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How we get our Values: The Thinking Process

How we get our Values: The Thinking Process

By Branehart

In my previous post “So, What are Values Anyway?” dated August 10, 2015 on the Broward Tea Party blog site, I talked about the correct meaning of the concept “values”: those things that are valuable to living creatures of all kinds for the purpose of furthering their survival. For humans values include both necessities as well as things that make life happy and enjoyable like food, clothing, housing, employment, education, camaraderie with other people, good health, financial security, leisure, romance, children, consumer goods, a good credit rating and lots of others. One value, however, is more important than any other for us as humans because it enables us to get all of our other values.  That value is thinking.

Thinking (also called reason) is the process of taking in information about reality and turning it into knowledge useful for achieving one’s other values. Taking in information about reality is vital for our survival because reality is always there and always setting the terms of our lives whether we like it or not.  What we as humans need to do to survive is figure out the facts of reality and their implications for our continued survival.  We do this by means of the thinking process.  This process has five steps:

  1. Observing reality with our five senses;
  2. Consciously acknowledging what we observe;
  3. Identifying what we observe in words;
  4. Inducing the facts of reality; and
  5. Integrating the facts of reality to understand the context surrounding a particular value, so we can determine whether that value is attainable and, if so, how to achieve it.

Let’s take each of these individually in order. The first step, observing reality with our five senses, means precisely that. We start the thinking process whenever we see, touch, taste, hear or smell something, and it happens for the most part automatically.

Next, to think we have to consciously acknowledge what we observe. For example, rather than just passively seeing a red sofa in a furniture store, we acknowledge to ourselves that we are seeing a red sofa. By doing this, because at the moment we might be looking to buy a red sofa for the living room, we can realize that the red sofa we’re looking at is what we’re looking for, a value. Whereas if we just let our gaze pass over the sofa passively, we might not realize the significance of what is there and pass up a potential value.

I attended a lecture many years ago on the thinking process where the lecturer showed us a picture similar to the one below and told us, in our minds, to acknowledge as many observations in as much detail as we could from the information in it.


Some of the many possible results for this picture could be: green and white bowl on the top shelf in the middle, blue and white bowl on the lower shelf, two rectangular wooden shelves, black and white dish or plate in the back on the lower shelf, framed sign that says “Cedar Mesa Pottery” at the back of the top shelf, etc.

When we consciously acknowledge what we observe, we do it by performing the third step of the thinking process: we identify what we observe in terms of words. Words are labels for the things in reality.  All words are one of two types: proper nouns or concepts.

Proper nouns stand for only one particular thing. Concepts, in contrast, stand for one or more instances of things, actions, circumstances, descriptions, etc. that all have certain characteristics in common with each other. For example, “woman” is a concept that can refer to any number of things with the characteristics women have in common, namely, that they are all adult female human beings. However, “Megyn Kelly” is not a concept but rather a proper noun because, unlike “woman” which can refer to any number of people who are women, “Megyn Kelly” refers to only one specific person. (If there happen to be two or more women named Megyn Kelly, or two or more places named Ontario, i.e., in California and in Canada, it is a coincidence rather than because of any characteristics these women or places might have in common with each other.)

More examples of concepts: “a” (or “an”) is a grammatical concept referring to an indefinite article, and it is a concept because it can refer to any indefinite article; “the” is a similar concept which refers instead to any definite article.  Concepts which refer to specific types of things are called nouns; ones referring to specific types of actions are verbs; ones referring to descriptions of things are adjectives; and ones referring to descriptions of actions are called adverbs. There are other types of concepts which are made necessary by the logistics of grammar: prepositions, conjunctions, etc.

Concepts can be concrete or abstract. A concrete concept refers to entities that are understandable through sensory observation alone.  For example, “woman”, “run”, and “dog”  are concepts that can be understood just by looking at the things they refer to. Abstract concepts also refer to entities, but which by their nature can not be understood merely from observation (they’re not something you can “hold in your hand”, so to speak); more knowledge is needed. For example, “bank account” and “financial solvency” are abstract concepts. Important concepts relating to morality such as “friendship”, “enemy”, “evil” and “good“ are all abstract concepts.

            Because the relationship of abstract concepts to reality is not self-evident, people need a technique for relating them to reality to be able to understand them properly. The way to understand abstract concepts is to reduce them to the concrete concepts from which they are derived.  For example, a “bank account” – a tally for money belonging to a certain person or legal entity placed with a bank for safe keeping – can be explained in terms of a few concrete concepts you can “hold in your hand”: tallies, money, people, and banks. All valid abstract concepts, no matter how abstract, can be properly understood this way, by reduction to concrete concepts. (Even concepts relating to the supernatural including salvation, angels, demons, etc. are reducible to perceptual level concretes because they are allegorical.)

Once someone has identified what he has observed in terms of words, the next step is induction of facts. Facts are statements describing reality. They consist, at a minimum, of one concept (a verb) plus either a concept (a noun) or a proper noun, in the form of “something is (or was, will be, etc.)”. “The dog runs” is a fact. “Instability resulting from the Mexican Revolution caused Mexicans from Juarez to move to El Paso in Texas” is one. Etc.

Induction means gathering and analyzing evidence to determine the nature of a fact. Some facts are self-evident and can be induced just by observing (i.e., the sky is blue).  As with identifying what we observe in terms of words, which is generally done at the same time as we consciously acknowledge what we observe, so it is with inducing self-evident facts: we do it at the same time as we identify in words what we observe.  For example, I open my eyes when I wake up in the morning, look out the window, and see a large dark cloud in the distance with flashes in it.  I identify in words what I’m seeing: “thunderstorm”.  I also have induced a fact of reality: there is a thunderstorm in that particular direction. However, many other facts are not self-evident and require a lot of evidence and scientific analysis to be ascertained properly (i.e., a Mojave rattlesnake’s venom is both hemotoxic and neurotoxic, water boils at 212°F at sea level, the orbits of the moon and planets around the sun, the theory of gravity, etc.).

Once one has induced facts, the next step is to integrate these facts with each other, and with the factual knowledge one already has. Integrating facts means connecting them where they have concepts or proper nouns in common. “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” are directly related to each other because of the common concept “man”.  In reality all facts are related to each other, even if indirectly. For example: I am living 700 miles south of the State of Michigan where Sleeping Bear Dunes is located which is the location of many summer homes for people from Chicago which is a city about the same size as Osaka, Japan, a country along the Ring of Fire just like Chile in South America, a continent which has the highest mountains in the world outside of Asia, all of which are on the earth, a planet located 2.5 million light years from the Andromeda galaxy… you get the idea. A high school friend of mine had some fun with integration with a little saying of his about why fire engines are red: “2+2=4, 4+4=8, 8+4=12, 12 inches in a ruler, Queen Mary was a ruler, Queen Mary was a ship, ships sail on the sea, the sea has fish, fish have fins, Finns live next to the Russians, Russians are red, and fire engines are always rushin’.”

Part of integration involves figuring out new facts dictated by the integrated ones, called deduction. For example, when one integrates “all men are mortal” with “Socrates is a man”, one can deduce “Socrates is mortal as well”.

The goal of integrating facts is to understand the context regarding a particular value. A context is the universe of facts relevant to the value in question being integrated in proper relationship to each other. When someone understands the context regarding a value, he can figure out whether or not the value is achievable and, if so, how to achieve it. This is because, when someone understands the context regarding a value, he can determine which facts are most fundamental, or important, for achieving it, and which are less so or even irrelevant.  For a simple example, your value is to eat dinner at The Habit Restaurant.  The nearest Habit is on La Cienega Boulevard near Beverly Boulevard. You are at your house on Santa Monica Boulevard.  Santa Monica Boulevard intersects with La Cienega Boulevard. La Cienega Boulevard goes down to Interstate 10, which is past Beverly Boulevard. Here, you can tell that the facts that The Habit is on La Cienega near Beverly Boulevard, La Cienega intersects with Santa Monica, and you’re along Santa Monica, are all relevant because from them you can figure out how to get your value: you go down Santa Monica to La Cienega, turn onto La Cienega and go to the restaurant for dinner. The fact that La Cienega goes down to I-10 beyond the restaurant can be disregarded as irrelevant, because it’s of no use in figuring out how to get to the restaurant.

For a much more in-depth example of forming a context regarding a far more significant value in everyone’s lives, consider the following. The value that you want is a satisfying career path.  You have the following hash of facts, all induced and deduced:

  1. You like cold weather.
  2. A degree from an Ivy League law school makes you marketable in any state.
  3. To get admitted to any law school you must take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
  4. You’re interested in the rules that govern how people in society interact with each other.
  5. Spain gets more tourists than any other country.
  6. To get a job as an intellectual property attorney an engineering degree is highly desirable.
  7. You aren’t rich.
  8. Ivy League law schools are extremely expensive.
  9. There is high demand for intellectual property lawyers in Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Huntsville, and Raleigh.
  10. People who do well in college tend to do well on the LSAT.
  11. If you overfill the popcorn popper the top will melt.
  12. University of Minnesota College of Law isn’t as good as an Ivy League law school but still makes you marketable almost everywhere.
  13.  There is low demand for lawyers and getting a job is difficult.
  14. There are good LSAT prep courses.
  15. To sit for a bar exam you have to get a degree from a law school.
  16. University of Minnesota College of Law is less expensive than an Ivy League school for in state residents.
  17. Ivy League law schools are very competitive and hard to get into.
  18. Law is the profession which deals with the rules that govern how people in society interact with each other.
  19.  You did well in college.
  20. Des Moines is the capital of Iowa.
  21. To practice law in any state you have to pass a bar exam given by the State Bar Association of that state.
  22. You’re a resident of Wisconsin.
  23. You don’t have any idea how well you’ll do on the LSAT.
  24. University of Minnesota College of Law is more highly regarded than University of Washington College of Law.
  25. You want to live in Minnesota.
  26. There are good LSAT prep courses.
  27. You have an engineering degree.
  28. University of Minnesota offers cheap in state tuition for out of state applicants who do well on the LSAT.

At first these facts all seem random, discussing cities, universities, the legal profession, sectors of the economy, exams, countries, popcorn, etc. But, when properly integrated, they dictate a clear path to a career: a law degree from University of Minnesota, and an intellectual property attorney position in Seattle.

Here’s how we get there.  First, you’re interested in the rules that govern how people in society interact with each other, which is law.  So you should probably try to become a lawyer.  There is low demand for lawyers and getting a job is difficult, so law may not be a good career choice; however, there is high demand for intellectual property lawyers in Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Huntsville, and Raleigh.  Also, to get a job as an intellectual property attorney an engineering degree is highly desirable and, it turns out, you have an engineering degree.  So in your case law may be a good choice after all.

For you to be able to practice law in any state, you have to pass a bar exam given by the State Bar Association of that state.  To sit for a bar exam, you have to get a degree from a law school. The best law schools are Ivy League law schools, from which a degree will make you marketable to law firms in any state. However, Ivy League law schools are extremely expensive, competitive and hard to get into, and you aren’t rich.  University of Minnesota College of Law looks like a good alternative to an Ivy League law school, though, because while it isn’t as good as an Ivy League law school, a degree from there still makes you marketable almost everywhere.  And it’s less expensive than an Ivy League school for in state residents. You’re a resident of Wisconsin and therefore not an in state resident, but University of Minnesota offers cheap in state tuition for out of state applicants who do well on the LSAT, which you’ll have to take to get admitted to any law school anyway.  While you don’t have any idea how well you’ll do on the LSAT, you’ll probably do well because people who did well in college tend to do well on the LSAT, and you did well in college. In addition, there are good LSAT prep courses available for you to take, and you want to live in Minnesota.

Seattle would be the best city to look for a job in once you get your degree because you like cold weather and it has the coldest weather of the cities with strong markets for intellectual property attorneys.  It may still be better to get your law degree from University of Minnesota, though, because even though University of Washington College of Law is located in Seattle, University of Minnesota College of Law is more highly regarded than University of Washington College of Law generally and a Minnesota degree may make you more marketable in the other cities with strong markets for intellectual property attorneys in case you find the Seattle job market a bit tight.

The facts about Des Moines, Spain, and the popcorn popper are irrelevant and can be disregarded.

There is a special kind of fact that aids people greatly in forming and understanding contexts called a principle.  A principle integrates lots of other facts and takes the form of a generalization of some kind. “All men are mortal” is a principle. Another: all rattlesnakes are poisonous.  In the above example there are a number of principles, including that to get into law school you have to take the LSAT, that the demand for lawyers is weak, that an engineering degree helps to get an intellectual property attorney position, and others. Principles keep people from constantly having to ask questions like, “is that man over there going to die too?” or “is that rattlesnake poisonous too?”.  Principles save mental energy.  Without them, in order to form contexts people would have to expend much more mental effort to memorize many more facts, making understanding reality and achieving values incredibly more difficult.

It is this process – from observations to concepts to facts to context – by which people achieve all their values and, consequently, civilized living standards. All businesses, interpersonal relationships, technological innovations, production of goods and services, and commerce ultimately result from it.  Without it there would be no economies of any size and we would still be in the Stone Age.

As important as thinking is, however, it is not automatic. While sensory perception, the first step of the thinking process, is automatic, the rest of the process is not. Much of thinking is self-evident for concrete concepts; consequently almost everyone can figure out relatively simple matters such as what to wear or have for dinner. For abstract concepts, however, thinking is neither automatic nor self-evident.  Reduction of abstractions to concretes is a skill that must be learned to be used effectively. Without learning reduction, someone can not figure out the correct meanings of abstractions and instead will treat them as if they are concretes.  For example, the abstract concept “friend” means someone who is supportive of one’s values.  But to arrive at this meaning requires reduction. If someone doesn’t understand reduction, he will define “friend” as a concrete concept meaning someone who is openly pleasant, polite or amiable, even if unbeknownst to him this person is a manipulator, schemer or criminal who would stab him in the back or steal his life savings – and might end up treating such a person as a “friend”.

It should be clear the kinds of problems this creates. If people don’t understand abstract concepts correctly, they are unable to induce facts that involve abstract concepts, and thus become unable to integrate those facts to form a context that depends on those facts. Values whose contexts involve facts with abstract concepts include romantic love, an understanding of morality, and successfully running a business, among others. People who can’t handle abstractions end up feeling cut off from achieving these types of values. They end up in broken relationships, operating failing businesses, believing that morality is some sort of a subjective scam to help protect the interests of particularly wealthy, clever or politically powerful people at the expense of others, and ultimately become frustrated if not destitute.

When people feel cut off from values they want, they turn against values as such.  Because values are necessary for life and happiness they turn against these as well and become envious and destructive towards those who have them, even to the point of becoming vicious killers. As examples consider the nihilistic behavior of any number of anti-values groups throughout history, from the barbarians who sacked Rome in the fifth century, to the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in 1258 and started the decline of the Moslem empire (and thus helped to create the cultural sewer that is much of the Islamic world today), to the Russian Bolsheviks, German Nazis, Italian and Spanish fascists, Imperial Japanese, Maoist Chinese, or any number of modern Islamic hate groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda or ISIS.

Modern American liberals fall into this same category.  Nihilism against values, life and happiness is rampant within the American left. Observe the feminists who mutilate human fetuses, the environmentalists who want to shut down all land development and sandbag economic growth with endless regulations, Democratic politicians who want ever-higher taxes so they can confiscate wealth and Obamacare so they can kill people through healthcare rationing, and the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, who want to bring down law and order.  (Look for an upcoming blog post on why liberals are the way they are.)

Today the intellectuals in our universities – precisely the people who are supposed to be teaching everyone how to think properly – are doing the exact opposite, producing freshly minted liberal nonthinkers like crazy. The importance of intellectuals in any society can not be overstated because it is they who are the source of the ideas that cause long-term social trends. Intellectuals have the influence they do because of their research, what they teach students, and the consulting services they provide outside the classroom to businesses and government officials. From them culture-shaping ideas are created, spread and turned into government policies, giving academia a position of the highest importance in influencing everyone’s future.

Instead of teaching people how to think, the overwhelming majority of intellectuals in American universities (and in those of other countries) today are opposed to doing so. They attack every step of the thinking process, claiming that sensory observation doesn’t work, that concepts are at best partially accurate estimations, that nobody can ever be sure whether facts are valid or not, that principles are just worthless generalizations, and to achieve values the best we can do is blindly follow our feelings and “muddle through”, and whatever happens, happens. The result of this attitude is the slow rot of failure and cultural decline we sense all around us today. (Look for an upcoming post on the attitudes towards thinking in Western history.)

Just like the empires before it, America will be vulnerable until this trend is reversed.  If there is one issue that is more important than all others – i.e., abortion, deficit spending, immigration, health care, foreign policy, taxes, etc. – for saving this country it is education, and in particular the attitude of our intellectuals towards the importance of good thinking. If the current attitude toward thinking that is dominant in academia is not changed within the next few decades the people who know the benefits of good thinking will die off and America’s decline will probably become irreversible.  So I’m calling on everyone to understand what’s in this blog post and make it an issue ASAP.  Feel free to comment and ask what can be done.

In memory of Hilda

Donald Trump – Character Counts

by Charles Robertson – Cofounder Broward Tea Party

You weren’t intentionally eavesdropping but you couldn’t help but overhear the conversation.  The person speaking said something racist or sexist or any multitude of inappropriate comments.  And then you formed an opinion of that person, we’ve all done it.  What we say and how we say it reveals who we are.  That explains why people share their deepest thoughts and secrets only with those they trust.  To strangers or in group talk we’re more guarded, aware we’re being judged.  Political candidates are acutely aware of this, knowing that any verbal misstep could derail their campaign.  When asked a question, they don’t just answer the question, their answers are crafted to project their vision and bolster their image.   And then there’s Donald Trump.

Let me start by saying I’m not a fan.  I suspect the majority of my fellow Tea Partiers aren’t either.  We tend to value character as the primary requirement in our candidates.  Sorry Donald, we found your weakness.  Speaking to Rolling Stone Magazine about fellow candidate Carly Fiorina, Trump said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president, I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”  Is this a presidential candidate or Jon Stewart? Crude, disrespectful, boorish, insulting, is this what conservatives want in a President?  This wasn’t eavesdropping, this was Trump publically revealing who he is. To publically offend someone in this manner goes beyond poor judgment, this was mean spirited and that reveals something deeper and more troublesome about the man.  A red flag for those who are paying attention.  And don’t think this was an isolated slip of tongue, there’s no shortage of similar Trumpisms.

What we’re seeing now is the same phenomenon that led to Barack Obama.  People enraptured by words.  In both cases the message was and still is powerful.  People were hungry for hope and change.  Today people are fed up with “stupid” politicians.  Were tired of America becoming a “dumping ground.”  Trump’s blunt politically incorrect words strike a chord on numerous issues.  The folks identify on a gut level.  But as was the case with Obama’s campaign, the message is long on emotion, short on substance and detail.  Trump’s popularity and perhaps his campaign strategy is based on an anti Obama anti politician national sentiment.  Fueled by dissatisfaction, conservatives are making the same mistake as Obama supporters, falling for the message and ignoring the messenger.

A fellow conservative friend of mine supports Trump.  I asked him why and his answer I believe speaks for most all Trump supporters.  He likes what Trump says about immigration, trade, foreign policy, etc.  My friend’s process for candidate evaluation is to check the boxes, whichever candidate gets the most checks is the winner.  I have a similar process but checking the issue boxes is step #2, in my process a candidate doesn’t get to step #2 unless I check box #1 CHARACTER.  Without character I don’t trust any politician to their campaign rhetoric.  People’s misplaced frustration with politicians is to blame the vocation (politics) when the real problem is the individual politician’s lack of character.

Call me old fashioned but I long for a Reagan type leader.  For me our president should embody class, character, confidence, honor, and integrity.  When I think of Trump none of those words come to mind.  Tea Partiers seek true conservatives who govern by principle.  Trump admits to buying politicians, what principle is that?  I suppose in an ever increasing secular world, ethics are overlooked.  People seem more willing to accept someone with baggage if they relate to the message.  I find that hard to accept considering there’s no shortage of other good candidates without or at least far less baggage.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m against political correctness.  I prefer straight talk, no mincing words.

The same way I begrudgingly admired Barack Obama’s ability to inspire through his speeches I also admire Donald Trump’s ability to do the same.  Problem is, they’re just words.  Our culture of low information voters (Trump would call them stupid) don’t get beyond sound bites.  An angry voter is money in Trump’s bank.  The master deal maker is selling the people what they want, hope & change repackaged as the pseudo conservative version.

Character is essential when difficult decisions are needed. Just ahead I see our country headed toward hard times that will require difficult unpopular decisions.  Will someone who’s spent his lifetime building his “brand” be willing to risk that by bucking public opinion.  Trump proudly points to his poll ranking, he relishes this aura of success.  As a businessman he sees the numbers validating his message and I believe maintaining this popularity will govern his decisions, his policies.  This is where I see him differing from Obama.  Obama sticks to his ideology and progressive agenda, more so in his 2nd term, despite his dropping popularity.  I don’t believe Trump has that same ideological passion for conservatism, I see him more as a finger to the wind, Clinton style populist.  The rhetoric we hear now might bear faint resemblance to the policies and actions of Trump the president.  That’s the art of the deal, close the deal first, deal with the rest later.

When asked by Chris Wallace in the 1st debate about his Atlantic City casino bankruptcies Trump responded, “First of all these lenders are not babies,” he continued, “They are killers. These are not the nice sweet little people you think.”  Problem is, it wasn’t just the lenders who got hurt.  In the 2009 Trump Taj Mahal bankruptcy case, unsecured creditors — low-level investors, contractors, small-time vendors — got less than a penny on the dollar for their claims against Trump Entertainment Resorts.  I understand there is sometimes a necessity to make difficult business decisions that can hurt some, perhaps to save more.  An explanation of that with an apology to those who were hurt would have seemed the appropriate answer.  Instead we got an attack on the evil bankers, same liberal style talking point designed to appeal to the angry.  I’ve seen this all before and unless we find a leader with character I’m afraid it doesn’t end well.

The Long Lost Doctrine of Individual Rights

The Long Lost Doctrine of Individual Rights

By: Branehart

Today people claim to have all sorts of ‘rights’.  Supposedly there are ‘rights’ to free speech, free education and free healthcare. Allegedly there are ‘economic rights’ to “a job in the nation’s industries” (from FDR) and a ‘living wage’ (whatever that is, and however much that is).  It is claimed there are ‘rights’ to ‘privacy’ and ‘rights’ to not be offended.  There are ‘rights’ to believe in what you want and be free from anyone who believes in anything.  There are even some who claim that if they want something, they have a ‘right’ to it – whatever (and whosever) it is.

But what is really meant by “rights”? The term’s real meaning seems a little long lost, because for over a century those intellectuals who are supposed to teach us about rights – in particular, professors in our universities – either have improperly twisted the doctrine (i.e., “economic rights”, “animal rights”, etc.) or have failed to teach it totally.  This is terrible for everyone’s future because of the extreme importance of rights in making our lives livable. It is essential that people properly understand what rights really are.

Philosophically speaking, a “right” is an ability of a person to do something without the permission of any other people.  It means to take an action of some kind.  Rights are also called individual rights because ultimately only individual people have them.  When groups of people collectively have rights, such as by voluntary private associations including partnerships, corporations and informal groups, they only do so by the voluntary consent of their individual members.

Individual rights are extremely valuable because they are the only known rules that enable everyone to live together in a way that allows them the greatest possible chance to achieve their personal happiness.  Without individual rights, societies degenerate into systems where some people end up elites and others second class citizens. In these societies the elites have the power to prevent the second classer’s from pursuing their happiness by forcing them to live as a means to the elite’s ends, ultimately as de facto slaves of some kind.  Examples aren’t hard to find, from primitive tribes to mafia-run anarchies to modern dictatorships.

People benefit enormously by living together.  If we lived isolated from each other we would have to live by subsistence, spending so much time and effort on each and every task we had to do to survive that we would never get very good at doing anything. Everyone’s lives would be short and full of miserable drudgery. We would be like primitive cavemen trying to hunt or grow enough food to eat, protect ourselves from the elements, and fight off dangerous animals and other people trying to steal what little we have.  When we live together with other people, however, we can enjoy the benefits of a division of labor system with them. With division of labor individuals can – and do – specialize at producing those values that they are good at producing, and then trade with other people what they produce in exchange for what they don’t have. This specialization and exchange allows people the time to constantly innovate and improve what they do, creating the great standard of living we enjoy now.

But a society where people live together can be dangerous because while people can be enormously beneficial to each other they can be harmful as well.  They can steal through force or fraud the values others produce. They can unjustly imprison, physically abuse, rape, enslave and even murder each other. Societies where this behavior is widespread and tolerated by its rulers ultimately collapse and revert to primitive dark ages where people are such a threat to one other that the only way for anyone to live, is by subsistence.

To get the benefits and prevent the dangers of living with others, individual rights are necessary.  Rights do this by placing objective boundaries on people’s behavior towards other people. Under the doctrine of individual rights, when in the company of others there are certain actions you can take without anyone else’s permission, and certain ones you can’t and need permission for.  Want to drive your car?  You have that right.  Want to borrow mine?  Ask me first.

There are two facts unique to people that give us rights: first, that we can consciously regard life as preferable to death; and second, that we can choose from among many different potential values to achieve our happiness. (For a thorough explanation of the concepts of values and happiness, please refer to my post “So, What are Values Anyway?” dated August 10, 2015 on the Broward County Tea Party’s blog site.)

Regarding the first, we can consciously understand all the happiness and pleasure that is possible from being alive and to a great extent avoid things that would kill or otherwise harm us. Lower animals, in contrast, cannot regard their lives as preferable to death. All they can do is what their instincts tell them to, even if it gets them killed. For example, I found a baby garter snake in my apartment in March a few years ago while living in the Midwest. Normally I detest killing nonpoisonous snakes but, because I didn’t want it in my apartment, there was nothing for it to eat in there anyway, and it was too cold outside for it to survive, it was pretty much doomed.  So I took my rubber sandal and swung at it.  It coiled up, stood its ground and struck ferociously at the shoe, breaking its neck and killing itself in the process. If the snake could’ve appreciated its life as preferable to death, it wouldn’t have done that. It would’ve seen the shoe, wondered if it could’ve won a fight with such an object and, if in doubt, would’ve slithered away into some crevice behind a cabinet where I couldn’t reach it. But it couldn’t do that. It had no choice other than to do what its instincts ordered it to: stand its ground – and die.  The same is true for all lower animals.

Regarding the second, people can consciously choose both to be happy and how to be happy, from a myriad of possibilities. It goes without saying there is an incredible variety of possible vocations, careers and leisure activities for people to partake in and many different people to associate with.  From all of these we can choose the ones that are of greatest interest to us and will make us happiest.  Again, this is not the case for lower animals. When their instincts direct them to act, just like the snake in the preceding paragraph they have no choice in the matter as to how or any alternatives; they can only do what they are directed to.  If their instincts direct them to something that furthers their lives, they’re satisfied; if not, they’re either frustrated or dead. But achieving any kind of greater happiness from choosing one alternative over another isn’t possible to them.

There are four basic rights: the pursuit of happiness; life; liberty; and property.  The most fundamental of these, the pursuit of happiness, means the ability, without anyone else’s permission, to choose from among the available possibilities those values that are of the greatest interest to you and  make yourself as happy as possible.  For example, we all have the final say over which career choices we make, who our romantic soul mates will be, and a whole bunch of other decisions ranging from how and where to live, what kinds of hobbies and leisure activities to take up, what consumer goods to purchase, etc.

The second most fundamental of these rights, the right to life, means the ability without anyone else’s permission to decide to continue living if we so choose; we have no obligation to fall on our sword or commit suicide or allow someone else to kill us if we don’t want to.  This right is concomitant with the right to the pursuit of happiness because, to be happy, you must be alive to experience it (72 virgins in heaven for Islamic terrorist martyrs notwithstanding, of course.  I hope everyone understands my sarcasm.).

The third right, to liberty, means the ability without anyone else’s permission to take those actions necessary to pursue one’s values.  As living things go between plants and animals, humans are definitely on the animal side of things. We can’t just stay in place and get our values by photosynthesizing the way plants do. Like lower animals, to live we have to act.  For humans that means two kinds of actions: thinking, and then physically acting based on the results of that thinking. For example, to have dinner, you have to think about what you want, figure out if you have it in the house or, if not, that you have to get it or have something else, or whether there is someplace convenient where you might want to eat out. Then, you have to actually take the physical actions to get the food by buying, ordering or preparing it, and then eat it.  To choose a career you have to think about whether what’s involved in a particular vocation interests you and then do what it takes to go to work in it, i.e., working in a certain type of business to learn the basic principles governing how it operates, getting a college degree, taking certain exams such as the MCAT or LSAT, going to law or medical school, completing a residency, etc.

The fourth and final of these rights, the right to property, means the ability without anyone else’s permission to use and dispose of values as you see fit once you have achieved them.  It is a right because, if someone is to live happily, he must have control over his values.  After all, what good is a value you earned if you can’t use it to further your life and happiness? For example, someone saves up to buy a house he wants. Then, he has enough to make a down payment and qualify for a mortgage for the rest. So he buys the house. Then (provided he doesn’t voluntarily agree to any covenants or restrictions on doing so imposed on the property by private entities with prior ownership interests in it), he can live in it, lease it, vacation in it while living somewhere else, let his children live in it, remodel it, etc.  People can have rights in both physical and intangible property, such as one’s positive reputation (known legally as “goodwill”), contract rights, and intellectual property like copyrighted material and trademarks.

Life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness (and rights derived from them, such as under a contract) are the only rights people have.  What nobody has is a right to obligate other adults to involuntarily obey their commands without their consent first.  It follows that nobody has “rights” to things like an education, health care, a “job in the nation’s industries”, a “living wage”, or anything else that has to be provided from someone else.  If multiple people are to collaborate towards a common goal, it has to be by the voluntary consent of everyone involved, such as by contract or other consensual means. The only kind of involuntary obligation sane, noncriminal adults have to other people is a negative one: not to violate their rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Rights can only be violated by starting the use of either physical force or fraud against other people.  The most obvious form of force is direct physical agency like beating or shooting someone (a violation of the right to life), kidnapping or wrongly incarcerating him (a violation of the right to liberty), or stealing his property (a violation of the right to property). Credible threats to do such things to another person are also considered force.  Fraud involves making a misrepresentation to another person on which that person reasonably relies to his detriment.  For example, a mechanic with a decent reputation who knowingly tells his customer he needs a new transmission costing $1500 when all his car really needs is new transmission fluid costing $150 has committed fraud if, in reliance on the mechanic’s advice, the customer pays for the new transmission.

But force can be more subtle than overtly beating, shooting, kidnapping or robbery, and it can also be used by governments against those it governs. For example, a government bureaucrat, in an effort to shake down a particular company, enforces regulations against it at the urging of its competitor.  This is a violation of both the company’s right to liberty, to operate as it wishes, as well as its right to property if it forks over money to the bureaucrat or his cronies to get the government to leave it alone.  (For more information on how governments violate the rights of businesses see my post “But Don’t Businesses Need to be “Regulated”?” dated May 15, 2015 on the Broward County Tea Party’s blog site.)

Rights can not be violated merely by insults or disapproval.  This is because only force or fraud can prevent someone from doing those things he has a right to. If a panhandler or con artist, for example, asks a woman for money, his comments, suggestions or insults alone won’t compel her to hand it over the way, say, pulling out a gun and giving her the ultimatum of “your money or your life” can.  Or it can be done by fraud, such as by telling her he will do something good for her with the money and, once she gives it to him, absconding to parts unknown with it.  The woman, consequently, has a right to be free from the threats or misrepresentations of the panhandler, but not from him disliking her or calling her names or saying she’s a fat pig, etc.  She has no right to not be offended by him.

There is currently an onslaught against rights in academia to define them in improper ways.  For example, the liberty to think and act by speaking your mind is under attack by political correctness and defining of “bullying” to mean insults, namecalling and disapproval rather than physical force such as assault and battery.  And, while professors look for ways to deny rights to people, they openly champion lower animals – for whom, as previously discussed, rights are useless – as having “rights” because they can “feel pain”.  As previously mentioned, what gives any organism rights is the ability to regard life as preferable over death and the ability to choose particular values over others; the ability to “feel pain” has nothing to do with it.  What “animal rights” really is, is a scam to take rights away from humans.  For example, a bear comes into your backyard and threatens your family, so you shoot the bear.  According to “animal rights”, you will go to prison for violating the “rights” of the bear.

This trend must be fought if we are to keep a society that allows people the freedom to choose the values they want and live happily.  But to win this fight, we have to know what we are fighting for.  That means correctly understanding individual rights because central to the fight is the fight to protect individual rights.

So, What are Values Anyway? By Branehart

So, What are Values Anyway?

By Branehart

It isn’t hard to hear about “values”. Politicians and the media often mention “high moral values” and “core values” and “family values”. What is harder, and what the politicians and media typically don’t help much with, is getting a clear understanding of exactly what “values” are. The word is thrown around loosely, often being used to mean things it doesn’t like, such as beliefs or morals. Though related to them, these are not really values.

This is a huge problem because a correct understanding of values is essential for understanding and fighting for individual rights, political freedom and limited government. Values, properly defined, are the things, both concrete and abstract, that are valuable to living creatures of all kinds including humans for a purpose, with that purpose ultimately being to further their survival. Values for plants, for example, include water, sunlight, and minerals in the soil. For animals, consider the following scene in Alaska; A group of tourists are standing on the edge of a scenic rushing stream with a forest on the other side. Suddenly a large black or grizzly bear charges out of the forest towards the crowd. In the middle of the stream it turns, catching fish in its mouth. The bear is pursuing and achieving its values, in this case, food.

Only living things can have values. Only living things can have a purpose – their continued survival as living things – for which things can be of value. Inanimate objects such as rocks, automobiles, computers, oceans, buildings, planets and the like do not have a purpose for which they need to gain or seek anything, so nothing can be of value to them.

For humans, values include both necessities for living as well as things that may not be necessary but make life more enjoyable. Food, clothing, housing, employment, education, comaraderie, appreciation from others for the good one does, good health, financial security, leisure, romance, children, consumer goods, a good credit rating and lots of other things are all human values.

For living things other than humans, achieving values leads to satisfaction. When a bear catches a fish in an Alaskan stream, it is satisfied. But for something to be a value for humans its’ achievement must not lead merely to satisfaction, but additionally to happiness. Happiness is an enduring satisfaction, with “no bitter aftertaste”. Happiness results from something that is objectively beneficial to a person’s life, rather than just something someone wants but either knows or should know would be harmful to it. For example, a man meets a woman whom he gets to know, trust, and enjoys being with. He has similar interests and enjoys her company. After knowing each other a few years he asks her to marry him, she says yes, and he is happy. In contrast, a dictator or mafia hit man murders an innocent man, steals his property, or blackmails him. He may be satisfied because he accomplished his mission but certainly isn’t happy.

For something to be a value, it must be real. For example, to get nutrition necessary to avoid starving, living things must consume real food, not imaginary food or poison. To get energy and heat, you can’t burn ersatz coal; you have to burn genuine coal. Real can also mean abstract, as long as there is ultimately a real world benefit; For example, rights under a contract to receive a benefit can be a value. On the other hand, scams, snake oil, and 72 virgins in heaven are of no help to living things for achieving anything and therefore are not legitimate values regardless of whether anyone subjectively considers them to be or not.

Values are contextual. In one context something may be a perfectly fine value because it objectively benefits someone’s life while in another it could be extremely harmful. Cigarettes are a good illustration. Smoke a few of them and you’ll feel great, without getting high or hallucinating (which is objectively harmful because it cuts you off from reality). Smoke too many of them for too long, however, and they could kill you. They are still the same cigarettes, but their status as a value can change based on the circumstances.

One context where something is never a value for humans is when it is gotten by initiating, or starting, force against other people. Force not only includes physical means like beating or shooting someone, defaming him, wrongfully prosecuting or incarcerating him, or stealing his property (or credible threats to do any of these), but also swindling him through fraud. For someone to get something belonging to someone else and have it remain a value, it must be earned or otherwise given by voluntary, uncoerced consent. Or: you can be a banker, but not a bank robber.

When someone tries to obtain something by force, it ceases to be a value for his life and instead becomes detrimental to it. It becomes detrimental because it entitles the victim to retaliate against the perpetrator, which can result in legal penalties including loss of liberty through incarceration, loss of property through damages and fines and, in capital cases, even loss of life itself. Further, if a particular country’s government allows anyone to start the use of force against others as an official policy, a universal precedent is set for anyone to use it. This leads to anarchy where survival becomes difficult if not impossible, where happiness is unattainable and, as Thomas Hobbes once stated, “life is brutish and short”. For example, if a dictator initiates force against his subjects, he essentially opens the door for them to rise up and turn the tables on him when the conditions are right. Bastille Day in France, the fall of Shanghai to Mao in China, and Castro’s march on Havana are all examples. In other words, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

“For human beings, the two most important values are purpose and thinking.”

A purpose is a reason for choosing almost all of your other values. It’s a value because it helps determine and organize your other values. For most people their purpose is their career, as opposed to hobbies. Choosing a particular career will determine a whole bunch of other values, i.e., which skills one will need to develop, what kind of education he’ll need to get, which people he will have to meet and socialize with to assist him, and maybe even where he’ll have to live.

People need a purpose in life because without one we would have no idea from the vast number of possibilities which values to choose. As humans our values are never chosen for us automatically at any point during our lives; we have to consciously select them. This is different from other living things like the bear in the previous example. When the bear catches the fish in the stream, it doesn’t have to figure out how or choose to do it; it just does it automatically, as it does with all of its values. (For more information, watch for an upcoming blog post on purpose.)

The other value, thinking (also called reason), is important because it enables you to get all of your other values. Thinking is the process of taking in information about reality and turning it into knowledge useful for achieving values. Because values must be real, getting accurate information about reality is essential to live. This information must then be integrated with the requirements of our survival so that we can figure out whether something is a value for it or not.

Developing thinking skills is essential for people because, as said previously, we do not act automatically to survive; unlike lower animals we have to figure out how. We have no automatic knowledge in this regard. We have to consciously examine what’s out there and determine if it is helpful or harmful. For example, a primitive tribesman is hungry and sees an animal. Is it good to eat, like a tuna or salmon? Or is it deadly poisonous, like a pufferfish? If he wants to tempt eating it, what does he have to do to capture it? If he tried using his hands, would it get away? Or slash him to ribbons with sharp teeth and claws? Or poison him with venom? And if he did manage to capture it, how would he make it safe to eat? Eat it raw? Or cook it first? And if he does cook it, does he kill it first (as with most animals) or cook it while it’s still alive (i.e., lobster)? For other living things like the bear, there is no concern with such issues. But for us there is. (Watch for an upcoming blog on the thinking process.)

Much of the confusion surrounding the concept of values comes from the fact that it is easily misused, usually to mean virtues. The difference between values and virtues is that values are the things that living things want to get and use to survive, while virtues are character traits people have that help us get our values. As stated previously, values include having a purpose and thinking skills sufficient to get other values. Virtues, in contrast, include: rationality (which means living by thinking, as opposed to living mindlessly by emotional whim), independence of judgment (meaning thinking for oneself about what he observes or is told about an issue, rather than mindlessly accepting someone else’s conclusion about it), justice (treating other people well if they think, and poorly if they do not), pride (as opposed to arrogance or excessive humility, meaning being committed to living by thinking), integrity (being consistent in living by thinking, rather than lapsing into mindlessness periodically), productiveness (being in favor of achieving values), and honesty (being committed to not faking reality). In summary, virtuous behavior is mindful, thinking behavior.

Being clear about the meaning of values is essential for achieving the values of the Tea Party: individual rights, limited government, and fiscal responsibility. For example, the most fundamental of all rights, the right to the pursuit of happiness, means the ability without permission to choose the values one wants and pursue them. Without understanding values, understanding the right to the pursuit of happiness becomes impossible, which in turn makes incomprehensible the rights to life, liberty and property, which are derived from it. And without an understanding of individual rights, it becomes extremely difficult to fight for political freedom and limited government. (Watch for an upcoming post on individual rights.) To succeed in our fight, we must first understand the meaning of values.

Why our Government Mistreats our Troops: By Wald Branehart

“Why our Government Mistreats our Troops”

 By: Wald Branehart
Quite possibly the U.S. Military is the world’s best, not only in capability but also in benevolence. It successfully saved South Korea from the ravages of communism, transformed the barbaric dictatorships of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan into two of the world’s wealthiest nations, and even stared down the Soviet Union.  The federal government, however, treats the military with disdain if not outright disrespect.  Secretary of State John Kerry has compared the actions of our soldiers to the atrocities of Mongolian Emperor Genghis Khan.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has equated water boarding with torture.  Prosecutors regularly fly-speck the actions of combat personnel, ready to prosecute them vigorously for even slight violations of unduly burdensome rules of engagement. And Veterans’ Administration bureaucrats have been accused of falsifying veterans’ medical records in VA hospitals, leading to several deaths.  Why on earth does this grotesque injustice occur?
The answer has to do with an inherent conflict of interest within the governments of free countries between the military and civilian sides of the government. Often, in countries without mandatory military service where people are free to choose the values they want and pursue their own happiness by right, those who enlist in the military appreciate this freedom and individual rights so much they are literally willing to give up their lives to defend them.
Not so on the civilian side of government.  By its nature governments must use force to protect people against violations of rights.  This ability to use force, however, very often attracts the kind of people a government is supposed to protect everyone against: power lusters who want to live off others as bloodsuckers by assaulting, robbing or defrauding them.  Positions in government bureaucracies give such people opportunities to do this under color of law, making it far easier to get away with it long term than if they had to resort to street thuggery. To these power lusters freedom and individual rights are not considered values but are regarded as threats, because they give their victims the ability and justification to resist and fight back against them.
This conflict between the military and the civilian bureaucracy explains disgusting injustices such as the prosecution of Marine Lieutenant Ilario Pantano for shooting and killing two Iraqis who lunged at him while they were being detained during the Iraq War; the indifference shown by the federal government to the torture and abuse by Mexico of United States Marines Jon Hammar and Andrew Tahmooressi for accidentally bringing guns into Mexico; and of course the attitude of VA bureaucrats who denied medical care to veterans in a Phoenix VA hospital in 2014 resulting in 40 deaths. It also explains the leniency shown those military members against whom credible evidence of disloyalty exists, such as Bowe Bergdahl, accused of desertion; and the classification of the Fort Hood shooter’s acts as “workplace violence” rather than terrorism.
Our military personnel obviously deserve far better than this.  What they need are skilled and savvy advocates who, by recognizing this conflict of interest, are always ready to act on their behalf against those in the government who are out to do them harm.  The need to protect our military personnel from those in government who oppose them is just another reason why, as Thomas Jefferson once stated, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.

Funding the Government Without Taxes: Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free

Funding the Government Without Taxes: Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free

By Wald Branehart

The IRS regularly targets members of the Tea Party and other groups that favor limited government for harassment. This has an unacceptable, if not unconstitutional, chilling effect on freedom. Speak your mind or otherwise stand up for limiting, rather than expanding, the power of governments and BOOM! You figuratively have a bull’s-eye painted on you. Even if you can prove you paid your taxes (and did everything else according to the law), the IRS and other agencies can still make your life a living hell for a long time. And they’ll use their status as governmental entities to avoid accountability for wrongfully harassing you. It’s no wonder conservative talk shows are full of ads for folks who can help if you’re audited.

There are many people in favor of some type of simplification of the tax code. There are proposals for flat taxes and fair taxes and even national sales taxes, among others. But while simplification is a good idea, it doesn’t really address the real problem: the leverage taxes give governments over private citizens who want freedom and limited government. Because while fair taxes and flat taxes may be simpler taxes, at root they are still taxes – and are by their nature the opposite of freedom and limited government. Taxes are based on the premise that you do not own or have a right to your property, or at least some of it; governments ‘own’, in essence, whatever share their laws allow them to take. To increase their power governments always want to increase this share. And, of course, if you hide your property to reduce your taxes, you are legally a criminal and the government gets the go-ahead to destroy your life.

We need governments and must fund them. Without functioning governments there would be anarchy with everyone essentially his own judge, jury and prosecuting attorney, free to do whatever he wants to anyone else. All the benefits of interpersonal relationships including much of civilization would become impossible. It would be, as Thomas Hobbes described in Leviathan, a “state of nature” where “life is brutish and short.”

The trick is to figure out how to fund governments without giving them leverage over those they govern. This would require some kind of situation that would force people to fund the government, while not subjecting them to legal harassment if they didn’t.

There is such a system. As a play on the lyrics of the 1980’s Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing”, I call it Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free. Here’s how it works.

Whenever businesses enter into commercial contracts, they would remit an amount equal to a legally determined percentage of the value of each contract to federal, state and local governments to fund their operations. For example, a developer signs a contract with a contractor to build a building that will cost $6,000,000. The jurisdiction has a percentage rate of 7%. The parties would be liable for paying the government of that jurisdiction $420,000.

If a contracting party does not pay its share of the amount due to the government, the government will have no power to prosecute or otherwise use force in any way to collect the money. This would end the oppressiveness of governments regarding financing. However, the nonpaying party will not be able to sue the other party to enforce the contract and will have no recourse if the other party breaches it. For example, assume there are two parties to the aforementioned contract for a building. The parties agree that each party will pay half of the amount due the government, so each party has to pay $210,000. The party responsible for constructing the building pays his share but the other party, responsible for paying him the $6,000,000, does not. If the party constructing the building does so and the other party refuses to pay him, he can sue to get paid. But if the party constructing the building does not construct the building, the other party, not having paid his $210,000 to the government, cannot sue the other party for damages until he does pay it. The consequences of a breached contract can potentially be severe enough to bankrupt a business, so businessmen will pay to enforce them and governments will get a reliable stream of revenue.

Meanwhile, people will still be able to call the police, press criminal charges and sue civilly if they are physically attacked, defrauded, defamed, robbed, kidnapped, victimized by negligent behavior, their homes or businesses are broken into, their property is stolen, etc. This kind of protection everyone would get for free.

To better understand Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free, it is worthwhile to examine the nature of the two bodies of law that are relevant to it: contracts and torts.

Tort law is the oldest branch of the English common law. Developed in Great Britain between the Norman Invasion of 1099 and today, the English common law is the foundation for the legal systems governing countries with an English heritage including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Tort law prevents torts, which is the French word not for pastries, but for wrongs (and thus apropos because the Normans were French and brought tort law rules with them in 1099).

Almost all of the ways someone can initiate force against someone else are considered wrongs, or torts: battery, which means battering, or physically attacking, poisoning, etc. someone else; assault, meaning attempting to batter someone else; trespassing; false imprisonment; theft and destruction of someone else’s property; negligent behavior causing injury to someone else or their property; misrepresentation; and defamation. More severe torts are called crimes, which are based on torts. For example, the crime of homicide essentially means committing a battery resulting in the victim’s death. The crime of robbery is essentially theft under violent circumstances. Burglary is a certain type of trespass. Rape is a battery involving sexual penetration. Kidnapping is false imprisonment of someone plus moving him away from where he was captured. Arson is destruction of another’s property by using fire. Fraud is usually a theft through misrepresentation. Etc.

It is important to remember about torts that, notwithstanding defenses[1], they are actions that for the most part are automatically wrong for everyone all the time. By banning the initiation of force, tort law is the most basic body of law that protects individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.

But while tort law can prevent people from stealing things and bashing each others’ skulls in, it can’t compel someone to pave a street, deliver a shipment of books or food, draft a legal opinion, construct a building, or pay someone for doing any of these things. This is why contract law is necessary. A contract is a binding and legally enforceable promise voluntarily entered into by someone to do something for someone else. Most commonly, it involves one party obligated to provide a good or service to the other, and the other obligated to pay him for it. It’s also possible for both parties to be obligated to provide goods or services to each other. In any case, if someone enters into a contract and then doesn’t do what he promised, he can be sued for breaching the contract and be liable for compensating the other party for any injury caused by the breach.

Contracts allow people to reasonably rely on others, making division of labor and all of its benefits possible, including much of civilized living. Without contract law this wouldn’t be possible for the most part because there would be no legal way to hold others accountable for the promises they make. People would essentially be trapped in a very primitive standard of living, unable to depend on anyone for their needs but themselves.

In contrast with torts, contractual obligations are not automatic and don’t apply to everyone. Rather they are contract specific and apply only to the people who enter into them. This is why, while I consider tort law “automatic” law, I consider contract law “do it yourself” law. Tort law provides the basic social compact to respect individual rights and refrain from initiating force against others that everyone must follow. Above and beyond that, to do specific things that some people want done but others don’t, people can tailor the law to their specific needs and hold only certain people bound by it with contracts.

The logic of Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free should now be clear. As humans we need to live free from force. Therefore protection from torts should be free and automatic for everyone, with anyone able to dial 911 whenever they need to. However, if someone wants to use the government for something extra, like to compel someone to live up to his obligations under a custom-made contract to build a building, perform surgery, manufacture or distribute a particular product, etc., he should pay extra for it.

If people had to pay to protect themselves from torts the result would be a disastrous protection racket. Instead of being harassed by the IRS, everyone would be at risk of being attacked by street gangsters. Governments could perpetually shake down everyone as much as they like and if anyone refused to pay, suddenly thugs and goons could beat him senseless, steal his property, burn his house down – until he forked over whatever amount the government requested. But with an obligation to pay to enforce contracts, the consequences would be far less severe and there would be no protection racket. Instead of being beaten to a pulp, the deadbeat who didn’t pay his enforceability fee would merely be at risk of the other party’s breach. In addition the harm would be localized to the nonpaying party and those associated with him, and not a threat to society as a whole.

Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free would even satisfy the public policy objective of progressive taxation. It is rich and middle income people who run businesses, at least high value ones. It is they who, in doing so, make contracts and thus they, not the poor, who would be paying the fees to enforce them. The poor, in contrast, wouldn’t be paying anything and would have no burden to finance the government, so government financing would not impose any financial hardship on them.

As with a national sales tax, Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free would only be effective at ending the abuse of the existing tax system if there were no tax system. Otherwise, it could become an additional financial burden in addition to existing income taxes. Therefore before Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free could be implemented, there needs to be a total repeal of the current tax system. Repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution would be a good idea.

There are a number of operational details that can be worked out in the future. For example, the default rule, if the contract is silent and the parties didn’t decide otherwise, could be that the parties would split the obligation to pay the enforceability fee equally among the contracting parties as in the preceding example. Also one party might be able to waive its obligation to pay its share with the consent of the other party, who would then pay the whole amount due. The effect of amendments to contracts which would change the value of a contract and thus the amount due to governments would also have to be addressed. Also to be worked out are the rights of a nonpaying party who is sued by a paying party. He would have to have a constitutional right under due process of law to defend himself, but could he bring a counterclaim if appropriate against the party suing him? I would say no. Anyone has a right to defend his self if sued, but to countersue, pay the fee.

There are some unavoidable hazards. For example, the term “value of the contract” would of course be legally defined by statute, just as tax rates are today. This statute could become complicated like the current tax code and for the same reasons, as special interests would lobby for the changes to it that they want. Also, governments would still want the percentage rate to be as high as possible. The only cure for this is pressure from the electorate to prevent it from increasing, much the way people lobby for lower tax rates today. Regardless of the system used to fund the government, it is still the government you will be funding – and to do that, there never will be a substitute for eternal vigilance.

Regardless of these issues, however, I believe such a system would be vastly more preferable than the one we have today. Not only would it be unoppressive for reasons previously noted. It also probably would be far less costly to administer. Even if special interests succeed in making the law complex, it probably would never become as crazy as today’s tax code. But even if it did, the absence of the threat of prosecution and audits might collectively save businesses billions if not trillions of dollars, leading to far more wealth production and an explosively vigorous economy.

Obviously I don’t expect all of this to happen tomorrow. But what I hope to do is, between now and Election Day 2016, get as many freedom-loving people as possible thinking along these lines. Those who value limited government can escape the leverage of the IRS with a theory like Money for Contracts and the Torts for Free.

© by Wald Branehart 2015

[1] There are defenses to a tort claim, such as self defense and defense of others against someone who initiates an attack, or consent (i.e., you can’t sue someone for battery if they punch you in a boxing match or tackle you in a football game you voluntarily entered into), duress, emergencies, etc.

But Don’t Businesses Need to be “Regulated”? Blog By: Wald Branehart

But Don’t Businesses Need to be “Regulated”?

Capitalism calls for a separation of state and the economy, without regulation of private sector businesses by government.  But don’t businesses need to be regulated by governments to protect people’s individual rights?

The answer is: no, they don’t.

But then, if businesses are not regulated, what would stop them from rampantly making dangerous products, defrauding consumers, breaching contracts and committing (and getting away with) other injurious actions?

The answer is: not regulations, but rather laws – properly formulated, to protect the individual rights of everyone.  As the foregoing makes clear, the fundamental distinction is one between the proper concept of laws, and the concept of regulations.

Properly constituted, laws are binding rules designed to protect individual rights.  Philosophically speaking, man has four basic rights: those to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.  A right to life means man can choose to live if he wants; he does not have an obligation to fall on his sword for anyone else if he does not want to.  A right to liberty means man has the freedom to take those actions that he must to live.  A right to property means he has control over the use and disposal of the material values he rightfully owns.  And the right to the pursuit of happiness means he can decide for himself which values will make him happy and then pursue them.

Because man has rights, he is entitled to be free from other people violating these rights by starting, or initiating, physical force against him. The most obvious form of force is direct physical agency like beating or shooting someone (a violation of the right to life), kidnapping or wrongly incarcerating him (a violation of the right to liberty), or stealing his property (a violation of the right to property). Credible threats to do such things to another person are also considered force, because they have the same effect as the actual acts themselves in that they cause someone to give up his rights and obey the force wielder; deception, such as through acts of fraud or defamation, is also a form of force.

To protect rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, governments pass laws banning the initiation of physical force against other people.  Today all developed countries have similar laws that do this, banning negligence; assault and battery; homicide; false imprisonment; theft; fraud and misrepresentation; defamation; trespassing on others’ property; and breach of contract. Although there are differences from country to country, these rules form the basis for the codes that protect individual rights worldwide.  These laws may be civil laws, resulting in the awarding of monetary damages to compensate a victim upon a finding of liability of the accused; or for more severe offenses they may be criminal laws, resulting in fines, incarceration for significant periods, or even death to the accused upon a finding of guilt.

In contrast with proper laws, regulations (which are also called ‘laws’ by the left to package-deal them with proper laws, and are given the force of law by governments) do not protect individual rights. Rather, they order businesses to follow certain procedures when conducting their affairs that have nothing to do with violations of rights or force.  For example, some regulations may tell businesses how to value their assets when doing their accounting.  Other regulations may tell businesses how to design mechanical devices or what fuel mileage the cars they produce must get. Still others may order them to use certain materials when making clothing or specify procedures to be followed when making food products.  Still others may tell businesses how securities are to be bought and sold.  Today there are so many thousands of regulations on the state and federal levels of government controlling almost all aspects of commerce that virtually no business can follow them all to the letter.

Governments justify the passage of regulations on the ground that they are necessary to protect the “general welfare” or the “public interest” by specifying procedures that ban dangerous products and deceptive trade practices.  And to many people, this sounds credible and regulations seem like a good idea.  However, the truth is that regulations are not made by anyone who knows how to keep people safe other than by banning the initiation of physical force. There is no special governmental “know-how”, for example, that justifies bureaucrats coercively micromanaging others’ lives, regulating businesses or making products safer or better or whatever with “governmental oversight”.  Governments, for example, do not know how to build cars or trade securities or make food or clothing or anything else better than the private sector companies who make these things do.  For this reason, regulations do not make businesses more efficient or their products safer or of better quality.  All regulations do is cause businesses to spend inordinate amounts of time and money to comply, destroying their profitability and success thereby.

If regulations do not protect individual rights or make businesses’ products safer or otherwise better, then why are they passed – and why do they proliferate?  The truth is that regulations allow governments to either shake down and/or effectively take control of private businesses, forcing them to work to further governments’ objectives rather than those of the companies’ rightful owners. Governments do this by essentially playing “gotcha” with the companies they regulate, using the fact that, as mentioned earlier, regulations are too numerous for companies to completely comply with.  Any infraction can give governments leverage to levy fines or compel management to comply with whatever demands they wish to make.

In a free society there is no justification for regulations.  If a business negligently, knowingly, intentionally or recklessly acts in a way that violates others’ rights, it should be prosecuted and held accountable; it should not be ‘regulated’.  For example, if a car company creates or markets unsafe models that cause injury or death to others or their property, such as the Ford Pinto during the 1970’s, the solution is to convict and imprison the officers and engineers who knowingly approved the dangerous design and levy heavy fines against the company; it is not to start telling all car companies how to design their gas tanks or chassis or engine blocks or whatever.  (This is actually the job of liability insurance underwriters.)  If a CEO of a major corporation directs the accountants to “cook the books” by greatly overvaluing assets and causes the company’s bankruptcy, as was done at Enron Corporation, the solution is to prosecute the CEO and the accountants for fraud. It is not to start specifying how all companies are to conduct their accounting procedures (as the American Federal Government did with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act).

As for deterring future violations of rights by others, whether they be businesses or individuals, this will be accomplished by holding the violators of rights accountable for their actions.  In this manner inferior and dangerous business practices will be abandoned, and be replaced with safer and better ones over time.

In sum, businesses (like individuals) should be held accountable for violating others’ rights – but no they should not be ‘regulated’.

© 2009 by Wald Branehart

A Rose by any Other Name: By Charles Robertson

A Rose by any Other Name

By Charles Robertson, co-founder Broward Tea Party

The question arose at our Tea Party Meeting, “should we change our name?” The intention was to remove “Tea Party” from our name. Those who supported the change pointed out that the Tea Party has been effectively portrayed by the liberal media as a radical, fringe, extremist organization. It matters little the inaccuracy or unfairness of the portrayal, what counts is what the public believes. Polling would show that the Tea Party image has suffered, affecting our ability to market our message.   It’s hard to counter public opinion and this negative image makes Tea Party recruiting an uphill struggle. Perhaps they say, with a different name, our group could attract more members.

One way to circumvent the branding burden is to rebrand. A simple name change would immediately neutralize any negative image. A new name would mean a clean slate that could still promote Tea Party principles, an agenda that appeals to mainstream America. That’s an easier sell which could boost membership thus creating a more effective political action group. The pro name changers would argue that results are what matters. If that was all that mattered, I might side with them.

My first thought against a name change is that it’s conceding defeat. This change would reward the smear merchants and leave me, and many others I suspect, feeling cowardly for not defending our team. I’m not for raising the white flag and moving on. Tea Partiers are patriots and fighters for our cause. It would seem hypocritical to fight for our principles while at the same time shedding our identity.

Tea partiers need to relish the attacks, if we weren’t a strong force, there would be no attacks. Even under a new name, if we grew to prominence then we’d again be on the liberal radar dealing with the same smear campaigns. If we changed our name to let’s say, Team Liberty, then it would only be a matter of time before you’d hear us described as, Team Liberty – formerly the Tea Party. The more successful Team Liberty would become the more its opponents would link it to the Tea Party which tells me our name also carries a positive attribute. We’re the staunchly conservative, anti-liberals, and that’s branding we should relish and hold on to.

United we stand. Imagine if most Tea Party groups opted to change their names; that would spell the end of the movement…. the headline – “Tea Party Fractures”. Yet, despite the media onslaught, the Tea Party still maintains millions of faithful members. Should an economic crisis come to pass as many predict, the Tea Party would resurge. The failure of liberal fiscal policy would only validate and vindicate our message. Just as quickly our image would change. The pendulum would swing back to the conservative side, the Tea Party banner would be a beacon to those looking for answers and a new course of action.

My final argument regarding our identity crisis is that our name is just a convenient excuse for our difficulties. We don’t have a good member retention record. I’ve seen scores of people come to the Tea Party looking for the group to support their candidate. They’re quick to go when that doesn’t happen. Our name has nothing to do with that. People get excited and enthused for their leader, not so much for free markets, fiscal responsibility, and limited government. We’ve lost others when our meetings focused on a topic that didn’t interest them… Fickle – pseudo – activists. Finally, our biggest obstacle is apathy, self centered citizens who don’t know and don’t care. There’s no name that would spur them to action.

Perhaps the best thing the Tea party can do is summed up in my favorite saying:

Press On

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Broward Tea Party Meeting: Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Broward Tea Party Monthly Meeting
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 
15980 Pines Blvd.
Pembroke Pines, Fl. 33027
/Social Time:  6:45 pm
Meeting Starts:  7:00 pm
Guest Speaker
Lauren Cooley 


Florida Field Coordinator for Turning Point USA 


 Most well known for its Big Government Sucks campaign
Lauren is a recent graduate of Furman University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and ran the
Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow – a group named the #1 Conservative Student Group in the Nation. 
She is also a reporter with Campus Reform. Her stories have been featured on several national news outlets,
including the Drudge Report. In addition to her work for Campus ReformLauren has written for the 
Greenville JournalThe College Fix, and her college paper, The Paladin
Lauren has made numerous appearances on local and national talk radio programs, including The Mike Gallagher Show. 
The Times Examiner reported Lauren Cooley as one of the nation’s top student activists.
# # # #
** We will be discussing the upcoming General Election and Ballot Recommendations.**
Coffee, sodas, & water provided. Please bring a snack or treat to share…Greatly Appreciated! 
Bring a Friend or Two, Guests Most Welcome!
** Please park in the west parking lot of Total Wine & More 
** We meet in the Wine Education Room,
 very back of store, left aisle

Broward Tea Party Meeting with special guest speaker, Anita MonCrief: Tues., Sept. 9th

Broward Tea Party Monthly Meeting
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 
15980 Pines Blvd.
Pembroke Pines, Fl. 33027
/Social Time:  6:45 pm 
Meeting Starts:  7:00 PM
Special Guest Speaker > “Grassroots Activism”
Anita MonCrief 
Grassroots Trainer & Curriculum Consultant
 for Americans for Prosperity (AFP)
           ACORN/Project Vote Whistleblower and Ex-liberal.
 Anita will share her fascinating story and give
us her insight on “How to Outsmart the Left”.

Come spend a few hours with Anita and also
hear what AFP is doing on the ground.
Twitter: @anitamoncrief
@AFPFlorida   @AFPhq
 There is no cost for this event and food and refreshments will be provided.
We Will Also Host
Rodger Dowdell
Florida State Coordinator for National Liberty Alliance
Rodger Dowdell on “Common Law Grand Jury”:
 Greater Orlando Tea Party – 7/15/2014
Bring a Friend or Two, Guests Most Welcome!
** Please park in the west parking lot of Total Wine & More 
**We meet in the Wine Education Room, very back of store, left aisle

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