Solving Animal Abuse at Intensive Animal Farming Facilities

intensive animal farmingThere are two apparently diametrically opposed sides in the animal husbandry industry. Animal Rights Activists and owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities. One of the positive takes I have about being a Libertarian and Objectivist is that I’m not ideologically tied to any particular side in an issue.

On one side are the activists who see the abuse of animals and feel an ethical obligation to do everything in their power to help the largely defenseless creatures. On the other are people trying to provide goods to paying customers, employ willing people, and make a profit while doing so. What we see are two groups of people doing all they can in court, on social media, and in various state legislatures to attack one another.

I, on the other hand, do not see the two groups as necessarily needing to fight one another for the minds of public opinion. I think there is a place for both sides and a happy middle ground. I understand getting the entire population of the world to turn to a plant-based diet is a hopeless endeavor. People will always want to eat meat and someone will provide this product. I am also truly disgusted when I see the videos animal rights activists’ post when they gain access to such farms.

If we take a Libertarian and Objectivist point of view, I think the inevitable conclusion is there will always be such farms but that animals should not be tortured and brutalized while they are living their short lives. When videos come out showing horrific abuse of animals the owners and operators of the facilities always express outrage but I find words to be largely meaningless. I want to see action.

That brings me to the point of this article. How can the owners and operators of Intensive Animal Farming Facilities and Animal Rights Activists work together in a pragmatic way to reach some reasonable solution? This is important. It must be remembered when the two sides attack one another this takes time, effort, and money. These things could be channeled into productive activities that make a difference.

The simplest solution is for Animal Rights Activists to purchase, install, monitor, and maintain cameras at various points in the facilities. If the owners of such farms truly are concerned for the welfare of their animals, as they express time and again, they will have no problem with such a system. It costs them nothing and ensures workers are being monitored for abuses to animals that certainly affect production.

It will also help the public make informed decisions about their purchases. If I can go online and watch how the animal is being treated at the farm before and during slaughter that helps me feel good about my purchase. If I know the animal is reasonably well-cared for and not being tortured, I am happy to spend my money on the product. I imagine that I’m not alone in this feeling. If I knew that an animal was horribly abused before getting to market, I would probably not make the purchase. This ripple effect causes those farmers who practice treating their animals with respect gain market share.

This changes the Intensive Animal Farming industry as a whole. If people are well-informed in their purchasing decisions and farmers who treat animals well are rewarded, then the farmers who have less healthy practices are driven from the business.

This is a desired result. It is good for the ethical farmers, it is good for the purchasing public, and contributes to the welfare of the animals themselves. I don’t think anyone would have an objection to this outcome except those who enjoy abusing animals. Let us not pretend that such people do not exist and are not attracted to jobs that allow them to carry out their perverse desires. They must be curtailed.

From my perspective, the important thing here is to try and work together to come up with solutions to problems rather than simply attacking one another. I find that ideological differences can be overcome when you are willing to examine practical solutions and work with each other. I also believe when you refuse to engage in such compromise you are setting yourself up for long-term disaster.

Neither the Intensive Animal Farming industry or the Animal Rights Activists can truly win this war alone. They need each other.

Tom Liberman

Ending the Lychee Dog Meat Festival

lychee dog meat festivalOne of my Facebook acquaintances who is deeply passionate about animal rights recently posted about the Lychee Dog Meat festival in China. I think it’s fairly reasonable to suggest that most of us in the western world are not particularly comfortable with eating canines. What can be done about it? What is the best way to stop such behavior? This question speaks to my Libertarian ideology.

I recently wrote several blogs about the horse meat industry and I think the comparison is reasonable. When horse lovers lobbied Congress sufficiently, laws were passed that defunded the inspection of horse slaughter houses. Because it is not legal to slaughter animals in the United States without such inspections, the industry was eliminated. Yet, the practice continues.

The efforts of people like my friend on Facebook are used to put pressure on China to outlaw the Lychee festival. In China manipulative legislative runarounds like that which was done with the horse meat industry are unnecessary. They do not live in a free society. If the government wants to prevent a particular activity, they simply issue a ban. There is no Constitution to maneuver around. If my friend and her allies can put enough pressure on China to outlaw the festival, it will happen, but will it work?

In China the government position is that the Chinese people do not hold dogs in the same regard as companions as do Westerners. They find our slaughter of cows and chickens to be far more egregious than the single festival in which a few thousand dogs die. In this, I believe they are correct. More cows and chickens are slaughtered in a single day than die in the yearly festival.

Opponents of the festival argue the dogs die in unsupervised, and horrific fashion. That many of the animals are stolen from their owners. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not but it certainly seems plausible.

Now we get down to the reality of this world. The Chinese people enjoy the meat of dogs. The people of the United States largely find such slaughter abhorrent.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Chinese government comes around the way of thinking of my friend. They ban the slaughter of dogs, they outlaw the Lychee festival. Do we think that such will prevent dogs from being slaughtered and eaten? The answer is obviously no. As long as Chinese people want to eat dogs, dogs will be eaten. Horses are still slaughtered and eaten in the United States, it is just done via a black market. The price increases, money is delivered into the hands of criminals. The ban is largely ineffective.

It seems obvious to me such would be the case in China. The Chinese government might even give lip service to such a ban but would not bother to enforce it. This is the problem with relying on government to solve problems. Sure, they can pass laws, they can make heroin illegal, they can make speeding illegal, they can outlaw certain variety of firearms, but these laws never stop human behavior. If people want to consume drugs, to drive quickly, to purchase firearms; they will continue to do so.

We only give ourselves the illusion of safety and harmony with such laws. In reality the behavior continues largely unabated or even enhanced by the lure of danger.

What is to be done? My friend is passionate, she is caring, she strongly believes in the rights of animals. I applaud and admire her dedication and think it is people like her who will eventually bring about change, if change is to come. She should continue to make her opinion known, convince one person at a time. It is only when people no longer want to consume dogs, or horses, that the Lychee festival will end. The government is helpless and hopeless.

Do not rely on government to legislate. Convince people, convince the individual. The individual has the power. If you cannot convince the people, then you need to make a better argument.

Tom Liberman

The Story of Mike Mariana and Trials of Osiris might make you a Libertarian

mike marianaYou probably haven’t heard of a video game called Destiny, an excellent player of the game named DrLupo, or a dedicated but average skilled player named Mike Mariana who recently died. That’s too bad. One of the main concepts of Libertarianism is people of like interests gathering and doing what they enjoy without interference. The story I’m about to tell you is what I imagine the world would be if we were all Libertarians.

Mariana developed cancer a few years back and between the disease and chemotherapy his ability to physically interact with the world was greatly diminished. He started playing the computer game Destiny. As the cancer grew worse it was one of the few games he could play and he and a group of online friends spent many hours enjoying themselves in battle.

In Destiny there is a series of tasks called the Trials of Osiris. If a team is able to pass this trial they can visit a place called The Lighthouse. Mariana’s friends decided to dedicate themselves to helping him get there. Sadly, their skills just weren’t up to the task and Mariana was growing ever weaker from the spreading cancer.

They decided to ask a Twitch.tv Destiny streamer who uses the name DrLupo to help. DrLupo is a Destiny expert and agreed to help Mariana. In the game you play in teams of three so DrLupo gathered one of his friends and joined up with Mike to take on the Trials of Osiris. DrLupo did it as part of a charitable 24 hours stream hoping to raise $10,000 for the Make-a-Wish foundation. I do not think I need spell it out. Mariana got to play with one of his heroes, he won the right to visit The Lighthouse, much money was raised, Twitch.tv chipped in by putting the final run on the front page of their site, and there was much rejoicing.

Certainly, a feel-good story but I think more than that. The internet gives us an opportunity to gather with like-minded friends and do things we enjoy in a way not possible throughout human history. Our geographic location is irrelevant, our race is not a factor, our religion is of no consequence, our political affiliation makes no difference, our gender is inconsequential. All the things that divided people throughout recorded history are falling by the wayside.

Not to say that the institutions under attack are not fighting back. People use religious, racial, gender, and political difference in an attempt to lure us into their hate-filled lives. They try to pit us against each other. They try to convince us that hatred, persecution, and rage are the paths to happiness. I’m here to tell you the way to a happy life is to spend it doing things you enjoy with those of similar interests.

The way to self-loathing and unhappiness is to spend your time railing against those who do thing you don’t like, who profess political ideas with which you disagree, or who worship or do not worship the same way as you.

Do you spend your time on Social Media and in real life posting diatribes against those you think are doing something wrong? Trying to ruin the lives of those who act in ways that offend you? This is not the way to happiness. You might think it is but you are destroying yourself in such pursuits. You are wasting your life.

I’m not going to tell you to stop such behavior. If you want to spend your life trying to hurt other people, that’s your business. I’m suggesting you be more like Mariana. Spend your time doing the things you love, because you’re going to be dead soon enough.

Tom Liberman

Bob McNair was the Apology a Lie?

Bob McNairThe owner of the Houston Texans, Bob McNair, recently made a comment for which he later apologized. A National Football League player named Richard Sherman thinks the original statement was a true indication of the feelings McNair has and that the apology is merely pretend. What I’m going to discuss is not the nature of the comment itself but the reality of Sherman’s analysis.

To get you up to speed, there is an ongoing issue in the NFL in which players are kneeling or otherwise protesting during the playing of the national anthem. The owners largely do not like this. McNair was quoted as saying something along the lines of: We cannot let the prisoners run the asylum. This equates the players in the NFL to incarcerated people. McNair was apparently confronted shortly after making the statement and he apologized.

Sherman believes McNair truly meant the statement, that he associates the players with inmates. People who should have no say as to how the team is managed. Sherman believes the apology a lie motivated by politically correctness.

Sherman believes McNair is not alone in his opinion. Sherman thinks other NFL owners feel the same way, players are to be used as best as possible and discarded when their productive years are behind them. Sherman also believes not all owners think like this. He thinks the owner of his team, Paul Allen, does not think this way about his players.

We cannot know for certain if McNair’s original statement is his true opinion or not but I think it’s an interesting question. Did McNair mean it when he compared NFL players to prisoners in an institution? Is he bowing to business expediency and political correctness by pretending to apologize?

I think Sherman’s opinion is legitimate. I think there is quite a good chance McNair truly believed what he said and, upon reflection, realized it was a terrible thing to say. Or perhaps McNair is simply pretending to apologize. That he, in his heart, believes what he original said. Again, we have no way of knowing the answer to this question, only McNair can tell us.

Sherman goes on to make an incredibly interesting point. He says he would rather McNair tell the truth, even if it is antithetical to Sherman’s own beliefs. Sherman would rather know the honest opinion of McNair and thereafter avoid him.

Let’s imagine I know someone whose opinions on a subject are deeply offensive to me. Would I rather they pretend not to have those opinions when around me, or would I prefer if they told me exactly what they were thinking? I find myself in complete agreement with Sherman. If you have an opinion, state it. If I don’t like it, well, it’s up to me to decide if I want to be around you in the future. Sure, when you make a statement I don’t like, I can speak up. Trust me, I do. If you refuse to back down then we are at an impasse. The ball is in my court. I can choose to associate with you in the future or I can choose to avoid events at which we might meet. If we do meet, I can choose to circumvent topics of conversation where I know we conflict and focus on areas where we might agree.

I do not disagree with anyone about all things nor do I agree completely with anyone on all subjects. I, like Sherman, would prefer to know you true opinions. Then I can make judgments and take actions that I deem appropriate.

My opinions are in my blogs and my novels for all to see. I’m an Atheist. I’m a Libertarian. I don’t suffer fools lightly. If that offends you, and there are many who are offended, then the ball is in your court. You can choose to engage me or avoid me. You can choose not to be friends with me on Facebook so you don’t have to see my thoughts on various topics. That’s cool. I respect that.

I think that’s Sherman’s point here. He wants McNair to be honest. If they disagree, so be it. What he doesn’t like is saying one thing while behind the scenes doing something else entirely. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t apologize if you say something and upon further examination realize it was truly awful. You are allowed to change your opinion. I certainly hope McNair is truly sorry for what he said, that he realizes the condescending nature of his statement. Then the apology is warranted and should be accepted.

I’m sure Sherman, and others, will be watching McNair more closely in the future. Will his actions down the road support his original statement or the apology? That’s the true test. We can say anything we want. It’s our actions that prove the integrity of our words.

Tom Liberman

Should We Tax Sugar to Reduce Obesity?

Tax SugarA new study suggests taxing sugar is a far better way to control the enormous cost associated with unhealthy citizens of the United States than product specific taxes. I have no problem with the conclusion of the study, it’s most likely correct even though it is based on simple economic models rather than actual implementations. I do, however, have a problem with using taxes to control the behavior of citizens.

Let’s assume it is completely accurate to forecast an obesity drop and a correlating reduction in the diseases that come from being overweight; heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and others. If this sugar tax was put into place we could expect to see a substantial savings in healthcare costs associated with the treatment of all those disease. We’d see fewer missed workdays. There are any number of societal benefits to a healthy population, this cannot be denied. I’m all for these results if not the methods.

What are some of the arguments against such taxes? There are certainly undesirable impacts on the sugary drink industry but these negatives are presumably offset by gains in other places. If people move away from sugary drinks they will move to something else. Perhaps they will purchase more tea or water. So, not a bad thing you might say. I’d say, yes, very bad thing. The industries so benefiting have a competitive advantage against the sugary drink companies brought on by government intervention, capitalism has been subverted by crony capitalism. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the attempts to tax soda and the funding for studies like the one I referenced earlier were not coming from such industries. When the government becomes involved in which company succeeds and which company fails; then such businesses are forced to attempt to corrupt government as a means of survival.

We know for a fact the producers of sugary drinks will see the cost of their products rise. This is the desired outcome. When the price rises, people stop purchasing. Well, at least some people. The reality is many people continue to drink such beverages but now have less money to spend on other things, perhaps a new cellular phone or deck for their house. Each dollar we take out of consumer’s pockets must be accounted for on the scale. Thus, the effect on many industries is negative, not just the sugary drink providers.

The idea of taxes in general is to support government programs. We pay a gasoline tax largely to fund road related services. In this case there is no correlating service. We’re merely doing it to try and get people to behave in a way the government thinks best. This deeply offends my Libertarian ideology.

I think it is important to consider the government’s role in milk and cheese production. Our tax dollars go to these endeavors including advertising campaigns. The consumption of such food is not necessarily healthy. If we trust the government to promote or demonize one thing, we cannot be upset when they do so for many different things. This is my biggest problem with a sugar tax. By empowering the government to tax simply to engineer a particularly desired behavior, we essentially give them carte blanche to promote any such behavior.
I do not think it takes a leap of logic to understand that unscrupulous business owners will immediately look to subvert this supposed altruistic process. They will immediately, let’s be honest, they are already, attempting to get government to work for their industries.

Even when the government is right, sugar filled drinks and food contribute to obesity and we should probably be eating and drinking less; we cannot allow it to act as an agent for or against a particular industry. The more government has the ability to shape our purchasing habits, the more it will become corrupted by industry.

In essence, the government will simply become a corrupt agent of particularly industries. This is not its intended role. Sadly, I’m of the opinion we are well on our way to such a state of affairs. It does not bode well.

Tom Liberman

Epic Games Suing Stream Snipers for Cheating at Fortnite Battle Royale

fortniteThere is an interesting situation in the video game world in that a company called Epic Games is suing players of their game, Fortnite Battle Royale, for cheating. What’s that you say, video games and the law colliding? Have I died and fallen into the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? It’s time for a Happy Dance and a blog.

A website called Twitch.tv allows players of video games to stream their efforts for a live audience. One of my favorite streamers, Sacriel, plays the game in question. It is what is called a Survival game with cooperative elements. This means one player or a team of players roam the world finding weapons and battling other players or teams of players.

A player like Sacriel joins a particular instance of the game. This lasts until there is only one player or team left on that particular instance, at which point another game begins. Cheaters watch the most popular streamers and join the same game, this is called Stream Sniping. The cheaters then attempt to defeat the streamer and often use against the rules code supplements to make themselves virtually invulnerable. This is the cheating aspect of the situation. Epic Games bans such cheaters when they spot them but the Stream Snipers generally create a new account fairly quickly. In this case one of the people being sued created at least nine other accounts after being banned.

In the legal system, in order to sue someone successfully you generally have to prove damages. So, you might well ask, how is cheating damaging Epic Games? It’s just a few players being killed and they can just start up another game, right? Not to my way of thinking although we will have to wait until the courts weigh in on the matter.

One of the interesting realities of people using platforms like Twitch.tv to stream games is the revenue thus generated. When an engaging and technically skilled player like Sacriel plays a game like Fortnite Battle Royal, the game gets enormous promotion. When gamers see Sacriel enjoying himself immensely they too want to play the game and make the purchase. They even get an opportunity to test their skills against such streamers which is a big selling point. There is quite clearly direct correlation to game sales and popular streamers.

When Stream Snipers become prevalent, top streamers like Sacriel simply get fed up and quit the game. There isn’t much point in playing whenever you start a new game an invincible opponent arrives and kills you. It’s not fun for the streamer and it is not enjoyable for the audience to watch. Therefore, the streamer stops playing which, in turn, directly affects game sales.

As a Libertarian I’m also quite happy with the way this has played out. Epic Games attempted to simply ban such cheaters but when they were unable to effectively implement this tactic they were forced into legal remedies. I always appreciate trying to solve the problem without resorting to legal or law enforcement agencies, but there comes a time when reason is not an effective tool.

I think Epic Games has a case and I’m quite interested to see how this all plays out in court. I’m not of the opinion the Stream Snipers should be put in prison but hit her or his wallet and I think you have effectively curtailed the practice, and that’s a good thing.

Tom Liberman

Taylor Winston and the Case for Relative Morality

taylor winstonAs an Atheist, one of the things I talk about frequently is the relative nature of ethics. My religious friends believe their morality is handed down from god to them. I argue that morality is not fixed by any being, be it god or the government, but is subject to interpretation. This reasoning usually does not find purchase with such friends. I hope the case of Taylor Winston and stealing might make the point clearer.

Stealing is wrong or stealing is usually wrong. The former statement is an absolute statement of morality and is found pretty much verbatim in the bible. Thou Shall Not Steal. There are no caveats. This is the argument made by my religious friends. The second statement is not so stringent. Stealing is generally wrong but it circumstantially could be the right thing to do. This is the argument often made by Atheists.

I think the case of Winston might resonate with my religious friends. He was attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. He was among the crowd, along with friends, when the gunfire began to rain down upon them. He managed to escape over some fencing while helping others do the same. Then, seeing the many wounded, he went to the parking lot and found a vehicle with keys. He illegally entered the vehicle, started it, and drove it to the hospital with victims of the attack. He then returned and ferried more people in the stolen truck.

The public reaction to Winston and his actions pretty much proves the point of relative morality. If stealing is wrong without question, if we follow the word of god’s morality; there can be no question Winston was in direct violation of the 7th or 8th commandment, depending on the version. Winston should suffer whatever punishment a society based on religion should choose to enforce, perhaps chopping his hands off.

My question for anyone reading this blog post is what did you first think about the story of Winston and the truck stealing? What was your immediate and instant reaction? I’d be enormously surprised if anyone thought Winston committed an immoral act, including the owner of the truck.

I suppose some argument can be made that he simply borrowed the truck but the reality is Winston saw a situation in which he needed something that did not belong to him and took it. It’s that simple. In this particular case he did the ethical thing, the right thing. Not only should he not be punished but he should be rewarded.

This is one of many reasons I’m an Atheist. Please feel free to join me.

Tom Liberman

A Real Apology

apologyI was thinking about the idea of an apology. You say or do something you regret. You say you’re sorry. The natural reaction of the person or people you’ve offended or angered is to accept the apology. It is almost as if some part, if not all, of the original transgression never happened. But what is an apology? Just words. I’m beginning to become skeptical about accepting those words, they are merely a way for the person giving the apology to feel better. I’ve decided I don’t want apologies anymore, I want to see a change in your behavior. That’s a real apology. If that’s beyond you, fine. Let’s both move on.

I’m sure this is coming across as rather cruel and heartless and perhaps it is. It’s just that I often see people giving what appears to be heartfelt apologies for particular misbehaviors and then going right back to repeating the offending behavior in exactly the same fashion.

I’m sometimes willing to believe the apology is sincere. The person does feel bad about what she or he did. But the apology is nothing more than a symptom masking panacea. The offending person is fixed and can go on about their life without further worry, until they do it again. It’s an endless cycle of misbehavior and apology. There is no effort to fix the underlying problem, or perhaps there is an attempt but it ends in failure. The apology is a central part of the ongoing problem.

It seems to me, quite frequently the words are completely phony. The person is only apologizing because the behavior generated unfavorable results. The person isn’t really sorry at all. They are sorry about the consequences but they acted exactly in the fashion they desired. The only thing they’d change about the incident that requires an apology is the resulting upset.

However, if the person actually changes their behavior over the course of the next several years, that would seem to me to be a real apology. I’m sorry I did something and I recognize what I did was wrong. Every time I’m in a situation in which I could repeat the behavior, I react differently. That’s an apology I can get behind.

So, there you have it. If you offend me and aren’t sorry. That’s cool. Tell me you’re not sorry and I’ll deal with it. If you are sorry, change your behavior. If I offend you, tell me about it and I’ll try my best to change my behavior if I feel I was in the wrong. Apologies aren’t worthy of accepting or rejecting.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a lot of friends, then I remember!

Have a wonderful day.

Tom Liberman

The Case Against Sanctions

sanctionsWhen the leaders of a nation decide they want to act in a way the United States perceives as detrimental, the general solution is economic sanctions. The idea being that such sanctions hurt the offending nation and politicians eventually give up on their policies. What I’d like to discuss today is what really happens when we implement economic sanctions on another nation.

One of the main arguments against such sanctions is the leaders of the nation don’t suffer any impact but the average person in said country is economically disadvantaged. The argument for sanctions hopes the people will blame their government for lack of goods. Unfortunately, I think it is much more common to blame the nation imposing the sanctions. It drives a country deeper into behavior we dislike. However, this objection is the least of my troubles with sanctions.

One of the biggest problems with sanctions is that, like a sword, they cut both ways. When we limit trade with a foreign nation we are now preventing companies within the United States from making a profit by selling to willing buyers. As an example, I have a number of family members and friends who work for Boeing and they are hurt by the fact their employer cannot sell goods to quite a few countries in the world. For many companies, this is certainly the difference between growth and hiring and shrinkage and layoffs. There is no question all the economic sanctions we are currently prosecuting badly hurt industry in the United States. How much business could be, and should be, done with Cuba?

Another enormous problem is there is largely a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to sanctions. When we ban selling or purchasing a product from a particular nation it hardly stops such activity. It simply pushes it underground. Many of the companies and nations who supposedly support such sanctions actively work around them in a variety of ways, chief among them is simply maneuvering and repackaging product.

Basically, if we aren’t allowed to sell something to a country, that product is shipped to a third-party nation that does trade with the proscribed country and the commodity is simply packaged in a container to disguise its point of origin. And, of course, the reverse happens in purchasing such goods. The offending country ships things to a willing nation who then repackages and sells back to the United States.

The second problem leads to the third, which is the creation of a black market where criminals gain huge profits at the expense of regular consumers. The moving of these goods must be done by extralegal sources or officials who are taking bribes to perform the necessary maneuvering. Now we are empowering criminals and corrupting officials. The product should be shipping at a certain cost but the price goes up because of the sanctions. Thus, when you purchase a product that might somewhere on the supply chain pass through the country with sanctions being imposed against it, you pay an increased price.

Likewise, the illegal maneuvering to avoid sanctions leads us to the fourth problem: Enforcement. Thousands of people and billions of dollars are spent trying to prevent nations and companies from maneuvering their goods in an attempt to avoid sanctions. We have agents at ports around the world inspecting packages and trying to make sure they actually come from the country of origin the packaging claims. This costs taxpayer directly, as opposed to the more indirect cost of higher prices.

Highly trained law enforcement officials spend their days and nights trying to figure out how nations and corporations are avoiding the sanctions when they could well be doing something more useful. The amount of time and money spent trying to enforce sanctions is astronomical.

The final point of my argument against sanction is they simply do not work. The nation in question continues functioning in a fairly normal way. They continue to sell their goods to willing buyers; either nations that have not imposed sanctions or through a black market.

Sanctions apparently do no good whatsoever, cost us huge amounts of money, waste the time of highly trained professionals who could be doing something else, generally harm the average person of the offending nation thus cementing their hatred of the United States, corrupt officials, funnel money to criminals, and cause an increase in the price of the goods you purchase. Yay!

Let’s take a quick moment to look at the results if we continued to trade with nations who we consider our enemies. Our companies make a profit, the people of those nations look at us more favorably, we pay lower prices, and there is an opportunity to open lines of dialog to bring about the change we are attempting to create through sanctions.

It’s a natural reaction to want to punish nations we think are behaving poorly but a better strategy is to engage. Better for everyone.

I ask for all sanctions, to all countries, be dropped immediately.

Tom Liberman

Martha Stewart and her Unjust Conviction

martha stewartI’ve been reading a number stories about Martha Stewart and her feelings about being imprisoned in 2004 for conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding, and making false statements in regards to the sale of ImClone Systems stocks. She felt it was a horrible experience and she learned nothing from it.

I think there are a number of things to take from Stewart’s opinion on this subject not the least of which is that she was convicted in what most people would regard as questionable fashion and I would classify as grossly unjust. I find her words about her imprisonment resonate strongly with me. She was not made stronger for her stay in jail, she learned nothing, she did not become a better person. It was horrible in every regard. This is an indictment of our prison system.

First, I’d like to talk about her conviction. She sold some stock shortly before it went down by 16% and avoided about $50,000 in losses. This may seem like a lot to you and me but to a woman of her means, it is a fairly trivial amount. Her broker supposedly was informed by an insider that a drug the company was promoting failed to gain approval. Stewart claimed there was a standard order to sell when it reached a certain price, $60, and had documentation that such an order existed.

An ink expert from the Secret Service testified the ink on the order for the ImClone sale was different than other ink on the document. He lied. He hadn’t even examined the document. Another worker examined it and it was clear she had a grudge against Stewart. The case of securities fraud against Stewart was so flimsy the judge threw it out of court. But, Stewart insisted the order for sale at $60 was real and she was convicted on charges related to these statements. This despite the fact the person who claimed it was different ink was lying. She was not convicted of securities fraud. The civil case was eventually settled with Stewart paying the government the equivalent of triple damages although she maintained her innocence.

So, off she went to a minimum-security prison. Here’s where her comments really caught my eye. She was asked if the sentence and imprisonment made her stronger. If the adversity was essentially good for her. This question reflects what we’d like prison to be. A place where inmates reflect upon their misdeeds and emerge the better for it. No, said Stewart. It was not a learning experience. It did not make her stronger. It was horrible. It was only her own strength of character that allowed her to endure. This confirms my opinion that prison is not making better people but is largely making better criminals. It is not turning criminals into good citizens but conversely, turning good citizens into criminals.

This assessment is coming from an undeniably strong woman who was sent into what is largely considered the least penal sort of prison. Imagine men and women of lesser character getting sent to far worse places. We turn a young person who perhaps robbed a store, got caught with some small amount of drugs, or perhaps got into a drunken fight into a hardened criminal by sending them to our failed jails.

If the goal is to have a better society, to have better people, then we must listen to what Stewart has to say. If we merely want to punish people and ensure they are more likely to commit crimes after their release, then we can safely ignore Stewart’s advice. It’s important to note that Stewart is not merely answering a question, she is unleashing a stinging and startlingly accurate indictment of our entire system. I’m not surprised, she is a woman of tremendous strength.

If you choose to ignore her, do so at your own peril. More and better criminals is not a recipe for a successful society.

Tom Liberman

The Underlying Weakness of Anthem Anger

anthem angerThere is an interesting phenomenon going on surrounding the behavior of people during the playing of the national anthem. I don’t want to talk about the reason behind the kneeling but the reaction to the protests.

There are largely two categories of offense in these situations. Either you are affected or you are not. Protestors can act in a way that directly or indirectly affects me, or can perform it in a manner that has no impact on my life. The national anthem protests fall into the latter category. Blocking traffic would be the former. Your reaction to events that don’t affect you is an insight into your character.

The stronger you are as a person the less you should react to affronts that don’t affect you. If you are secure in your patriotism, why would you feel the need to force someone else into an act you deem patriotic? It is your own insecurities that rouse your ire, much more than the protest.

Biblically, Jesus used the idea of love to demonstrate this principle. If you love yourself, you love everyone else. Their feelings toward you are irrelevant, if they hate you that is too bad but it doesn’t change your opinion of them. It is only when you have feelings of doubt and insecurity in yourself that you worry what other people are thinking. Buddha and enlightenment is another example of this principle. The more secure you are in your own opinions, the less you feel it necessary to make others conform to those particular standards.

I’m certainly not criticizing anyone for standing during the national anthem but I do find their rage and urge to punish anyone who does not to be an underlying weakness of character, not a strength. If you really believed in your patriotic stance, you wouldn’t need to coerce others through force, economic or social, to conform to the ideologies you hold dear. You would simply smile and be comfortable in your own behavior. Those who are secure don’t need to be constantly reinforced by others. Those who are weak, who are insecure, require such reassurances.

I’m also not suggesting that such strength is easy to acquire and to demonstrate consistently. I think the ideals proposed by stories of Jesus and Buddha are essentially unobtainable, but still well worth pursuing. Everyone gets a sense of ease from being in a group of like-minded people. It is simply human nature to enjoy such comradery. When I am in a large group of people who share my ideology, I am reassured that I myself must be correct, this is a false comfort. Their agreement, or disagreement, with me has nothing to do with my own opinion.

I don’t hold myself up as a shining example of strength or perfection, but I also feel secure enough in my own beliefs that I don’t attempt to forcefully make people do as I do. I’m a Libertarian and an Atheist but I’m not offended by Democrats or Christians. I make my points as honestly as I can and I leave the decision up to you. If you choose to believe or behave differently than me, so be it. Best of luck to you. This is strength of character.

Not that I’m telling you how to act. That’s your decision, I am suggesting you look at your behavior with an eye toward critical thinking. Trying to force people into conforming to your way of doing things is a sign of tremendous weakness and insecurity, not power.

Tom Liberman

The Right to Peaceably Assemble makes us not North Korea

Constitution of United StatesCongress shall make no law respecting … the right of the people peaceably to assemble …. That particular part of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States has been buzzing around my head for the last few days. Likely because of all the people marching up and down in my neighborhood, blocking traffic, smashing windows, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

As I peruse the delightful and polite intercourse that flies across the wall of my Facebook feed much like poop flies gently through the air in a full blown, alcohol fueled, chimpanzee brawl, I’m forced to consider why it is we are allowed to assemble and protest what we perceive as wrongs perpetuated by the government. Why did the Founding Fathers include the aforementioned language in the Constitution?

The answer is quite simple. It’s so we don’t end up like North Korea. There is only one effective way to prevent people from assembling to air their grievances; arrest them for doing so. Arrest anyone that doesn’t like the way the government is doing business. Arrest them for stepping one foot off the sidewalk. Arrest them for marching in the street and blocking traffic. Arrest them and throw them in jail for breaking a window. That’s certainly the tenor of much of what I read from those who don’t like the protestors or their cause. This certainly seems to be the attitude of a lot of people in this country.

This path is frightfully dangerous for two reasons. The first reason is that people who feel they have no voice, people who cannot assemble and cause inconvenience, people who think they have no recourse to their complaints are much more likely to become violent. They will attack and kill police officers instead of marching in the streets. I don’t have to argue this point; the evidence is stark and mounting. Police will become afraid of the people and start shooting them at the slightest provocation. Again, I feel no need to support this point. Look around. It is manifestly happening.

The second thing that can happen is that we simply arrest everyone who dares speak out against the government. At that point, the United States will no longer exist in a way the Founding Fathers imagined. We are no longer a nation of laws when we can throw out those parts of the Constitution that cause us inconvenience. We are no longer free.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate seeing broken windows in establishments I frequent. I hate waiting in my car for a long line of protestors to clear the intersection. I might well sympathize with their cause but such behavior makes me less likely to look upon such protestors kindly. Still, I quite clearly understand to prevent them from doing so is a grave danger to this country and to my personal safety.

Terrorism is the child of repression. It was born in the most oppressive nations in the world and thrives when people try to violently destroy it. Where people have nonviolent means to address their government, terrorism has a hard time taking hold.

When we do not allow people to assemble and cause inconvenience we beget violence and rage. When we say arrest them all, we sign the death warrant of our nation.

You may not like the protestors. You may not agree with the protestors. You might find their methods troublesome and inconvenient, but trust me when I say you’ll like the alternative far less.

If protestors plan their marches to coincide with rush and happy hour to make our lives more inconvenient; we must resist the urge to call out law enforcement with riot gear and weapons. We must let them march to wherever they want to go. We must allow them to march where it causes problems because if we don’t, we take away their hope for progress. And people without hope do horrible things.

That’s why the Founding Fathers expressly gave us that particular freedom. I concur with their judgment.

Tom Liberman

Pay Frank Giaccio for Mowing the Lawn

Frank GiaccioThere’s a feel-good story making the rounds about a fellow named Frank Giaccio who wanted to mow the White House lawn. There is a lot of good in the story but there is one small thing that bothers my Libertarian sensibilities.

Giaccio mows local lawns in the Washington D.C. area and contacted the White House about his desire to perform the service for them. Someone read the letter and invited the young, he’s eleven-years-old, man out to do the job. He was loaned a mower by the National Parks Service and went to work.

I applaud Giaccio for his entrepreneurial spirit and his eye toward publicity. I congratulate the White House and the Parks Service for setting up the event. The young man got a personal visit with the president. All this is great. However, what he didn’t get was paid.

I understand the publicity about the event was worth more to Giacco than any small remuneration, but I’m telling you if I had been president, I would have insisted on paying his normal fee. That’s the message I think is missing in all of this. I’m reminded of the events of Atlas Shrugged when Dagny Taggart and Jon Galt go sightseeing in The Valley. They rent a car from a friend. It’s a small but important moment in the long novel. They don’t borrow the car, they rent it. When services are rendered, payment should be given. If you do something for someone, even a friend, they should pay you for your efforts.

This is the heart of capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is some major transgression by the White House, the Parks Service, or even young Giaccio. I’m not triggered. I just think it would have been a good lesson to insist on paying the lad. He did the job, pay him.

Tom Liberman

In My World Jason Stockley has a Job and Anthony Lamar Smith is Alive

st. louis stockley protestsThere’s bit of a hubbub going on here in my hometown and right down my own street in regards to the fact that former police officer Jason Stockley shot and killed suspected drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith.

There’s a lot of people talking about various things in the news and up and down my social media platforms. My conservative friends rail against protestors who broke windows. My liberal friends argue against the verdict in the case. Both sides assert angrily, and often with threats of violence, their moral superiority. I think there are interesting and pertinent arguments to be made from both sides but I’m going to take this moment to interject my Libertarian perspective. I think it’s something people on both sides of this issue should take into account, not that I would ever force them to do so.

In a Libertarian world, adults are allowed to put whatever chemicals into their body they want. There are no laws against certain kinds of drugs. Heroin is just as legal as Oxycontin. It can be purchased at the local pharmacy for an extremely modest amount of money. Stockley is still working as a police officer and has never been tried for a crime. Anthony Lamar Smith is alive and well. There are no windows broken in the Central West End or University City, one a place where I currently reside and the other my old home. Traffic is flowing normally without disruption in downtown St. Louis. That’s my world. Sadly, it’s not the world we live in.

It’s important to understand that heroin and prescription opioids are, in fact, pretty much the same thing. Law Enforcement Officers are busy risking their lives in order to control the competitors of the pharmaceutical market, not for the safety of the community. The laws against drugs are inarguably making our communities less safe, they are making life more dangerous for everyone. They are funneling huge amounts of money into the hands of violent criminals.

To everyone out there protesting either in physical form or via social media, arguing back and forth with friends and family, saying horribly insulting and threatening things to those on the other side, filled with self-righteous certainty; ask yourself this question: Am I partially responsible for what has happened?

Do you unconditionally support the War on Drugs? Do you support Law Enforcement Officers under almost every circumstance? Do you oppose such officials almost always? Do you hurl nasty and violent insults at those on the opposing side? Do you prefer to pat yourself on the back assuring yourself of your moral superiority rather than looking into real solutions? If you answer yes, you are part of the problem.

There is a simple solution. End the War on Drugs. It’s a War on Us.

Tom Liberman

 

Best Intervention for Fyre Festival of Pizza

pizza-festivalA fellow named Ishmael Osekre organized a pizza tasting festival in New York City which is being compared the failed Fyre Music festival held in the Bahamas. I’m not going to get into detail on the failings of the festival, suffice it to say serving tiny slices of cold, miserable pie to a New York pizza savvy crowd is going to be a disaster. What I’d like to discuss is the best remedy to this situation? Social Media? Government?

The first avenue is that of Libertarian dreams, Social Media. Such Gotham users are in an uproar about the event. Facebook, Twitter, and more are alive with people complaining about the scam and demanding their money back. The organizers eventually promised to create a makeup date but that is doing little to appease those wronged. As one of those aforementioned Libertarians, I’m quite pleased with this turn of events.

That being said, there are realities to embrace. Osekre might well pack bags and depart, leaving everyone out not only the money they paid but also the time they spent attending the event. In addition, such visitors might well have done something else that day of greater value. Social Media can certainly shame such a fraudster. It can spread the word so that the perpetrator will have a difficult time attempting the same in the future.

However, it is still quite possible for Osekre to change names, move to another city, and attempt the scam yet again. Each time he might steal money from those who want to attend such festivals. I think Social Media makes this far more difficult, but it is still possible. This is where government enters the picture.

Alerted to the travesty by Social Media, the Attorney General of New York is investigating and considering charges. Legal remedies are something beyond the power Social Media. If Osekre collected money but did not provide the expected service, that is a crime called breach of contract. Even if the festival was created in good faith but Osekre simply underestimated the popularity, the people who paid money were still defrauded.

My question then becomes; what is government going to do about it? The courts might well find Osekre guilty of a crime and sentence him to prison. They might order him repay the festival goers. The thought of punishing Osekre with imprisonment certainly appeals to the vengeance part of my brain. The possibility of people getting their money back is certainly a reasonable outcome. I’m not convinced people will ever get their money back. The money is probably already largely spent and there is little way to recoup the losses.

It seems to me there is room for both remedies and one creates justice where the other fails, they complement one another. We live in this brave new world in which the collective has far more power than it ever has in the past. Prior to the advent of the Internet and the rise of Social Media, scam artists like Osekre could simply travel from place to place perpetuating the same crime again and again. It was up to government to stop such fraudsters.

In the past government often failed to do so. In fact, government not infrequently became complicit with the fraudsters as long as they were cut in on a share of the profits. This sort of thing still happens on a fairly regular basis. Social Media can force government to be held accountable in a way never before seen in human history with the notable exception of violent revolution. In the same way, Social Media can hold criminals such as Osekre accountable for their crimes, or at least make it far more difficult for those like him to continue on with their nefarious schemes.

To my mind, this is a wonderful synergy. Government and the people working together to implement justice. This dual defense brings us perhaps as close as we’re ever going to get to true justice. Count me in.

Tom Liberman

Hurricane Irma and Government Hysteria

hurricane-irmaHurricane Irma has run much of its destructive course and I wanted to take a moment as a Libertarian to discuss the government reaction to the approaching storm and why I think it was a ridiculous overreach.

The storm was huge, it caused massive amounts of damage as it approached the United States. A number of people on islands in the Caribbean were killed. There was and remains danger. The question becomes what is the responsibility of government in situations like this? The moment I was pushed over the Libertarian Rant Cliff was when avowed small-government Republican Governor Rick Scott declared in no uncertain terms, “You cannot survive this.” He was referring to the storm surge that could potential swamp many areas with water.

I’m quite comfortable calling that statement a hysterical lie spewed by a politician who has completely lost track of what it is he is supposed to be doing. Hurricanes are inherently unpredictable. There was a chance the surge would be relatively small, which it ended up being. Many people, of course, survived the surge. Not only was the statement completely wrong, hey we all make mistakes, but it was clearly a lie designed to frighten people into behaving the way the governor thought they should act.

This is what government has become in our nation. People in positions of power not only think they know better than us, but feel the need to frighten us with hysterical proclamations and enact draconian legislation. I’m happy to say at least the police and national guard were not marched through neighborhoods forcing people from their homes. At least the governor has that amount of decency left.

Let’s discuss what a responsible politician should have said. The storm is extremely dangerous. If you decide to remain in the area, here are some are some websites that show you how to properly protect your house. Here is a list of items you should purchase based on the size of your family. Emergency crews are going to be overwhelmed and cannot be counted on to rescue you in a timely fashion if the worst predictions come true. You are in charge of your own life, not me. You have all the information available and I trust you to make the best decision possible.

The danger of Governor Scott’s proclamation is there is certainly going to be another hurricane in the future. The fact that many people hunkered down and survived makes it clear his proclamation was fear-mongering idiocy, those people are likely to ignore warnings in the future. Those stupid politicians are always preaching disaster and it’s never as bad as they say. The reality is sometimes the worst predictions do come true. Sometimes there is horrific danger. If politicians create an environment where they are considered overreacting fools, people stop listening to them when there is real danger.

One of the main Libertarian mantras is that the job of government is not to save us from ourselves. I have no problem with the government issuing warnings, explaining the dangers that confront us, but I draw the line at hysterical nonsense like that Governor Scott spewed. You, Governor, do not know what is best for me. Even if you did, it’s not your responsibility to force or frighten me into doing what you want. I’m an adult, treat me accordingly.

Tom Liberman

 

Pascal’s Wager is all about Integrity

pascal's wagerI was watching my favorite Atheist Based show, Atheist Experience, when they once again took on the topic of Pascal’s Wager. For me it all comes down to integrity. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is Pascal’s Wager?

The idea is an interesting study of probability and decision theory. The premise is that a belief in god will bring an almost infinite reward, eternal happiness in heaven. If, on the other hand, you do not have such belief, you suffer eternal damnation. This is where the wager becomes a true bet rather than a religious argument. What is there to lose or gain in belief or lack thereof?

Let’s say you could wager a penny to win a million dollars. No matter how long the odds of the bet, you’d most likely take that gamble. It’s essentially the same thing as spending a dollar on a lottery ticket when the reward is hundreds of millions of dollars. The single dollar you spend has no real effect on your life and the reward is so enormous, it’s worth taking.

Even if you are almost certain god does not exist, the reward of believing and the punishment for not believing makes it silly to do anything else. Why not believe? You don’t have to go to church, you don’t have to express that belief to others, your life doesn’t really have to change all that much. You just have to believe to get the reward and barely give up anything at all.

Well, that is if you don’t value your integrity. For me the loss in believing is that I’m lying to myself, I’m lying to my family, I’m lying to all my friends. I don’t believe in god. I think the very idea is rather silly. I am certain there is no heaven and if it existed, I wouldn’t want to go as it is run by a misogynistic, murdering, despot.

If I decide to believe in god in order to get a reward although it is against everything my rational mind derives; I have no integrity. What won’t I do? Lying, stealing, cheating, raping, murdering are now on the table, as long as doing so likely benefits me. Why wouldn’t I kill my parents to get the money I’d inherit, particularly if I was certain to get away with it? Here is some news for you; I wouldn’t seek to murder anyone, or rape anyone, or steal from anyone; no matter how certain it was that no one would ever find out. Because doing that to other people is wrong, just as if they did it to me.

Pascal argues that believing in god doesn’t hurt me in any way. That is where he is wrong. Stating that I believe something that I do not destroys my own sense of self-worth. I would be living a lie. My integrity would be gone. If I were to do such a thing I would loathe myself for the rest of my life.

The idea behind the wager itself is worth discussing. The concept of risk-reward is something you should think about when making decisions in your own life. What have I to gain and what is there to lose? Those are questions that should be answered before making major life decisions.

In this case the potential loss is greater than the reward, at least for me. The question is valid, I hope my answer is clear.

Tom Liberman

 

 

Krysten Ritter and being a Celebrity in One Minute and Forty-Six Seconds

krysten ritter celebrityI’m a big fan of Krysten Ritter and I admit to watching more than a couple of her videos on YouTube. I stumbled across this one the other day and it reminded me why I’m fairly certain I’d make a horrible celebrity, and why Ritter is such a good one.

Fame seems like a wonderful thing when viewed from a distance and I think there are many people who enjoy the non-stop adulation. I, however, am not such a person. Introvert, socially awkward, whatever you want to call it; it’s hard for me to believe I could tolerate such incessant access to me. I would be a lousy celebrity. Much as I like to think I’m a pretty decent fellow, there is no question people intruding into my life so boldly and ceaselessly, would drive me insane.

Part and parcel of being a celebrity and all the good things that come with it; is the simple fact that you are well-known and recognized wherever you go. There will be an essentially never-ending line of people wanting your autograph. They will line up to take selfies with you until you are forced to leave. The lines will go on forever. They will scream your name and tell you to be still so they can take pictures of you.

There are compensations. I’m certainly not suggesting the life of a celebrity is misery and pain. I’m just saying that such a life comes with particular and sometimes onerous obligations. If you don’t like strangers standing next to you and taking pictures with flash after flash after flash, the life of a celebrity might not be for you.

There is an assumption here that I have enough talent to become a celebrity. That my novels have any chance at all of generating enough interest to make me desirable as a selfie mate. I have no illusions of this, but it is something that crosses my mind. If my novels were to become popular and made into movies would I have the patience of Ritter? Would I have the ability to smile and say thank you endlessly?

I think the answer is no. I think I’d have to take a path similar to that of J. D. Salinger or Emily Dickinson although that is not particularly appealing either. Perhaps I could find some sort of happy medium wherein I lived a relatively normal life and avoiding many of the trappings of celebrity. I wonder how many of the people I know would make good celebrities. Would you?

Tom Liberman

Trump: Tweet in All Caps and Drop the Stick when Challenged

president donald trumpPresident Theodore Roosevelt was fond of what he called a West African saying, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick. It largely meant policies designed around negotiation, openness, forethought, and careful proclamations but backed by a willingness to fight if the people on the other side of the table are not willing to treat you with equal respect. President Trump seems to believe in the polar opposite of this strategy. He Tweets loudly, rudely, in all caps, with brazen threats, but when presented with real opposition backs down.

There are two important aspects to Roosevelt’s political philosophy and the Speaking Softly is a critical element of success. It is this idea I would like to examine today. If you’ve ever watched an action movie, we almost universally see the humble hero trying to avoid a fight and working towards reasonable solutions while the villain uses brute force, taunts, and bullying to get her or his way. The reason for this is obvious and a diametric visualization of the difference in styles between Roosevelt and President Trump.

The problem with President Trump’s abandoning the Speak Softly part of the equation is that it largely destroys the Big Stick. When you antagonize and attack anyone that opposes you, they have several options. They can back down before your threats, they can ignore your threats and carry on with their business, or they can become belligerent back at you with their own sticks.

The Tweet in all caps strategy ensures that more and more nations and domestic opponents of President Trump are going to test the big stick. There is no doubt the United States has the biggest stick on the playground; that being said, the more you use the stick the better chance there is that it will break. You don’t want to resort to such unless it becomes absolutely necessary. President Trump relishes in threatening to use the stick. Whether he carries through with the threat or not; the stick inevitably becomes smaller and weaker.

Another problem occurs when your stick isn’t nearly as big as you think it is. President Trump doesn’t have many, if any, good options in dealing with North Korea. His bluster simply emboldens them to do things like shoot ballistic missiles over Japan. This is everything except a declaration of war. Trump promised the stick if North Korea continued firing missiles and not only did they do so, but they did it in a much more dangerous fashion, actually crossing over the territories of Japan. Imagine if Russia fired a nuclear capable ballistic missile that crossed over part of the United States!

Another problem arises from the fact that Japan, and other allies, begin to see us as impotent. Japan has the ability to become a nuclear nation with an aggressive military. The fact that they should take such steps is something they must consider seriously at this point. If we can’t be counted on to protect them, they must do it themselves. Some might argue that as a good thing but there is a history of Japan as a military state that you might want to consider.

Turkey is currently angry at us over the arming of Kurds in the attack against ISIS in Syria. Without the Incirlik Air Base our options in the region become severely limited. Russia is currently courting Turkey in hopes of strengthening relations.

I don’t want to get too far afield from the point I’m trying to make here. To summarize; the Big Stick part of the equation doesn’t work nearly as well if you are unwilling to Speak Softly. President Trump appears to be incapable of Speaking Softly. It’s all bluster and threats. This has dangerous repercussions. Either he is forced to use the Big Stick far too often or he backs down from the inevitable challenges.

In either case it cannot possibly be a foreign policy that will result in safety and security for the citizens of the United States or the world.

Tom Liberman

All Female Lord of the Flies Taking Heat

Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding wrote a book entitled Lord of the Flies which was later made into a movie and remade years later. There is a new movie in the works in which the children stranded on the island will be girls instead of boys. The script is being written by two men. Triggered!

Well, I’m not triggered. I think it’s an interesting idea. However, other people are pretty upset. The three main complaints seem to be that two men cannot possible write the script about girls, the idea the main plot of the boys degenerating from peaceful intentions to violent war wouldn’t happen with girls, they would be peaceful and nice to each other, and the story was about boys and should remain so.

I have sympathy for rage at the fact two men are writing the scripts. There is some merit to the idea men don’t have the personal experience of being a woman and therefore can’t write as good female characters as would a woman. That being said, I think there are plenty of wonderful female characters written by men. Wonder Woman comes to mind but there are many others. Would there be uproar if two women wrote a remake of Lord of the Flies with the original all boy survivors?

The second complaint is baseless. The children stranded on the island in the book and movies are all preadolescent boys. To some degree there is no real difference between boys and girls until sexual maturity. I have a number of friends and they have daughters. I’ve seen preteen and young teen girls in action. If anyone is under the insane delusion they can’t be as vicious and nasty as boys, well, you need to look a little closer. Perhaps the way they carry out their violence is subtler than a group of boys but I think that is interesting fodder for the new movie.

The third argument is likewise nonsense. There is no reason a book that originally had male characters can’t swap them for female characters.

The complaints seem to perpetuate sexist ideologies rather than dispel them. Two men can’t write a screenplay about preadolescent girls is as sexist as saying two women can’t write one about such boys. The third argument is similar to complaints about the 2016 Ghostbusters movie which had an all-female cast.

I’ve got a crazy idea. Let’s wait until the movie comes out and judge it then. Perhaps the two male writers will create a wonderful screenplay. Perhaps it will be awful. Perhaps an island populated by girls won’t end as horrifically as the original. Perhaps they will be worse.
All the judgment going on is sexist, from both sides.

And, by the way, I saw Lord of The Flies as a ten-year-old boy and remain traumatized to this day. I see no reason why ten-year-old girls shouldn’t be likewise disturbed. It’s only fair.

Tom Liberman