Monthly Archives: May 2007

How Liberal Law Professors Saved The Second Amendment

The New York Times has an interesting article about how a shift in views on the Second Amendment by leading law professors normally associated with the left led to the case that could transform the debate over gun control:

In March, for the first time in the nation’s history, a federal appeals court struck down a gun control law on Second Amendment grounds. Only a few decades ago, the decision would have been unimaginable.

There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias. That consensus no longer exists – thanks largely to the work over the last 20 years of several leading liberal law professors, who have come to embrace the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns.

In those two decades, breakneck speed by the standards of constitutional law, they have helped to reshape the debate over gun rights in the United States. Their work culminated in the March decision, Parker v. District of Columbia, and it will doubtless play a major role should the case reach the United States Supreme Court.

The article goes on the profile two legal scholars, Laurence Tribe from Harvard and Sanford Levinson from the University of Texas, who have abandoned their previous view that the Second Amendment protects only a “collective” right:

If only as a matter of consistency, Professor Levinson continued, liberals who favor expansive interpretations of other amendments in the Bill of Rights, like those protecting free speech and the rights of criminal defendants, should also embrace a broad reading of the Second Amendment. And just as the First Amendment’s protection of the right to free speech is not absolute, the professors say, the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms may be limited by the government, though only for good reason.

And it was this shift in consensus that led to cases such as Parker v. District of Columbia:

Robert A. Levy, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian group that supports gun rights, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Parker case, said four factors accounted for the success of the suit. The first, Mr. Levy said, was “the shift in scholarship toward an individual rights view, particularly from liberals.”

In other words, ideas have consequences.

Get Fresh On An Airplane, Go Directly To Jail

Another one for the “WTF Files”…

Affectionate passenger gets federal rap

A California man who prosecutors said got a little too friendly with his girlfriend during a flight was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members.

Carl William Persing and his girlfriend were seen “embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable” during the September flight from Los Angeles to Raleigh, according to a criminal complaint.

Persing twice threatened a flight attendant who told the couple to stop and refused to serve them alcohol, prosecutors said. The FBI met the couple when the plane landed in Raleigh.

Persing, 41, will probably serve jail time for the federal felony conviction, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bowler said. He was convicted after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Wilmington.

Defense attorney Deb Newton said her client will appeal.

“He’s devastated,” Newton said, adding that he was defending his right to be left alone.

Charges against girlfriend Dawn Elizabeth Sewell, who was accused of assisting Persing, were dropped this week.

Did you hear that? Federal felony. Let me repeat. FEDERAL FELONY CHARGES for getting too fresh with his girlfriend on an airplane. While he might be in some trouble for threatening the flight attendant, we’re talking about a felony here.

The guy was probably a little drunk, and frankly probably a bit obnoxious. But now he’s going to federal prison. Does that seem like a little bit of overkill?

And as I’m often known to remark… This guy is going to federal prison and his life is probably ruined. Do you feel safer?

George Bush: The GOP’s Albatross

According to the latest MSNBC/Newsweek poll, George W. Bush has the worst approval rating of any President since Jimmy Carter, and he’s holding the entire GOP Presidential field back:

May 5, 2007 – It’s hard to say which is worse news for Republicans: that George W. Bush now has the worst approval rating of an American president in a generation, or that he seems to be dragging every ’08 Republican presidential candidate down with him. But According to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, the public’s approval of Bush has sunk to 28 percent, an all-time low for this president in our poll, and a point lower than Gallup recorded for his father at Bush Sr.’s nadir. The last president to be this unpopular was Jimmy Carter who also scored a 28 percent approval in 1979. This remarkably low rating seems to be casting a dark shadow over the GOP’s chances for victory in ’08. The NEWSWEEK Poll finds each of the leading Democratic contenders beating the Republican frontrunners in head-to-head matchups.

Just as Carter’s downfall was the Iranian Hostage Crisis, it seems that the Iraq War, which remains increasingly unpopular among all segments of the public, is Bush’s downfall and he’s dragging the Republican Party down with him. Even William F. Buckley, Jr, the conservatives conservative, had this to say about the Administration’s Iraq policy and it’s impact on the party:

[B]eyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of war, what is George Bush going to do? It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq. The indicators rise and fall from day to day, week to week, month to month. In South Vietnam there was an organized enemy. There is clearly organization in the strikes by the terrorists against our forces and against the civil government in Iraq, but whereas in Vietnam we had Hanoi as the operative headquarters of the enemy, we have no equivalent of that in Iraq, and that is a matter of paralyzing importance. All those bombings, explosions, assassinations: we are driven to believe that they are, so to speak, spontaneous.


General Petraeus is a wonderfully commanding figure. But if the enemy is in the nature of a disease, he cannot win against it. Students of politics ask then the derivative question: How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? General Petraeus, in his Pentagon briefing on April 26, reported persuasively that there has been progress, but cautioned, “I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and again I note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.”

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

Some will say that Buckley is being overly dramatic, and he probably is. The Iraq War may not bring about the end of the Republican Party as an organized entity, but it could very well force it into the same kind of permanent minority status that it saw in the aftermath of the Great Depression. From 1932 until 1952, not a single Republican was elected President and, even then, it wasn’t a GOP politician who won but a war hero.

Politically, though, the lesson is clear. Republican candidates will suffer at the poll to the extent they are associated with the policies of George W. Bush. Eventually, some enterprising, charismatic Republican somewhere is going to see an opportunity in that fact.

The Real Prostitution Scandal

There has been alot of media coverage over the past several weeks about the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the woman who stands accused of running a call girl operation that catered to the rich and powerful in Washington.

But that’s not the only kind of prostitution that’s going on in our nation’s capital:

Prostitution comes in many forms, especially in Washington. A prostitute is someone “who sells one’s abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose,” according to the second definition given in the American Heritage Dictionary.

Add to the items for sale one’s position of influence, and you can see that prostitution runs rampant in Washington.

Lawmakers sell help to contributors. Policy makers tilt policy toward powerful constituencies. Officials run their corners of government to serve the White House instead of the general public.

The only difference between what Palfrey did and what politicians in Washington and around the country do on a regular basis is that Palfrey was selling sex, while the politicians are selling their nations future. When you think about it, Palfrey really wasn’t harming anyone compared to what the real prostitutes are doing.

H/T: The LP Blog

Jail, … Huh! … What Is It Good For?

A recent Boston Globe article caught my eye: “Correction system ‘mess’ held inmates past their time – Man imprisoned four years too long”

Now, this story is a pretty sad one. A man suffering from schizophrenia is sentenced to 30 years in jail for various assaults, is released on parole, re-arrested for drug possession, released again, rearrested again etc. As a result of his bouncing in and out of parole, and an out of date algorithm in the computer systems used to calculate sentences, he serves 12 years instead of 8 (if I read the article correctly).

Now, it is tempting to go off on a anti-state rant about the indifference of state officials to doing their jobs properly. It is also tempting to attack the drug war in that, as best I can, tell he never actually harmed anyone to prompt his rearrests; he is in jail for a political crime, collateral damage of the War on Some Drugs.

However, I have a more fundamental question: why do we bother with jails anyway? After all, it was an arcane court ruling that changed how sentences should be calculated. If he had never been on parole, or if the court had never made that ruling, the jail time he had served would have been “correct” and there would have been no scandal. This sad man would not have a lawyer preparing the inevitable law-suit. He would be facing a life of poverty, mental illness and probable future arrest or involuntary commitment during his periodic psychotic episodes, and the Boston Globe would not devote tens of inches of precious column space detailing his life.

My question is, what purpose did those extra four years in jail serve? Did they make him a better citizen? Probably not. Did they somehow reimburse his victims for those crimes committed two decades ago? No. Who, other than the prison guards employed at tax-payer expense to restrain him, actually benefitted?

Up until a few hundred years ago, prisons were comparatively rare, and people rarely were imprisoned for more than a few months at a time (prior to the 19th century, prisoners were so poorly treated than surviving more than a year of confinement was pretty much impossible – one of my ancestors apparently lasted less than 6 months on a British prison ship in the early 1800’s). Most crimes were punished either by execution, corporal punishment, public shaming or fines.

The modern prison or penitentiary is the product of an idea that criminals could be reformed by establishing a conducive environment. They would be locked up alone so that they were insulated from corrupting influences or temptations for wrongdoing. They would be fed and well cared for so that they were not distracted by physical distress. And, they would be handed nothing but a Bible to read. Their boredom would lead them to read God’s word, and thus open their hearts to redemption. This idea was so attractive that it was rapidly adopted throughought the western world in the 19th century. Certainly it was more civilized than lashing a prisoner in front of a jeering mob.

However, the modern reader will recognize that prisons do not have this effect. I doubt you can find anyone arguing that a modern supermax prison does anything to civilize people. A longer jail term does not lead to more godly behavior. To the contrary, prisoners are routinely hardened, learn new tricks from fellow inmates and have a better than even chance of landing behind bars again. So why do we bother with jails?

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Guiliani: For AND Against Roe v Wade

During Thursday night’s Republican debate, the great libertarian hero Rudy Giuliani had well…. a confused position on Roe v Wade to say the least.

Maybe be if Giuliani was concerned about something else than lusting for power, his position on Roe v Wade would be much more clear.

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 and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Bush Pulls Out Veto Pen When Dems Control Congress

Bush Administration intends to veto hate crimes bill:

The Administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin. However, the Administration believes that H.R. 1592 is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable. If H.R. 1592 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

State and local criminal laws already provide criminal penalties for the violence addressed by the new Federal crime defined in section 7 of H.R. 1592, and many of these laws carry stricter penalties (including mandatory minimums and the death penalty) than the proposed language in H.R. 1592. State and local law enforcement agencies and courts have the capability to enforce those penalties and are doing so effectively. There has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement, and doing so is inconsistent with the proper allocation of criminal enforcement responsibilities between the different levels of government. In addition, almost every State in the country can actively prosecute hate crimes under the State’s own hate crimes law.

H.R. 1592 prohibits willfully causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to any person based upon the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Administration notes that the bill would leave other classes (such as the elderly, members of the military, police officers, and victims of prior crimes) without similar special status. The Administration believes that all violent crimes are unacceptable, regardless of the victims, and should be punished firmly.

Moreover, the bill’s proposed section 249(a)(1) of title 18 of the U.S. Code raises constitutional concerns. Federalization of criminal law concerning the violence prohibited by the bill would be constitutional only if done in the implementation of a power granted to the Federal government, such as the power to protect Federal personnel, to regulate interstate commerce, or to enforce equal protection of the laws. Section 249(a)(1) is not by its terms limited to the exercise of such a power, and it is not at all clear that sufficient factual or legal grounds exist to uphold this provision of H.R. 1592.

I’m not going to accuse Bush of doing this for political reasons, because his record on hate crimes legislation is clear all the way back to his days as Governor of Texas. I do take issue with this statement’s description of the bill’s Constitutionality, as he hasn’t exactly followed other provisions of that document (i.e. where is No Child Left Behind a power granted to the Feds?). Seems pretty convenient to invoke it now.

But what really strikes me is the thought that if this was being driven by a Republican congress, Bush wouldn’t hesitate to sign it. He signed and championed NCLB. He signed McCain-Feingold, even though he believed it was unconstitutional. He even threatened to veto the Transportation bill if it reached above a certain cost, and signed it anyway when it blew straight through that cost. I have to think if it were his own party asking for this, he’d stamp it and send it right through.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. The best thing that George W. Bush can do is try to veto every bit of pork-filled bad legislation the Democrats throw at him. He should have been vetoing every bit of pork-filled bad legislation the Republicans threw at him for six years. I won’t complain if he starts now, but for him to act as if it’s a constitutional matter doesn’t fool me.

Hat Tip: Cato @ Liberty

Review: The Production of Security – Part 1

The seminal work of free-market anarchism is commonly held to be Gustave di Molinari’s The Production of Security. This document was one of the many great analyses of free-market economics to come out of France during the first half of the 19th century, and questioned the truth of the fundamental belief that

… to secure [their rights], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed (1)

The essay is broken into the following segments:

I – The Natural Order of Society
II – Competition in Security
III – Security an Exception?
IV – The Alternatives
V – Monopoly and Communism
VI – The Monopolization and Collectivization of the Security Industry
VII – Government and Society
VIII – The Divine Right of Kings and Majorities
IX – The Regime of Terror
X The Free Market for Security

This is a fairly long essay, written in a different era, in a different language. Thus even the best translations can require a great deal of effort to read. However, I think it is a useful essay to walk through. Since it is so long and so radical, I thought I would break the document into little chunks and provide commentaries on one chunk at a time. This post will be a commentary on the first two sections, “The Natural Order of Society” and “Competition in Security” » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Canada’s C$1 Million Coin — Got Your Wheelbarrow?

I’m not a big fan of paper* money, but it is a lot easier to carry:

The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a welcome addition to any piggy bank on Thursday — a monster gold coin with a face value of C$1 million (455,000 pounds) that it says is the world’s biggest, purest and highest denomination coin.

Weighing in at 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds), the limited edition coin easily dwarfs its closest rival, the 31 kg (68 pound) “Big Phil”, which was made to honour the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and has a face value of a mere 100,000 euros (C$150,000).

The Canadian mint introduced the mega-coin, which is the size of an extra-large pizza, alongside the one-ounce gold bullion coins it is mass producing at its Ottawa plant.

Originally designed to promote the new one-ounce coins, the colossal 100 kg coins will be produced in a very limited quantity. A U.S. precious metals distributor has ordered three and there is interest in Asia and Europe, the mint said.

At 53 centimetres (21 inches) in diameter and over 3 cm (1.2 inches) thick, the massive coins need a high level of hand crafting.

Well, folks, I’m at a loss on this one. None of the humorous lines I’ve come up with so far are working. So feel free to insert your own snarky remark in the comments…
» Read more

Somalia Mayor Attempts To Seize Guns

Yeah, I’m sure this will work

A former warlord who has long lived by his gun was sworn in as mayor of Mogadishu on Friday and immediately ordered residents of the Somali capital to get rid of their weapons.

But Mayor Mohamed Dheere offered no clear details on how that could be accomplished in a city awash in Kalashnikov rifles, machine guns and hand grenades. Previous efforts to get residents to give up their weapons have been unsuccessful.

What’s “Molon Labe” in Somali?

I think it’s obvious here, as the article points out, that the people don’t want to give up their guns… Except for the suckers* anyway…

The relentless violence is among the reasons many Somalis have been reluctant to give up their arms. But in a hopeful sign for the government, several members of the powerful business community in the capital handed over 25 boxes and 20 sacks filled with weapons, saying they would now depend on government forces to protect them.

What sort of violence are these Somalis guarding against? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not petty thugs and drug dealers. It’s the government-backed Ethiopian military!

Aid groups say 1,670 people were killed between March 12 and April 26 and more than 340,000 of the city’s 2 million residents fled for safety as the government, backed by Ethiopian troops, pressed to wipe out an Islamic insurgency.

Funny… The citizens refuse to give up their guns as a hedge against an overreaching government that is attempting to oppress them. Where have I heard of that before?
» Read more

The Economics of the 2nd Amendment

I don’t think I could say it better, so I’ll just let David’s words stand on their own.

“Suppose one little old lady in ten carries a gun. Suppose that one in ten of those, if attacked by a mugger, succeeds in killing the mugger instead of being killed by him — or shooting herself in the foot. On average, the mugger is much more likely to win the encounter than the little old lady. But — also on average — every hundred muggings produces one dead mugger. At those odds, mugging is an unprofitable business — not many little old ladies carry enough money to justify one chance in a hundred of being killed getting it. The number of muggers declines drastically, not because they have all been killed but because they have, rationally, sought safer professions.”
— David Friedman
Source: Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life (New York: Harper, 1996), p. 299

More Ethanol ? More Expensive Beer

It’s not just milk prices that are feeling the effect of the government mandates for increased production of ethanol, now it’s starting to impact the price of beer as well:

Der Spiegel Online reports that a 2006 barley shortage will raise the wholesale price of German beer this May. Many brewing industry lobbyists attribute the price rise to farmers forgoing barley for corn in order to satisfy the global demand for biofuels, especially from the United States. In the past year, the price of barley has doubled on the German market, from €200 to €400 per ton.

But it’s not just Germany that is set to see soaring beer prices. The chief executive of Heineken (the Dutch brewer) warned in February that the expanding biofuel sector was starting to cause a “structural shift” in European and U.S. agricultural markets, which could precipitate a long-term upward shift in the price of beer. Already, futures prices for European malting barley have risen since last May by 85 percent to more than €230 a ton, and barley production in the United States has fallen to 180.05 million bushels (in 2006)—the lowest level since 1936. Global stockpiles of barley have shrunk by a third in the last two years. All of this augurs ill for beer drinkers, who may soon be paying significantly more for their pints.

Talk about a policy that really impacts Joe Six-Pack.

Winners & Losers Of The GOP Debate

The first major day of the 2008 campaign on the Republican side just finished. It had a couple of surprises, at least from what I could see. So here’s my take on the winners and losers. Of course, this is an incredibly subjective analysis, so take it for what you will:

Winners: Winner being the guy who will make the most upward move.

John McCain – To be fair, I don’t like John McCain. I will not vote for him. But he is, in my opinion, the undoubted winner of this debate. He’s spent many years as a politician, and he knows how to handle himself on camera in the spotlight. He was poised, yet strong. He managed to balance on the head of a pin when it comes to supporting the war but distancing himself from its mismanagement. I think he’ll pick up some points in this one. If he does earn the nomination, of course, it could make for a very interesting general election. Many conservatives don’t like McCain, and many liberals don’t like Hillary. Imagine if two hated candidates faced each other?

Positive: For one candidate, this is holding steady in a major role. For another, this is simply trying to get enough notice to move up a few points.

Mitt Romney – A lot of people are saying he won the debate. I think he did well, but something about him just didn’t fit. He seemed too polished, too “rehearsed”. I don’t know quite what to make of him, he seemed to say the right things but didn’t seem to be completely sincere. I think his history as a flip-flopper may be coloring my impression of him, but while I think he kept a solid position, I didn’t see him really step up to the plate. But he did well enough to keep his status as a major candidate, and will likely pick up some points as the others drop off. (If Fred Thompson comes in, though, he’s toast).

Mike Huckabee – As a second-tier candidate, he needed to make a splash. He didn’t. However, his one joke line about Arnold might get him a little TV time on the late-night talk shows, and he did seem to carry himself fairly well. I think he did well enough to get him a little more notice, which will help, but likely not be enough unless he manages to do better in a few weeks. He did do enough to differentiate himself from the pack, while still being a solid conservative, so I think he’s gained a little bit.

Tom Tancredo – Again, I don’t agree with him on his immigration policies. But he seemed good up there, and I think some of his other points were fairly good. Good on federalism, spending, anti-national-ID, etc. I think he’s done enough as the single-issue anti-immigrant candidate (much like Ron Paul has cleared out the single-issue anti-war position) to at least make people remember him, and his other points may appeal to libertarian-oriented folks. And that’s red meat that will play with red state conservatives much better than Ron Paul’s.

Neutral: For semi-major candidates, this is holding neutral. For 2nd-tier candidates, this is doing enough to get yourself remembered.

Sam Brownback – Again, like McCain, this isn’t a guy who I’d vote for. But he seemed to carry the social conservative mantle well. I don’t think he’ll gain any points, but he didn’t lose any. He’s semi-major, in that a lot of people know who he is. I don’t think he really improved his stock much, but he didn’t slide.

Ron Paul – I’d love to say he did better. However, I think his constant harping on the anti-war point, even when the question had nothing to do with it, will hurt him. I might be wrong on this point, but I think that mainstream pro-war republicans might already be writing him off. He does have one advantage, though, he was saying different things than the other guys up there. He might have done something to differentiate himself. Yet at the same time, it seemed like he was relying on the intelligence of the audience instead of their emotions, which again may hurt him. So I’ve got to grade him “neutral”, while hoping I’m wrong.

Losers: For one major candidate, this may just be a blip in the radar. For the 2nd-tier folks, this is a nail in the coffin.

Rudy Giuliani – I really think he’s having delusions that he’s been possessed by the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Most responses either referenced Reagan or how he “saved” New York. When abortion came around, he hemmed and hawed and made no sense. When the question of how the candidates are different from Bush came around he stepped right in line with Bush. He seems willing to decide issues when he’s conservative enough for the Republicans and push issues to the courts when he’s not (i.e. abortion, Schiavo). Overall, I think he created some questions about himself that will erode his support. He’s got enough juice to turn it around if he can play it right, but this certainly showed some big cracks in his armor. I think this might be the first sign to true conservatives that he’s not one of them.

Tommy Thompson – Thompson said the right things, but his delivery is off. He seems like the type who could handle the job, but can’t handle the media pressure-cooker. Listening to him on the issues, I liked a lot of what I heard… Federalism, taxes, etc. Not a fan of his funding for stem cells, though. But really, he just didn’t seem comfortable in the spotlight.

Duncan Hunter – I barely knew when he was talking. He didn’t seem to wow. He’s all the negatives of Tom Tancredo and none of the positives.

Jim Gilmore – Less obtrusive than doorstop Duncan Hunter. My response to Gilmore: who? Didn’t appear to be anything more than a suit spouting platitudes.

It’s too early to tell what will happen next, as there’s another debate soon enough that nobody is going to drop out of the race yet. But I think the writing is on the wall for a few candidates, and unless they make some changes very quickly, this field will narrow soon.

GOP Debate Liveblogging

The first Republican party debate of the 2008 is set to begin in about 15 minutes. Right now on MSNBC, which the debate will be shown on, the most vicious partisan hack on television, Keith Olbermann, is doing a pre-debate show.

Quickly, all the candidates have a to do list for tonight. The differences in their list are based on their position in the national and early state polls and how well known they are nationally. Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney need to show that they actually have principles that actually don’t change with the latest poll and/or election. Sam Brownback needs to show that he has more issues than banning gay marriage and abortion. Mike Huckabee needs to demonstrate that he is actually a fiscal conservative. Duncan Hunter needs to actually connect with Republican voters. Tom Tancredo needs to show that he has more issues than stopping illegal immigration. Ron Paul needs to increase his profile with actual Republican voters and actually address issues the Republican base cares about. Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore both desperately need a Mike Gravel moment.

Tonight will also be a factor as to whether or not men like Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, and Chuck Hagel will get into the presidential race.

6:58 PM (all times in Central): Expect no major fireworks tonight. Everyone’s going to be on their best behavior, according to one of the MSNBC hacks, because Nancy Reagan is in the audience.

7:00 PM: Let the games begin.

7:02 PM: Ron Paul will accomplish part of he needs to do tonight, just by where he’s placed; between John McCain and Rudy Guiliani.

7:03 PM: Candidates not allowed to bring in notes; this will be interesting.

7:03 PM: Guiliani is citing his record in New York, comparing himself to Reagan by claiming he turned New York City around. He’s making an appeal to strength.

7:04 PM: McCain on Iraq; basically he’s saying he needs to show success in Iraq and continuing to fight. He’s attacking Harry Reid and he’s giving the worst case scenario. He says Bush is doing a heck of a job.

7:06 PM: Tommy Thompson is calling for al-Malaki’s Iraqi government to decide whether or not they want us there, calling for federalism, and sharing of the oil among the Iraqi people, national government, and state government. Not a bad plan.

7:07 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to build up the Iraqi Army.

7:08 PM: Mitt Romney doesn’t listen to the polls. Yeah right.

7:09 PM: Sam Brownback wants to stand up for our values and work with those who are with us in the War on Terror. We have the Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton candidate in this race.

7:11 PM: Sam Brownback wants to engage the “moderate Muslim” states.

7:11 PM: Mike Huckabee would have fired Donald Rumsfeld before the 2006 election. He’s accusing Bush of not listening to the generals. I’m guessing he doesn’t read polls either.

7:12 PM: Jim Gilmore is dodging a question about whether or not a shakeup in the Bush cabinet would be a good thing. He’s giving a stump speech about the Middle East.

7:13 PM: Ron Paul is talking about a non-interventionist foreign policy. He’s discussing how Republicans have traditionally run on it. Although I wouldn’t have cited Nixon as an example. He’s bashing the UN. He knows his audience.

7:15 PM: John McCain, “Iran is a bad country, but I’m not sure what I would do about it”. Will bomb Iran on behalf of Israel though if they get a nuke.

7:17 PM: Tom Tancredo addressing something other than immigration. Will aid Israel if Iran threatens them.

7:20 PM: Mitt Romney will move heaven and earth after all to get Bin Laden. He’s actually describing the real enemy, Islamofascism in general.

7:18 PM: Rudy Guiliani citing Ronald Reagan again. Saying Iranians must see Ronald Reagan.

7:19 PM: Jim Gilmore babbling about how we need to catch Bin Laden.

7:21 PM: John McCain asked whether or not Tom Tancredo should be head of ICE. McCain says no. Now making a speech about he’ll capture Bin Laden.

7:22 PM: This stupid question from Chris Matthews about changing the constitution to allow foreigners to run for president. Comment of note: Ron Paul tries to be funny but fails with a joke about original intent.

7:24 PM: Rudy Guiliani in response to a question about his record concerning African-Americans in New York City touts his record….again.

7:24 PM: Mitt Romney asked what he hates about America. Turns it into what he likes about the American people and cites Reagan. Not bad.

7:25 PM: Mike Huckabee got a question about global warming. He dodges it with a speech about how we need to leave the planet in better shape than we got it.

7:26 PM: Tom Tancredo says government should not be involved in organ donation supply. He makes a speech against cloning.

7:27 PM: Duncan Hunter calls himself a compassionate conservative. Calls for war against Iran. Scratch another one off the list.

7:28 PM: Ron Paul will end the IRS and he’s calling for smaller government….a dramatically smaller government.

7:29 PM: Guiliani tries to take both sides of Roe vs Wade. Every other Republican is against it.

7:30 PM: Jim Gilmore is a pro-lifer, except in the first trimester.

7:30 PM: Tommy Thompson wants abortion decided by states.

7:31 PM: Mitt Romney asked about his flip-flopping on abortion. He studied it at great length…trust him.

7:32 PM: Sam Brownback will support pro-choice court nominees. He likes a big tent.

7:33 PM: Rudy Guiliani flip-flops (again) on taxpayer funding on abortion. He’s against it tonight.

7:34 PM: John McCain is using his experience as an asset. Vote for him, he’s a career politician.

7:35 PM: Duncan Hunter is now touting his membership on House Armed Services Committee. Playing the China card.

7:35 PM: Mike Huckabee says America is a great nation because the people are great, not the government. Unfortunately is record says the opposite. The most important issue is life.

7:36 PM: Ron Paul says the freedom message unifies all conservatives. Says we’re too concerned about nations with no army, no navy, or air force after we stand up to the Soviets.

7:38 PM: Mitt Romney doesn’t care who Catholics give communion to.

7:38 PM: Tommy Thompson says companies should make their own decisions on hiring and firing of gays. Imagine that.

7:39 PM: Mike Huckabee says his faith impacts his decision making process. Dodges the question about him attacking Romney on that issue.

7:40 PM: If Mitt Romney had core principles, I could like him. He turned Huckabee’s attack into a positive thing.

7:41 PM: Sam Brownback says faith is important to this country.

7:42 PM: Duncan Hunter says the key to winning is building a wall on the Mexican border. Yep, that worked last year.

7:43 PM: Jim Gilmore dodges question about Karl Rove. It was a stupid question and he’s turning against Chris Matthews and getting out his stump speech.

7:44 PM: Tom Tancredo will fire Karl Rove. They hate each other. He’s playing the outsider.

7:44 PM: Rudy Guiliani says Christian conservatives are nice, but we need to reach out. He’s a conservative, trust him.

7:45 PM: Tommy Thompson “I’m really a conservative”. My response, Medicare Part D.

7:46 PM: Sam Brownback “Democrats are corrupt too”. We need more morals and to rebuild the family to prevent government corruption. He will lead by example…a bold new idea for a government official.

7:47 PM: Tom Tancredo “a conservative can be elected president”. He calls Guiliani an opportunist.

7:48 PM: John McCain is ranting about the “special interests”. Republicans spent too much.

7:49 PM: John McCain wants a line-item veto. He wants to stop the pork in defense acquisitions. Sites the DDX program. Programs must justify their existence. My pick if he didn’t support McCain-Feingold.

7:51 PM: Mike Huckabee won’t grade Bush on Iraq.

7:51 PM: Mitt Romney says he’s the real pro-lifer. Attacks McCain-Feingold.

7:52 PM: Rudy Guiliani is “personally pro-life”.

7:53 PM: Tommy Thompson wants to unite the country to end racism.

7:53 PM: Tom Tancredo clears it up, he is the single issue anti-immigrant candidate in this race.

7:55 PM: John McCain is working on an immigration bill. Bush likes his bill.

7:55 PM: Duncan Hunter did not watch Al Gore’s movie, but he wants to solve global warming and be energy independent.

7:56 PM: Ron Paul when asked about when he made a critical decision in a crisis, says nothing. He attacks the Iraq War, again. He’s coming off as too angry.

7:57 PM: Jim Gilmore does his best with a stupid question about unwed mothers in jail. Reminds everyone that he was governor during 9/11.

7:58 PM: Mitt Romney is doing very well tonight. He’s making stem cell research seem interesting.

7:59 PM: Sam Brownback is against embryonic stem cell research.

7:59 PM: All candidates except Tommy Thompson, John McCain, and Rudy Guiliani are against embryonic stem cell research. Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul make federalist arguments against it.

8:01 PM: Mitt Romney likes RomneyCare. Touts it as a free market program, the facts say otherwise.

8:03 PM: John McCain called on his flip-flopping on the Bush tax cuts. He says he opposed it because there were no spending cuts.

8:03 PM: Mitt Romney thinks middle-income Americans should have 0% taxes on capital gains.

8:04 PM: Sam Brownback likes an optional flat tax.

8:04 PM: Jim Gilmore wants to kill the AMT.

8:04 PM: Mike Huckabee supports the FairTax. Still don’t trust him.

8:05 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to keep jobs in America. It’s the damn foreigners. He likes Kerry’s plan to stop outsourcing.

8:05 PM: Tommy Thompson wants to kill AMT and a flat tax.

8:06 PM: John McCain, no AMT and a $3,000 tax credit for health insurance. A flatter, fairer tax.

8:06 PM: Ron Paul, get rid of income tax. Get rid of inflation tax. No one knows what he’s talking about.

8:07 PM: Rudy Guiliani, keep Bush tax cuts with minor cuts.

8:08 PM: Tom Tancredo, FairTax plus killing the 16th Amendment. Wants spending reforms. If he wasn’t the single issue candidate, I would like him.

8:08 PM: John McCain, I like Democrats but I can’t name any.

8:09 PM: Duncan Hunter, government kills very well; but can’t secure the border.

8:10 PM: John McCain believes in evolution. Another irrelevant question.

8:10 PM: Mitt Romney wants an entirely new team. Very good answer.

8:12 PM: Rudy Guiliani knows the difference between Sunnis and Shias.

8:12 PM: Mike Huckabee is the consistent conservative, except for flip-flopping on taxes and immigration.

8:13 PM: Ron Paul likes the Internet. Turns a stupid question about the lamestream media into a good argument about freedom.

8:13 PM: Sam Brownback says faith is an influence on his foreign policy views. He likes a compassionate foreign policy. Again, Jimmy Carter likes him.

8:14 PM: Rudy Guiliani won’t admit any weaknesses, very smart.

8:15 PM: Sam Brownback is being the nice guy, very smart.

8:15 PM: Jim Gilmore wants to fight outsourcing. So far, we have Hunter, Paul, Gilmore, and Tancredo fighting to be the heir to Buchanan.

8:16 PM: Tom Tancredo likes women, but he’s against abortion.

8:17 PM: Tommy Thompson doesn’t know how many have died or been wounded in Iraq. Another stupid question.

8:17 PM: Rudy Guiliani supports national IDs. If I’m understanding him correctly, it’s only for immigrants.

8:18 PM: Mitt Romney touts Salt Lake City Olympics as his security experience. Supports ID for immigrants.

8:19 PM: Sam Brownback let it slip, Social Security numbers are a National ID.

8:19 PM: John McCain is against hiring illegal aliens.

8:19 PM: Ron Paul is passionately against a national ID.

8:20 PM: Tom Tancredo is also against a National ID, cites Dr. Paul in his reasons.

8:20 PM: Mitt Romney is against the prosecution of Scooter Libby.

8:21 PM: Sam Brownback dodges the question. But feels Libby was railroaded.

8:21 PM: Jim Gilmore also dodges the question.

8:22 PM: Tom Tancredo wants to pardon Scooter Libby after the two Border Patrol agents are pardoned.

8:23 PM: Ron Paul supports jailing Libby, it appears based on his role in the Iraq War leadup.

8:23 PM: Mitt Romney, all sides were right, except for Congress, on Terry Schiavo.

8:24 PM: Sam Brownback supports Congressional action on Terry Schiavo.

8:24 PM: John McCain, Congress should have taken more time.

8:24 PM: Rudy Guiliani, courts should have settled the issue.

8:25 PM: The Republicans are against Bill Clinton’s third term and Hillary too.

8:26 PM: Duncan Hunter says Congress did the right thing on Terry Schiavo.

8:26 PM: Tommy Thompson says no National ID, Congress wrong on Schiavo, and Clinton and all Democrats suck.

8:28 PM: Mitt Romney is his own man, respects Bush’s character, and agrees with the War on Terror.

8:29 PM: John McCain would not have mismanaged the war, vetoed a spending bill.

8:29 PM: Jim Gilmore talks about Homeland Security, not sure what’s he’s saying.

8:29 PM: Mike Huckabee supports federalism.

8:30 PM: Duncan Hunter wants to protect industrial jobs from the evil Chinese.

8:30 PM: Sam Brownback wants to create a Swiss-style federation in Iraq.

8:30 PM: Tom Tancredo is slamming Bush on spending, overreach, and was saying something on Iraq.

8:31 PM: Tommy Thompson is repudiating BushCare, touts his Iraq plan, and wants more Fulbright scholarships.

8:32 PM: Rudy Guiliani wants to change nothing.

8:32 PM: Ron Paul attacks Bush on foreign policy and civil liberties.

Debate is over.

Debate Wrap-up:

Overall, not as bad as I thought it would be. They did jab at each other and candidates did go off the script.

As for who did well, I believe several candidates did well. Mitt Romney had a great night and he did very well. John McCain was more like his candidacy in 2000 as the maverick. Tom Tancredo, despite his best efforts, showed he was more than just a single issue candidate. Mike Huckabee is not only answering criticisms about his fiscal record in Arkansas, but is outlining some bold fiscally-conservative positions.

As for everyone else:

Sam Brownback failed to gain traction on anything other than abortion; except for his rhetoric about a political solution on Iraq. Funny thing is, he doesn’t give what his political solution is.

Ron Paul came off as too angry, but once you got past that, you tell he has very reasoned arguments for his positions. He also needs to start discussing issues other than the Iraq War or he’ll fall into the single issue trap that Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, and now Duncan Hunter are falling into.

Jim Gilmore came off as an empty suit with no issue ideas or serious accomplishments. He talked more about Virginia’s car tax than the Federal tax system. He’ll be out by Iowa.

Tommy Thompson has many great ideas, but he needs to work on his technique as Brad points out in the comments

Rudy Guiliani under performed and came off as too much of an authoritarian. I think after tonight we can drop the “Rudy is a libertarian leaner” meme.

Finally, Duncan Hunter was too much of a protectionist and a big government conservative. He just guaranteed that he won’t receive the Club For Growth endorsement.

The next debate and probable live blog will be May 15 when the Republicans debate again.

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 and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Why Is The Federal Government Worried About “Hate Crimes” ?

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would add sexual orientation as a category to which existing federal “hate crimes” legislation would apply:

WASHINGTON, May 3 — The House of Representatives voted today to extend “hate crime” protection to people who are victimized because of their sexuality. But the most immediate effect of the bill may be to set up another veto showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

By 237 to 180, the House voted to include crimes spurred by a victim’s “gender, sexual orientation or gender identity” under the hate-crime designation, which now applies to crimes spurred by the victim’s race, religion, color or national origin.

“The bill is passed,” Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is gay, announced to applause, most of it from Democrats.

Similar legislation is moving through the Senate. But even assuming that a bill emerges from the full Congress, it will face a veto by President Bush on grounds that it is “unnecessary and constitutionally questionable,” the White House said before the House vote.

The House did not pass the bill by a margin wide enough to override a veto, which requires a two-thirds majority. The Senate is not expected to do so either.

I’m about to write something I don’t think I ever have here at The Liberty Papers…….. President Bush is absolutely correct about this one. The Federal Government does not belong getting involved in prosecuting crimes like this; this should be exclusively a matter for the states.

Personally, I don’t think very much of hate crime laws. If you’re assaulted, does it really matter why someone did it ? And why is it right to punish someone more severely because of who their victim was ? Nonetheless, if states choose to make assaulting someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, then they are free do so.

Andrew Sullivan is, not surprisingly, upset about the threatened  veto and has this to say about the federalism argument:

The federalist argument equally applies. If it is the position of the feds that this should be left entirely to the states, fine. But to say that the feds have a role in matters of race and religion, but not sexual orientation again makes no logical sense, unless the federal government wants to send a strong message about the moral and human and political inferiority of gay people.

From my point of view, though, the federalism argument applies equally against other existing federal “hate crimes” laws. Quite honestly, I think those laws should be repealed and the matter left to the states, where it belongs. Moreover, though, as Dale Carpenter points out, there’s more to this bill than just adding sexual orientation to existing laws:

 The problem with this criticism, however, is that the bill does much more than simply add “sexual orientation” to the existing federal law on hate crimes passed in 1968. It’s a whole new statute. Protecting gays is only one element, though the most publicized. The bill considerably expands federal jurisdiction over hate crimes in general, for all categories, by eliminating the current requirement that the crime occur while the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity. That jurisdictional limitation has kept federal involvement very limited in an area where state authority has traditionally reigned. The new law also calls for more federal resources to be expended on all classes of hate crimes. The veto of an amendment merely adding sexual orientation to existing federal law would pretty clearly reflect an anti-gay double-standard. A veto of this much more comprehensive bill does not.

Given this, the bill is positively screaming to be vetoed. Hopefully, President Bush will follow through with his threat.

Hugo Chavez Isn’t Done Yet

Fresh off of Tuesday’s nationalization of Venezuela’s oilfields, Hugo Chavez is now threatening to nationalize the nation’s banks and steel industry if they fail to comply with his wishes:

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez renewed his nationalization threats and this time threatened steel company Sidor and Venezuela’s banks with a possible state takeover.

If Sidor fails to prioritize steel for local production “they will force me to nationalize it,” Mr. Chavez said in televised remarks. “I would rather not do it … Sidor takes raw material overseas to produce stainless steel pipes. We cannot allow that.”

The leftist leader also noted that the banking system must help finance companies under the new Socialist system he promotes.

“Privately owned banks must prioritize low-cost financing for Venezuela’s industry. If they don’t want to do this they can leave, they can give us the banks, we can nationalize them.”

Never mind Francisco D’Anconia. Where the heck is Midas Mulligan ?

Only Explicit Rights Are Recognized

It’s long been noted that our Federal Government has grown in scope and hubris to the point where they don’t see any limits to their powers except that which is explicitly forbidden by the Bill of Rights, and even then they try to get around it (McCain-Feingold, warrantless wiretaps, etc). Usually, though, they try to couch their actions as if they’re balancing our rights with “compelling government interests”, not suggesting that those rights simply don’t exist. But one of them slipped up

“The constitutions of the United States and the state of Ohio do not recite any ‘right to smoke in public'; controlling precedent creates no such right; and other courts have held that there is no such right,” Nelson wrote.

He also refuted the businesses’ claim that the ban violates their right to use their property as they see fit. They had argued the case is similar to the recent eminent domain case in Norwood, where homeowners won in court after the city tried to take their property.

Nelson said the smoking ban is different.

Rather than taking the property, he said, the state is imposing regulations on the businesses, similar to other safety and health code requirements.

The judge’s ruling seemed to express some sympathy for the plight of bar and restaurant owners, some of whom claim the ban will run them out of business.

But he said the law is constitutional.

The Constitution of the United States and Constitution of Ohio don’t recognize the right to wear plaid on Tuesday, but I would think rational people would consider it an invasion of privacy and our individual rights to ban that activity. Those Constitutions don’t recognize our right to eat meat on Friday during Lent, but I would suggest that if government tried to ban it, it would result in calls of “Theocracy!” from the same people who want to ban smoking. It further shows a misunderstanding between something that is done “in public” and “on private property”, dramatically restricting our right to enjoy the latter.

I touched on this here, a post that was inspired by reading Randy Barnett’s Restoring The Lost Constitution. In that book, Barnett argues that our Constitution was designed with a presumption of liberty in mind; anything the government is not explicitly given power to do is prohibited. We’ve moved to a presumption of Constitutionality; anything not explicitly forbidden by the Constitution is allowed. I’ve recommended on several occasions that people read the book, as it clearly explains how the Constitution was eviscerated in order to make this change.

One thing it doesn’t really discuss at length is WHY this is so important. A world where government can do anything they haven’t been explicitly forbidden to do is dangerous. Fear of this situation is specifically where the 9th and 10th amendments come from. Trying to claim that government doesn’t have unlimited power is like trying to prove a negative. After all, anything not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution— like breathing, for example— may be regulated by the State.

Under this paradigm, the government doesn’t have to justify what it’s doing. Overwhelming power, mixed with a nearly complete lack of accountability, with a dash of egotistical nanny-statism, is a recipe for disaster.

Hat Tip: Reason

The Heck With The Queen Of England

Tomorrow, a woman by the name of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor-Mountbatten will be visiting the free and independent United States of America.

She calls herself Queen Elizabeth II.

As you may be aware, we fought a war about 229 years ago to liberate ourselves from her tyrannical predecessors.

Nonetheless, I am amazed at the fact that American citizens are so eager to abject themselves to a woman who is famous for nothing other than the fact than the fact that she is distantly gentically linked to a bunch of guys who beheaded people to establish their rule over the British Isles.

Jacqueline Bowens knows how to decipher the intricacies of life or death trauma, but the directives from Buckingham Palace have her flummoxed.

” ‘Day Dress’ for the women,” frets the Children’s National Medical Center vice president. “We’re thinking that’s Business Attire.”

“Or are we supposed to wear dresses?” worries Terry Orzechowski, the Washington hospital’s director of volunteer services. ” Can woman wear pants to meet the queen?”

“Have you ever seen a woman wearing pants and meeting the queen?” Bowens asks. Orzechowski doesn’t answer.

Today, on her private charter British Airways Boeing 777, Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Richmond, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip. On Sunday, they will head to Washington with their entourage of 35 — a group that will not include a private chef but does include dressers and hairdressers.

Mastering the royals’ esoterica is sending American staffs from Richmond to Washington to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt into a fear-tinged tizzy. E-mails are pinging back and forth between the queen’s page and the director of the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. In the last week alone, 300,000 people have clicked on a special Virginia Web site, seeking info about the arrival of Her Majesty. At NASA, when Goddard officials offered a chance for 200 employees to simply sit in an auditorium with the queen, 900 responses immediately flooded back.

Okay, let’s get this straight people.

We won the Revolutionary War.

We owe no allegiance to the British Throne.

When it comes to the British Royal Family (to the extent you can call the Buckingham Place rendition of “Married With Children” a family) we owe them nothing.

No respect.


Is it nice that she’s visiting my home state ? Maybe.

But, frankly, I don’t think we need to fawn over this woman. Don’t genuflect. Don’t bow. She is not your superior. She’s just a nice (maybe) lady who lives in another country.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Successful Dentist Shut Down By Florida Government…

…because he didn’t get the government’s permission.

Roger Bean, 60, was arrested on Tuesday and held on a $US6,000 bond.

Bean performed denture fittings and made false teeth in his garage, charging just $US200 for a full set of dentures, a procedure that typically costs more than $US2,000, authorities said.

But he was not licensed to practice in Florida.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detective Don Zumpano said there were “health risks with operating this type of facility outside of your house”, adding that Bean’s workspace was “filthy”.

Neighbours and clients, however, praised Bean for saving them thousands of dollars.

Ron St. Mary, 73, head of the neighbourhood crime watch, said Bean is no criminal.

“He’s helping the old people who don’t have a few dollars,” he said. “I think the world of him.”

Truthfully, he wasn’t quite a dentist. Much like the hair-braiders, Bean was simply providing a service that some dentists provide, that doesn’t really require the full training a dentist requires, for a much smaller fee. Nor did anyone think he was a licensed dentist, if he was working out of his “filthy garage”. But consumers understood that he could fit them for dentures for $200, while “real” dentists would charge 10 times as much.

Now, I’m not sure how much training it really takes to fit a mold and put together some dentures. But I didn’t hear any information in this story that suggests customers were complaining. What I do know, however, is that to become a dentist is much more in-depth than just fitting dentures. You learn enough to be entrusted with prescribing medicine and administering anesthesia, something that Bean did not do.

When you hear about something like this, you have to ask yourself who is helped. People who need dentures don’t seem to benefit. On the contrary, it’s dentists, who have now shut down a competitor and can charge 10 times what he charged for the same service. Who benefits from licensing? Is it the consumer? Nope… Milton Friedman laid it out quite succinctly:

State licensing rules limits entry into the professions, thereby allowing professionals to charge higher fees than if competition were more open. That (more than the public interest) is why professionals love licensing.

While you may think that stopping Roger Bean protects the public, I’d ask you to look at those old people who can’t afford $2000 for dentures. Does stopping Bean really help them?

Can A Military Coup Ever Be Justified ?

Several bloggers have written today about this quote from Thomas Sowell:

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

I think it’s perfectly clear that this was somewhat of a throw-away line on Sowell’s part; and definitely hyperbole. Nonetheless, it’s set off quite a discussion.

Steven Taylor for one didn’t hold back:

One wonders if Sowell has ever actually studied countries where the assumption was that the military could sweep in and “fix” things.

Clearly there are people out there, who ought to know better, who prefer democracy only when it produces the outcomes that they like.

A military coup as a throw-away suggested cure for what ails us? Quite frankly, that is an obscene suggestion.

Steven Bainbridge suggests that, because of the culture that has developed in the Armed Services over the past 200 years, it’s unlikely that the military would ever overthrow the government in this country. And, finally, James Joyner points out that even if such a coup did succeed, it would take away not only the civilian government, but any notion of individual liberty.

Clearly, if he really is suggesting that a military coup would be the cure for a despotic government, Sowell is completely wrong. Without fail, military coups in other countries have led to repression and a loss of individual freedom. Even when the junta finally cedes control back to civilian authorities, which happens rarely and only after much time has passed, the relationship between the state and the military is forever changed and the threat of another coup hangs over the civilian leadership like the Sword of Damocles. Instead of being an institution under civilian control, the military turns into a power center of it’s own and, since it has the real power in the form of guns, tanks, and airplanes, it quickly becomes the predominant power.

I don’t disagree with Sowell that there is much to be distressed about when it comes to the current state of the United States of America. The question of whether there will come a time when armed rebellion against an oppressive state is justified has been debated here and elsewhere countless times. However, turning the United States, or any other country, into a military dictatorship isn’t going to do anything to stop the erosion of personal freedom.

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