Monday, January 30, 2012

The Lesser of Two Evils

Is a false dilemma.

Seeing as this is an election year and the Republicans are campaigning in high gear I have been hearing this one a lot. It doesn't seem to me that any of the Republicans are really happy with the candidates we have this year, but most everyone I've talked to has said they will vote for the Republican candidate regardless because he has to be better than Obama.

Now, when our political system is incapable of offering candidates whom we can support, that seems to me a good time to examine the system that produced those candidates. So what is it about our system that renders it incapable of producing statesmen? I see two great problems with the system, the first moral and the second political.

I. The Moral Tragedy

It is morally tragic whenever a citizen's choice is between two wrongdoers. That is, whenever a citizen is forced to chose between two trimmers. A trimmer, according to the dictionary, is "One who changes one's opinions, especially in politics, to suit the needs of the moment." Trimmers are what we are often referring to when discussing "the lesser of two evils." For example, it seems pretty clear to me that Obama is more sincere than either Gingrich or Romney, though he is on the opposite side of the isle. Obama however, is clearly a trimmer when it comes to such issues as gay rights and the second amendment. Despite his campaign promises he as done very little advance his cause in either category because it is not politically expedient.

A trimmer compromises his conscious in order to gain greater voter appeal. He sacrifices integrity for reelection. Such a person cannot be make right decisions, he can only make popular ones. Can we really expect a man who will trim for a few votes to gain power, once having a acquired that power, to make the right decision? Is his morality based on how much he thinks others will benefit by having him in power? That sounds a lot like a dictator to me.

Is trimming comparative? Can we say that it is right to vote for the person who trims less? Principles will not bend. A lie told to one person is the same as a lie told to one million people. It follows that someone who is consistently willing to bend their principles cannot be said to have any. If the choice is between a politician that trims a lot and a politician that trims a little the choice is really between two liars.

Of course this goes both ways. The reason we are offered trimmers over and over again is because we vote for trimmers over and over again. In a government such as ours we are assured only that we have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people." Not that such a government is morally right. Our choices in rulers is as much the fault of civic irresponsibility on the part of the electorate as it is the fault of the politicians themselves.

To repeat, a choice between two men devoid of integrity is tragic, and there is little relief except what men of integrity can be encouraged to run by voters of integrity. Is this impractical idealism? Hardly, Edmund Burke, one of the greatest statesmen of all time, said this:

But his [the candidate's] unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

II. The Political Fallacy

Were you a citizen of Spain in 1936, who would you have fought for? The Nazis or the Communists? The lessor of two evils in such a case is clearly a false dilemma. The only moral choice then is not to chose, or rather to chose to support neither party. Two extreme an example? Candidate A supports higher taxes on groups X, Y and Z and giving the money to groups A, B, and C. Candidate B supports higher taxes on groups A, B, and C and giving the money to groups X, Y and Z. In such a situation which candidate is morally superior? The one who wants to rob from the groups you dislike and give to the groups you favor?

III. The Solution

What is one to do in such a situation? Protest. Protest peaceably with your vote. If there is no candidate whom you can support then support no candidate. Imagine if this happened on a massive scale. Say tens of millions of voters adopted the policy don't vote for a trimmer. What would happen? Sure nothing would change overnight, but once people took notice we would see candidates of integrity run for office. When such candidates received significant and growing support the two parties would have to offer candidates with integrity.

Even if said candidates didn't agree with you, integrity doesn't mean that they are right of course, this would still be preferable to trimmers because men of integrity can be taught, as they are concerned about doing the right thing. Such men will listen to solid arguments about what is right, instead of just the latest poll. Don't underestimate the threat of tyranny by the majority.  Remember Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot? "Why should I trade one tyrant 2000 miles away for 2000 tyrants 1 mile away?"

If we are to be responsible citizens, we must re-examine our own ideas and beliefs on a constant basis. It may be that with such examination we will come to the conclusion that good citizenship does not demand that we vote for the "lesser of two evils." We may even find that in fact the exact opposite is demanded. At the very least, the idea deserves thoughtful consideration.

The ideas in this post were heavily influenced by this essay at thefreemanonline.org.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Firearms Friday: Emily Gets Her Gun

I have been following a series in the Washington Times called "Emily Gets Her Gun". Emily Miller is a senior editor at the Washington Times who has decided that she wants a handgun for personal protection and now that the SCOTUS has struck down DC's gun ban she would acquire one. The series follows all the twists turns and hoops she has to navigate through to legally buy a gun in DC and is now on its 19th article.

It is the most recent article titled "Transferring a gun into D.C." that I want to comment on today. In this most recent article Emily details the difficulty of, after actually buying a gun, legally moving it into the District of Columbia. One section in particular stood out at me:

I bought my gun from Mark Attanasio of Immortal Arms in Culpeper Virginia. When I made the purchase on the phone, the dealer offered to deliver the gun to Mr. Sykes. I had a feeling that he couldn’t do that, but he believed that his Federal Firearms License (FFL) would suffice.
After sorting through the D.C. gun laws, Mr. Attanasio called me back. “I’m a FFL licensed dealer and I can’t drive it into the city to Sykes, another licensed dealer,” he told me, astounded. “But I can send it to him and pass through who-knows-how-many unlicensed hands.” I'm watching first-hand how gun-control restrictions aren't based on common sense.
Lack of common sense indeed. For those of you not following the story, Mr. Sykes is DC's only licensed gun dealer. He doesn't sell guns or keep any in stock, rather he only transfers them. Since DC residents can't buy guns out of state, were he to close up shop that would effectively renew the ban on firearms in DC. This almost happened when he couldn't afford to pay his business's rent any longer,  but to avoid a new SCOTUS trial the city offered him a place to do business in a DC police station.

Let's stop here for a minute though. When the city has to bend over backwards to keep one man, one man, in business to avoid a Supreme Court challenge,  then there's a good chance you're gun laws are too restrictive. What happens if My. Sykes is hit by a bus? Has a heart attack? For the citizens of our nations capital, their ability to exercise their Second Amendment right to acquire arms literally hangs on one man's business. That in and of itself is a problem.

It doesn't stop there of course. Since Mr. Sykes does not actually sell firearms, Ms. Miller had to go and buy one out of state. The FFL that she bought it from offers to drive it to Mr. Sykes. But he can't! Instead the law forces him to mail it! Now there is nothing inherently wrong about mailing a firearm, but a system that forces someone to use the mail instead of the arguably more secure offer of driving the gun from one FFL to another is flawed.

Ms. Miller is right, this shows a complete lack of common sense. The ironic thing is that people like Mayor Bloomberg or anyone associated with the Brady Campaign love to insist that they only want to pass "common sense gun control laws." Yet they hold up DC's laws as a shining example of so-called common sense gun control!

I highly encourage you to read the series in its entirety or at least read a couple of the articles. The amount of time, money and uncertainty in the DC laws put owning a firearm outside of the reach of most people. Effectively DC still has a ban on handguns.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Theology Thursday: Wasting Time

Today's Theology Thursday is inspired by The Fault in Our Stars, the John Green book I reviewed on Monday. You'll recall that I mentioned I could not go to bed until I had made a rough draft of a schedule because TFiOS convicted me over how much time I waste. Thinking about the book later I was reminded of Ephesians 5:15-16:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
  I waste a lot of time, the characters in TFiOS didn't have a lot of time to waste. That put things into perspective for me. Its funny how God can work through a secular (and slightly irreverent) book to make a point as important as this.

That's it. Short and sweet. I have not been sticking to my schedule this week and thus have not had the time to really put a lot of thought into these last few posts. Speaking of schedules. You will notice that I missed my Wednesday update, well I don't have much of an excuse other than not sticking to my schedule. I will endeavor to do better next week.

Also, I'm interested in your feedback. I can tell from my the stats that someone is reading this. If you like what you are reading let me know! If you don't like the new, shorter but more frequent updates and miss my long but infrequent posts tell me. If you have something you'd like to hear my thoughts on speak up! I have things that I think are worth saying and would like to communicate them in the most effective way possible, but I need your input to help me figure out what that way is.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Terrible Tuesday: Rights

Fact: Every state in the union has some sort of concealed carry law. Whether it be 'shall issue' or 'may issue' in every state you there is a way for a person to acquire a concealed handgun license. Every state except Illinois that is.

When Wisconsin passed its concealed carry law last year Illinois found itself in the awkward position of being the only state to deny its citizens the right to bear arms. The good people of Illinois have been trying to pass a CHL law for years now, only to be constantly foiled by the bad people of Illinois (ie, Chicago). Recently I stumbled accross this article about this issue: http://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/illinois-only-state-without-concealed-carry/article_17320fa4-44a4-11e1-b075-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1kKwCuxT5

In it Laurie Bergner, vice president of programs for the McLean County League of Women Voters, states:
“Nowhere in the Second Amendment does it refer to concealed guns. Having a right doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do."
I am flabbergasted. How can you, in the same sentence, acknowledge a right and also claim that it should continue to be infringed? Can I turn that logic back on her? Just because you have the right to vote doesn't mean its the right thing to do. Just because you have a right to buy organize produce doesn't mean its the right thing to do. Just because you have the right to not be virtually strip searched by TSA doesn't mean you shouldn't let them. Just because you have the right to an abortion* doesn't mean its the right thing to do.

On a certain level she is right of course. Just because I have the right to carry a firearm doesn't mean that I should. Reasons I shouldn't would include if I lacked the proper training or if I was inebriated at the moment, etc. However, the crucial part that Ms. Bergner seems to leave off is that it is not the government's job to ensure that I am capable of responsibly exercising my rights. It is not up to the government to step in and say that I can't vote because I'm not educated well enough. Or that I can't buy organic produce because I can't afford it.

So this post is less about firearms and more about this notion that the government can and should prevent you from exercising a right you are not qualified to exercise. That's a very dangerous and very slippery slope. If you can't be trusted to responsibly carry a firearm what's to say you can be trusted with a blog? Isn't the pen mightier than the sword? Aren't ideas more dangerous than any weapon? Should we allow the government to regulate the right to keep and bear arms its only a matter of time before it regulates free speech.

But make no mistake, there are people who think like Ms. Bergner. And that my friends is terrible.

*I want to make clear that I consider abortion murder and do not consider it to be a legitimate right. I called it a right merely for illustration purposes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

First off, I'd like to announce that The Platypus Manifesto will be sticking to a new schedule!

I will be attempting to stick to a five post a week update schedule from here on out. Mondays will be when I post original content by yours truly, the rest of the week I will be posting links to interesting articles along with my comments. Its an ambitious schedule for me, as I've hardly been averaging one post a month, but I want to grow this blog a bit.

So here we go! Welcome to the new Manifesto.

I recently finished John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. TFiOS is short, being just over 300 pages and easy reading. I finished this book in one sitting. It is aimed at young adults but I believe the theme would speak to people of any age.

TFiOS is one of those books that you can't walk away from unchanged. When I finished it I found myself in a very introspective mood and couldn't go to bed until I had sat down and made a rough draft of a schedule. I was that convicted over how I (mis)use my time. You see, the characters in The Fault in our Stars do not have much time, and they have terminal cancer to thank for that.

TFiOS follows two teenagers diagnosed with terminal cancer as they try to navigate life and love while knowing full well that they will not survive their cancer. Despite the constant threat of death, The Fault in Our Stars is less about dying and more about living. The characters explore such questions as Will I be loved? Will I be remembered? Will I leave a mark on the world? These questions are universal but they take on a new urgency in the face of certain, if slow, death.

John Green's writing is excellent and his characters seem like very real people stuck in very real situations. Its the type of writing that causes you to become emotionally attached to the characters. Parts of this book made me laugh and others made me cry.

All in all The Fault in Our Stars is a most excellent book and I highly recommend it.