Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tyranny Begins in You and Me

Those who victimize others often fear they will be victimized. Thieves are careful to lock their doors, and liars trust no one. The Libertarian, on the other hand, casts the shadowy moniker of “tyrant” upon any who would disagree with their vision of “freedom.”

Screw the rules, many Libertarians say. The good do not need them and the bad do not follow them, of what use are they?

Libertarians will talk at great length about freedom, and not let you get a word in edgewise. This is a perfect metaphor for their ideology: a stifling freedom. They believe private individuals should be free to oppress one another, without interference from that pesky government. This is the same mentality of the Southerners during the Civil War: they need the freedom to oppress others privately without the federal government sticking its big nose in. Tyrants can’t talk enough about “freedom,” just look at Bush.

There is a wonderful example of a double-standard in the results of the polls I took:

Do you believe it is acceptable to kill an intruder you catch in your home?
Yes 7 (41%)
No 10 (58%)

Should the government execute criminals convicted of breaking and entering?
Yes 0 (0%)
No 20 (100%)

Now, the specific numbers are unimportant. What matters is that no participants in the second poll believed that breaking and entering was worthy of capital punishment—which I feel is an accurate representation of the general consensus (outside fundamentalist Muslim nations). However, in the first poll (which was conducted first, and closed before the second poll opened), seven participants thought it was acceptable for private citizens to make the decision for themselves.

In fact, a significant minority thought it was acceptable to “kill an intruder” caught in your home. States like Florida have even enshrined this mentality into law.

Before I proceed, let me address a few things. One, I see no problem with self-defense—assuming the other person has the means and intent to harm. “Is it acceptable to use force against an armed intruder in your home?” would garner a nearly 100% favorable vote.

However, this was not the question I asked. I asked if it was acceptable to kill someone for the simple act of breaking and entering. I didn’t say he was breathing heavily over you as you slept. I didn’t say he killed your dog. I didn’t say you found him raping your daughter. I didn’t even suggest using non-lethal force; seven out of seventeen people think it is okay to just simply kill an intruder. Is the only option killing them? Really?

What makes someone vote yes on a question like this? Blood lust? Blind rage? Poor reading comprehension? Movies and news stories about panic rooms, kidnappings, and gang rape?

I think it is fear. I think those who buy guns feel powerless in a world out to get them. They are usually weak willed and even weaker minded, and their only source of empowerment is in convincing themselves they possess the raw force necessary to feel secure. Once you have the power in hand, it’s almost too convenient to be presented a “free pass” to use it. Shoot first, ask questions later. Let God sort them out.

This is wrong on so many levels. In a society where the individuals feel this way, it is only a matter of time until the government acts in kind. The government doesn’t come from a crop of people grown on a farm in the Midwest, away from all the citizens (even if they seem to appear this way). They come from within, and we are damaged goods.

Our government is corrupt because we are corrupt, and we elect them because they tell us we’re the greatest people in the world. We accept their verbal hand-job while handing over our vote to con-artists out to get rich through political kick-backs. If you think we have a government of tyrants, it’s only because we are a population of little tyrants, and this was the best we could come up with.

Libertarians are no different. They throw out the possibility of oppression by the government in favor of assured oppression by corporations. Too much power in any sector is wrong, and we must balance the power by spreading it out, not through consolidation.

The government is supposed to protect and serve the people, not step back and do nothing. If you hate government so much, stop voting. I have. Send the message that there are people looking for something else.
You don’t earn democracy brownie points every time you go to vote, you only gain if you help elect someone who represents you and your interests. If you identify with the swindlers we have to choose from, don’t let me stop you. But if you’re giving your vote away to a tyrant or, more often, a crook, that makes you implicitly guilty of their actions.

If people cared, we could change our government. In every presidential election of my lifetime, more eligible voters have not voted than have voted for the winner. If this is not a call for something radically new, I don’t know what is.

But Libertarianism is not new; it is recycled ideas from pre-Reagan Republicanism and Classical Liberalism. Think of it as philosophy gone “green;” we reuse even the worst ideas so that we don’t have to think or try anything different. Libertarianism is nothing but American Conservatism without the overpowering influence of the Religious Right.
We need something new, and we certainly deserve something better.


  1. The problem with libertarian (or neoliberal, if you prefer...and I do, because I find it easier to write, for some reason) "freedom" is that it essentially amounts to plutocracy. You effectively take power away from an elected (albeit corrupt) government and give it to unelected CEOs and investment bankers and so forth. This is because neoliberals confuse "the market" with "society", in that they think the former is the latter, and that the latter doesn't exist.

    As for the civil war point, it rather demonstrates the ironic truth behind the "Freedom is slavery" slogan from Orwell's "1984". Apparently neoliberal freedom is supposed to be freedom that does not violate something called the "HARM Principle". That capital letters appear to be completely irrelevant, because the point is supposed to be that as long as you aren't hurting anyone else, you should be able to do as you like - the problem with that being that unregulated business hurts plenty of people, see Bhopal, Global Recession, Thalidomide etc.

    On the subject of the apparently contradictory poll results, I think that it is not morally acceptable to kill an intruder in your home, but I probably would if I got the chance. I know this because once I came home to hear footsteps in the upstairs of my house, and promptly armed myself with a kitchen knife and hid in an alcove...only to find it was a relative who was supposed to be at retrospect, this was a pretty strange reaction, but there you go.

    And I think libertarianism was spawned as an idea pre 1800's by some guy only known by his surname of "Spencer", but I cannot be bothered to look this up. Suffice to say the idea that ruthless self-interest must not be stifled by the state was had a long long time ago.

  2. Your question was not clear enough to exclude self-defense. I suppose that this is largely accountable for the difference.

    I suppose if you had asked: "Do you think it is legitimate to kill someone running away from your house after breaking and entering?" you would have gotten far fewer positive answers.

  3. That wasn't my question either...

    The question was: "Is it acceptable to kill an intruder you catch in your home?"

    I didn't even ask if you would, I meant for it to have some distance from the fear factor by saying "Is it acceptable," thereby implying you are observing the scenario from the view of, for instance, a jury.

    Why is it okay to just simply kill an intruder for the simple act of intrusion? It would be facism if the government did it.

  4. The answer to your question, '"Is it acceptable to kill an intruder you catch in you home?" is, yes. There may be all kinds of mitigating circumstances that would keep you from doing so, but the basic right of self-defense makes it acceptable.

    If the intruder was a rabid dog would you hesitate to kill it? Of course not. Or a poisonous snake? What if the intruder where unidentifiable and you couldn't tell whether it was dangerous or not? In either of these situations if you don't kill it, it could very well kill you.

    Your question was not was it acceptable to kill someone for "simply breaking and entering" but what if you caught an intruder in your home. There's a huge difference. There is no double standard in your poll results. The question was misleading.

    It's impossible to know exactly what your reaction will be in such a situation until you've been there. But once you've been there and survived it, lethal or not, you will know exactly what to do the next time, and without a single thought given to it's acceptability.

  5. When you ask "is it acceptable to kill an intruder in your home", the question covers several scenarios. Some of the people who answered might have gone for the scenario where the intruder is armed and is menacing them. I think that in this case, it is acceptable to kill him in self-defense.

    Since you did not exclude this scenario, why do think people who thaught of this possibility and answered yes are hypocrites?

    (I did not take part in the poll, and I saw immediately what you wanted to come to).

    The two questions just did not refer to the same kind of situation: the first did not involve the necessity of self-defense, the second did.

  6. If you chose to think of the worst case scenario, that was your option. It was meant to be a Rorschach test of sorts.

    I agree with the comment that one cannot possibly know how one would react in this situation. However, as with all ethical dilemmas, how one feels towards an option is still worth analyzing (even if it is not an accurate representation of how one reacts in reality). It is important for understanding where we feel our values lie, if not necessarily a true test of our ethics.

    I like the ambiguity of the question, because it allows the reader's mind to interpret it. Those who chose "yes" clearly assumed the worse, so why?

    It simply isn't acceptable to even attempt to kill someone for being in your home. What if it's a friend or relative you didn't expect to be coming over? What if it's a police officer with a search warrant whom you didn't hear knocking on the door? What if it's a mentally ill individual who wandered into your home?

    We may be frightened, but it is our duty to properly assess a situation before taking someone's life. Can one come up with a situation where it is acceptable? Of course. Does this constitute one of those situations? Clearly, I felt it did not and 7 out of 10 people felt it did.

    Is it really so hard to scare someone out of your home? You do realize that people who steal are by-and-large cowards, that's why they aren't mugging you; they're slinking quietly in the dark.

  7. Spanish observer6/25/2009 9:36 AM

    I've never lived in the USA and I've only visited that country once, but I have met some USA citizens in my life and seen enough films and read enough to have my own ideas about that country. I wrote this long introduction for you to understand what I mean by "you" in my next sentence.
    I have never undestood why do you have that obsession with intrusion and killing. I just think it horrifiing to think of killing as the only solution.And why do you always think that the intruder must be so dangerous as for deserving being killed without explanation? I lock my door every morning when I leave for work, I take my precautions for staying safe and I have lived enough for knowing what a dangerous lot human beings can be, but I would find quite frightening to live in a place where people think that shooting first is a sacred right.You tell about poisonous snakes and rabid dogs. I am sure even in that case there must be a way of escaping without having to apply your method. Sadly enough USA soldiers often act like that in front of what you call "unidentifiable" and in fact are no less than human beings who are scared by your country's intrusion.
    I also wonder how do you consider people who have no home to be intruded. Dangerous potential intruders perhaps? Would you consider acceptable going for a preventive raid as some people do in countries like Brazil where the boys living in the street are shot to dead by better off citizens that consider that as a solution?
    Well, I hope my English is good enough and I pray not to be considered an intruder in this blog.Have a good day.

  8. Spanish Observer: I appreciate the outsider's perspective. While I don't know the nationality of those who responded, clearly 10 out of 17 people who answered the poll saw the reason you and I feel.

    Frankly, it's sad. Americans need a hug.

  9. I'm one of those voters who said it is acceptable to kill the intruder. My intention was that it's acceptable only if it's necessary to guarantee your personal safety.

    But I certainly think it's unacceptable to kill someone just for the crime of intruding.

  10. Fair enough.

    I assume some who voted yes would have meant that if, say, you walked in behind him, you could just put the gun to his head and walk him out.

    Also, I'm not saying you can't hold the guy there until the police arrive. I'm all for justice (although I really think having a gun pointed in your face would stop 99% of the population from robbing again).

  11. Here is your case.


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