Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sun or cloud ?

Cheyenne is a very sunny place, but we do get clouds sometime. For artists, our imaginations allow us to interpret a scene however we want. (That's the great thing about being an artist with a day job.)

Here are two examples of the same scene: one cloudy and one sunny (at least, that's how I've interpreted them). Which do you prefer ?  

Face the clouds
Face the sun

We're losing our freedom bit by bit with bans

These days, we are bombarded with demands for bans by a garden variety of supporters of the nanny state and politicians are happy to help. Politicians seem to adore bans. Why? Because bans allow politicians to appear to be creating simple solutions to whatever problems have captured the imagination of the worrying class. However, bans also create unintended consequences and even worse, they reduce responsible people to supervised children with few opportunities to make choices on their own.

A well-intentioned public risks being buried under the ban demands of the ban-crazy worrying class. Its list of bans reads like somebody's day out at the mall. Bottled water and incandescent light bulb bans litter the province. Plastic bags may soon be banned across Canada. Greater Victoria has just voted to ban teens from tanning beds. Ban the tan? When no intrusion is too small for government to consider, it's a sign the nanny state has run amok.

Bans might seem like a good idea on the surface, but have unintended consequences that sometimes create even bigger problems than the ones they were supposed to solve. For example, although the City of Vancouver voted to phase out the sale of bottled water, the cash-strapped Vancouver Parks Board has refused to stop selling bottled water at park facilities because it would lose $250,000 in revenue on bottled water sales.

The green social engineers in the provincial government have banned incandescent light bulbs and want everyone to replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescents contain mercury, and mercury is dangerous to human health. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns if a fluorescent bulb breaks, leave the room immediately and air out the room for 10-15 minutes. Then go back into the room and put all the broken fragments into a sealed container. Put the container in the trash outside and continue airing out the room for several hours. People worried about mercury poisoning, not to mention skyrocketing home heating costs, might want to consider stocking up on incandescent bulbs.

Plastic bags are another everyday item subject to the attention of the worrying class, but their replacement appears to have problems as well. Many people have voluntarily chosen to replace plastic bags with reusable cloth bags. Seems well intentioned. However it should come as no surprise by now that the law of untended consequences comes into play here too. Turns out reusable bags fill up not only with groceries, but with bacteria as well. Worse yet, some contain lead and, in what has to be a moment of true irony, threaten to fill landfills.

Go figure.

So while bans are great tools for politicians to get lots of positive media attention while appearing to be doing something tough on some issue, they sometimes create new problems.
Worse yet, as we leave more and more decisions in the hands of the nanny statists, we are, bit by bit, chipping away at our freedom of choice. It's time to stop asking government to solve every problem by banning everything undesirable in products and other people.

Bans might seem like a good idea, but once government's role stretches beyond keeping us safe from violations and invasions by other people and other nations, we are in danger of losing our ability to make even the simplest choices about how to lead our own lives. 

This article first appeared in the Vancouver Province, January 16, 2011

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A change of painting pace

Two new pastel paintings done from photos I took when I was in Maui in 2010.
Window to his Soul

Wings of the Morning

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Parasites and Phony Rights

In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt defined four freedoms: freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear.  While we do all have the right to freedom of speech and worship, the notion we could somehow be freed from want and fear has resulted in less freedom and an avalanche in the demand for phony rights.   
Freedom in the political sphere means each one of us has the freedom to control what we make or earn. In a nutshell, it means we can make what we need to survive, free from interference by other people, even when other people band together and call themselves government. Over time however, socialists transformed and perverted the word freedom to mean freedom from scarcity. But in the real world, resources are scarce. To get what we need to survive we can make it, but there is another way. We can take it. When socialists talk about freedom from scarcity they are talking about creating claims to the property of other people – they are talking about taking. When they say a person has a right to something made by someone else, they put taking above making. But claims to other peoples’ goods and services are not rights to those goods and services.
Real rights are things each one of us has because we are human beings. The Founders never laid out every single real right because the list is endless. Real rights are the same for everyone, everywhere at the same time. Real rights create the responsibility to respect the rights of others. The only obligations real rights create are negative obligations. My right to life, for example, creates the obligation that someone not take away my life. It does not create the obligation for someone to support my life, however. Understanding and respecting real rights mean we can live in a world of social harmony because real rights don’t conflict. This is the key to differentiating real from phony rights.
When socialists and their Nanny State comrades say claims to goods and services are rights to goods and services, they set the stage for the proliferation of phony rights and social conflict. Phony rights interfere with someone else’s real rights. They create a positive obligation that morphs into a claim to someone else’s life and property.
Since FDR accepted the ideology of the Nanny State, the demand for phony rights has grown like a fungus. The right to housing, medical care, education, social security, prescription drugs, leisure, a living wage, food, clothing – the list goes on and on. All these things must be made by someone. If a person has the right to take them without compensating whoever made them, the maker’s rights have been violated. This is why phony rights are phony – they are nothing more than taking. If a person wants housing but is not willing to pay for it, then someone else has to work more so that person can have what they are not willing to pay for. If a person wants a living wage, then someone else has to work more so that person can get paid more than what they are willing to work for.  The rights of the person forced to work more have been violated to create an entitlement for someone else.  
By perverting the definitions of freedom and rights, Nanny Statists have set the takers against the makers. But it is in no one’s interest (except perhaps for the bureaucrats who run the Nanny State) for a person to live like a parasite feeding off the hard work of someone else. We are better off in a society that respects real rights because they create a harmony of interests among rational people. Phony rights will continue to proliferate, and the rights of makers will continue to be violated, until we limit the power of the state to take, and return to the true definition of freedom.