I’m sitting here on my bed with a beverage balanced dangerously on a Seinfeld box set beside my laptop, a lonely guitar gently weeping to my right, an eerie statue of a pug knocked on its side to my left, and no internet.
You heard it folks, I’m off the grid tonight. I’m posting this via my delivery pigeon who has skillfully pecked each letter into a computer at the library. Thanks, Brenda!
I am attracted to the idea of buying a flip phone and dumping Siri. But I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually get in the time machine and crank her back to 2008. Here’s a sad story: this morning my dog was torturing my llama (yes, I have a llama) and it was really terrible but also a fantastic show. Foolishly, I chose to scroll Twitter instead of watching an evilly hilarious, somewhat cartoonish dance between two unlikely partners. Hooves were being bitten at, grassy spit was shooting like bullets. I couldn’t stay disconnected to experience the entire battle, which leads me to admit– going without internet is hard.
Right now, on a farm in east-Jesus-nowhere with no wifi, I feel like I am forced to write. I guess that’s a good thing. Usually I get distracted by one of my many feeds, open too many tabs to handle, and “Untitled Document” on Google Drive is the first to be closed. Without internet, I feel this force to sit down and write something. Am I truly being forced? That guitar to my right is still lonely. Every episode of Seinfeld is but inches away. But I still feel like I have no choice.
Force has been on my mind lately, mostly because of this Hobby Lobby outrage (I prefer the typo Hooby Looby). I understand both sides. To be honest, both irritate me a little. On one hand, there’s those who are declaring a major victory for liberty when the company had to argue their religious beliefs to gain exemption from force. I get it, but it’s just one chip away at a massive problem. On the other hand, there’s a huge over-exaggeration of the consequence from this decision. It really didn’t do much. Look, I’m a girl and I think birth control is rad (There’s actually bipartisan support to make birth control pills available over the counter, including some male GOP politicians). But I also think choice is rad– making force bad.
Luckily last night, when I did have internet, I downloaded an ebook called The Essential Voluntaryist. The first pages are titled “What We Believe and Why”. Reading it was like going to a show by your favorite band. Each bullet point was like a new song, and I kept verbalizing my agreement. “YEAH! Yes! RIGHT ON!” Maybe this is illegal, but I am going to post some of the list here:
1. Every person, by virtue of being human, owns (controls) his own mind, body, and actions. No other person can think with your mind nor order you about unless you permit them to do so.
3. No person, or group of people, has the right to threaten or use physical force against the person or property of another because such coercive actions violate the rights of self-ownership and property ownership.
4. Each person has the absolute right to do with his property what he pleases (this being what ownership means), as long as it does not physically invade another’s personal property, without the other’s consent. People can inter-relate in only two ways, peacefully or coercively, but only the former is compatible with the principles of ownership.
6. A pure free market is right because it is the only socioeconomic system in accord with the above precepts.
7. We believe if an activity is wrong for an individual, then it is wrong for a group of individuals. For example, majority rule cannot legitimize taxation. If it is wrong for an individual to steal, then it cannot be right for 51% of the voters to sanction stealing from the 49% who oppose it.
8. We believe in the voluntary principle (that people should interact peacefully or not at all.) Just as we must not force our ideas of ‘better’ on other people, so they may not impose their idea of ‘better’ on us.
10. We believe that power of any sort corrupts, but political power is especially vicious. “A good politician is about as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
11. We believe that actions have consequences; that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody always pays.
14. We believe taxation is theft. The State is the only social institution which extracts its income and wealth by force. No government possesses any magical power to create real wealth. Whatever it has obtained, it has “taken” (stolen) from us, our ancestors, and, unwittingly, from future generations.
15. We believe the only way to know what value people place on things is to watch them voluntarily trade and exchange in the unfettered marketplace.
16. We believe an individual’s right to control his own life and property does not depend on how much he earns or owns.
19. We believe that freedom and liberty are not bestowed upon us by government. Liberty is the absence of physical coercion among human beings and comes about naturally when no one does anything to forcefully interfere with another. Some people use violence toward others out of frustration because they cannot control them, but violence never really works in the long run.
23. We believe that although certain goods and services are necessary for our survival, it is not essential that they be provided by coercive political governments. However, just because we do not advocate that governments provide these goods and services (for example, public education) does not mean that we are against that activity (education) itself. Just because we recognize that people have a right to engage in certain activities (for example, drinking alcoholic beverages) does not necessarily mean that we endorse or participate in such activities ourselves. What we oppose is compulsion in support of any end; what we support is voluntaryism in all its many forms.
Agree with all of that? It’s a pretty fundamental argument for nearly everything. It’s easy, as I see it. Is the action forceful? Then I’m against it. There you go.
Taxes are complicated to me. How do we decide which are vital or in excess? Freedom is the absence of coercion. Taxes are coercive, so we aren’t free. We can’t imagine a taxless society because our government is so huge. How would we fund it all! I think most taxes are unnecessary, but others not entirely. I know there are many other functional options and pro market solutions to wasteful government programs that aren’t being considered. Why would the government vote to shrink the government?
I digress, to talk about rape. To be honest, this territory is a little frightening for me considering the backlash that can be suffered by one poorly received statement. (Halfway through that sentence I decided that I don’t care.) Rape is coercive sex, which is why it is deemed wrong. You have to get consent for sex to be legal. There is overwhelming support for those who have been raped as victims of coercion.
Taxation isn’t rape, if that’s the conclusion you think I am drawing. But the word “force” comes up all the time in this area. I think it’s interesting. Force is force. There isn’t good force or bad force, ugly force or hairy force… it’s just when there’s no way out. Yet, you can be coerced and still be left with a choice, like a decision to defy the law and get thrown in jail. My question is, how can we pick and choose what is good to force on others, based on our view of the world and politics? Am I picking and choosing by thinking some minimal taxes are inevitable?
Hobby Lobby is being accused of forcing their religious beliefs on their employees. But in reality, it is actually eliminating force and creating choice. I’d reword the accusation as Hobby Lobby “choosing what to offer those who choose to work for their company based on religious values”. This is accurate from whatever side you’re on. True force would be banning all forms of birth control from employees that will be hung in the town square if they don’t show up to work. Businesses can’t do that! But the State could.
Let us remember that we have freedom OF religion in this country, not freedom FROM religion. However, I think it is unfortunate that religion has anything to do with this case at all. Ergo, the subtitle of this piece. This ruling dictates that religion is needed to be exempted from force. The difference between the government forcing companies to offer insurance to employees and a business making a decision is that the former is real coercion, because there is no way out. It’s coercion whether you agree with it or not. Nobody makes anyone work for a certain company, but you can’t opt out of following the law without consequence by the government. As I mentioned before, you can argue that it forces you to make a choice. But it is unclear to me what the drama is about this decision: keeping your job and paying for a few uncovered types of birth control, or taking your labor elsewhere? If everyone boycotts Hobby Lobby for this decision of theirs, maybe they’ll decide to change it. Mmmm, choices. Consequences. The market will fix it all!
There is a difference between natural consequence and a consequence as dictated and carried out arbitrarily by an inescapable authority. Punishment for not giving in to force versus punishment in financial ruin because of poor decisions. Consequence will happen through the market, be it for labor or products. We don’t need force to make it work.
Anyway, this brings me back to the beginning, when I felt forced to write about something in the absence of the internet. It wasn’t true force, because there was no authority. I suppose I am my own authority, albeit not a strict one. This false sense of force has infected the outraged and turned the term into a buzzword that is abused like an 8 year old’s pet rabbit.
Before anyone comments (nobody comments, who am I kidding), I don’t hate healthcare. Let’s throw it back to #23 of the Essential Voluntaryist:
23. We believe that although certain goods and services are necessary for our survival, it is not essential that they be provided by coercive political governments. However, just because we do not advocate that governments provide these goods and services (for example, public education) does not mean that we are against that activity (education) itself.
Basically, I don’t care that Hobby Lobby is a business and not a church. I don’t care that they cover vasectomies but not IUDs. It doesn’t matter to me– I just think force sucks, and I think that it is being wrongly defined and spewed by a lot of angry tweeters. My whole political viewpoint has become Not Caring. Just don’t mess with me, don’t mess with my wallet, and certainly don’t mess with my wifi. Ever again. Because I need to finish Orange is the New Black.