Monthly Archives: July 2006

So Be It

“It’s clear that in the Middle East, no one is sick of the fighting. They have centuries of grudges to resolve, and will continue fighting until they can get over them. And considering that they obviously have no interest in “getting over them,” we’re stuck with a war that will not end in any forseable [sic] future. It doesn’t matter what we bloggers say. It doesn’t matter what the President of the United States says. Or the United Nations. Or the usual bloviating gasbag pundits.

When two sides are this dead-set on killing each other, very little can get in the way. ”

— Markos “Kos” Koulitsas

Well, no-one is sick of the fighting, except say… 99% of the jews

He’s entirely correct about the grudges bit, and about the nothing anyone says matters bit, but the fact of the matter is, the Israelis have done everything possible, and more than everything reasonable, to have peace.

The so called Palestinians (THERE ARE NO PALESTINIANS, there is no Palestine. Palestine was an arbitrarily created place that only existed between world war 1 and 1948. Most so called Palestinians are either Syrian, Egyptian, or Lebanese), Syrians, and Lebanese muslims who support them, (as well as most of the rest of the worlds muslims who are “supporting” them) are doing everything possible to kill every Jew.

Not a lot of jews, not some jews, not “the jews that are fighting us” or “the jews that are occupying our homeland”. They want to kill every jew everywhere.

Yes, that is their goal. They make no bones about it. They don’t hide it. They dont obfuscate. They clearly and unequivically state that they will not stop fighting until every jew is dead.

The Israelis just want to eat pizza without being blown up.

The Arabs, and the other muslims around the world that support them, initiated tribal warfare against all Jews world wide during WW2, and intensified this warfare after the world war was over. In fact, WW2 is still being fought, in one small section of the middle east.

I will concede several issues here. The creation of Israel was a blatantly illegal act, in so far as international law exists. The British and Americans basically drew some lines and said “Here jews; we feel guilty because we let 1/3 of you die, so you can have this country. Oh, there are some people here already, but we’ll move them out for you”.

Of course those people then fought a war against the jews, and they lost. They’ve been terrorists ever since. The Jews won, the Arabs lost, that was in 1948.

Its been almost 60 years, you lost, get over it. Move on.

And I’ll also concede that Israel is often stupid, high handed, arrogant, a poor friend to their allies at times; and that a certain small percentage of Israelis (and other jews for that matter) are bigoted against everyone but other jews.

…….Funny, sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it… but I digress.

But for the most part, Israel is just another democracy; and has been since 1948, if a vaguely socialist democracy with some overtly religionist elements.

The rest of the arab (and most of the rest of the muslim) world are essentially tribalist governments. They are almost all dictatorships or hardly different from “monarchies”, really nothing more than typical third world tribal structures given guns and money. They have all pretty much decided that it was easier to focus their peoples anger and hatred over their corrupt axploitative governments and shitty lives against the jews, than it was to actually… oh I dunno.. govern properly maybe?

Tribal warfare is the bloodiest there is. It’s a gang fight on a national, or even semiglobal scale; and it goes on until all of one side is dead; or utterly, humiliatingly, crushingly defeated.

The Arabs, and the muslims who support them, are a failed culture, propping themselves up with oil money, and an evil “religion” turned into a death cult. They hate and resent their failure; and their cultural and social imperatives force them to obscure and refuse to acknowledge it; but people can see with their own eyes how bad it is. They need a scapegoat, and like all throughout history, the jews have been very convenient scapegoats; as is America, and western culture for that mater.

When is the rest of the world going to wake up to the fact that the Arab world has declared war on EVERYONE ELSE; that it’s a war to the death, and that Israel is fighting the front line…

Oh and that front line just happens to be IN THEIR HOMES.

Yes, America is on the front line too, but that front line is 8000 miles away from the majority of us. We’ve got 200,000 of our men and women at risk over there right now, out of 300,000,000. Israel has EVERYONE, all 7,000,000 of them at risk, every day.

7 million people, 8000 square miles (almost exactly the same population and size as New Jersey funnily enough), and in excess of 1 BILLION people trying to kill every single one of you (or supporting those who are). Someone tell me how the Israelis are wrong here?

No wait, don’t, because they ARE RIGHT.

Like I said, Kos got some of it right, the Arabists and Islamists won’t rest until every Jew is dead, and there’s not much that can get in the way. Well, I don’t think we as a nation are going to let that happen. I don’t think that I as an INDIVIDUAL will let it happen before I’m dead.

Israel WILL NOT BE DESTROYED.

The Jews will not be destroyed.

Not while I live.

Not while America is still America.

By their choice, there will be no peace anywhere, never mind just the middle east, until every Arabist, and Islamist is dead.

So be it

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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Carnival Of Liberty LIV

The 54th edition of the Carnival Of Liberty is up at Ogre’s Politics And Views. It was apparently up this morning, but server problems at mu.nu kept it from the world. But, you can’t keep freedom down for too long ! Go check it out.

Next week’s Carnival of Liberty will be hosted at Indian Cowboy. After that we’re in need of hosts, so go here to see the list of available dates.

Zoning Laws And Religious Freedom

Last week, I wrote about a Fairfax County, Virginia zoning ordinance that was forcing a family to accept trees that they didn’t want on their property, today’s Washington Post, though, has an article showing how zoning and land use laws can interfere with more than just property rights.

McLean Bible Church, a Tysons Corner megachurch, has sued Fairfax County so it can continue to offer religion classes that officials say violate zoning rules.

In a 14-page suit filed July 3 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the 10,000-member church says the classes are a regular part of church life, which is protected under the freedom of religion.

Fairfax officials say the church can’t host the classes — which can help students get a master’s degree in theology or divinity at Lanham-based Capital Bible Seminary — without county permission to operate as a college.

(…)

The dispute over the classes began in 2004, when Fairfax officials found that the church violated zoning rules by holding the classes. The church says the classes fall under a provision that allows use of the campus for “groups or activities which are sponsored by the church and consistent with its ministry objectives.”

But county officials said the church needs permission to run a college. According to a March 2005 county report, zoning staff noted that Capital Bible Seminary had set up an office and library at the church and that the classes were “designed as part of a degree program which may lead to a graduate theological degree.”

At that point, the county report said, 40 of 130 students attending the classes were “associated with the church.”

McLean Bible appealed the ruling after limiting Capital Bible Seminary’s presence by doing away with the seminary’s office and library. According to the lawsuit, the church also offered to ensure that students would not be able to complete a degree solely by taking classes at the church. Fairfax denied the appeals.

Once again, though, the question is this: what right does the County of Fairfax have to tell McLean Bible Church what it can do on its property ? The question is even more important here, because we aren’t just talking about property right; for many religious denominations, education and evangelism are a part of their religious mission. McLean Bible Church appears to be one of those denominations.

Effectively, by saying that the Church cannot operate these classes on its property, Fairfax County is restricting the Church’s ability to practice its religious beliefs.

There is a reason, of course, that the County is doing this:

McLean Bible Church, which sits on a 43-acre campus on Route 7, has long had a tense relationship with some nearby residents, who have complained that the complex — which includes a bookstore, a 2,400-seat auditorium and a cafeteria — is too large for the suburban neighborhood. Neighbors have said the church brings too much traffic to the area’s clogged roads.

Last year, the McLean Citizens Association approved a resolution urging the county to uphold its decision to bar the classes.

“We’re concerned about the potential for unlimited and uncontrolled growth of the school project,” said Jim Robertson, an association member. “We don’t object to a school. All we asked is that they limit the number of students and the times of the classes. The bottom line is traffic.”

In the lawsuit, the church notes the “presence of vocal opposition to the church” and alleges that the zoning decision “appears to be based more upon political pressure than legal principal.”

Given the circumstances, and the degree to which the County appears to be micro-managing Church affairs in this decision, I think there’s good reason to believe that this is true.

Related Post:

Government Regulation And The Housing Market
Zoning Laws And Property Rights

The 2006 Arab-Israeli War

So, the latest Arab-Israeli War has begun. Israel is under attack on two fronts and Israel is responding with artillery fire and air raids, many of the air raids though are killing civilians. The world is asking itself, what can it do to end this crisis? Before we can decide on a solution, we need to analyze the situation. Furthermore, as classical liberals, we need to look at this through classical liberal principles as well. First, let’s break this down.

Hamas and Hezbollah intiated combat against Israel by abducting Israeli soldiers. The Israelis have every right to respond to these provocations against Hamas and Hizbullah and the governments that harbor and support and encourage them including the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Israel and the Arabs have an obligation to minimize civilian casualties and refrain from directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Obviously, neither side is living up to that obligation. So the question is where to go from here?

Israel needs to, instead of turning possible Lebanese allies into enemies by bombing Lebanese civilian infrastructure and start actually conducting a war against Hezbollah and its state sponsors such as Syria and Iran. The Israelis need better intelligence against Hezbollah and start launching strikes against selected Hezbollah targets. The Lebanese government needs to be emboldened to move against Hezbollah, bombing them won’t help the situation. Finally, Israel needs to take the war to Syria and Iran. Syrian policy on Israel is to fight Israel to the last Palestinian and Lebanese and Iranian policy is to fight Israel to the last Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian. Maybe if Iranians and Syrians, especially those connected to the leadership, began dying they would rethink their proxy war against Israel.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Patrick Henry on the Constitution

I was talking recently about Patrick Henry. When I was looking into some of his history, I found this speech. Patrick Henry was an anti-Federalist, against the Constitution and a centralized consolidated Government.

Perhaps this excerpt will explain why:

You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your Government.

. . . . .

The distinction between a National Government and a Confederacy is not sufficiently discerned. Had the delegates who were sent to Philadelphia a power to propose a Consolidated Government instead of a Confederacy? Were they not deputed by States, and not by the people? The assent of the people in their collective capacity is not necessary to the formation of a Federal Government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations: They are not the proper agents for this purpose: States and sovereign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of Government: Shew me an instance where the people have exercised this business: Has it not always gone through the Legislatures? I refer you to the treaties with France, Holland, and other nations: How were they made? Were they not made by the States? Are the people therefore in their aggregate capacity, the proper persons to form a Confederacy? This, therefore, ought to depend on the consent of the Legislatures; the people having never sent delegates to make any proposition of changing the Government. Yet I must say, at the same time, that it was made on grounds the most pure, and perhaps I might have been brought to consent to it so far as to the change of Government; but there is one thing in it which I never would acquiesce in. I mean the changing it into a Consolidated Government; which is so abhorent to my mind. The Honorable Gentleman then went on to the figure we make with foreign nations; the contemptible one we make in France and Holland; which, according to the system of my notes, he attributes to the present feeble Government. An opinion has gone forth, we find, that we are a contemptible people: The time has been when we were thought otherwise: Under this same despised Government, we commanded the respect of all Europe: Wherefore are we now reckoned otherwise? The American spirit has fled from hence: It has gone to regions, where it has never been expected: It has gone to the people of France in search of a splendid Government–a strong energetic Government. Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid Government. Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they suffered in attaining such a Government for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this Consolidated Government it will be because we like a great splendid one. Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and a number of things: When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, Sir, was then the primary object. We are descended from a people whose Government was founded on liberty: Our glorious forefathers of Great-Britain, made liberty the foundation of every thing. That country is become a great, mighty, and splendid nation; not because their Government is strong and energetic; but, Sir, because liberty is its direct end and foundation: We drew the spirit of liberty from our British ancestors; by that spirit we have triumphed over every difficulty: But now, Sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country to a powerful and mighty empire: If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of America, your Government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together: Such a Government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism: There will be no checks, no real balances, in this Government: What can avail your specious imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, Sir, we are not feared by foreigners: we do not make nations tremble: Would this, Sir, constitute happiness, or secure liberty? I trust, Sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects. Consider our situation, Sir: Go to the poor man, ask him what he does; he will inform you, that he enjoys the fruits of his labour, under his own fig-tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of the society, you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances: Why then tell us of dangers to terrify us into an adoption of this new Government? and yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce; they are out of the sight of the common people: They cannot foresee latent consequences: I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower class of people: It is for them I fear the adoption of this system.

Can anyone point out where he has been mistaken? We’ve gone exactly down the road he foretells. It is these excesses of our Constitutional system, excesses that Patrick Henry predicts, that we as classical liberals are railing against. The only difficulty is determining how to reverse the trend. How do we demolish a Splendid government in favor of a simple one?

Zoning Laws And Property Rights

This morning’s Washington Post carries a story that stands as yet another example of the ways that zoning laws and other land-use regulations interfere with our property rights.

Their seven-bedroom, $2.2 million dream home is in spotless, move-in condition. It’s an elegant hideaway on 1.6 acres in Oakton, set back from a winding, tree-lined road — a perfect place for their four youngest children to grow up.

But for 36 days, Karen and Joe Bartling and their children have been homeless. Along with their college-age son and the family’s Labrador retriever, they have been holed up in a tiny efficiency apartment in Chantilly with a pullout couch, all of their belongings in a storage locker.

The Bartlings can’t move in until their builder plants 20 to 80 trees on their property that Fairfax County says are required in part because the builder cut down too many mature trees during construction.

The thing of it is, the Bartlings don’t even want the trees:

[T]o the Bartlings, the trees are nothing but booby traps wrapped in wire and wooden stakes: Four of their five children — who were adopted from Korea, China and India — are blind. For them, trees are bumps and scrapes waiting to happen.

“I don’t want my kids having black eyes running into trees all day,” said Karen Bartling, 48. “These kids have enough obstacles in their lives. The last thing we want is trees in our yard.”

Unfortunately, they have little choice in the matter. Fairfax County is requiring the Bartlett’s builder, NV Homes to plant the trees after another neighbor complained when they removed trees during site clearing and construction.

Fairfax requires builders in residential developments like the Bartlings’ — four homes on 10 acres called the Estates at Oakton Hollow — to preserve trees on 20 percent of the property. The trees can be old or new, to replace those that were knocked down for construction. NV Homes planned to put a “significant portion” of the trees on the Bartlings’ lot, county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said. This was partly because some of the other lots lie in a septic drain field that needs to be cleared, said Hugh Whitehead, a county urban forester.

The builder also recently cleared some trees on another lot it may develop in the subdivision, county officials said, prompting a new round of planning to replace them. In both cases, dozens of new trees are needed to make up for the old ones, Whitehead sai

When the builder told them the trees were going to be planted, and the Bartling’s objected, they were told that they didn’t have a choice in the matter. As a result, settlement has been delayed, they are living in a hotel, and the interest-rate lock on their mortgage is about to expire.

Now certainly some of the blame here lies with the builder. They cut down more trees than they should have under County laws. But, what about the Bartling’s right to have the house and the property they contracted for? Not only must they accept the trees if they go to settlement, but they are prevented by County law from cutting down any of the trees, even though they already had plans for the space:

The Bartlings said they planned to build a swimming pool and put a swing set, trampoline and barbecue in the back yard, leaving precious little room for a forest. The trees would be scattered around the property, making it impossible to fence them off.

Unfortunately, because Fairfax County now presumes to tell them they cant do with their property what they planned to do, they seem to have no choice in the matter.

Related Post:

Government Regulation And The Housing Market

Libertarianism: The Problem of Children

Over a year ago, when I was still a new blogger, I posted this entry at The Unrepentant Individual. And I still don’t have an answer for it. Can anyone help me out?

—————————————————————–

My adherence to libertarianism, as much as an “Unrepentant Individual” adheres to any set political party or philosophy, is based upon my belief that libertarianism is a fully consistent, logical, and moral form of government. The reason for this is that I don’t accept that other people should be able to make choices for me, a rational adult, and thus I cannot see that I should find myself so egotistical that I should be making choices for them, so long as we do not violate each other’s rights and liberty.

However, in any discussion of libertarianism that I have come across, one issue is typically not handled very well: the issue of children. Libertarianism presupposes that the actors in society are rationally self-interested individuals, and that these people should be given as much leeway to act as possible, so long as they are not infringing on others. Our discussion of rules, morality, governance, all assumes that we treat humans like adults.

But children aren’t adults. What, then, do we do with them? What rules, what guidelines, should we use to protect their rights? What guidelines should be used to protect them from themselves, as they have not gained the maturity to act rationally? And what should be done to protect them from neglectful parents, who do not take the steps necessary to ensure that they grow up to become rational adults? Socialists, fascists, communists, and even nanny-state Republicans don’t have this problem, because they treat everyone like children, under the mismanaged care and semi-watchful eye of an incompetent government. Since they never really expect or desire us to exercise independent, rational thought, they don’t need to be worried about leaving us unprepared to do so. But for us libertarians, we cannot abdicate this responsibility, or our society will cease to be the moral form of government that we believe.
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Who Wants to Vote In Georgia?

We’ve got some primary elections coming up here in Georgia, including the only incumbent Republican congressman in the state that’s even facing a battle. In what might be a serious fight, it’s come time to enlist help from all sides.

Thanks to Judge Harold Murphy, Georgia can now enlist the help of people who may not even be legally registered:

The same federal judge who threw out Georgia’s voter ID law last year blocked the state Wednesday from enforcing its revised law during this year’s elections.

The ruling came less than two hours after the Georgia Supreme Court denied the state’s emergency request to overrule a state court order that blocked enforcement of the new photo ID law during next week’s primary elections and any runoffs.

U.S. District Judge Harold Murphy’s ruling, which he delivered verbally from the bench, was much broader, also including the Nov. 7 general elections and any runoffs.

If the rulings stand, Georgia voters will not have to show a government-issued photo ID to cast a ballot this year. The state’s primary election — which would have been the first election for which the IDs were required — is scheduled for Tuesday. The general elections are Nov. 7.

Yep. It’s now official. In Georgia, in order to vote, you don’t even have to do anything to prove that you’re actually the person whose name is on the rolls. I’m personally thinking about voting quite a few times on Tuesday, just because I can. After all, I’m originally from Chicago, the land that pioneered the slogan “vote early, vote often”.

Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and other supporters of the IDs had argued they were needed to prevent election fraud. Civil rights groups challenged the law in both federal and state court, arguing that it discriminated against poor, elderly and rural voters.

Critics have also argued that voter fraud in Georgia stems from absentee ballots, an issue not addressed by the law.

In all reality, I’m not that worried about election fraud. As they point out, there’s a much higher chance that someone’s trying to fix the election by screwing with absentee ballots than by voting multiple times in person. What I am worried about, though, is making voting too easy. I hope that if someone is going to take the time to vote, they’ll actually have some idea what’s going on. At the very least, proof that you’ve thought about voting months in advance to be properly registered is a clue that you might actually try to exercise your civic duty responsibly. Asking that you actually prove your identity falls in the same boat.

We tell people how important it is that they vote. And I think it is important. Like most important things, you value it more if you have to work a little bit to acheive it. I hardly think that things such as registering and having a free photo ID constitute an unreasonable restriction on voting. But if you’re not capable enough to even take care of that, do I really want you picking our next representatives or president?

The Danger Of Constitutional Conventions

The Massachusettes legislature is currently holding a Constitutional Convention for the ostensible purpose of drafting and approving a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage which would then be voted on by the voters. That’s not all that’s on the agenda, though. Here’s a look at a few other things they’ll be considering:

HEALTH CARE — The amendment would require Massachusetts to guarantee every resident access to affordable health care, including mental health care and prescription drugs.

LEGISLATIVE TERMS (1) — The amendment would increase the legislative term from two to four years.

ABSENTEE VOTING (2) — The proposal would eliminate constitutional restrictions on absentee voting, allowing any qualified voter to vote for any officer or question by absentee ballot.

EMINENT DOMAIN — The proposed amendment would prohibit eminent domain takings for the purpose of economic development.

There are other items, most of them technical in nature, and at least one of them, the eminent domain amendment a good idea, but that’s not the point. The Convention was called for one purpose — to vote on a same-sex marriage amendment — and has been expended to include much, much more.

It reminds me of the calls that have come forth at various times for a Constitutional Convention on the national level to pass a proposed amendment that can’t get through Congress. Its been proposed for the ERA, a federal budget amendment, a term limits amendment, a line-item veto amendment, and, most recently an amendment to ban flag burning. The Massachusettes lesson shows, though, that there is no such thing as a Constitutional Convention that is limited to only one purpose. Once such a convention is called and convenes, everything is on the table. In fact, history will note that the Convention of 1787 which resulted in the U.S. Constitution was, in fact, initiated as a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. Little to the Continental Congress know that it would be amended out of existence.

America was fortunate in 1787 in that we had men like Madison, and Hamilton, and Washington, and Franklin who produced a document that, to this day stands as the blueprint for the best system of government yet devised. I shudder to think what would happen if a Convention were called and populated by the likes of Schumer, Pelosi, Frist, Reid, Specter, and Kennedy.

The Nanny State vs. The Family

A case currently making its way through the Virginia Court system illustrates fairly starkly the extent to which the nanny state can intrude on even the most private decisions.

RICHMOND, Va. — A teen cancer patient fighting to use alternative medical treatment for his illness said he told a juvenile court judge in a two-day, closed-door hearing what it’s like to go through chemotherapy and that he didn’t want to relive it.

“I told him my story … so he could understand where I was coming from and live through me,” 16-year-old Starchild Abraham Cherrix said.

(…)

The teen, who goes by Abraham, has Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes.

Three months of chemotherapy last year made him extremely weak. So when he learned in February that his cancer was active again, he turned _ against doctors’ advice _ to a sugar-free organic diet, herbs and visits to a clinic in Mexico.

A social worker asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment.

And, at least initially, the judge agreed with the state and issued a Temporary Restraining Order calling Abraham’s parents neglectful for agreeing with their son’s decision and gave joint custody of the child to the Department of Social Services. That’s right, the Commonwealth of Virginia (well, actually Accomack County) is now officially the parent of a 16 year old boy.

Though it will no doubt be stated differently by the Court, Abraham’s father put the question before the Judge succinctly:

“What it boils down to is does the American family have the right to decide on the health of their child,” Jay Cherrix said, “or is the government allowed to come in and determine that themselves and threaten one way or the other to split our family up?”

The answer to that question will have implications far beyond Virginia.

It seems pretty clear to me, though, that the state has little, if any, right to interfere in what is essentially a private decision for the Cherrix family, and specifically for Abraham. Who is the state social worker to say that his decision is wrong ? As someone who has witnessed first-hand what happens to someone on chemotherapy, its pretty clear that modern cancer therapy is often based on the hope that the chemicals being pumped into the patient will kill the cancer cells before killing the patient. The side effects are visible, painful, and often permanent. Abraham has been through one round of chemotherapy already and, apparently it didn’t work. If he chooses not to subject himself to that again, and his parents support that, that decision should be respected.

Yes, Abraham is 16 and technically a minor, but if its clear that his decision is really his, then what right does the government have to stick a needle in his arm and pump toxic chemicals into his body ? None that I can see.

There’s a similar battle taking place on the other side of the United States, in Seattle, where a mother is facing kidnapping charges for taking her own 9 month old child out of the hospital rather than subject it to an operation.

SEATTLE — To her defenders, Tina Carlsen was a concerned mother exploring natural alternatives to surgery for her 9-month-old infant. To the state, she was a kidnapper who prompted an Amber Alert and an order restricting contact with her toddler until after her trial.

Carlsen was charged with second-degree domestic-violence kidnapping last month after she slipped baby Riley out of a hospital in a diaper bag to avoid surgery ordered by his doctors and a judge. The case has put her at the center of a battle testing the rights of parents and the roles of doctors and judges in disputes over children’s medical treatment.

State judges can override a parent’s wishes concerning such treatment, but the child’s life typically must be in imminent danger.

From the reports, it doesn’t appear that imminent danger exists in either case.

We may not always agree with the decisions that parents make when they raise their children, but that doesn’t justify the state intruding into the family to override those decisions for what it perceives to be the child’s own good.

Carnival Of Liberty LIII

The 53rd edition of the Carnival of Liberty is up at Homeland Stupidity. This week’s carnival includes several reflections on Independence Day as well as a look at many other issues affecting freedom here and abroad. Go check it out.

And, if you’re interested in hosting the Carnival of Liberty in your own blog, let me know. The current list of open hosting dates can be found here.

Interrupting Serious Blogging

I don’t care about Italy winning the World Cup or the latest Pirates of the Carribean movie setting a new Hollywood record.

Serious, liberty-minded blogging will now resume.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Government Regulation And The Housing Market

The Washington Post has interesting article today about the almost complete lack of smaller-sized homes being bult for the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia market.

There are several reasons that this is probably occurring. Land values are so high that it makes more sense for developers to build one large homes rather than two or three smaller homes. The result is a market where it is virtually impossible to find a single-family home for less than $ 500,000, and even townhomes are selling in the $ 400,000 price range. Consumer demand is also cited as a reason only larger homes are being built; homebuyers, so this argument goes, don’t want smaller homes, they want the 3,000, 4,000, and even 5,000 and more square foot homes being built all over the DC area today. There is one factor, though, that seems to me to have the biggest, and most distorting impact of all. Government regulation of land use.

Consider this quote from the article:

Architect Christian Lessard said he and the other developers of MetroWest, the 2,250-home project underway near the Vienna Metro station, would happily build a larger number of smaller homes, but community opposition limited the number of units they could build. To make back the cost of the land, he said, the builders designed the townhouses they were allowed to build to be as large and expensive as possible — about 2,500 square feet, a size that in similar developments sells for about $500,000.

Lessard acknowledged that the outcome was not ideal.

“We’re only designing for 20 percent of the population right now. That can’t last forever,” he said. “As a society, we’ll have a problem because eventually no one’s going to be able to afford this other stuff.”

Well, the problem is that government regulation of land use and house size is distorting the market place. If all the developers can build are larger homes, then thats all that people will be able to buy. And some people will be priced out of the market completely.

Even when people recognize the problem that the regulations are causing, though, the only solution they can seem to come up with is more regulation:

Local government planners say there is little they can do beyond measures in place, such as requiring builders to set aside some units as moderately priced. These policies produce only so many affordable units, and builders generally charge more for the market-rate units to make up the cost of building the set-asides

(…)

Fairfax planning director Fred Selden said the county is considering using incentives to ensure a mix of unit sizes in new condominium and apartment projects, but there are no plans to use cottage zoning or any other means to influence the size of townhouses or single-family homes. There’s no doubt, he said, that developers have an easier time getting approval for projects with fewer, larger townhouses because they produce less traffic and less competition for on-street parking, since bigger units come with more garage space

Here’s a radical idea. Stop telling developers what they can do with their property and let them build housing based on market demand rather than economic necessities created by your regulations. Maybe it just might work.

Defending Marriage

Thought it was a good time to put in my 2 cents. Especially since I’d already written about this issue a couple months ago.

I’m one of those people who don’t believe in gay marriage, but who does believe in civil unions. My reasoning is simple. Marriage is at its evolutionary root about altricial infants, paternal care, and sexual fidelity. In its biological and ecological basis it is identical to the monogamy displayed by the wolf, by south american monkeys, and by certain species of birds. Ergo, a homosexual couple literally cannot be married.

But there’s no denying that homosexuals are just as capable of loving and devoted relationships as heterosexual people–not to mention the fact that these days fewer heterosexual couples are really focused on the family (sorry for the pun), so why should they be denied the rights accorded to heterosexual couples who wish to make the arrangement semi-permanent?

In Defending Marriage, I argued that the best way to protect marriage is to get government completely out of it. There are two reasons for this:

1. Government-sanctioned marriage really is discriminatory. It is a state-enforced privilege offered to some adults but not others based on a choice they make. As such it goes against the core classical liberal principles of freedom of choice and individualism. Privileges for one group can only be maintained by penalties against another.

2. By allowing government to get involved in the marriage business, we politicize it. Marriage becomes not a cultural, historical, and biological phenomenon, but a political tool. And, as in all things of such a nature, marriage will be bent, twisted, and eventually broken in the quest for power.

On Problem 1:

The classical liberal position is one in which the philosophical perspective centers around the individual rather than society at large (which is merely a thin disguise for veneration of the state). Furthermore, the classical liberal position is that for an individual to be free, he must be able to do as he wishes so long as no direct harm comes to another. The flipside of this, of course, is that the state and/or society should have no direct role in the choices the individual makes. Marriage is fundamentally an agreement between two individuals; an agreement of sexual exclusivity, mutual fealty, and dedication to the rearing of their progeny. Marriage is a choice; two free individuals approach the altar, and two free individuals, one carrying the other and both slightly drunk, cross the threshold into the honeymoon suite.

The first problem is that government sanction and/or protection of marriage is essentially interfering with an individual’s choice, positive though the interference may be. In this way, marriage is no different from social welfare in that the state somehow subsidizes a person’s behavior. The second problem is that no individual has more inherent rights than another. Yet when the state sanctions, protects, and subsidizes marriage that is exactly what it proclaims; it gives preferential treatment to those individuals who make a certain choice. The third problem is that because state interference is largely positive, it negatively impacts those who didn’t make the choice to marry. As has been discussed at length, positive interference by the state of any kind represents a reduction of liberty.

We are thus left with the conclusion that state-sanctioned marriage simply does not fit in the classical liberal scheme.

On the second problem:

The problem is that once the state is allowed to grant preferential treatment to married couples, it must defend its decision to do so. Although the preceding section discussed the problematic nature of state-sanctioned marriage from a minarchist position, it must be remembered that Leftists are opportunistically individualists. Marriage happens to be one such issue where it suits them to drop the Statist cloak, if only for a time.

Leftists will reduce marriage down to economic privileges, whether shared tax forms or pooled bank accounts and assets. Or down to legal privileges such as the ‘next of kin’ designation available to the spouse but not to the ‘life partner’. Or even the 5th amendment spousal inclusion. They will then make the valid argument about the lack of equality before the law. Unfortunately, the way their nihilistic minds work is that instead of removing the preferential treatment, or making accordances for it through civil unions, they should redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

And by allowing government to define the word and the concept of ‘marriage’ in the first place, we’ve given leftists the ability to change that definition both politically and culturally.

Most importantly, classical liberals have a healthy distrust for government; it’s one of our hallmarks. Why then should we allow marriage–a meaningful, beloved, and sacred institution–to become something that is defined and enforced by the government?

The solution is a simple one. Get the state out of marriage entirely. No privileges, no tax breaks, no legal protections. Not because marriage isn’t important or valuable. But because it is too valuable to leave in the all too corruptible hands of government. We take our philosophy from the founding fathers. And the historical progenitor of that philosophy was distrust of the state. They distrusted it because it was an inevitability that the state would stop serving the people it was created by. And thus that the more power the state had, the larger a hammer that could eventually be wielded against the people. The state is an evil, albeit a sometimes necessary one. Perhaps because of this it has been a hallmark of our philosophy that the more beloved the ideal, the less involvement of the state we’re willing to grant. By giving the state a role–no matter how small–in defining marriage, we’ve exposed a sacred concept to the same depredations that we fear would happen to our liberty and our property.

Save marriage. Get the state out of it.

Marriage: A Thought Experiment

In Doug’s post below, he talks about the difference between the meaning of civil and religious marriage:

Kellie and I were married in the Roman Catholic Church, which has requirements for marriage that exceed, and are different from, those of civil marriage. That wedding ceremony is what made the marriage official in the eyes of God, not the little piece of paper we got from Cuyahoga County, Ohio the day before.

Imagine that you’ve been married 20 years. You got married in the Church, and signed your papers with the state. All of a sudden, someone from City Hall breaks in with some terrible news. Due to filling out the form wrong, it turns out you’ve not been married at all! Your marriage license is torn up, according to the state, you’re now a single person.

Do you consider the last 20 years a sham? Do you consider yourself any less married than before you heard the news?

I’d say that anyone who considers marriage to be something you do in the eyes of God— typically the largest opponents of gay marriage— would disregard the mid-level City Hall bureaucrat. So how exactly will state recognition of gay “marriage” change their impression of what marriage really means?

Getting Government Out Of The Marriage Business

That’s what one New York Assemblywoman is proposing in the wake of yesterday’s Court of Appeals decision:

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th District, who announced her plan to run for re-election a few hours after the court decision was made public, said this about the court ruling:

“Let’s get government out of the wedding business and have everyone, equally, have a civil arrangement,” she said.

The proposal Lifton supports would replace the word “marriage” with “civil commitment” in state laws, creating a legal contract she said would be accessible to everyone, while leaving the religious aspect of the union to religious institutions.

“Why should state government become a religious institution?” she asked.

I’ve argued before that the government should get out of the marriage business entirely.

If two people, or more for that matter, want to call themselves married, that is their right. The state should not be in the business of defining what is and and is not a marriage, nor should it grant preferntial benefits to one form of marriage over another. Barring that, if the state is going to recognize and grant benefits to married persons, then it should not discriminate in favor of one type of marriage over another.

Kim Preistap doesn’t think its a good idea at all:

Ms. Lifton makes her idea sound so simple: it’s just replacing one word with another, that’s all. But it’s much more than that. It fundamentally turns the institution of marriage, the union of a man and a woman before God and man, into nothing but an impersonal and emotionless legal contract akin to a business transaction. In other words, if gays can’t marry, then no one can.

If that’s what you believe a marriage is, the union of a man and woman before God and man, then what does the state have to do with so fundamentally a religious institution ? Why does the state need to recognize it at all and why does it need to grant that religious institution preferntial benefits in the form of tax breaks and a protected legal status that is not available to unmarried persons ?

Kellie and I were married in the Roman Catholic Church, which has requirements for marriage that exceed, and are different from, those of civil marriage. That wedding ceremony is what made the marriage official in the eyes of God, not the little piece of paper we got from Cuyahoga County, Ohio the day before.

Here’s my proposal. Get rid of civil marriage licenses entirely. Let people decide for themselves what they believe about marriage and let them, if they wish solemnize that union in a church of their choice. We are hundreds of years past the day where the state was involved in religious affairs, it doesn’t need to be involved in this matter either.

Previous Posts:

Gay Marriage, Polygamy, And Individual Liberty

A Vision For A Libertarian Future

Over at Hit and Run, David Weigel writes about the outcome of the recent Libertarian Party convention. Not surprisingly, it seems that, once again, the efforts of those seeking to turn the LP in to something other than a fringe party have come to naught:

Specifically, David laments the failure of a group calling itself the Libertarian Reform Caucus to effect real change in the Libertarian Party.

The LRC adovates ideas that I think make entirely good sense:

Fringe politics does not work in the United States. A political party must appeal to a plurality of voters (effectively, at least 40%) in some districts in order to win elections. Since districts vary, such a party could get away with appealing to less nationwide, but it must at least appeal to 20-30%.

In other words, for the Libertarian Party to be effective, it must appeal to the top 20-30% of freedom-lovers. Appealing to the tiny minority of freedom-lovers who want no government at all, or something very close to that, is a recipe for failure.

The platform and message of the Libertarian Party is extreme, sacrificing practicality and political appeal in favor of philosophical consistency with a single axiom. As such, the party currently appeals only to a tiny fraction of the voting public.

The Libertarian Reform Caucus is working to reform the Libertarian Party, to turn it into an effective tool for increasing liberty.

The fact that candidates that support the LRC agenda were rejected by Libertarian Party members only serves to demonstrate how out-of-touch the Libertarian Party is with reality.

The Start of Privatized Roads?

A good way to beat traffic: Lease major toll roads

If you traveled by road over the Fourth of July, you might have found yourself in a parking lot mistakenly labeled as a highway. That was not the goal 50 years ago as the nation embarked on one of the most successful government programs ever: the interstate system. The 47,000-mile network of roads has been a boon to commerce, employment and family vacations ever since. But the vision isn’t keeping pace with the traffic – or perhaps more precisely, the public isn’t willing to finance the vision.

In the past decade, usage of interstates rose by more than 30%, according to the Department of Transportation, while additions of routes and added lanes increased capacity by only 4%. The problem is simple. Gasoline taxes and tolls, already unpopular, provide a fraction of the money needed to keep traffic from getting worse.

Now comes an idea to get around this problem. A number of states, most visibly Indiana, have proposed leasing major toll roads to private companies. By doing so, they can raise billions of dollars needed to make road improvements elsewhere.

Ideally, such leases would not be necessary. Governments would give highways and public transit systems the funds they need, and they would not shy away from raising the requisite money from the people who use them. That would ensure a network of efficient, carefully integrated transportation systems in ways that a more piecemeal approach cannot. But given the extreme resistance, which dates back decades and shows no signs of abating, leases are the best option for easing gridlock.

Truthfully, I’m not quite sure what to make of this. In some ways, I see this as being a starting point to private funding of the maintenance and operation of toll roads. And if the cost of travel is based on something at least resembling a balance of supply and demand, it actually starts to approximate a market-based system.

But I see some issues, the first of which being that this seems to be simply a shift of money. Road users will still pay for this, but they’ll pay over years and years of higher tolls on this road. At the same time, government either gets a one-time windfall of lease fees, or relies on the toll on this road to subsidize other construction for decades into the future. It’s not a way to make the toll road pay for itself, it’s a way to extort tolls from one road to subsidize the rest of the system. Why should the users of this road be forced to subsidize other roads they never use?

But even more striking is one simple passage: “Gasoline taxes and tolls, already unpopular, provide a fraction of the money needed to keep traffic from getting worse.” This overlooks two crucial problems. First, tax money isn’t always used for the purpose it is supposed to be. Whether it’s a “rainforest” in Iowa, a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, or any of the other places the Porkbusters folks have pointed out, it’s clear it’s not always spent on the roads it’s supposed to be. And this only underscores the second problem: our roads are managed by a central bureaucracy dominated by political interests. Normally I’m all for privatization, because the free market is much more efficient at producing functional systems than the political market. But I feel like this attempt to lease roads is taking a bad system and applying an even worse solution.

What does everyone else think on this one? Anyone think this is a good idea, and willing to explain where I’m wrong?

The Founding Fathers

A frequent commenter here and at The Unrepentant Individual asked me the below question. Given that today we celebrate the official acceptance of the Declaration of Independence, I thought it might be a good day to explain.

I am curious to find out what you think of Benjamin Franklin. I live in Philadelphia and so many institutions were formed or influenced by Franklin. I hardly ever see him discussed. I see a quote or two every now and then.

I sometime read and comment at The Liberty Papers, and when some arguments are supported by the views of the founding fathers; it seems that too few are mentioned. The purpose of government differed even then. Also, are your beliefs about our government based on how it was created or how it ought to be?

I think my views of Franklin fit well with my views of all the founding fathers. Which is to say that, unfortunately, I don’t know as much about them as I would like. I’m still young, to most people, nearing my 28th birthday. Beyond my AP US History class in high school, and some forays onto the History Channel, which is often World War II and newer content, I hadn’t had a chance to really delve into the history of our founders before the last year or two.

Franklin, though, is one of the easier nuts to crack. More has been written on him than on quite a few others. I’ve been watching some documentaries about him over the last few weeks, and he seems to be a truly interesting guy. He seems to be a genius in all aspects of life. But while most academic geniuses tend to have problems with interpersonal communication, Franklin was able to read and play people like an instrument. He knew what buttons to push and when, and his masterful performance while in France meant the difference between America winning and losing our revolution. I have a lot of respect for Franklin, and the way he’s treated in our history books is well-deserved.

But beyond Franklin, most of our founding fathers don’t get a lot of print unless they also became President. For example, when Eric first set up “The Liberty Papers”, he gave the tagline above “Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.” But who was Patrick Henry? What did he give us, beyond the “Give me liberty or give me death!” oration? There’s very little “mass” history about Henry. Looking further, one begins to see a clearer picture. He was an anti-federalist at the time of the Constitution, and worried greatly what giving the power in the Constitution to a federal government would mean to the country. He was largely credited with forcing the Federalists to write a Bill of Rights, and was similarly key in ensuring the 9th and 10th Amendment were included, which, although forgotten by most people today, are intended as serious checks on government power. From what I’ve learned since about Patrick Henry, and from what I’ve learned reading Eric’s writings, I can plainly see why Eric used him. Perhaps if I were choosing, I might say “Written by the heirs of Tom Paine”, as the blogger-pamphleteer angle might be more apt.

Looking back at the founding fathers, I am truly intrigued. We hold up this view of them as stuffy academic white men, living in a theoretical world up on a pedastal, and forget their humanity. Franklin was a flirt, drinking enough wine to ensure gout problems. Washington, although he always said he didn’t want power, wore his dress uniform every day to convince the Continental Congress to put him in charge of the Continental army. Jefferson had quite a few interesting elements, including an affair with one of his slaves. These were real human beings, with flaws and character issues everywhere. Yet they came together to change the course of human history, creating the first modern government that was founded on the nature of individual rights being the fountain from which government flows, not the other way around.

Why are there not more quotes by the Founders? I can’t speak for the other writers here, but I can say for myself, I simply don’t know enough yet to quote them effectively. To a large extent, I understand the basics of how and why they set up the government the way they did, but don’t really have a complete feel for who they were as people. I am learning more every day, and every bit I learn makes me more in awe of what these diverse characters were able to accomplish. And as I’ve said before, the realization that these were real humans (I hesitate to use an expression like “ordinary men”), makes me wonder just what I am capable of. At my age, I’m starting to ask myself what I’m going to do with my life, and part of that question is whether that’s going to be remembered by historians 200 years from now.

As to your last question, my beliefs on government are based on how it should be, not how they set it up. Part of the understanding of the founders as real humans means accepting that they can make mistakes. I try, whenever possible, not to appeal to authority, and say that something must be true because Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson said so. I think our Constitution is impressive, but I think (as I pointed out last week) that it didn’t do enough work to protect us from the growth of government. I don’t think the founders intended the government to grow to its current size, nor do I like it. Thus, I’m doing everything I can to oppose the current state of government that I believe is unconstitutional, but if you asked me what I would like to see, it would certainly include some changes to the Constitution itself.

Carnival Of Liberty LII

Brad Warbiany hosted the very first Carnival of Liberty on July 4, 2005, so it is only fitting that he be the host of Carnival of Liberty 52. Its been one year since the first Carnival of Liberty, and one year since the founding of the Life, Liberty & Property Community. As Brad notes, we’ve come a long way in both endeavours. Here’s to going further in the year to come.

Go check it out and celebrate the birth of the United States of America by reading some great posts about the ideas that helped bring it about.

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