April 10th, 2013
If you didn’t get an opportunity to hear the build-up to the topics within this episode, please have a look at the previous episode: “Rand’s Filibuster, the Right Questions, and Freedom of Conscience Part I“.
In this portion we focus on the heart and soul of the libertarian and anarchist position that other people cannot make choices for you, even if they’ve convinced others that they can. The topic could theoretically be inclusive of most any subject matter in the world, but the examples we focus on are limited to security, home safety, personal diet, health care, and education.
The Backstory on Jad’s House
Jad and his wife recently experienced the bureaucracy that is Austin, Texas when a storm knocked down part of a tree in their backyard. The tree itself wasn’t the issue, but a sizable broken branch landed on the power main running into the house and essentially ripped the line right out of their rooftop.
Given that a live-wire was sitting along side their house, Jad called the power company (incidentally owned by the City of Austin) and had the power turned off. The problem was that in order to get the line repaired, the point of entry had to be brought up to newer city codes. This meant navigating a small sea of physical and metaphorical paperwork.
Unfortunately in a city like Austin, process always seems to outweigh any type of basic common sense. Consequently, Jad and his pregnant wife went without power for over a week despite the fact that any electrician could have had them fixed in a matter of hours.
We work this particular story into the episode given the relevance of governmental control.
Kevin: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the JK Podcast. This week, we conclude our previous week’s episode with a larger discussion on the freedom of conscience. If you didn’t get an opportunity to hear the build up to the topics within this episode, please visit our website at www.JKPod.com, and listen to part one of Rand’s Filibuster, the Right Questions, and Freedom of Conscience.
In this portion, we focus on the heart and soul of libertarian and anarchist position that other people cannot make choices for you, even if they’ve convinced others that they can. The topic of theoretically being inclusive of most any subject matter in the world, but the examples we focus on are limited to security, home safety, personal diet, healthcare, and education. Joining us for the second installment is our friend, Tom DeLorenzo. You’ll also hear the co-creator, Jad Davis. I’m Kevin Ludlow, welcome back to the JKPodcast.
Jad: I was thinking about this[?], I was thinking about[?] the fundamental argument is the phrase that you know, we all know or whatever, but like, is freedom of conscience, right? You’re saying that like, what someone thinks about, the food they consume, that that can’t be allowed – you have to override that. Their wrong about the food they consume and they don’t know what’s best for them, and somehow there is a way to tell what the best thing for them to do is, but without regard to their financial circumstances or of anything, there is some overriding categorical prerogative that is worth violently forcing them to do for their own best interest.
And that concept is just so absurd, and it used to be I think – at least among the ruling class, or among the educated class – it used to be understood that the freedom of conscience is the fundamental freedom, right – that that used to be – usually it’s in conjunction with religion like, in the old enlightenment texts. Whatever you believe about God can’t be violently overridden by other people because it’s a matter of conscience, and no one else can tell you what your experience of the divine is, right?
And no one else can tell you what your experience of soda[?] is. It’s on the same continuum, it’s the same principle as being violated, what do I need from my home defense? Do I need a pit bull on a chain? Do I need a shot gun? Do I need a you know, .50 caliber machine gun? Like, that’s something that I have to decide for myself, and something each individual has to decide for themselves with everything you know, with, “am I too far along in my pregnancy to abort it?” Well that’s a you know, no one knows the answer to that; it’s a matter of conscience.
Like, there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s something that each person has to decide for themselves and no one else can decide for another person with a degree of certainties such that they can like, pull out a gun and force them to do whatever they think is right.
Tom: Well I think that has dissolved because the government has insinuated itself into everything and so everyone in society feels that they have a vested interest in all that stuff. Like education – we need to do this in the schools, you know, you’re not allowed to not educate your kids in schools because the common good. You need to have smart people, you can’t you know, surround [?] our advanced civilization and you know, marriages are tax breaks, so you know, if the gays want to get married, they’re going to be pulling tax money out of our society and now that healthcare is going to become more and more governmentalized well you know, if you’re going to be drinking that stuff you’re going to be unhealthy and you’re going to make my premiums go up.
Everybody feels like whatever behaviors anybody takes, it’s affecting them because the government’s involved, which is tax dollars, and I’m paying my tax dollars and I don’t want to see that fat guy drinking soda because I’m going to end up paying for his heart bypass surgery and I don’t want to do that, and their oughtta be a law. So, you know –
Jad: Right, right, right.
Tom: – everybody gets involved in every detail of everything because that’s where the government is.
Jad: But I guess that’s my point. So like you know, when we were talking about asking the wrong question, that’s fundamentally the wrong question. It’s not why are tax dollars being spent on fat people who drink sodas so they can have their diabetes medicine, it’s why does someone get to steal your money to give it to somebody else? Why aren’t you allowed to follow your own conscience when it comes to how you’re going to deal with your own body, and you know, to whatever degree you want to engage personally, how you’re going to engage with overweight people who have diabetes and drink soda.
That’s a matter for each person to decide for themselves and that’s again, that’s my point I guess, is that it’s always the same fundamental question whenever as you say, that’s the wrong question, the right question is what is the fundamental question – why are people robbing you to tie you into those things and you’re only means of trying to have any control over it is to lobby for them to take your stolen money elsewhere and do something else with it – which they clearly never do I mean obviously you know, the majority of it is spent bombing people and building prisons, and that’s just the way it is.
So the evidence is all there that they’re not actually doing what you want, so why the concern over what they do with the money after they steal it and less concern with, they’re stealing your money?
Tom: Well at least they keep stealing more money for education and that’s getting better and better every year.
Jad: Another fine example.
Kevin: Yeah I mean, so that’s the paradigms, right? I mean, there’s the paradigm that you sit on, and then there’s the one that they sit on and I think one of the biggest issues that comes up time and again – and it doesn’t have to be at this global scale that it’s used at for the TSA and things like that – but is just general day to day safety, right? I mean, that’s where – that’s where the arguments come from, and I reject every single one of them in principle, but you bring up the notion of like, home defense for example. And the gun argument gets a little complicated for a number of reasons, but the pit bull argument’s a pretty good one I think. Why does it matter if I’ve got a shot gun at my house, or a baseball bat, or a pit bull chained to the fence, right?
Like, that’s your conscious decision and I obviously wholeheartedly agree with that, but that is then where the other paradigm is able to turn that around and say, “Well wait a second, there’s times where the pit bull does this, and the pit bull does that or whatever” – and I don’t believe that pit bulls are dangerous animals by any means, but using them as just kind of the poster child for this whole argument, that’s where people are swayed on, you know – time and again.
Jad: Well but to follow through with the argument, does what?
Kevin: Does what –
Tom: To get away and hurt somebody – could get away and –
Jad: Sure, sure – and that’s a crime, that’s an actual crime, right? If it gets away and hurts somebody, then I have committed a crime, and now we’re talking about not a matter of conscience, but we’re talking about the physical restitution of another person who’s own freedom of conscious says that they should not be attacked by vicious animals.
Kevin: Well but –
Tom: There are some children; we need to protect them before those things happen. It’s like driving drunk; you gotta make laws to stop the reckless behavior before it can happen, not –
Jad: So you’re asking the wrong question again.
Kevin: Well but never mind – I mean obviously I get that, right, and –
Kevin: – again, I think – you know my position, so I’m only somewhat playing devil’s advocate to it – but I mean in the case of the pit bull I think it’s a much better example because let’s say you’ve actually got the pit bull who’s on a 6-foot fence all around the house and the house is completely incased or whatever, I don’t know, something stupid happens. You can come up with any number of examples, but the neighborhood kid accidentally throws his ball over the fence, and then he jumps into the backyard.
Now the pit bull mauls him to death, right? Like, that’s the type of gray area that people get into where they say, “well, wait a second, the homeowner didn’t do anything wrong, he had the dog inside the fence” – no, in today’s society, God knows what would happen – the homeowner would probably lose everything he ever had – but in a slightly more sane America, the kid is technically trespassing, but he’s 6 or whatever, so he’s not really trespassing, and you know, he’s just playing a game and now he’s got this 6-foot fence, the homeowner clearly was trying to make sure it was his own property – those are the types of cases where I think people really try to bring up these ridiculous gray areas to [?] these laws, frankly.
Jad: Well but that’s the perfect example of you – because I can change that story back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and each time you know, an individual person who’s listening to the story is going to be like, “oh well in that case, it’s probably the homeowner’s fault.” “Oh, he had a giant”, you know, “his fence was 10-feet high and he had a sign on it.”
“Oh well in that case it’s probably”, you know, “the liability is probably not on the homeowner.” “Well what if he”, you know, and you can go back and forth and that’s the point – these things are extremely nuanced and individuated and a law, a federal law that covers 300 million people can’t deal with that. It’s the exact wrong way to do it. It’s the opposite of the right way to do it.
Jad: So it’s actually an argument you know, in favor of something to do with something far more decentralized, far more personalized you know, maybe like, in that case – in a perfect world or whatever – but you know, something to do with insurance and the parties who are going to have to eventually pay for those sorts of things and you know, and juries and you can have a legal system – like I could potentially say I will allow person X who is somebody that you know, is generally reputable to arbitrate the situation, to listen to the facts and I’ll abide by what they say.
Jad: There’s all kinds of possibilities, but all of them are better than, “well, we’ll make a law that says if you have a dog that we’ll show up, shoot the dog, shoot the kid, and put the homeowner in jail”, and like, that’ll be the policy for everyone. Like, it’s the opposite of what calls for that.
Kevin: So I agree with that obviously, and it’s the same sort of thing I was saying about your house in these last couple of weeks, right? I mean, that’s why I hate everything about Austin.
To fill in the missing pieces here, Jad and his wife recently experienced the beaurocracy that is Austin, Texas when a storm knocked down part of a tree in their backyard. The tree itself was not the issue, but a sizeable broken branch landed on the power main running into the house, and essentially ripped the line right out of the rooftop. Given that the live wire was sitting alongside their house, Jad called the power company – incidentally owned by the city of Austin – and had the power turned off.
The problem was that in order to get the line repaired, the point of entry had to be brought up to numerous city codes. This meant navigating a sea of physical and metaphorical paperwork. Unfortunately, in a city like Austin, process always seems to outweigh any type of basic common sense. Consequently, Jad and his pregnant wife went without power for over a week, despite the fact that any electrician could’ve had them fixed in a matter of hours.
It’s just a sea of beaurocracy that serves nobody’s interests but the city’s and the monetary basis behind the city. In your case, sure, I get that they want to have some sort of permit process for this, but really you’ve got a homeowner who is a taxpaying citizen with a pregnant wife, and for 10 days in the sun he’s you know, he’s without power because somebody needs to sign the right paper in order to do that – that’s just absurd at every single level.
There’s just no way around that, and so I guess what I’m saying is though, when you look at Austin’s government for example, just as a microcosm of the federal system, people want that. People think it’s good that that exists, and so that’s what I’m trying to – well I’m always trying to explore this – why is it that people think that that’s good? Are people that much different than you and I? Were they raised that much differently than you and I? Do they just think that much differently, or is there something that’s influencing that particular decision?
Because I just – I know some pretty smart people who still think that that’s probably a good thing because in almost all cases they’re going to fall back, they think that the general case solution is the better solution, which of course I don’t think so at all, but they always fall back on the case. It’s like, “yeah, you know, there’s going to be people like Jad who get screwed in a case through no fault of his own you know, a big windstorm knocks this thing out, yeah he’s gotta suffer through that for a little while”, but what about all those other people who are doing this, and doing that, and doing that, we want to stop the [?] doing that.
That’s the mentality, that’s the prevailing attitude that seems to be winning and allowing the government to keep doing what it’s doing because they’re not entirely doing it of their own accord, right? I mean like, people have to support it if there was a full revolt against it. If everybody in Austin said, “Fuck you, we’re not going through this permit process ever again”, and the city said in unison, “I’m sorry, you’re not getting a tax base[?] until you change these laws”, it would change instantly, right – I mean, that’s the nature of a democracy. But it’s not going to happen, and so I guess I’m just trying to explore as I always do like, why is that?
Jad: So what do you think my answer is, because I – we’ve hit this a few times – what do you think I would say to that?
Kevin: Oh I mean, the one I’m going to always default with you is going to be upbringing and education and I mean, it’s just even [?] to think that this is what you need, you’ve gotta be told what to do and you’re going to follow suit with it. I mean, I think that’s a big portion of it anyways.
Tom: Well yeah, it’s been pounded into everybody. We have rules, you have to have rules, you can’t not have rules, and if there’s rules, everybody has to follow the rules. You can’t be an exception to the rules because then we’d have to accept everybody, and then there wouldn’t be rules.
Kevin: I’m waiting for the punch line now.
Jad: Oh no, no, that’s totally it. That’s totally it. But I was just thinking like – because that was what I started with, and what I was saying previously and this is another thing that’s been bouncing around in my head, and we’ve talked about something like this – I think we’ve even mentioned this before – but like, there’s always a group of people who understand that there’s a need for a peer to peer equality, like, a symmetrical respect for each other’s beliefs about what’s best for them, so that’s like you know, you’re talking about the enlightenment generation and the founding fathers and all that, like with respect to each other, they completely agree that there should not be the power to you know, violently overwhelm and take something from somebody, or to say yeah like, I don’t think you’re you know, running your farm right, so I’m going to seize it and run I the way it should be run.
Like, with respect to each other, they had that belief. Then they also believed women and slaves weren’t people – they weren’t rational, they didn’t have the ability –
Jad: – to have freedom of conscience, so they weren’t – so that was OK that they had to be kept in a different state of things, and I think the difference between then and in now is now everyone is a slave like, everyone is in the position where they’re like, “well, everyone else around me is too stupid to be trusted, so there needs to be someone above everyone who can tell us what to do” – it’s just magical thinking.
Tom: And I think they consciously or unconsciously put themselves in the slave category and want someone to tell them what to do because it’s kinda scary to think they might have to figure it out for themselves.
Jad: There might be some people like that, but I think almost everybody once they’re in a position where like, they’re face down on the gravel with their hands cuffed behind their back, that’s usually the come to Jesus moment for most anti-government people as they’re like, “holy fuck, I didn’t realize that this was the implication, that I really had zero power”, you know, “that there really was a ruling class, and that I’m not part of it”, you know?
And then most people you know, if you live in Steiner[?] Ranch or whatever, you might never have that moment. You might always you know, have a respectful law officer and you might always have a reasonably responsive city council and you know, it’s possible that that’s the case. I think that’s less and less the case these days, and that’s what you know, the way that police have treated blacks forever, now they’re starting to be you know – cases where somebody who is in a relatively privileged position gets pulled over and gets the shit beat out of him or whatever, you know?
And then they’re like, “holy crap, there’s a police state”, and it’s like, well, there’s always a police state for the slaves, right? It’s just now –
Kevin: There’s more slaves.
Jad: There’s more slaves. And so I think that the story that everyone is told though is that you have to have the slave owners because everyone else is stupid and dangerous you know, and somehow in the storytelling, they’re the ones who are being kept safe, you know? So anyway, but I think it’s like I said, you were absolutely correct when you said I mean, it’s all just to do with like, the way reality was explained to human beings previously is different than the way reality has been explained to human beings for the last 100 years or so in the west and you know, it’s kinda funny, it’s one of those things where – I don’t know if you have these – but sometimes those things that have been sort of catch phrases forever, and ever, and ever.
Like, I remember the first time when someone said – the first time I figured out what people meant when they were like, “well it’s not a democracy, it’s a constitutional republic”, or whatever. I heard that like, forever and ever, and then finally like you know, it was like, “oh, I see what you’re saying now. I see what your point is or whatever.
Kevin: And that concludes our two-part episode on the topic. As always, thank you so very much for tuning in to the show, and we truly hope you enjoyed the content. If you’d like to find other episodes, show notes, and contact information, please visit our podcast website at www.JKPod.com. You can also reach Jad on his website at www.Jad-Davis.com, or Kevin at www.KevinLudlow.com. We’ve also got contact information for Tom DeLorenzo on our podcast website. Thanks again, and we’ll talk to you next week.