I just sent the following letter to MK Nitzan Horowitz.
MK Horowitz (CCed: Y-Net's Editorial Department and Editor-in-chief)
Hello. I am responding to your article "Let buses run on Shabbat" 27 June 2011, on Y-Net (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4087969,00.html):
There is a very simple solution to this issue: privatize.
Let me be blunt: *every* political issue is about how to coerce others. *Every* political issue is about one group of people deciding how another group of people must live. Max Weber, in "Politics as a Vocation", is clear: politics is the matter of using the territorial monopoly on the use of force to impose your opinions on others. (It is worth noting that based on this, Weber argues, at much length, that it is therefore impossible for politics to ever be conducted in an ethical or moral fashion, and that any politician has no choice whatsoever but to be Machiavellian. Weber's definition of the state is universally accepted by political philosophers and social scientists.) Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in Democracy: The God that Failed, goes one step further and notes that according to Weber's definition, the state also has a monopoly on unilateral determination of prices for the services it monopolistically offers: that is, not only does the state have a territorial monopoly on offering the goods and services associated with force (as per Weber), but furthermore, it can unilaterally coerce the payment for these services from the customers, via taxation. Everything that has ever been said about monopolies, applies to the government as well, with one difference: if a business has a monopoly, then they alone sell the product and determine its price, but unlike government, they at least cannot force you to buy from them; there is no one else to buy from (it being a monopoly), but at least you have the choice whether to buy or not; whereas government taxes, meaning it not only has a monopoly on its product but it even forces you to buy its product against your will. So let us not mince words. Let us at least accept things for what they are.
Therefore, to quote David Boaz, "The Separation of Art and State" (yes, you read that correctly: the separation of ART and state; http://www.cato.org/speeches/sp-as53.html): "Discussions of policy issues should begin with first principles. As my colleague Ed Crane notes, there are only two basic ways to organize society: coercively, through government dictates, or voluntarily, through the myriad interactions among individuals and private associations. All the various political 'isms'--fascism, communism, conservatism, liberalism, neoconservatism -- boil down to a single question. The bottom line of political philosophy, and therefore of politics itself, is, 'Who is going to make the decision about this particular aspect of your life, you or somebody else?'"
So those are the basic principles of political philosophy. Let us keep them in mind, as we examine the issue of buses running on Shabbat:
In this case, the issue is, must the religious pay taxes to subsidize buses on Shabbat? If the buses were private, and operated solely on fare, then there'd be no issue. The only reason there's an issue, is because the buses are paid for by taxation, and so if the buses run on Shabbat, the religious will be forced to pay taxes to pay for what they consider to be a sin. It would be no different, in principle, than the prime minister eating a pork chop and shoving the bill in the face of a man with a kippah and demanding he pay for it. It wouldn't be so objectionable were the prime minister to eat a pork chop on his own, but when he expects a religious man to pay the bill, then he is demanding that the religious man be personally and intimately complicit in the crime. It is perhaps possible for a religious man to be tolerant and stand by silently when another man sins, but there is no way he can be silent when he is expected to personally assist in the sin.
Thomas Hobbes thought that there would be chaos unless the king imposed one religion on everyone. Hobbes said that religious diversity caused wars, and so the king had to quash all dissent and impose one religion on everyone. John Locke responded that Hobbes was entirely wrong: the cause of religious warfare, said Locke, was not religious diversity, but rather, it was government that caused the warfare in the first place; Hobbes's proposal, said Locke, was not the solution but was in fact the cause. When the government imposes one religion on everyone, then everyone will fight to make sure *their* religion is the one. Protestants and Catholics and Anglicans and Puritans will all fight to see who gets to control the Church of England. But if you simply abolish the central religious authority altogether, then suddenly, no one fights anymore.
It is high time that Israel abolished the Chief Rabbinate, which is nothing but an adoption of the Ottoman millet system, a non-Jewish system that does nothing but inhibit the religious liberty and freedom of worship, of the religious and non-religious alike. I am Orthodox myself, but I harbor no love whatsoever for the Chief Rabbinate. It has no right to exist. For example, according to the halakhah, a man and a woman can privately marry each other, as long as they have two witnesses, and the man can divorce the woman himself as well. Nowhere in Jewish literature is there any basis for a hierarchical authority such as the Rabbinate to inject itself into these issues that are properly between a man and his wife alone. The government has no right telling anyone who to marry. The government has no business being involved in marriage in the first place. As Judaism contains no record of the government's involvement in marriage, the Rabbinate's involvement in marriage is not Jewish; it is either a theocratic imposition of some religion other than Judaism, or else it is a secular, non-theocratic imposition, but whatever it is, it is not Jewish. Let us cease talking about whether homosexuals ought to be allowed to marry, and instead ask, why is the government involved in marriage in the first place? According to the halakhah, marriage is a matter of private concern, not a public one. (Well, not quite: witnesses can go to a beit din and testify about anything they have seen, with appropriate consequences following. For example, if a couple is married, and witnesses testify to adultery, then consequences result. The point, however, is that the marriage and the divorce themselves, are private, not public, and there is no provision in halakhah for such a thing as a government to have any involvement whatsoever. Witnesses can report to a beit din to *confirm* preexistent facts, but the creation and dissolution of the marriage is private; only testimony as to the marriage's independent, private existence is within the purview of a beit din. By analogy, we might say that witnesses can testify that they saw a murder committed, but the murder itself occurred without the beit din's involvement.)
Locke's refutation of Hobbes is generally applicable. Boaz, speaking about public funding of art, says, "We fought these battles before, in the Wars of Religion. The American Founders knew that the solution was the separation of church and state. Because art is just as spiritual, just as meaningful, just as powerful as religion, it is time to grant art the same independence and respect that religion has. It is time to establish the separation of art and state." In a different article (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6102) that confusingly shares the same title, Boaz adds, "The American Founders observed the social and political conflict created by Europe’s intertwining of church and state and established a new principle for a new world: separation of church and state. The Founders thought that religion should be left to civil society because it was so important to individual dignity and social harmony. More precisely, it is wrong for the coercive authority of the state to interfere in matters of individual conscience. If we are individual moral agents, we must be free to define our own relationship with God. Furthermore, social harmony is enhanced by removing religion from the sphere of politics. Europe had suffered through the Wars of Religion, as churches made alliances with rulers and sought to impose their theology on everyone in a region. Religious inquisitions, Roger Williams said, put towns 'in an uproar.' Far better to make religion a matter of persuasion, not coercion. If individual rights and social peace are furthered by putting religion beyond government’s reach, this has implications for art, which -- like religion -- expresses, transmits, and challenges our deepest values." Boaz says all this in relation to public funding of art, so I believe I can apply it to public transportation:
If we simply abolished the use of taxation to pay for anything to which anyone disagrees by reason of conscience, then all political disputes would end. If the religious were not forced to pay taxes to pay for buses to run on Shabbat, then they would likely not protest. So let us either privatize the transportation, or else, let us grant all citizens a line-item veto on taxation: let every citizen declare to the government which taxes offend his conscience and violate his ideological principles, and let everyone be a conscientious objector. Let us coerce no one to pay taxes to fund something he believes is sinful or criminal. Anyone who disagrees with the policies of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, let him withhold his tax money from the Rabbinate, and so too with the buses on Shabbat.
I close with this quotation of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics" (http://www.panarchy.org/emerson/politics.1844.html), which I believe speaks for itself: "Every man's nature is a sufficient advertisement to him of the character of his fellows. My right and my wrong, is their right and their wrong. Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbour and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force. This undertaking for another, is the blunder which stands in colossal ugliness in the governments of the world. It is the same thing in numbers, as in a pair, only not quite so intelligible. I can see well enough a great difference between my setting myself down to a self-control, and my going to make somebody else act after my views: but when a quarter of the human race assume to tell me what I must do, I may be too much disturbed by the circumstances to see so clearly the absurdity of their command. Therefore, all public ends look vague and quixotic beside private ones. For, any laws but those which men make for themselves, are laughable. If I put myself in the place of my child, and we stand in one thought, and see that things are thus or thus, that perception is law for him and me. We are both there, both act. But if, without carrying him into the thought, I look over into his plot, and, guessing how it is with him, ordain this or that, he will never obey me. This is the history of governments, - one man does something which is to bind another. A man who cannot be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking from afar at me, ordains that a part of my labour shall go to this or that whimsical end, not as I, but as he happens to fancy. Behold the consequence. Of all debts, men are least willing to pay the taxes. What a satire is this on government! Everywhere they think they get their money's worth, except for these."
Thank you, and sincerely,
Jerusalem; formerly of Silver Spring, MD
I learned for three years in Machon Meir, one half of a year in Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tiqwa, and I am applying for the undergraduate program in מדע המדינה / mada ha-medina at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Judge Orders CBS To Turn Over All Emails And Other Communcations Related To Brooklyn DA Documentary - New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten ordered CBS to turn over all communications it had with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about the pr...
50 minutes ago