Tom Knighton

Recent Posts From Tom Knighton

The Separation of Church and State

It’s entirely possible that there’s no bone of contention between many conservatives and most libertarians as the idea of separation of church and state. Libertarians argue that the First Amendment prevents any display of religious preference, while conservatives argue that the phrase “separation of church and state” appears nowhere in the Constitution.

In truth, they’re both right.

The conservative argument, that separation of church and state as a phrase appears nowhere in the Constitution is dead right. However, the meaning of that is overstated. You see, there are a lot of things that are part of American life that aren’t in the Constitution. According to the text itself, there is no reasonable right to privacy, or a lot of other thing. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist though.

Many opponents of “separation of church and state” point out that the phrase itself comes not from the Constitution but from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote. The text:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

[Emphasis added]

It’s pretty clear that in using that famous phrase, Jefferson is talking about the effect of the First Amendment. Where things get dicey is in the application of that Amendment. However, Jefferson was right to express it as such, since the effect he described is dead on.

Prostitution: the other prohibition

The idea of freedom seems pretty easy. Let people do what they want to do. However, if you do that, then people are going to rape, kill, rob, or whatever else strikes their fancy, so you need some kind of limit. That is where the sticking point has always been.

For libertarians such as myself, the answer to where you draw the line is simple: in the place that has the least impact. For many, the rule we go by is the “punch principle”. That idea is that your right to throw a punch ends at my nose. The expanded version is that you have a right to do whatever you want, unless it impacts another against their wishes.

Few argue that stealing is wrong, or that assault is permissible. No, these are universal wrongs just as murder and rape are. The problem arises when we each put forth more things for the “wrong” list that have no bearing on anything else.

Prostitution, for one, is considered taboo in most of the nation. The majority of people consider it wrong. They have decided to lay down laws that prevent the selling of sex. Law enforcement spends money catching prostitutes and their customers, all because it has been deemed “wrong” by society. But is it?

Prostitution, as one example, is called a “victimless” crime, and in truth, it really is. Both parties are consenting to what is essentially a financial transaction where money is exchanged for a service. There is no “evil” involved in the transaction, no one is hurt. Yet, for some reason it is illegal.

Many arguments are used to prop up the injunctions against prostitution, though all ultimately fall flat. Each justification for such laws fails on different levels, but all ultimately fail.

Freedom means freedom for things you don’t like

Freedom.  It’s the most precious thing a human being can have.  We all crave it.  Wars are fought to achieve it.  Oaths are sworn to defend it.  Songs and poems are made to describe it.  It is truly the most precious thing in this world.  It’s more precious than gold, oil, or anything else.

Why then is it so hard to protect?

Freedom, as a concept, is nearly universal.  Freedom, in practice, is quite a bit harder.  In practice, actual freedom means that we all do as we wish, bearing the full brunt of responsibilities of our actions.  Unfortunately, that’s to hard for some folks.

Far to many Americans say they want freedom, but have no problem asking the government to step in and regulate or eliminate practices that they find distasteful.  Laws forbidding homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, firearm ownership, and any number of other things have all falled into the cross hairs of someone who thought that another’s freedom needed to blocked.

So why is it that people who love freedom are so eager to take it away?

The answer lies in the people who seek to regulate others.  Rarely does a crusader seek to block a freedom they hold dear.  Racists never seek to block hate speech, gun buffs never seek out gun control regulations.  In the mind of those who want to take away these things, they will still be just as free with the new laws as they were without it.

The vast majority of Americans are blind to one inescapable fact: If you attack one freedom, you ultimately attack all freedoms.  Any abridgement of freedom, even the proverbial “you can’t yell fire in a movie theater” abridgement, will eventually be used to justify another attempt to take away your freedom.  The argument has always been “but we already do X”, as if that justifies the whole thing.  It’s a classic example of the camel’s nose soon leading to the whole camel being inside the tend.

In Defense of Capitalism

Capitalism. The free market. Call it what you will. The pundits on television wax philosophical about it and its nature. Politicians stand up in front of roaring crowds and scream about the evils and benefits of the system. Everyone knows what it is…or do they?

The truth is that free market economics are poorly understood by most people. Instead, they understand what’s been spoon fed to them in bite-sized pieces designed to be easily digestible, but without regard for what the nature of capitalism truly is. They’ve been lied to so hard, that they look up in askance, begging for more it seems.

The many myths surrounding capitalism sound accurate, as believable myths tend to be, but that doesn’t excuse the erroneous nature of the information being shared. Instead, these myths need to be squashed like a bug.

One such myth is that in a capitalistic economy, every transaction has a winner and a loser. This is patently false. For example, say you were going to buy a product. You shop around and find the lowest price for this product. When you purchase it, there are actually two winners in the transaction. You, for getting the product you wanted and a price you found acceptable, and the seller who sold the product for a price they found acceptable. You both win.

Some may argue that there are indeed losers. They claim that the people you didn’t buy from are losers. Of course, that’s like arguing that the Kansas City Chiefs lost the Super Bowl because they weren’t allowed to play in it. No, those who failed to sell you the product aren’t losers unless they provide the product at to high of a price and offer nothing significant enough to balance it out. Then, the loss is based on their actions, not your rational decision to purchase elsewhere.

The Free Market isn’t to blame

As a died in the wool capitalist, I usually have some things to apologize for.  I admit that a key component of capitalism is employers trying to get away with paying their workers the least amount possible, and if you’re one of those who are on the low end, life can suck a bit.  However, I refuse to apologize for the Gulf Oil Spill.  It just ain’t going to happen.

You see, the oil spill which I have decried on this very site, is a horrible thing.  However, not a thing happened that can be blamed on the free market.

The oil spill is bad.  Yeah, I know, talk about your all-time understatements, but it’s important to know that while it is bad, this isn’t a product of the free market.  No, this is a failure of government.  Regulators failed to step up to the plate and do their jobs, the jobs you and I pay for.  They dropped the ball, and 11 men died when the Deepwater Horizon went down and oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Since that time, information has leaked out that regulators were pretty chummy with BP officials.  They were doing things like watching internet porn on the taxpayer dime, rather than doing their jobs.  They didn’t conduct the inspections they’re tasked with doing, and people died.  Industries died.  Tourism died.  And while BP deserves all the blame it’s getting and then some, the free market doesn’t.

If we’re going to have regulations, they need objective enforcement.  However, the Minerals Management Service, who is responsible for watching off shore oil drilling, dropped the ball.  Regulators were reportedly receiving gifts from BP.  What’s more interesting was that these gifts were apparently acceptable.

Recent Comments from Tom Knighton

Tom Knighton

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Tom Knighton has been a blogger here at United Liberty since 2010. In 2011, he made history when he became the first blogger anywhere known to have purchased a newspaper when he purchased The Alba... Click here to read full bio

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