Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Problem of Theft

I had a hard time believing this story when I saw it.  I thought at first it was a joke from some fake news source like The Onion or something.  Once I realized it wasn't a joke, I became completely disgusted.

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The easy argument that's been rehashed a thousand times is the one about whether we should even have things like food stamps or EBT cards.  Well, I suppose it's only rehashed between people.  Between Democrats and Republicans it's whether we should increase spending on the program by 65% or 57%.  That's not really a difference.  The one party system is moving the same direction.  But to imply that there is a difference, Democrats are calling the Republican 'cuts' 'draconian'.  So, ADHD kicking in for a second and getting off topic:


[drey-koh-nee-uhn, druh-] Show IPA

of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Draco or his code of laws.
( often lowercase ) rigorous; unusually severe or cruel: Draconian forms of punishment.

Also, Draconic.

Origin: 1810–20;  < Latin Dracōn-  (stem of Draco) + -ian

Dra·co·ni·an·ism, noun 

An increase of 57% is draconian?  No theatrics there at all.  Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the Democrats are completely misrepresenting the situation or just lying through their teeth.  And how can the Republicans advertise this as a 'cut'?  What a bunch of lying, push-overs. 

People argue the merits of those programs nonstop.  And while I'm against the programs, I've realized that they aren't the problem.  The problem is theft. The problem is corruption.  The problem is integrity.  That's what's missing in our system.  It's more important for the side we're affiliated with to win than to be right.  And the people who have it; and let's take two polar opposites here: Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, are attacked the hardest by everyone on both sides.

On one hand, you have a Cuban-American who's family escaped Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and is pushing hard to make the Congress about working within the confines of the Constitution as it exists at this time and he's called an extremists.  On the other, you have an admitted Socialist who believes the Constitution is an outdated document and doesn't address what the government should do on the behalf of the people.  Both have voting bases that agree with their positions and they were voted in to represents those positions and opinions.  Not mine, not the media, not the president; their constituents. 

Clearly they do not agree, yet people who aren't their constituents believe they should compromise.  Where?  If they compromise, they won't be representing the will of their people.  Unlike the rest of Congress who says one thing on the campaign trail, and do something else in office, these two are doing exactly what they said they would do.  They are at cross purposes.  At no point do I expect them to ever 'compromise' because when they do, that means they've betrayed their voters. 

Why do you think polls that say people have 8% confidence in Congress's performance come out and then the same congressmen get put in?  It's because people agree with their congressmen and not the rest of Congress.  It's not difficult to understand.

The news makes these polls out to be some reason to compromise, but the fact that we keep voting in the same assholes shows they shouldn't.  People propose term limits; I'm even back and forth on it myself, but there's a natural term limit.  It's called voting.  But, people want term limits to get other congressmen out, not theirs.  The hard leftists and hard right-wing that want term limits to get the John Boehner's and Nancy Pelosi's out only want to the rule to get rid of a statesman that they don't like.  That's implementing a law out of spite, not justice.  Laws shouldn't be used as a ideological cudgel.  That sort of internal corruption can only happen because we as a people are broken.  

As a Libertarian I could make the argument that the money being used to prop those programs up is stolen from the wallets of every American in the form of taxes, but that's really a symptom of the problem.  Thinking it's ok for person A to take money from person B and give it to person C is not a moral equivalence you reach over night.  At least in America.  It takes a long time and a lot of influence to convince people that one class should be able to tell another class how to live. 

And think of the absurdity of having people think they are fighting class division and class struggle by creating a class of bureaucrats to dictate and condescend to them; to sit on top of them and decide for them how their lives should be spent.  It's essentially a return to the old monarchy systems we left behind because they limited personal freedom, yet here we are willing to limit the freedoms of others if they disagree.  Instead of true MLK -esque equality, we are willing to rationalize allowing the government to act like Sheriff Nottingham and tax the populace into submission and redistribute our money for it's own benefit and power. 

Theft is a moral problem that goes beyond the government and reaches every single one of us.  When any person justifies theft for their own benefit, they are part of the problem.  Whether it's taking from the rich or robbing Walmart with a card that isn't your money or even something as simple as not correcting someone when cashing out if they forget to add something, it all springs from the same broken nature inside ourselves we refuse to face and deal with. 

Last week, I was mailing stuff off at the Post Office and the lady forget to ring out a box I bought.  It was $2.63.  I could've just ignored it when I caught it, but I didn't.  It would've been theft.  Years ago I was on a camping trip and we needed wood and there was a house that advertised wood for the taking and we could just donate what we thought the wood was worth.  We loaded up my car and gave them nothing.  We just took the wood.  The following year, I still felt so bad I went back and put $50 in the box. 

The reason is so fundamentally childish, but it always applies.  It's the Golden Rule.  Treat others how you want to be treated.  How does robbing Walmart fit into that?  And it's not like we don't know the Golden Rule.  We just choose to be the lesser versions of ourselves when things like this happen. 

The long explanation of why you treat others the way you want to be treated is because of the theft of time.  That guy cut that wood himself using hours of his life.  By taking the wood, I didn't just steal wood, I was stealing hours of his life that he will never get back.  He will never re-live those hours.  This example may get more confused as you get into corporate entities like the Post Office and the box maker, but on a mass scale, if thousands of people aren't telling the clerk that adds up to someone's salary or even raise.

Robbing from corporations normally just hurts it's employees who are spending their life-hours making those products in trade for a wage they've agreed is fair.  The same people that ridicule corporations justify to themselves that it's ok to steal from them and increase taxes on them for their benefit, but seem to completely disconnect that by taking money from that company they are just reducing profit opportunities for the workers, meaning that the workers have to work longer or harder.  Sometimes taking an extra job, maybe 2 to get by or get ahead.  It's not the corporation being punished by stealing or taxes, it's the employees because that's what a corporation is, a grouping of employees.  It's their life-hours being robbed, not the CEOs or the faceless Nike Swoosh.

Even just stealing from another person is equivalent to stealing the life-hours that they had to work to earn the money to purchase whatever is being stolen.  In every single situation, taking anything by force is robbing people of the hours of life and choosing for them how their life-hours are spent.  Mugging, taxes, inflation or financial abuse of an EBT card, it's all hours of life.

That's why I won't let people pay me back with things like food stamps or use their EBT card to get something I need if I loan them money.  That isn't their money.  I don't want them to pay me back with hours of somebody else's life.  I didn't loan them paper fiat currency, I loaned them HOURS OF MY LIFE spent earning that money.  The only equal payment I can morally accept in return is money they earned with the HOURS OF THEIR LIFE.  Not money given to them that is the life-hours of others.  That cost them nothing to give to me.

I didn't always understand that money was the life-hours spent being productive because it's sort of crazy notion.  Although it really shouldn't be.  It was easier in high-school to just embrace that currency was fiat and that it was just printed into existence from nothing.  While that's true to a degree, it doesn't mean the money is value-less.  It's value isn't based on gold or consumerism like we're so often told.  It's based on life and productiveness.  It takes hours of lives and productive work to get gold.  It takes hours of work and productiveness to get the resources, design and make products, raise cattle, ship goods and sell them, earn the money to buy those goods. 

The dollar is not just a piece of paper, it is the physical representation of the intangible: time and productiveness. So, to say money is the root of all evil is to say that life and productiveness are evil.  If you believe that, then you would have no respect for life or the lives of others.  To tell people that the dollar is their God and it rules them like it's an insult is to accuse someone that their own life and productiveness rules them.   How is that an insult? 

The people who would go into Walmart, load up carts in a bid to spend money that wasn't theirs have no respect for life.  Ironically, they are the same people who will tell you that you should respect them or that they want respect.  But you get respect by showing it.  You learn that basic rule in kindergarten.  What they did, didn't just lack respect; it was an act of all out hatred for their fellow man. 

Following the Tsunami in Japan, there were no runs on the stores there.  There were no riots or theft of any kind.  Following Katrina or any massive natural disaster here in America like Super Storm Sandy there was mass crime in the streets.  What was the difference?  I put forward that it was respect.  Integrity.  Honor. 

In the military, the Air Force in particular, we have certain standards that are drilled into our heads.  Lead by Example.  Service Before Self.  Integrity In All We Do. Admittedly, not everyone in the military follows these standards or takes them seriously, but I did.  I try to live by those standards everyday.  Sometimes I fail, most of the time I succeed.  I own my failures when they happen.  You could call me brainwashed, but I've lived the other side too.  I stole a lot in high school.  I was dishonest.  I lied.  I preached how to be 'better' to others as a vegan straightedge asshole, and then didn't live it myself.  I was typical teenager.

But that's the point.  In Japan, that is NOT what the typical teenager does.  The typical teenager in Japan is taught to respect others and their possessions, the value of hard work and what it is to be honorable.  Between the military and living in Asia, I learned the value of honor and integrity and I came back a different person.  Living abroad does that.  This isn't to say Japan is better than America, every culture has it's failures; just to point at in this particular context they are producing better results than we are.  Instead of trying to argue where their failures are, we should adopt where they are successful.

Unlike a lot of arm chair, coach potato philosopher's who've never been out in the world to see what their 'great ideas' lead to, I have been.  I went into the service a liberal, vegan, straightedge, environmentalist, progressive with ideas on how people who were too stupid to know what was best for them and the world, but somehow I knew better because I was enlightened.  Then, the military introduced me to the world and didn't sugar-coat it.  It was a brutal awakening.

While in, I was faced with a lot of realities about my beliefs in different countries and seeing where my 'great ideas' ended up in reality, not academia, and I came out of the service a conservative-leaning libertarian because I realized there is no one-size fits all answer.  In fact, most of my ideas were incredibly wrong and ultimately hurtful to so many people I thought I would help by imposing these regulations on them.  The hardest part was admitting I was wrong.  The easy part was realizing that all the stats and numbers can be angled to fit whatever anyone wants them to and that sometimes reality is more than a bunch of numbers used in an argument.  There are real faces, lives and heartache impacted out there because of programs I supported and the military brought me face-to-face with them.

I learned how utterly and completely wrong all my liberal ideas were and it was crushing to see the real outcomes be so completely opposite of the intent, but it forced me to decide if I would stubbornly continue down that road knowing the consequences and just say, 'well, they didn't do it right' or pull back and try to understand what worked and what didn't.  In the end, I think the only thing that really works is what people want to make work for them.  In order to make that choice for themselves, they have to have the freedom to do so.  So, I began adopting a hands-off ideology.  I call it Libertarianism, but it's really more Austrian Economics... but that's not really an ideology exactly.  But it's what taught me one of the most important lessons I learned about how money and time are related.  It changed my entire world view once that piece clicked into place.

The Japanese impress an understanding of respect for those that earn it in their culture.  The only way you earn that is by working hard, and the Japanese are HARD workers.  They don't steal from others because they know how hard they worked to get the few possessions they have.  We talk a good game over here, but like our auto industry, Japan is actually doing it better.  And they are such wonderfully humble, patient people. Those are qualities we would benefit by adopting.  I struggle with living those standards every day on my own because I've seen their positive outcomes and I want that for myself.

Would something like trying to exploit a glitch on an EBT card happen in a culture that embraces real honor; not Hollywood honor?  We claim to be honorable in America, but we clearly don't practice it anymore because we've confused honor and respecting the hard work and effort of others with taking their money and giving it to those who aren't working hard and putting forward little effort.  That isn't an honorable system, that's 'from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs'.  It shouldn't be surprising that a system like that inspires exploitation instead of respect for a fellow human being. 

We don't impress true respect on our children anymore, just the illusion of it.  We've confused cause and effect.  In Japan, respect is based on hard-work.  Hard-work leads to being noticed and gaining respect.  Being noticed provides opportunities.  Opportunities mean being rewarded with more money.  In America, we've moved away from that and have seemingly begun to think that money = respect.  As a result, it's more important to 'get' money by any means than 'earn' it. 

But it's not real respect people show you when you're wealthy, it's the illusion of respect.  Then, when those people never get the true respect they want, they become disillusioned and as a result, they don't respect themselves after a while.  It's easy when you no longer respect yourself to just take from others through open theft or supporting others who tell you they will reach into other people's pockets on your behalf.

So completely wrong.  Maybe part of that is because people don't know where anything comes from anymore and they just think of business as massive corporate entities instead of the people they are made up of.  But that's just a shallow, cowardly excuse to justify theft.  It's not honorable.

And this isn't me rushing to defend business.  Wal-Mart's employees are just as much to blame here.  They accepted the money knowing something was wrong.  The management at those locations should be held accountable.  They agreed to allow these people to steal from their shelves so they could steal money directly from a taxpayer funded EBT card.  The problem is theft all around, not just one group or union or business or politician.

I looked around a bit and it looks like Walmart will be held accountable and have to foot the bill for this, as they should.  But, what about the people who stole all the stuff from the shelves?  Will they be held accountable for their corruption?  All things being equal, they should be.  It's not like the state doesn't have the names on the cards and the ability to look at the bills.  Those people should either be charged in full for what they bought unless they return it and have the amount refunded to the card or have their EBT completely stripped from them and told, 'you have demonstrated you are not responsible enough for the state to trust with this money, so you are no longer eligible.'  That would send a message.

Because as of right now, if Walmart is the one paying for everything taken from the shelves, those people got everything in that cart for free.  It's like Walmart just gave it to them if they aren't punished.  Justifying that Walmart has stolen from others or some other such nonsense is an act of corruption and dishonorable.  By not punishing those people as well as Walmart, we have rewarded them for their bad behavior.  And when animals are rewarded for bad behavior instead of corrected, they continue to do it.  Because I don't think of these people as human, they haven't earned that title.  They are animals.  They act like animals.  Human beings are different because they are capable of stepping beyond the instincts that drive animals and be more and these people have demonstrated they have none of that.

And while I'm a Libertarian, Liberals and Progressives should be more disgusted with this than I am because they are the ones that support these programs.  They should be the ones that are the most vocal about sending a message here to everyone else on welfare programs about proper use.  They should be the ones beating the drum the loudest right now to make sure things like this are less likely to happen later.  The fact that they aren't more pissed than I am and are choosing to ignore this because it makes their program look bad shows that for many of them, their image means more to them than the actual implementation of their ideas.  It will only make the problem worse in the future instead of helping to prevent it.

These things happen because we allow them by not acting to correct the behavior that lead to it.  By not acting, we sanction it.  This is not just the EBT holders fault or Walmart's fault, this is ours.  We have failed each other by not addressing these situations properly.  We did this.  Us.  It's easy to point fingers, it's hard to admit we are part of the problem. 

People on the right will castigate the people who loaded up the carts and attempted to live off the backs of hard working taxpayers like parasites.  People on the left will criticize corporate greed and the right for attempting to 'steal' 'rights' from the poor.  Neither will be honest or address the real problem because their only true interest is division and segregation at the expense of whatever group's they choose to be prejudice toward.   Their lack of integrity to discuss the real problem demonstrates exactly what I'm talking about. It's amazing that just common decency has become the counter culture in our society.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  But it's only something we can do as individuals.  You can't mandate or regulate it.  People have to choose to be better on their own.  We are the ones who are responsible for fixing ourselves. 

'I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man; nor ask another man to live for mine.'

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