Friday, February 5, 2016

Laws and Respectability

I have several go-to sources from which I receive much of the motivations for my philosophies.  One of these is a legal writer from the early- to mid-1800s, Frederick Batstiat.  His most famous work, "The Law" contains a wide variety of interesting discussions on the role of government and the law.  In this treatise, he wrote:

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them.

A while back, I wrote about a new FAA regulation requiring model airplane enthusiasts to register radio controlled aircraft above a weight of 250 grams or 8.8 ounces: 

The logic of this regulation can best be summed up as:

Recently, I've returned to flying model aircraft (a hobby I gave up in the late 1980's when other, more pressing activities were clamoring for my attention).  In the last couple of years, I've built a small fleet of model aircraft built from dollar store foam-board and colored packing tape (including the one pictured above on the right).


While these models weigh a couple of pounds, this weight is spread over a rather large area.  There could be no possible harm to anything or anyone caused by impacting one of these models.  Further, model aviation enthusiasts have been operating safely for as long as there has been aviation.   Over all probably 90+ decades of model aviation, I've only heard of 2 fatalities due to model aircraft.  One of these was a death of the pilot when he was flying a radio controlled helicopter too close to himself and the blades caught him in the neck, the other was freak accident when a child was struck by an out of control aircraft. Heck, just as many children have been killed in cities by falling goats:

So, what does this have to do with the world in general?

Let's go back to the most critical part of Mr. Bastiat's earlier quote:

The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable.

This FAA law/regulation is far from respectable -- it is contemptible. I am torn between an innate desire to follow the law, and a compulsion to reject such a despicable and contemptible government overreach that goes against my moral sense.   Ultimately, I caved on this, and registered with the FAA, fearing what the Government might try to do to me if I failed to follow their demands.

And this makes me angry... angry that I have to ask permission from Big Brother to engage in a harmless hobby, angry that I gave in, angry that I had to make the trade between my moral compass and the law.

Most of all, I am angry that I have to fear the government of a country I love, and have spent my entire career working in the defense of.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

You keep using that word....

In the utterly enjoyable and wholly remarkable  film, "The Princess Bride," Mandy Patinkin's character says (in response to a questionably-used word),

(If you haven't seen it...  run, do not walk to your
nearest video supply source and watch it!)

And so it goes with liberals.  Seeing so many discussions of what constitutes basic rights.... as in "Healthcare is a basic human right."

Rights...  they keep using that word, but it doesn't mean what they think it means.  Let's look back at the most basic list of rights:  The Bill of Rights.  Although most of my readers don't need reminders, I'll summarize them here for newcomers:

Amendment I:  Freedom of Religion, freedom of speech, peaceable assembly, petition the government.
Amendment II:  To keep and bear arms
Amendment III:  The government will not quarter soldiers in your home.
Amendment IV:  To be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, searches/seizures must be approved by law.
Amendment V:  To be free from self-incrimination, people cannot be tried twice for one crime, due process of law, to keep one's private property.
Amendment VI:  A speedy and public trial by impartial jury, to be confront accusers and witnesses against oneself, to have legal representation.
Amendment VII:  Common law cases in excess of some amount will be guaranteed a jury trial. 
Amendment VIII:  No excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishments.
Amendment IX:  Rights outlined in the constitution shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X:  Powers not delegated to the Federal Government or prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Looking at most of these, you see that these are rights that already exist for all people, and are not provided by the government.  In other words, every person in the country has these things -- the Constitution simply says that government cannot make any laws that might limit them.  The only possible exception is in the Sixth Amendment, where it says that the government must provide a speedy trial -- but even this is a limitation on how long the government may keep one in legal limbo while awaiting a trial.

Nowhere do you see a "right" granted to the citizens of this country that must be physically provided to someone.  The government CANNOT give us freedom of speech, nor can they give us any of the other rights outlined above -- they simply exist.  Think of it this way:  The police and justice system in our country cannot make people obey the law, they can only take action against those who break it. They cannot keep someone from speeding through a school zone, but they can certainly punish those who do.  In much the same way, the government can only address those who might deprive the citizenry of their rights -- they cannot provide them.

How does a government "provide" freedom of speech and freedom of religion?  How does a government provide the freedom to keep and bear arms?  How does a government provide private property rights?  Very simply, it can't -- it can only take action against those who might restrict those rights.

So now we get to the crux of the matter.  I've seen all to often about things like food, housing, medical care being basic rights.  I'll agree up to a point -- all should be able to pursue those things... and if we decide as a matter of decency that we might wish to help those who (for whatever reason) cannot successfully obtain them, that's one thing.  But they are NOT rights that all citizens are entitled to.  When I exercise my right to free speech, I am not depriving anyone else of their rights.

But when the liberal philosophy of things like healthcare "rights" is exercised,  the government must forcibly take from one party in order to provide it to the other that is claiming that right.  Sorry, but that doesn't sound anything like the rights outlined in the Bill of Rights.*

Rights?  You keep using that word, but I don't think it means what you think it means.


* As a side thought, let's look at the Ninth Amendment.  In full, it reads:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In other words, rights outlined in the Constitution CANNOT be exercised in such a way to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.  So, if my liberal friends insist that healthcare is a basic right (under the oft-abused "general wealfare" clause), I'll point right back to the Ninth Amendment. You cannot have someone exercise a claim to health care when that violates my Fifth Amendment rights that keep the government from confiscating my private property without just compensation.