Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Miscellany of Sacred Cows

At the risk of offending Hindus and provoking further violent demonstrations against the freedom of speech, let us dwell for a moment on a few "sacred cows." In Western civilization, the term "sacred cow" disparages not only a person or thing unreasonably protected from criticism, but the Hindu belief that nasty-smelling, lice-ridden, parasitical, mooching bovines are holy creatures imbued with the privilege of deference because of their alleged association with a deity.

In the April 13th online English language edition of Pravda was an interesting article on the latest instance of the mental gymnastics that European Union officials are willing to demonstrate in their willingness to placate the hostiles, barbarians, and the Borg in their midst. It is to create a whole new herd of sacred cows, represented by a dictionary consisting of an "unemotional vocabulary used in conversations about radicalization." Read Islam. Defying the Aristotelian concept that A cannot be A and non-A at the same time, "Islamic terrorism" will now be called "terrorism which violently appeals to Islam," and "Islamic fundamentalism" will be "fundamentalism based on a false interpretation of Islam." Other proposed terms also dance around the fact that Islam means to conquer and exact submission by legal persecution, intimidation and force.

One cannot fail to see the pointlessness of the new wording. Aside from the fact that it is rooted in cowardice, it lacks economy in its homage to "sensitivity." But, Islam is Islam. Perhaps one could think of it as the difference between a waltz and a minuet.

On to other "sacred cows." Our host, Nick Provenzo, chastised Americans in his "Form 1040 and 'rational ignorance" posting. He justifiably identified the fundamental culprit behind the byzantine Internal Revenue Code and the American penchant for submitting to it: altruism. But as I read it, two questions occurred to me: What is wrong with Mexico that so many people want to leave it? And, what is so attractive about the U.S. that so many Mexicans wish to come here? Why not to Venezuela, or Brazil, or Chile, all Latin countries in which Mexicans would surely feel more at home? And, they are also tax and regulation burdened welfare states. One has yet to hear a Congressman, Senator, or news anchor address these questions.

I recently received an amusing "letter" to the White House urging President Bush to persuade Mexican President Vicente Fox to grant Americans similar privileges and opportunities in Mexico as Mexicans enjoy in the U.S.: free medical services, the observance of the 4th of July, English-speaking teachers, police and bureaucrats, passport-less access to Mexico, class credit for American kids if they skip school (which would teach American history and culture) to demonstrate against Mexico, and other benefits.

If such a proposal were seriously considered, the outcry against American imperialism, racism, and other sins of commission would be immediate and loud. America is a "have" country, and Mexico a "have not," so it is America's moral duty to subsidize its own disintegration. So say La Raza and other nationalist "Latino" organizations, which hope to keep most Mexicans, legal or illegal, as clueless and semi-literate as American kids attending our public schools. Homogeneity and assimilation in the dominant or "host" culture is no more on their agenda than it is on the Islamist. Islamist groups joined Latinos in the recent demonstrations over the immigration uproar. They are allies now, but what will happen when they no longer agree to "divvy up" the U.S.?

But, Mr. Provenzo's comments also caused me to observe that a government that penalizes its citizens for not paying "their fair share" of taxes to pay off a growing debt that can never be paid, and, in fact, mandates the voluntary reporting of all income, whether in profits, salaries, wages, or even tips or gratuities, under penalty of prison and/or financial ruin, is not going to protect their freedom of speech.

Congress has not passed a law that compels citizens to file income tax returns, but rather has danced around that issue by arming the IRS with enforcement powers, powers that are not much different from those of the KGB or other political police apparatuses. If the government does not respect a citizen's right to his property, the issue of his freedom of speech must appear to any politician or bureaucrat as a niggling matter not worth exploring. Taxes are a sacred cow.

Or perhaps the subject is a powder keg.

After all, if the government championed the right of journalists and cartoonists to caricature Mohammed, it must necessarily and logically move to championing the right to one's property. The communication of a disparaging cartoon must employ the vehicle of property. But, to the government -- local, state, or federal -- private property is not sacrosanct. The right is not "inviolable." And so one can understand why the government would not want "to go there." To protect one right, one must eventually acknowledge other rights and act to protect them. To paraphrase Mr. Provenzo, Objectivism skewers that dichotomy rather quickly.

When reading any editorial, or listening to any politician such as the Treasury Secretary on the subject of taxes, one always reads or hears the phrase "your taxes," not "our taxes." Even H&R Block and Hewitt repeat it often, and apparently it has sunk into the psyche of the average productive American. The one phrase implies a moral obligation, the other an imposition. What a trick of semantics! The onus of responsibility, not to mention culpability, is put on the payer, not on the extortionist.

No comments: