machinery which protects our liberty. The source of many attacks on freedom of speech come directly from government.

The administrators of government have unique privileges to arrest people, tax them, and drag them down with legal or regulatory procedures. They have many levers of intimidation. They can do so for seemingly arbitrary reasons. This is why we want the most long-sighted stewards that are willing to take the job making leadership decisions in our governments.

Government shouldn't just be a job with prestige. It should be a sacred trust.

This is also why we do not want anyone with a tactical ideological agenda in power. A tactical ideological agenda can come from religious sources but can also originate from any kind of pseudo-scientific notion that attempts to survive challenge by any means other than reason. For the latter, imagine a new economic order or social justice agenda.

(side note: I'm all for efforts to connect people and foster acts of kindness, but I prefer these to be organized independent of the government and without government funding)

What I'm saying in short is that to vote "on the issues", for a candidate whom will do whatever it takes to get some thing done is to play a dangerous game with a system of safeguards which is responsible for protecting us all from the ugliest and most opportunistic power mongers.

We should be voting on fundamentals. This will do the most to protect the foundation of our liberty: the freedom to hold an idea, to express it, and to act upon it so long as you do not violate the rights of another.

Here is the guidance from the founding fathers as I understand it in simple fundamentals: Limit the exercise of government power to ensure the maxiumum liberty of choice and action to each person.

Although NONE of the top 3 Presidential candidates are exponents of this kind of restraint, this is what we need to look for and support even if they belong to a third party. It's time to fire the two largest political parties in the USA. They do not care about liberty.


Many of these notes are from The Aristotle Adventure, by Burgess Laughlin.