Which Man in the High Castle?

So I am watching the new series based on the Philip K Dick novel of the same name. The story supposes that the Germans and Japanese won World War 2 and partitioned the United States between them. It is the 1960’s and a whole generation is growing up that does not remember a free United States. Within the story, a small resistance tries to keep the knowledge of freedom alive by passing around bootleg copies of a movie that shows the Allies winning the war. Admittedly, I am not far into the series and have not read the book. But it gave me an idea.  A question really.  Who actually won World War 2?

The question might seem ridiculous. Ostensibly the answer is easy. Western democracy won out over European and Japanese militarism and fascism. But did it?  The war might have been one of the first modern wars of ideology – wars fought for ideas. And if that is the case, the winner may not be so clear-cut. Because, in fact, the same seeds that blossomed in Italy as fascism and in Germany as Nazism took root in the US as well and had been growing since well before the war. These seeds have continued to grow until we face a future that might be described as “soft” totalitarianism.

  1. The growth of the security and surveillance state,
  2. The intrusion of government into nearly every aspect of your life,
  3. The blending of the two parties until regardless of which way you vote, you get more of the same,
  4. The merging of government and corporate interests,
  5. The replacement of free speech with acceptable speech,
  6. And the education and conditioning of the masses to find this condition acceptable.

This assault on the underpinnings of the world’s first free republic began in the late 1800’s as the progressive movement began to gain steam. Early changes strengthened the federal government, turned a shy republic into a global empire, created a central bank, and made constitutional changes designed to weaken the power of the states vis a vis the federal government. It saw the implementation of eugenics schemes whose impact are still felt to the present day. During its first heyday, FDR set out purposely to dismantle the constitutional restraints placed on his office and the federal government as a whole.

Four Choices for Life

Trade, charity, fraud, or force are the only four ways that humans can interact economically.  Or for that matter, in any realm.  Either you trade value for value, or you provide value where there is none out of your benevolence, or somebody tricks you out of your value (including false charity where your benevolence is preyed upon by those who would make you feel guilty), or your value is stolen from you.  The only moral way to receive value from another is through trade – by giving value in return.  Receiving charity is at best morally neutral and, if it is a lifestyle, it is immoral.  And of course, receiving value through fraud or force is openly immoral – even when you vote for somebody else to carry out the fraud or force for you.

Trade is why humans invented money. It makes transactions easier because it allows for multi party trading. In a society of only force and fraud, money is worthless.  Somebody must produce because gold, while pretty, does not make for very good food or shelter. To some extent, people can be forced to produce but it does not work well in the long run. That is why the Soviet Union failed.

“’So you think that money is the root of all evil?’ said Francisco d’Anconia. ‘Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value….'”
—  Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

War and National Cults of Sacrifice

In my last post, I discussed my perspective that those who choose to risk their lives defending their liberty in the military are neither serving others nor sacrificing. The trade of one value for a higher value is not a sacrifice. As mentioned, this does not apply to conscripted soldiers who, by definition, are in a state of involuntary servitude and, if killed, were sacrificed against their will.

Let us suppose for a moment that you have angered a biker gang. And they are coming to your house at midnight to beat you up and possibly kill you. Do you have the right to go to your neighbor’s house and roust him from his bed at gunpoint and force him to fight for you? Of course not. That is called kidnapping. And your right does not change in this regard even if the stated intention of the gang is to burn down the whole neighborhood. You have no right to force your neighbor to risk his life on your behalf or even on his own. Legitimate government derives its legitimate authority from the authority its citizens would have in a state of no government. It no more has the authority to kidnap its citizens and force them to fight than you do.

But what happens when liberty-loving soldiers are tasked to fight a war that, in fact, has little or nothing to do with defending their liberty? Arguably, this has been the case for many, if not most, of the wars undertaken by the United States. I would propose that in a free country, each citizen is under no obligation to risk his life for a value which he does not hold to be higher than the value of his own life. I would also suggest that there are very few such values possible to a rational person.

In order to fight such wars, whether aggressive or at the behest of special interests, nations develop cultures of national service and cults of sacrifice. They then build upon these ideas to convince, to coerce, to shame, or, if necessary, to compel citizens to risk their lives for causes which, if rationally and individually evaluated, would be worth less to those citizens than their own lives. Some nations have excelled at this more than others but none are so inherently contradictory than a nation supposedly dedicated to liberty sacrificing some of its citizens against their will.

Inaugural Post – Veterans’ Day 2015

This is my inaugural blog post as the Liberty Pirate and it is Veteran’s Day 2015.  I am an Army infantry veteran.  And those that know that fact about me are likely to thank me “for my service” today.  I am likely to say, “you’re welcome”.  And that is the polite thing to do.  However, it might come as a shock to know I did not serve you in any way.  Furthermore, had I lost my life, it would not have been a sacrifice on your behalf.

You see, I believe in the principles of Liberty enshrined in the founding of this nation.  I understand that they have been imperfectly implemented but this was the first nation to even try.  And I believe that those principles are worth defending.  In fact, I believe they are worth the risk of my life.  As Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  As they say on license plates in New Hampshire – Live Free or Die.  I think that those principles are probably worth the risk of your life as well but only if they are your principles and that is for you to decide.

We throw around terms like “service” and “sacrifice” without ever stopping to think about whether these terms are accurate or why we, as a national culture, use them.  We muddy the term sacrifice and use it incorrectly.  If I give up one dollar to get five, I sacrificed nothing.  If I bunt and get out so that my team can win the baseball game, I sacrificed nothing even though we call that a “sacrifice” in baseball.  The trading of a lesser value for a greater value is not a sacrifice. We treat the term “service” in a similar manner.  If I am doing something for my own gain or benefit, I am not serving you.

So my willingness to risk my life for the principle of liberty was neither sacrifice nor service.  I did so for me.  I would rather die fighting than live as a slave.  And that is true whether or not the rest of you even exist.  Furthermore, that commitment did not end when I took off my uniform and any future enemies, either foreign or domestic, would discover this to be the case.

Some have estimated that only 3% of the colonial population actively participated in the American Revolution.  I suspect that they did not view their efforts as either service or sacrifice.  Many of them were dedicated to liberty and were unwilling to live as subjects of a tyrannical king.  So why, as a national culture, do we bandy these terms about?  I suspect there are two reasons.  First, those that are not willing to risk their lives for liberty’s sake feel either guilt about the fact that others are doing it for them or gratitude toward those others and are looking for a way to express it.  To those whose lives are more valuable than liberty, the fact that others are risking their own lives appears to be a sacrifice.  And second, it is in the state’s best interests to build up a philosophy of sacrifice and service because that actually runs counter to the principles of liberty and bolster’s the state’s role in society.  So the state seeks to develop a national patriotic cult of service and sacrifice.  This helps the state when it demands actual human sacrifice.  In our country it has done this during major wars by implementing the draft.  The forcing or coercion of people to fight for their country is a form of involuntary servitude and is contrary to the principles of liberty (and outlawed by the US Constitution).  Those who are forced to serve deserve more than gratitude, they deserve apology.  Those who were forced to serve and who died doing it were truly sacrificed.  While I value my liberty enough to risk my life, I do not value it enough to sacrifice yours.  If a nation dedicated to liberty cannot survive without involuntary military servitude then it no longer deserves to survive.  Let it fall and let those who are dedicated to liberty continue to fight on.

So, to those who were forced into involuntary servitude by our nation, you have my apology.  For those who served knowingly and voluntarily, out of principle, I’ll just give you a knowing nod when I see you.