Why Traffic Regulations Matter

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My last few posts have been about calls for government to make us safer on the Antelope Valley Freeway (AVF), as a result of a hypothetical multi-car tragedy.  You can read about it here.  

The final three calls for safety from that article are as follows.

  1. We need higher traffic fines.
  2. Let’s tax fuel to reduce traffic.
  3. If we build a monorail between Palmdale and Burbank, it will reduce traffic.

While my intent was to break these down individually, I realized that would get laborious so I decided to generalize: all calls for government intervention are to ask for less liberty, and to delegate away property from one person to another.  Period.

Are you a drone?

Are you a drone?

There are prominent thinkers and many others who think libertarians should stick to domestic civic issues such as traffic laws and drugs.  To some, talking about traffic laws on the AVF is exactly the lane (hey, that’s a pun!) libertarians should stay in.  To others, explaining how less State action would make for better foreign policy and less war is where I should be expending my time.  I really don’t want to get bogged down on this particular local matter, but the AVF illustrates a microcosm of a larger problem.  Separating domestic and foreign issues when it comes to liberty is a very tenuous game.  In short, the way people think about domestic issues should affect how they think about whether a nation-state has the right to reach out and kill children far-away with drones and missiles.  I know too many cannot make the connection, but it is important to bridge that gap, I think.

A libertarian mindset is a holistic one.  It is my opinion that to be “kind of” libertarian is like being “kind of” pregnant.  When you invite the State to control you, you certainly allow it to control everything.  Allowing the State to gain more and more power is based on fear:  fear of a car crash, fear of a terrorist attack, fear of poisoned foods, fear of being fat.  Eventually, you get sloth on top of the fear.  Actually, it might be a learned helplessness.  Eventually, not only do more and more people become accustomed to not looking out for themselves, those who may have wished to do so find it impossible because of the regulation, taxation, and legalized theft of property.

But the violence begets more violence.  Drone attacks on foreign soil produce enemies of the U.S. (see Blowback).  Contrary to the propaganda, they don’t hate us for our freedom (which is absolutely ridiculous), “they” hate “us” because “we” (words used cautiously) collectively approved (supposedly) our government’s interventionist foreign policy.  In essence, too many have bought that without the State, we would not be safe, we would not have justice, and people could not coexist.

Another type of drone.

Another type of drone (USAF Reaper).

As government creates more problems, it claims it needs more power to fix them…this is regardless of whether it is traffic laws or drones attacking foreign lands.  That’s why hacking away at its power one mind at a time is of the essence.

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We Need Lower Speed Limits!

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In my “News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway” entry, I mentioned a single episode where a multi-car accident could be the catalyst for drastic measures in highway control.  The next of these measures to “fix” the crash crisis is one of my favorites:  to lower the speed limits to make it safer.

We Need Lower Speed Limits!

This government regulation invites argument in absurdium writ large, which by the way is one of my favorite ways to illustrate the ridiculousness of some things.

If lower speed limits make us safer, then why not reduce the speed limit EVERYWHERE?  If we travel at zero miles per hour then we will have no collisions and no risk.  Of course, we would not get anywhere either.  That’s the thing…to have progress, you must have risk.

The inevitable question is, who should bear the burden of accepting risk?  As the imperial subjects continue to invite the government to reduce risk for the least common denominator, everyone’s liberty is torn away, and tyranny enters our life.   As an alternative, why not let individuals manage their own risk?  What if there were no speed limits?  I hypothesize that on the average, most people would simply drive a reasonable speed.   Admittedly, it would be nice to know what a reasonable speed is.  Does this mean we need a government to do this for us?  Most definitely not.  A private company could determine reasonable speeds, probably the same private company who SHOULD be building and managing the roads.  Hell, Google could do it and put on a navigation app on a smart phone.  Here’s the thing, if speed limits were changed to advisory speeds, the overwhelming majority of drivers would drive that speed or at most 10 MPH over that speed.

Be careful when you say "There ought to be a law"  They will watch you from then on.

Be careful when you say “There ought to be a law” They will watch you from then on.

We already have advisory speeds.  You know those yellow signs that have a car on a swerve with the speed posted.  Those aren’t speed limits, but are there to advise the driver of what a reasonable speed is.  Of course, these advisory speeds could be used as evidence of negligence, should a driver interfere with the rights of another by damaging another’s life or property.  For example, if you were driving over 30 MPH above the advisory speed, it could be one piece of evidence that proves you were negligent in the operation of the vehicle.

My main point is this.  Be careful when you say “there ought to be a law.”  The evidence continues to mount that humans manage and cooperate just fine without some authority threatening them to do so with force.

…and remember, government is always force.

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Musings on a National Review Article about Auto Regulation

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I was recently E-mailed a link to a National Review article on how federal mandates for better gas mileage are killing people.  Here is the link:  http://www.nationalreview.com/article.

It’s a well-written article.  It delves into how government-mandated MPG requirements make for cars that are less safe.  However, it left my wanting.  It seems like Robert Norton, the author, yearns for better policy, rather than none.  I could be wrong.  Maybe it’s my hot liberty-loving blood, but it is what is not written in the article that leads me to believe that this comes from a “your government hack is bad, but my government hack would be better” perspective.  Then again, maybe Mr. Norton is just going for a base hit rather than a home run in taking on the Federal monster.

All in all, the article goes for a tree rather than the forest.  First of all, the 54.4 MPG mandate was set by an an administrative dictate, NOT BY LAW signed by the U.S. Congress and the President (see this from http://majorityleader.gov/TheImperialPresidency/, for the sake of brevity only read the auto efficiency part, read the rest later and feel your blood pressure skyrocket).  It is certainly correct that government mandates destroy our lives, but that is because government destroys everything.  In essence, the author is pruning the man-eating plant.

The Smart Car.  Oh, the irony of a name!

The Smart Car. Oh, the irony of a name!

So today, we simply have unconstrained monopoly of force.  What is needed now are more people who simply say, “this is not law, so we will not follow it,” when there is an administrative edict not backed by law.  So who would that be?  It certainly would not be the poor chump buying the car; it would have to be the automakers.  What is not said in the National Review article, and needs to be hammered home, is that the auto company big-wigs probably love this regulation.  It creates a barrier to entry for any competition.  Only the big 3 can comply this mandate because:

  1. Who could possibly follow this mandate without loads of production (i.e. make lots of itty-bitty cars that get 60+ MPG, and then actually sell profitable large vehicles that get far less…as a result the average MPG meets the mandate)
  2. They get subsidized when they get in trouble by bailouts

This is a complicit arrangement between the Big 3 automakers and the centrally planned government.  The automakers are the bosses, the government are the thugs.

Robert Norton ends the piece by essentially blaming liberals, but says nothing of so-called conservatives lack of will to put an end to all federal regulation, as well as the subsidizing of preferred segments of the economy, like the auto industry.  Essentially, what is missed time and again in these ‘conservative’ pieces is that of 535 in congress about 533 or so are statists.  They all think that the state is the answer: as long as my guy is in charge.

Many (though not all) of the originators of the United States government felt that a divided government was a good one.  The U.S. Constitution was a compromise document that provided for a stronger union, while still holding the government in check because of how it limited its powers.  If the Executive branch can create an edict that must be followed as law, then that concept is LONG gone.  If all 50 States fall in line, without nullifying such edicts according to the 10th amendment, then there is no division of power.  Without division of power, there is no lesser evil of divided government.

So now as Mark of Free Talk Live fame (my absolute favorite audio show), often says, we have a government “of the lawyers, for the corporations, by the lobbyists.”

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We Need More Police Patrols!

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In my “News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway” entry, I mentioned a single episode where a multi-car accident could be the catalyst for drastic measures in highway control.  The first of these measures to “fix” the crash crisis would be to add more police patrols on the freeway.

We Need More Police Patrols!

At what cost?  Contrary to popular belief, police are not free protection.  So, in order to have more police patrols on the Antelope Valley Freeway, we have several considerations.

1. We could hire more officers and buy more motorcycles or cars, equipment, guns and ammo.  Just how much does a single added officer cost per year?  Well, after reading this OC register article, I will estimate the annual cost to be at least $120K per year in Southern California (and this is a modest estimate…it does not include the top-end estimate of health care, retirement, education “bennies,” which of course the officer would receive).  But that is just salary.  Let’s not forget the vehicle cost, uniforms, ammo and gun.  The cost of a good police car would be at least $35,000 according to this yahoo discussion (maybe higher according to this piece) and the annual operating costs would be in the thousands.

Of course, the vehicle could always be confiscated through the drug war.  You know, that never ending war on people who wish to put things into their own bodies by people who know better than they do.  However, don’t be fooled.  In a monetary sense only, a confiscated vehicle certainly is not free.  Imagine the cost of the operation that obtained the vehicle.  How many man-hours?  Oops, I digress.

police cars

2. Instead of adding to the force, we could divert police resources to the highway.  This, of course is the lesser of 2 evils since this would be cheaper.  However, in the fantasy world of public opinion, it means less officers out there to deter “violent criminals.”  In reality, this actually means less officers to collect the bodies and assess the damages of crimes after the fact, so maybe it would be a better use for the officers.  Also, it would remove them from the previously mentioned “drug war” (a bulk of their workload, but probably less than traffic management), so they can collect fines from traffic violators instead:  six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Two considerations that nobody ever talks about:

1. How effective would more police be in resolving this traffic crisis?  I will keep this short.  Nobody ever does a results-based examination to tell if more police would really “help” in this situation.  Of course, in my hypothetical example there really wasn’t a problem.  It was simply a one-time tragic event that was not indicative of a trend.  The call for more police was simply a knee-jerk reaction, and the government is all too ready to respond with more taxes, more control, and questionable efficacy.  This is a micro example of the larger problem of the State.  Eventually, maybe years later, those extra officers will be diverted elsewhere (probably to the drug war…hee hee).

2. What is the impact on your personal liberty?  Very few ever consider the impact of having more armed employees of the State.  Not only do they suck away private capital and resources (the real source of innovation), but now the State increases its ability to reach out and touch you with it’s increasing monopoly on violence.  Because of calls to fix a non-problem, the State gradually usurps more power from you.

So what do you think about having more police patrols on the highway?

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Legislation follies: An Example from “Above”

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Here is a story about an FAA proposal to forbid pilots from using phones, laptops, or iPads in the cockpit at any time.
As with most laws these days (and throughout history), this is ridiculous legislation.  It is a perfect example of a government (perhaps a society) that thinks EVERYTHING can be legislated.  First of all, this one strikes a little close to home.  As a pilot, I use my smartphone to look up airfield data, approach information, important phone numbers, etc.  None of this requires internet connectivity.   It is a cheap alternative to expensive installed equipment, and thanks to fltplan.com and the free market (and the internet is really the only thing close to a truly free market any more), I have a wealth of information easily at my fingertips with a smartphone app.  I do this by managing my own workload.  Without any law whatsoever, I know that I don’t use my smartphone on final approach, in bad weather, or any other time that the workload is high.  Imagine that.
Why not make laws that tell pilots when they can look at each display?

Why not make laws that tell pilots when they can look at each display?

Similar to laws that try to legislate morality, no amount of rule-making will reduce if a pilot is distracted.  This requires professional attitude and discipline.  I simply do not want to waste time discussing about whether this is a good idea.  Of course pilots shouldn’t be distracted!

The real discussion is about whether government regulation is necessary in every aspect of human behavior.  The truth is that government regulation is simply not necessary in almost all endeavors.  This includes roads, traffic signals, utilities, and police, fire, and other security services.

Expand your thinking.  Here is a 7-minute video on how traffic management is simply not necessary (thanks John Stossel): http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/4304480/do-we-really-need-traffic-lights/
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News Flash: Nobody Crashed on The Antelope Valley Freeway

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Here is a thought that occurs to me when I drive along a busy highway.  In fact, my most vivid memory of having this thought is from driving down the Antelope Valley Freeway from Palmdale toward Burbank airport.  You can use Google’s street view tools to view this stretch of highway.  The street view of this stretch of road does not do it justice, as it shows a LOT less traffic.  Instead, picture bumper to bumper cars traveling at 80 miles per hour for miles.  I would be driving in this rat race, which happens every day, listening to my radio when all of a sudden I thought to myself, “There are thousands of cars within inches of each other hurling down this freeway at breakneck pace, and the majority of the time nobody hits anybody.”  You see the amazing thing (some might say miraculous), is not when someone gets into an accident and survives.  On the contrary, the truly marvelous thing are the accidents that never happen.  80 MPH, and all actions are coordinated.  There is nobody directing; there are thousands of independent thinkers cooperating to not hit each other.  There are mistakes, sure, but 99% of the time (or better) the ballet continues with no mishaps.  Everybody gets where they are going…every day!  Simply amazing!  Essentially, nothing happens as a result of this activity.

traffic at night

Yet, I can still picture a tragic pile up or a multi-vehicle and fatal accident on this stretch of highway that would elicit calls for action.  These calls might sound something like this:

  1. We need more police patrols!
  2. We must lower the speed limits!
  3. We need higher traffic fines.
  4. Let’s tax fuel to reduce traffic.
  5. If we build a monorail between Palmdale and Burbank, it will reduce traffic.

It certainly is possible that such actions might have some effect on the accident rate on the Antelope Valley Freeway.  The question, however, is how much effect?  Moreover, what are the third order and beyond effects on individual liberties, and your freedom to travel?  What about the cost?  What about the opportunity cost?  What about unintended consequences?

I will address each of these “calls for a cure” in turn…starting in my next post.

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Having a Discussion & Freeing Your Mind

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I tend not to debate.  I prefer to discuss.  I like to propose rather than persuade or coerce.  I am not a lawyer, nor do I feel like I am a very good salesperson.  It is very difficult for me to “sell” something my heart doesn’t believe is true.  Lawyers and salesmen try to convince others that something is true because they are paid to do so.  I HATE that!  Additionally, I often find that my viewpoints change when different facts or thoughts are presented to me.  It’s not about winning or losing really, it’s about what is truth.  Seeking truth is the goal.  I am not a lawyer, I don’t need to win.  Nor am I a salesman, I don’t need you to buy.

These are lawyers.  I am not one.

These are lawyers. I am not one.  Photo by:  (C) STROINSKI.PL via www.sxc.hu

I mistakenly get the idea, at times, that I’ve got the truth wired.  However, the fact is I know very little about most things.  Normally, I can keep this viewpoint and perspective.  Thus, I try to invoke discussion rather than an argument or debate.   What I do know is that my beliefs in many things have been affected by 43 years of truth-seeking, experience, and mistakes.  My views have changed on many things, and not the easy way.

I prefer to collect facts and learn.  At some point I come to a tentative conclusion, based on what I see.  This blog venue allows us to discuss the issues that are important to me.  They may be important to society, to our safety, our happiness, and our world, but mainly they are important to me.

Discussion or Debate?  Photo from www.marcello.iq.pl

Discussion or Debate? Photo from www.marcello.iq.pl

So I invite you to join the discussions…to use your mind, to let it be free.  I love the word “free.”  Explore the site and you’ll see this.  Freethought, free minds, free people, free markets…FREE!

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Sociopathic Hyprocisy

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Imagine being so important that you need armed guards who are authorized to kill, even if they think someone is a threat to you.  Now imagine believing this is true; that your life is so important, that you require an entire army of people with automatic weapons, assault rifles, grenades, drones, whatever it takes just to ensure that your life is protected.  This includes after (click here) you are the so called leader of the “free” world (imagine that, a LEADER of the FREE world…oxyMORONic)

agents

Click on photo for more!

Now imagine that, simultaneously, you think that you have the right to decide whose life can be protected with this type of force, and whose life should not (click here).  Additionally, that you can restrict this ability for over 300 million by a decree (called an executive order in “newspeak”) made ONLY BY YOU, who should be allowed to defend themselves and who should not.

To have both beliefs, 1) that you deserve a lifetime army of protection, and 2) that you should limit others in this ability, seems hypocritical, no?  If you were to think this way, one might think you were a sociopath.  Of course power does corrupt, doesn’t it?

Who owns this assault weapons collection?  Hmmm...

Who owns this assault weapons collection? Hmmm…

Same issue, different hypocrite:  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggests that certain types of weapons are far too scary.  He says,“No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer.”

While some people may need 10 bullets to kill a deer (and if I were a starving hunter, I would want the ability…I could eat around the pellets.  Now that I think about it, I would probably need more than 10), his implication is meant to imply that assault weapons are for killing people.  In this implication, he is basically correct.  So apparently, since this is true, that assault weapons (the ones that look scary) are meant for people, they should be banned.

To this I say, Mr. Governor, you first.  You must disarm your posse now, your collection of police, guards, and the National Guard, because we are not deer, either.  Nor am I a sheep.

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Liberty with Women & People who “Feel”

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Within my little twitter circle of liberty, there seems to have been some controversy regarding some opinions of how the liberty-loving community can recruit more women.  In short, libertarian YouTube mini-star (LYTMS…you too, can be one of these) Julie Borowski posted this video addressing why there is a dearth of libertarian (small “l”) women.

This promoted several responses from the blog world, like from Bonnie Kristian, BleedingHeartLibertarians, Robert P. Murphy, Bryan Caplan, and even one of my long-time favorites, Tom Woods.

The original video has impressive entertainment value (with 30,000+ hits, as of this writing), and has initiated a discussion among the liberty-minded.  I will summarize some generalizations about women that have been both proposed, refuted, or affirmed by all involved.  These generalizations are presupposed to be anti-liberty traits, thus making it difficult to attract the gentler sex to liberty ideas.  Women, in general, are…

  1. more social
  2. more collectively minded
  3. more susceptible to trying to “fit in”
  4. more likely to make to decisions with feeling rather than by thinking (research facts were actually noted by Caplan; women tend to be 30/70 thinking to feeling while men tend to be 60/40 on Myers-Briggs tests)
  5. less argumentative (according to Murphy)

It appears that some of these generalizations may be true about women, in general.  However, I think maybe the discussion misses the point.  The point is how do you sell liberty to a population that has been force fed safety, collectivism, and the “government is always right” (at least about the big things) propaganda?  Whether the generalizations above are true or false about any segment of the population is less important than if there ARE segments of the population who think that way.  In fact, if I crunch the numbers correctly from Caplan’s data, assuming 50/50, male/female, then there are more FEELERS in general, and this includes nearly half of all men.  Indeed there are plenty of women AND men too, who feel more than think, who are less argumentative, and who think we should all help each other out.

Many "feelers" out there.  Awwww, aren't they adorable?

Many “feelers” out there. Awwww, aren’t they adorable?

I must diverge here, just a bit.  An equally impressive video could have been made about men, and how they fall into the marketing trap of media as well.  Just think about video games, NFL, etc.  Take a look at a men’s health or bodybuilding magazine, sometime.  Men and women are both equally capable of begging for free handouts, while blowing their resources on trifles.  All are vulnerable to propaganda and uninformed hypocrisy.

OK, back on point… A consistent message of why liberty actually makes us safer, wealthier, and more cooperative is the rub here.  That requires persistence and patience.  It requires people who can reach beyond the stuffy academic arguments and be entertaining, and it requires a simple approach.  Look to Julie Borowski…she’s nailed that (she needs a sponsor).

Liberty needs to made mainstream, like "Iron Maiden."

Liberty needs to be made mainstream, like “Iron Maiden.”

I suggest that maybe the four facts below might be a consistent message to deliver to those who a) feel, b) those who think we should “cooperate and help each other,” and for c) those who don’t like arguments.  In fact, as they are explained over and over again, liberty facts sell themselves to anybody with an open mind, who is not too far gone.

  1. Non-aggression — No person has the right to take the property of another through any means.  To do so is violence.
  2. Government represents the ultimate form of aggression — taxes, war, fees, regulations, and controls are all violence against individuals.  They forcibly take the property and freedom of individuals who have hurt nobody.
  3. People will help others and cooperate without government aggression (in fact, they do it all the time) — some people will be more selfish than others, but in the end most people understand reciprocity.  If they do good, then they get it back.  They inherently know that sharing, giving, helping and serving others is the right thing to do and is in their best interest.  Likewise, they inherently know that to cheat, steal, kill is wrong, and will lead to their own demise.  This goes for 98% of all people (maybe more).
  4. The government is not “here to help”  — some claim that government knowingly does evil.  I think maybe the institution of the State just can’t help itself.  It grows and grows, and feeds on the productive in the name of doing good, when in fact it just creates more misery.  Having the state’s powers minimized allows for people to act in more natural ways and accomplish #3 above.  Furthermore, one of those 2% who aren’t “good,” who are in government (and I anecdotally guess that these sociopaths are overrepresented in government service) can do far worse than an individual committing evil on her own.

I agree with Caplan, that we need to market our ideas to the “feelers” (men and women).  Again, this requires a persistent message that shows how the state does so much damage to the individual.  We need to make those “feelers” hearts bleed, with counter-stories of how guns don’t kill people, government does.  Then we can fight for “government” control, rather than gun control.

No doubt it will be an uphill battle.  I’m in!

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My Mission is a Crapshoot

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I am 99% powerless against the forces, around me…probably more.  I will confess that I blog here with the hope of making a difference.  It is human nature to want to help.  So, my desire to “help” in my world is an emotional decision (I put “help,” in quotes on purpose, I am always leery of those who want to “help” anyway regardless of their intention).  I don’t really know if my mind explosions will ever cause anybody to think differently.  At my current traffic count, there is little doubt that any effect I have will be sometime in the future (hopefully, the near rather than the distant).

However, as Justice Louis Brandeis is famously quoted, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  This is why I write, and write, and write.  I do it so we can divine truth together.  Unfortunately, communication is a two-part process: (1) message delivery and (2) message reception.  The message deliverer can be misunderstood.  A perfect example is my “sunlight” quote.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but it was well into my adulthood before I actually understood this quote meant more than its literal meaning (which, it seems is true:  sunlight literally could be considered a disinfectant, according to some scientific studies).  In fact, it is only today, through my own research, that I discovered that this quote emanates from Brandeis.  Some truth seeps in.

Is this how understanding spreads?

Is this how understanding spreads?

As you see, understanding takes effort.  My gut tells me that few are willing to expend the effort to understand.  One answer leads to five questions, and those lead to 25 more, etc.  Most don’t bother to continue with the quest, simply because they just don’t have the time.  It is not worth the marginal return to place deep understanding high in their priorities.  Most of us are intellectually lazy by necessity; we simply do not have time to linger on such things.  In contrast, I seem to arrange my life around this search for understanding.  I regrettably (or not) have neglected practical things in my life (like eating lunch for instance…sometimes I actually forget to eat lunch when I write) to pursue understanding; it very well may be my downfall.  My mind is insatiable, unfortunately; in fact, I do fear that it just might land me in an asylum some day.  Possibly not because I am insane, but rather because I am “weirdly” sane, and untrusted by the masses (who are typically delusional…my thanks to Charles MacKay, and his book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”).

Too busy to understand?

Too busy to understand?

I will not drone on this time, I promise.  I certainly will do so in the future.  The bottom line is that I have little hope for a consensus of understanding.  Our dialogue here will likely not save anyone from tyranny, nor are the odds good that it will make anyone happier.

…but I do hope it will lead someone (myself included in the target audience) to truth, and this will catch on.

And for me truth begins in how a person should live.  First and foremost is that person should live free to choose EVERYTHING, so long as it does not interfere with the rights and choosing of another.  No person should be compelled by force from her property, or her way of life….and there begins liberty.  For sure, no person should be compelled by force to come to a certain way of thinking, they must be convinced.  I will save these matters for another day.

(Cover photo by Andreas Krappweis)

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