Wolf DeVoon Posted June 30, 2017 Share Posted June 30, 2017 L. Neil Smith posts thought pieces from time to time on Facebook, and I started following him as a Facebook "friend." I did likewise with tech wizard Tom Lahti, Pierre Lemieux, and Ilana Mercer, although in Ilana's case she's such a strikingly stunning vamp that it was a no-brainer. I have a weak spot for the fair sex, especially when they're tough, courageous, beautiful, and have jet black hair like Lt. Janet DiMarco, one of my very favorite fictional creations. Well, yesterday L. Neil opined that a wall to seal off the U.S. border was a good idea, and it elicited a variety of comments, including mine. I said that as a matter of legal principle there have to be public roads to get from Point A to Point B, and that the Right of Liberty coupled with a presumption of innocence precludes shutting anyone out of the U.S. with a wall. That intersects the public outcry about keeping people from boarding airplanes and an equally hot debate about "sanctuary cities" that flout complicated Federal immigration statutes. I'm not a big fan of legislation. I have yet to discover anything that Congress ever did to the betterment of the Republic. We're hopelessly bankrupt, our military is overstretched and underfunded, money has poured into the stock market thanks to financial repression (zero interest paid on savings), and "mandatory" entitlements are ironclad largesse that Democrats and Republicans swear hand on heart in unison shall be law forever -- a perpetual flood of borrowed money to pay for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, free housing for millions of single moms and their nurseries of future gangsters and drug addicts, a wide delta of subsidies and grants for education, solar energy, electric cars, corn ethanol, public works, FEMA payola, etc. I don't know if anyone can compile a comprehensive list of Federal and state handouts. Most mortgages are backed by GSE paper, exempting banks and brokers from lending risk, and bank deposits are guaranteed by FDIC that will be exhausted instantly in a panic. If I understand it correctly, Federal tax law provides a cash "refund" if someone has little or no income and paid no tax. I should look into that. Of course, orthodox Objectivists condemn taking money from government, the unearned, the worst of all possible evils. One of the O'ist holy rollers on Facebook jumped all over me for saying that Liberty trumped property. He claimed he had an inherent Right to Life that translated into absolute dominion of his property, and every inch of dirt everywhere should be privately owned. He didn't know that Wolf DeVoon said the same thing repeatedly, with the caveat that property rights are limited by what the neighbors will allow. I didn't explain who I was. I poked him in the jugular: << Don't be silly. There is no natural right to life or anything else. Your birth was an involuntary dice roll, your early years a gift from parents who owed their prosperity to benefactors who bequeathed an industrial society not of your making. Now you come along and assert that you OWN something, to the exclusion of everyone else's liberty and their putative equal right to life. You want it both ways, an absolute right to your life, denial of liberty belonging to others. Go ahead, call a cop, demand protection. What you'll find is that your neighbors will vote your ass outta there with property taxes, public roads, zoning, building codes, and settlement of refugees next door. A is indeed A. >> The Randian promptly went ballistic. If there's no objective morality, then you could rape children, nothing would be right or wrong, and how dare I cite the sacred Law of Identity! Sigh. It's a common mistake among true believers, to assume that everyone else is incapable of thought and therefore has nothing valuable to add to the Holy Writ. Sometimes I tire of explaining that morality addresses the unique powers and dilemmas of an individual, asking What shall I do? -- whereas the philosophy of law fries a different kettle of fish, adjudication of disputes, custody of those who are incapable or legally forbidden to exercise their liberty, and the combined might of a community. The purpose of law is to limit arbitrary government power and to defend innocent liberty. I admit that "innocent liberty" is a fine distinction, but fundamental fairness, trial by jury, and due process are effective tools that took centuries to discover and refine. The common law underpins everything we take for granted, including contract, property, freedom to take or quit a job, to save or spend money or give it away. This has nothing to do with legislation or a Bill of Rights. Liberty as a fully articulated legal concept predated and inspired the American Revolutionary War of Independence. It's not so much that I want to delve into legal principles with respect to immigration and property rights. Rather, I believe we should consider how little the average person "paid" for the involuntary gift of life. No one chooses to be born, nor the time and place of his debut in a modern, prosperous industrial world not of his making. Ayn Rand suggested that 2% of us feed, clothe and shelter the other 98% by pioneering discoveries and superlative economic contributions, organizing oil production, mechanized transport, medicine and whatnot. After touring most of the world's capitals and an infinity of rented apartments, I moved my family to a rural county in the middle of nowhere, built a nice house sheathed in steel and concrete on a tactical hill with an independent water supply. After a couple of years, I came to observe that my neighbors had certain local customs that I admired. We have a volunteer fire department, supported by semi-annual picnics and bingo. Folks gather at the general store to trade gossip and plot ways to help those who were laid low by illness or injury. The next community over the ridge meets at a community center once a week to play bluegrass and share a potluck dinner. There are social networks of old "back to the land" hippies who celebrate 4th of July and Thanksgiving with happy gatherings at one of the many homesteads they developed decades ago. When we have a bad storm, everyone pitches in to clear fallen trees and put things back in order, helping those who need a hand to deal with adversity. None of it is government. They are voluntary community actions. The nearest cop is 27 miles away. Crimes and criminal conspiracy are dealt with privately in the first instance, pending review by sworn LEOs when they have time. Nonpartisan volunteers organize the ballot box and certify the result of this tiny precinct in plebicites on funding a little school district. Property lines are marked with fences, a few benchmarks here and there from a century ago that positively defy description -- a broken axle stuck in the ground upright, a pile of rocks, a seasonal creek, a carved tree. It's not uncommon for cattle to break a fence and wander. The neighbors know who's cows belong to who. Some folks hold grudges for social slights or bad behavior that happened 20 years ago. It's not hard to make friends, but deep allegiances are family, or that rarest of species a trusted trueheart who worked for the benefit of all. I've met most of them. Wonderful people who tend cemeteries and repair churches. To own property is nice, but roads and utility rights-of-way and neighbors make a community. Ownership in a big city is nonstop compliance with Federal, state, and local government. In a rural community like ours, none of the foregoing have an effective footprint. What happens or fails to happen is decided ad hoc by interested and active neighbors acting in concert. It is the genius of rural America that Jefferson and Franklin admired; it incubated Abe Lincoln's simple decency about ending slavery. Nowadays, it's called "flyover" country, the national breadbasket, farmers and ranchers who feed the cities, get machines and oil in trade. There are few wealthy people, many who are comfortable because they work for it constantly and rationally with taciturn pride and willingness to overcome hardships, to help one another in an emergency, of course, but likewise in routine matters like repairing a car or a tractor. Objectivists have to get past the theoretical and live life on life's terms. The right to life is an abstract idea that has nothing to do with being born, being cared for by parents, entering into a society that intersects personhood a thousand ways -- not least in the business of learning to collaborate, do the obvious, socialize, explore a world of multiple cultures and persons. I cannot for the life of me condemn someone for choosing a better life, undertaking the risk of joining a society that he/she doesn't understand immediately. It takes time to integrate. I've done it repeatedly -- in Europe, in Asia and Africa, in sun-drenched Costa Rica, and now in a sparsely populated rural community in America's heartland, not unlike where I was born. Everywhere I've traveled and learn to live with others, the rules of property meant little or nothing compared to defacto anarchy. In the most tightly regulated hellhole, liberty always trumps property. What people choose to do matters more than armed guards and walls to stop them. Normatively, they help one another, contrive ways to evade government, make friends and punish wrong-doers by boycott, escape, exercising the human right of liberty. Let's not confuse life and liberty. If you wish to attribute all desirable qualities to an abstract ideal of "the life of a rational being" complete with dignity and liberty and property rights, it understates the life-giving aspect of Liberty -- a persistent right to action, whether rational or not, dignified or absurd, rich or poor, landed or propertyless. Objectivists are powerless to command others to be more rational and perfectly well behaved, which amounts to quashing their liberty, or denouncing it because their hopes and dreams might interfere with yours. A superior being of self-made soul has more freedom of action. It's not right to hammer down those who have simpler aims and less power, nor to forbid them use of their feet. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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