"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Is Proven" and Eating Healthy"?

I have a gripe—actually, two of them—about what I perceive to be abuses of the English language. Several times in commercials for one pharmaceutical product or another I have heard the same phrase: This product is proven to be clinically effective. My other gripe is about a phrase in common usage regarding one’s diet: I eat healthy.

My first gripe has to do with mixing verb tenses improperly. The word is happens to be the present tense (third person) of the verb to be. Proven is a past tense (past participle) of the verb to prove. Is describes a state of being in the present—right now. Proven describes what has happened in the past. From what I learned in school about English, and from what I have looked up on line to verify what I had learned, the sentence should be written: This product has been proven to be clinically effective. One could also say: There is clinical proof as to the effectiveness of this product. The first sentence tells us that, in the past, the drug was tested and shown to work as expected and promoted. The second sentence tells us that the drug company has proof—records, documents—on hand showing that the drug does what it is supposed to do.

I did a little searching and at www.learnersdictionary.com/langhelp/usage.htm, a Merriam-Webster site. I found “Common Word Usage Problems,” and “clicked” on proven (proved is equally correct). There, I saw an example that fit perfectly with my theory of proper grammar: “(‘a drug that has been proved [proven] effective’).” (Emphasis added.)

I am sure that the ads of which I am complaining cost more money to make and televise than I make in a year’s time . . . maybe even two or three years. And yet, “it is proven” is repeated time and again and the listening public hears the incorrect grammar, believing it to be correct. Could this grammar error be driven by ignorance?

Do I protest too much? I don’t think so. Even though the English language is more than a bit complicated, I believe it is important to keep the language intact for as long as possible. Change will come, of course. And that’s all right. But I am talking about basic grammar here, not some new, catchy word or phrase. I am talking about some very rich companies. It seems to me that they could have gotten it right.

My second gripe is with the now common sentence regarding one’s diet: I eat healthy. The word healthy is an adjective. Adjectives describe or modify nouns or pronouns. In the sentence I eat healthy, the adjective healthy modifies nothing. To say that you eat healthy is like saying that you eat eggs, or apples, or some other thing. It is using the word healthy as a noun. You can eat a healthy diet—a diet that is healthy for you. You can eat healthily—in a manner that is healthy for you. But you can’t eat healthy unless you can describe the taste, smell, size, texture, and so forth of the thing that you are eating.

Will my gripes (okay, the rantings of a curmudgeon) make any difference? Probably not. Most people are too busy with their own problems to care about a little deviation in proper grammar usage of the English language . . . but I feel better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Logic, Secularism, and Sex

I am not a deist. That way is most illogical for many reasons, which I will not discuss at this time. I believe that the Founding Fathers of this nation tried to give us a secular government.

They knew that most people were deists of one type or another, but they believed that the government should not enforce one religion’s dogma over another. They did not want a religious government, knowing that such a government would lead to less, not more liberty, and more, not less intolerance. They knew that legislators would vote according to their personal moral beliefs, but that the government, as an entity, should be neutral on the issue of religion. That was logical.

I am also a rational hedonist, that is, someone who believes that the pursuit of pleasure qua pleasure is a good, but sometimes the chores need to be done first. The pursuit of pleasure, of course, would include things sexual.

I like sex. I think it’s great. I think that any and every adult who wants to participate in a sexual behavior should be encouraged to do so, anyway they want, with anyone they want. It’s such a stress reliever and it feels so good . . . well, it does if you do it right. Of course, as a rational hedonist I have to add the following caveat: Enjoy sex as you want just so long as you do not violate the rights of others.

My guiding principle in life, the path that I believe all citizens of a truly free and liberty-loving society should follow, and that the laws and regulations of the government should adhere to is rather simple. Any and all non-violent, non-coerced, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property, that does not immediately and directly threaten to physically harm other people or their property, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, especially if done in private and on private property is the inalienable right of all adults.

But, when it came to the sexual issue, I thought that something more needed to be added to my guiding principle. After much thought I have come up with three logical rules that should always be followed when it comes to sexual behavior. I call them the three objective rules of sex.

First, all people involved must be mentally competent and of a sufficient age so that their decision to have any sexual encounter will be accepted as a knowing and willing consensual decision. For simplicity's sake, we will call such people consenting adults. (The age of consent varies from nation-to-nation, even by state or province in many nations, from 12 to 21—and in the United States from 14 to 18.) Second, there must be no unwanted pregnancies. Third, there must be no sexually transmissible diseases.

That is simple enough in theory in our modern world, but somewhat difficult in practice for many people because they do not think logically, let alone act logically. They let their emotions control them. And they don’t fully follow the principle of inalienable rights. So, logically, there are only three objective reasons not to have sex for any given situation. But, of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands of subjective reasons not to.

The sexual practices of adult citizens are not a legitimate subject for government if my guiding principle of life and the three objective rules of sex are being observed. The reason that it is not the government’s concern is that no one’s right would be violated and no minors would be involved. As Lysander Spooner wrote, “[v]ices are not crimes” if they lack the intent to harm others.

Such practices are the legitimate concern of religion, but then, religions do not have the legitimate authority to punish anyone for sexual practices that do not comport with their dogmas, other than to ex-communicate them or otherwise ban them from the church. But if you do not belong to a sexually prohibitive church, or any church at all, then my guiding principle of life and the three objective rules of sex are all you need to decide if you wish to have sex of any kind.

And it should be no one’s business but your own; not your neighbor’s and especially not the government’s. Of course, that could only happen in a truly free and liberty-loving society that upholds the principle of inalienable rights, one that does not force other people’s religious/personal moral codes upon non-believing others who are not violating anyone’s rights.

I should also add that I firmly believe that society has no obligation to help any adult who knowingly and willingly makes decisions (sexual or otherwise) that causes him or her harm. As a rational hedonist, I also heed the wise words of Thomas Jefferson: Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drugs and Willfully Blind Americans

The following paragraphs are taken from my essay “The Myth of Inalienable Rights” at http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com. But first, the opening sentence of a report originating from the 248th session of the Salzberg Seminars, held February through March of 1986. These seminars are private, non-profit discussions on wide-ranging topics. This one was titled “The Cultural Dimensions of Alcohol Policy Worldwide.” Twenty-one nations were represented.

However much the American public may worry about illicit drug use, it remains both true and generally acknowledged that alcohol, a legal drug, costs a great deal more in whatever metric applied: medical, social, economic, or public health. (Walsh, et al.)


Tobacco (nicotine) is the most harmful drug in use in America today in terms of deaths per year. It is generally accepted that the annual death toll from the use of the drug nicotine is over 400,000. Alcohol is the second most deadly drug in terms of deaths per year, with a yearly average of 200,000. [5] But when the effects of the present drug prohibition are factored out, that is, the violence caused by the prohibition, as well as deaths caused by adulterated drugs, deaths per year for the use of the presently illegal drugs are not more than 5,000. [6] This is one-one hundred twentieth (1/120) of the combined effects of alcohol and tobacco. To put it differently, deaths per year from the presently illegal drugs, as a percentage, compared to alcohol and tobacco, is 0.833%, or less than 1%. Yet, for those 5,000 people who knowingly and willingly choose to use the drug or drugs which kill them, we, as a nation, are willing to spend 30 billion dollars per year in the attempt (and not a very successful attempt) to prohibit those drugs. [7] Actually, that figure is probably as much as 100 billion dollars per year. [8] We are also willing to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of people who have not harmed anyone. And, I might add, that this huge expenditure and mega-incarceration is, for the most part, futile. All the laws passed, money spent, and people incarcerated has not substantially stopped the use of the presently illegal drugs.

. . . .

Consider this: If it is wrong to make and sell any of the presently illegal drugs because of the perceived or potential harm that they may cause, then how much more wrong must it be to make and sell alcohol and tobacco for the demonstrably greater harm that they cause? Can the people who sell alcohol and tobacco, the people who manufacture the booze and cigarettes, or the farmers who grow the tobacco, or the grain and fruit used to make alcohol, can those people claim rightness of purpose, legitimacy of their businesses, and moral superiority, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will die and that millions will suffer because of the misuse of their labor and their products? Can they logically or morally be given reputable status and community support over the marijuana or cocaine distributors who also provide their drugs to willing customers, but drugs that cause far less harm overall in our society than either alcohol or tobacco?

If the government has the legitimate right and the moral duty to rid society of harmful, mind-altering, and possibly addictive drugs, then isn’t it logical that the government should put their greatest efforts into combating the most harmful drugs first? Those being, of course, alcohol and tobacco. Wow! What a war on drugs that would make! More violence, more theft, more corruption, more danger to all people at all times in all places, and millions more people put in prison. It would be for the common good, of course, but it would also be one hell of a boost to the various justice department bureaucracies, police departments, as well as the prison building and supplying industries along with prison guards and their unions. These are the ones, today, who legally benefit from the so-called war on drugs. Why, they’d have to fence off Kansas and put all the prisoners there!


5. Extrapolated from the Fifth Special Report to the U. S. Congress on Alcohol and Health, by the Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

6. In May of 1991, Jeffrey M. Blum, an associate professor of law at the University of Buffalo, filed a (letter) brief at the request of federal judge, John Elfvin, on the question of whether the constitutional rules should be relaxed because of the drug situation. The brief stated, among other things, that the total number of deaths due to either overdose or poisoning from all of the presently illegal drugs combined was between 3,800 and 5,200 (a figure taken from Ostrowski’s “Thinking About Drug Legalization”, note number two, above). To see the full letter brief—but especially paragraphs 16-23 and 27—go to http://www.november.org/dissentingopinions/Blum.html#top.

7. Ain’t Nobodies Business If You Do, by Peter McWilliams, Prelude Press, page 183.

8. O.K., Call It War, by Max Frankel, The New York Times Magazine, December 18, 1994.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The New Aristocracy Is the Old Aristocracy

Why is politics so important to so many people? I have an ex-wife (and still good friend) who is so wrapped up in politics that she can talk about little else.

I tried to point out to her recently what I consider to be a truism. The rich rule. Always have. Always will. She wasn't having it. She still believes that if enough people get on the "same page," so to speak, and vote for the right people that change would happen and America would be a better place.

The history of the world is the history of powerful and, therefore, rich people. If they weren't rich when they came into power they became rich after they did.

In the last century the so-called communists came to power with a vengeance, spouting the dogma of that so silly and unworkable, but so persuasive quasi-religious dogma.

I call those fanatics so-called communists because true communism has never been practised anywhere in the world. The very concept is anathema to human nature. Only small, well-indoctrinated religious groups can come close to achieving the communist dogma of working according to your ability and taking only taking according to your needs. (Pure and true Christianity, anyone?)

None of the former communist strongmen--Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung (Zedong), or Castro, among others, once they came to power, ever lived like the poorest among them. They lived in luxury, like a new aristocracy.

In fact, Milovan Djilas, who fought beside Tito in the former Yugoslavia, against the German Nazis in World War II, realized, shortly after Tito came to power as the Communist dictator of Yugoslavia, that the new class merely displaced the old class. The kings and princes were replaced with the officials and commissars of communism. He wrote a book titled "The New Class," criticizing the corruption of the communist ideals . . . and was thrown into prison by Tito.

So what does all this have to do with the U.S., today. The rich, those individuals, families, and corporations with the most wealth, control the government and what laws will be passed. And the very rich individuals and families are rich, usually, because they are in control of corporations.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. Thomas Jefferson

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The United States united in a revolution to rid themselves of the aristocracy of a monarchy. The French rebelled and cut off the heads of their aristocracy. The Russians and Chinese lined their old aristocracy up against walls and shot them dead.

And yet, a new aristocracy emerged. Well, not really. It is the same old aristocracy--the rich. The rich and those in power, who then become rich. They have always ruled and they always will rule. If they are smart, they will not rule too oppressively.

But eventually, slowly, incrementally, as is happening here in the U.S., those in power come to believe that they were born to rule and so they will use more power wrongly, violating the rights of the peasants, the peons, the serfs, the average person until a critical point is reached and the common people come together again in rebellion and throw the evil ones out.

The revolutionists will cheer and say that a new day has come. What they forget, however, is that to have their revolution they almost always have borrowed money from some rich entity, some wealthy bankers, some corporation. And, as we all know, he who pays the piper will call the tune.

And so it goes. Is there nothing that we, the average people, can do about this never-ending cycle of power and control by the rich? When the time is ripe for revolution we can join it and feel empowered. The rub is in knowing when the time is ripe. There has to be a critical mass of people who are so fed up with the current situation that they are willing to fight and die if necessary to take out the old aristocracy.

Until then--and it is never easy to judge when the time is right, as history has shown so many time with failed movements and revolutions--it might be best to do all you can to take care of yourself and your loved ones, within the parameters allowed you by those in control. And if you vote, perhaps you should even pretend that your vote counts for something. A little fantasy can make life little easier.

I will make one positive statement, however. To the extent that people are able to participate in the political process--that is, allowed--then the more that do so will slow, not stop, the eventual solidifying of the new aristocracy.