Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

November 22, 2010

5 Years Of The Liberty Papers

by Brad Warbiany

5 years ago today, Eric introduced The Liberty Papers to the world. A blog that was once a general “classical liberal” home has significantly expanded, as those of us writing here have grown and changed. When the doors first opened, we generally followed a Constitutionalist small-l libertarian mindset in general, and as Eric pointed out, were not anarcho-capitalists or neolibertarians. Since, I think we’ve grown to span the range from anarchist to RLC-style Republican writing. Some contributors, for various reasons, have moved on. Some new folks have joined us in those 5 years. Through it all, though, we’ve worked hard to be a consistent voice in favor of liberty in all its forms.

In 5 years, we’ve written nearly 4,000 posts, had almost 33,000 comments, and have crossed the traffic thresholds of 1.5M unique visits and 2M page views. If you had told me personally back in 2005 that some of the posts I’d written would have reached as many people as they have, I’m not sure I’d have believed it. We’ve had contributors interviewed on cable news networks, had traffic spikes (described below) as we broke a major story picked up by both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and in general have either elated or enraged people on all sides of the aisle. Even more importantly, though, from meeting many of our contributors and from interacting with them over 5 years, I believe that everything that we’ve done at this site has been from the heart. We’re not about deference to conventional wisdom or spewing the party line — at various points I’ve seen almost every contributor to this site willing to slaughter the sacred cow if he thought it had to be done. Our readers won’t always agree with us — hell, we contributors don’t always agree with each other — but I know that intellectual honesty is never sacrificed. That fact itself has generated a great deal of respect from me for everyone who writes here, and I hope it has done so for those of you who visit as well.

Eric, the founder of The Liberty Papers, was able to get an exception to his no-blogging policy and sent along this message:

5 years, what a cool thing that is! I remember how upset I was by Kelo and how I felt the need to respond. I started the Life, Liberty and Property group (does it still exist?), I encouraged all of my friends online to have a new Tea Party (I’m pretty sure I was the original Tea Partier) and I started The Liberty Papers. Boy, this has gone way beyond what I thought it would do. This group has broken news stories, helped influence politics, been the lead item on Google News lord knows how many times and some how managed to keep going in the face of blog fatigue.

I am very pleased that they put my post in their top posts of all time, but when I compare to some of the other folks that write here, I feel fairly lucky and rather humbled. I regret not being able to participate in this effort and all the other online efforts around liberty, smaller government and more individualism. But I made some choices about my career that ended up with employer desired limits on what I can say and write publicly.

I’m looking foward to 5 more years ……. and perhaps one or two anonymous comments when the urge strikes!

So how does a blog such as this celebrate a milestone like this? We thought the way to remember 5 years is to highlight the best of those 5 years. Over the past few weeks, we’ve worked as a group to catalog some of the top posts we’ve written, and then balloted them off to build up a top-10 list. I’ve presented that below, and suggest you take a look there and through the archives. I’d also like to open the comments to contributors and commenters alike. Do you have a specific memory of something that’s occurred here, or a post you really enjoyed? Feel free to offer your thoughts.

It’s been a good five years. Many times through the past five years, we’ve talked about fulfilling one of Eric’s promises in this opening post — to take longer-form writing and expand it into more permanent articles called “Liberty Papers”. In generating the posts making up our internal ballot, we’ve done the hard work and identified most of the posts which fit that criteria. While I can’t say that I was able to devote the necessary time to actually have that ready by this anniversary, it’s on the way.

Top 10 Liberty Papers posts of the last 5 years:

#1. The Sovereign Individual – Eric: When Eric first developed the idea of this site and offered contributor spots to those of us in the wake of the Kelo ruling, one may ask why we’d have joined the site. This essay is an example of the writing and the depth of thought that convinced us all to follow behind Eric. Due to his own career aspirations (holding a job with too much public visibility to present controversial opinion) he had to cease blogging, and I hope you read this essay and realize that the general fight for liberty is worse off for his absence. Of all the posts in our balloting, this one is the only to achieve unanimous votes for inclusion.

#2. The Case Against an Article V Constitutional Convention – Doug Mataconis: Those of us in favor of liberty often look at our Constitution, see the way that it has slowly been eviscerated by the ever-wider interpretation of its clauses, and wonder whether we might be able to “plug the holes” in the document. Doug points out, powerfully yet pragmatically, why the conditions that led to even the imperfect document we have no longer exist. He points out all the reasons that simply demanding change is likely to result in something worse than we have today, and nothing like libertarians might expect.

#3. The Politics of Liberty – Chris: If you’re looking for a logical foundation for basically 90% of libertarian or classical liberal thought, you’re not going to do much better than this piece. One of the things that has always impressed me about Chris’ writing and thinking is his ability to boil complex issues down to their roots, and explain them from those roots up. His posts can sometimes be very long, but that is due to necessity — you can’t write a foundation for all libertarian thought in 800 words. Unlike me, though, he wastes very little space.

#4. Liberty and Racial Discrimination: Responding to David Duke – tarran: Running up to the 2008 election, Ron Paul was a lightning rod for racial tension. Much was due to his own tone-deafness on the subject, and much was due to many unsavory elements of society finding his room within his stances for economic liberty to fit their own discrimination. Because of this, many people associate Ron Paul’s libertarian leanings (and libertarianism in general) with being an apologist for racism and discrimination. tarran wades into the depths of controversy to defend libertarianism and destroy some arguments of David Duke.

#5. The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing – Stephen Littau: The statue of the goddess of justice is often depicted blindfolded, with scales and a sword. The scales denote impartiality, the sword signifies the punishment, and the blindfold suggests that the facts shall be weighed without consideration to he who presents them. As we all, know, the practice does not live up to the ideal. Juries are swayed by appeal to authority, by character rather than evidentiary consideration, and by the fact that often the state can easily out-spend and out-defend their argument. Cases that should be tried in a court of law are tried in the court of public opinion, and the question of a “fair trial” stretches the limit of fair. Stephen blows the doors off the prosecution-friendly system we have, and even — note my previous statements about sacred cows — suggests that our civil liberties are better served by furnishing through public funds access to the same level of experts & attorneys for the defense as for the state. When the cost of error is stealing years of a man’s life, I find it hard to disagree.

#6. You Should Want What I Want – Quincy: Much of politics is simply human biology and social evolution run on a massive scale. We’re simple tribal creatures, trapped in our own minds and our own biases. Some people think that those who don’t share those biases are depraved and immoral. We call those people conservatives. Some people want to enshrine those biases into law. We call those people leftists [okay, and some conservatives]. Quincy lays out the basis for these people, while arguing why their impulses to ban everything in sight are completely incorrect, immoral, and incompatible with human individualism.

#7. Homeland Security document targets most conservatives and libertarians in the country – Stephen Gordon: I mentioned above the point at which we broke news catching the notice of both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and this is the post in question. DHS released a report basically claiming that everyone with a distrust of federal power, believing in limited government or states rights, and/or a fan of Ron Paul, might just be a domestic terrorist. No, I’m not exaggerating. Read it, and you’ll see why it was probably the highest traffic day we’ve ever had.

#8. On Tea Parties and Republican hypocrisy – Jason Pye: The Tea Party movement exploded on the scene in early 2009, and drew a lot of compliment and a lot of criticism across the ‘sphere — we offered both here. Both our compliments and our criticism did include the same point, as suggested by Jason in the post: “The involvement of politically polarizing figures will ruin and destroy the credibility of a good movement.” Jason’s post came early in the Tea Party movement, and yet with folks like Palin and Huckabee seizing “leadership” of the movement, it seems that he has been proven correct.

#9. Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism – Brad Warbiany: One of the hardest political subjects to grasp is economics, largely due to constantly misused terminology. This post simply and directly defines the terms and explains how they’re misused.

#10. Libertarianism and Democracy (pt 1), Libertarianism and Utilitarianism (pt 2) – Brad Warbiany: These two posts became a bit of a two-part series based upon comments, but at this point they still fit together quite nicely. The first post of this pair is a response to a leftist who complained that libertarianism is anti-democratic. In short, one is a moral system and the other is a political system, making the statement in itself nonsensical. The second post compares libertarianism to utilitarianism, which is much more apt as both are moral systems. Those who support socialism often [misguidedly] do so for utilitarian ends. Crowing to them about liberty accomplishes little, because they are working from different first principles. Showing them that socialism isn’t the best utilitarian system is a much better tactic.

Honorable Mentions:

The below two posts advanced far enough in the voting to merit mention, falling just short of the above:

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned – Stephen Littau: In the waning days of the Bush administration, conservatives argued a pardon for two Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant in the back while he fled resisting arrest, and then covered it up. Stephen pointed out quite well that even if the facts those advocating pardon suggested (that the fleeing immigrant was a drug smuggler), a pardon was STILL not warranted.

An Open Letter To Neal Boortz – Jason Pye: Neal Boortz, a prominent libertarian/Republican radio host and advocate of the FairTax, was actively pushing for Mike Huckabee in the 2008 elections. He did this, one must think, because of Huck’s support for the FairTax, as having listened to Boortz quite a bit, the two agree on very little else. Jason Pye, in intense detail, explained all the reasons why Mike Huckabee is and should be anathema to libertarians. Replete with enough supporting links to crash Internet Explorer (sorry, bad example, that’s not saying much), I think that this post is one that should be kept around in the run-up to 2012, when Huck may return.

That wraps it up. As mentioned, feel free to post your memories of the last five years down below in the comments.

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  • Eric

    Simply amazing from my perspective. Thanks for reminding me and sharing some really great memories.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Great job putting this together Brad! It’s a great honor for my work to be considered among the best by my TLP peers.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    @ Eric:

    This top 10 list would have been incomplete without one of your posts making the list. Your #1 spot is well deserved.

    I only hope that TLP continues to live up to your vision of this blog that you started 5 years ago today.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    We would also be remiss if we didn’t thank our regular (and not so regular) readers. Many of you have given us some constructive criticism and have called us out when in error. I for one appreciate this because you don’t allow us to become intellectually lazy.

    You have also contributed a great deal to the discussions (as is the case in most of the top 10 posts) and even given us ideas for other “spin off” posts.

    We hope that you continue reading, criticizing, and telling others about this blog 5 years from now.

  • http://foavc.org Bill Walker

    I think you should rethink your list. Your #2 is based on false information. If you go to the http://www.foavc.org website and after reading the over 700 applications by the states for a convention, go to the FAQ section, you’ll see one that proves Burger’s so-called letter is a phoney.

    Now, I’m not going to take a lot of time here saying why it is a phoney. The FAQ explains it in great detail. But what I will note is that your #2 article on your all time favorites failed to note the states have applied in sufficient numbers to cause a convention call. This means you actually favor vetoing the Constitution because you oppose obeying Article V. Do you really want people to know that your second favor “paper” is based on lies and advocates overthrow of our government?

  • Eric

    @Bill

    Always fun to find another theory that is basically completely nutty. Your stuff ranks up there with the “Birthers” and the the folks that think the moon landing was staged. Thanks for the entertainment.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Bill,

    I re-read Doug’s post, and he didn’t really touch on whether or not an Article V convention was already applied for or not, except for quoting a convention supporter who claimed only 19 states had active calls for a convention. Had your 2000 and 2004 court cases not gotten tossed, perhaps we would have known about your site.

    Either way, though, Doug’s post was more along the lines that a convention would be a bad thing for liberty, something I completely agree with. Even if they don’t scrap the Constitution, as you think they would, the outcome wouldn’t be libertarian. The liberals would try to write amendments guaranteeing a [publicly-funded] right to healthcare, college education, and a living wage. Conservatives would try to write amendments banning abortion, flag-burning, and declaring English our official language. In the struggle between those two camps, it’s ludicrous to believe that somehow libertarian-friendly amendments would come out on top.

  • Eric

    Heh, nice dispassionate and analytical answer Brad. I like mine better!

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