Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Civilization Collapse Friday

Could Western civilization be on the verge of collapse?  It’s probably not imminent – but it could happen.  Excerpt:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.

The BBC article here points out the similarity of events today with the times of the fall of the Roman Republic, and that’s a fair comparison; but they (not surprisingly) get a few things wrong.  For example:

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

This widening gap in and of itself means little or nothing, except that it provides fat paydays for those in the business of promoting the politics of envy.  What matters is how that lower portion is living.  One of the things unique to Western civilization, at least the portion that still has more or less free markets, is that the it has produced the richest poor people in world history.  In the United States, for example, there is little or no abject poverty, only relative poverty.  “Poor” people in the U.S. have air conditioning, microwave ovens, cellular phones, automobiles and cable or satellite television – luxuries unheard of among the well-to-do only a generation ago.  And while this is the case, the gap between rich and poor really doesn’t matter a damn.

One more thing the BBC misses, and it’s a doozie; the BBC doesn’t mention the most virulently anti-freedom, anti-prosperity, anti-Western force afoot in the world today, that being fundamentalist Islam.

It’s amazing that the Beeb overlooks this – or maybe not, given their European location and the fact that Europe is well on its way to being assimilated into the Islamic world.   Maybe there is some self-preservation in play, although it’s more likely that it’s just run-of-the-mill political correctness.  But fundamentalist Muslims are the greatest existential threat the West faces today, especially for the slow-breeding Europeans.  Demographics, as they say, is destiny, and the destiny of ethnic Europeans appears to be to fail through apathy.

The article concludes:

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

The biggest challenge will be dealing with the one thing – the one deadly, dangerous, civilization-destroying thing – that the BBC fails to even mention.

Absent that, Western civilization will go the way of the dodo.

Rule Five Polygamy Friday

This story in PJMedia last weekend got me to thinking about the whole topic of plural marriage – not the arranged, non-consensual type practiced in parts of the Middle East and Africa, but the consensual, between-consenting-adults type practiced in the Western nations.  The PJMedia article focused on a bill passed in Utah outlawing bigamy; here’s an excerpt:

Another family — one man and his three wives — has vowed to never leave Utah.

“My concern is all this is going to do is drive the good polygamous people who don’t have those abuses more into hiding,” Meri Brown, a plural wife, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “and it’s going to make the people who do have those abuses just be able to do them even more.”

“It also classifies all polygamists as second-class citizens,” added her husband, Kody Brown.

Kody Brown is legally married not just to Meri, but to another woman, Robyn. He is “spiritually married” to Meri, and Janelle and Christine, who have all taken his last name.

But here’s the part that jumps out at me:

HB99 would change the definition of bigamy to include people who “purport” to marry two or more people and live with them. Currently, only one or the other provision is required to be a bigamist.

Bigamy would still be a third-degree felony under HB99. But the penalty of up to five years in prison could go up to as much as 15 years if the bigamy is associated with another crime like abuse, fraud or smuggling.

Prosecutors in Utah have not prosecuted many cases of bigamy unless some kind of abuse or other crime can be included in the criminal charges.

OK, I have a couple of questions for the Utah legislature:

  1. Aren’t abuse, fraud and smuggling already crimes that carry potential prison sentences?
  2. That being the case, why is it necessary to increase penalties because of a supposed marital relationship?

Frankly, I can’t see how people’s household arrangements are the government’s business.  This is one of the reasons I’d like to see government out of the marriage business altogether; the very idea that a consenting, competent adult needs the government’s permission to marry another consenting, competent adult is anathema to the concept of individual liberty.

So this Kody Brown is “spiritually” married to three women.  (Better him than me; Mrs. Animal is all I can handle and then some.)  There should only be one factor that matters here:

Are all four of them competent, consenting adults who entered into this arrangement of their own free will?

If so, it’s nobody else’s furshlugginer business how they choose to live.  It’s most especially not the business of some snoop from the state of Utah, or any other level of government.

The second half of this argument is, of course, the collection of welfare benefits by wives who are not “legally” married.  Well, I have two possible solutions to that:  End the calculation of government-sanctioned benefits by married couple and apportion any government largess by household, or (better still) end the government distribution of charity altogether.  It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize you if you downloaded kids you can’t afford.

There is a basic concept at point here:  Liberty.  Liberty is the natural condition of human beings, wherein they live and act as they please, unfettered by government interference, as long as they cause no physical or fiscal harm to anyone else.   I can’t see how the polygamist Brown is hurting anyone else by having three wives, “spiritual” or otherwise, as long as no “abuse, fraud or smuggling” or any other illegal shenanigans is going on.

It’s a shame that the state of Utah doesn’t seem to get that.

Animal’s Daily Heath Care Rights News

This just in from the folks at Reason magazine:  What Does It Mean to Have a Right To Health Care?  Excerpt:

Despite the popular misconception, health care is not beyond economic law; it is not a free good that falls like manna from heaven. It has to be produced, which means people must mix their scarce labor with scarce resources to produce the things used to perform the medical services we want. It would be foolish to expect them to donate their labor and resources because other people need them. They have their own lives to live and livelihoods to earn. It would be wrong to compel them. They are not slaves.

In other words, no one can have a right to medical care or insurance, that is, to the labor services and resources of other people—including the taxpayers. We hear a great deal about the need to respect all people; well, respecting people must include respecting their liberty and justly acquired possessions. Without that, “respect” is hollow.

Politicians, of course, can declare a right to medical care, but those are mere words. What counts is what happens after the declaration. Since a system in which everyone could have, on demand, all the medical care they wanted at no cost would be unsustainable, the so-called right to medical care necessarily translates into the power of politicians and bureaucrats to set the terms under which medical services and products may be provided and received. This is crucial: a government-declared “right” (that does not reflect natural rights) is no right at all; it is rather a declared government power to allocate goods and services.

Natural rights—which boil down to the single right not to be aggressed against—require only that one abstain from aggression. Thus all can exercise their rights at once without conflict. On the other hand, government-invented “rights”—such as the right to medical care—cannot be exercised at the same time; the potential for conflict is built in. For example, a person cannot use his own money as he wishes if the government health care system takes it by force through taxation to pay for other people’s services.

It’s difficult to add anything to that, but I’ll give it a shot.

Taxpayer-funded health care can’t be a right.  It is an indulgence, an exercise in charity on the part of government.  But most importantly, it is a fundamentally an infringement on liberty.  If one has a government-guaranteed taxpayer-funded health care, that requires someone else (a taxpayer) to surrender a portion of their own wealth, their own property, to pay for it.  That means that the taxpayer is required to labor for a portion of the year with no recompense.

There are several words for that; indenture is probably the most polite one.

I’m a minimal-government libertarian, but I’m not an anarchist.  There are legitimate distributed interests that are best handled by government:  Defense, for example.  But defense is not subject to market forces the way health care is.  Here’s the key excerpt form the Reason article:

The market method of deciding what is produced solves this complex problem. How? Through the price system. When people are free to trade goods and services in the market, they generate prices that inform others (even if anyone is aware of this) about the relative supply of and demand for things. Those prices then guide producers and consumers. While their objective is not to create a grand and complex process that encourages the coordination countless plans, economizes on resources and labor, and enables people to achieve their well-being in an unrivaled manner, that is in effect what they do. This is what Adam Smith meant with his “invisible hand” trope. Prices guide people to do “the right thing.”

But politicians don’t understand price theory – or if they do, they ignore it, to garner votes.  I don’t know which is worse.

Animal’s Daily Random Thoughts

Can Human Evolution Be Controlled?  Sure, we do it all the time.  Every time we choose a mate, every time our species favors blue eyes, or black hair, or living in a cold/warm/temperate climate.  But intentionally?  Sure, we do that all the time too.

It seems how people smell doesn’t much enter into it.

On to other things:  The Baby Boomers aren’t responsible for all the world’s ills.  Who knew?  As a member of the youngest cohort of that aging generation, I heartily agree; only individuals, not groups, can bear responsibility.  There are no group responsibilities, no group rights, only individuals.

From our good friend Jillian Becker:  Raising a mercenary army of racists on public funds.  One has to wonder of what possible use are classes in “white privilege” and such racist (yes, racist, in the truest sense of the word) are.   Educational institutions are, or at least should be, tasked with one purpose:  To produce young adults with marketable skills, so that they may become responsible, productive citizens.  Bullshit classes like this do nothing to that end; they only inculcate a new generation of racists.

Yes, goddammit, racists.  They are teaching young people to judge their fellows by the color of their skin, not by the content of their character.  That is fucking racism.  It’s despicable, and taking money to teach such tripe is fraud.

Walter Williams has some thoughts on the topic as well.

On a brighter note:  Want a $25,000 taco?

Me neither.

On that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Historical Parallels News

Is President Trump the new Andrew Jackson?  RealClearPolitics’ Thomas Chambers makes an interesting argument for it.  Excerpt:

Like the current president, Jackson was unpredictable, even considered wild by some. He drank heavily early in life, but later swore off spirits completely, as has Trump who claims he’s never touched a drop of liquor. Though Jackson lacked a formal education and Trump possesses an Ivy league degree, neither would be considered among the gentry and both might be labeled anti-intellectual, as when Trump claims he learns most of what he knows from “watching the TV shows.” There is a commonality of reckless youth followed by piousness. Trump was sent to military school as a teenager.

In his personal life, Jackson was accused of condoning bigamy because his wife was married to another man when they began living together. As is well-known, President Trump has been married three times, though at distinctly different intervals. These marital scandals plagued both men for years.

Once in the White House, there are also many striking comparisons, even considering the Trump presidency remains in its nascent stages.

Both men have seen themselves as guardians of the Constitution – according to their own personal interpretations – and as protectors of the people. But, they have also shared a craving for power. Jackson was sometimes referred to as King Andrew I, one who, like his 21st century counterpart, thought he could do anything he wanted. Trump sign executive orders in rapid succession.

As with Trump, Jackson fought with his opponents and with members of his own party. He was unpredictable and quick to anger. He even expressed himself publicly, not using Twitter, but via open letters to friends that were reprinted in newspapers. The trusted close advisers in both administrations, chosen for their loyalty, not expertise, have been looked upon unfavorably. Jackson’s “kitchen cabinet,” unofficial consultants who paralleled the presidential cabinet, caused a great deal of consternation. His real cabinet was made up of businessmen and politicians whom he thought he would control.

Out on a limb.

There’s one major difference, and it is one that makes President Trump unlike any of his 44 predecessors in the Imperial Mansion; even unlike Jackson.  Old Hickory commanded troops as a general.  Since his day, there have been several former military men in the Imperial Mansion, Grant and Eisenhower foremost among them.  But Donald Trump is the first man to hold the office without having ever been a military man or a politician.

His campaign broke lots of rules; his Presidency, nascent though it is, is shattering lots of old reliable traditions for politics.  It’s true, Jackson did much the same, but he had much, much less precedent to shatter.

It’s really too early to draw these kinds of comparisons.  We have four interesting years ahead – maybe at the end of the Age of Trump we may have a better idea how  history will view him.

Rule Five Balkanization Friday

Should we break up the USA?  I’d prefer not to, but here from the Mises Institute is another idea.  Excerpt:

Some of our assumptions are so deeply embedded that we cannot perceive them ourselves.

Case in point: everyone takes for granted that it’s normal for a country of 320 million to be dictated to by a single central authority. The only debate we’re permitted to have is who should be selected to carry out this grotesque and inhumane function.

Here’s the debate we should be having instead: what if we simply abandoned this quixotic mission, and went our separate ways? It’s an idea that’s gaining traction — much too late, to be sure, but better late than never.

For a long time it seemed as if the idea of secession was unlikely to take hold in modern America. Schoolchildren, after all, are told to associate secession with slavery and treason. American journalists treat the idea as if it were self-evidently ridiculous and contemptible (an attitude they curiously do not adopt when faced with US war propaganda, I might add).

And yet all it took was the election of Donald Trump for the alleged toxicity of secession to vanish entirely. The left’s principled opposition to secession and devotion to the holy Union went promptly out the window on November 8, 2016. Today, about one in three Californians polled favors the Golden State’s secession from the Union.

In other words, some people seem to be coming to the conclusion that the whole system is rotten and should be abandoned.

As far as how this would happen?  Author Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. doesn’t offer a mechanism, but he offers a reason:

When I say go our separate ways, I don’t mean “the left” goes one way and “the right” goes another. I mean the left goes one way and everyone else — rather a diverse group indeed — goes another. People who live for moral posturing, to broadcast their superiority over everyone else, and to steamroll differences in the name of “diversity,” should go one way, and everyone who rolls his eyes at all this should go another.

“No people and no part of a people,” said Ludwig von Mises nearly one hundred years ago, “shall be held against its will in a political association that it does not want.” So much wisdom in that simple sentiment. And so much conflict and anguish could be avoided if only we’d heed it.

What’s interesting is that the talk about secession these days is coming mostly from disaffected California lefties, disappointed that Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I lost the election they expected her to win.  A few surveys have up to one-third of Californians thinking secession is a good idea.

They should ask South Carolina how that worked out for them.

Seriously, the Rockwell article in discussion here is based on the libertarian argument that no people should be held in a political arrangement against their will, quoting as it does Ludiwg von Mises himself.  But the problem is that libertarians are a pretty small minority of the population, and when those 1/3 of Californians discover all of the problems they’d face in an actual secession attempt, they’d almost certainly change their minds.

I’ve discussed the idea of the United States balkanization before.  It will probably happen someday, in some form.  But I doubt it will be any time soon, no matter who is sitting at this moment in the Imperial Mansion.

Animal’s Daily Pale Blue Dot News

The Future.

In 1946, we got our first look at the Earth from space, thanks to a war-surplus V2 rocket repurposed by the U.S. Army.  On Valentine’s Day in 1990, Voyager One took an iconic photo – of Earth as a tiny pale blue dot in the vastness of space.   Excerpt:

We first glimpsed Earth’s curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home.

In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home.

But on Valentine’s Day 27 years ago, Voyager 1, from 4 billion miles away, took one final picture before switching off its camera forever. In the image, Earth, Carl Sagan said, was merely “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” So we pondered the insignificance of our home. The image inspired Sagan to write his book “The Pale Blue Dot,” and it continues to cripple human grandiosity.

And, about the Voyagers:

There aren’t any space missions like the Voyagers on the docket for the future, but both spacecraft continue beaming back data going on 40 years and counting. Voyager 1 became the first human-made thing to enter interstellar space, back in 2012 when it passed into the heliosphere, the bubble surrounding our solar system. Voyager 2 is expected to pierce the heliosphere around 2020.

Think about that.  There is an object built by human hands, bearing human information, hurtling into the unfathomable deeps of interstellar space, even as you read these words.  In a few years its brother will follow into those empty reaches.

Some day, I’d like to think humans will follow – maybe in a colossal generation ship, maybe in a constant-acceleration starship with a crew in deep-sleep, maybe in some faster-than-light craft driven by some as-yet un-imagined technology.  I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see it, but I would love to be proven wrong.

As a part-time science-fiction writer, I’ve made some guesses as to the shape the future might take.  I’m fifty-five now; I can expect to live to see thirty or forty more years of that future.   I am and have been convinced that our destiny lay out there somewhere, far from this tiny little blue-white ball.

Oh, and here’s the photo.  That’s us in the pale sunbeam on the right; as Carl Sagan said:  “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”  I can’t add anything to that; not a word.

Valentine’s Day, Early

In 1947, a young man brought flowers to a young woman, for their first Valentine’s Day as a couple.  A month later, they were married.

Today, 70 years later, that man has not missed a Valentine’s Day.  Today, that man – the Old Man, my Dad – brought my Mom her 70th bunch of Valentine’s Day flowers.  He’s 93, she’s 88, five kids, twelve grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and they still hold hands.

This, True Believers, is what love looks like; yes, this is what love looks like.

Rule Five Citizenship Friday

I found this interesting; Theodore Roosevelt Quotes on Citizenship.  Excerpt:

Enter the words of Theodore Roosevelt. Below you’ll find a small treasury of excerpts from some of the addresses he gave during his lifetime. When you look at anthologies of all his speeches, you find that the themes he hits in these selections were the ones he offered, with only slight alterations, over and over and over again, in every town and city he visited on country-crossing whistle stop tours. You’ll likely be surprised to find how much they resonate, and yet how almost foreign this kind of rhetoric sounds. One finds it impossible to imagine any modern politician speaking this way — using this lost language of virtue, and charging citizens towards both noble ideals and practical common sense.

TR’s words call to us from the dust — challenge us to revive what we haven’t even fully realized we’re missing, and to take responsibility for that which we claim to loathe in politics.

During this election, there has been plenty of head-shaking and tsk-tsking; all that seems foul is the fault of that “other” party, those “other” people who do not share one’s values. Or the problem is the poor slate of candidates, all of whom the average voter finds repugnant to varying degrees. Yet a people invariably gets exactly the candidates it deserves, and they emerge not from one segment of the population, but from the cultural milieu to which every single individual, on every side of the aisle, contributes.

Here are a few gems from the Bull Moose himself:

No law will ever make a coward brave, a fool wise or a weakling strong. All the law can do is to shape things that no injustice shall be done by one to another and so that each man shall be given the chance to show the stuff that is in him.”

The very last thing that an intelligent and self-respecting member of a democratic community should do is to reward any public man because that public man says he will get the private citizen something to which this private citizen is not entitled, or will gratify some emotion or animosity which this private citizen ought not to possess.”

Remember that the greatness of the fathers becomes to the children a shameful thing if they use it only as an excuse for inaction instead of as a spur to effort for noble aims.

We live in a rough world, and good work in it can be done only by those who are not afraid to step down into the hurly burly to do their part in the dust and smoke of the arena. The man who is a good man, but who stays at home in his own parlor, is of small use. It is easy enough to be good, if you lead the cloistered life, which is absolutely free from temptation to do evil because there is no chance to do it.”

But here’s the real kicker, one of my favorite quotes from the man who has long been one of my personal heroes:

The most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice.”

Think on that quote for a moment.  Isn’t that what we just saw happen last fall?  One man stood out in the 2016 Presidential election by giving voice, roughly, crudely and loudly, to what (obviously) a large enough plurality of voters were thinking – and that man now sits in the Imperial Mansion.

It’s probable – nay, likely – that a man of TR’s caliber would not today subject himself to the non-stop scrutiny and abuse that constitutes public life today.  And that’s a shame, especially when you look at the general run of pols we have in the halls of power at this juncture; it would be hard to name a larger body of nitwits, poltroons and nincompoops that those that infest the halls of Congress today.

We still have Teddy’s words and deeds as a reminder.  Would that more people took them to heart.