Bodies, thoughts, positives, negatives, and the law

We all have the right to ownership of our bodies.

Suicide, assisted or otherwise, should be our choice.

I’m happy to hear that it sounds like Trump is supportive of “Right to try” legislation (introduced by Ron Johnson) that allows the terminally ill to try medications which may be harmful and haven’t been approved by the FDA.

It should never be illegal to sell what is legal for us to give away for free, and that includes prostitution.

Sex among consensual adults, in any form, with any mix of genders, should never be the subject of legislation.

The government should have as little input as possible in what I eat, drink, or smoke.

If you are a mentally competent adult who is confident you want it and can afford it, hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery is and should remain your option.

There’s no reason the most common birth control pills shouldn’t be available over the counter, and it’s none of the government’s business what birth control you use or whether or not your insurance pays for it.

A quick peruse about my facebook photos will probably tell you how I feel about tattoos. (Spoiler–I’m covered in them)

Being allowed to sell one’s own organs for profit can literally save lives.

Whatever one wants to do to their own bodies should be no concern of government, as long as what is done doesn’t directly impact another’s body.

There are no property rights if one does not have ownership of one’s own thoughts and one’s own body. Without first owning oneself, it simply could not follow that one could own things outside of oneself.

If you read my post and believe I mean to condone or celebrate the majority of these actions, you are misreading me. Even among the secular, it’s always a mistake to conflate morality with the law. Ironically, often the same people who will proclaim that we should not legislate morality, are the same ones who attempt to use the law to advance their version of it most successfully. I was not making the argument that all of these actions were moral, merely that they were expressions of free will without any victim outside of potentially oneself… and that we shouldn’t legislate crimes that lack victims. “Self” or “society” aren’t classes of victim that the law should actually recognize. We’ll all answer for our own choices if who we’re harming is ourselves without the government being the one to deal out punishment.

At very least, the law shouldn’t confer morality. Morality is always concerned with concepts like “right” and “wrong”, while just laws are concerned with concepts like “order” and “harm”. Just laws are aimed in a way that’s similar to the golden rule, but concern themselves with negative rights rather than positive rights, while morality deals with both. Just laws require the presence of a victim, directly harmed in a provable way, and prosecute direct actions of one against another without consent. Morality can also concern itself with condemnation of inaction and a requirement for positive action. For instance, charity may be required by moral codes, but it’s immoral for the law to require it. Moral codes may require self-improvement, ambition, and expressions of kindness, things that are unable to be legislated. Also, laws aren’t necessarily proclamations of what someone believes is moral. Often, laws are expressions of the self-interest of those with power.

At the end of the day, nearly all laws are property laws of a sort, and property norms are not possible in a rational system if individuals cannot own their own bodies or their own thoughts.  Without body autonomy mixed with individual belief, there can be no free will that allows anyone to actually impact their environment.  Without negative rights, positive rights are severely limited, morally meaningless, and the compulsion requires negates the label of charity.

–Gary Doan

Read Marx

Obama began the last press conference of his Presidency by thanking the press. By contrast, Trump used his first press conference as President specifically to attack the press.

 
There’s two obvious reasons for this.
 
One, obviously the press have in general viewed Obama as one step above savior and done everything they could to elevate and protect him, even during his more indefensible scandals… while with Trump they did all they could after the primaries to vilify him and took on the difficult, unenviable job of trying to make him look even worse than he actually is.  They both have personal motivation based on how they’ve been treated.
 

The other reason is the style of each man. Obama, even when handling the rare hostile interview or question that he was good at avoiding in the first place, tended to handle himself with poise and grace, while the man about to have control of our nation’s nukes takes even imagined slights and decides they’re grounds for scorched earth responses.

Both reactions disturb me for different reasons.  In Trump’s case, his emotionally based angry attacks towards the press, hostile or not, could portend how he’ll approach conflict as President at a time when Presidents are essentially given free range on foreign policy especially when they don their commander-in-chief hat.  In Obama’s case, thanking the press is little more than an affirmation that they haven’t been doing their jobs for the past eight years, despite how much the press was actually needed during the least transparent administration in history.

These press conferences highlight the need… for us.  They highlight the need to burn down the gatekeepers of information who have proven themselves more than willing to either lock the doors or to use information as a weapon rather than a window.  Their last ditch effort to prevent this from happening is to point out the major flaw of alternate news sources, which they dub “fake news”.  Consumers of media shouldn’t believe everything they read on the internet (even short of the ones created in a parent’s basement or Ukraine), nor should they believe everything they read in the papers or see on TV.  However, the major six media outlets that control 90% of the market are right about one thing.  There are limits to the extent of their lies that do not exist on the internet.  They are wrong to imply that makes them trustworthy.

The only lasting solution to this problem, as I see it, is to be discriminating and realistic consumers of information.  Some sources are more trustworthy than others, yet we should always demand proof.  More than that, we should demand other perspectives on the truth.  There is a tendency among even the most rational to seek out sources that provide confirmation bias rather than news per se, and to wrap oneself further into a bubble that excludes any dissension.

I, for one, may find sources like Reason or my favorite podcasters more comfortable and credible, and there is a place for them.  Republicans tend to be most comfortable with Fox News, Progressives tend to be most comfortable with MSNBC, and Clinton supporters with CNN.  What I suggest is that if your favorite news source is Breitbart or Drudge, that you read a bit of the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos to see another take, or vice versa.  If your favorite source is NPR, check out those whackadoodles on The Blaze.  If your favorite source is Infowars or NaturalNews or any site telling you the world is flat as anything more than a metaphor, well… maybe you should stay off the internet.  But in general one should at least try to consume both sides and the middle when digesting information, and only when we can filter our way towards the truth can we avoid being deceived by fake news, whether on the internet or on major cable news networks, through our own efforts rather than faith in someone else’s.

If you like this blog, as you should… maybe once you’re done reading one of our articles, you should check in to see what Occupy Democrats, Bernie Sanders, or the Communist Party USA have to say today, if only to troll them mercilessly and destroy their comment section with facts.

Go.

–Gary Doan

Libertarian orthodoxy is still an anti-individualistic system of control

If you have never taken issue with a single utterance from Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders, if you believe entirely in every plank of your party’s platform or the current consensus of it’s members, or if you trust every story from your favorite news source to be accurate, it’s the same conformist disease of applying faith rather than reason to what should be your own beliefs.  As libertarians (especially counter-culture ones, which really all are given libertarian’s place in the American political hierarchy), we all arrived here after finding prevailing ideas inadequate and opening up our thinking to something new.  That questioning attitude and openness to the kind of reason that isn’t accepted by the masses is integral not only to libertarianism, but to personal growth and individuality that allows liberty and freedom to be effective enough to deliver prosperity.

Libertarians tend to be contrarians, and disagree nearly as much with each other as they do with “statists”, or at least libertarians seem to spend more time and effort doing so than enlarging the tent.  Often, libertarians will even argue about what it means to be a libertarian.  However, those arguments generally revolve around one of two things.  One, is arcane points that those outside of the movement often can’t even distinguish between.  I mean, debating whether the Austrian or Chicago school is preferable, whether Objectivists are actually libertarians, or whether praxeology is even a branch of science… these arguments do little outside of our own echo chamber.  The other thing arguments tend to revolve around is merely a matter of degree.  On the most extreme end, there are those in the libertarian party who advocate literal anarchy, and then there are those on the more minarchist side, still extreme by common standards of accepted thought.  However, the first steps towards whatever goal is in mind tend to be the same first steps, and politics always advances incrementally when it doesn’t resort to violent revolution.  That said, there are two issues in particular that I don’t categorize myself as “libertarian” on which don’t fall into either category, and both were subjects with trending news stories today.

The first is Lena Dunham making comments about how she wished she had had an abortion.  Obviously she’s never had children, because nobody who has children ever say they wish they had instead had an abortion.  There may be an exception somewhere, but this is true in general, because we’re not a society of sociopaths.  This statement is not only offensive to those who have pro-life views, but also to those who are pro-choice and have made the difficult one of choosing an abortion, whether they regret it or not.  Obviously she makes her money off of being offensive, and if I had a significant amount of followers, mentioning the story would only help her.  There was a time when the most outspoken voices in the pro-choice community would say, in rote, that they wanted abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare”, not celebrated and desired, and though I’m not offended, I do find the remarks to be detestable.

Given the slant I’ve used, it’s probably easy to guess which way I lean, but in general I try to keep myself from the topic entirely.  It’s the one political topic that you can never win, where the actual facts don’t matter, and is likely to produce anger and frustration even among people who are comfortable debating any other political topic.  Among the libertarian community, the debate generally focuses on whether or not abortion violates the non-aggression principle, or how to resolve issues that involve conflicting sets of rights, but the majority of libertarians are pro-choice.  My position is more nuanced than one or the other, because “life” and “choice” are oversimplifications of what I see as a complex legal and moral issue, but I’m going to play censor right now and cut myself off before I write an entire post getting into the weeds right after telling you I personally avoid the topic.

The other news story making the rounds that highlighted a non-libertarian position of mine was the Christmas market massacre in Germany.  Now, whenever there’s a terrorist attack in an EU country, which is becoming more common, the left tends to make it about guns, the right tends to make it about Islam or immigration, and libertarians tend to posit it as Europe’s problem, and not our concern.  In this case, this is part of a trend of terrorists not using guns because trucks are easier and more effective.  The right has grabbed onto the fact that it was committed by not just an immigrant, but an immigrant that by law was meant to be deported months ago, in a continent-wide union with open borders in a year that the Brexit vote was successful.

Like abortion, I don’t find immigration as an issue that’s as simple as “pro” or “anti”, “open borders” or “closed borders” or even “legal” versus “illegal”.  Not all immigration is equal or has equal effects on a nation, and not all immigration follows the same pattern.  Here in the US, much of modern immigration to this country is from, predictably, our own hemisphere.  The immigrants who come from our north, tend to be more highly educated, share our language, and hold cultural values and norms more compatible with what currently exists.  Hell, Canada is practically just another state.  From south of our border, we tend to get younger workers, who tend to have less skills, education, or proficiency in English, but provide a strong benefit all the same, from diversity of experience to a generally high work ethic and focus on self-reliance.  In fact, immigration from south of our border I think is one of the primary reasons that social security hasn’t completely collapsed yet and is merely in the red.

In other parts of the world, immigration is much different.  For instance, in England, immigrants tend to be more educated than it’s native population.  The immigrants most common to Europe as a whole have a much different set of cultural and religious values than the native population, and taken as a whole they present a security risk that isn’t as comparable to any of the violence of the drug war in the US.  What Europe allows in terms of immigration, whether they keep their open border policy among EU nations or not… well, I think the American government should remain largely silent on these matters, but my opinion would be much more important if I lived in Europe.

Taken as a whole, America accepts more legal immigrants than any other country in the world.  I believe that despite this, it can still be advantageous to take in more.  However, I accept that some limitations are desirable, that separate groups of immigrants are not interchangeable, that there are valid concerns about cohesion, culture, security, and the like, and that even Milton Friedman conceded that open borders weren’t compatible with a massive welfare state.  This is an issue that both libertarians and the left tend to always fall on the open border side of the coin, while those on the right tend to be much more nativist in their approach, while reality doesn’t fit nicely into either extreme.

Alright… now that I’ve offended or alienated much of my audience, I’d like to open the floor.  What opinions do you have that conflict with libertarian orthodoxy (or if you’re not actually a libertarian, what opinions do you have that conflict with the orthodoxy of the grouping that most closely aligns with your political beliefs)?  Send your article submissions to doangary@gmail.com .

–Gary Doan

The potentials and pitfalls of human longevity

Recently, a paper published by a group of researchers claimed that human lifespans have a hard limit of about 125 years.  I’m not a scientist, but I call bullshit all the same.

Their methodology seems to have nothing to do with how much degradation the human body can realistically take or, much more importantly, how much information the human brain can handle processing.  Despite this research being conducted by a geneticist, it’s not based upon genetics at all.  The limit which defines their peak is not based on the biological sciences, but on historical data which quantifies medical trends.  They have found that the top life expectancies, in practice, seemed to have plateaued in the eighties, and we’ve seen little improvement by historical standards especially since the nineties.  As someone who makes his money in the market, there is a phrase for this… they are using past performance to indicate future results.

“Old age” as a cause of death is really just a substitute for specific incidents or diseases that are more likely to kill you once you’re older.  After abortion, the top two causes of death in the US are cancer and heart disease.  There are, from all accounts major tipping points that could happen in research that could address both of these things in the future.  Even setting aside pie-in-the sky concepts like uploading human consciousness into computers, thereby bypassing physical biological limitations altogether, there are intermediary steps on the way.  Direct gene modification, tailored DNA before birth even takes place to remove imperfections and weaknesses, cloning or manipulation that allows us to grow new organs in pigs, through 3D printers, or even the cloning of brand new bodies altogether… there’s no shortage of science fiction ideas with the potential to become science fact with enough research.  Any one of these concepts is deserving of exploration and would take volumes of books to fully appreciate their potential applications and the brand new world they could create.

Biology has given all creatures an instinct for self-preservation, and the apex of that basic desire are attempts at extending life and dreams of immortality.  This is a goal that mankind is genetically programmed to pursue, as we are the only creatures we know of capable of effectively pursuing the premise that is the natural conclusion of the universal aspiration.  Basic survival for any animal not man cannot be pursued on a generational level, as other creatures lack both the necessary intelligence and the sense of history which man alone has a monopoly on.  The only limits I see to longevity of human life stretching into the future is the desire of the aged to continue on.  The limit to human life, once the requisite technology allows for it, is not a technological or biological limit.  The limitations I see are the limits of how much the aged desire human existence due to quality of life concerns and the limits of what defines us as still human.

This leads to a balance of what it makes the most sense for our science to pursue.  The extension of human life comes into conflict with advances which promote actual quality of life.  What good is living to, say, two hundred, if the last hundred years leave you infirm and unable to enjoy existence in any meaningful way or contribute to humanity?  How much does a prolonged physical existence matter if mental degradation robs us of what makes us, us?  When my mother was facing the end of her life, she had ceased fearing death.  But she was terrified of losing her dignity, her composure, and more than anything her cognitive abilities.  She feared sliding in and out of awareness without being able to comprehend coherently, as herself, her surroundings and the greater world.  I don’t think I’m going to die anytime soon.  I’m not diseased, terminal or otherwise, and I’m not even approaching retirement age.  But the more I consider her end-of-life reactions, the more terrified I am of experiencing her exact fear.

I’m optimistic enough in just how limitless humanity’s potential is.  I’m pessimistic that humanity will pursue what’s best for it’s long-term best interests effectively.  We are very good at pursuing short-term gains, and these are often best pursued at the individual and specific group levels which best benefit collective humanity as a whole better than a universal collective plan.  However, there are some things we’re ill-equipped to even consider at the individual level, much less plan for.  We as a species are, as a general rule, short sighted, though we have the potential to be so much more.  This isn’t a conversation that is much had outside of boring guys in lab coats, but it’s important all the same.  Medical advances aimed at prolonging human lifespans while ignoring quality of life concerns are likely to get dystopian quick.

I don’t have the answer, and I’m not even sure I’ve been able to formulate the right kinds of questions, but I’ve tried to outline some considerations.  End of life issues are about more than prolonging life, and oftentimes comfort for the infirm or limitations beyond simply what is physically possible aren’t even considered until there is an extinction of hope in longevity completely.  At the individual level, it’s generally a good idea to talk about these types of issues long before it’s apparently necessary with those who will be responsible for your care and legacy.  But at the level of humanity, science, and culture?  It’s already long past time for us to evaluate the actual trade-offs, rather than ignoring the actual experience of old age until we get there, and assuming longevity is a more worthy goal than actual life.

–Gary Doan

The impudence of false hope

I’ve always hated campaign slogans, for two reasons.  One is how little they actually say about a candidate or what they stand for, and the other is how much those slogan’s effectiveness say about us as voters.  Hope and change?  Hope in what and what should change?  Making America Great Again?  What does the candidate think made America Great in the first place, and how did it stop being great?  This type of language is intentionally open-ended with the express aim of letting the listener fill in the blanks with what they choose to see, while saying nothing of note… and the fact that it works is an indictment against Democracy.

What I think made America Great was our founding principles, expressed so eloquently in documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers.  To imagine Trump is well acquainted with any of these documents, ideas, or history is pure fantasy.  So is imagining that Obama brought us any change rather than an acceleration in the same direction we as a country had already been moving in.  The speed may have changed, but not the trajectory.  Both men have brought hope to some groups of people, fear to others, and enough apathy that nearly half of all eligible voters don’t.  Obama’s slogan was effective because it said exactly what Americans wanted after eight years of Bush.  Trump’s slogan was effective because it said nothing at all, which was especially helpful to a candidate who stood for exactly that.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I watched Rogue One, A Star Wars story last night, but I’m musing on hope.

What does America currently hope for?  The same thing we’ve always hoped for.  Love, happiness, health, family, fiends, a stable home, stable employment, for our children to have a better life than we have, a bit of extra change for some drinks at the local bar.  It’s amazing to me how many of these things that come to mind simply cannot be achieved by government, much less by a President offering unrealistic promises of some Utopian vision of a “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal” from nothing other than the election of one man to one office.  Placing our hope in one man, or placing our hope in government rather than ourselves is an un-American aspiration unworthy of us as a nation.  Hope, while built upon faith, is not something to be accepted as an offering by politicians that require devotion.  It’s something that, if we don’t want it to let us down, we must build for ourselves.  Optimism is a recipe for disappointment, if it’s not built upon solid footing… and there’s not much that exists that’s more fluid than politicians able to reach the heights of power, using vague, mealy-mouthed expressions to manipulate us into offering power over us to them in the first place.

Trump isn’t even in office yet, and he’s walked back nearly every campaign promise he’s made, from draining the swamp to the wall to prosecuting Hillary.  After eight years of Obama governing as Bush– offering up the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s, a doubling of the national debt which he once called “unpatriotic”, skyrocketing healthcare costs under his signature legislation, and his bombing of seven separate nations, including while violating the War Powers Act and after running as the “peace candidate”– he has already extinguished the hope his supporters who have been paying attention had in him.  Bill Clinton offered prosperity, the trade off being the bubble the nineties created.  George Bush told us to “read his lips”, which were the lips of a politician.

Michelle Obama recently gave an interview to Oprah, in which she was asked about hope.  According to her, Barack achieved both providing and delivering on his promise of hope.  Her evidence?  “we feel the difference now. See, now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like, you know?”  Her evidence is that people were feeling hope before because they are feeling hopeless now that Trump will be the next President.  For eight years, Republicans have felt hopeless, as Obama seemed to get everything he wanted without Republican leadership so much as putting up a meaningful fight against him, and many Republicans now feel hope… so I have to assume that Michelle is only talking about Democrats rather than Americans.  The absolute audacity of her.  When her husband talked about “the audacity of hope”, he meant the willingness to take bold risks.  When she talks about hope, she’s being impudent, tone-deaf, and unable to see past the bubble that politicians always build to isolate themselves from reality.

I don’t see much hope in Trump.  I’ve seen where hope in Obama has gotten this nation.  Where I find hope is in the arms of my wife and the eyes of my children.  Placing it in the hands of politicians, even ones I respect like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Massie, or Amash is a fool’s errand.  More often than not, hope will let you down unless it’s hope you build on and achieve yourself or in concert with your family or friends.  To place it within political leaders requires a willful ignorance of the vast majority of all human history, but the same is true for what you let extinguish your hope.  There are reasons to hope, and these are in spite of politicians and elections, not because of them.

–Gary Doan