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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Light Bulbs And War

"There is no such thing as collective or racial achievement.  There are only individual minds and individual achievements - and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men," Ayn Rand (The Virture of Selfishness, 148).

Ayn Rand makes a very strong statement about collective achievements not existing, but is something that requires a group of people a collective achievement or an individual achievement?  Is war a collective achievement?

War is not a collective achievement; war is the sum of the individual achievements of individual men.  To win a war, one must have individuals fighting on the ground, individuals relaying messages and information, and individuals planning out the attacks and defenses.  All of these individuals are fighting to protect their individual rights and individual lives.  Individuals can join forces against a common enemey, but that does not make them a collective and it does not make them sacrifice their individuality.

What about the founding of the United States of America?  A group of citizens banded together to create their own country and overthrow the tyranny of Great Britain, surely that must be a collective acheivement.  Great Britain oppressed the individual, all individuals, and the individuals stood up against that oppression.

The Constitution does not form a collecive; the Constitution is an agreement between individuals with similar moral values.  Ayn Rand states, "Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights - and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members" (150).  Without individual rights, there would be no United States, there would be no Constitution.  Communism and socialism aim to promote and sustain the common good through collective achievements.  If your neighbor slacks off at work and you break your bakc, you will get a raise but so will your neighbor.  A collective achievement would reward everyone equally, even though not everyone contributed equally.  If the United States' military wins a war, we all get to be on the winning side, but not everyone receives a medal.

Let's scale things down a bit and examine the light bulb.  Is the light bulb a collective achievement?  Edison did not invent the light bulb on his own, he had people helping him.  Unfortunately, we are going to have to simplify the story of the invention of the light bulb because Edison did not invent the first light bulb, but he did invent the first practical light bulb.  Is Edison's invention a collective achievement if others helped him?  Is my blog post a collective achievement?  I did not invent or manufacture the computer I am typing on, I did not invent the internet nor do I maintain any servers, and yet not many people would argue that this blog post is my individual achievement.

The light bulb is the individual achievement of Edison, but it is also the individual achievement of the rest of his team.  Edison paid his team, and each one of his team members can be proud of their individual achievement.  The success of the light bulb depended on the talents of several individuals, individuals that cooperated under the banner of a dream that was shared, but also a dream that belonged to the individuals, not the group.

Your American dream may not match my American dream, and yet we both have an American dream.  As individuals, we are free to pursue our own dreams to better ourselves.  Often these pursuits lead to the betterment of our way of life, but the goal is not to better the lives of everyone, but to better the life of ourselves, whether it be through a monetary betterment (through product/service sales) or a convenience betterment (a letter opener instead of using your fingers).  People may think they are acting to realize a collective achievement, but they are really acting to realize their own individual achievement.  A sniper shoots an enemy combatant to save the lives of the rest of his unit, but the reason he wants to save their lives is because his life may depend on the individuals in his unit being able to do their jobs.

The reason collective achievements do not exist is because individuals act for selfish reasons and individuals should act for selfish reasons.  Edison did not invent the first practical light bulb to make his team rich, but he was willing to pay the individuals for their worthy contributions.  In war it is individuals fighting individuals; it is no different than Edison and his ligh bulb.  The general enlists the infantry to help him realize his goal and he rewards them accordingly.  The individuals are fighting for their own selfish reasons; maybe they want money, maybe they want to defend their individual freedoms, or maybe they enjoy killing.  Whatever the reason, they are there because they want to be there.  If they did not want to participate, they would find a way to dodge service or dodge the draft.

Collective achievements do not exist because the common good does not exist.  The individual good does exist and therefore only individual achievements can exist.  Anyone enlisting you to aid in a collective achievement is hoping to convince you to sacrifice your individual rights in order to achieve their individual goal.  The definition of collective achievement is the "anonymous product of undifferentiated masses."  Collective achievements are the same as slavery.

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 Years Ago

This is for the 2,977 Americans who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

On this day 9 years ago I was in high school.  In my first class of the day I heard one of my fellow classmates talking about a dumb pilot who crashed into a building.  It didn't sound serious.  My next class was social studies, and the teacher had a TV in the room and told us that instead of our regular lesson plan, we were going to watch the news.  It was then that I saw that it was no small plane that hit.  The first tower was smoking, and the news anchors were trying to figure out what happened.  As they were talking, a second plane came in a hit the other tower.  2,977 Americans were murdered that day.

The chaos, the rubble, people running through the streets.  The worst thing I've witnessed in my life is those towers collapsing.  Lives snuffed out in an instant.  I can't imagine what those people felt.  I cannot possibly know what it felt like to be at work, and suddenly have a plane hit the building.  Even if you survived the initial crash, trying to get out amidst the panic.  Would any of them been aware enough to realize the building was going to collapse upon them?  2,977 Americans.

19 terrorists died that day.  Those 19, and those who have since been killed, are not enough to make up for what they did that day.  I am glad we went after the terrorists, but I am not glad that we haven't followed through to the full extent.  Starting with Vietnam, we have been trying to fight politically correct wars.  The trouble with that is that there is no way to win a war with political correctness.  Innocent people will die, innocent people did die, including 2,977 Americans.

What determines innocence?  What determines guilt?  The hijackers are guilty of murder and terrorism.  The terrorists who planned and organized it are guilty.  And, those people that stood by and let terrorists thrive in their country are guilty.  If the terrorists are hiding in hospitals and mosques in hopes that our armed forces won't bomb them for fear of harming the 'innocent,' we should bomb the hell out of those places (only if we know terrorists are hiding in them).  Is that a bit harsh and cold?  Not only is it not as harsh as killing 2,977 Americans for no reason, but it is justified.

If the citizens of Afghanistan weren't aware how evil terrorists are and allowed them to stay in their country, they must be taught.  Every action has a reaction.  If you allow your country to foster terrorism, and that terrorism costs the lives of innocents, you are partly to blame.  The only people in the world who understand this principle are Americans.  Americans wanted no part of the repressive and evil nature of the King of England, so we took on the biggest army in the world.  You know what England learned?  They learned that the greatest power in the world is not how big your army is, but that the greatest power in the world is freedom.  A freedom which was taken from 2,977 Americans on September 11, 2001.

The people of the middle, after hearing the news of the attacks, were not appalled and they did not immediately try to purge their region of evil.  Some leaders condemned the attacks, but others said that America got what it deserved.  Some fired their weapons in the air to celebrate, and some danced in the streets.  Every human has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  2,977 Americans were denied that right.

In order to make sure something this terrible never happens again on American soil, we have to show no mercy.  Political correctness is all about mercy and tolerance.  Political correctness is our modus operandi.  We don't need to bomb them until they can't be bombed anymore, we need to bomb them until they understand never to attack us again.  If you have any qualms about my stance, I encourage you to watch United 93 (2006, Paul Greengrass).  It is such a powerful film that I only watched it once, in theaters.  I own it, but I'm not sure I could handle watching it again.  It is the most emotional film I have ever seen.  People were sobbing in the theater, I was sobbing in the theater.  2,977 Americans weren't alive to sob in the theater.

I remember where I was, where were you when 2,977 Americans were murdered?  As Americans, as people, as humans, we cannot forget what happened on this day 9 years ago.  We must defend our unalienable rights.  We cannot allow evil to survive.  We must be strong.

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

Friday, September 10, 2010

And Justice For All

*The content of Faith Through Fear is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual's situation. Those seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.*

Does everybody have the same rights?  Sometimes it seems like certain people or groups have more rights than another.  We all have heard of habeas corpus, which protects us from unlawful detention.  Due process protects individuals from the government, at the state level and the federal level.  What about the rights of an offender versus the rights of a victim?

Did you know that as landowner you have a duty of care to all who are on your property?  Some states classify users into three different groups: trespasser, licensee, and invitee.  Without going into too much detail, a licensee or invitee is somebody that you are aware is using your property, whereas a trespasser is somebody who is using unbeknownst to you.  Furthermore, trespassers are split into two groups: an unanticipated trespasser, and an anticipated trespasser.  The group that receives the most protection is the invitee, then the licensee.  An anticipated trespasser has more protection than an unanticipated trespasser, but the amazing thing is, that the unanticipated trespasser still has rights under the law.

According to a law firm's blog, "A landowner does not owe a duty to trespassers to keep the premises in a safe condition. Rather, the landowner owes only a minimal duty to avoid willfully or wantonly injuring the trespasser."  They go on to say, "An anticipated trespasser is one who the landlord knows or has reason to anticipate would come onto the property. The landlord has a duty to protect anticipated trespassers from dangerous activities or hidden perils on the premises."  With the way that is worded, willful could be defined by any number of actions.  Also, another firm mentions that some states have gotten away from the classification of entrants and that, "some have adopted a rule that provides that an owner or occupier of land has a duty of reasonable care under all circumstances, and the status of the entrant is merely a relevant factor in determining whether the injury was foreseeable and the landowner negligent."  This firm further stipulates between discovered and undiscovered trespassers, "If a property owner discovers a trespasser on the property, he or she has a duty to use ordinary care to warn the trespasser or, to make safe, artificial conditions that the property owner knows involve a risk of death or serious bodily injury that the trespasser is not likely to discover," and goes on to say that a landowner owes no duty to undiscovered trespassers.

I'm sure many of you have heard the story of the high school student stealing lights off of the top of the high school when he fell through a skylight and sued the school.  The alleged case is Bodine v. Enterprise High School, but I could not find any proof of its existence.  I did find a news story about a burglar suing the homeowner who shot him, but no word on if it succeeded in a court of law.  However, across the pond, I did find a published news story about an 18 year old boy trespassing, falling off a roof, and successfully suing for £567,000.  As of 2003, they were trying to change the law to protect homeowners.

It depends on what country you live in, what state you live in, and how good of a lawyer the criminal can find, but ultimately most of the criminal-suing-the-victim stories are false.  However, that doesn't mean that a decent attorney won't find a loophole and throw you under the bus.  So remember, if you plan on shooting a trespasser, make sure you clearly state, in 2" high letters, "Trespassers will be shot."

*The content of Faith Through Fear is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual's situation. Those seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.*

© 2010 Nate Phillipps

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So Sue Me

With the proliferation of lawsuits in recent years, it is difficult to imagine an issue one isn't able to sue over.  The frivolous lawsuit was not starting in 1994, but it was given a push from a rare occurrence to an everyday undertaking.  The lawsuit I am talking about is Liebeck v. McDonald's, where a woman successfully sued McDonald's because their coffee was served hot.  Today, we have warning labels on everything, from coffee cups and lids, to scissors.  The jury determined that Liebeck was only 20% at fault for the incident, and that McDonald's was 80% to blame.

Just like a trend or clothing fad, the act of engaging in frivolous lawsuits, against companies whose only fault is they sold their product to morons, caught on like wildfire.  When I was a kid, we got into the habit of saying, "So sue me," every time we did something our friends didn't like.  As a kid, I never really thought about why we were saying that, but now as an adult I understand.  What frightens me is that most adults don't understand, and continue to sue for ridiculous things.  Why are frivolous lawsuits so appealing?

Despite many people saying we are currently in the Information Age, I believe we are in the Entitlement Age.  With Social Security, amnesty for illegals, welfare, mandatory health care, affirmative action, bailouts and an array of other government sponsored benefits, it's easy to see why everybody has a sense of entitlement.  Nobody is willing to work for money, or to earn anything.  They expect to be given things based solely on the fact that they aren't earning anything.  Need is not something one can exchange for value.  Unfortunately most of the government and population have bought into entitlement 100%, after all, it's 'free' money.

Not everyone has bought in though.  I was sitting in on a trial in court, and it was a divorce proceeding, and the prosecuting was telling the judge that she was entitled to the defendant's financial records, going back as far as she liked, even before the marriage.  The judge was an older man and said, "I'm here to tell you that you are not entitled to those records."  So there are judges out there who still posses common sense, although I get the feeling that they are far and few between.

What can we do to stop the flow of frivolous lawsuits?  I would suggest encouraging your friends to use their brains and to remind them that when they order hot coffee that it usually comes hot.

© 2010 Nate Phillipps