Taxation is Theft, But…

It’s an oft-repeated phrase, especially around tax season. That libertarian friend you know and love will remind you that taking anything by force violates the non-aggression principle (or the NAP), a philosophical view that force of any kind, outside of self-defense, is wrong.

In the strictest sense, your friend is right. No one wants forced used against them, and unless you are violating another, it is hard to justify it. But this philosophy ignores several facets of reality that must be reconciled with any practical world view:

Universe Does Not Validate Force

The universe, all creation, God, whatever you want to call everything that is around us – the material world that we live in, be it our own creation or some divine experiment, does not care in the slightest the reason that force is used, or even its outcome. The universe seeks balance and will enforce it at all costs.

If force is used, at some point, somewhere, an equal and opposite reaction will occur. I’m not necessarily talking about Newton’s Third Law, but that physical effect is a manifestation of this universal principle. The conservation of balance is the most universal law in this reality. Regardless, the universe does not assign good or bad labels to incidents of force.

It is remarkably indifferent.

The Power of Culture

Since the universe doesn’t give any consideration to validating the use of force, who does? This is generally a cultural concept. People of a certain geographic area, ethnicity, spiritual belief system assign moral and ethical judgments that either validate or invalidate an action. Though these judgments seem quite real, but essentially they are simply human-placed abstractions upon our actions.

Humans, as far as we know, are unique on Earth in our desire to judge our own, and other’s, behaviors. Animals simply do what is necessary and do not encounter moral agony over stealing young out of a prey’s nest. We might find these behavior’s abhorrent, but they do what they must to survive. Whether or not they give a second thought to these behaviors is up for debate, and unfortunately we may never know.

Regardless, it is our culture that defines what is good and bad. This is not some universal truth.

Are You Ready to Rule Yourself?

In Anarchist-Capitalist and Libertarian circles, there is a lot of talk about doing without government of any kind in here.  But I would ask the question – are you really ready to completely rule yourself?  To be responsible in every way for the consequences of manifesting reality in your life?  Can you do without government entirely?

Before you immediately answer yes, ask yourself how you will survive? Will you cling to the notion of property rights, as many pure libertarians do? If so, I would suggest that you have immediately leaned upon a crutch of government. Property rights do not come from some universal or natural law. It is not an inherent concept in reality. It is created through government, a government which we, at one time, gave consent.

I would posit that the vast majority of people reading this, in fact, the vast majority of people in the world, are not quite ready to become our own masters in all matters in the material plane.

To use, but hopefully not abuse the phrase “check your privilege”, do not assume that you are ready for this monumental task. Humans will get there. It’s inevitable. No system lasts forever. But we are just beginning to awaken to new possibilities, new systems of thought and belief that only a couple hundred years of go would have landed you in a lot of hot water for even uttering in public.

Any knee-jerk reaction to assume humankind, or even one individual, is ready to be completely without government is a vestige of relative manufactured comfort. It is easy to feel self-sufficient with Amazon Prime, a fancy water filter, and some solar panels. But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the immense responsibility that awaits us.

Check your privilege, pay your taxes, and all the while learn to be a master of yourself. One day, perhaps in the not so distant future, we will be able to take a more substantive step of material and spiritual self-sufficiency.

Change the We Into I

If you are interested in business and were alive before the year 2000, chances are you read the book Guerrilla Marketing. It’s a fantastic book. I benefited from it greatly. There are a lot of great pieces of advice in it for entrepreneurs.

Now, go to your bookcase and throw it away.

Alright, not literally – I can’t stand to throw away a book. And I feel a bit guilty for even suggesting that you do so. But you get the point. The world has changed.

One of the principal glamours that small entrepreneurs used was the impression that their fledgling start up was bigger than it actually was. The perception that you were a large company was important because people wouldn’t want to do business with you if they thought you were just some kind of small, in-home operation. You weren’t to be taken seriously.

All of that has changed. The social media generation prefers personal service, organic support, and openness that businesses in the 1990’s just didn’t ever dream that their customers would ever want. The large, domineering corporate presence that once garnered trust now is a disadvantage that micro-startups can (and often do) use to their advantage.

This has been a personal challenge for me in my business, OCS Solutions. I started the business in the most modest of circumstances with a $30 ad in a local paper. My business has come a long way from those humble beginnings, but we are still considered by most measures a small business. It is tempting for me to refer to our company as a large corporate conglomerate because that was what was beaten into all of our heads two decades ago. But that strategy no longer works – not even for the largest of companies.

I found that by replacing we with in business communications I was able to connect with customers in ways that had previously eluded me. Yes, that personal connection may seem foreign in a business environment, but it creates a sense of community and purposeful exchange with your customers that is now both highly valued in the marketplace and extremely beneficial to all involved in the transaction.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. Next time you reach for the word we in business, replace it with an and see what happens!

It’s Impossible to Hoard Books

I’m sure you’ve seen the shows where they go into the homes of hoarders and unearth mountains of stuff (OK, usually trash). When I saw this meme I was puzzled by the fact that no one ever gets blamed for having too many books.

In fact, we encourage this by having furniture dedicated to the purpose of holding vast quantities of books. Larger homes have an entire room set aside for the collection and reading of books.

Kindles might help reclaim some space that avid readers gleefully surrender to their ever-growing libraries, but nothing can replace the feel, look, and even smell of a real book.

Start hoarding books today!

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Your Experience May Very

Very may be one of the most overused words in the English language.  It’s very easy to do without even meaning it. See what I just did? Ok, that was on purpose, but I’m sure you get my point.

A friend of mine shared this on Facebook so I thought I’d pass it along to readers of my blog. Next time you find yourself reaching for the word very, use one of these handy, and more eloquent, descriptive words instead.

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Lead Us Not Into Division, and Deliver Us from -Isims

The holidays are a perfect time to gather your friends and family for wonderful celebrations and endless political and philosophical debates.

Actually, I love debating philosophy year-round, but the holidays are an even better time to get into those deep, controversial topics. Your guests aren’t going to leave while they’re eating delicious sweet potato casserole, now are they?

All joking aside, it’s not the intellectual dive into complex problems that creates drama among otherwise pleasantly agreeable people. The culprit in most disputes is division by firmly held dogmatic belief, or -isms. Communism, socialism, libertarianism, liberalism, conservatism, or pretty much any other word that has ism at the end is likely a belief system that applies a very limited set of core beliefs to a wide-ranging set of issues.

We often come down on one side or the other, dividing a complex situation into only two possible solutions. Isms drive us to do that, and that’s the problem.  That’s what creates the divide, and encourages non-participating family members to indulge in a second glass of wine to drown out the noise of the contentious debate. In the American election of 2016, long-time friends and couples have separated over these strong divisions. And yet if you discuss each issue without the preconceived political bias, most reasonable parties will at least form some workable consensus on the way forward to deal with the problem.

Just like no scientific theory can adequately explain every problem mankind has ever had, no political or philosophical system can handle even a majority of the real world issues that we encounter. While deeply held beliefs may drive your motivation or shape your answer to problems, the actual implementation is generally milder, more compassionate, and more complex than the simple, one-line memorized answers that people shout in debates.

The popular meme of “Taxation is theft” distills an extremely complex problem into a meaningless dribble of fact that offers no solutions to the problems that taxation tries to solve.  Is taxation theft?  You bet, from some.  Others are fine with paying, though we all pay taxes whether we like it or not. But by removing taxation do we solve all of the problems that taxes help to resolve? Not remotely. Conversely, simply taking tax money from the rich and giving it to the poor is the same kind of brute force thinking that solves nothing and actually exacerbates the problem it tries to resolve.

Dispense with the isms and listen to one another. By working together, you can usually arrive at an imperfect, yet workable solution.  The real world demands complex answers, discourages division, and won’t be soothed by the common platitudes that isms so easily dispense.

I Hate Having to Block Ads

I’ve long despised having to block ads because I know that many of the sites I visit depend on advertising revenue to survive. And with the recent Huffington Post article that states that 77% of people feel guilty about blocking ads, I know I’m not alone. I feel guilty for blocking ads. As a content creator myself I realize that doing so is partially shooting myself in the foot, but the risks outweigh the benefits in an unfortunately high number of cases.

If I feel guilty, why do I continue to do it anyway?  There are several reasons:

  • Many sites have so many ads that either makes the site nearly unusable.  The site jumps up and down on a mobile browser, refreshes or flickers incessantly on a desktop browser, or is so cluttered that it’s hard to tell what is content and what is advertising.
  • Some ads try to deliver malware or crapware.  Some even try to force the window to stay open either in an annoying or downright abusive manner.
  • Some ads display offensive images.  I’m not talking about nudity – I’m talking about massive abscesses, medical abnormalities, and so on.  If I’m trying to read the news, I don’t want to see massive butt-crack.

I do unblock ads on sites that I really care about, and I subscribe to YouTube Red through my Google Music service to support the content creators that I enjoy.  I don’t expect anything for free.  But I do want to view a usable site and I don’t want an ad to try to infect me with a virus just for reading an article.

If 77% of people feel guilty about blocking ads but do anyway, its time for content creators (and advertisers) to wake up and understand why their revenue streams are dwindling. They clearly have a large majority of visitors who are willing to support their work but unable to justify the security risk to their devices and serious usability issues that can completely disrupt the experience. I hope that this will motivate websites to reduce and optimize their advertising displays. I strongly suspect that they will receive higher click-through rates if they showed more meaningful, less obtrusive ads.

Having Car Trouble is Not a Capital Offense

In the past day or two I have seen a lot of excuses being made for the death of Terence Crutcher.  They range from:

  • If he had only followed orders
  • He shouldn’t have stopped in the middle of the road

Both of these are akin to the age old excuse of “She should have just kept her legs closed”, or “She might not have been raped if she wasn’t wearing such provocative clothing.”

When asked if traffic violations should result in summary judicial execution, I’m left with either blank faces, “wow”, or incessant stammering.  The excuses themselves ring hollow and smack of thinly veiled love of big government authoritarianism.  It’s really that simple.

I’ve asked the people who have made these excuses how they feel about small government.  They love it.  They want the federal government to shrink to about the size of a pea.  They don’t mind their state and local governments being ridiculously large, though, and they are apparently OK with traffic offenses (especially ones like having a tail light out) resulting in immediate judicial execution without due process.  And some of these same people are the ones I’ve seen complain about Obama violating the constitution.

The cognitive dissonance here is overwhelming.  If you want to Make America Great Again, then you must start by granting its citizens as much liberty as possible.  To do that, you put no one above another.  Not one person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process.  No one should be shot dead in the streets unless they have a weapon and intend to do harm to others.  These are not things that the constitution gives one inch on.  This is not a matter of interpretation, and this certainly isn’t something that is dependent upon the color of your skin.

What will it take for all Americans to understand that when one person’s rights are trampled, we all are gravely injured.  We used to understand that – our founding fathers not only held these truths to be self-evident but enshrined their very love of liberty into an imperfect, yet inspiring form of government.  We benefit from these brave men’s vision every single day.  Let us not tarnish it by spilling the blood of its citizens.