October 28, 2004

X(rlq) Rated

As expected Xrlq responded to my post criticizing his post of Say Uncle's post. Unfortunately that's about as clear as it gets.

Here's Xrlq's latest.

I don't necessarily agree with his summations of my points, but for the helluvit I'll work with them.

For starters:

"No one should ever be criticized for adhering to his principles.

The problem with the first assumption #1 is that it overlooks the fact that adherence to one’s principles is only as good as the principles themselves. In a race where the Democrat is barely distinguishable from the Republican, and where the Libertarian candidate offers a reasonable alternative, voting for the Libertarian candidate might make sense, in principle. But in a race like this one, which pits an imperfect libertarian incumbent against a perfectly socialist challenger, that principle might not be such a great one to adhere to after all. And where, as here, the Libertarian challenger is certifiable nut, then I must question what on earth kind of principle would possess anyone to cast even a protest vote for him."

If Xrlq had stuck to critiquing Uncle's choice (Badnarik) on his merits or lack thereof as a candidate I'd have had less material to work with. I make no bones that Badnarik isn't the best Libertarian candidate they could have chosen. I disagree on areas where Xrlq finds fault with him, but that's something to delve into later.

Xrlq seemed to be saying that Uncle wasted his vote because Badnarik has no chance of winning. He objected to Uncle voting on principle rather than pragmatism. That's what I took exception to.

If you have a principle that you strongly believe in that doesn't affect me in any material way odds are I'll let it be. If that principle of yours does affect me, then I'll examine it & either agree with you or argue with you about the particulars of said principle. What I won't do is belittle you for having a principle, even one I disagree with.

Let me try to simplify it: principles are good to have, even if they're misguided because it's better than having no principles. Disagreement with the specifics of a principle is fine, but it's not cool to disparage someone for simply having principles.

"Something incoherent about the Fifth Amendment

Assumption 2 is really not an assumption at all, just some incoherent ramblings about the Fifth Amendment which have nothing to do with the topic of my post. There’s little to say here, beyond the fact that Publicola made a pointless effort to “debunk” a statement that was obviously tongue in cheek, or so I thought."

I didn't seriously think Xrlq was making a serious statement concerning the 5th amendment. I assume he understands the difference between government & private actors & how the Constitution only applies to the former.

My objection was to the phrase "privilege against self-incrimination". I'd have the same problem if he attempted to use a sarcastic reference to the "separation of church & state". It's not so much that these phrases aren't found within the text of the constitution, but that they convey a meaning not found in the constitution.

The 5th provides that government shall not compel testimony from a person about his/herself. This is different than protecting from self incrimination. How? If it protected merely against self incrimination many many problems would arise, the chief of which being an invocation of the 5th being a de facto admission of guilt.

So the proper term would be "privilege against self testimony", not what Xrlq used.

Again, it wasn't that I thought he was seriously mentioning the 5th, it's that even in jest he got it wrong.

"The only way to 'throw your vote' away is not to vote at all.

Assumption 3 is simply divorced from reality. Come November 2, either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry will be elected President. The chances of anybody else winning, be it Ralph Nader, Michael Badnarik, the Easter Bunny, or your own name as a write-in, are infinitesimal. If you insist on casting a vote for anyone not in the running, you are casting a protest vote, nothing more. You might as well just leave the presidential entry blank, or stay home on Election Day. Either course of action will make just as big of a statement as voting for a non-serious candidate will."

Well, I'll be fair & admit all this revolves around the actual meaning behind "throw your vote away". What I assume Xrlq means is what I assume most people mean - that a vote cast for anyone other than Bush or Kerry is equivalent to not voting at all. The problem is voting is not just about picking the winner, it's about trying to influence politics.

A protest vote is just as valid as a vote for either of the two major parties. If enough people vote for a specific third party candidate then the major party closest to that third party will take some notice. It may cause a shift in the major party's stand or it may not. But in any event it's not a wasted vote. It's counted just like all the others & is a valid demonstration of participation in politics.

But following Xrlq'a logic to its ultimate end then the only votes that are not wasted are those cast for the winner. Everybody else wasted their vote, if we follow Xrlq's logic to its end. This makes the political process no different than gambling. You pick a horse, lay down your money & if he wins you win. If he loses you wasted your cash.

Again I'll submit that no vote is wasted, even a non-vote, as long as it was cast or not cast deliberately.

"It’s OK to break laws, as long as you honestly believe that it is immoral for the government to enforce them against you.

Assumption 4 is a variant of what I like to call Galileo’s fallacy, which is that Galileo was thought a crackpot in his day but turned out to be right, therefore, my crackpot theories must be right, too. Here, similar reasoning is applied to the concept of civil disobedience: it is sometimes appropriate to disobey immoral laws rather than work through the normal, above-board channels to change them. Therefore, it is generally appropriate and wise to flout laws you don’t like. Sorry, it’s not. Breaking the law should be a last resort, not the first. Want to lower your taxes? Then vote Republican, don’t help yourself to a private 100% tax cut while everyone else has to pay more."

Nope. The gentleman generalizeth too much me thinks.

It is acceptable to disregard laws that violate either the law itself (as in a statute conflicting with the constitution) or a basic Right.

Specifically as far as taxes are concerned, Xrlq sees them as taxes, nothing more nothing less. Badnarik & others view them as theft. It seems reasonable to me to attempt to avoid theft, either performing it or succumbing to it.

As far as Badnarik's arguments that the progressive income tax is illegal, he may be right or he may be wrong. To me it's immaterial because whether sanctioned by the courts & the law or not, it's immoral to take someone's property against their wishes. Xrlq cannot see that line of reasoning; therefore he dismisses it as simply not liking a law.

& voting Republican doesn't achieve the desired result. Badnarik & others don't want to pay a few percent less in taxes each year; they want to stop having their money stolen from them by the government. Show me where on the Republican platform they discuss eliminating the progressive income tax & even I'd consider voting Republican. But a point or two less does not a cessation of theft make.

I know I'll get a nice long diatribe about the effect on society as a whole, followed by some form of "...& what if everyone decided to stop paying their taxes?" Short answer is the effect on society as a whole is worse when society as a whole treats the individuals that make up said society poorly. Stealing money from them is a form of poor treatment. Society would be better off, both pragmatically & principally if it sought another means of paying for the things it wants.

& if everybody stopped paying their taxes that'd be one of the best damn things that ever happened to fans of small government. You cut off the feds income, you decrease their influence. Conversely you give them more income, they'll grow. Course it does depend on how much you want to walk the walk after talking the "smaller government is good" talk. For me though I'd prefer as small a government as possible.

"Alternatively, if that’s not OK, then anyone who breaks some laws is morally indistinguishable from anyone who has ever broken any others.

Assumption 5 draws a false moral equivalence, assuming that if it’s generally not OK to break any laws, it must be equally not-OK to break all laws. Thus, the possibility that Dubya may have tried coke in his 20s is supposed to count for just as much as the fact that Michael Badnarik willfully and deliberately flouts the law today, and even encourages others to do so. Sorry, I call bullshit on this. I may not be completely without sin, but I’m picking up the stone anyway. Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t mean we’re all equally imperfect, nor even close."

Ah, nope again. My point was that Xrlq is using one standard for a candidate he doesn't like & another for a candidate he does. He's being hypocritical in other words.

The laws of this country are vast & damn near everyone has broken at least one. So taking Xrlq's main objection to Badnarik (he's a lawbreaker) then we find that no one would be fit for office (including Xrlq) by his standard. & hey, I'm cool with that. I'm not a hard core anarchist but I can't say it's easy to recall the reasons against it when I look at how government typically functions.

If you set your standard for disqualification as breaking a law, then breaking any law would disqualify someone.

As for moral equivalency - let's say Bush did in fact do cocaine 20+ years back. Did his cocaine use harm me back then? Did it harm anyone other than himself? Did it break anyone's leg or pick their purse? Then I could give a damn about it. Same with Badnarik. His violations of law don't seem to affect me or anyone else as far as our Rights are concerned, so I could give a damn. Now if Badnarik or Bush had committed armed robbery or assault it'd be a different story. So I would say that Bush & Badnarik are on the same playing field as far as law breaking goes (again assuming Bush did do coke).

I can hear Xrlq drawing a deep breath to tell me that since Badnarik is still committing a violation of law then it's different. Here's where I'd interject that last I heard Badnarik cut the IRSS a fat check to cover the years he missed right after he accepted the LP nomination. Ditto with the drivers license (again if I heard correctly). But even if he didn't his violation of statute law hurts me no more than Bush's cocaine use (again, if it did happen) 20+ years ago.

It's not that breaking any law is the same as breaking any other law to me; it's that if Xrlq's logic is to be consistent then that's the way he should look at it.

"Publicola probably packs heat without a permit, but adheres rigidly to speed laws. Presumably, this has something to do with whether or not it is a good idea to vote for Michael Badnarik.

Assumption 6 is a bit hard to follow. Publicola hints, but does not actually come out and say, that he carries without a permit. He also doesn’t say what state he lives in, so it’s tough to evaluate whether he is flouting a law he could reasonably have complied with by obtaining a permit, or if he has the misfortune of living in a state that requires him to make a Hobson’s choice between being safe or being legal. [I assume he doesn’t live in Alaska or Vermont, the two states that permit concealed carry without a permit.] In any event, I’m not clear what this issue has to do with the wisdom of voting for Michael Badnarik."

Lord, let me be patient.

For starters I'm in Colorado. I pack when & where I wish & have no permit.
I have principles, so despite Colorado's shall-issue law I'm still left with a Hobson's choice: I can either be safe & do my part to protect my community if the need arises, or I can grovel for permission to pay money to exercise what should be recognized as a Right instead of a mere privilege.

Now I wasn't trying to demonstrate that since I carry without government permission that you should vote for Badnarik. I was merely trying to point out that sometimes decent people break unreasonable laws as a matter of principle & this is a good thing, or at least not something that should disqualify them out of hand for public office.

It has nothing to do with Badnarik specifically, but serves as a talking point for whether a person who violates any law should be deemed fit or unfit for office.

Further I tried to show the difference between my violating a law that violated my Rights & my adhering to a law that I disagreed with but could be harmful to others if I disobeyed it (the speeding thing). The former affects no one but me if I get caught. The latter could have serious repercussions aside from getting caught.

"Anyone who violates a law they disagree with is next Rosa Parks or the next Martin Luther King, Jr.

Assumption 7 should be self-fisking, but in case it’s not, flouting an allegedly unfair tax is not even remotely comparable to fighting Jim Crow. For one thing, the Jim Crow laws were on completely plane from the tax code, making such comparisons borderline insulting. For another, the Jim Crow laws were also unconstitutional, thereby making them invalid as a matter of law. Citizens have a duty to obey the law; they have no duty to obey 'color of law,' especially under circumstances where openly setting out to get caught, and then fighting a bogus prosecution may be the only way to get a legitimate issue into court. Not so for the tax 'honesty' liars, whose frivilous 'legal' arguments have already been dealt with by too many courts, too many times."

Nope. I was pointing out that many people violated the law that were not necessarily unfit for office. This wasn't to compare the tax honesty movement to the civil rights movement (although I would argue that in principle both have admirable goals). It was to point out a flaw with Xrlq's standard that a law breaker is automatically unfit for office.

Now MLK - he would not be unfit for office because he broke the law. Personally I think he'd possibly be unfit for office because of his alleged communist sympathies, but that's just me. But if I were to adopt Xrlq's reasoning then I wouldn't vote for MLK because he violated the law & encouraged others to do so.

See the difference? It's not that Badnarik = MLK, it's that sometimes decent people break immoral laws & that should not be cause for discrimination against them.

As an aside, didn't the civil rights movement seek to gain fair treatment for a class of people? Is that so different than those who oppose the income tax on the grounds that it's theft of & disregard for property & property Rights? But that's another topic not necessarily related to the argument I was trying to make against Xrlq's standard.

"The word right is a proper noun.

Asumption 8: it’s not. It’s a common noun like any other. Whatever point you were trying to make by capitalize it, you just end up looking silly."

< sarcasm > Oh, that did me in. I'm busted. When a person whose name is of questionable pronunciation accuses you of being silly there's no adequate defense. I might as well hang up blogging. < /sarcasm >

In philosophy it's not an unusual practice to capitalize a common noun in order to convey that the noun is of more importance than is usually ascribed to it. That's why I capitalize Rights. If that makes me look silly so be it. But hopefully it'll make some think that a Right is more than just a word to describe some benefit of government, & they'll think about the distinguishing it from a privilege.

To sum up Xrlq simply didn't get it. It's possible that he'll never get it. It's possible that my ineloquence coupled with my tendency towards the verbose makes it too cloudy for him to understand my points. Then again it could be that he's so mired in his views that seeing or understanding an alternative is something he can't or won't do.

I'll try to make it plain: criticize Badnarik on his views all you wish, & on some things I'll agree with you. But don't condemn someone for acting on their principles even if you don't understand or agree with them. Concentrate on the principle, not the person trying to adhere to it. Not only would you stand a better chance of changing minds, you wouldn't seem unprincipled yourself.

Posted by Publicola at October 28, 2004 05:30 AM

I still don't get your Fifth Amendment argument. There is no general "privilege against self testimony," if called to testify in court and asked what I had done on date X, time Y, I can't invoke my fifth Amendmend privilege just because the testimony is about me. I can only do so if such testimony would be self-incriminating.

You misunderstand me on throwing one's vote away. I never said voting for the guy who doesn't win is throwing your vote away. I said voting for a guy who has no chance of winning is. If one candidate is clearly going to win, then you have no real "vote" anyway, and might as well "throw it away" by voting your conscience. But if exactly two individuals have a decent chance of winning, casting a vote for a third individual who doesn't is indeed throwing it away.

As to the value of acting on principle, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. I think some principles are good, others not so good, while others still are downright awful. If someone does something productive, great. If they do something bad, the fact that they did so on principle doesn't do a f'n thing for me. Carrying without a permit "on principle" is stupid. I wouldn't fault you for it if you lived in Illionois, New York or urban California, where permits are difficult or impossible to obtain. But not getting one in Colorado? Not cool. May issue and won't-issue violate the RKBA. Shall-issue doesn't. You are fortunate to live in a state with gun-friendly laws. It's not asking too much to comply with them.

If Badnarik did in fact finally obtain his driver license and pay off his taxes, this is the first I've heard of it. Obviously, that would put things into a very different light. I'd still criticize him and anyone who votes for him, but I would no longer criticize him on the specific grounds of being a lawbreaker. [Though I reserve the right to refer to his past crimes to show something else, e.g., that he is an idiot.] On the other, it would also destroy your "principle" argument, as it would show that in the end, Badnarik didn't stand for his "principles" after all; he caved in to the Man.

Posted by: Xrlq at October 28, 2004 08:21 AM
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