Friday, February 8, 2013

No, Liberatarianism Does not Follow Atheism (part 2)

You can find Part 1 here.

So, having gone on that long spiel about what libertarianism is and isn't, let's take a look at the article.

No longer do you live your day-to-day under the eye of an omniscient, omnipotent big brother figure, doling out rewards and punishment based on dogmatic law.  You look for evidence, you respect credibility and argument, not blind faith and obedience.  You, the atheist, live life according to your rules, not contradictory statements on crumbling parchment written sometime between the discoveries of animal husbandry and archery.
My first note here is that atheism =/= skepticism. Simply because you've left behind a religion doesn't mean you did so under any of the pretenses above: you could be like me. I was never raised to be religious, and I was an implicit atheist from birth right up through till I started making logical arguments against the existence of a God and eventually came to the conclusion that there likely isn't a higher power in the universe controlling everything. Not all atheists are like that; some do it just because it shocks their parent (stereotypical satanism is for kids whose parents were shocked enough when their child announced they were atheists). I often joke that I would make a better Jewish person than a Catholic, simply because I already have the atheist part down. But the goal is to point out that there are still people who are atheist but attend church, and still give obedience to their pastor or what have you in the form of respecting their opinion, and, they do indeed attempt live their lives based on "contradictory statements on crumbling parchment written sometime between the discoveries of animal husbandry and archery", while still trying to be good people anyway and discarding the parts that would keep them from being good people (Which is flat wrong anyway, beyond that. Islam came around during the 750s, well past the discovery of both, and the faith and individuals following it contributed a whole hell of a lot to scientific discovery. Go ahead, look at the name of the stars in the night sky - 90% of them have Arabic names, and that's for a reason. Algebra is an Arabic discovery; proper to Temujin, this was not a primitive, backwards religion.The Baha'i Faith was founded sometime between the discovery of the steam engine and the industrial revolution. Neo-Pagans came about sometime between the discovery of the microprocessor and the first home computer. Not all religions are Christianity and Judaism.)
How quickly we decide that we don’t know best for ourselves, while simultaneously agreeing that SOMEONE out there must know what’s best for all!  The fact that I’m typing this out right now, the fact that you can read this, the fact that we can have this discussion, hell, the fact that we can have a discussion at all! The fact that we have the word “discussion,” that we have a sense of mortality, of right and wrong, of past and future – these things separate us from the rest of the creatures with whom we share this planet.  We’ve evolved to possess an incredible gift – that of thinking.  Each and every one of us is a being fully capable of rational thought, of decision-making, of problem-solving skills, of taking responsibility for our actions.
I agree with the bulk of it, but the emboldened part should tell you where this essay is going. I would also like to point out here that the author is wrong, too; there are plenty of animals beyond humans who can carry out discussions of their own. Crows and ravens are very social, as are dolphins. You can indeed carry out a conversation with an African Gray Parrot. Elephants have shown time and again that they possess a sense of morality and right and wrong, as well as a sense of altruism. Rats, likewise, are some of the most empathetic and altruistic creatures you will meet. To assume these creatures lack a sense of morality is absurd. They just don't possess one that we've been able to get them to elucidate so far (why I'm a proponent of uplifting to begin with; who knows. Maybe their sense of morality is better than our own... maybe, in the case of rats, anyway).

And no, while we do indeed possess the "gift of thinking," we're not the only species that does, and not everyone in our species possess it to the same level that you or I may. I do not agree that each and everyone of us is fully capable of rational thought, decision making, and problem-solving, and taking responsibility for our actions. Those of us who are mentally healthy are capable of doing that. What about someone who can't make reasonable decisions because they're simply not "intelligent" enough too? If they have a mental handicap that keeps them from learning, or from knowing what they're going to do is going to inflict harm? Are these people suddenly no less than the rabble that you were casting the rest of the species on the planet into? Not everyone is capable of making or doing their own decisions. And it's not up to you, or me, to decide who is. Society should be the judge of that factor, since the greater society is the one who often gets stuck with the fall out.

And not all of us are capable of rational thought, either. A schizophrenic individual is certainly not capable of thinking rationally (depending upon how severe it is). A person who is in the throes of depression are not capable of being rational, nor are people who are in the throes of mania. A person who is clinically depressed might not be able to jump and do the task like everyone else, and they may start medicating to try and make themselves feel better - are they responsible for not showing up to work on time, because they simply do not have the energy after stopping themselves from committing suicide the night before? What about someone who suffers from mania? They're doing, not thinking, and often times doing leads to dangerous things since they feel they're invincible - running red lights, dangerous unsafe sexual encounters, spending sprees, and other destructive things that they literally have zero control over. Are they responsible for destroying their own lives when they had literally no cognitive control over what they did? These people lack the ability to think rationally at these times, and thus, are they capable of taking responsibility for their own actions? Would you hold them responsible for something they did when they weren't even lucid enough to realize they did it? When it's not even their fault to begin with, since they were born with the genetic makeup to make them susceptible to environmental factors that triggered the mental illness?

This is one of the major problems with libertarianism (and conservationism in general). It assumes that everyone has the same level of privilege that you do, and that everyone is capable of the same things that you're capable of. When confronted with the fact that no, this isn't how reality actually works, it's a matter of dismissing them as anomalies because they're not measuring up to what you know about your privileged life.That everyone starts out equal in life, when a glance around will show you that is certainly not the case. Your privilege is not everyone else's privilege.

This is what confuses me so much about most atheists. Most of them see that there is a blatant Christian privilege in western society, and that Christians are often given a leg above everyone else. But even mention that there might be a racial, biological sex, gendered, or mental health aspect to privilege and that they might have some privilege of their own and suddenly you're declared PC and cast out with the cranks who practice homeopathy.

Anyway, I digress.
I think we can all agree that religious faith, the belief in something without evidence, is the willing sacrifice of all of those human evolutionary leaps – it’s this willing desire to place all of our trust into something alien and unknown and to just HOPE that said entity has our best interest at heart.  The atheist, especially the antitheist, has made the steadfast and conscious decision to not buy into such parlor tricks, to say “no” when it comes to the sacrifice of these all-important faculties.  “Give up the ability to think and choose for myself?” we say.  “Sacrifice the right to make my own decisions about how to live my life?  No thank you!”
No, we don't. There's an entire section of the human brain that seems to be programmed more towards accepting supernatural over the biological. Rational thinking is not an ingrown human feature; we are better at finding patterns. This is why humans are such good storytellers; we find patterns, and we craft reasons to go with those patterns. We devise stories, and we tell those stories, and we'll accept a good story before we will good facts by our nature.You're not sacrificing any "evolutionary leap" by believing in a religion; in fact, by doing so, you're living up to what psychological baggage evolution has lovingly saddled you with. There's any number of reasons why we evolved pattern recognition over critical thinking facilities as an innate ability, but I'm sure that has something to do with the fact that finding patterns in nature makes it easier to avoid getting eaten by the lion that's hiding behind those bushes than attempting to think it through and getting killed while you do so. Snap judgments are what we had to do to survive, and being able to associate certain patterns with danger allowed us to make those snap judgements a lot easier. In classic evolutionary sense, that's coming back to bite us in the ass now, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, we were programmed to find patterns by evolution, not think critically.

And one last note: Critical thinking is antithetical to traditional human thinking. This is why we have to teach it in schools, you are not born with the ability to think critically.

And Hitchens was an asshole. "Religion poisons everything" - sure, tell that to Dr. King, Jr. I'm sure he lead the civil rights movement because he was one of the most devoted atheists in the world, right? Or any abolitionists like Abby Kelley (a Quaker), William Lloyd Garrison (a Quaker), Benjamin Lundy (a Quaker), Elizabeth Blackwell (A congregationalist - C-c-c-combo Breaker!), and others. Were these perfect people? No. But I challenge you to point out a perfect person. Go ahead. I'll wait. Hitchens, being the sexist ass he was, certainly wasn't perfect.
If I’m to take the immediate Facebook reaction to the previous blog as indicative of the whole of the atheistic world’s feelings about libertarianism, then about 98.7% of you do not make the same logical leap as I –  that anything short of libertarian representation from a governing body is tantamount to the exact same thing we have escaped in regards to religion.  We are one hundred percent responsible for our actions and decisions, and should not have them made for us by either deity or government.  Morality should not be regulated, be it by religious dogma or by law; when morality IS regulated in such a way – when the law is expressly designed to influence thought and behavior – it is no longer moral.  It is, once more, a punishment and reward system, it is Big Brother in action yet again.  The key difference between religion and government is that at least religion is making some pretty damn appealing promises in the reward category.
Nope, I certainly don't make that same leap. I'm going to assume that he's a minarchist, since he still implies that government is necessary. However, I find the logical leap from "Worship God or Else!" to "Worship Government or Else!" laughable.

The Law is expressly designed to influence thought and behavior. It's there to try and influence socially acceptable behaviors, since at heart we as a species are really nothing more then dirty apes who got lucky and figured out how to reprogram ourselves so that we could move beyond the innate "pattern finding" trend and into critical thinking and metacognition. The Law is there to try and keep you from murdering someone, right? That's and expressed interest of the law to influence your behaviors and your thoughts, since you grow up realizing that murder is not a socially acceptable behavior. Even laws that are designed to stop theft, which I'm sure the author would agree with, are designed with the explicit intent of trying to influence thoughts and behaviors - namely, to discourage the behavior of theft and encourage the thought that theft is harmful to society and the individual. I should be able to steal whatever I want, why are you trying to control my thoughts into convincing me it's wrong!?
Why is there a law against suicide?  ...  I’m asking – why is there a federal law on the books that makes killing oneself a crime?
Because it likely stems from some backwards moral regulation. Not all laws make sense; the purpose of a democratic society is to continually improve and remove the laws that were drafted in an earlier age that makes no sense in our enlightened modern society. Simply pointing out that there's a law against suicide does not denigrate the entire concept of law, nor does it denigrate the entire American Justice system (believe me, it denigrates itself enough as it is; our justice system is a joke, and it's not because of federal regulations or federal government influence - it's because of a lack thereof.)
Why is the government’s job to regulate where and how many handicapped parking spots are in front of every business, and not the choice of the businesses themselves?
Why is the government's job to tell businesses they have to serve to interracial couples? Or tell businesses that they have to serve to atheists? I suppose it's not the government's job to try and integrate society either, is it? Keep those black people where they belong. There's more Christians in the United States than there are atheists; I like having the government there to know I'm protected from Christian privilege. I know that I can bring a lawsuit and sue a store for violating federal law if it doesn't serve me because the owner is a bigoted asshole. The same applies here - why is there a federal law?

Did it ever occur to you, who by all accounts is likely a non-disabled individual, that the businesses would not otherwise? How many times a day do you think about how difficult it is to be disabled? Odds are, unless you live with someone who is, not a whole lot. That law is there for a reason - because so many business simply would not include them. Especially since handicapped individuals are a small percentage of the population. businesses are not going to do something that isn't profitable without prompting, and that includes catering to the needs of a tiny percentage of the population.

Christians are, by all accounts, the same way towards other people who believe different to than them. They fail to take into account that individuals may not necessarily want to pray. You may live in a liberal part of the country - kudos to you. Not everyone does, and equality only happens when it's enforced by a legislative entity. Death is the Great Equalizer, not the Free Market.
Why are we allowing the government to kill people in our name?  Why can’t people in Virginia perform oral sex without committing a *#^&@^!!ing felony?!
See above; laws from an earlier era are not necessarily the most progressive now, but as a democratic society, it's our job to work with our fellow citizens and change that.
Why is not wearing a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet a crime? 
Because I, and others like me, pay out over 100 dollars in insurance a month, and when you get in an accident, especially one where another person was harmed, that insurance goes through the roof. I can barely make it as it is. I can't afford a rate hike because some idiot decided to remove themselves from the gene pool and injure several hundred other people. Stop thinking about yourself for a change and start thinking about the other people in the society you live with. You are a severe danger if you don't have a seat belt, since you can be thrown from the vehicle and become a projectile. Who knows how many people you might hurt? By this time you'll be dead, yes, but why take others with you? And then there's the medical fees - hospitals have to accept you, and if you have a seat belt, or helmet, then you're less likely to be injured. That bill? I gets passed onto the city and then onto the tax payers, or the insurance companies eat it and jump their rates on the rest of us. Simply put, you wear these things so you cost society less when we have to take care of you. It's not always about you and what you want. Sometimes, that has to come second to the society that's forced to take care of you when you screw up and do something stupid.

Of course, since people can't always see that, these things have to become laws. Otherwise, everyone would get hurt except for the people who can already afford it.
Why did New York City feel they needed a law declaring exorbitant soda sizes illegal?!
The logic here being that it's unhealthy. Frankly, I'm rather happy that they'd legislate things that are unhealthy. After all, I like being able to eat knowing arsenic or something didn't get slipped into my food by a company that thought they could save a few dollars here and there by using that instead of some other chemical in their food. Now, as far as the actual soda size, there are certainly better ways to do about doing it, but again: one bad law does not suddenly mean that all laws are bad. The intent of the law is good, but intent isn't magic and there were certainly better ways to employ it (for instance, forcing soda companies to replace sugar with a sugar substitute).
We all clearly agree that such mandates shouldn’t come from a religious text; why should they come from anyone but ourselves?  Imagine all of these aren’t coming from your government, but from the religion that holds the majority in your home country.  Is my point any clearer?
No, it's not.

First of all, you haven't convinced me that government is the same thing as a religion. For instance, governments change; even the most totalitarian government will change with time (Nazi Germany collapsed, the Soviet Union fell apart, Pol Pot's regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese). Religions do not. The Catholic church, for example, has remained almost completely unchanged in almost 1,000 years of existence, and Catholic dogma has remained relatively unchanged in that time, as well. And when it does change, it's never a bottom-up change. It's a top-down change. in a democratic government, like the United States, we have a peaceful revolution and we replace government leadership in this country every 4 years; religion does not have such a high turnover rate. Government laws can change to reflect changing societal views - the laws against gays and atheists are changing to reflect a more progressive social view towards those two groups. Religious laws, on the other hand, have pretty much been the same since the religion was founded.

A democratic government is like religion in the same way that Venus is like Earth. On the surface, especially to "it's all about ME" libertarians, they appear the same. But 58 kilometers down, the only thing they have in common is that they're a planet in the same solar system with a similar gravity. Both are used to rule over people and establish hierarchies to try and build the better for society, but of them is an societal construct that is redesigned every few years to reflect progressing views while the other is stagnant and mostly unchanging.

Is my point clear?
Some think this libertarian ideal, this notion that the government that governs best is that which governs least, is selfish.  To that I say – so what?  What the bloody hell is so inherently wrong with being selfish?  Not to the point where people are suddenly no longer functioning members of human society, but rather Mad Max-style marauders taking what they please and to spit with the consequences, of course.

But really – sit down and REALLY think about what the world would be like if everyone acted predominantly in their own self interest.  Would there suddenly be no more doctors?  No more helpful, nice folk? Would all relationships end?  Hardly. We atheists don’t not eat babies because we’ll be sent to hell, correct? So, it goes to reason that good people of any belief system will likewise not eat babies because it’s wrong, not because there are laws forbidding it. People will still want to do good because it’s the right thing to do.  Why?  Multiple reasons – tit for tat, the warm feeling that comes from doing what’s right or from helping out someone else, and of course the likelihood that the morally right will rise up to thwart evil.
I did not bold that, the author did.

Not everyone operates at a post conventional level, I'm sure everyone agrees with me. We go back to those people who are not capable of making rational decisions, because of some sort of crippled facility that they may or may not have had any control over. These people may not be able to grasp the whole notion of "this is wrong, don't do it because it's wrong" and need something more concrete. And people will not what is right simply because it's right. We see that every day.

And while we're here, let's get into what's right and wrong. How do we know what's bad and what isn't? Hurting others is bad, right? I'm sure that you can agree with that. But not wearing your seat belt and acting selfishly, and getting in an accident, you're hurting me because I now have to pay more on my insurance, car or health, since the hospital had to accept you - otherwise you would die. By not forcing all companies to accommodate disabled people, we are hurting those disabled people. By not attempting to even things out for people by providing individuals lifts out of bad environments as a society, we are hurting, and perpetuating that hurt, against those people.

It's wrong to discriminate against Black people. How many people in our wonderful post-racial America would discriminate against them if we didn't have the laws? Hell, how many of them do even though we have them? The difference between not having the laws and having the laws is that there are other avenues that wronged people can take to redress wrongs done against them by businesses an by other people.

These is tunnel vision. What is good for you is not good for everyone else in the society. You can not do something right without something wrong being done as well, socially speaking. The goal of the government, especially a democratic government based on laws and not people or God, is so people can redress their issues and attempt to come to some sort agreement over what hurts everyone the least out of all the possible choices and paths that we can take. Without that government, some people would not be listened to. It's the democratic process, and government laws, that gives these people a voice, since they wouldn't have one otherwise (Ideally. We're still trying to live up to that, but I feel like we're making progress with every new generation).
What we wouldn’t have is what we have today – charity at gunpoint.  And if you think taxes aren’t something you pay by literal force, try not paying them for a few years. 
No. What we have today is civilization.

Civilization does not pay for itself. Roads do not pay for themselves. Schools do not pay for themselves. The police and fire do not pay for themselves. Welfare is not "charity at gunpoint," welfare and social security are safety nets for those of us who are not capable of living up the same golden society standard that you want to keep setting, and they slip through the cracks. That action of "slipping through the cracks" lead to the creation of a massive underclass of individuals who could not work because they were severely injured, old, young, or otherwise incapacitated.

You don't want to pay your taxes? How many people are you hurting? How many people depend upon the infrastructure (which doesn't pay for itself) or our school systems (which are in desperate need of uplifting, but can't, since there's no money. And don't even get me started on voucher schools and private schools; those are jokes. Education is not an industry. It's the ultimate altruistic activity in society; giving our children an education and investing in our future. It should never be privatized since private companies don't understand what it takes to help all of our students; LD and gen-ed alike. Meanwhile, in Louisiana, they were using Voucher Schools to teach Creationism, and most private schools are religious run and operated. but hey. I'm sure you, as an atheist, agree with that. It's private money, after all. Our society doesn't get hurt if schools are used to perpetuate toxic, fundamentalist strains of religion that deny science and reality alike). The majority of the people on welfare are seniors or young people who are injured or hurt. Sure, let's kill off all those people, since they can't take care of themselves but damn it if I don't want to have to pay for their lazy asses.

This gets justified as being morally acceptable?

And we're back to this: what you want, sometimes, has to be second nature to what's best for the society you live in. Otherwise, more people than just you get hurt. And yes, you do get hurt. After all, when you fall, where do you go?
Sadly, that won’t happen.  What very well could happen is that some people, in some place, decide that you can’t have [a gun].  They, however, can have one.  They have a lot of them.  That’s what the Second Amendment is for – not for arming us against wild animals or even against criminals.  It’s for arming us against tyrants.
The United States has more nuclear weapons than any other nation on the planet. Our military has sidewinders capable of shooting down planes from several miles away. Our soldiers are some of the best armed and trained in the world. There are tanks, there are armored vehicles, there are submarines. There are aircraft carriers and destroyers that can launch missiles from the eats coast that will hit in you St. Louis.

And you are going to stand out there with your firearms to defend against this?

No, you're not. And not even an anti-tank gun will save you, since that's not going to help against the sidewinder that will reduce your house, and you in it, to a smoldering crater in the ground.

The second amendment should be regulated, just like the first. The other day, we had a fellow at the place where I work at make threats about blowing up the school and shooting staff members. He was arrested, because the first amendment does not cover making threats like that. Likewise, the second amendment does not cover excessive weapons. No, you cannot own your own portable nuclear warhead to stand against the feds. Sorry.
If you think of religion as a form of tyranny, I don’t see how you can’t picture every single law that isn’t implicitly about protecting you, your rights, or your property as a form of tyranny as well. The leap is not, in any way, illogical.
And right there you undo everything you were arguing against. That helmet law? That is about protecting you. That law about having so many handicapped parking spots? That is about protecting you. The laws making it illegal for private industries to discriminate? That is about protecting you. And I actually agree - laws that are not about protecting individuals, and not about protecting their rights, and in some cases even their property, are forms of tyranny. Not only that, but those laws? Not only are they about protecting you, but they're about protecting you from others, as well. From being exploited by others, or from suffering when others do something stupid that hurts everyone, or from being overlooked by other and forced into silence by a society that would never accomodate you anyway, right or wrong, because it forgets you exist

The problem here is that laws that restrict things are not inherently tyrnnical. The good of the society must sometimes out-weight the wants of the specific individual, for everyone's betterment (or, at least, so it doesn't harm everyone too badly).
Is all of this feasible?  Probably not.  Is any of it?  Possibly.  Possibly, we can realize that humans can trust each other to make the right decisions just enough so we’re not treating everyone who opts to be an airline passenger as a suspected shoe bomber.
See, this makes me sympathetic. Because I agree fully; I do wish we could trust one another. Libertarianism is a very positive and optimistic philosophy, which, being the positive and optimistic individual that I am, I wish I could agree with. However, I'm also a realist, and there's a lot of problems with the philosophy, and why most of it, if not any of it, is likely not feasible at all. Libertarianism is positive and optimistic to the point of being unrealistic. Humans are creatures; we are animals. We can be empathetic and caring, or we can be selfish and greedy. We can be constructive and embracing, or destructive and excluding. Society does not consist of just one type of individual. It's all of these types of individuals attempting to live together, and if you remove the one thing that's keeping some people from exploiting others more severely than they already are, then you're stripping out that last bit of protection they have. As it is, it's already almost gone; our government is no longer a democratic process. It's oligarchic, and it's gotten that way because people have stopped playing a part or watching it, and instead have turned to try and focus on their own survival.
  It’s an ideal, a far off dream, a blue sky mental picture of a way the world could work – there shouldn’t be any law that forces you to pay, do, or not do anything you want to do so long as it doesn’t harm your fellow human beings, their rights, and their property. That, at its core, is libertarianism, and that’s why it naturally follows a disbelief in a SkyGod.  A libertarian believes that no earthly being or government has the right to tell him or her what to do.  An atheist knows that there is no all-powerful cosmic force that exists, telling him or her what to do.  That is where I draw the link.
That's what it will always be, too - a far off dream, since not everyone is like that.

Now here's another link: Which one of these makes more sense?

Believing in something that's been proven wrong over and over again, doesn't work, and that will likely never work given our understanding of how society operates - but yet, continuing to hold to that belief in spite of this evidence?


Acknowledging that it's wrong and not possible, and tossing it aside and trying to find something that does work, or can work a little more than that can, given our society?

Because Libertarianism does not work. It's an ideal. A far off dream.

Life is not ideal. It is not a far off dream. Leave the religion behind - I can get behind that message. You left behind organized religion; now it's time to leave behind libertarianism, too.

After all, if it doesn't work, and it can never work, what's the point in believing in it to begin with?

Of course, I'm more tolerant than other atheists. I will accept that people define their existence through beliefs; these core beliefs form up solid elements of their personality. I'm tolerant of that. So long as you believe it and don't try to force it one, I'm cool. If you want to believe that a volunteer society is possible, and that it works, feel free. I won't stop you. Even if you don't think it's possible (under which circumstances I have to ask why you believe it, but hey, people have believed stranger), then what purpose does it have? Don't for something you know won't work on people. That's causing the greatest harm of them all.


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