Washington Post that “God wants me to sing in front of him.”
As a commuter to the city where good intentions come to die, I have witnessed Mr. Yang’s crooning multiple times; especially around the Christmas season. Each time, his off-key, hoarse tone has been ignored by most riders. He sings for about five minutes, thanks everyone, and reminds the passengers of the importance of Christ within their lives before departing for another train.
In a recent instance however, I watched as Mr. Yang was admonished by one passenger who was visibly annoyed by the singing. When the annoyed rider stood up and approached Yang, another passenger dressed in U.S. military fatigues blurted out “don’t touch him!” The irked man proceeded to shout back that he shouldn’t be subject to religious preaching on the metro. That’s when the visibly angry soldier stood up and demanded his vocal opponent sit down and allow Mr. Yang to continue his gospel. All the while, the unfazed pastor kept singing until the next stop was reached and he quickly retired. Out of sheer audacity, I applauded the tune as the crowded train stood silent.
While it only lasted about a minute, the heated debate presented a lesson on the type of conflict that is generated with public property. Taxation and the subsequent funding of government services raises a number of issues on the rights that should be allotted to those forced to pay for state services. Within the private sphere, ownership is either complete or is bound by contractual law. If I purchase an apple, I retain the right to do with it whatever I like as long as don’t violate the property of others. If I agree to rent an apartment, the landlord and I are bound by the stipulations laid out in the contract we both sign. The limitations on both our use is clear enough for the purposes of the transaction.
Public property paid through compulsory taxation settles neither of these norms. It openly introduces conflict amongst society because of the unclear restraints that follow from forced payment with contradictory provisos. On one hand, it is often said that public property is open to use by anybody. In reality, most property referred to as “public” is controlled by a small number of men. These state enforcers determine the rules and regulations over usage. There is no contract set forth outside of compelling the public at large to pay up less they be imprisoned.
In a sense, pastor Yang should have the privilege of using the metro in any manner he sees fit as he is forced to pay for its operation. The same principle applies for the heckler as well. Both of these men finance the existence of the service not just through taxation but also fee-for-use. Presumably, they are entitled to use and a say over the operation of the rail line. But because the metro is “public” property, the conflict over what is allowed behavior escalated.
The bothered man attempted to explain why it was within his rights to protest the singing by asserting that he shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by it. His claim was saddled by the notion that he was somehow owed a peaceful train ride. The singing of gospel hymns interfered with his otherwise quite commute. Though others may enjoy the crooning, in his words, he “should not have to listen to it.”
The problem with this argument is that the complainer insists he is due equal consideration while on tax-funded transportation. His argument forgets the fact that Mr. Yang and other riders have just as much say in the matter. This dichotomy and the prevalence of “public” property is what generated the conflict. The only solution is total privatization. As economist Hans-Herman Hoppe writes,
All conflicts regarding the use of any good can be avoided if only every good is privately owned, i.e., exclusively controlled by some specified individual(s) and it is always clear which thing is owned, and by whom, and which is not. The interests and ideas of different individuals may then be as different as can be, and yet no conflict arises so long as their interests and ideas are concerned always and exclusively with their own, separate property.
The key difference; natural rights tells people that they are free to use their bodies in any peaceful manner; morality tells them which specific peaceful acts they should choose in order to lead a fulfilling or moral life. You should not lie, you should not be gratuitously cruel, you should not destroy for the sake of destruction.
The man who believes in the Church’s doctrine of the compatibility of warfare and capital punishment with Christianity cannot believe in the brotherhood of all men.
Private property is the only norm that makes it simple to distinguish an err in behavior. In a society untainted by the preponderance of enforced communal property, the likelihood of instances such as singing loudly on a metro rail would be curtailed. Manners would be paid in settings that hold large crowds of people. Social ostracizing would take care of the more bothersome outliers who are always a reality for the human race. Live and let live would be the prevailing doctrine.
In the end, the act of singing aloud a spiritual tune ranks far down the list of immediate concerns. For a morning commute dogged by the prevalence of a collective dismay over the inherently unsatisfying nature of bureaucratic labor, an old Asian pastor singing the gospel is a welcome spectacle. He is trying to instill the blessings of peace, love, and harmony to the very people who actively violate these tenets as an occupation.
Perhaps these state workers and contractors would rather be left alone in their misery. For adding to their consternation, I can only thank Mr. Yang.