Monthly Archives: July 2007

Dinesh The Gun Totin’ Libertarian Is At It Again

Dinesh D’Souza has a post up responding to his earlier post claiming that Ron Paul isn’t really a libertarian because he doesn’t want to conquer the world.

This time, he tries to explain away the fact that the Founding Fathers were non-interventionist:

In response to my argument, some Ron Paul supporters have noted that the American founders warned against foreign entanglements and that they generally kept American troops within the nation’s borders. So how can the ideological universalism of the founders be reconciled with their practical caution? Easy: the founders realized that America at the time had very big ideals but very little power. America in the late eighteenth century was what we would today call a “developing nation.” It was simply not in a position to promote freedom abroad. The founders had their hands full in trying to secure it at home.

This has got to be the most extreme example of historical revisionism I’ve seen in some time. D’Souza is effectively arguing that, notwithstanding clear examples to the contrary, the Founders would have been all for invading Europe and liberating the masses, if only they had the guns and the power to do it. Of course, D’Souza cites no evidence in favor of this argument and, while he is correct that protecting the young and relatively weak new Republic was a primary concern of Presidents such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, his argument ignores the fact that they also spoke out against intervention because they knew the impact it would have on American liberty. And they were right.

D’Souza goes on to parrot the traditional neoconservative creed:

Today America is the world’s sole superpower, and that means that our ideals are backed up with wealth and power. True, we should use that power prudently, but we should not imagine ourselves constrained in the same way that the founders were. Might, it is sometimes said, does not make right. But neither does right by itself make might. Might is sometimes necessary to ensure that right prevails in the world.

Even if that means making the rest of the world accept our definition of what’s right at the point of a gun, right Dinesh ?

Arizona Trashes The First Amendment

The Arizona Senate has passed a resolution banning the sale of t-shirts that carry an explicitly political message:

PHOENIX — State lawmakers voted Monday to enact new laws designed to stop the sale of anti-war T-shirts with the names of dead soldiers — a measure a veteran media lawyer says is “unconstitutional about three or four different ways.”

On a 28-0 margin, the Senate agreed to make it punishable by up to a year in jail to use the names of deceased soldiers to help sell goods. The measure, SB 1014, also would let families go to court to stop the sales and collect damages.

What about that pesky First Amendment, you might ask ? Well, they have an answer for that:

Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, a backer of the measure, doesn’t see it that way. He said because Frazier is selling his shirts for a profit means it is not constitutionally protected political speech.

Umm, sorry but I don’t think so.

The measure is headed to the Governor, who may well veto it, but given the fact that it passed both houses of the Arizona legislature unanimously, the probability of an override would seem pretty high.

And just in case you might think Arizona is alone in being this blatant, the shirts in question are already banned in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

H/T: Hit & Run

Terrorist Metalheads Coming To An Airport Near You!

James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, looks suspiciously like a terrorist to the Brits.

I’d describe the full story, but Justin of autoDogmatic has done a much better job. He explains that government is quite capable of dishing out its nonsensical harassment and justice for all:

James Hetfield, lead-singer of Metallica, learned this week that the UK’s Luton airport was not on his list of places he can roam freely. Sad but true, Hetfield was detained due to his “Taliban-like beard” making officials nervous. One wonders if the rock star felt like an outlaw torn or just another victim of the master of puppets, big brother government. But for his devil’s dance, quickly explaining to the officials that he was a rock star, and not a terrorist, Hetfield may have felt a bit … I don’t know … minus human? Though Hetfield escaped relatively unscathed, nay more a hero of the day, I have no doubt that the memory of his detiainment will remain though nothing else matters.

Let this be a lesson: in the land of wolf and man, the bell tolls for us all … until the-thing-that-should-not-be sleeps, that is.

I’d warn those governments about Hetfield, though… He’s been known to fight fire with fire, and may leave you blackened.

An Open Letter To Ron Paul Supporters

In more than one post here, I’ve expressed the opinion, which I continue to believe, that Ron Paul does not have a realistic chance of winning the Republican Presidential nomination. At the same time, I have also said, on equally numerous occasions, that if Congressman Paul manages to make it to the Virginia primary in February 2008, I will vote for him and encourage anyone I can to do the same.

I say that because I believe that he is the only candidate who comes anywhere close to supporting the ideas I believe in. Unfortunately, I know that the vote I would cast for him would be symbolic, but meaningless.

To some people, that might not make sense, and you might even accuse me of being hypocritical, but that’s only because my expectations of what Ron Paul can accomplish for the Republican Party specifically, and the political process in general, have nothing to with whether or not he’s actually elected President.

And the first step in that process involves a reality check.

For a moment, let’s teleport ourselves to Election Night 2008. Forget about the GOP nomination process, and forget about the debates. Let’s just say that Ron Paul has just been elected President of the United States.

Then what ?

Yes, the President has alot of power. But, for the kind of changes that Congressman Paul talks about implementing, and the changes that most people who favor liberty would like to see, mere control of the Executive Branch is meaningless.

Outside of affecting American policy in Iraq, most of what Ron Paul believes in could not be implemented without a solid majority in Congress that favored it. And that, quite honestly, doesn’t exist right now and isn’t going to exist without some work and it certainly won’t happen without electing to Congress people who support the ideas that Congressman Paul talks about on the campaign trail.

Does that mean that supporting Ron Paul’s campaign is pointless ? No, I don’t think so.

I support his campaign because I hope that it will bring back into the Republican Party (which, quite frankly, is the only realistic hope for individual liberty at this point) the kind of libertarian-oriented ideas that influenced Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Neither of them were perfect libertarians, but they were certainly better than what passes for a Republican, or Democrat, today.

So, my suggestion to Ron Paul’s supporters is this. Don’t concentrate just on who’s running for President. Go out and find candidates for the House and Senate who believe in individual liberty. Otherwise, the entire effort will have been pointless.

Six Wasted Years

Less than six years after al Qaeda struck down the Twin Towers, it appears they’re back up to operational status:

Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting.

The report, a five-page threat assessment compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center, is titled “Al-Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West,” intelligence officials said. It concludes that the group has significantly rebuilt itself despite concerted U.S. attempts to smash the network.

Which leads, of course, to the inevitable question:

What the frak have we been doing for the past six years ? What happened to the War on Terror ? The War against al Qaeda ? Why aren’t these people dead or in jail ?

Oh, wait, maybe the little diversion in Baghdad had something to do with that.

After all, going after a tinpot dictator who got his jollies sticking his finger in the eye of whoever happened to be President of the United States is far more important than destroying the terrorist network that killed 3,000 American citizens on one day.

You agree, don’t you ?

Because, if you don’t, then the only conclusion one can reach is that we’ve wasted the last six years.

Ron Paul: Rising From Obscurity And Influencing The Debate

Today’s Washington Times, the conservative paper of record in Washington, D.C., profiles the rise of Ron Paul from the unknown candidate to sleeper:

Aides helping Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with his long-shot run for the Republican presidential nomination never thought they would need more than the corner of a one-bedroom apartment.

They were wrong. The campaign has outgrown its second headquarters, a 348-square-foot office.

Mr. Paul has more campaign cash available than former Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Federal Election Commission records show, and the antiwar conservative has become an Internet sensation.

Though political pros say Mr. Paul’s chances of moving into the White House are between slim and none, some expect him to have an effect on the Republican race.

And that impact is the same one that I’ve always hoped he would have, influencing the debate in the Republican Party on issues ranging from the Iraq War to individual liberty:

Influencing the Republican stance on major issues is the most likely outcome of the Paul candidacy.

“While I am very skeptical that he will win the nomination, historically challengers’ biggest impact has been in shaping the debate — forcing the more popular candidates to address issues they might like to gloss over,” said Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas. “I suspect Paul’s principled opposition to massive government spending and the war could reach out to two different GOP groups — one large, one not so large — with the message: ‘You are not alone.’ ”

Mr. Matthews sees a twofold effect for Mr. Paul: “His libertarian bent makes him the most principled of the Republican candidates. The large segment of the conservative base shares his rebellion against the GOP’s willingness to become part of Washington’s big-spending establishment. And as the only antiwar Republican candidate, he may provide a safe harbor to conservatives who are increasingly growing dissatisfied with the war.”

And if it leads to a revival of the libertarian-oriented conservatism that started with Barry Goldwater and reached it’s climax in the election of Ronald Reagan and the albeit ultimately disappointing `94 takeover of Congress, that can only be for the better.

I still stand by my belief that Paul has no real chance of winning the election, but winning isn’t always everything. Ronald Reagan lost the nomination in 1976 and yet, within a few short years, the entire party with was him.

H/T: The Crossed Pond 

Massive tax increases in our future?

Our entitlements are catching up to us:

Sen. Judd Gregg released (pdf) a Congressional Budget Office study (pdf) yesterday that attempts to quantify the tax rates needed to pay for the spending increases projected in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Average taxpayers would typically pay marginal federal income tax rates in the 30s, much higher than the 15% seen today. And that’s before payroll taxes of 15.3% and state and local income taxes that would boost many into tax rate brackets of over 50%.

CBO also notes that “the highest bracket would have to be raised from 35 percent to 92 percent. The top corporate income tax rate would also increase from 35 percent to 92 percent.”

The agency concludes “Such tax rates would significantly reduce economic activity and would create serious problems with tax avoidance and tax evasion. Revenues could fall significantly short of the amount needed to finance the growth of spending, and thus tax rates at this level may not be economically feasible.”

Yet, there are candidates running for President and other federal offices that want to increase entitlement spending as well as introduce new entitlements, in the form of socialized medicine. We cannot continue our current course without increasing taxes so much that it would bring economic development, which is brought about by lower taxes and less government regulation and spending, to a screeching halt.

OSHA Contemplates Regulating Ammunition as Explosives

OSHA is now considering regulating ammunition as explosives. If OSHA has its way, ammunition will become very difficult to purchase, store, or transport and would seriously curtail the individual’s constitutional right to bear arms without specifically banning firearms. One can only wonder how the courts would rule if OSHA’s proposed regulation were challenged. I for one hope we never have to find out.

Predictably, the DemocraticUnderground.com crowd believes that those of us who actually believe in the individual’s right to bear arms are overreacting:

Apparently OSHA’s new regulations will BAN ALL AMMUNITION FOREVER OMGZ. This is WORSE THAN NAZI GERMANY.

I’m not necessarily caring one way or the other, and think this is much ado over a proposed regulation that will likely never make it out of the comment phase. It’s just amusing listening to all the good Republicans bitching and whining all day.

Vladimir Lenin once said “One man with a gun can control 100 without one.” Other despots made similar statements concerning gun control. What I fail to understand is that if Bush is the tyrant the Left would have us believe; shouldn’t they also be concerned about disarming American citizens or otherwise restricting access to ammunition?

The Case For Libertarian Optimism

In a long essay at Cato Unbound that is well worth reading in full, Brink Lindsey argues in favor of the idea that things are far better for libertarians than it might seem:

There is no organized libertarian movement of any significance in American politics. To be sure, libertarian academics and intellectuals occupy some prominent positions and exert real influence on the public debate. But they do not speak on behalf of any politically mobilized mass constituency. Only about 2 percent of Americans describe themselves as libertarian, according to a 2000 Rasmussen poll. And the Libertarian Party is a fringe operation that, at best, occasionally plays the spoiler.

Nevertheless, the fact is that American society today is considerably more libertarian than it was a generation or two ago. Compare conditions now to how they were at the outset of the 1960s. Official governmental discrimination against blacks no longer exists. Censorship has beaten a wholesale retreat. The rights of the accused enjoy much better protection. Abortion, birth control, interracial marriage, and gay sex are legal. Divorce laws have been liberalized and rape laws strengthened. Pervasive price and entry controls in the transportation, energy, communications, and financial sectors are gone. Top income tax rates have been slashed. The pretensions of macroeconomic fine-tuning have been abandoned. Barriers to international trade are much lower. Unionization of the private sector work force has collapsed. Of course there are obvious counterexamples, but on the whole it seems clear that cultural expression, personal lifestyle choices, entrepreneurship, and the play of market forces all now enjoy much wider freedom of maneuver.

Based upon this, Lindsey suggests that both political parties need to play to what he calls “the libertarian center:”

I maintain that the concept of a libertarian center offers useful insight into the current political situation. In particular, it highlights the fact that our ideological categories have not yet caught up with social realities. The movements of left and right continue to be organized around discontents with the new, more libertarian cultural synthesis that prevails today. Thus the reactionary claims of decline and fall we hear from both sides: the right wails about cultural and moral decline, while the left gnashes its teeth about economic decline. Think of the leading red-meat issues for conservatives today. Gay marriage is destroying the American family; an invasion of illegal immigrants from Mexico threatens to overwhelm American culture; stem cell research is leading us to a Brave New World of moral atrocities. Meanwhile, the left is fixated on mounting “economic insecurity” for the most materially blessed population in human history. Endlessly repeated statistics on stagnant median wages, rising income inequality and volatility, and a shrinking middle class fortify true believers in their denial of the obvious reality that we’ve never had it so good.

Our politics today is stuck in a reactionary rut. The right remains unreconciled to irreversible cultural changes from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The left remains unreconciled to irreversible economic changes from the ‘70s and ‘80s. The idea of the libertarian center suggests that the way to break out of this rut is with a new, post-culture-wars politics that embraces both economic change and cultural diversity. I am not saying that some particular package of libertarian reforms is now the key to assembling a winning political coalition. The idea of a libertarian center is about the core of American political culture, not the margins of political change. What I’m saying is that partisans on both sides need to recraft their messages and programs to better reflect the entrepreneurial, tolerant spirit of contemporary America.

An interesting idea. I’m not sure if things are as rosy as Lindsey believes, but he is correct in pointing out that they aren’t as bad as the doomsayers would have us believe either.

Gut Feelings And Terror Warnings

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff tells us that his “gut” tells him that we may be in danger of terror attacks this summer:

Fearing complacency among the American people over possible terror threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in Chicago Tuesday that the nation faces a heightened chance of an attack this summer.

“I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk,” Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board in an unusually blunt and frank assessment of America’s terror threat level.

“Summertime seems to be appealing to them,” he said of al-Qaeda. “We do worry that they are rebuilding their activities.”

Still, Chertoff said there are not enough indications of an imminent plot to raise the current threat levels nationwide. And he indicated that his remarks were based on “a gut feeling” formed by past seasonal patterns of terrorist attacks, recent al-Qaeda statements, and intelligence he did not disclose.

There is an assessment “not of a specific threat, but of increased vulnerability,” he added.

In other words, Chertoff and his magic terrorist sensing “gut” don’t have any specific information about threats of terrorist activity either here or  anywhere else. Additionally, as James Joyner noted, going public with a “gut” feeling that something might happen this summer is incredibly irresponsible. There’s no justification for raising public fears of terrorism without specific evidence that there is a reason to be worried. I’d also add that I hope that our intelligence services rely on something more reliable than Secretary Chertoff’s “gut” in evaluating threats to the nation.

Don’t Stop With Scooter

Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum suggests that President Bush take a look a few other unjust sentences now that he’s commuted Scooter Libbey’s prison sentence:

Consider Weldon Angelos, a 24-year-old Utah record producer with two children who in 2004 was sent to prison for 55 years—a life sentence, in effect—because he owned guns when he sold a police informant two eight-ounce bags of marijuana, thereby triggering mandatory minimum sentencing provisions aimed at violent criminals. When he imposed the sentence, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell urged Bush to commute it, calling it “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.”

A gun also figured in the case of Monica Clyburn, a 38-year-old mother of four who more than a decade ago went with her boyfriend to sell his pistol at a Florida pawnshop. Because he did not have ID, she signed the pawn slip and left her thumb print. Clyburn, who had been convicted of selling three $20 rocks of crack cocaine to an undercover officer several years before, was prohibited from owning firearms, so this pawnshop visit led to a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence she is still serving. “I never even held the gun,” she says.

Brian Ison had no gun; he was just in the wrong place (his methamphetamine dealer’s mobile home in Harrodsburg, Kentucky) at the wrong time (during a 2001 bust). Witnesses said they thought they had seen Ison help cook meth, but he insisted he was only a customer. Turning down a plea agreement that would have resulted in a two-year sentence, the 19-year-old was convicted of manufacturing and received a sentence similar to those imposed on the two cooks who ran the operation: 11 years, three months.

The difference, of course, is that none of these people is politically connected. And none of them are friends of the President or Vice-President. So they’ll probably rot in prison while Scooter sips wine at the country club.

Cost Of Government Day 2007

According to Americans For Tax Reform, today is the day that the average Americans stops working to pay for the state, and starts working for themselves:

Cost of Government Day (COGD) is the date of the calendar year on which the average American worker has earned enough gross income to pay off his or her share of spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government on the federal, state and local levels.

Cost of Government Day for 2007 is July 11th.  With July 11th as the COGD, working people must toil on average 192 days out of the year just to meet all the costs imposed by government.  In other words, the cost of government consumes 52.6 percent of national income.

And it’s gotten worse over the past several years:

Cost of Government Day falls two days later in 2007 than last year’s revised date of July 9th. In 2007, the average American will need to work an additional 11 days out of the year to pay off his or her cost of government compared to 2000. Slower economic growth, a recession, the war, Hurricane Katrina, increased spending and corporate scandals were responsible for the dramatic increase from June 29th in 2000 to as high as July 12th in 2005.

Consistent with historical changes in the index, as the economy expanded, the cost of government declined due to lower levels of spending and higher incomes of workers.  However, the drop in the cost of government was short lived and the index increased by two days in 2007.  The increase in the index is tempered by slowing national income growth despite significant spending growth.

The idea that Americans should have to work more than half the year to pay for the state should be offensive to anyone. Instead we all just seem to blindly accept it.

H/T: Rick Sincere

The Republican Party’s Gay Problem

Nate Nelson at GOP Progress writes about what may be one of the more insurmountable problems the Republican Party will face in 2008:

The Republican Party needs to get over its gay problem. I’m not saying that Republicans should capitulate to every whim of the so-called gay rights movement, much of which is just a front for the left. Reasonable people can and should disagree on certain issues. As a gay man, I disagree with the gay rights movement on a number of issues. For example, I don’t believe in hate crime legislation for gays and lesbians or for anyone else; I don’t think we should engage in social experimentation with the military during a time of war by repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; and I don’t think that same-sex marriage should be judicially imposed upon the states, but that it should instead be worked out by state legislatures. We should have reasonable debate about these issues without lightly throwing around words like “homophobia” and “heterosexism.” But with that said, there is homophobia and heterosexism within the Republican Party, and it needs to be addressed if Republicans really have any interest in being the Big Tent party.

Without exception, the anti-gay sentiment within the Republican Party comes from those who cannot accept that people will believe and behave differently than they do. These are the people who believe that consensual sex between gay and lesbian adults should still be criminalized, simply because their interpretation of Christian scriptures tells them that it is wrong. In this, they are no different than the Islamic extremists who would impose shari’a upon the world. These are the people who believe, contrary to overwhelming medical and psychological evidence, that a homosexual orientation can be changed and who encourage gays and lesbians to seek alteration of their sexual orientation. In this, they are the ones who destroy families, by encouraging men like Gene Robinson and Jim McGreevey to live a lie, a lie that they will inevitably fail to live with eventually. They share in the responsibility for the destruction of families that results when gays and lesbians are forced to admit their sexual orientation to heterosexual spouses and to their children. These are the people who truly do hate gays and lesbians, the people who would disown even their own children if they came to them and told them that they are gay.

In other words, the problem in the GOP is with those who cannot accept that people have the right to live their lives as they wish to live them. It comes from the authoritarians who wish to impose their own vision of what the proper social order is on the rest of society.

And the salvation, it would seem, would be in those who accept the principle that what my neighbor does in the private life causes me no harm.

That used to be what Republicans stood for, until the Christianists and authoritarians came into power.

Another Terror Threat, Or Much Ado About Nothing ?

Once again, Brian Ross at ABC News is breathlessly reporting a grave threat to the Republic:

Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News new intelligence suggests a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the United States, or may already be here.

The White House has convened an urgent multi-agency meeting for Thursday afternoon to deal with the new threat.

Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have been told to assemble in the Situation Room to report on:

–what steps can be taken to minimize or counter the threat,

–and what steps are being taken to harden security for government buildings and personnel.

“It suggests they have information that the cell or cells coming this direction want to attack a government facility,” Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and ABC News consultant, said.

Law enforcement officials say the recent failed attacks in London have provided important new clues about possible tactics.

And officials say the London attackers use of the Internet left important clues that are being used to decode other e-mails that had initially been deemed unimportant but are now taking on new significance.

A senior administration official said the level of concern of a new terror attack is now higher than it has been in some time, and the meeting this week in the situation room is one of a number that have been convened in light of the new intelligence and what happened in London.

A couple points.

First, as Brendan Loy asks, if this is such a grave threat, why is the White House waiting until Thursday to talk about it ?

Second, how is this “latest” terror threat any different from the numerous false alarms we’ve seen reported in the media since September 11th ?

Finally, can someone please tell me that our intelligence agencies can tell the difference between false alarms and real threats ?

Rudy Giuliani, M.D.

No, the former Mayor of New York didn’t go to medical school, but he thinks that he did:

Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday that people who want to legalize marijuana for medical purposes really just want to make the drug available to everyone.

“I believe the effort to try and make marijuana available for medical uses is really a way to legalize it. There’s no reason for it,” the former New York mayor said during a town hall-style meeting at New Hampshire Technical Institute.

He also said there are better alternatives.

“You can accomplish everything you want to accomplish with things other than marijuana, probably better. There are pain medications much superior to marijuana,” he said.

“We’d be much better off telling people the truth. Marijuana adds nothing to the array of legal medications and prescription medications that are available for pain relief.”

Rudy, I’m not sure which law school you went to, but mine didn’t teach me anything about how to treat terminal cancer, or glaucoma. So don’t pretend you know anything about either one of these topics.

Ann Althouse, a relatively conservative law professor has this say about Rudy’s nonsense:

I think he’s right. But perhaps marijuana should be legalized, not just for people who can portray themselves as sick enough, but for any adult. Of course, he can hardly say that.

What basis Professor Althouse has for saying that Mayor Giuliani’s assessment of the medical benefits of marijuana are “right” I can’t entirely say. But, the second part of her paragraph is 100% right.

Why Ron Paul Isn’t Libertarian Enough

Extreme Mortman has a tongue in cheek list:

Not too long ago, Extreme Mortman conducted a Ron Paul online experiment. What would happen, we queried, if we just mentioned Ron Paul’s name a bunch of times with some inconsequential silly set-up. Would anyone notice?

The results were fascinating. The Ron Paul faithful flocked our way. They swarmed this blog. But they were quite pleasant. They wiped their feet before entering. None of them swiped any of our pieces of silverware or left odd stains in the toilet. They all respected our noon check out time and honorably recorded any use of the minibar.

All in all, success.  Happy times.

We’ve noticed much the same thing here at The Liberty Papers, and it’s definitely and interesting phenomenon.

In this post, though, Mortman has a little fun with the Paul supporters. A few my favorites from the list:

9. When the National Hurricane Center suggests Ron Paul take shelter, he does.

8. Ron Paul’s campaign bus has a license plate. It also uses the Interstate highway system, which has no toll booths.

6. Ron Paul accepts that Pluto is no longer a planet, but still says the other eight are.

5. A tie: Ron Paul’s TV picks up UHF channels.

AND

Ron Paul shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. Oh wait, that’s Johnny Cash.

My advice to the Ron Paul supporters out there, don’t take this so seriously. After all, politics is America’s oldest spectator sport.

 

Libertarians On The Rise ?

With the Republican and Democratic Parties both near the bottom of the barrel in public opinion polls, the Libertarian Party is claiming that it’s numbers are increasing:

Polls show that fewer Americans are calling themselves Republicans or Democrats and the number of Americans unaffiliated with either party has reached an all-time high — good news for Libertarians, say officials of the nation’s third-largest party.

The Libertarian Party has had an 18 percent increase in membership since January, said Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee.

More Americans are joining the Libertarian Party because they are “disillusioned with typical party politics and are looking for a change,” Mr. Cory said.

“What we’re seeing recently is Republicans and Democrats are only interested in maintaining their own power,” he said. “You have Republicans standing by their president during this occupation in Iraq while Democrats sit idly by and watch the Republicans self-destruct.”

(…)

Mr. Cory said the number of Americans rejecting the Republican and Democratic parties will continue to grow.

“They’re looking for a change and a shift,” Mr. Cory said. “They’re sick of same old politics as usual and are looking for a viable alternative, and we’re that viable alternative.”

So does this represent some kind of sea change in American politics that libertarians in general, and the Libertarian Party specifically, will benefit from ? Frankly, I’m skeptical. We’ve seen plenty of times in the past when one, or both political parties have fallen out of favor and the number of people who identify themselves as “independents” has risen steadily over the years. While an 18% increase in membership might seem impressive, keep in mind that this is from a starting point of about 250,000 members according the LP reports. At most, that means about 45,000 people. And that assumes that they stay members for more than a couple of years.

Not exactly the kind of numbers you need to win an election on the statewide level, never mind nationwide.

Dinesh D’Souza: Gun Totin’ Libertarian ?

Dinesh D’Souza, whose has some pretty strange ideas in his career, seems to have a really strange idea of what being a libertarian is all about:

[H]ere is question for Ron Paul: shouldn’t the United States do what it can to promote liberty worldwide? I posed this question and Paul answered that America should be an example of liberty and not try to impose freedom by force. Alas, where freedom has come to countries it has usually come by force. How did we get freedom in this country? We had a revolution. How did African Americans win freedom? It took the invasion of a Northern army to secure for the slaves a freedom they were not in a position to secure for themselves. And let’s remember that America imposed freedom at the point of a bayonet on Japan and Germany after World War II, and the results have been excellent.

It seems that today’s libertarians are divided into two camps: the principled and the unprincpled. The former believe in liberty as a universal aspiration. The latter believe in freedom for us but not for anyone else. Ron Paul isn’t going to become president, but as America’s leading libertarian he would do the group a service by upholding freedom as a universal principle, as the founders did.

There are so many flaws with D’Souza’s argument that it’s hard to address only a few but let’s start from the beginning.

Yes, the Founding Fathers did resort to force and a revolution to protect and guarantee the rights of the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies. They did so, I would add, only as a last resort, and only after George III made it clear that he would not uphold the liberties of Englishmen who happened to live on the eastern seaboard of North America. It’s also important to note, because D’Souza does not seem to recognize it, that the same founders who used force to overthrow British rule, and especially George Washington, warned against the United States becoming involved in wars of “liberation” elsewhere in the world. And the United States remained officially neutral during the French Revolution.

As for D’Souza’s comments about the Civil War, he couldn’t be more plainly wrong. Yes, slavery was a root cause of the dispute that led to the secession of the Southern states, but the war itself was fought because of that secession, not because of the fact that the south held slaves. Lincoln himself made it clear that if he could have preserved the Union while keeping slavery intact, he would have done so.  And the Emancipation Proclamation had no impact on slaves held in territory controlled by the CSA; it was, as every historian has recognized, a purely political move designed to influence public opinion in the North and in Europe in favor of a war that many were becoming tired of.  So, no, the Civil War was not a war of liberation, even if it’s end result was the liberation of the slaves.

Finally,  D’Souza’s argument about post-War policy in Japan and (West) Germany after World War II is irrelevant. Until the rise of the Soviet threat, the primary focus of post-war planning in the United States was to ensure that neither Germany nor Japan could ever again rise to pose a threat to world security. Bringing democracy, of a sort, to both nations was part of that process.

The most interesting thing about D’Souza’s definition of libertarianism, though, is that it says nothing about liberty. It says nothing about individual rights at home, the freedom of American citizens to live their lives without being monitored by the state, or the right of people to make a living in their chosen profession.  All D’Souza seems to believe in when it comes to liberty is using it as a means to spread American hegemony, at the point of a gun.

That’s a pretty daffy definition of liberty when you think about it.

H/T: Lew Rockwell

Arming the citizenry? What a novel concept!

The Iraqi government has hit upon a novel idea to improve security in the country. Arming the citizenry.

The call for civilians to take up arms in their own defense was echoed Sunday by the country’s Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
“People have a right to expect from the government and security agencies protection for their lives, land, honor and property,” al-Hashemi said in a statement. “But in the case of (their) inability, the people have no choice but to take up their own defense.”

Now many Americans might be confused by this statement. After all, isn’t Iraq awash with weapons? Aren’t the armed people the cause of the instability? What is this all about?

This actually represents a massive change in a policy toward personal protection, a policy imposed by the U.S. army in 2003 that, I think, played a significant role in the U.S. defeat in Iraq.

The policy imposed by the U.S. government was simply this. Every household could own an AK-47 or similar rifle for self-defense. If a civilian carries the weapon in public, U. S. forces can kill him without warning. The only Iraqis allowed to go out armed are government officials, army officers, or police. Local militias are banned.

In effect, this is a slightly less restrictive law than the DC gun control law, and it has the same effect: it leaves the common man and woman at the mercy of criminals. When locals understandably form militias to defend their neighborhoods, they become targets for U.S. government attack. Their attackers, who tend to be members of militias dedicated to some sectarian cause can operate with near impunity; they have safe zones where they can refit unmolested by U.S. soldiers or the Iraqi government, in some cases they even are part of the Iraqi government.

The U.S. government policy throughout the post war period has been to promote a strong centralized state at the expense of the common man. This has manifested itself in such bizarre actions as pursuing illegal suppliers of electricity (who use generators to supply power to neighborhoods), gasoline black-marketers (the U.S. price controls on gasoline have caused massive shortages). In doing so, they have worked decisively to lose whatever support the Iraqi population might have had for the U.S. occupation. It is no wonder that 90% of the Iraqi populace wants the U.S. government out of Iraq. They are fed up with an organization that sends armed men blundering through their homes, depriving them of access to electricity, undermining their security and killing them by mistake.

With the U.S. out of the way, they know that the current Iraqi government would collapse quickly. And the residents would no longer have to fear two entities that actively work against their security.

Encouraging the citizenry to arm themselves, permitting them to publicly bear arms without fear of being killed is an absolutely necessary step to rebuilding a peaceful society in Iraq. It’s a pity that it has taken 4 years for the U.S. government to permit this.

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.
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