In the wake of Rand Paul’s departure from the presidential race, the question being asked is what is the best path to advance liberty? Should libertarians work within GOP, the Libertarian Party, or even the Democratic Party? Should libertarians be anti-establishment or should they try to become the mainstream? Should libertarians focus on politics, policy, or reject both altogether in favor of free market solutions?
The answer is all of the above. There is no one path to advance the ideas of liberty. Nor will there ever be a utopian society that is 100% libertarian, nor should there be in a pluralistic society. Liberal ideas and ideals advance and change over time.
There are some ideas we need to dismiss off hand.
Building a libertarian safe space. Congratulations to the Free State Project on getting enough people willing to move to New Hampshire to trigger the move. However, I still question its usefulness. What is the point of trying to move libertarians into a state and take it over as a utopian example to the rest of the world? Wouldn’t it best to have libertarians spread out all over to try and influence change everywhere? Besides, isn’t a mass migration to take over an argument against open borders?
Reject coalition building. Libertarians need to build coalitions with everyone. There are libertarian conservatives, libertarian centrists, libertarian progressives, and classical liberals (such as myself). Many Americans and others around the world have some kind of libertarian leanings and there are very, very few actual libertarians. Unless libertarians just want to yell in the wilderness, you have to work with others.
Lose the savior complex. The United States, or any country for that matter, will likely never elect a libertarian president, ever. The majority of voters are not libertarians and never will be. That’s fine, in a free and pluralistic society we need voters with all sorts of views. That’s what debate is for. Even if a libertarian did get elected president, libertarians would be disappointed because a president is not all powerful. Process matters as much as results do.
The prospects for liberty are great, regardless of the struggles of one particular presidential candidate. In fact, liberty means many things to many people and that’s good. While authoritarianism is rearing its ugly head in both political parties this year, I’m confident we can defeat it.
So… hardcore drug warriors out there… I have a very simple question for you…
You can’t stop people from getting high. It’s NOT POSSIBLE.
It literally does not matter how far you go, you cannot stop it.
We can’t stop heroin from getting into supermax prisons, where there are no visitors allowed, and everyone is body searched in and out.
I just had a dedicated drug warrior fully sincerely advocate that we completely seal the border, and that every vehicle, container, and person should be fully cavity searched.
When I pointed out that cavity searches didn’t stop heroin from getting in to supermax prisons, he said that we need to have full walls on all the borders, and boats to patrol the coastlines to stop smugglers.
You can’t stop people from getting high. This is not an issue of sealing the borders.
Even if you actually sealed the borders successfully, then they would just grow it here.
How exactly would you stop that?
It would require constantly patrolling millions of acres of property, both public and private; searching all greenhouses, and all forests, and all fields of any kind, at least once every 90 days… in the entire country.
Doing so… aside from the massive violations of peoples rights, would require millions of law enforcement officers dedicated to it.
That would cost more than the entire budget of the United State by the way.
Even if you manage to completely eradicate all opium poppies, and all coca plants on the planet, they will just synthesize it in labs… and by labs, I mean, any quiet room with an electrical outlet, or anywhere you can run a generator, or a blow torch.
If you completely ban all substances that people could get high with, you ban thousands of legal products with legitimate and critical uses, including a huge number of critical medications.
You also have to ban all lab equipment, or closely license and track its sale. And all chemicals of all kind… and many kinds of foods. And most kinds of flowers.
And all machine tools, and glass blowing equipment… and blow torches, and pipes and tubes and sand…
And you’ll have to dig out and burn out millions and millions of acres of plants.
We have 7,500 miles of border. We have 13,000 miles of coastline.
You can make it a death penalty offense to posses, sell, or use drugs, or get high. Many countries do in fact… and people still get high.
This dedicated drug warrior said that it didn’t matter what it took, it didn’t matter what it cost… It didn’t matter if it wouldn’t work at all… That we had to do it anyway.
When I asked why, he said:
“Because to do otherwise would be to surrender”
Then I asked “Surrender what? To who?”
He said “Surrender to the junkies and the dealers”
I asked “Surrender what?”
He refused to answer.
And again I asked “Why”
He refused to answer.
I said “You’re advocating a police state, in order to stop people from getting high. Why?”
He refused to answer.
So… I have a very simple question for you…
You cannot possibly stop people who want to get high, from getting high.
You can’t make it illegal enough. You can’t ban or control enough. It’s not possible… you have to know that it isn’t possible..
Prohibition PROVED beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
The last 45 years of the “War on Drugs” have proved beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
Maximum security prisons prove beyond all possibility of doubt that it’s impossible.
But you still think we have to do it… No matter what it takes… No matter the harm it causes… No matter what rights get violated…No matter how much power it gives the state. No matter how much it costs…
Regular readers know that I–an irregular contributor here–have long said that the power of the internet is as-yet poorly understood and mostly untapped. Sure, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, but what is the internet really going to do in America beyond providing us endless hours of cat videos?
The media has led you to believe that this is a presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans. But Sanders is barely a real Democrat and Trump is barely a conservative Republican. If Bloomberg jumps into the race, we will have three candidates with ambiguous party affiliations. So maybe there is a more helpful way to frame this contest.
Naval Ravikant calls it The American Spring, and points out that social media has become the real conduit to power. That’s a revolution. We the People are on the brink of replacing the entrenched powers and their monied interests. If the patriots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary states put both Sanders and Trump in commanding leads, they will be – in effect – firing the government. But they would also be firing the system of government that was created by the Founders. Direct democracy via social media – chaotic and ugly – is about to replace the Republic. No longer can a strong leader ignore the will of the people when it is pounding on every door and tapping on every window. The Republic was designed to give elected officials the power to decide for the people. But the elected elites have lost their legitimacy and The People are on the brink of taking back power.
I’ve said before that technology has led America to an increasingly centralized society, culture, and government.
The printing press itself was the first step in creating durable broadsheet dissemination of information to a wide audience. The pen is mightier than the sword, but owning a printing press is like being the general of an army of penmen.
The introduction of radio enabled a true real-time broadcast to allow single voices to reach much more widely than ever before.
TV came along, and video truly killed the radio star. Because of the expense, consolidation into the “big 3” networks meant that the largest corporations could filter and control the presentation of information to the masses.
“Television”. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.
Each step increased the flow of information. But each step also drove the control of which information would flow into a narrower and narrower group of people. But technology marches on, and the filters of broadcast media are increasingly being sidestepped, democratized, and subsumed. It started with Cable, as the cost of getting into the television business dropped dramatically, and the appearance of the 24-hour cable news station widened the number of voices in the market. But nothing has come close to becoming relevant as quickly as the internet and social media. We now see major news productions no longer driving the reporting, but rather highlighting the tweets of feet on the ground. And Presidential primary political debates are taking questions from YouTube “stars”.
The internet has been around the “mainstream” less than 20 years now… Since then, it’s basically broken or fundamentally changed multiple business models in all sorts of industries, as any unemployed former travel agent will tell you. Politically, by 2004, blogs had changed the political landscape enough to give us Rathergate. But 2004–a mere 12 years ago–only brought us the first inklings of the social media future with MySpace. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these hadn’t even been invented yet. Essentially the “modern” social media landscape was built in ~2006, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and integrated with the “computer in a pocket”, the iPhone and Android devices, over the following few years. We’ve been living with it for only a decade.
The first decade of television was exciting, but raw. Everyone could tell that this was something new, and something important. Much like they can tell with the internet and social media now. It created new stars and obsoleted many former ones. It changed the world of politics. Much like internet and social media has done since. And now, as streaming video is replacing broadcast video for more and more households, and with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu becoming production companies in their own right, the traditional hold of the TV networks is breaking with it.
The “out of the blue” appearance of Ron Paul and now Bernie Sanders? Voices who have spent decades with no “mainstream” platform are now finding their audience. The growth of “outsider, anti-establishment” candidates gaining real traction? This is due to media conglomerates no longer being able to control the message and marginalize them. These candidates, rightly or wrongly, stand in stark contrast to the politicians who have been screwing us over for years while growing their own power. And can you imagine the quick changes in public opinion on the gay marriage, medical/recreational marijuana legalization fights, and civil liberties issues without a democratized communication platform like the internet? And the internet is not only domestic–it’s making these changes on a global scale.
So, what is the point? Well, it remains to be seen. We are witnessing the greatest social transformation the world has seen since at least the invention of television, but probably since the creation of “mass media” at all. We’re seeing the replacement of “broadcasting” with “narrowcasting”, or “sidecasting”, or “targetedcasting”, or “peercasting” or whatever you want to name it. But the fact is that information no longer only flows downhill from the powerful to the rest of us. Now, while each of us may individually be no more powerful than we ever once were, all of us are collectively more powerful than any individual media magnate or opinion-maker on the globe. While much of Scott Adams post goes into suggesting an idea that I don’t think will ever come to pass, the question of demolishing our system of government is well under way, whether the visible structures of government change or not.
Is this a good thing? Will it advance liberty? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly different, and the world–be it politicians, media folks, leaders of industry, etc–hasn’t quite figured out the implications of that yet.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is unquestionably one of the most famous speeches in American history. In listening to the speech today, I found the following passages that aren’t as often quoted to be some of the most powerful lines in the speech.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
America has come a long way since King delivered this speech. Racial and ethnic minorities have made great strides thanks to courageous individuals like King who made a stand for liberty and justice (and in King’s case, paid with his life) and we are all better off for it.
Here is the rest of the speech. Listen and be inspired.
Yesterday, President Obama used executive orders to further burden the fundamental right of self-defense. On the same day, in an effort to defend his Senate absenteeism, GOP candidate Marco Rubio gave his implicit endorsement to the concept of the imperial presidency.
[The President] recited a litany of horrific, headline-grabbing mass shootings while proposing policies that would have done nothing to prevent them. Anticipating that his non sequitur would draw criticism, he boldly proclaimed that good intentions matter more than actual results…
The Obama faction of the cult-of-the-president does not care. They conceive of rights as things we get from parent-like leaders. Like well-behaved children, we ought to be grateful for the privileges we are permitted—not whining over the prerogatives of adults.
But if they are upheld (by the very courts GOP candidates like Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee insist should defer to the political branches) Obama’s orders will have at least one meaningful impact, even if it is not on the homicide rate. The impact will be on the structure and scope of government power—and its increasing centralization in a single individual: an imperial president with the power and mandate to act where the people’s elected representatives have refrained from doing so.
As Bonnie Kristian, a communications consultant for Young Americans for Liberty, writes at Rare:
Congress is supposed to be the decider—even (or sometimes especially) when it doesn’t do what the president wants.
Even this misses the target.
We are the deciders.
Rights are not things we are given, not privileges handed out to children by benevolent parent-kings. Rights are ours for the having unless and until we yield them. The only way to do that is via elected representatives. Even then our ability to give away rights is limited by the Constitutional framework our founders had the foresight to put in place.
It is not meant to be easy to give rights away.
Jarett and Obama are therefore wrong to lay blame on Congress’s “failure to act.” It is not that Congress has failed to act. It is that we, the people, have not in sufficient numbers directed our elected representatives to infringe further upon our fundamental rights of self-defense.
Use of executive orders to circumvent the collective will of the people’s representatives fundamentally alters our constitutional structure. The left might embrace this trend now, while their man is at the helm, and his target is guns. But how will they feel when it is a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump circumventing Congress? When the executive power is used again to send troops to fight undeclared wars?
Well, you know, the difference between Marco Rubio and I is, I show up for work. And we had the biggest vote of the whole year, voting on a trillion dollars worth of spending, and he didn’t show up. So, yes, I think he ought to resign or give his pay back to the taxpayer.
When asked yet another question on the issue, Rubio’s attempt to defend himself was a big, depressing fail implicitly endorsing the growing cult of the imperial presidency.
I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because … only a president can set the agenda. We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen.
Perhaps Rubio could point us to where in the Constitution the power to “set the agenda” is granted exclusively to the President.
I checked Article II and didn’t see it.
You know how everyone has that thing? The thing drives them crazy? Like the sound of nails on a chalkboard? Maybe it is baristas misspelling names. Or your when it should be you’re. People who use literally to mean figuratively.
That song from Frozen.
For me, it is people talking about “our leaders.”
U.S. citizens don’t have leaders. We have representatives. They don’t tell us what to do—we tell them how to vote. See Article I, The Constitution.
We also have a chief executive. His job is to execute the laws passed by Congress, deal with foreign countries, and provide information to Congress. He also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the military.
But not of us.
To the contrary, we pay him for his “Services.” See Article II, The Constitution.
No one commands us. No one leads us. And no one rules us. That is what it means to be free.
The number of people who react with hostility and defensiveness to this notion is bizarre to me. It is as if they want to be led, like when I first left home and missed having my parents tell me what I should do. Being leaderless means being responsible.
So maybe deep down, those who would rather not shoulder such burdens harbor an unconscious longing for the days of monarchs. When the best-born among us led the way atop magnificent horses, swords and armor flashing in the sunlight, obliterating responsibility by demanding complete allegiance—leaving we lesser souls to imagine ourselves as scullery-maid-turned-princess from the safe distance of our own servitude.
Easier to daydream of being transported to the prince’s ball in an enchanted pumpkin wearing a gown made of magic than to actually climb up on a horse of one’s own.
But the willing subjects are as dangerous as the would-be kings.