Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Not Easy Being... Red?

Recently a very boneheaded article was brought to my attention (by the hubster, for my enjoyment), alerting me to the fact that Fox Business was on the attack against my beloved Muppets, calling them communists! This shall not stand, and not just because I've adored the Muppets since childhood, but because the whole premises for both Fox Business' AND HuffPost's arguments are wrong.

Here's the gist of it: Fox Business sees Kermit and gang as the new Red Menace, corrupting our children with it's pro-environmental anti-oil, anti-corporate message. The "successful businessman" is depicted as "evil" (Chris Cooper as "Tex Richman"), and Liberal Hollywood is brainwashing our kids! You can watch the clip for yourself at the bottom of the HuffPost page I linked to above, if you can stand it. HuffPost tries to put up a good defense, claiming that even though there are no explanations of the benefits of oil drilling in the movie, there is no talk of the industry at all, and that, in fact, no environmental issues are mentioned. This is true, but to me both sides of this silly argument actually miss the point and only see what they want to see.

To me, what's going on in "The Muppets", which is a really fun movie, by the way, is not an argument about Big Bad Business or Evil Oil or anything like that. At it's heart, this is a property rights issue. Tex enters into a contract with Kermit to remake the Muppet Theater into a Muppet Museum, which we soon find out is a big fat lie. He actually intends to tear it down and drill for oil. Realizing they've been swindled, the Muppets work like crazy to earn enough money to keep the theater because it means so much to them. Tex works up to the last second to thwart their efforts, even cutting of the power supply to the theater to disrupt the fundraiser they've put on to earn the money they need. One of the Fox pinheads goes on to question why being rich is seen as such a bad thing, implying that the Tex Richman character got where he did by "working hard and being successful" and living out the "American Dream." He's not a villain because he represents Big Oil or because he's wealthy, he's a villain because he's a lying, cheating, duplicitous creep! He uses every unethical, immoral tactic to get what he wants, namely, someone else's property. How can anyone with a working brain and a moral compass not get that?

Finally, even the title of the HuffPost article is erroneous. The Fox Business pinheads did spew out a lot of eye-roll inducing tripe, but they didn't call the Muppets "communists", as far as I could tell. I'd like to remind HuffPost that communism is an economic system which rejects all private property, favoring public ownership of the means of production. Because the Muppet Theater, whether owned by the Muppets or by Tex Richman, was always private property, never the property of the State, the "communist" label makes absolutely no sense and has no relevance. Calling the Muppets "communists", or even claiming that someone else did (when they didn't) is also the kind of uninformed ad hominem attack that 1) displays one's lack of understanding, 2) displays one's intent to be provocative for its own sake, and 3) lends your argument as much incredibility as you intend to bestow upon your opponent.  The next thing you know, someone will get themselves all worked up accusing them of promoting a " liberal homosexual agenda", citing "Rainbow Connection." Give me a break!

Now that I've got that out of my system, enjoy these classic Kermit songs, and then go see the movie for yourself!

"Being Green"

"Rainbow Connection"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Non-Aggression Principle

If you had to boil down libertarianism to its essence, it's very core philosophies, I think it comes down to two things: self ownership, and the non-aggression principle. Today I want to talk a bit about the latter. First, a video featuring Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio explaining the non-aggression principle.

The non-aggression principle, or NAP as I'll be referring to it henceforth, isn't something that a group of wise philosophers came up with. It is something written on our souls, something that has a place in the tenets of every major religion on earth. It is nothing short of the Golden Rule itself: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don't hurt people. Don't steal. Don't be a bully; talk things out, and do your best to persuade others using only words, not coercion and threats. Our parents taught this to us, as their parents taught it to them. It is the only way to truly treat others as equals. When you encroach on someone's person, whether it be with physical violence or theft or even angry words, you are, in essence, saying "I matter more than you do. My needs outweigh your needs."

We all expect this of ourselves and of one another, even though we all fail to put it perfectly into practice. The NAP is the standard to which a moral person and a moral society is held. Yet beyond our private lives, we live under a system completely based on the use of aggression. What is wrong for an individual has been made legitimate for the State. The State hurts people. The State kills people. The State steals from people. The State kidnaps people. The State enslaves people. The State is a bully. The State is coercion, force, aggression, and domination. To the State, you are not significant. Every time a new law is passed that violates even one person's natural rights, the State is saying "We matter more than you do. Our needs outweigh your needs."

Every time you pay a tax, you are being robbed. If you resist, the "at gunpoint" part becomes real. Every 18 year old boy who is forced to register for the Selective Service risks possible enslavement and even injury or death in the event the State decides to resume conscription. Failing to do so leads to more kidnapping and theft, in the form of a $250,000 fine or 5 years in cage. Behind every law, just or unjust, is a loaded gun. Behind those loaded guns are officers of the State "just following orders."

Most recently, a very terrifying bill has been passed by the Senate that would allow the military to arrest American citizens and indefinitely detain them without charges or a trial. As long as you are seen as a "threat", you can be held, even sent to Guantanamo Bay. Before you start to think that the kinds of people who will be picked up are the kinds of people who plot to crash planes into buildings and blow up hotels, take a look at this list of things which are now considered "suspicious". Included are such dastardly deeds as paying in cash, having missing fingers, and buying a flashlight. If you are a survivalist and keep more than one week's worth of food in your house, you are suspicious. This bill is not the result of the actions of people who respect others and their rights. This is the result of a State flexing its totalitarian and fascist muscles. Can you imagine what this would look like on an individual level? It would be like giving your neighbor the stink eye, so he locks you in his basement. It's beyond creepy.

The only legitimate role of government is to protect the rights and liberties of individuals. Beyond that, however, it represents an illegitimate use of force. Remember: if it's wrong for you to do, it's also wrong for the State to do.