Yesterday I came across this post featuring a picture critical of unhealthy food. The picture was doing a perfectly fine job of encouraging people to think about what they eat and feed their children. I did the typical human thing, and keyed in on one silly flaw.

Several of the packages of unhealthy processed food in the family’s shopping cart were prominently labelled “MSG”, which is short for monosodium glutamate. While MSG is commonly used as a flavouring agent in unhealthy foods, I had learned from Salt: A World History, that MSG is just the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that helps compose the proteins in your body. (If you have never read the Salt book, I recommend it highly.)

So what is my point, other than defending a food additive with a scary name that gives many people headaches?

  1. Read the Salt book. It is so awesome it deserves its own post. It is up there with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  2. MSG is not bad if it does not give you headaches, but beware: it is often used in unhealthy foods.
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I am generally down on the idea of government control. The idea of the government stepping in to tell responsible persons what they may and may not do is distasteful. Indeed, I imagine that I come across as anti-government on occasion. There are certain distasteful things that do fall clearly in the realm of government responsibility though.

First to come to mind are the weak and helpless who are trodden on by the strong. The government is here to protect them, and set things right. By this I do not mean welfare and the like. Caring for the needy, and getting them back on their feet as far as they are able,  is the duty of the individual and charitable groups. This is an act of society. No, the government is there to administer justice when someone takes advantage of the weakened state of another.

Following from that line of thought, I come to human life. Here you shall find me horribly unsophisticated, and irritation will likely manifest in a few readers. While others come up with exotic formulae for when it is and is not acceptable to kill a human, I simplify things. Don’t kill a diploid human. No debate as to vegetative state, feeling pain, mental capacity or self-conciousness. Haploid: kill, diploid: don’t kill. The only exception is self-defence, or the defence of others. Otherwise, it is the duty of the government to protect human life.

I then come to the responsibility of the government to hold citizens accountable to not steal from, break contracts with, or otherwise harm one-another. This is fairly uncontroversial even at this late date. People only seem to get confused if the person being stolen from can be dehumanized in some way, such as being wealthier than the culprit, or an owner of stock in a corporation.

Finally, the government is to protect us from outside threats. This, for me, is a bit tricky. Do we ever act in a peremptory fashion? How many of our citizens do we put at risk if we allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon? In nature, the police state, as seen in multi-cellular organisms, is a very strong higher-order structure. It is able to easily out-compete free-living organisms. Do we disrupt developing police-states in order to safeguard our own liberty? This is perhaps the only significant place where I feel split from Ron Paul. My leanings seem too hawkish for a proper libertarian.

Most other things the government tries to do are usurpations. Yeah, I like the interstate highway system, and I almost can accept it for its significance for national defence. You might talk me into one or two more things, depending on my mood; however, quite a lot that the government does today falls instead in the purview of society.

Thought I would comment briefly on this story about – according to most accounts – some stupid neighbourhood watch guy that chased down and shot a kid.

This is a horrible tragedy, but it is being mis-portrayed as being about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Since the guy was chasing the child, he was not under the auspices of the law. If the child fought back, he was defending himself against an armed assailant.

It is up to the local government to investigate and prosecute this apparent crime. If that falls through – as it apparently has – then the state government needs to investigate and bring charges. What is actually going to happen is the federal government will follow its pattern, and attempt to use the criminal behaviour of an individual as an excuse to further infringe upon the rights of the responsible majority. The same as they have done and tried to do with Illegal Downloaders, Anonymous, and Occupy Wall Street.

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

When we fail in our financial and social responsibility, we give power and control to someone else, whether we realize it or not. We don’t notice when we get what we want as a result of that control. While both sides are to blame, people only notice the problem in the opposing side. When that control stands in the way, then there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. We end up with things like the Patriot Act, SOPA, and secret facilities designed to read all of your email no matter who is in office.

If you watch, the government and meta-government organizations egg on groups like Anonymous, Occupy Wall Street, and the Tea Party. It is as though they are hoping for an excuse to sink their tentacles further into the last open forums of free speech, public assembly and the internet. Already OWS has elicited a legislative power grab, and I look for the Anonymous movement to draw down fire on the interwebs next.

As we struggle against this growing control, lets remember the nature of the thing that we are up against. It grows and thrives in periods of disquiet and confusion. It encourages inane and useless controversies. It feeds on apathy and irresponsibility. In that light, let us stand for our rights firmly, embodying personal responsibility and self control. Make them openly steal our freedoms, rather than passively give them up in our time of confusion and inattention.

My wife and I are getting ready to take our 2.5 children on a road trip. This caused my thoughts to wander, as they often do, to the price of gas. If the prices of gas continue to rise, will my children be able to take their children on road trips. The answer I came to was “Of course they will.” The recent surge in gas prices is due to inflation from Quantitative Easing and zero interest rates enacted by Congress and the Federal Reserve over the past few years. I suppose in the long-run the only people who will be hurt are those who have invested in US currency, like retirees and The Peoples Republic of China. Inflationary policy is effectively stealing from them. (This is also why there is no love lost between China and our current government.)

What is perhaps more interesting to the average person is how manipulating the supply of currency can be used to bypass congress in raising our taxes. With the graduated income tax system we have in the US, people are divided into a number of tax brackets based on income. The higher the income, the higher the percentage of it taken by the government. During inflationary times, employers generally increase their employees’ salaries to maintain their standard of living. This results in a number of them being placed in a higher tax bracket. Although people’s standard of living drops as they pay more in the higher bracket, inflation results in good publicity for the government. The numbers on the stock market go up, the dollar-value of homes increases. Congress may, occasionally, adjust the brackets a little bit higher for “middle-class tax relief” and still come out ahead. All the president and congress have to do is wait as more money is dumped into the system by the Federal Reserve.

So how did the federal government end up with this obfuscated power structure, with no accountability to the voters? Happy coincidence? No, it was thanks to the foresight of the loathsome Wilson Administration, which enacted both the Federal Reserve and the income tax.

So as you prepare for your next vacation, or the next time the news starts talking about the Fed keeping interest rates at 0%, or congress passing another round of quantitative easing, let us remember that it means sneaking through a tax hike and stealing from the elderly. If more people realized this without their eyes glazing over at financial talk, perhaps we could vote for a few more party faithful to take a road-trip back home…

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I thought about George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Having only read excerpts of it in school, I had to go back and read it later in life.

Here in the U.S., the only context I ever heard the book used in was people on the right bashing those on the left. In my anecdotal experience, it is increasingly unlikely that students are required to read it in school, and we are not given enough historical background to understand what Orwell is referring to here. While his book Animal Farm is a clear reference to the U.S.S.R., where does Nineteen Eighty-Four come in? The use of the term Ingsoc – short for English Socialism – alludes to the short form of the National Socialist German Workers Party – the Nazis.

That is one thing I especially enjoy about these two books, he does not aim particularly at the left or the right, but at where the problem actually is — government control of the individual.

If you have yet to read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I would recommend it. If Orwell is old hat, try this excellent biography on Adolph Hitler. Throughout my education it was the only book I read that mentioned the term “National Socialism”.

As I was reading this book, it struck me how little we are taught U.S. schools about the U.S.S.R. While we learn about the atrocities committed by the National Socialist Party under Hitler, we learn virtually nothing about those under Joseph Stalin. With estimates estimates of the victims of his purges higher than the number who died in the holocaust, why do we ignore this historical figure outside his role as our ally in World War II?

That would be it, I suppose. The relationship between our country and Stalin would have been more of an embarrassment had we acknowledged just how horrible he was. Still, it is a long time since the war ended. Why don’t we consign Stalin to his rightful place of shame beside Hitler and Mao Zedong?