Category Archives: Ayn Rand

Emergent Principles of Human Nature; Inalienable Rights

Part 1 of a series of posts defining Emergent Principles of Human Nature; an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I “explain inalienable rights without including god“.  Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time. 

This post will be updated and reposted ahead of each subsequent post in the chain, with links to each as they are completed. A lengthy endeavor, but hopefully worth the time and effort for both writer and reader.

Throughout human history we have attempted to find meaning in the world around us.  We do this imperfectly because we are imperfect beings in an imperfect universe; perfection is an unattainable unknowable state which only the deluded think they understand.

As a group we have tried many approaches to find this meaning.  We have given this discipline a name, Philosophy, and established schools of thought within the discipline as varied and as many as there are philosophers in history.  Down through the ages we have dallied with gods and flirted with the idea of the absence of gods, and fooled ourselves that we group of blind men can fully describe the elephant with only our hands and words.

I do not harbor any delusions about the ability of one uneducated man to be able to perfectly describe the universe or establish it’s meaning; for myself, I can only hope to find my meaning within the universe.  To this end I have pursued my lifelong obsession with philosophy; and when I say obsession I do not mean that I have exhaustively read the treatises of other philosophers.  I have done some of that, but I have found that most philosophers aren’t actually interested in exploring naked truths.  They are more interested in explaining why the world is the way they perceive it.

After that fashion, I guess I’m no different than they are.

However, I think that meaning can be found that is universal, objective.  It was because of the word Objective that I first allied myself with Objectivists.  Ayn Rand in her ultimate folly thought she understood the natural universe perfectly. Her writing on the subject, compelling as it is, is incomplete at best.  At worst, her work is used as it is today; to justify horrors by those willing to enact them, citing her works in ways that the author herself would never have condoned. Her claiming of the title Objectivism for her philosophy is illustrative of the massive ego of the woman herself, made obvious by the study of her life, if you are simply inquisitive enough to take up the challenge.

Within every lie is a kernel of truth, as the saying goes, and within the brashness of Objectivism is the truth of materialism, the denial of post-modernism and it’s still-born sibling, solipsism.

The original challenge to define inalienable rights was issued because god; and yet god himself is a hopeless contradiction, a failure of man’s imagination to grasp that the complexity around us is achievable through time multiplied by error alone. The uncreated creator is a substitution for understanding, not an explanation. Accepting this conclusion, it fell to me to offer a real explanation for the concept of rights; an explanation grounded in science out of necessity, since scientific evidence is the only demonstrable way to objectively prove anything.  At least, the only way that we’ve yet discovered.

Aristotle’s unmoved mover may indeed exist, the god of scientists and philosophers, the natural god, but that god does not offer explanations beyond mere existence itself.  It falls to us to explain what things mean to our own satisfaction.

The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. why what I am writing about cannot be simplistically pigeonholed as natural rights will be discussed in the next piece. This piece hopes to offer up a bare bones explanation of inalienable rights, and their grounding in science.  The planned series of posts to follow will embroider nuance into the bare structure I’m presenting here.


The theory of emergence  provides the grounding for inalienable rights.  While rights are vested in the individual, it is only through seeing the interactions of individuals that the pattern of rights becomes clear. There is no concept of property when alone on a desert island (where Rothbard’s simplistic outline of rights fails) all of everything the sole inhabitant of the island touches is his property by definition; but the individual marooned on a desert island cannot hope to do more than survive while his health endures, alone on an island.  Simple survival is the least of any of our human aspirations.

Most of the concepts we deal with on a daily basis emerge from our interactions with others.  Money is a concept that becomes useless in a social grouping small enough to provide for it’s own needs. Families everywhere struggle with introducing money into the social structure of the household, grapple with educating children on what money is, what it means, what is it’s value. If you corner any given individual and challenge them to define money, most of them will be unable to do so beyond showing you a physical representation; which is not of itself a definition.

In groups large enough that the contributions of the individual cannot be valued and compensated accordingly, money becomes a necessity. How else is the individual who makes widgets all day to be afforded to directly purchase food and shelter for his continued existence? When the value of the widget cannot be directly translated by the average person into a quantity of food, the quality of shelter? Money makes that possible, however it is defined. Money is an emergent system, an outgrowth of human interaction.

But rights are not systems themselves. Rights are principles that systems are based on.  Like systems which emerge from human interaction, the principles that those systems are based on are also emergent; revealed through the interactions of individuals.

That money should have a definable value to the individual is a principle (albeit flawed) of the monetary system.  All of the systems around us that we take for granted are based on these principles that most of us never even bother to seek out, let alone question.  Jefferson’s (through Locke) immortal listing of Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness is, as it says in the Declaration, truncated. There are many other principles that can be inferred from the interactions of individuals, there for anyone to see if they simply take the time to look.

Which is why what we are wrestling with here is Human Nature, not ideology, theology, or the natural world as revealed in the study of other animals. How we as humans value each other, or fail to value as the case may be. The nature of the human animal, as it relates to other human animals within the structures we create for ourselves. As I observed in my first outing on this subject;

A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his [human nature] enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights in spite of the full force of government and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. 

In the broadest sense, Emergent Principles of Human Nature represents what most people mean by inalienable rights; what has been lacking up to now is some way of objectively defining why rights cannot be separated from the person; this is satisfied in the concept of emergence.  They cannot be separated from the person, because they are only revealed through common interactions with other individuals. Without them, survival in a group is impossible because the basic needs of the individual cannot be met; and any system created that doesn’t take them into account will fail through the actions of individuals intent on fulfilling their own needs.

Rights are not listed on some government document. They aren’t granted by sovereignty, even your own.  They emerge from the requirements for human life, and the process of securing those requirements on an individual basis.

I finished my first entry on this subject with the observation;

That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written…

Apparently I have the gift for understatement, as the length of the many posts to follow should reveal.

Godwin’s law, the Rand Version

“Do you know that my personal crusade in life (in the philosophical sense) is not merely to fight collectivism, nor to fight altruism? These are only consequences, effects, not causes. I am out after the real cause, the real root of evil on earth — the irrational.” -Ayn Rand

So this image showed up on my Facebook feed today,

    What followed the image in the comments was the predictable feeding frenzy that you witness when your throw bloody meat to sharks. Today’s cleaner, nicer internet breed of human doesn’t seem to understand the dirty nature of real life as it was before the internet made it possible to live and never leave your house.

    For the record, she said these words, at least according to Wikiquote (couldn’t find it in the Lexicon, but I remember reading them) although I prefer the quote that follows it, the one I started this post with.  There you have it, Rand gives us all permission to steal from native peoples. That is, if you just blindly do what someone who lived before you and wrote influential works tells you to do. 

      Blaming Ayn Rand for the plight of native peoples around the world is no different than ending every observation of fascistic tendencies with the phrase “like Hitler”.  In reading her works it’s easy to see how her ideas can be turned to evil, how they could be seen as evil when they are brought up out of context in an image like this.  It’s no mystery why people like Paul Ryan and others cite her writings when they want to punish the poor and reward the rich. I myself, as someone who still (provisionally) self-identifies as objectivist, cringe at the words above, and wondered at Rand’s blindness to the fascistic applications her ideas could give credence to.

      But then we’ve moved a very long way along the knowledge curve since Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum
       immigrated to the US in 1926.  Rand herself didn’t even understand what it meant to be “objective”, or rather, the barriers to objectivity that stand in the way of even the most clear-headed observer, something we’ve discovered and proven in the last score of years or so. Motivated numeracy alone can lead one to deny proven science if it conflicts with your political views, so consequently most of the people who adhere to Ayn Rand’s labels and words have even less of a clue about the pitfalls of thinking oneself perfectly objective on a subject.

      What she was trying to express about primitives and their rights to continue the nomadic lives they had lead, can’t be illustrated simplistically with concepts like property and profit; it makes her look mean and cheap, which may or may not be an accurate description of Rand the person. You certainly can’t explain the process of national expansion to people who accept the natural fallacy without question, even if you really, really try.

      It pays to reflect that the followers of the dominant philosophical ideal of the time, state socialists, had no problem taking life and land from anybody for any reason that they deemed suited the cause of the people (which in state socialist terms meant the body politic) the defense that Rand is offering is at least logical, if bereft of emotion.

      Better to ask the people encroaching on tribal lands without negotiating in good faith with the natives what their goals were beyond profiting themselves. Too bad none of them are around to ask anymore.

        You might well ask well how should I interpret those words, then? As I’ve done previously when people ask about Ayn Rand (unlike other Objectivists) I point them towards The Passion of Ayn Rand; Book or The Passion of Ayn Rand; Movie (Helen Mirren is great in the latter) because that is what someone who knew her but was kicked out of the inner circle really thought about her and her life.  If you want to see what the most negative parts of her life look like from outside, there is no starker image than these. 
          On The Other Hand, if you really want to understand what she was trying for with her work, I recommend the documentary Sense of Life rather than her fictional works themselves. You can’t get an overview from them. You certainly can’t get a feel for her at all, from either the detractors who have always hated her, or the mindless randroids who take her name in vain these days.
        It is worth observing (hindsight being 20/20) that without people like Rand, people willing to state that it was OK to not sacrifice yourself for the good of the many, that you could lead a worthy life without being poverty stricken and suffering, that we wouldn’t be living in a world that is rapidly seeing the decline of dictatorships as vehicles of social change; that dictatorship is now almost a quaint historical artifact, like feudalism. Social change is once again in the hands of the people.  Right or wrong, where it belongs; with individuals willing to work for change.

        (portions of this were cribbed from an earlier work of mine)

        Father, Freethinker, Objectivist-Humanist

        I used my post on Why I am a Libertarian as an example of how I would describe myself for many years. A decade and more of time has passed, and when I look back on this with an eye for continuity and history, I find my previous blind reliance on libertarian principles to be quite humorous.

        I have never been an anarchist; in fact, anarchists are some of the people I disagree with the most. If I could point to a single reason why I almost never identify as libertarian any longer, it’s because libertarianism (especially on the web) is default anarchism. You have to struggle to get the average libertarian to admit that structure is required in society. That you need organization to build roads, do science, construct complex machinery. In fact, there is so much knowledge involved in a single field of expertise these days that it’s almost hard to find generalists with enough depth of knowledge to bridge the gap between specialists.

        So this idea of the rugged individualist doing all for himself, with no one to thank for what he has other than himself is complete self-delusional bullshit.

        From the hospital where most of us are born to the school paid for with tax dollars, from the roads we travel on during our working years to the social security system most of us will rely on in old age, almost nothing we experience occurs because we were the sole architect of its existence. Much less would we want to own any of the convoluted bullshit we have to deal with systems invented by madmen and executed by sadists? Better to be leaves floating on an irresistible wind than acknowledge that any of this is what we would have wanted, planned for, inflicted on others.

        I played a mental game with myself for quite a long time. I still find it amusing on occasion, especially when opponents in argument will trot out the ad hominem, try to affix labels to me and my arguments in order to dismiss them. Flip the script is how you might describe it these days. How would you define yourself in as few words as possible, using only labels that others might use to discard you and your arguments. Epithets or titles applied to you by others to summarize and pigeonhole you or your views.

        I could to get it down to three; Objectivist, Architect, Father (no longer licensed, so can’t call myself architect anymore. Libertarian was in second place at one point) These days the three would be more like Father, Skeptic, Objectivist; and Objectivist is left on the end simply because I still believe we can obtain glimpses of objectivity, not because I buy in to the whacky psychological ideals of Ayn Rand. That we have to be able to discern objective reality in some limited fashion unless everything we sense is complete illusion, which demonstrably is not the case. Most Objectivists these days make me cringe when they speak.

        I daresay today’s Objectivists would make Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum cringe as well; but then I’m not her, was never a member of her cult of personality, don’t believe in revealed knowledge in even the vaguest sense. What I do know is that the system she describes as ideal doesn’t even resemble the current political, ideological or economic system; and the economic and political actors of today are more akin to the looters of her novels than her contemporaries in 1950 America could have been. That current self-identified objectivists laud the behavior and thinking of these people simply puts the lie to their claim of objectivity.

        Consequently, when self-styled Objectivists start mouthing anarchist phrases while representing the Republican party, I almost disown the objectivist label, too. Who knows, maybe that one goes next. Would Ayn Rand have modified her ideals given the advances in knowledge about the workings of the mind and the social patterns of the human animal? I’d like to think she would have admitted fault at some point, but then that wouldn’t have been very Ayn Rand of her.

        This introspection was brought on by a challenge from a fellow member of the now-defunct Dan Carlin BBS forums. Gone are all the threads and thoughts recorded on those boards, unless they are preserved somewhere on Dan’s private servers or happened to be picked up by the Wayback Machine, if even the Wayback Machine itself continues to function. 

        I get no satisfaction from the knowledge that I predicted the demise of the boards years before they were taken offline by Dan Carlin, but I knew that his hands-off approach to freedom of speech, his belief in the innate goodness of people, was a recipe for disaster. That the disaster did occur was in spite of my best efforts, for years, before finally giving up. Trolls will continue to troll until barred from trolling, and it takes a judicious use of the ban-hammer to make people respect you enough to be forthright in their posting habits. If you are anonymous and without rules, driving people away with harassment is simpler than trying to reason with them. The time spent is the only cost of such behavior, and that is essentially free if you have free time to spend. Some of us have far too much time. 

        But the challenge had been to be as self-reflective as you could and be open about things you might have learned since joining the forums. I believe it was cast against the more recent findings that people did not change with argument (more recent than the establishment of the forum) and the member who issued that challenge was de officiis I think. They were just another stranger on the internet, but someone who had reliably challenged me with heartfelt interrogation, always offering comments that I felt were honest. So I accepted the challenge in the fashion offered. These were my most honest thoughts of the time. They still hold some power over me.


        Since writing that post, I tried out the word ‘Skeptic’ as defining me, and I find it too skeptical.  The daughter thinks Freethinker is too pretentious, but then I think pretentious defines my assessment of the importance of my thinking quite well.  So I’m going with the pretentious sounding ‘freethinker’ rather than the piss on your parade personal interpretation I get from the word skeptic (Yes, skeptics, I know that isn’t how you see the word) I would say that I approach all subjects with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I don’t enjoy the process very much.  I do love finding truths, but telling others what the truth actually *is* is a very tricky process.  A process I find I don’t do very well.

        Consequently, I also feel the need to temper Objectivism with Humanism.  Objectivists will say this means I’m not really an objectivist; something else I find funny since most of them don’t see the problem with being religious and claiming Objectivism as a philosophy.  Human is the lens that modifies the world we see, and Humanism is the attempt to make our systems more humane.  I’ll take that.

        Ayn Rand, Objectivism & the Confusion of Harry Binswanger

        She’s easy to hate on. So easy, in fact, that people completely ignorant of her ideas or real life find it quite easy to do.  I would suggest, if you want to be more informed in your hatred, watching The Passion of Ayn Rand (movie) or reading The Passion of Ayn Rand (book).

        But it might actually be more illuminating to watch; Sense of Life or perhaps read We the Living with the understanding that the central character in that novel is her, including the ending. That is how she saw her journey from Russia. If you would prefer to understand were she came from and what she was driving for.

        Her ideas are also quite easy to capture and use for truly harmful purposes, as a good number of people are doing right now. That DOES NOT negate the value of what she said when she said it, which was a different time and place than now.

        I’ve read most of her work; I don’t have any of the newsletters. Current thought in Objectivist circles has gone so far off track that Harry Binswanger has recently been writing about how the rich should live tax-free (still buying-in to trickle-down economics?) and the rest of us should worship them.

        Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

        Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)

        Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” That’s for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.

        http://donotlink.com/forbes.com/sites/harrybinswanger/2013/09/17/give-back-yes-its-time-for-the-99-to-give-back-to-the-1/

        Conveniently skipping over how the currently wealthy Wall Street bankers are only wealthy because we bailed them all out.  

        I offer this in response, this is more heroic and deserving of praise.

        Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


        PZ Myers tweeted this today;

        Read the story of Ayn Rand’s life. She was not a nice person…
        …and it’s hard to feel much sympathy when her ideology collides with reality, and she gets her comeuppance.

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/10/01/ayn-rand-illustrated

        I actually found the comic interesting http://activatecomix.com/162-1-1.comic I deem it “The Passion of Ayn Rand” in comic book form. The movie was better.

        However, none of her personal flaws or the cult she created of “the collective” http://2think.org/02_2_she.shtml (BTW, the same man who wrote that piece wrote this one too http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/10/23/why-ayn-rand-wont-go-away/ so go figure) actually invalidate her ideas about what was good in life, what was worth striving for, and what was heroic.

        Hitchens poses the question here;

        Which I answer rhetorically, “because of the altruists who would demonize self-interest” Without the dictatorship of Stalin, the Russian revolution, the works of Karl Marx derived from the ethics of Kant, the creation of the myth of selflessness. Without this chain of events we would have no objectivism created as a reaction. No need to confirm to the average person that it’s OK to concern yourself with your interests first, in the face of all these people who tell you that you should give more. Because in spite of Hitch’s protestations, there are real philosophical forces at work attempting to grind down individuality and to pound down the exceptional like an offending nail. To convince the average person that they must submit.

        Hitchens being who he was would never have noticed this; or if he did would have deemed it powerless. Perhaps it is powerless to most people. Still, there were clearly a lot of people glad to hear that they weren’t evil people simply for thinking of themselves first. That they didn’t need to give more and more to the needy, to those who’s hands are always outstretched for more. That her words are now used to defend actions she would not agree with is just a testament to the popularity of her work.

        I’m sure Nietzsche would be weirded out by most of his fans as well.

        Poetry vs. Philosophy

        Historical musings from the hey I’ll hit publish later” archive. The comments were a response to Dan Carlin’s Common Sense episode #127 but they had almost nothing to do with the episode.


        The song Dan is thinking of, unless I am mistaken, is a Don Henley song from his first solo album. Not the Eagles.





        Although, as the video above shows, the Eagles are not above cashing in on Don Henley’s solo efforts, any more than they are above cashing in on Joe Walsh’s or any other band members work that will gain them a few more bucks. Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down. Pretty much covers the rise and fall of any candidate, including Barack Obama.

        The problem is there isn’t a single person who can fix the problems this country faces. Everyone wants to vote and be done with it. Doesn’t work that way. You have to roll up your sleeves and get to work yourself if you want to see change.

        As a general rule I hate music videos. I link them only because there isn’t an easy way to share a song without video attached. The greatest music video is the one running in my head when I’m listening to my favorite music. Having someone else interpret what the sound means ruins the entire concept of ‘music’.

        Take it Easy has a specific meaning for me, related to the time and place in my life where the poetry spoke to me. Supplanting that with surfed up images is faking real meaning.

        Develop an appreciation for classical music, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s a world of difference between a poet and philosopher. Ayn Rand was a philosopher. John Lennon was a poet. Immanuel Kant was a philosopher (just not a good one) Ludwig van Beethoven was a poet (one of the best ever) There is no question what a philosopher means when he attempts to define reality. A poet’s every word is open to interpretation, and yet the emotion should ring clearly through the words and/or music.

        Mistaking poetry for philosophy highlights a key reason why society is still mired in prehistoric superstition and saddled with problems that can’t be solved on anything other than a personal level. Rational legal structures cannot satisfy emotional needs. Wanting to feel safe is not a reason to enslave the medical profession and force me to contribute. Needing to feel cared for is not a reason to steal my retirement savings.

        Wanting to save the earth has no bearing on whether your actions will actually improve the environment, or simply destroy property rights; and through their destruction, the fabric of western society itself. If it can be objectively proven that humans are destroying the planet, then either we can be counted upon to act rationally and alter our behaviors for our own good, or the hard-core environmentalists will get their fondest wish. Destroying property rights just improves the hand of the power seeker, who has no more of a clue than you do what will improve the environment.

        Wanting to save another’s soul from eternal damnation by outlawing questionable behaviors like prostitution and recreational drug use has proven to go farther towards creating hell on earth than doing nothing at all might have. Allowing individuals the freedom to live their own lives, whether you approve of their choices or not, underscores the value of liberty. Poor choices serve as their own correction mechanism; there is no need for further punishment, it just clouds the issue bringing in a layer of paternalism when none is warranted.

        Poetry appeals to your emotion, comforting or crying out for redress. Philosophy informs your mind, and outlines the possibilities in life. Clarifying whether someone is being philosophical or poetical is the first step in understanding whether they are trying to avoid reason, or attempting to motivate with emotion. And the difference is crucial.

        Live from Denver

        So, the LP convention is winding up in Denver today. (is it just me or is Wayne Allyn Root breathing too many of his own exhaust fumes?) Mercifully, I’m not there to witness it in person. Politics is like sausage, you really don’t want to know what goes into it.

        For a list of bloggers who attended the convention, go here, or you could listen to the mellow, bourbon infused tones of my friend Tom Knapp as he tries to assemble coherent sentences over the telephone for a Gcast from the convention:


        C-SPAN, MAY 25, 2008, Libertarian Party National Convention, Denver

        I’m watching the coverage on C-Span. Sixth round of balloting, Bob Barr facing off against Mary Ruwart. Root has just thrown his endorsement of Barr out to the convention, and he has enough votes behind him to give the nomination to Bob Barr. Like it or not, the days of the LP as an ineffectual debating society are coming to a close.

        With the nomination of a prominent former Republican as the LP’s candidate for president (Dr. Paul has never been prominent within the Republican party. He has gained some fame for his principled stands on controversial issues of late, but nothing like Barr was when he was sitting in Congress) as well as the back room wheeling and dealing and the public maneuvering that went into getting Barr his nomination, the LP has turned a corner in history. Clearly someone thinks that this nomination is worth something in the grand scheme of things.

        Mike Gravel left his run for the Democrat nomination for President to also run as a Libertarian for President. For all intents and purposes, the LP has graduated into the level of serious politics.

        The other thing that has occurred with the nomination of Barr, is that the LP has put forward a candidate, for the first time since I pulled the lever next to “L” on the ballot more than 10 years ago, that I’m going to have a hard time voting for. His track record in congress is not something to recommend him to people who are concerned with the growth of government, especially those of us who are concerned about the growing encroachment of religion in politics. Can a leopard truly change his spots? It remains to be seen.

        What is clear is that the news outlets have no excuse not to cover the campaign of Bob Barr as it progresses. They have never failed to point a camera his way when he wore an “R” next to his name; is he less newsworthy now that the “R” has been replaced with an “L”? If he can poll double digit numbers (provided pollsters actually include his name) the major party construct that runs the debates will have a hard time leaving him out and making it look like they aren’t excluding him.

        All of this ultimately leads to growth of the LP, and potential success at the ballot box at some point in the distant future. Mr. Barr has promised that he will grow the party, and garner more votes for the LP than any candidate in it’s history. Sounds good, right?

        But not all growth is good growth. Libertarians should be well acquainted with this concept, since we rail against the growth of government on a continuing basis. Will a massive influx of disaffected Republicans be a surge for the cause of liberty, or a dilution of the principles that many of us already in the party embrace? A substitution of libertarian principles for the even more amorphous conservative thought, and all the baggage that group brings with it?

        This is a reason to remain active in the party, if nothing else. Hold the line against conservative encroachment. I’m not interested in being associated with an LP that is nothing more than a GOP-lite. I come from the other side of the fence, harking back to the founders and their principles, the liberals of their time; not from the Goldwater era which (supposedly) redefined what conservatism was in the US.

        I am not a conservative, not even vaguely. I’m a libertarian. The self-identifying conservative who carries my parties nomination is going to have to sell me on his worthiness to get my vote.

        Smokin’, smokin’; I feel alright, mamma, I’m not jokin’

        Another historical argument from the file. Austin passed several smoking bans. Passed and overturned and passed again. Anyway, it lead to some interesting thoughts on mine and other’s parts. This is some of it. The rest may still be in the archive over at the Liberty List and TCLPactive.


        First round: Just Say NO! to Compromise


        [The city of Austin proposed a smoking ordinance in 2003 that would have banned smoking in public places. It passed. They then went on to offer to sell “smoking permits” to businesses that wanted to allow smoking (pay to get a permit to do something that you should be able to do anyway, but have to pay for because the city government felt pressured to act by all the do-gooders out there, and then realized they’d created a massive cash cow that they could suck funds out of. It’s a beautiful world, isn’t it?) There was a chance that other alternatives to the original ban might be entertained alongside the permits idea, so…]

        [Rock Howard proposed the following in response to the suggestion that any form of compromise would be an abandonment of our principles as libertarians (I reprint it because I agreed with it completely at the time; and in fact still do) as an example of how a compromise on a smoking ordinance would simply clarify business practices that already exist, allowing the customer to then make an informed choice]

        To me an example of a workable compromise would be:

        • If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained smoking registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “Smoking Permitted”.)
        • If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained “smoke free” registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment to the effect detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “No Smoking” or “Smoke Free”.)

        (Knowing the city, they would probably require Spanish language too.)

        This “compromise” would hopefully placate those who consider cigarette smoke as an assault on their personages. (For some people it actually is.) As far as abridging rights goes, it is simply coupling the right of the property owner to the equal and legitimate responsibility to make their smoking policy clear to prospective patrons either through signage or by the public process of signing up on a registry.

        As far as the “permit” idea goes, let’s see if we can dig up actual examples where a permitting process for smoking turned into a ban. If we can do that, then that would be helpful as it might give the business owners more intestinal fortitude about defending their rights. At this point many are seeing this as a life and death issue for their businesses and that makes more susceptible to a slippery slope compromise.

        [When further objections were offered, he then posted the following:]

        It is possible to stay with our principle but also get involved with the current process too. If we refuse to get involved for the sake of principle, then we abandon our constituents to their fate (which likely entails a slippery slope compromise that dooms them in the future.) The only other avenue is the courts, but we have no friends or power their either.

        I have seen this fight in other cities and with the current political mindset of the voters, as long as it remains a political battle, we are doomed. If we can be smart and lucky we might be able to help craft a compromise that staves off the rights-snatchers for a while and, more importantly, helps preserve the livelihoods of our core constituents for the time being. If we do, then we will have bought ourselves some time as well as additional support for the long term project of opening up the minds of the people to the larger issue (i.e., the critical importance of personal property rights.) This will take time and money and, without it, we are just kidding ourselves about our ability to win this battle.

        The only reason that I used the word “compromise” in the first place is that there are only two possibilities right now: 1) no compromise happens and the current harsh Smoking Ordinance goes into effect; or 2) a compromise occurs to stave off the most harsh effects of the ordinance for some time. I do not accept that there is a third option (as much as we would all prefer it) in the near future. I suggest that to get to the preferred outcome that we all want, it makes sense to be involved in the current process as the outcome of “no compromise” will simply kill off many of the small businesses that we are supposedly trying to support.

        In point of fact, if the local [LP] works against some sort of compromise, then we are, in effect, working to enact the Smoking Ordinance. Go ahead and do so if that is what you want, but in my considered opinion that approach is counterproductive in the short, medium and long run.


        A Smoker wrote:
        If we try to mediate a compromise in this case, we are saying that government taking away just some of our rights is ok verses taking all of them. If we need to take this to court to fight this injustice we should, it would really make a name for ourselves. We should stand up for what’s right, not for what we feel is acceptable for the moment.

        What about the rights of the non-smokers to do business in a smoke-free environment? What about the (real) health issues involved in breathing smoky air? I assure you that the solid majority of Austinites are 4-square behind an outright ban based on those two arguments alone.

        I don’t agree with them, but they are our audience.

        A requirement to sign the exterior of your business is no different than putting ingredients on the outside of packages, or spelling out the details of a contract in advance. It’s not a compromise, it’s collaboration; an acknowledgement that there are telling arguments for those who support a ban, but that a ban is not necessary or even desirable.

        IMO, signing the exterior of your business IS what is right. Some of us would prefer to do without the smoke. Thank you, Rock, for the level headed suggestion.

        [The outcome of the vote on the smoking permits ? Landslide in favor of it, the council couldn’t resist that cash cow. The local LP candidates (except for the exceptional Rock Howard) opposed all compromises and sunk any chance of sidestepping what happened then, and what happened next.]

        [at the suggestion of the moderator at TCLPactive, I moved the discussion to my Liberty List]


        Second round: Smoke lies are 50



        [Can’t find a link for the original article that this references, ACSH reformatted the site recently, and a good portion of the old articles were lost. The copy in the Archive at LL is representative of it, however]

        A Smoker wrote:
        Getting in your car and driving will lead to serious health consequences, to the same degree that lighting a single cigarette will lead to serious health consequences.

        It has nothing to do with the number of trips. I can get in my car right now and drive, and while I stand a statistical chance of harm, the mere act of driving the car does not increase the chance in and of itself.

        My wife and I were test car drivers for quite awhile. She has driven more than a million miles. She’s still breathing.

        A relative of mine has smoked 3 packs of filterless cigarettes a day for 30 years. He’s had cancer twice, (thankfully not lung cancer) cancer that is statistically related to smoking, and he still insists that the smoking isn’t the problem, all the while smoking like a chimney. He may still be breathing now, the latest radiation treatments won’t start for a few more weeks. The man could have lived in good health to the age of 100 or more, without the cigarettes. I personally don’t think he’ll see 70 because of them.

        There are three kinds of men.
        The one that learns by reading.
        The few who learn by observation.
        The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

        Will Rogers, The Wisdom of Will Rogers


        A Smoker wrote:
        Your rights are not being transgressed when someone smokes in your presence, because you are free to leave, or not to breathe the smoke, or to wear a mask. Your rights are being transgressed when someone forces you to do something that harms you or others, or when they harm you directly.

        When I am engaged in commerce, dining out for instance, I and the parties I am doing business with have entered into an informal contract. Part of that contract involves a smoke-free environment if you are doing business with me. During the process of commerce, while I’m eating for example, someone decides to engage in their particular form of self-destruction and lights a cigarette.

        How am I ‘free to leave’? I daresay that the owner of the establishment would take exception to my departure before contracts are satisfied, before I paid in this example. As someone who is known to demand a smoke-free environment, why should I be ‘expected’ to leave? Since non-smoking is something that I demand up front, should not the smoker be ejected if he refuses to leave?

      • “wear a mask”. Why doesn’t the reverse apply? Since smoking carries no negative impacts, let the smokers wear a mask and not waste a single breath of their precious nicotine.
      • “not to breathe the smoke”. Not breathing as a choice. No, I don’t think so.
      • The truth is, when someone lights up in my presence, they are in fact forcing me to engage in their habits. It’s a cop-out for libertarians to say “you’re free to leave” or “it’s a (property) rights issue”, because that is just the surface. The reality is much more complex than that.


        A Smoker wrote:
        Your usage of “informal” is as a euphemism for implied. A contract not discussed and not agreed to is a contract which does not exist.

        Informal does not equal implied. The words have different meanings. Walk on a check at a restaurant and see if the restaurateur doesn’t think you have a contract. That you are expected to pay for services rendered and food consumed is an informal contract; informal because you did not agree to the contract in writing, in advance.


        A Smoker wrote:
        When people complain about an aspect of free-wheeling liberty (such as people lighting up whenever they please whenever the owner of the property they’re standing on doesn’t mind), it is my reflexive assumption that the person making the argument would turn a blind eye toward government force should it be stamping down on that aspect of liberty…

        I have the right to object to harm; and I will exercise that right vehemently.

        OTOH, do you put tags on your car, carry a drivers license, pay income taxes? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then by your definition you can apply the label to yourself, because gov’t force is used to mandate things which are infringements on our liberty.

        Austin banned smoking recently, and no, I’m not going to spend time fighting that battle now. The alternative wording (signage in lieu of a ban; I would have liked to expand it to allow air quality controls and multiple uses – essentially the status quo prior to the first smoking ordinance, with a nod toward the health issues of accumulated smoke in a confined space) that I agreed with was deemed a compromise by the local activists, and they decided to ‘stand on principle’ and go down with the ship. Well, the property rights ship sank, and smoking is banned here now, unless the business owner agrees to pay the city for the ‘privilege’ of allowing smoking. As Austin is “the liberal island in the conservative sea of Texas”, this is probably the way it’s going to be for awhile.

        The net effect is positive for me personally, since health issues are deemed too touchy-feely to be taken seriously by hard-core types. My choices were reduced to either choke on the smoke of the free-wheeling, or breath the socialist air. So my fellow libertarians (who love to talk about choice) forced me to pick the lesser of two weevils. Not a position I relish, I assure you.


        [When pressed for evidence on the subject of the harmfulness of second hand smoke, I suggested this publication http://www.acsh.org/publications/booklets/ets.html ]

        A Smoker wrote:
        That’s also an assertion. I don’t know what study it’s based on but I’ve enough smoking and second hand smoking studies demolished by examining their statistical methods that I don’t put any stock in them. Cato has plenty of these. The claim that 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco is an outright fabrication from the American Cancer Society, for example.

        Back to the original question, the only acceptable smoking ordinance IMO is having establishments clearly post their smoking policy at the entrance so you can make your decision before entering, as was suggested by Rock Howard previously

        Back at the beginning I endorsed Rock Howards proposal, so I think we’ve come full circle here. As another aside, The CATO Regulation article that is being alluded to was addressed in the ACSH article located here: http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubID.498/pub_detail.asp Needless to say that I think the scientists at ACSH are pretty sure of their numbers.


        Third round: A non-smoker clears the air on smokers’ rights



        [Can’t find a link for the original article that this references either, the site that it was on has either pulled it down or it doesn’t exist anymore. The copy in the Archive at LL is representative of it, however]

        About the only thing that the writer got right was that it’s not an issue of ‘smoker’s rights’.

        What most of the ‘average Joe’s’ who aren’t in the architecture field don’t realize is just how controlled building standards are in EVERY OTHER AREA except indoor air quality. The establishment of building codes that spell out minimum standards would go a long way toward addressing the problems of smoking vs. non-smoking; giving more choice to people in the long run rather than a strict smoking/smoke-free establishment.

        Back in the ‘good ol’ days’ the upper class spent the money to have ‘smoking rooms’, because it was ill-mannered to smoke in front of the ladies. Now we’re all slaving in a socialist paradise, chucking the niceties of proper etiquette and the class structure, dragging the unwilling along with us kicking and screaming in whichever direction the whim of the majority takes us. Soon we will all be trailer trash (what in math is referred to as a Lowest Common Denominator) and not even the trailer trash will be allowed to smoke. Ah, democracy.

        Business owners want one thing over all others: profit. I say fine; but let’s get to the real ‘cost’ and benefit of the systems that we create. restaurateur’s and Club Owner’s will not take a hard stand for property rights. It doesn’t sell food and drink; oh, they’ll cheer us on, but they’ll toe whatever line that a) causes the least trouble, and b) makes them the most cash in the system. …and the system does not take long-term health effects into account.

        So, you had business owners who were more than happy to crowd everyone together with sub-standard ventilation, breathing each others exhaust fumes, because it was cheap and the majority of the population smoked. Now the majority are non-smokers, don’t want to smell smoke, and are willing to subvert property rights (Just as it’s been done since the beginning of time) in order not to have to. Guess what? The business owners will make the just-enough-to-prove-a-point noise about it, and then roll over and comply. That’s how they ‘work the system’ to their advantage. They get to appear sympathetic to the ‘poor smoker’, but they can follow the majority and their dollars into a non-smoking paradise; best of all they get to keep their poorly ventilated, overly crowded buildings just the way they are, and look good in the process.

        Best bang for the buck that there is.

        This has been my point all along. Ya’ll can stay on the high horse of property rights, and loose; and you will loose, mark my words. If it’s a choice of defending this myth that business ownership is some kind of grandiose last stand for property, or defending my desire to breath
        cleaner air, then I’m going to breath easier. 🙂

        or…

        We could establish that the ‘system’ should take account of air quality, just as it does minimum structural standards, minimum exiting standards, minimum bathroom sizes, etc, etc, ad infinitum; call it signage, call it minimum codes, call it defending my property, my body, from the negative health effects of your bad habits; even when I’m not physically on land that I own. I don’t care what you call it, but it’s better than establishing smoking bans all over the nation, which is where we are headed right now. Then we can add Tobacco to the list of black market drugs; how about ‘smoke-easy’ establishments? Probably already exist in New York.

        Do you know what I would love to see? Smokers wearing ‘space helmets’ to smoke in. With a HEPA filtration system on the helmet, no smoke would escape to annoy the non-smokers. Can you arrest him for smoking in his own private space? Would anyone bother? That would be an argument involving the rights of the smoker, and no one else. Do you think we’d find a volunteer to test the theory? Or does even the most devout smoker balk at being cooped up in small space with too much smoke in it? If you really believe that it’s not a health hazard to smoke, then why would you not be willing to?

        “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”
        -Ayn Rand


        I’m sure some of you out there dismissed my ‘solution’ out of hand “Bah, more minimum standards. Just another there-oughta-be-a-law solution for problems that are none of the gov’ts business.”

        Now, if I were talking about ‘law’, then I would agree with you.

        However, that wasn’t the subject. Building codes are not laws. Yes, I know, in most places they are adopted and enforced as laws; but they start out as guidelines drawn up by groups concerned about public safety. They are ‘minimum standards’ for safe building, and are as necessary in the scheme of things as any written manual. Anyone interested in limiting their liability (and most businesses are) will attempt to follow some acceptable standard of practice; so the creation of minimum standards for building was inevitable and actually desirable.

        The problem with building codes is that they become bound up in the bureaucracy of gov’t. Wander down to the building dept. in nearly any city in the U.S., and you will see the stellar results we get from this approach. In Austin, the indecipherable rat’s maze of overlapping authorities has lead to the need to create an office – the ‘Development Assistance Center’ – just to tell the newcomers where they should start in the maze. One size fits all – and you will comply with the standards.

        Tying the codes to gov’t has several other undesirable side effects. I want to focus on one of them: The negative effects that rigid standards imposes on innovation. Many of the new technologies face impediments placed in their way by codes that were drawn up before they existed. IMHO, minimum standards for indoor air quality is one of the areas that has been affected by this; which has lead to the panic over the negative effects of second hand smoke.

        The solution to making the codes more responsive is to divorce the creation and enforcement of building codes from the gov’t altogether. Much like the independent UL (Underwriters Laboratories) creates minimum standards and tests assemblies and devices based on those standards, building codes should be based on logical, definable standards that can be tested, inspected and approved by any sufficiently educated third party. Allow the property owners and the professionals who design the facilities to decide what standards they wish to meet; and then hold them accountable for failures in design.

        …and the solution to the smoking issue in the built environment is to create a minimum standard for indoor air quality that addresses the publics concern.

        “It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
        nor the most intelligent,
        but the one most responsive to change.”

        – Charles Darwin


        There were arguments along the way that suggested something to the effect that “the average person doesn’t care about smoking, and so the smoking ban will never pass if put to a vote”. Not too long after the Round 3 discussion, a referendom on banning smoking indoors in Austin was put before the voters, and it passed by a slim majority. Essentially putting “Case Closed” on the subject of smoking here, and reversing the council’s transparent attempt to milk cash out of business owners who wanted to cater to smoking clientele.

        The battle goes on in court over the new ban, but it doesn’t look good. Personally, I don’t think the courts want to reverse a ban instituted by referendum, there is such a fear of the will of the majority these days that minority rights (those of individuals and groups comprising 10 percent of the population or less) are totally ignored when the majority deems it ‘necessary’.

        So the dust up over the ‘property rights’ of business owners comes to naught, except for those business owners who see a serious dent in their profit margin in complying with the new ordinance. Which is pretty much how I saw it shaping up in the beginning. I’m still waiting for the ‘smoke easys’ to appear. For all I know they already have.