Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Colander Accuses Kettle of Not Holding Water (Also Black Adds the Pot)

Posted by PintofStout on July 22, 2007

The story of how I ended up in my current job situation is one of circumstance and whim more than strategic planning and hard work. I‘ll give the short version for background, but this is not what this entry is supposed to be about. This is a defense of me, my thoughts, and my actions for those who question the logic, consistency, or hypocrisy of my life and my beliefs out of curiosity or malice. It’s also something I’ve meant to address here for my own sake. Is it hypocritical to tilt against the state and turn around and collect a paycheck indirectly from government?

 

This blog as a whole is a pretty clear picture of what my beliefs are. In brief, they would be pretty vehemently anti-state. But I’ve also elucidated the difference between principals-in-thought and principals-in-action and disdained an inconsistent (when convenience allows) moral code. Yet, as a friend pointed out in a long-awaited comment to my blog, I work in a job heavily saturated in public money.

 

I work as a technician in the creation, use, and maintenance of geographic information systems (GIS). It is a job I came to by way of land surveying, a long way around from a physics degree. After four years in windowless classrooms, planetariums, insomniatic-alcoholic depressions, and suffering from severe burnout I realized that the sun on my face felt pretty good and took an interest in geology. So in the fall immediately following my graduation I started classes in undergraduate geology. When I needed to actually be a productive member of society (and eat) I took a job at a surveying and engineering company that, I remembered from an eighth grade field trip, worked with many coal and limestone mines in the area. I figured that job would put me close to the geology. In a few months I stopped taking classes and was working full time learning land surveying and CAD.

 

During the course of working with GPS control points and large bits of geographically-oriented borehole data I saw the utility of a database linking information to location. Subsequently, I read about GIS and became interested. I happened to mention this interest in an interview at another firm and found myself their GIS guy six months later, learning on-the-fly. I’m still in that position today and sometimes remember longingly the feel of the sun on my face.

 

All of that bumbling into this profession happened before I had ever had a thought of politics, philosophy, or practically anything discussed on this blog. My convictions, once found, became stronger and stronger, and I questioned regularly my role in the system I hoped to be rid of. I work in a private firm who has many municipal clients for which we perform engineering services for. Those services range from road resurfacing programs to park design and regulatory compliance to development plan review; all the stuff a full-time elected municipal engineer would do. I happen to work mainly in storm and sanitary sewer mapping, inventory management, and regulatory compliance. Local governments or authorities own these sewers and my pay is coming mostly from them. I guess that makes me a hypocrite, right? I don’t think so.

 

There are certain extremes one can take to avoid mixing any portion of their lives with that of some arbitrary state or governmental authority, but they are just that – extreme. I still drive on the roads, which are owned mostly by government. When a particular good or service is forcefully monopolized by the government, it doesn’t decrease the need for such things. Without a completely self-sufficient withdrawal from society, wholly unmixing one’s self from government is impossible and getting harder. I could probably change jobs or professions and have less involvement in the operation of government. If only my talents lay elsewhere, I could be a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher…no, wait. All those fields are regulated and partially monopolized by the government. I could have remained in the field of physics and continued my education to work for the military industrial complex. The truth is even if I were to make my living rallying or writing tomes against the state, my job would still exist because of the state. Regulations governing the conveyance and treatment of sewage or the ownership by coercive government of such systems are no more the cause of my job than they are the cause of my excrement.

 

It is bordering on the impossible to completely separate oneself from aspects of the permeating, all encompassing state. This could be because in the sad majority of people we interact with the state is in their mind, their thoughts, their subconscious, and in their very essence whether they know it or not. Thought outside of such a situation is unfathomable for them. It’s this pervasiveness that allows the state to move freely among us and expand its reach without so much as a raised eyebrow. Regardless of what job one holds, chances are taxes will be taken out (isn’t the phrase tax deduction rather ironic?) or that the salary would be paid with fiat FRNs. It is a sad state of affairs that depresses me constantly to be under a thumb I cannot escape without the near certainty of ultimate sacrifice. Rather than giving up and running for political office, I try to reduce my footprint inside the jackboot of state as much as I can without completely sacrificing my quality of life. Afterall, I’m here to live and experience not to simply sacrifice that goal in the name of trying to destroying an evil institution; the two don’t always overlap, but not for lack of trying.

 

A vital part of the above-stated goal requires the acquisition and use of resources, which nowadays means having a job. It also helps to avoid the jackboots of government in the process. The manner in which I’ve gone about avoiding the donning of those black boots of shiny, shiny leather while maintaining my job has been to try and remain in areas that aren’t strictly governmental (thuggish) in nature. Like so many other fields that exist inside of or are regulated by government, the field I practice would exist outside of government if it were possible. Sewers don’t exist because of government; they exist because they are needed. Like my friend who is a teacher, I do my job because I find value in that job, not because I wish to prop up a state. If it were possible to live and work in a free place I surely would, but for now I can only make a conscious effort to withdraw my support from the state while doing what must be done to function.

 

I hope my reasoning is sound enough for any would-be critics. Though the criticisms and questions will certainly keep coming, I take comfort in knowing they only spring from the intensity of my non-compromising convictions. If I rode the fence and waited to compromise my positions based on different situations, there would be nothing to criticize. I get the feeling most that would level the charge of hypocrisy against me would have no convictions to examine. So until critics have the courage of solid conviction and can think outside of the hamster wheel of the state paradigm, their questions of my courage will pass unnoticed into the very noise that helps to disguise the lie of a necessary state.

 

 

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15 Responses to “Colander Accuses Kettle of Not Holding Water (Also Black Adds the Pot)”

  1. thesofine said

    Me too. I am a soldier in the US Army because I find value in that job, not because I wish to prop up a state. –the mole

  2. I would use that term “soldier” loosely. Just kidding.

    It’s easy to tie 99.99% of peoples pay or jobs or something to some taint in the state; it’s just easier for some.

    I’m guessing you find value in the job itself, not necessarily the employer, right?

  3. thesofine said

    The truth, I find, is that everman’s life is a tangled web of contradictions. This truth surfaces only through deep self-examination. Therefore, it is the unexamined life that lacks irony.

    Besides, what fun would life be without satire (whether self-inflicted or otherwise)?

  4. It would be no fun whatsoever.

    That was a very Socratic observation and I happen to agree. I’ve been self-examining (not that way, you pervert) for a while now.

  5. B_____ said

    I was thinking about something in a similar way. I hate the idea of the Family and Medical Leave Act but when I was talking to my wife about our coming child and her decision to take time off I was glad that it was there for the sake of our family; otherwise things might get difficult in the coming months. It’s kind of like Ohio’s current smoking ban. I enjoy coming home from a bar and not smelling like smoke but I think the smoking ban is completely wrong. What does that make me?

  6. Both of your examples are giving you passive benefits and not paying you or giving you anything in return. The FMLA just guarantees a job after a prescribed break for medical or family reasons. This could be negotiated with an employer ahead of time without the state forcing it upon them. But since it is already forced, you have no option of negotiation.

    The second example is just a statement of your preference for not smelling like smoke. You patronized bars before the smoking ban and you continue to patronize bars after, but you had no part in forcing the places to restrict the smoking activity. Without forceful intervention bars could have chosen to be completely non-smoking or, if the space allowed, to have different sections like restaurants. Sure, no bars that I know of were strictly non-smoking because it would mean a major loss of business. That could be because there are a limited number of liqueur licenses and competition (supply) is artificially restricted. Who knows? But at least you have no part in implementing or supporting such a law.

  7. MKB said

    As one who works for the “military industrial complex” (you can never worry about being that hypocritical Pint of Stout becasue based on this website alone I’m sure you are on the blacklist!) I find that most of the technical folks spending 8 hours a day at these jobs are so focused on the science of the specific things they are working on that they can’t see the jack-booted-thug filled forrest for the trees. If it makes you feel any better we all know that due to the ridiculous bureaucracy most of the stuff we come up with will be lost in the fighting over funding and control. So really we’re just wasting the government’s time and money and distracting it from bullying the private citizen!

    Except that the momney came from the citizen – ok I give up…

  8. MKB, It’s great to hear from you! Are you sure you should be seen at this site? You’re not commenting from work are you….AGHHHHHH, RUUUUNNNNNNNNN!

    Sorry, I’m a little paranoid.

    In the super-technical fields, such as yours, the choices are severely limited. You can do what you do now, which I’m sure spawns practical advancements beyond the narrow scope of state violence or surveillance or whatever, or you can research at a University where much of that funding (for the institution and the research grants, etc.) come from the same source. In the “private” sector you may even make more headway in fundamental advancement as part of the job, but not the whole job.

    I actually have a post brewing about the frame of references through which we view our lives. Not seeing the forest for the trees is an example of having a smaller than possible – and for my tastes counter-productive – frame of reference. If everything is viewed as being encompassed by states, governments, and invisible boundaries then the larger frame in which these things exists goes unnoticed. Suddenly there is no way to see or imagine outside of it. It can all get very Matrix-like real quick down this line of thought

    Anyway, I think I had a point to make here…maybe. Great to hear from you. I’ll shoot you an email about a possible trip and visit.

  9. thesofine said

    In all seriousness, I generally disagree with absolutist Liberatarian thought (objectivism) in that I agree that government is a necessary evil – but an evil that can (and should) be improved upon.

    The way I am able to justify these contradictions is through a couple of absolute individual truths:
    1. I did not chose this government style or its leaders. In fact, I voice my silent dissent by casting a blank ballot at every open election. While some feel that I implicitly assent to the system simply by casting a ballot, I feel there is no other recourse but to participate in a tragically flawed system.

    2. And of course, John Locke first wrote that governments lack the authority in the realm of individual conscience. This is something rational people cannot cede to the government for it or others to control.

    3. Because of the above 2 statements, this government (that was thrust upon me) is absolutley not a reflection of who I am. Rather, this government is a nuicance with which I have to deal.

  10. I can’t quote her exactly but Rand addressed the problem a couple of times. Once with respect to the draft (as I recall) pointing out that allowing yourself to be drafted rather than going to jail or Canada was not caving in to the system since it was THE LAW and you don’t have a choice. Another I believe was about teaching. Her point was that to give up one’s preferred career in teaching because the government limits employment choices is not required to live a moral life.

    I tend to agree with that take. The system is so completely intertwined that it is difficult to pursue any number of occupations without directly or indirectly receiving tax support. I’m a tax guy. Sure all my earnings come from private people and companies, however, absent this abysmal tax system I’d have to get a real job (and I’d be happy to do so, please abolish federal income tax). That makes me indirectly dependent upon the Accountant’s & Lawyers Full Employment Act that many of you call the Internal Revenue Code. What about my brother-in-law? He designs light rail for a private company. But who buys light rail cars? The government. Same. Same. And how do you drive your car on a private highway? Anyway, Pint, you see where this is going and while I appreciate your agonizing over doing the right thing I think you made the right choice for the right reasons. Then again, what the heck do I know? 🙂

  11. While appreciate no one poking their finger in my chest, which I never really expected anyway, the questions of “am I doing enough or too much?” will remain. They must. Once infected with an idea, to betray or forget such an idea out of impossibility or difficulty without having replaced it with an equally or more valid idea is to bow and accept the chains of slavery. That is what it is to have your mind and conscience taken away.

    Regardless of the perceived morality of personal choices as reflected against the backdrop of state, I still feel like these are all excuses for uncomfortable facts. By using words like government and law, are we simply hiding the immorality of the involuntary state behind the vocabulary of legitimacy and then excusing our complicity with flippant rationalizations? We obviously can’t explain away the hard reality under which we labor, but we certainly don’t have to acquiesce to some phantom inevitability as if our lives spawned from it instead of despite of it. It is here. It does exist. We all have to deal with that. We don’t have to make excuses for it’s right to exist.

  12. I think there is a line somewhere and I would take a salary as a history teacher but not a subsidy to not grow corn. And, of course, every tax deduction, because it’s your money to begin with.

  13. Junker said

    I recommend, for good thought and for enjoyable reading, four by Richard Mitchell on the self-examining of life, language, and schooling. He also wrote and printed his own newsletter on his own hand-operated, printing press.

    The Gift of Fire
    Less Than Words Can Say
    The Graves of Academe
    The Leaning Tower of Babel

  14. RecessiveGenes said

    Stout,no need to feel like a hypocrite, because it is so hard to extricate ourselves from government involvement. I agree with the Wine Commonsewer, so many occupations are inextricably to the government and countless people (attorneys and accountants) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Can anyone think of a group of people outside of the Amish that have effectively distanced themselves from (most) government involvement?

    I am currently going to grad school to get my Master’s in Education (a NY state requirement), knowing full well that public schools are the monopoly provider of education for those who can’t afford private schools. There was a time when most children didn’t go past 8th grade. Then in the wake of the Great Depression, a warehousing of teens took place in high schools to limit the pool of employable workers and to keep poor, disaffected youth off of the streets.

    In many ways, I think that the citizens of the U.S. are like the proverbial frog in the pot of water on the stove. Numerous citizens are blissfully unaware that the the reach of the government is increasing. Today there are 15 executive heads in the president’s Cabinet, whereas Washington only had 4 men in his cabinet. We have experienced a gradual creep in governmental growth over the past 220 years, like a once skinny person who has become morbidly obese.

  15. Kirsten said

    I like what Murray Rothbard said about Living in a State-Run World:
    Opportunists are people who severely split theory from practice; whose ideals are tucked away in some closet or trophy room and have no bearing on their daily lives. Sectarians, on the other hand, suffer from what the Catholics would call the error of “scrupulosity,” and are always in danger of boxing themselves in to become hermits and virtual martyrs. All well and good; but to avoid both pitfalls, we need some criteria to guide us.

    and

    In short, there is nothing wrong with a libertarian living in a rent-controlled apartment, and therefore paying a rent below the market. Nozick (or myself) is not responsible for the rent-control law; he or we have to live within the matrix of such laws. So there is nothing wrong with him living in a rent-controlled apartment, just as there is nothing wrong with him walking on government streets, flying from government airports, eating price-supported bread, etc. None of this is of Nozick’s (or our) making. It would be therefore foolish and martyrish for us to renounce such apartments if available, to refuse to eat any food grown under government regulation, to refuse to use the Post Office, etc. Our responsibility is to agitate and work to remove this statist situation; apart from that, that is all we can rationally do. I live in a rent-controlled apartment, but I have also written and agitated for many years against the rent-control system, and urged its repeal. That is not hypocrisy or betrayal, but simply rationality and good sense.

    Nozick’s moral error [let’s call it “sin” to provoke the Waters of this world] was to go much further than simply living under rent control. His immoral action was to pursue the landlord actively, to go to the State to agitate, time and again, to get the State to force his rent even lower. It seems to me that there is a world of difference between these actions. One is living your life within a State-created matrix, while trying to work against the system; the other is actively using the State to benefit yourself and screw your fellow man, which means initiating and abetting aggression and theft.

    and

    There is nothing wrong, and everything rational, then, about accepting the matrix in one’s daily life. What’s wrong is working to aggravate, to add to, the statist matrix. To give an example from my own career. For many years I taught at a “private” university (although I would not be surprised to find that more than half its income came from the government). The university has long teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, and years ago it tried to correct that condition by getting itself “statized” through merging with the State University of New York system, in those halcyon days rolling in dough. For a while, it looked as if this merger would occur, and there was a great deal of pressure on every member of the faculty to show up in Albany and lobby for merger into the State system. This I refused to do, since I believed it to be immoral to agitate to add to the statism around me.

    Does that mean that all libertarians can cheerfully work for the government, apart from not lobbying for statism, and forget about conscience in this area? Certainly not. For here it is vital to distinguish between two kinds of State activities: (a) those actions that would be perfectly legitimate if performed by private firms on the market; and (b) those actions that are per se immoral and criminal, and that would be illicit in a libertarian society. The latter must not be performed by libertarians in any circumstances. Thus, a libertarian must not be: a concentration camp director or guard; an official of the IRS; an official of the Selective Service System; or a controller or regulator of society or the economy.

    Let us take a concrete case, and see how our proffered criterion works. An old friend of mine, an anarcho libertarian and Austrian economist, accepted an important post as an economist in the Federal Reserve System. Licit or illicit? Moral or immoral? Well, what are the functions of the Fed? It is the monopoly counterfeiter, the creator of State money; it cartelizes, privileges and bails out banks; it regulates – or attempts to regulate – money and credit, price levels, and the economy itself. It should be abolished not simply because it is governmental, but also because its functions are per se immoral. It is not surprising, of course, that this fellow did not see the moral problem the same way.

    It seems to me, then, that the criterion, the ground on which we must stand, to be moral and rational in a state-run world, is to: (1) work and agitate as best we can, in behalf of liberty; (2) while working in the matrix of our given world, to refuse to add to its statism; and (3) to refuse absolutely to participate in State activities that are immoral and criminal per se.

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