The Santa Claus Government

The pivotal question that is most disagreed upon by everyone in politics is “how much power should the state have?” Answers range from: totalitarianism, with the argument being that a state must control everything to maintain order, nothing can be entrusted to private interests because they might make mistakes; to anarchy, where all necessary services can be provided by the market. Most people that call themselves libertarians lie between a tiny state and no state, in a sort of limbo about whether the state should exist or not, I call them anarcho-curious.

 

Most statists see the state as a Santa Claus figure, giving goodies out to all the poor people and not giving any critical thought as to where those goodies really come from.  I would imagine most people reading this would have some sort of critical thought and know that the government doesn’t magically great goodies to hand out. I would imagine that most people following this blog would be against a Santa Claus state. However I too believe that government should be like Santa, but in another way: unseen, unheard and questionable as the whether it even exists or not. This is a model that the anarcho-curious can quite easily grab on to and help perpetuate. Surely it’s harder to convince the statists that their belief in mandatory government is false than it is to tell them that the government is actually secretly in charge of everything and everything good that the free market does is actually the government. Just like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, children can grow up believing in government and when they come of age we can reveal to them that everything they thought the government was doing is being handled by private individuals working in the market. The statists will be happy thinking that government controls everything and will not seek to ruin our lives because they’re scared that if someone doesn’t control everything bad things will happen.

 

Of course there will have to be some changes, even the most die hard capitalists will admit there are some things that a free market cannot fix and naturally people will go looking for the government to get it to try and fix the unfixable as well as satisfy their need to vent their frustrations, I propose having a fake politician go around and pretend to listen to people, just like a department store Santa. People can come and air their grievances to these people. It would be a hard job listening to socialists whine all day, but it would be a necessary public service that I would gladly do to keep the socialists from bothering us and I could probably convince some of them that they owe taxes to me. As for voting, fake elections would be held every 3 years the voting would all be done online and all the candidates would be the same person in different disguises. Anyone wanting to run for office would have be given a 1900-number to call, an automated answering device would pick up and have them follow a never ending series of prompts and they would eventually get fed up and hang up. Parliamentary TV broadcasts like Question Time could just be a bunch of actors, some people might protest to ad breaks in parliament, but you can always fund it through product placement in speeches, and by the level of discourse you see in Question Time it would be more believable. Welfare is a bit trickier; trying to guilt recipients out of it hasn’t worked in the past; a better solution would be playing on their dogmatic faith in government and fear of the free market and say that welfare is actually capitalism in disguise.

 

The only downside to all this is that we will be forced to lie to our statist friends and family about what is really going on lest they become despondent and confused because they’ve just found out their whole world is a lie. You may have a friend that you really want to tell, but exposing them to the idea that they are actually responsible for their own actions and have been their entire life is a concept too shocking for most people. Just like a parent taking their hands off a kid’s bike when they’re learning to ride, it’s something that has to be done silently lest the rider lose confidence and crash. It’s up to you to keep your statist friends and family ignorant so they don’t freak out and actually try to govern us.

 

Clearly the Santa Claus model of government is the best. It allows everyone the level of government they want, all they have to do believe in it. The best thing is it’s not that different from the model we have now: A group of people that pretend to fix problems while wasting a lot of money, the only difference is we’re just adding another level of pretend. One day we may not have to keep the ruse, but until society is ready to accept our right to self-governance, we will just have to perpetuate the myth that the state exists.

Andrew Bolt, Race and Identity Politics

WARNING: VERY LONG POST

In a recent court decision, conservative commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Racial Vilification Act (Eatock vs. Bolt, see http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2011/1103.html ).

From the classical liberal perspective, the good intentions behind the Racial Vilification Act do not justify the existence of the Act; Free Speech is an absolute right which is only bounded by fraud (for example, in the case of actual defamation) and coercion (i.e. making threats of violence or similar forms of extortion).

I am not a viewer of Andrew Bolt, although in full disclosure I did once send him an email which corrected a philosophical mistake of his; he accused Postmodernism of being Metaphysically Subjectivist (i.e. people’s minds literally remake reality). I believe that to be mistaken since Postmodernism is Epistemologically Subjectivist, typically on philosophical grounds derived from German Idealist thought. This has been my only interaction with his work in the past, and I know little about him. Although I was pleasantly surprised when reading his Wikipedia page that he’s an Agnostic rather than a religionist.

But the reason for this post is that I found a specific comment about the Bolt case interesting from the perspective of political philosophy.

Commentator Brian F. McCoy argued that the ultimate issue in the Bolt case wasn’t freedom of speech. He identified the core issue as “freedom of identity” (see http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=28512).

What a fascinating concept.

“Identity” in the context of the case was referring to social identity or the groups with which one identifies.

The following article is not so much a deliberate argumentative essay per se. Rather, it is a set of commentary on a series of interconnected issues raised by the Bolt affair. In it, I will cover epistemological and philosophical considerations relating to the concept of “social identity” and I will also discuss the various analytical frameworks and assumptions that are used when dealing with the concept. Ultimately I will launch into a discussion of Brian McCoy’s “freedom of identity.”
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Counting Jedi.

There has just been another instalment of the old “24 Hr media cycle” lament from Canberra. This time it’s from Julia, who is fretting that that the Internet and pace of the news cycle were working against in-depth discourse. Don’t get her wrong, she jurst lurves the opportunities of the Internet and rejoices in its influence in the “democratization of public space.” (This may put her at odds with Communications Minister, Conroy, who is obsessed with censoring it.)

The gist of these arguments is that the constant need to feed the cycle results in a lack of depth in debate with the result that politicians appear to be shallow and puerile. No explanation is given of why they appeared that way before the rise of the 24 hr cycle which has retaliated by blaming the government’s 24-hour spin cycle.

In an example of the problem, Federal Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten called for Australians to respect the census and not kid around. He feels that the question on religion should only be answered in ways that the government recognizes. He has specifically banned Jedi’s, and Pastafarians, none of whom will be counted. The Jedi faith responded with a press release today: Continue reading

Interpreting and translating

Whilst our system of government is a conservative enterprise, limited as it is by the rule of law and by a mostly static constitution, it is none the less an open system. There is a clear process by which the constitution, in light of new understanding or changed values, can be altered. It does not happen often but it does happen. This is the case with most modern democratic systems. Even the constitution of an oppressive nation like Iran has encoded within it the means for constitutional amendment. Although in the case of the Iranian constitution certain fundamentals, such as the state religion, can not be altered.

Much of religion has often struck me as a somewhat closed system of thought.  Judaism, Christianity and Islam and are each centered on a set of scriptures (the Torah, the Gospel and the Koran) that is closed to amendment and revision. They are not intended to be amended or updated. Although clearly the Gospel and the Koran are presented as extensions of the Torah.  Not being terribly religious I wouldn’t much care about any of this except for the fact that a large quantity of people on this planet are religious, some of them deeply so. It concerns me that people should wed themselves to a system of thought that is closed. In some regards it actually offends me. We should be open to new ideas and if the new ideas are superior we should abandon old ideas.

Over the last decade, whilst remaining an atheist, I have acquired a more nuanced understanding of the Christian faith. One thing that has become apparent is that whilst the written Bible is a closed text, the Christian faith relies on more than this written doctrine. It has a substantial oral tradition that evolves and supplements the closed text. The text of the Bible has an openness called “open to interpretation”. In fact a great amount of effort is expended trying to sell one form of interpretation over another. For instance whilst the Bible says that woman should not speak in Church (1 Corinthians 14:33,34) alternate interpretations based on the context of this passage allow contemporary churches to rationalize their way around the decree. Stories that if taken literally would represent quite a dire conflict with contemporary values are taken as allegoric or limited to a specific context and any such crisis is averted. To me it seems a strange system but who can question the enduring nature of something that has stood for over 2000 years. In one sense it creates a necessary illusion of consensus amongst people who in fact have quite a lot of disagreement. Continue reading

Fred Nile did not have relations with that website.

The big news of the day was that Ports and waterways minister Paul McLeay has resigned after admitting to using his parliamentary computer to visit gambling and adult websites. He says although the websites were not illegal, it was a mistake to visit them and he accepts he acted inappropriately.

Actually it’s not all that big, NSW Labor politicians seem to be resigning in disgrace so regularly they are starting to resemble lemmings charging toward the abyss. There are indications that other MPs are likely to be called to account on this one.

Here’s where it gets interesting though. New South Wales Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile has made a statement that neither, he or his staff have been “perving” at internet pornography videos on their work computers, but they have been researching the issue. This sounds like those Japanese whalers down in the Southern Ocean researching whale populations.

He admitted using his work computer to access gambling and adult websites.

There are reports the audit also found Fred Nile’s computer had been used to access internet porn.

Mr Nile says, for research purposes, a senior researcher viewed the websites of organisations like the Australian Sex Party and the Eros Foundation, and then followed links from the sites. Continue reading

Stupidity: An Example

Stupidity: An Example Or Another One For The Horror File
by Andrew Russell

I come not with a basket of gifts, but rather an object of terror. An object so fundamentally horrifying that merely to gaze upon its logical contortions will drive man insane. A glimpse of it will reveal that facts are but mere putty and our puny minds are insufficient to grasp the true nature of anything. Our ignorance is a comfort; I wish to take it away.

Are you ready to glimpse upon that which man was not meant to know?

Then read this.

I want to thank Wendy McElroy for the tipoff.

Now, suspending my Lovecraft impersonations, merely the title of this BusinessDay piece should cause every single person who reads this article to collapse in laughter. Ayn Rand apparently is the mastermind behind a series of highly complex economic shifts that cause the entire world to crumble… It seems that leftists prefer the thought of “all masterminded by one malevolent central planner” to the alternatives (maybe the idea of “one evil mastermind” appeals to their Constructivist Rationalism; if one evil central planner can ruin the world, then one good central planner can fix it, perhaps?).

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The Preposterous Posturing of Platonic Piffle

The Preposterous Posturing of Platonic Piffle

or

Why South Australian Attourney-General Michael Atkinson Needs A Brain Enema

By Andrew Russell

As is well known by regular readers of this blog, I happen to be fond of playing video games. This has led to my own following of the debate about permitting an R18+ rating for video games in Australia. Since my tastes in games tend towards those with darker subject matter, occasionally there are times where games I want are refused classification by the OFLC and hence banned from being sold in Australia.
As you are probably all aware, video games are rated on a different scale to literature and films. Specifically, the highest a game can go is MA15+. If a game cannot be fitted into this category, it is refused classification and it will not be sold in this country.

The fact that games are rated differently to other forms of media causes a lot of discontent amongst the Australian gamer community. As such, there are proposals involving the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games. In order to do this, every State Attourney General must agree to modify the classification system.

The one State AG that has refused to allow this to happen is Michael Atkinson, ALP member for Croydon and a social conservative who is a devout Roman Catholic.

To put this in context, the support for allowing an R-Rating, equivalent to the one used for films, to be introduced to the Australian video game classification system is overwhelming (see the following: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1427266). To put this in further context, the study clearly shows that the average Australian gamer is a legal adult.

So no, it is not fair to say that “games are for kids.”

But this is not about the fact that Atkinson is attacking human liberty in the name of his values. This article attempts to place Michael Atkinson’s censorship in an historical and philosophical context.

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