Friday, July 10, 2009

FIRST PRINCIPLES TO CHEW ON

I’ve realized for a second time that I’m unable to consistently and coherently maintain three blogs at the same time, and unfortunately am going to be packing FIRST PRINCIPLES in as of today.

Hey, the seeds for this were set when I realized that I wasn’t getting any more than two posts up per month, and that my average daily readership on this blog was four (4!) people. To the best of my knowledge, not a single blog beyond my own ever linked to this one, which given the readership of my other blogs (obscure rock music aficionados and beer dorks) doesn’t surprise me much. I hope that for the folks that did read First Principles, you perhaps looked at our “interesting times” in a new way. There’s no doubt I was seeking to bring a few liberals into the small-l libertarian fold, and who knows, at the rate of 4 visitors a day over 405 days, there might be 1,620 new converts repeatedly returning to the same first principles as I do.

What are they, those of you coming to this blog after July 10th, 2007, ask? OK, let’s review (and expand upon them from our 5/30/2008 introductory post, with some links to articles from our history that clarify them):

1. When the government gets involved, on balance, it screws most everything up. Therefore the less government, the better

2. Religion is an artifact from man’s unenlightened, darker ages. It may have contributed much good to the world, but its artificial hocus-pocus built upon institutional & state control has done more harm throughout history than any other concept or idea. (Read more about that here)

3. The free market is one of the greatest gifts to mankind in all of our history – and best of all, we gave it to ourselves

4. Taxation should be at the lowest possible level to sustain the thinnest shell of government – a government that protects its citizenry from outside harm & total destitution, and little else

5. Individuals should be free to love and sleep with whomever they choose, and government should have zero role in such matters (Read more about that here)

6. My tastes and desires should not be inflated above anyone else’s – I should be just as free to exercise them, rant about them, and convince you of my positions & superior taste as you are to do to me

7. If I have to choose the bigger enemy of freedom, justice and well-bring, I choose the well-intentioned liberal over the backward conservative. That said, I don’t skew Republican or Democrat – I profoundly dislike both parties, particularly as they exist today.

8. The death penalty is wrong and unjust.

9. Education services should be just as competitive as business services – America’s current system is a joke and a huge waste of money & minds, despite the best and well-intentioned efforts of many. (Read more about that here)

10. Unions in America, on whole, have served their purpose and are now nothing but a hindrance (read more about that here)

11. There’s a big difference between support for a truly free market and support for “business” per se – many, if not most, businesspeople are wimps, and are terrified of a true free market

12. Immigration into and out of the US and elsewhere should be as unfettered as possible. It is a good thing, and always has been

13. Nativism and nationalism are meaningless – the ideals behind these tendencies are not

14. On matters of crime & punishment: those who bring real harm to others should be locked up – not necessarily for punishment’s sake, but for deterrence and to prevent recidivism. Truly victimless crimes should (in general) not be prosecuted. (Read more about that here)

15. Evolutionary biology says most of what you need to know about why men & women act as they do – but can be oversimplified and over-extrapolated to the point of ridiculousness (so be careful!). (I never did get to write a good post about this idea)

16. In politics and society, just as in life, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good

Hopefully this site was interesting to some of you out there. If I had to pick one post that carries the themes of this blog the best, it would be this one from 2/18/2009. I’m no less interested in studying and propagating these ideas than I ever was – but I just don’t have the time. Writing about beer and music is about all I can squeeze in – this stuff requires some real time & actual deep thought.

I leave you with a handful of recently-read (by me) books that I strongly recommend to “continue your studies”, as it were – these are some of my favorites:

Virginia Postrel – “The Future and its Enemies”
Sam Harris – “The End of Faith”
Brian Doherty - “Radicals For Capitalism”
Amity Shlaes – “The Forgotten Man”
Alan S. Miller - "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters"
Christopher Hitchens – “God Is Not Great”
John Steele Gordon – “An Empire of Wealth”
Rick Perlstein – “Before The Storm – Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus”

Thanks for reading!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't pack it in, I really do like your blog! BTW there have been MySpace political groups which have linked to it. You need to make an effort to get other blogs linked to it.

Shawn said...

I'll be sorry to see First Principles go. As someone who has several blogs that are in a perpetual state of semi-retirement, I decided it doesn't really matter to me how often I post or how many people are reading. I just enjoy having the outlet.

First Principles almost never fails to raise my hackles a bit, and that alone gives it value in my world.

Having said that, I can't resist one last jab...

I was surprised - amazed even - to find that I pretty firmly agree with most of your principles listed here.

The one that makes my knee jerk the most is #1 (and, by extension, #3 and #4 to a certain degree).

My problem with #1 is that it suggests we are a prosperous and successful country in spite of our government - rather than because of it. I believe the truth is very much both.

We are beneficiaries of two centuries of government protection and support - much of which we (by which I really mean you) basically seem to take for granted at this point, and much of which few people would really want to go back and undo. Of course there have been missteps too, but the small-government libertarian crowd usually fails to acknowledge the ways in which we have benefited.

Sure, there are clear matters of personal freedom where government should never intervene nor interfere. See your #5 and #14.

But #3, #4 and #6 are less clear cut. I think total freedom almost inevitably leads to "tragedy of the commons" scenarios. People and businesses will pursue their own needs even to the detriment of everyone's. They pursue immediate individual gains that risk (and often cause) generalized future catastrophe.

If government does not serve to protect the commons from the individual, then what - or who - will?

Before the FDA required drug companies to prove their products were not dangerous before they could go on the market, there were numerous incidents of contamination - sometimes maiming or killing thousands (thalidomide, diethylene glycol). What's the free-market alternative to this? The free market might put your company out of business because one of your products killed a few thousand people, but um... your company KILLED people. That was the free market drug industry before the FDA.

OK, I'm on a roll...

I have a hard time envisioning a free-market solution to protecting fisheries from individual companies competing against each other to pull in the biggest catches. The companies know when they are pushing fisheries toward collapse, but they also know that if they hold back, then others will just step in and out-fish them. What's the free-market answer to that?

I have a hard time believing our country's major parks and wilderness areas would have ever have been created without government deciding to do so (imagine how many more dams could have been built along the Colorado River and how many more trees harvested in Appalachia if companies were free to do so). I'm personally happier to have the parks and wildernesses.

Scientists have been sounding alarms about atmospheric carbon and climate change for five decades, warning us about a point-of-no-return. We probably needed to start doing things differently at least 10 years ago to avoid the point-of-no-return, but what free market incentive existed to do so? None, and that's why we're in the situation we're in.

Do you believe there are no situations when the collective good is more important than individual gains? I don't. And it's hard to imagine who would aim us toward the collective good if the government was not trying to do so.

It's fair to argue that the government does not operate effectively or efficiently enough, but I think the answer is to improve it, not necessarily to eviscerate it.

I think it's good and necessary to debate each threshold of government intervention (currently, healthcare), but I think we need to acknowledge how much existing government protection and support we take for granted and would not want to give up.

sean said...

Sorry to see it go. I no longer have a playground for my rassling matches with Moe. Where has he been lately?

Brian Yaeger said...

While this is a sad passing, Anon is right. No need to pack it in. It's not like our days of print zining when there were actual costs. Leave it semi-open for semi-frequent bouts of governmental pontification and rage.

Your beer and music don't mind blogging around behind their backs.

MoeLarryAndJesus said...

Just as well. Worst political blog ever. It was like watching Sarah Palin try to do calculus.