Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pol. Ideology 18: John Lennon and Liberty, Purpose of the Law

John Lennon, one of the greatest musicians of this planet, I'm a fan of him -- and The Beatles -- until now. His 30th death anniversary was last week, December 8. This post is overdue then, but I'm still posting it. Because he's my idol.

John is not a libertarian. But there are a few songs he wrote where liberty and peace are highlighted. I chose 3 of them here and posted portions of those songs.

Where there is individual freedom, where there is little or no external coercion, there is peace, peace in diversity and non-uniformity.

1. Imagine

...Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

2. Revolution

...We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be alright

...You ask me for a contribution
Well you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be alright...

...You tell me it's the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know know it's gonna be alright
Alright, Alright.

3. Happy Christmas (War is Over)

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

Merry Christmas, John and all.

Posting two related papers here.

(1) Purpose of the Law

(A guest post by a friend who prefers to call himself as "FMG". Thanks buddy!)

Some say the law should also be used to provide more for those with less in life (Ramon Magsaysay Sr.).

I think, at the end of the day, laws are unavoidably made to control human behavior at varying degrees.

The question is: to what end do we craft our laws? Some like Ramon Magsaysay want to use the law to impose obligations on one group to another (more on this later). As a libertarian I believe we should maximize individual freedom.

Whenever I say this I'm sometimes accused of being an anarchist; encouraging chaos and lawlessness. But this is untrue. I too, believe in law and that the restrictions of law can and does in fact increase individual freedom.

As Nonoy said, there are laws against killing and stealing. And I support these laws because they support my values of maximizing individual freedom. We are all made freer if we all give up the freedom/right to wantonly kill and steal from each other. It allows to plan our future with less uncertainty which leads to increases in productivity and higher standards of living. This allows us to afford greater material security and freedom from hunger, deprivation, poverty, etc.

Going back to Ramon Magsaysay's penchant for using law to increase positive freedoms, notice that I emphasized all in my previous paragraph. This is another value I have: the law ought to be blind and non-discriminatory applying to all. Like Hayek, I believe when you craft laws to "help" a "disadvantaged" group, you cannot help but be discriminatory. You cannot help but provide exclusive/unique rights to one group not given to other groups.

Thus in this case, the purpose of the law is no longer to benefit the whole of society but to lobby as many privileges as one possibly can for one's group and to hell with other groups. I don't think I have to elaborate on the negative effects this has on the incentives for productive work other than: "why work if you can get paid by political fiat?"

However genuinely disadvantaged one group is, it is generally a bad idea to use the law to help them. Why? Because you create perverse incentives that attract the greedy and selfish to tilt the system in their favor (e.g. professional squatters, US farm subsidies meant to help ordinary farmers now benefit huge corporations). Eventually the process legislation becomes a sickening exercise of grabbing as many entitlements possible.

So to repeat, what sort of values do we have as a society you think we should have? One of individual freedom and equality or whatever the heck we have right now?

(2) Unity vs. Diversity of Social Vision

November 04, 2010

A senator friend, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, posted this reflection in his facebook status:
It has been said that for lack of a vision, a nation will perish. We, as a nation and as a people, need to talk about where we want to bring this country in the next 6, 12, 18 and 20 plus years and more importantly what we ought to do, what we must focus on to get there. A vision for our nation.

It's a good reflection by the Senator. I commented in his fb status that it is natural that people and groups have various and competing visions. Some want a socialist vision, some want a populist but non-socialist vision, others want a less government, free market vision. The entity that should popularize and continiously redefine such visions will be the political parties and their respective think tanks.

The LP for instance, where the Senator belongs, should define and redefine its concept of what is liberal. LP is for liberal politics, not socialist or nationalist/monopolist and anti-globalization politics.

Modern and dynamic societies thrive on diversity, in differences and uniqueness of people. If we will have a "unified" society, most likely it will be a socialist one, where the collective will pounce upon the individual. Individual excellence will be penalized (lots of taxes and regulations) while individual irresponsibility and laziness will be subsidized, in order to have a unified and equal society.

Another friend, Joe Battad, made this well-argued comment:

What's holding down progress? - the backwardness of the socio-political system? My view is that the dominant force in society - warlordism/gang politics, is what's holding down genuine economic and political progress. Free enterprise need...s three components to surge forward - rule of law, property rights and individual freedom - all three are curtailed by the warlord/gang dominated society that the country is now in. Establish a society where free enterprise can operate properly - get rid of or minimize the influence of the warlords and the gangs in the political system. Only at the end of that stage will true democratic political parties emerge. The issues will then become the role of government in enhancing/regulating free enterprise and the lives of individuals. Right now, no political party can carry these issues because free enterprise still cannot break free from the clutches of warlordism.

Great points by Joe. Yes, just 3 important functions of the government: promulgate the rule of law (especially the law against ki, private property rights, and individual freedom. Which means govt should divest itself from so many concerns and interests (running banks, universities, casino, drugstores, forest corp., etc. etc.), or at least drastically cut its involvement on those sectors, and focus on promulgating the rule of law.

Stealing is stealing; killing is killing; no left turn is no left turn. Promulgate and implement the penalties. Government should not be the first to break laws (see this picture of Philippine highway policemen blocking the free flow of vehicles in EDSA so that some insecure high police and government officials can easily pass).

People should fear the law, and there will be very little criminals and thieves. And we will have peace of mind to focus on what we should be doing -- make money for our family, for our community, for our less privileged countrymen.

See also:
Pol. Ideology 12: Lao Tzu, Cooperative Individualism, February 07, 2009
Pol. Ideology 13: Liberty and Liberty Forum, the LP, March 19, 2009 
Pol. Ideology 14: Liberalism, Democratism and Coercion, January 18, 2010
Pol. Ideology 15: Socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism, March 08, 2010
Pol. Ideology 16: Liberalism and Social Opportunity, July 29, 2010
Pol. Ideology 17: The LP and the Philippine President, November 03, 2010

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