Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fwd: Core Values

FYI, this is an email I wrote to someone I know.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Coffey <john2001plus@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 5:15 PM
Subject: Core Values


There are a great many varied positions that people hold, but all those positions should be traceable to some sort of belief that is in effect the cause of all causes.  I have a friend in Salt Lake City, who around 2001 was trying to pin me down on what my core values were, because I was refusing to take absolute positions.  I told him that I didn't believe in absolutes, but judged individual issues on their merits.  However, he pressed me further saying that even if so, there must be some value or values that I hold dear in order to make those judgements?  I responded that I wanted to do the most good, while doing the least amount of harm.

When I question people about their core values, I almost always get the negative instead of the positive.  People are more likely to tell you what they are against instead of what they are for, and therefore it seems to me that people get excited about politics because they are against something.  For example, truly happy people have little need for politics.  When it comes to being against something, I think that there is the concept of "the oppressor" where people blame some specific thing for the misery in the world or their personal misery.  The oppressor for Republicans and Libertarians is government, and I'm pretty sure that the oppressor for the left is the wealthy.  This kind of thing gets people quite agitated about politics, but in reality there is very little that politics can do to improve a person's life, because people improve their life through personal responsibility, good judgement, hard work and perseverance.  For this reason, politics can be a waste of time, because it is unlikely that public policy will change one iota because of an individual's efforts.

It is my observation that the further people are on the political left, the more likely they are to are to tell you what they are against instead of what they are for.  This is because true socialism is untenable to the majority of the Americans, so those on the extreme left tend to hide what they really believe in, and instead choose to attack enemies or bad things that are easier targets.  I don't think that Bernie Sanders is electable as President in the United States because he is pretty much honest about what he believes in.  However, someone like Barack Obama, who was the considered the most liberal person in the United States Senate, could get elected because he spoke in more general and less specific terms.

People who mostly talk about what they are against tend to confuse the political argument, because it is less clear what they stand for.

When it comes to my political positions, I hold two core values which I will elaborate on, one of which is generally Republican, and the other is generally Libertarian.

I take it as a given that as the amount of government increases, the level of economic growth declines.  Even the most casual of observation shows that places like Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba, China and even India have suffered because of their socialist policies.  The places with the least amount of government, like Lichtenstein, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg, have prospered, sometimes even more than the United States.  Even though I take this principle as a given that should require very little proof, I have seen studies that put all the countries in the world on a graph, and there is a pretty clear inverse and almost linear relationship between prosperity and the amount of government.  Logic gives further support to this position, because we can see the effects of government.  It becomes pretty clear that excessive government burdens the economy, and wastes resources, both capital and labor.  Bigger governments tend to be more corrupt and more easily manipulated, causing further waste.

So the economy works best when people are free to pursue their goals with minimal government interference.  Freedom works.

However, this assertion is usually met with arguments about the Scandinavian countries, where people claim that these countries prove that Socialism can work.  I find this interesting, because the leader of one of the countries denied that they were a Socialist country, but instead claimed that they were a free market economy.  I think that the argument that the Scandinavian countries are proof that socialism can work is flawed for many reasons:  Most of their prosperity came before they adopted socialist policies, they still try to maintain a healthy free market, and when their economy stagnated, they had to lower their tax rates to give it a boost.  In fact, at least one country for awhile had a lower top tax rate than the United States.

My favorite Milton Friedman quote is:   "The enduring lesson of the 20th century is that socialism is a failure, and free markets are a success. But the politicians keep advocating just a little more socialism."  Governments Keep Turning to Socialism, Even Though It Always Fails.

The non-aggression principle, which I think is sometimes referred to as The Libertarian Principle, says that people have the right to do whatever they want so long as they don't interfere with the same right of others.  There is an expression that says, "My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins."  I agree with this in principle, but there are practical considerations where I might differ.  Pure Libertarians see all taxes as theft, and almost all regulation as an infringement on people's freedom.  Most government actions use theft, force, or the threat of force to achieve its aims, so these government actions are a form of tyranny. 

I think that if you take this principle to its logical extreme then you can't have any government at all, and a small percentage of Libertarians are anarchists who see Libertarianism as a path to anarchy.  However, I think that anarchy is completely unworkable.  Although some people might think that Rights are self evident, I think that there could be widespread disagreement over what is a right and what is not.  You need government to define what the rules are to prevent people from aggressing against each other.  Property can only be defined in a legal context, otherwise you could have two or more people laying claim to the same property without a clear and just resolution.  In anarchy, not everybody is going to agree to the same rules.  Finally, it should be self evident that we need government to protect us from foreign enemies.  Without government, we would be taken over by people who are far less considerate about our well being.

I am so very far from pure Libertarianism, which I also think is not practical.  I think that we need some minimal regulations to prevent people from harming each other, just like we need traffic signals to prevent people from harming each other.  I see examples around me of extreme poverty, and therefore conclude that we need some social programs, at least for the moment.  However, I think that in an ideal world we could phase out social programs as the free market increased prosperity.  

It seems to me that the left never wants social programs to end, nor decrease, but only to increase them, which raises the question in my mind of how much is enough?  In an ideal world you would need less social programs over time.  If you take the position that you always need more social programs, then isn't that admitting some kind of failure, because the social programs aren't solving the problem of poverty, but possibly making the problem worse?


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