Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Tag: Libertarianism

Modern Malaise: Gen Y

Something is amiss with modern man; a sort of subtle melancholy that at times defies articulation. The history of humanity has thus far been defined by hardship and the struggle for survival. Our forebears lived lives that were nasty, brutish and short, where each day was an unbearable struggle to merely survive. However, over the past hundred years or so a large portion of the human race has managed to pull itself up from the drudgery of mere survival, to a place of prosperity and ease. Physical comfort and survival accomplished, the question has become: What now?

Those stuck in the paradigm of survival have concluded that if what they have now is good, surely more is better. So they set out to acquire ever more wealth, luxury and ease; often at the expense of enjoying any of it. However, an increasing portion of the population, particularly those in Gen Y, are no longer satisfied with their predecessors’ imperative of survival.

This is the generation who has known no great wars, and was born into a world of material abundance and digital connectivity. Survival was never at risk for this cohort, so they often fail to see the necessity or wisdom of the ideas that drive modern society. Survival assured, Gen Y wants more than their parents’ suburban mansions, with garages filled to overflowing with once wanted but now unused adornments and diversions. Instead, they wish to live lives filled with meaning, in communities that foster growth.

People are changing, and the world is soon to follow. What many are experiencing now is the birthing pains of a new paradigm, and a new age. As survival chafes against the paradigm of prosperity, many find themselves trapped in old patterns that leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled. They work jobs they hate, doing thing they find meaningless or wrong, to buy things, once acquired, they no longer want. They live in a world of survival, because they cannot see how prosperous they are. This person feels trapped, and their life meaningless. They know there is a better way, but they see no way to achieve it. They feel trapped in a struggle for survival, not born of the necessity to survive, but out of a system and circumstances that seem to allow no alternative. In short, they are caught in the inertia of a world predicated on a paradigm that enriches their flesh, but impoverishes their soul.

However, only our choice to adhere to inertia’s mandate gives it any power over us. To live a life of prosperity, one need only decide they are prosperous and enjoy their wealth. I do not speak of the ornaments of survival that have given birth to the tremendous waste and shallow consumerism of our society. Instead, I speak of the richness of living a life with meaning, with people you love. To be prosperous, one need only live a life in which your values and actions align, and those you love are cherished.

Consider what the world would be like if everyone engaged only in those things they found meaningful, good and worthwhile. Is it somewhere you would like to live? If so, what is stopping you?

Liberty Revisted

Liberty is a word that has become a rallying cry for both the left and right. Liberals evoke it in the name of their personal sense of justice, while some conservatives use it narrowly, to express their right to be free of moochers and freeloaders, and to impose their personal sense of morality. But liberty is more than a catchphrase to be pulled out of a politician’s pocket on the Forth of July. Liberty is the cornerstone of American identity, and its meaning must be defended as vigorously as the thing it represents.

At its core, liberty is the power or scope to act as one pleases. This absolute freedom is then limited somewhat when we agree to live socially, so that liberty comes to mean the power to act as one pleases, without interfering with the freedom of others. In this respect every law and regulation should serve the purpose of expanding overall freedom, and not curtailing it. If a law does not meet this simple maxim, it must fail.

Our current social order has moved far away from this simple notion. We regulate in the name of humanity, morality and the desire to control. We diminish liberty, little by little, because we believe doing so serves a greater good. But there is no greater good than the right and ability to be free.

A key component of conservative thought has always been to differentiate between government action and private action. Simple reason will tell you that we are “in it together,” and that “no man is an island.” These are simple truths of the civilized man. The liberal does not have the corner on humanity or justice. The real and often obfuscated difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals consider government to be the only legitimate arbiter of justice, and the soul provider of human dignity. The conservative on the other hand realizes that a government cannot create a right in one person without creating an obligation that must be borne by everyone else – an obligation, which carries the force of government coercion. Government mandated humanity is not humanity – it is coercion, and no amount of platitudes or high minded intentions will ever change that. Humanity can only be exercised by humans, who undertake such action of their own free will, and humane intentions. It is true, not every person will live up to the high standard of what is to be human, but certainly no inanimate governmental machine ever will.

The liberal would impose justice and humanity, through the inhuman means of government coercion. The conservative puts the burden on the individual, to create with their own free action the world they wish to live in. Only when one lives with the consequences of their own freely taken actions can one learn and grow.

Ron Paul: An Austrian Love Story

To the surprise of everyone, including Ron Paul, the Texas Congressman has been quite successful in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Yet despite having come in third in Iowa and now second in New Hampshire, many still do not take Paul seriously. In fact, many seem to view Paul as an ominous forbearer of the Republican party’s impending existential crisis.

While it is unlikely that Paul will win the Republican nomination, his success is a harbinger of things to come. Ron Paul is doing what few Republican presidential candidates have done in the past 20 years – he appeals to both moderates and young people. It is not often talked about, but the Republican party has a demographic problem that threatens its very existence. The demographics of America are changing in a way that is deadly for the Republican party as it exists today. For many years,┬áRepublicans won elections because the country was full of white middle-class voters who mostly voted GOP on Election Day. Today, however, that simply is not enough.

One of the major problems facing the GOP is that the Latino population is the fastest growing segment in the U.S., and they overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Another is that the overall population is increasingly urban and secular in its sensibilities, and less inclined to buy into the self-ritious moral crusades of the past. Given these trends the Republican party must adapt accordingly, or face becoming increasingly marginalized, and ultimately obsolete.

Over the past forty years the Republican party has successfully built an uneasy coalition between the socially conservative and fiscally conservative segments of the population. Though some candidates embody both principles, rarely does one find a candidate who is a “true believer” in both. Often it seems that candidates are firmly committed to one or the other ideology and pay lip service to the other in order to fit within the Republican mold of what an ideal candidate should look like. However, both in practice and politics these candidates’ true colors usually bear out.

The best recent example of this can be found in the way social conservative darlings like Gingrich, Santorum and Perry have viciously attacked Mitt Romney for his role at his capital investment company Bain Capital. All of these candidates have derided Romney as a heartless capitalist who destroys jobs. A stance that is quite out of step with a pro-free market Republican agenda. Yet these candidates have nevertheless gained traction amongst social conservatives with this attack.

The truth of the matter is that there is cognitive dissonance between the classical liberalism of fiscal conservatives and the idea that the government should be the guarantor of Christian morality on the part of social conservatives. Fiscal conservatives by definition support small, limited government, with maximal personal responsibility and liberty. Social conservatives on the other hand see themselves as being under siege by an increasingly secular popular culture, and look to the government to institutionalize their values. It is rarely noted that this would require an expansion of government, and greater monitoring and intrusion into the personal lives of every citizen. In this respect fiscal and social conservatism are irreconcilable.

I personally have had a long and thoughtful journey to the right. This journey, in no small part, was made more difficult by the fact that I came to political awareness under George W. Bush, who as a “true believer” in social conservatism was also a fiscally irresponsible big government Republican. Many young and moderate voters see the inherent conflict between the philosophy of fiscal conservatism and social conservatism, and are alienated as a result. Going forward the G.O.P. must adopt a platform that is logically consistent, or tear itself apart for lack of coherence.

There are many critiques one can level against Ron Paul, but inconsistency isn’t one of them. Paul unabashedly supports the free-market, and endorses both personal responsibility and liberty. A position out of step with the mainstream, which endorses fiscal responsibility but social paternalism. Paul has found traction, despite not being a very good politician, because his ideas are sound and consistent. One does not have to sell half their soul in supporting Paul, because his ideas are logically interlinked byproducts of a unified underlying philosophy. Ron Paul isn’t likely to win this battle, but his ideas may very well win the ideological war.