The Free Associator

The Philadelphia Syndicate is a collection of writers, businesses, artists, musicians, and activists based in Philadelphia, with connections to associates around the world via the internet. This publication is produced by members of the Syndicate's private online discussion forum for the purpose of giving exposure to the organization's thinkers to the public.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Internet: A Beneficent Commonwealth


Libertarians hold that a moral society is a society based upon consensual behaviour. This principle is held in higher esteem than other principles, such as altruistic causes, including, but not limited to, disaster relief.

A libertarian critique of the present relief situation holds that, of course, it is both permissible, and even recommended, that we help our fellow human beings on the other side of the planet. For a libertarian, the problem arises when we utilise government as an instrument, using coerced tax funds, to perform the charity work.

Despite the moral ends of disaster aid, a libertarian holds fast in the belief that altruism, at the point of the gun, is anything but moral. Without the fully enforced consent of the helpers, the helped are but possessors of stolen property. This moral reasoning may be valid and true, although the people receiving aid only know they may live another day.

With or without a welfare state, natural disasters will occur and a greater number of us may wish to aid the less fortunate, unlucky and plum dumb. As it is now, government plays a very large, if not the largest, role in the effort of relief in the time of natural disasters and unplanned horrors. Few would argue that our tax dollars should not go towards the effort of relif, save we libertarians. And if you are that guy at the party trying to convince the hosts' wife's best friend that you are smarter than the UN or FEMA, you must be prepared to argue about more than long-winded accounts of entries in one's handbook on rational egoist slogans.

If we are to seek a society of consensual altruism, we must work to support civil institutions that will be tasked with relief efforts in the future. In short, consensual altruism requires action, not talk alone. This requires more than the expressions of perturbation over the world's perfidious complaints about our lack of generosity. It requires a pro-active approach.

In the past, civil instructions, mostly faith-based, organised efforts such as what we see today. In time, government has taken on the role of generous uncle. Our increasingly conservative social atmosphere in American has contributed to the conservative movement's support of faith-based institutions funded by government, as opposed to government techo-crats.

Although the momentum may be in favour of a decreased role of government in social welfare, to the delight of libertarians, the direction of that momentum is not favourable. Whether it be liberal sociologists receiving public funds and spending it on social programs or a religious institution receiving money to run a soup kitchen or drug clinic, we are still taking money from one person and giving it to another -- whether the person ”giving” the money has a say or not. Not only is the moral orientation on this ideological position identical to a liberal's ends-justifies-the means position, I find it far less desirable than our current social welfare safety net policies.

In a free society, control and management of churches and similar faith based institutions must be completely independent of all government functions. As any person who may have married up in class may find, a benefactor brings not freedom, but the continuous desire for the returned control of one's own self. I fear the churches of America may one day find themselves in that very position. [Note to Compassionate Conservatives: Once you give someone money to pursue their endeavours, you control them. Government support of faith-based institutions is more a Trojan horse than a blessing.]

The Iternet, a tool utilised by society not unlike government or churches, in many ways is a concrete expression of libertarianism and represents a chance at a third way. It is neither the liberal's government based-solutions nor the conservative’s reliance on religious institutions. It is the American way of Free Association and voluntarily granted beneficence. It is a mechanism, which facilitates and enhances the free flow of ideas and capital. As an active supporter of a consensual society, it is pleasing to see the spontaneous organisational role of the Internet in current tsunami relief efforts. Not only is the Internet capable of liberating speech and the ambition of traders and merchants, it is additionally commendable in its success of organising the presently generous.

I recommend google's list of charities.


Blogger Oblio said...

Some thoughts of my own:

The recent devastation wrought in Asia by the Tsunami of December 26th is the worst in a century. Possessed with a morbid fascination of natural disasters, which some would attribute to the Catholicism on which I was fattened, I once checked out an Encyclopedia of Natural Disasters for an entire year from the library. Granted, it was a thick and detailed book, so it took me some time to fully grasp the extent of destruction that surrounds the human race in recorded history, but what I learned was that Nature will always make fools of men and women.

The first and probably only reaction I had upon hearing the news of the Tsunami last week was not to tell anyone. I hoped in vain that I might never have to tell them, and that it would not be on the front page of the Kansas City star the next morning. But it was, and that's when I knew it was going to be bad. But at the time, I didn’t want to be accused of ruining anyone's holiday with such depressing news - news of such magnitude that alleviation of the suffering created by it could only be accomplished through opening our pocketbooks. I suppose my reaction was not far from that of our pResident's.

As everyone is aware, our government initially pledged 15 million dollars, which was more than doubled within 48 hours, then increased more than 10 fold within the next 48 hours. Perhaps some American officials were hoping against hope that the damage would be less than it was, and in a quixotic attempt to mitigate the damage, they pledged only what they hoped would be necessary. In any event, the humanitarian response has been indicative of the separate fabrics woven into our current, 21st century society.

First, there are the NGOs, UN agencies and American based non-profits. Americans gave money to these organizations by the millions, hoping to help directly. Second, there is the USG and its "coalition". Shortly after President GWB broke his silence from his ranch in Crawford (on vacation again) he pledged that America would lead the way in the recovery through an aid coalition. India, who was included in the coalition, but ever wary, politely refused direct American assistance, instead preferring the UN and its own system of disaster relief.

What I find most interesting is the simple inability of my government to work WITH other government and non-governmental agencies. Was it always this way? Why is it necessary for America to “lead the way?” Why can we not simply assist and, gasp, do what is asked of us? Because we have become a nation of marketers, that’s why. The USG is closer to Nike Inc., who, when pledging 1 million in aid to victims, simply had to state that the money was being sent even though none of their factories had been, to their knowledge, affected. Don’t get me wrong, the assistance is surely welcome, but the qualifier is disturbing.

Equally frightening, perhaps more so, are reports being circulated on the Internet via mostly independent media that the Tsunami was generated by an underwater explosion caused by, of course, the US military. Such speculation, lacking any credible evidence, shows the serious inability of certain individuals to grasp that not all bad things are perpetrated by capitalists and their war machines.

Natural disasters are a common feature of our planet, as the aforementioned Encyclopedia clearly demonstrated to me. Unfortunately, those who often suffer most at the whim of Nature are often those least likely to be able to prepare themselves against those whims. The poor, the displaced, and those scratching a meager existence from the land, have been most affected by this tragedy. It is sobering to realize that huge numbers of people across the globe are in similar positions. Most will ask “What will government do for them?” Whatever the answer is – an early warning system, relocation, mangroves, there will be those that object. There always are.

1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home