Monday, November 25, 2013

Good Government: Two Degrees of Morality

This post is quite a bit heavier and more serious than others that I've written.

You've been warned.


I consider myself a conservative libertarian:

I, like John Adams, am in favor of "a moral and religious people" and believe that "no government, armed with power, [is] capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion."   

I believe that there are two degrees of morality:  basic, or legal, morality that is narrower in scope and legally enforceable; and higher or individual morality, which is broader in scope and not legally enforceable, but which is no less important to society.  Basic, or legal, morals provide the philosophical and practical under-girding to the development and implementation of legitimate government.  Higher, or individual, morals are the morals to which John Adams refers and they include the aforementioned basic morals. 

I believe--prevailing wisdom notwithstanding--that morals and morality are eternal, given to us by God through revelation to govern both individual human behavior and human interaction, and that by conforming our lives to those morals we will be happier and more prosperous as a people and as individuals. 

I believe that it is a God-given, higher moral obligation to care for the sick and the needy and that it is therefore not the duty of governments, but of individuals, churches, and private organizations to promote the adoption of this and other higher eternal morals and moral obligations, and the duty of individuals to choose to base their behavior and interactions with others on these, rather than simply on basic morals.

My political philosophy rests on the assumption that rights, like morals, are eternal in nature, given by God to man that man may act for himself; that each day, life is filled with endless choices for man to make; and that the responsibility to accept the consequences of choice is incumbent upon man in exercising his freedom to choose (his agency).

I hold as most basic the individual's right to live--that is, his right to not be killed by another person or group of people.  A few rights are corollary to this (adapted from F.A. Harper's Liberty Defined) and they provide the moral foundation of law:
  1. If an individual has the right to live--the right to not be killed--he has the right to use his life to produce and keep whatever he can for any period of time without infringing upon the same right of others.  This is the right to private property.
    1. Inherent in this is the right of an individual to protect himself and his property from encroachment by another individual or group of individuals.  This is the right to bear arms.
  2. If an individual has the right to private property, he has the right to give or exchange his property--be it goods, services, land, etc.--with another individual on mutually agreeable terms, without infringing upon the same right of others, and free from the interference of any third party or group of third parties.  This is the right to commerce, or the right to a free market.
Next to life itself, the right to private property is man's most important right.  Infringement of this right by an individual is theft and is both legally and morally reprehensible.  It is no different if this same action is carried out by governments, the legitimate, moral powers of which are derived "from the consent of the governed", given that they are not self-existent entities, but are rather made up of individuals.  Frédéric Bastiat, in his seminal work The Law, states,
The mission of law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even though the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit.  Its mission is to protect property...
See whether the law takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them.  See whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen, and, to the injury of others, an act that this citizen cannot perform without committing a crime.  Abolish this law without delay...
The law can only produce one state, says Bastiat: "[p]artial plunder, universal plunder, absence of plunder, amongst these we have to make our choice..."  With this in mind, Bastiat maintains that the only truly just and moral system is one in which there is the complete absence of wealth-redistribution (which is held to be legally immoral, as it violates the basic moral right to property):
This is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, conciliation, and of good sense...
And, in all sincerity, can anything more be required at the hands of the law?  Can the law, whose necessary sanction is force, be reasonably employed upon anything beyond securing to every one his right?  I defy anyone to remove it from this circle without perverting it, and consequently turning force against right.
In protecting an individual's rights to life and property, the law fosters the greatest degree of individual freedom; their natural rights thus equally protected in law, all men are free to pursue happiness according to their wisdom, conscience, and ability. 

Though moral, of course, equality before the law--indistinguishable from equality of opportunity before the law--does not guarantee equality of results.  To quote F.A. Hayek,
From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either the one or the other, but not both at the same time.
I maintain that any attempt to use the law to give illegitimate advantage to anyone over any other is an unjust usurpation of power and therefore basically immoral (that is, in violation of basic, or legal, morality, to say nothing of higher morality); that equality of materials, incomes, and outcomes are noble goals, but that such ends have no moral or legitimate means in the law; and that men are lifted most when they are allowed to lift themselves and willingly lift each other in accordance with higher morals.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Sunbeam at my Front Door

My wife and I have been in Primary teaching the Sunbeams (ages 3 and 4) for several months now.  Recently, the teachers of the other Sunbeam class were called to teach another class in the Primary, so their Sunbeam class was combined with our Sunbeam class.  Where we used to only have three or four children each week, we now have an average of eight (but as many as ten or twelve).

I love teaching the Sunbeams.  They're cute.  They're funny.  They're delightful(ly exhausting).

And boy, do they make for excellent birth control.

Imagine having a class of children not yet old enough for Kindergarten jumping around, all talking at once, and, occasionally, throwing things and knocking down chairs.  So fun, right?  Now double that number of children.

It's horrifying.

It's hilarious.

And it's fun--but mostly it's horrifying.  It really makes me consider:  do I really want kids right away?  Is this what my peace will turn into every day?

For all the talk from the Brethren about the importance of having children, it's almost as if they call young, newlywed couples like us to teach the Sunbeams in order to deter us from doing our utmost to propagate the species.

"Oh, you're thinking about having children right away?  We'd like to call you to teach the Sunbeams--there are enough newborns in this ward."

Sometimes, though, teaching the Sunbeams makes me baby-hungry.  I mean, my wife.  Makes my wife baby-hungry.


Like this morning--it's Monday, I'd just gotten up and was checking my email, and my wife was still asleep--there was an unexpected knock at the door, followed immediately by the doorbell.

Startled (and completely unprepared for such an event at 10 am), I rushed to my room and clothed myself, asking my sleep-eyed wife if she was expecting anyone, to which she replied, groggily, no.  After a minute or so of scrambling, I finally opened the door to see one of our Sunbeams, Emmie, and her dad, smiling back at me.  Emmie handed me a plate of cupcakes (they were delicious, by the way, and constitute the entirety of my breakfast as of this writing) and her dad coaxed her, "What were you going to tell him?"

"Sank you," she said, smiling and dancing around, then pulling on her dad's hand as if eager to leave.

"For being her teacher," her dad added, smiling.

My inclination, as I said, is for teaching Sunbeams to be a child-bearing deterrent; but this is one of those sweet moments where I realize how much joy my own children will bring to my life.

Whenever it is that the Lord sees fit to bless me with them.

And, anyway, a dozen or so screaming toddlers isn't something I can realistically expect immediately--after all, my wife isn't Octomom.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Writer's Block (Help, There's No End!)

I've made an incredible discovery.

I have unending writer's block.

I mentioned previously that my prior attempts at blogging had all failed, and I've held close to my heart the idea that the reason for their failure was simply because I had less motivation to write pseudonymously than the amount of motivation that so writing requires.

Well, no more.

I've seen the light.

I just have writer's block.  So.  Much.  Writer's block.

How do I know this?  I can't think of a single thing to write (and subsequently share) that will be interesting and worthwhile to read.  Even now, writing about how I have nothing to write about, I have my doubts that my readership (aka my wife) will maintain interest long enough for me to admit that this paragraph is nothing more than an excuse to put in another plug for my wife's blog.

 It's a good read, by the way; have you seen it, yet?

(I'm done plugging.  She's already got page-views numbering in the thousands.)

Where was I?

Writer's block.  Right.  I hate it.  There's no getting rid of it.  It makes me feel dumb (#pun #lol #youhavenopowerhere).  Without a topic in mind, I just sort of meander aimlessly through sentences until eventually I stop somewhere  confusing and uncomfortable.  Like when I killed--

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jack, Properly, or, A Cop-out in Two Parts

I've considered creating my own blog--and have, pseudonymously, on a couple occasions--but the pressure of keeping it up to date and the realization that almost no one will ever read it have, to this point, deterred me from really ever taking it seriously.

(Here's where a heretofore less than enthusiastic blogger might say something like, "But no more!" or "Until now..." expressing his or her new found eagerness to contribute his or her two cents to the vast wasteland that is the blogosphere, but you may have guessed by now that I'm not possessed of such a change of heart and that this overlong parenthetical statement has been nothing more than an ironic stab at the arm-chair politicos and DIY-ers that inhabit the darker corners of the Internet.)

I'm still not that motivated to blog, but, in spite of my previous paragraph, I really admire my wife, who puts a lot of time and effort into creating something that is fun, funny, and worth reading.  I highly recommend her blog, here.

(Another parenthetical:  I love my wife.  She is fantastic and forgiving and selfless, and she is far better to me than I often deserve, and if I ever make it to heaven, it will be because she'll drag my sorry carcass in.)

I do like to write, though, and often have a lot of thoughts running through my brain that, without a place to escape to, can cause an insomnia-inducing ruckus.

What follows is not one of those thoughts.  No, I wrote this for my most recent failed pseudonymous blog, but I enjoy reading it and, in an embarrassingly self-promoting move, am republishing it here for your reading enjoyment.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Jack Locke.


Jack, as we all know, is “a notorious domesticity for John.”

“As we all know,” as we may not all know, is a semi-common logical fallacy: argumentum ad populum in Latin, meaning “appeal to the people,” or, more commonly, ”appeal to the majority.”

Now you know.
As much as I hate to say it, the lovely Gwendolen and I have this fundamental disagreement: notoriety isn’t exactly a concept most would associate with my given name. 
That is, Jack.
Domestic, though?  Positively.
I love exotic names–Algernon, for instance, sounds fantastically foreign and comes from a French sobriquet (or nickname) meaning “with moustaches”–but an exotic name mine is not.

It’s not Charlemagne, it’s not Williston, it’s not Guillermo.  It’s just… Jack.

Rhymes with smack.
Which is what I frequently want to do to dear old Gwen whenever I watch The Importance of Being Earnest–she was, after all, portrayed in high school by an obnoxious ex-girlfriend of mine.
Now, in the grand tradition of the inverse criticism sandwich, I must once again (and so soon?) contradict Gwendy, this time concerning her premise: must every fellow called Jack necessarily be so called because his given name is John?

Well… no. I know of at least one other individual named Jack and for the pompous, self-centered jerk that he was, his birth certificate did not read John.  (I confess, I didn’t like the guy, what with his preppy hair and charming grin and stylish clothes… but his name was still just Jack.)  That makes at least two of us.At least two in 7 billion. 

Clearly, we’re not getting the sort of nominal examination we’re entitled to.  Why, assuming every Jack’s a John lumps me and that airheaded ego-planet in with a conglomeration of a million great guys, total jerks, and everything in between!

So, while Lenni (okay, so there aren’t many good nicknames for Gwendolen) wasn’t flirting across the proverbial ballroom with our friend argumentum ad populum, she was shamelessly rubbing the bumpy bottom of his cousin, the far more common "false premise" for all the world to see.

Which is too bad.  That guy gets far too much attention as it is.Now, admittedly I’ve fallen victim to his charm myself quite a few times (should I admit that aloud…?), but then I recognized him as the good-for-nothing cardsharp that he is.

Turns out, not all Zac Efron movies are complete trash (I almost sort of enjoyed 17 Again); not every Weezer song is noteworthy (I can’t bring myself to listen to “Can’t Stop Partyin’” ever, ever again); and not every fat guy winds up with a hot wife (but I did).

So, yes, a lot of Jacks are Johns (and a lot of Latinos are Democrats and a lot of rap stars are black and a lot of gingers are soulless…), but not all.

Not me. 

I’m Jack, properly.