Monthly Archives: April 2007

Not Even to Save the Life of the Mother

Today on The Sean Hannity Show, Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback cleared up his position on the abortion issue. Normally this is not an issue which I like to discuss because I believe there are so many more important issues and I believe that this issue has taken up way too much of the political debate over the past several decades. But what Sam Brownback said in response to one of Hannity’s questions stunned me.

Toward the end of the interview, Hannity asked Brownback if he believed there should be any legal exceptions for abortion such as rape, incest, or the life of the mother. These seem like reasonable exceptions even to the most pro-life (or anti-choice) proponents but not to Sam Brownback. Even Sean Hannity who is very pro-life and very Catholic seemed to be a little taken back by his response.

Brownback clearly stated that there should be absolutely no legal exceptions for abortion. He admitted such a situation would be tragic but also said that “it’s not the baby’s fault.”

This attitude of Brownback’s is completely indefensible. While I do not believe any woman who is a rape victim should be legally required to bring a pregnancy to term, there is still some room to debate whether or not having an abortion is moral. But to say that the government must require a woman to potentially sacrifice her own life for the sake of her baby is absolute violation of her liberty. No person should ever be required by law or expected to sacrifice his or her life or limb for the sake of another for any reason (I similarly am opposed to military drafts for the same reason). If a person is to sacrifice his or her own life, it should only be done voluntarily.

My question to Senator Sam Brownback and his fellow travelers: What is so “pro-life” about taking a woman’s right to life away?

NOTE: I have not been able to locate the trascript of the interview at this time. If I should come across it, I will add the direct quote to the body of this post.

The Republican Party Has Abandoned Liberty

That, in essence, is the conclusion reached by Orange County Register columnist Steven Greenhut as he explains his decision to leave the GOP.

In essence, Greenhut maintains, the Republican Party has abandoned even the pretense of believing in limited government:

Under Republican leadership, the federal government has expanded – without even including war-related spending – far more quickly than it expanded under Bill Clinton. And when it comes to security matters, Republicans have been zealous in giving the feds additional powers to trample our privacy and liberties. Republicans have been unwavering in their support for embarking on nation-building experiments of the sort that traditional conservatives would abhor. The presidential candidates most committed to a muscular central government – Rudy Giuliani and John McCain – are leading the pack.

Now even the rhetoric of freedom is mostly gone. Most “mainstream” Republicans don’t talk about liberty anymore. The advocates for this emerging New Republican Party are becoming surprisingly outspoken. A good example is New York Times “conservative” columnist David Brooks, a former editor at the Weekly Standard, the neoconservative journal that shilled vociferously for war in Iraq. (Hint: The results of that policy might offer some warning to Republicans before they jump too quickly on his latest advice.)

In a column reprinted today (beginning on Page 1 of Commentary), Brooks rebutted those of us who argue that “in order to win again, the GOP has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days. It has to once again be the minimal-government party, the maximal-freedom party, the party of rugged individualism, and states’ rights. This is folly.”

Obviously unaware of the ever-growing Leviathan around him, Brooks claims that the old days of oppressive government are over. The idea of limited government – that silly, fuddy-duddy notion advanced by our Constitution, and ensconced in the Bill of Rights – is so 18th century. Time for something more appropriate for our time!

He’s got a new idea (actually, the oldest of ideas, the one that says that government and power are what matters, and that freedom and individualism are outdated). And he’s even got a catchy slogan for it. He calls it, Security leads to freedom.

Security is freedom, even when obtaining that security means taking away the very freedom that Brooks and other neo-conservatives tell us the terrorists want to take away from us. Even worse, though, Brooks and those like him are proposing that the Republican Party compete with the Democrats for the distinction of being able to spend the most money on the least worthwhile projects:

Traditionally, Republicans believed in negative rights. Yet Brooks thinks that’s a mistake. He writes that the GOP needs to be “oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?).”

Instead of worrying about government spending, and regulating and snooping and launching foreign wars and eroding our civil liberties and imposing crushing tax burdens, and all those silly old fixations, Brooks argues that Republicans have to compete with Democrats in appealing to every soccer mom’s desire for more social programs, more regulations, more protections from hobgoblins. He argues, in a refreshingly albeit frighteningly direct manner, for the final, total rejection of the American founding experiment.

Sure, the Republicans will focus more on terrorism and security issues, and the Democrats will focus more on health care and domestic regulation, but in this Brave New Paradigm, no major party will echo the words of that outdated crank, Thomas Jefferson, who argued that “the sum of good government” is one “which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned.”

Sadly, I think the future Greenhut paints is all too accurate.

The Iron Rule Of Bureaucracy

Megan McArdle writes today about her recent run-in with the TSA  and demonstrates exceedingly clearly just how blind bureaucrats are to the idoicy of the rules they make:

I’ve been in California this weekend, and during that time, I bought a few little sample bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I did not use. So why not take them back with me?

Alas, I had not reckoned with the awesome investigative powers of our Transportation Safety Authority, which pulled my bag off the security conveyor belt faster than you can say “ridiculous application of silly rules”. The offense? The shampoo and conditioner were under the 3.5 ounce limit, but they were not in a plastic ziploc bag.

I offered to put them in a non ziploc bag. No dice. Apparently, only clear plastic bags with a zipper are good enough for Our Girls in Blue. You can always reason with the people at security. You can always reason with your wall, too, and you’ll get about as far as I did. In vain did I explain that the direction to put your belongings in a clear plastic ziploc bag was to make them easy to pull out of your bag and inspect, not because the items represent some independent security threat unless they are enclosed in a baggy.

“They have to be in a ziploc bag,” said the nice security lady.

“What do you think the bag adds?” I asked. “Do you think that the air pressure differential will keep me from opening a ziploc baggy in flight?”

“They have to be in a ziploc bag,” she repeated.

And why ? Because that’s what the rules that have been drilled into her say. Does it matter that the rules make no sense ? Does it matter that there isn’t any functional difference between having the shampoo bottles in a ziploc bag and having them in a non-ziploc plastic bag ? No, because the rules say ziploc.

James Joyner makes this point:

As asinine as TSA regulations are, however — and they are incredibly asinine, by the way — I’m with the commenters who argue against requiring TSA agents to make a lot of decisions. This necessarily requires inflexible and mindless application of seemingly arbitrary rules. Standardization is the essence of bureaucracy.

Which, I would argue, is precsiely what is wrong with bureaucracy.

Happy Tax Freedom Day

According to The Tax Foundation, today is Tax Freedom Day. That means that from January 1st until today, the wages earned by the average American went to pay federal state and local taxes. For the last four months, you’ve been working for the government, now it’s time to earn something for yourself.

Tax Freedom Day® will fall on April 30 in 2007, according to the Tax Foundation’s annual calculation using the latest government data on income and taxes.

“Tax freedom will come two days later in 2007 than it did in 2006,” said Tax Foundation President Scott A. Hodge, “and fully 12 days later than in 2003, when tax cuts caused Tax Freedom Day to arrive comparatively early, on April 18.”

However, 2007’s Tax Freedom Day is still slightly arlier than it was in 2000, when the economic boom, the tech bubble and higher tax rates pushed tax burdens to a record high, and Tax Freedom Day was postponed until May 5.

The trend since 1982 is nicely illustrated here:

Given that we now have a Democratic Congress and a President who doesn’t care about fiscal restraint, you can assume that the upward trend evidence since 2002 will continue.

“There Oughta Be A Law”: A conversation with someone who just doesn’t get it

A few months ago, Arizona passed a statewide comprehensive smoking ban in all work places and public gathering spaces excepting those that earn 51% or more of their revenue from tobacco.

Essentially, as of May first, it will be illegal to smoke in public in Arizona, except on the sidewalk (away from bus stops), in your own car, in a private club, or at a smoke shop.

My wife and I went to a casual Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale for lunch today; and when we asked to be seated they asked us the normal question, “Smoking or Non-Smoking”. A bystander said “Ahh no more smoking as of May first thank god”.

I answered “Non-Smoking”, and then I turned to the gentleman who had spoken and said “Well sir, I don’t smoke, and I would prefer to not have people smoke around me, but this law is a bad thing”.

The gentleman responded “Why’s that?”

“Well sir” I replied “It’s a violation of property rights”.

“Property rights? How can it be a violation of property rights. I just don’t want people smoking around me when I eat”.

“Sir, It’s a question of self determination. A private property owner should be able to determine on his own, whether people can smoke on his property or not. If the government can tell you that people can’t smoke on your private property, they can tell you anything”

“Ok” he replied “I understand what you’re saying and I agree with it as far as it goes; but I don’t want people smoking around me”.

“Well sir, then you should choose non-smoking sections” I countered.

“I do; but why should I have to put up with other people smoking around me at all?” he asked; seeming genuinely puzzled how I (as a non-smoker) could disagree with him.

“Sir” I politely and patiently explained “It’s not your property, it’s not your decision; or the governments for that matter. If you don’t want people smoking around you, you can always go to restaurants that don’t allow smoking. If it is profitable for restaurants to make such restrictions, then they will do so”.

“Some of them already do, and I don’t see why they all shouldn’t”.

At this point I’d given up on the idea that the person could see the problem with what he was saying, but I gave it one more effort responding with “Why should the government, or you for that matter sir, decide what a private property owner can do with his property?”

“But smoking is bad. I just don’t like it. I don’t want people smoking near me”; was his final argument (actually his first, final, and only argument).

He just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand why the government shouldn’t step in and force a private property owner to do whatever HE personally wanted them to do. He thought it was entirely reasonable that his preferences should be made into law, and should infringe on the rights of the property owner. As far as he was concerned, because he didn’t want people smoking around him he ate, then no-one should ever be allowed to smoke in a restaurant.

As we were about to be seated I turned and made one final statement: “Sir, d’you know what the most dangerous words in the English language are? ‘There oughta be a law'”

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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