Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yes, I Advocate A Form Of Anarchism

COLUMN NOTES: For those interested in more detail about this headline, I advocate for the type of anarchism generally known as "free-market anarchism." If you interested, I trust you have the ability to do a google search and begin your own journey into the ideas. Of course if you do want to discuss it with me, I'm happy to do so, just contact me.

HARBESON: It’s a voluntary reaction

I see that Floyd County Republican Party chairman Dave Matthews is upset with me again. Poor Dave, he struggles to understand my viewpoint. He’s not the only one.

Others have struggled to understand why they can agree wholeheartedly with me one week and perhaps the very next week find themselves thinking I must be a wacko (insert label here).

Dave did not like what I had to say in a recent column about State Rep. Steve Stemler, who is rumored to be a Democrat. Or is it Republican? I forget. Oh well, it doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, I’m not sure how often Mr. Matthews disagrees with me but I remember the last time he decided to go public about a disagreement. It was after a 2009 column questioning our country’s worship of Abraham Lincoln, after I learned more about his actions while president.

COLUMN NOTE: I wrote a response to him at that time and am linking to it here because I think this entire series of columns and resulting interactions provides a great demonstration of how many of us get stuck in certain thought processes and entrenched in certain positions without really considering whether it's consistent and makes sense.

And yet in between these two instances, I enjoyed a series of cordial e-mail exchanges with Mr. Matthews, beginning when he e-mailed to congratulate me on another column I wrote about a politician. That one was about Lee Hamilton. He enthusiastically commended me for taking an “honest look” at the guy and for being “brave enough to take on an icon.”

He seemed to understand why I was questioning the actions of Hamilton. He seemed to understand when I pointed out that Hamilton played a part in instituting programs that increased federal government involvement into more areas of our lives. (All that money spent to fix problems and what’s in the headlines today? The same issues: health care and education.)

But what Dave seems to miss is that the underlying theme of all three columns is the same: society’s automatic reverence for politicians who claim to be above the fray and constantly spread the myth of government as a virtuous institution.

I realized during our e-mail conversation that he is also confused because he thinks my ultimate goal is smaller government (whatever that means). It’s not.

My goal is a society completely absent of the aggressive institution we call government. My goal is a society of voluntary interactions. Yes, that means I advocate a form of anarchism.

I didn’t always think this way of course. It’s a result of taking a serious look at what I claimed to value. I accept the nonaggression principle and once I decided to apply it consistently, I realized that if it’s not proper for me, as an individual, to initiate force on other individuals then it’s not proper to do it using an institution called government.

So, I must reject government because I reject the initiation of force on peaceful people. I have concluded that voluntary interaction is the only social order matching my values. This means I can’t hold reverence for government, an institution whose very foundation rests on aggression.

I hope Dave understands that this goal cannot be accomplished through politics. Politics is counter to the goal. I know he’s put a lot of time and energy into government as the answer, so I understand he may not be willing or able to accept what I accept.

But still, I have good news for Dave. Even if he doesn’t accept the principle and reach the conclusions I have, I’m not going to try and force him to do so.

Dave has chosen who he will voluntarily associate with by deciding not to read any more of my columns. I fully support him in his decision because freedom of association is one of the very tenets of voluntaryism.

For everyone else, you can follow Dave’s lead and stop reading, or you can continue to read, ponder and critically examine the points I make.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is starting to enjoy being referred to as that wacko “insert label here.”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Should Sellersburg Indiana Bite the Bullet?

HARBESON: Biting the bullet is tough to swallow

SELLERSBURG — Last month, I wrote a column regarding Sellersburg’s possible purchase of the privately owned Nolan Fieldhouse, so when I heard there was going to be a town meeting at the fieldhouse to discuss the issue, I decided to attend.

The place was bubbling with activity — kids playing, adults chatting. I noticed many people in attendance wearing identical T-shirts. I knew there was something important written on those shirts because women don’t wear neon lime green without a very good reason.

The print was hard for me to see but after staring at several women’s chests as they walked by, hoping I didn’t look too strange, I finally got a good look. It said, “Bite the bullet; buy the Fieldhouse.”

I’m not sure who was supposed to be the intended recipient of that message. In general usage, the phrase “bite the bullet” means to endure a painful or otherwise unpleasant situation that is seen as unavoidable.

However, that doesn’t fit this situation because increasing government spending by purchasing this private property is certainly avoidable — all the town has to do is, well, nothing. (The town did not vote to purchase the building at this meeting, but they did vote to continue pursuing the idea.)

Several “green shirts” spoke during the meeting. Many were parents and grandparents of children who directly benefit from the facility. They were sincere, articulate and passionate about the benefits their families received. These families attended this meeting because they love the fieldhouse and want to keep using it.

Of course, there were also many families who did not attend this meeting. Families who were busy with activities their children enjoy and benefit from, using facilities and equipment they worked hard to purchase with their own money and through private fundraising efforts. In short, families who were elsewhere simply because their interests do not mesh with a fieldhouse.

But never mind them; this is about families who want Sellersburg’s taxpayers to buy this facility. Can you guess the main talking point in favor of this increased government spending? It was, of course, “the children.”

Although many people spoke in favor, two ladies in particular did an exceptionally fine job of using the children, as they scolded and attempted to instill guilt in any town resident who attended hoping to halt government growth.

This really wasn’t quite fair. After all, these two ladies have more experience than most in telling people it’s a good idea to turn privately funded alternatives over to government because they were instrumental in morphing what was previously a private school into the now government-funded Rock Creek charter school.

As they continued to promote government ownership of the fieldhouse, one of them lectured the crowd on developmental assets, the name for the set of values used to develop curriculum in their government school. I must be a slow learner because I’m still not clear which asset supports government over private voluntary means to achieve goals.

Even so, I do agree wholeheartedly about doing things “for the children.” As a matter of fact, in this situation I can think of at least three.

First, we can explain to children why dependence and reliance on government causes problems — economically, morally and socially. Second, we can help our children understand that one family’s interests are not more important than another’s.

And perhaps most important of all, we can explain to children that while it’s one thing to promote the idea that some may want to voluntarily chomp on a bullet in the hopes of reaching a goal, it’s quite another to use government and force other people to bite one.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson wonders if there is ever a good reason to wear neon lime green.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Most Vital Job for Politicians: Government Apologist

HARBESON: My reaction to Stemler’s action

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I’ve been watching the accolades pile up for State Rep. Steve Stemler in support of his decision not to walk out with his fellow Democrats.

Locally, Stemler has always had a fair amount of people from both major parties stroking his belly and scratching his ears. But in reality, he’s just another political animal making calculated maneuvers.

Why would Stemler walk out when he’s been working his tail off to gain the favor of Republicans? He learned so well how to roll over to gain their attention that he’s managed to get them to throw him quite the bone: A committee chairmanship.

Apparently, handing out a committee chairmanship to a politician in the opposing party has never been done in the history of the state. So tell me, if you received such a coveted treat, are you going to just ignore that chewy bone and go romp in the junkyard with the other dogs?

Stemler, of Jeffersonville, knows exactly what he’s doing, just like the other Democrat who gained a chairmanship, Rep. Chet Dobis.

Rep. Dobis came up with a slightly different calculation, though, because he did walk out. But according to the Northwest Indiana Times, he did not leave the state to join his party. He just went home to frolic in the fields for a while.

Both men were already not in particularly good standing with the party they used to get elected. Dobis hasn’t attended a party caucus in a year, and according to Jim Shella’s political blog, Stemler’s discussions about the committee appointment were kept from House Minority Leader Pat Bauer.

Stemler is doing a masterful job to spin this and, as usual, he speaks in generalities about our great government system. I’ve often noticed how he loves to use words like duty, honor and respect — words that have little meaning in an institution based on force.

Stemler can talk until he’s blue (or red) in the face but what matters are actions. Stemler has given constituents plenty to puzzle over, particularly voters who mistakenly assumed he stood for what are supposed to be considered Democratic Party principles.

For example, he appears to hold a view that it’s important to keep religion out of government actions and says the voucher proposal would likely be challenged because it could lead to government funding of religious institutions.

And yet, he is a co-author of the bill, recently passed in the House, pushing for a marriage amendment. Gay marriage would not even be an issue were it not for the existence of religious institutions.

Is there any way to reconcile this apparent inconsistency?

Sure. Stemler is just a politician like any other politician, no better and no worse. He’s scrambling to put himself in the place he views as most advantageous to getting what he wants.

In some ways, I can’t blame him. He’s just as much a victim as the rest of us who were born into a society that holds government force in such high esteem. None of us had anything to do with its creation but we all have to figure out how to deal with it, Stemler included.

However, I refuse to sit quietly and listen to him talk about our current government as if it’s the best thing going, as if it’s an honorable institution that should be revered no matter how much evidence we have to the contrary. Government is inconsistent, illogical and often quite harmful to anyone wanting to pursue voluntary interactions.

So don’t expect me to accept it when I see any attempts to nuzzle up using fake platitudes meant to legitimize and maintain government control. I am not fooled into thinking we could ever trust what is arguably the most dangerous breed of politician, the government apologist.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson originally prepared a different column for this week on the topic of cats. But unfortunately the dog ate it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

While Indiana Democrats Staged a Walkout...

HARBESON: Not everyone’s happy at this hour

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — My husband and I staged a walkout last week. We left the state and traveled to a sunny warm beach.

While there, we had a very, very strange experience. We were out riding our bikes one evening searching for a place to enjoy a drink when we saw a colorful neon cocktail glass and a flashing arrow pointing to a place hopping with activity.

We decided to check it out. This was a huge joint. We entered an area called the rotunda, which was full of people sitting on beach towels, singing and holding up signs. It really looked like a fun place.

But I was soon confused when a muscular tanned guy sitting on the bar told me I couldn’t have a drink because it was happy hour. When I mentioned I didn’t see what was so happy about that, he laughed and said, “Didn’t you see the sign out front? This is “Legislative Theater” night. This is the night when the drinkers choose representatives who then assemble during happy hour and decide on one drink that will be available.”

“Only one? I hope it’s pina coladas.”

He said, “Oh my, no! Those are banned in here. It leads to coconut madness. At least that’s what the tequila lobbyists say.”

Our discussion was interrupted by yelling and booing coming from the balcony. The tanned fellow explained that they were from the mojito party and they were worried. They lost quite a few seats during the election to the other major group, the margarita party.

Apparently, during most happy hour assemblies, there are enough representatives from both parties to ensure a compromise so that the basic mix will be amended in a way that pleases the palates of most drinkers. But this time, the margarita party had the numbers to get pretty much what they wanted without listening to the mojito party. And what they wanted was the right to salt.

Our conversation was interrupted again when the mojito representatives picked up their beach towels and walked out of the bar. Tanned man said, “Wow they’re actually going across the boardwalk this time!”

I watched through the window as the group arranged their towels and began wiggling their rears into the sand. They looked like they were settling in for quite some time.

“This is going to annoy the margarita people because now they don’t have enough representatives here to meet the quorum rules,” said my tanned friend.

A hairy guy with mint leaves sticking out of his Speedo jumped up and yelled, “Yeah, quorum rules, man!”

The tanned fellow rolled his eyes.

I said, “Well he’s got a point. If the drink choice will be forced on everyone by a vote, then a quorum sounds like a good idea because it’ll help legitimize the end result.”

Speedo man yelled again, “Yeah, quorum rules!”

I then asked what the quorum requirement was for the initial representative vote. They both laughed. “What are you talking about? There’s no quorum for the general election!”

“Really? But then how can these people claim they are the legitimate representatives of all the drinkers?”

“Lady, how many pina coladas did you have before you came here? Look, if we did that, we could end up without any representation and that would be a disaster,” said tanned man.

Speedo dude added, “No one would get anything to drink!”

Then they said in unison, “People would die of thirst!”

At this point it was just getting too weird, so we got out of there. It’s so nice to be back home in Indiana — where everything makes so much more sense.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson wonders if there is such thing as coconut madness.