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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: March 2005

Friday, March 25, 2005

Life, Death, & Political Hypocrisy

I have long thought that the Democratic Party was the greater threat to our Constitutional Republic than the Republican Party. Because of the way the Republicans have handled this Terri Schiavo case, I will have to reexamine this premise (though this case has transcended party lines). Republican office-holders and pundits across the radio dial, television and print have been exposed as hypocrites. They claim to be for the rule of law, but they clearly are not. Talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity often complain about ‘judicial activism,’ but because the Constitution and Florida laws are not on their side of the issue, they expect the courts to be the activist courts they decry. Tom DeLay would have you believe he is genuinely concerned about Terri Schiavo. He isn’t. He was quoted as saying: "One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. This is exactly the issue that's going on in America, the attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others." Is Tom DeLay calling this tragedy a political godsend?

As if that isn’t bad enough, George W. Bush, a man I voted for on three occasions (once for Governor and twice for President) has apparently had a change of heart on the right-to-die issue to say nothing of his usual defense of the rule of law. As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed into law a bill which allows the state to discontinue life support – even against the will of the family, if the patient’s doctors believe that the patient’s condition is hopeless. As recently as last week, a critically ill infant in Houston, Texas was removed from life support against the will of the mother because of this very law. It seems to me that this issue would be more controversial to the Pro-Life movement. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy? Where are Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on this one?

The same pundits are complaining about how the courts are ‘not following the will of the president, the congress or the American people.’ Can they really be this misinformed on our system of government? The court’s job is to interpret EXISTING law, especially the Constitution, not ‘the will of the people’ nor ‘the president and congress;’ THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY despite what our public schools have told us since FDR. What the president and the congress were completely out-of-bounds; the notion that the federal government should be involved in a family legal matter is absurd. The federal courts showed judicial restraint by not hearing these cases. The courts basically said that they do not have the authority to hear the case on the dubious grounds that the congress can set up jurisdiction of federal courts. Though the federal government perhaps does have this power, I seriously doubt that jurisdiction can be set up for one case with the hope of arriving at a desired result (any lawyers out there that want to back me up on this?).

The Florida courts made the correct decision by following the existing Florida law which states that the spouse could make the life and death decision in such a condition as Terri Schiavo. Those of you who want Terri Schiavo to continue to ‘live’ in this terrible existence should not blame the Florida or Federal courts. If you want to point fingers you should point to the Florida legislature. They had an opportunity to change the law – they didn’t. The people’s voices were heard through their representatives and concluded that the law should not be changed. Of course I suspect that some will argue that the courts would have struck the law down had it passed. I seriously doubt it. The reason why the courts struck down the law the first time was because they passed a law that applied only to Terri Schiavo. Anyone who passed government 101 should be able to tell you that based on the Fourteenth Amendment; everyone has equal protection under the law. Governments cannot arbitrarily make laws that apply only to certain people; the law must be applied equally to everyone. If one law is good enough for Terri Schiavo, isn’t the law good enough for the rest of the people who are in a situation just like hers? The fact that the Florida legislature thought Terri’s Law would pass constitutional muster is astonishing.

There is no question that this case is very sad for Terri, her husband, and her family. It now appears that she can rest in peace and leave this body which has imprisoned her for the last 15 years or so. Regardless of if you believe in an existence beyond this life, can we not all agree that death is a better fate than the existence she has now?

As sad as this case is (on so many levels I haven’t even begun to address), there are a few silver linings. One is that more people are aware of the need to have a living will and a durable power of attorney. Unless you want others to decide your fate if you should find yourself in such a situation, this step is crucial (it certainly got my attention). Second, the system of checks and balances works. The courts resisted the urge to be bullied by the other branches of government and stayed within their constitutional limits. Third and most importantly, Terri Schiavo’s suffering will soon be over and her family can move on with their lives. Though this case may be coming to a close, the federalism debate is only beginning.

Further Reading:
The March 27th Cox & Forkum Cartoon really sums it all up.
What Political Price Will Republicans Pay by Neal Boortz
Ambivalent About Terri Schaivo by Gary Borque
The Right to Life.....And Death, Part II by Eric Cowperthwaite
Governed by the Rule of Law by Robert Bell
Terri Schaivo Part 1 and Part 2 by Michael J. Hurd
Fearless Philosophy Flashback: Appointing Qualified Judges
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Looking for a Few Fearless Posts

I find great posts from amateur bloggers just about everyday. I thought it would be a good idea to recognize the best posts on my site. What I have decided to do is to pick at least one blog post each month (but no more than 3 and perhaps an honorable mention; I still haven’t made up my mind on this part) to my new monthly feature Free Minds Wondering, beginning in the second installment in April. I will make a brief commentary on the winning post(s), name the author and blog and link the post to the end of my post. The winning post will be called The Fearless Philosophy Blog Post of the Month. The winner will be notified by posting to the winners ‘comments’ of the original post.

General Criteria:
The Fearless Philosophy Blog Post of the Month does not have to be something I agree with necessarily, just something that makes me (and the readers) think. What I am looking for is originality, strong supportable opinions, overall quality, and logical reasoning. Feel free to nominate as many posts as you would like (even your own) using the ‘comments’ for this post, and I will make a decision from those nominated posts as well as other posts I have read. I think this will be a great way to enrich the quality of this site and give deserving posts some additional exposure.
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Friday, March 18, 2005

The Virtue of Selfishness

Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is just as controversial and misunderstood today as in her own time. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Objectivism is the virtue of selfishness. Most of us are taught from a very early age to put the needs of others ahead of our own. We are also taught that greed is bad i.e. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Though these ideas are well-intentioned and sound ‘moral,’ are they?

In my debate with Gary on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, he brought up the following point:

“Ayn Rand’s Objectivism shows that if you apply only reason you come up with a self-centered set of values that doesn’t even require parent to care for their own children.”

There Are No Selfless Acts
To answer Gary’s criticism, I have to ask the question: is there any such thing as an unselfish act? Most parents value and love their children; therefore the children are an extension to his or her self-interest. As a parent, I want the best things in life for my children and as a husband; I want the best for my wife. These values of mine are by no stretch of the imagination selfless (putting their needs ahead of mine) but rather selfish because they are what I value in life and I will do everything necessary to take care of them. Because I value their love and affection, I must take care of them emotionally, financially, and physiologically. Love itself is a selfish emotion particularly when you choose a mate and take him or her to be your spouse. When you marry someone you agree to be faithful only to that person in exchange for his or her faithfulness to you. Consider this: you cannot say “I love you” without first saying “I”.

All human motivations are based in selfishness. When you volunteer for a cause, donate money to charity, or “pay it forward” (Great movie; when you give someone a helping hand), though many regard such an action as ‘selfless’ it really isn’t because helping people makes you feel good about yourself. A truly selfless act means you receive no sense of satisfaction or benefit from doing the act and would require doing something against your will (such as at gunpoint).

Capitalism: An Economic System Based on Selfishness
If we truly lived by the philosophy: “The love of money is the root of all evil,” we would have to conclude that capitalism is evil and favor either socialism or communism. Karl Marx summarized his theory of communism writing: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Communism and socialism surmises that pursuit of money is evil; the goal of both economic theories is to eliminate social classes, evenly dividing the wealth. On its face, socialism and communism appear to be selfless economic theories. Upon further inspection; however, those who subscribe to these theories tend to be envious of those who have what they do not. Envy is itself a form of selfishness; “If I can’t have it, no one can.”

Capitalism on the other hand is the polar opposite theory. Capitalism works because it is an economic theory based on human nature, especially selfishness. As individuals look out for their selfish interest to make money and acquire capital, the ones who can cater to the selfish needs of their customers the best are the most successful. Customers look out for their selfish needs and desires by seeking out the companies that have the best products or services, prices, or customer service. It is this kind of selfishness that inspires entrepreneurs to invent products, perfect services, and drive our economy. If everyone tried to deny their self-interests, very little if any of this could be achieved.

The fall of the Soviet Union is a great example of how flawed communism and socialism is. During the Cold War, the U.S.S.R. fought very hard to keep up with the U.S. technologically, politically, and militarily. At the end of this struggle, the United States’ capitalistic system eventually prevailed. Ronald Reagan recognized that communism was fatally flawed and engaged in some high-stakes poker with Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan made his intentions to the world clear that the U.S. was going to build SDI, A.K.A. the “Star Wars Defense System.” The cost of the Cold War was very expensive for both world super powers but in the end, the U.S.S.R’s economic system could not keep up with the West. SDI was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In reality, the technology was probably not available in the 1980’s to build such an ambitious technological feat (we probably do not have the ability even today), but the Russians did not know that. Maybe Reagan was bluffing; maybe he was serious, either way the strategy worked. The Russians witnessed Niel Armstrong walking on the moon, something many scientists thought impossible at the time. How could Communist Russia motivate its citizens to compete against the U.S.? National pride perhaps? The Soviet Union crumbled on by its own weight; it expanded too far to sustain itself.

Though the Soviet Union was defeated many years ago, communism and socialism is far from dead. We find it creeping into our own government and culture. We don’t call it socialism or communism here; we call it Social Security, Medicare, and Minimum Wage. We the people call for affirmative action, and equal results rather than equal opportunity. We hate how ‘greedy’ Bill Gates is; after all, doesn’t he have enough money? Why can’t he share his wealth? The rich don’t pay enough taxes, yada, yada, yada. Rather than teaching our children how wrong it is to be selfish, why not teach them that its not selfishness that is wrong, but rather how it is directed? Selfishness is a virtue that promotes a better world, not worse.
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Free Minds Wondering (March 2005)

  • Congress wants to hold some hearings. For what reason you ask? Discuss ways to govern more efficiently? Cut wasteful government programs? Better protect us all from the threats of terrorism? Nope. Congress wants to hold hearings to clean up the steroid mess in Major League Baseball. I am so glad our legislators have their priorities straight.

  • On a similar issue with government trying to put its nose where it doesn’t belong, Senator John McCain wants the government to mandate that your cable provider only gives you the channels you want in an effort to lower the price of cable. Thanks for looking out for me again John, but why not let the free market do its thing? Cable companies already have competition from satellite providers. If the cable companies continue to raise prices while the satellite companies hold prices steady, the cable companies will lose customers. I do agree with the senator that cable providers should give customers more options but I think that sooner or later, the cable/satellite providers will wise up and offer this choice on their own. The first company which does this will attract the most customers.

  • A mere 3 to 4 weeks ago, Democrats were all singing the chorus “there is no Social Security crisis.” Now the Democrats say they will work with President Bush to reform Social Security if he takes private accounts off the table. If there is no Social Security crisis, why do Democrats want to fix Social Security?

  • The Fair Tax movement seems to be picking up momentum. It has reasonably strong support among Republicans in the House and Senate, Alan Greenspan likes the idea in-principle and President Bush seems to be interested in this idea. I’m sold on most of the idea because the current income tax system is inherently unfair. As you make more and more money, the IRS takes more and more therefore punishing success. The Fair Tax would only tax consumer spending. No longer would saving money in IRA’s and 401K’s or any other investment vehicle be taxed. The only part that I have some reservations about is that people below the poverty line would pay absolutely no taxes. Everyone should pay some taxes because we all have a stake in how the government spends taxes. Those who are not taxed would benefit from the government handouts while contributing nothing. This objection aside, on balance it is a much better system than we have now and I urge all of my readers to study it and write their congressmen to make the Fair Tax a reality.

  • This abuse of eminent domain has got to stop; if only we were all as exercised about this issue as we seem to be, to the point of amending the constitution, on gay marriage. State and city governments across the country are taking property from citizens and transferring that property to other citizens because the new development ‘serves the public interest’ meaning the government can acquire higher property taxes. It is about time we all took a stand for property rights. You may not care so much about this issue now but be warned: if the government can take someone else’s home, yours could be next.

  • Are you angry about the price of gas lately? Before you start spinning your Michael Moore conspiracy theories about the Bush family ties to the Saudi Royal family, remember this: four years ago we had the opportunity to drill in ANWR. Had this oil exploration been allowed to move forward, OPEC would not have quite as much of a death-grip as it does now on our economy and our national security. If anyone is to blame it is the radical environmentalist movement and those in congress who genuflected to them. Independence from foreign oil would be a boon for our economy and would give our leaders another free hand to fight the war on terror. Between the caribou and our national security, national security must take priority.

  • With all of this coverage on Michael Jackson and Martha Stuart, is it any wonder the public is looking to alternative news sources such as talk radio an the bloggosphere?

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Friday, March 04, 2005

First Amendment Under Attack

I had no intention of writing yet another article about the First Amendment for this post today. Earlier in the week, I planned on writing about the way the government is abusing eminent domain taking property away from one person or group of people to allow another more powerful person or group to develop that property for private use. Yesterday, my attention was turned to the Fair Tax, which eliminates the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax; an idea I enthusiastically support. As of this morning, I discovered that my previous 2 posts about the First Amendment were very timely because I realized that the First Amendment is under attack on many different fronts by both Democrats and Republicans. Off the top of my head I can think of 3 examples of this assault.

Assault #1: The Likely Outcome of the Ten Commandments Case
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a couple of cases concerning the Ten Commandments on government property. I have no confidence that the court will follow the establishment clause of the First Amendment for a few reasons. The first reason is the court has proven in the recent case concerning juvenile murderers that the constitution is not necessary to make a determination of existing law. Justice Kennedy seems to believe that popular opinion and international law is justification enough to rule that minors who commit capital crimes cannot be placed on death row.

The fact that they ruled against putting these under-age murderers on death row isn’t the issue, (I’m actually very conflicted on this one) the issue is that Kennedy and the court’s majority did not base their decision on the Constitution of the United States. They could have reasoned that executing someone because of a murder he or she committed as a minor constitutes ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ Whether or not one agrees with the result in that case, at least there is constitutional reasoning behind the decision. I’m not certain which line of reasoning bothers me more the ‘popular opinion’ or citing of ‘international law’.

As far as the international law argument goes; when in the hell did we start caring about what other countries thought we should conduct our affairs? The popular opinion argument scares me because that reflects what most people think our country is: a democracy. We do not live in a democracy; we live in a constitutional representative republic. In case you do not know the difference (don’t feel bad if you don’t), a democracy follows the will of the majority; those in the minority are not guaranteed any rights. A republic has something known as ‘the rule of law,’ meaning the law (constitution) is the supreme law of the land and everyone enjoys certain freedoms regardless of who is in the majority and who is not. I think this line of reasoning will likely be used in the Ten Commandments case. This is a logical fallacy known as popular belief, the popular belief that our system of government is based on the ancient law of the Ten Commandments. Because most Americans believe the Ten Commandments should stay on government property, the court will not have the courage to stand up for the constitution.

Assault #2: Republican Senator Wants to Regulate Cable and Satellite Radio

It’s bad enough that the FCC can decide what is decent and what is indecent on network TV and radio. Now a senator in the Republican Party wants to regulate what is decent and indecent on cable and satellite radio. The important distinction here is that paying customers are choosing to listen to or watch programming that some might find objectionable. Anyone who gets offended watching The Sopranos’ or Sex in the City or whatever has no one to blame but themselves. Maybe I don’t want everything on television to be G rated! If I pay to watch or listen to certain programming, I expect the government to butt out. I can make my own decisions about the type of programming I want.

Assault #3: Bloggers Targeted Under McCain-Feingold

This assault is the last straw. According to the FEC, political content on blogging could be a violation of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. If I choose to link my site to a particular candidate or as much as write about politics in an election year, I could be found in violation of the law because the FEC views it as a ‘campgain contribution.’ This is perhaps the most disturbing disregard of the First Amendment that I have ever seen! I dare some government official to take action against me for speaking my mind! I hope all the other bloggers out there have the same attitude.

So What Now?
If the FEC can regulate what I can or cannot say, there will be no posts concerning The Fair Tax, eminent domain, or any other issues I want to opine on. We must not allow this assault to continue. What it comes down to is us. We cannot trust our elected officials to uphold their oath to uphold the constitution; we must make our voices heard and make them. We cannot trust the current judges on the federal bench, we must demand President Bush appoint judges who do not believe we live in a democracy but follow the constitution and will strike down such blatant abridgements of our First Amendment rights. Finally, we must stop this nasty habit of electing Democrats and Republicans into office. Our freedoms cannot stand up against them in the long term. There is a party that actually stands up for the constitution; it’s called the Libertarian Party. We need representatives who know that ‘congress shall make no law’ means NO LAW, period.
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