Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What is TYRANNY?

I’m going to try and stay on ONE POINT and use multiple posts when needed – that doesn’t mean they’ll be shorter, however…

By my definition – “TYRANNY” occurs when a ruler (whether a single person or committee) places *their* interests above those of the individual or society at large. By that definition, if a government decides what *I* should believe or where in its judgment *I* should place *my* priorities, without consideration of or in direct opposition to *my* views on the subject and thereby uses the force and power of government to accomplish that goal – that government is being tyrannical.

You said… And if society, by the agency of government, accepts the responsibility of caring for the least fit of its constituents, well then so what? If government, by law, forces a man to participate in that responsibility, I would rather consider it an enforcement of generosity rather than of tyranny.

Chris, I *sincerely* hope you are not serious. I’m guessing you’re just pulling my leg or trying to push my buttons. And you did a Good Job, because… I don’t think you could have chosen a better way to clearly define what I consider to be the most despicable and insidious form of TYRANNY in the modern world. It is *not* society’s responsibility to “care for others”. That action must be taken at a personal level. Individuals have responsibilities; groups (e.g., “society”) do not and CANNOT.

Let’s play the Definition Game for a bit… “Charity” - which is the concept you are promoting – cannot and should NEVER be “imposed” upon the unwilling. Why? If participation in such an action must be FORCED, it’s not “charity”. By definition, charity is a VOLUNTARY action. As such, while desirable, Charity is not a Responsibility – it is a CHOICE. “Responsibility” is an aspect of “Duty” and “Obligation”, which are also Freely Chosen. And, above all, “Choice” is an action taken at an Individual level. Even if the decision is promoted by a group (“we think this should happen”), the Individual *chooses* to follow that Recommendation - voluntarily. And will reap or suffer the consequences accordingly.

This key point is where I have serious philosophical issues with the Left. And, to be sure, I have the same problem with some who stand on the Right, too. It’s not a Left-vs-Right or Democrat-vs-Republican thing… It’s much more Basic.

I *do not* believe that voluntary participation in a group releases (or transfers) *MY* Responsibility and Accountability. I may choose to “work with others” with the object of accomplishing greater things and expanding the scope of my efforts. But, ultimately, the Responsibility remains MINE… Let’s take the next step: people may choose NOT to acknowledge a Responsibility and attempt to re-assign or abdicate their Accountability. This is just as Wrong as trying to impose your will upon another.

Now - There *are* responsibilities one acquires by participating in a group (i.e., being a member of the group has Rules). In that case, and in that case only, the group *may* be justified in questioning one’s continued participation. There is (or should be) the option of expulsion from the group as an alternative. Simply, if you are going to receive the BENEFIT of being part of the group, you must be appropriately ACCOUNTABLE. The decision to submit, leave or be kicked out *must* remain with the INDIVIDUAL – it is *not* up to the group to “decide” what action to take beyond expulsion. (You can also ask the Rules be changed, but let’s keep it simple.)

Chris – you cannot ENFORCE a sense of GENEROSITY… You either have it or you don’t… Using *Force* to impose the will and judgment of one over the wishes of another is TYRANNY.

If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck; odds are - it’s a duck… What you described as being an acceptable aspect and function of government is TYRANNY, plain and simple… Call it a “Bed of Roses” if that will let you sleep at night, but that doesn’t change what it *IS*.

C’mon, pal - you *know* where I am headed… It goes back to that glorious Jeffersonian prose:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

These Rights are granted by God – not by “groups” or “governments” or “courts” – they are inherent with existence. And - These rights are granted to individuals, and not because they belong to some favored group, or passed a litmus test, or rubbed blue mud in their navels while chanting “Ommm”… And no, some are *not* more equal than others – it says *ALL* MEN…

“…to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government,…”

The government works FOR the people, government is a Servant, NOT a “Master”. There are *WAY* too many people who use the power of government to enforce THEIR opinions and THEIR motivations onto others. It is reasonable and just for The People to rise up in revolt when this happens…

“…laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

There is NO GUARANTEE such Safety and Happiness will be achieved. Note that what constitutes being “safe” and “happy” are, BY DEFINITION, based on one’s Individual judgment. *YOU* cannot *force* me to accept what YOU define as “what makes ME ‘safe’ or ‘happy’”. But we’ll try our best – “as to them shall seem”, e.g., in OUR judgment, by voluntary agreement.

“…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed...”

You don’t change things frivolously or because “it doesn’t seem right (to me)”. And you *certainly* don’t change things, just because YOU are the one in charge at this moment. Nor do you use your (temporary) wielding of power to impose YOUR judgment and YOUR wishes onto others…

I could go on and on… But let’s get back to the point:

It is clear that I promote Individualism while you (apparently) promote Collectivism. These are diametrically opposed philosophies. I doubt we will change the other’s mind; I still have the hope you will one day reject the Dark Side. ;-) The key difference between us is that YOU have chosen to subordinate your own judgment to whatever is deemed to be “in the best interests of the ‘collective’”. There are many that agree with you; like Rousseau. Bully for you: I hope you are happy with your choice. Have fun…

But, I respectfully disagree. THAT is not a choice I am willing to make. However, I will defend your right to make that choice for yourself. It goes without saying that you are welcome to attempt to convince me to go along where we share a common ground or have the same objective - just as I will ask you to follow my lead on occasion… If we agree, wonderful – if not, maybe next time… And it ends right there.

In this respect, I agree with many aspects (but *not* all) of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – which regards man - every man - as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. (And in spite of his occasional ‘irrational’ actions.)

A truly civilized society - or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men - can be achieved *only* on the basis of the recognition of Individual Rights. A “group” has no rights other than the individual rights of its members. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.

When it comes to governance, I hold that the State *must* - as it’s *first* priority - take clear and distinct actions to protect the freedoms and liberty of Individuals to act as they wish as long they do not infringe on the freedoms and liberties of others. Despite their posturing to be “fighting for the Little Guy” or “representing the oppressed”, what Collectivism really wants is True Democracy – where the ‘group’ leadership decides who gets thrown to the wolves, and the ‘winner’ goes along joyfully. Obviously, this is Great for the leadership; not so good for everyone else… This is dishonest governance at best.

The downfall with Collectivism – which Rand points out ad nauseam - happens when it becomes apparent that “the collective goal” requires *MY* participation in order for “things to work”. When I refuse, Collectivism mandates the use of FORCE to IMPOSE the will of the collective. (Otherwise, if it were to fail – it could not be due to flawed logic or poor implementation or that the thesis flatly ignored common sense - it can only fail because *I* sabotaged it by failing to participate.) It is a very short step to Totalitarianism, which I think is Very WRONG – and one of the few things worse than simple, misguided Collectivism.

In my view, only an Individual can possess rights; so the expression "individual rights" is redundant. The expression “collective rights” is a contradiction in terms. Individual Rights are not (and should never be) subject to a public vote. A majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority (although that truism rarely stops some from trying).

In essence, the political function of RIGHTS is to protect minorities from oppression by majorities: and the smallest minority is the individual. That is not to say that we will not err, or make no mistakes… “I’m messed up, You’re messed up, we’re all messed up” … but those mistakes – or successes – to cherish or learn from, will be OURS and ours alone.

If you believe there is an inherent goodness in mankind – a positive value represented by each and every one of us - then you can believe nothing less than the ultimate rights, responsibility and accountability which reside with the INDIVIDUAL.

Let me close by repeating the simple fact because that we are able to maintain a sense of honesty and a humble recognition of our differences, we are allowed to rationally and critically evaluate each other’s desires and motivations with respect and honor. It is to our joint credit. Thank you.

- Steve

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