Category Archives: Blog Discussions

Stockholm Syndrome With Government?

Over in a comment at Catallarchy, I came across this from Constant:

To give an example, I am not personally bothered by taxation. I don’t get an adrenaline rush (in a bad way) from taxation, but I do get a bad adrenaline rush from being mugged. My feelings about taxation that I feel each year as April rolls around are about the same as my feelings about paying rent. It’s something I have to do. There’s little point in having strong feelings about something so regular and so inevitable and so I don’t. But my conclusions about taxation are that it is theft. Similarly, if I were taken hostage, I would likely develop Stockholm Syndrome. Feeling warm fuzzy feelings about someone who can and is likely to kill you is a defense mechanism that probably pays off in increasing your chances of survival, by getting him to warm up to you in response. Among most people there is something much like Stockholm Syndrome with respect to the state. People have accepted and even have warm fuzzy feelings about the government, for no other real reason than that the government has got them in its immense power.

Could this explain why so many people, even though they’re regularly faced with evidence that government is full of liars, cheats, and thugs, and can’t do anything right– still think government is good? They’ve been under the boot so long that they’ve grown to feel that there must be a boot on their neck, and they’ll just hope that the wearer doesn’t start adding weight?

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Is Islamofascism a Legitimate Threat to Liberty?

In my recent post about Michael Charles Smith, I received a response from a reader by the name of Carl Deen regarding my support for the war against terror Islamofascism (Not the war on terror. Terrorism is the method the Islamofascist uses to accomplish his political-religious goals). I think his challenge is worth a post of its own so rather than responding in the original post, I have decided to answer him here.

Deen writes:

Let’s see if I understand the author. Without provocation, much like Germany did to Poland, the USA invaded Iraq, a country that was no threat to us; however, because, we did, we cannot admit our mistakes and withdraw. I suppose, by that reasoning, we must stay there forever at a cost of $500 billion and the lives of several hundred solders a year.

According to the author, Islam is a threat to us; therefore, we must attack and meddle in their affairs. It doesn’t occur to the author that if you attack and meddle in their affairs, you make more enemies than if you leave them alone.

Oh, I forgot; they hate us for our freedoms. Therefore, by using the war as reasons to turn the USA into a police state, they will stop hating us because we will have lost our remaining freedoms.

Was Iraq a threat to the United States?

First of all, the comparisons of the U.S. to Nazi Germany are getting very tiresome. Whatever ‘atrocities’ the U.S. has committed pale in comparison to the Holocaust. I also reject the premise that Iraq was no threat to the U.S. Regardless of whether or not Saddam had WMD, he was a threat to the U.S. Saddam did in fact invade Kuwait in the early 1990’s to steal the Kuwait’s oil. Had Saddam been allowed to proceed, there would have been national security threats as well as economic threats to the U.S. and the world.

When Saddam surrendered to the international coalition, there were certain conditions that he agreed to so that he could continue to be in power. Among those conditions were that he was not to reconstitute his WMD program and was restricted from flying in the ‘no fly zones.’ To enforce the agreement, coalition fighters patrolled the no fly zones from the time of the surrender to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Saddam routinely fired with anti-aircraft weapons on the coalition fighters patrolling the no fly zones, directly putting the lives of U.S. and coalition pilots at risk. These attacks were provocative acts of war.

Let’s also not forget that Saddam attempted to assassinate former President Bush. Regardless of how you feel about President Bush, he was a president of the United States. An attack on the president—any American president is a provocative act of war against the United States.

And then there were the families of the suicide bombers who Saddam paid to spread terrorism throughout Israel. Sure, he was not paying suicide bombers to make attacks in American cities (as far as we know anyway), but this still proved that he was not above such tactics. Though the 9/11 commission found no links between Saddam Hussein and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the commission did find that attempts were made between Saddam and Bin Laden to form an alliance. Their ties however, were non-operational. Had Saddam been as far along in his WMD program as most of the world’s intelligence agencies and world leaders had thought, it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that those ties could have eventually become operational making it possible for Islamofascits to gain access to this material and carry out an attack on the U.S. Based on Saddam’s track record (his use of chemical and biological weapons on his own people, for example), there was no reason to believe that he did not have WMD. U.S. intelligence had underestimated Saddam’s progress in his WMD programs in the past. If left unchecked, he would have.

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How To Not Explain Things To Libertarians

Chris Clarke, at Pandagon, has written a long article about How To Explain Things To Libertarians. As you might expect, as he leads into all of this, he gets some things wrong. The things he gets wrong are the traditional propaganda of the left related to why we need social democracy. For example:

If those don’t work, sometimes these people [ed: Libertarians] are persuaded when it’s pointed out to them that back in the late 19th century, the US essentially was the Libertarian state they now advocate, and a very few people got very wealthy while the rest of us died of food poisoning or coal mine collapses or shirtwaist factory fires.

Well, now, there is some truth to the fact that the owners of industrial corporations were getting very wealthy in that time period. There is also some truth to the fact that people were more likely to die of things like his examples than they are now. There are some inconvenient facts left out, though. Like:

  1. The US in the late 19th century was not functioning the way a classic liberal would want it to. It was not a capitalist society. Rather, it was corporatist, the government provided all sorts of benefits to corporations and the wealthy, taxed imports fairly heavily and even made the guns of the government available to the corporate owners to coerce their workers. This is hardly the stuff of classic liberal (or libertarian) philosophy, where we advocate an even playing field; i.e. equality of opportunity.
  2. Another inconvenient fact. Although, by our standards today, the average worker’s life was pretty bad, it was much better than when they had been a subsistence farmer in South Dakota. There is a reason why people left the farm, went to the city and got a job in a factory. They made more money, had more leisure time and lived longer. And they knew it. Does that mean all was sweetness and light? No, but it was better than being a farmer, which was their alternative. And it generated wealth that allowed more people to buy things, increasing the demand for industrial output, increasing the demand for workers, etc. This cycle was wealth creating, farming never could be.
  3. Those factory workers his heart bleeds for were wealthier than the previous generation. Chris is raising the typical cry of socialists in favor of equality of outcome. I haven’t the time to show why that is unworkable except with totalitarianism, but Hayek did. So, I suggest reading Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” to understand why equality of outcome leads to totalitarianism.

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Meet Michael Charles Smith

If the 2008 presidential campaign wasn’t about electing the first woman, African American, Hispanic, or Mormon president but rather about ideas, candidates like Ron Paul might have a fighting chance to be the next president. For the purposes of this post, I’ll pretend that this race is about ideas.

Ron Paul seems to be a fan favorite here at The Liberty Papers. I also have a great deal of admiration for Ron Paul. I hope that he draws a great deal of attention in the debates so that certain libertarian issues will be discussed that the G.O.P. front runners wouldn’t touch with a 10’ pole. As far as domestic issues go, I think Paul is right on the money…its some (but not all) of his foreign policy positions I have problems with (the same problems I generally have with the Libertarian Party platform in regard to foreign policy). More specifically, Ron Paul’s inability to understand the very real threats to the U.S. by Islamofascists makes it very difficult for me to endorse him or pull the lever for him.

So what is a liberty and small government minded person who also recognizes the threats of Islamofascim to do? The G.O.P. front runners (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, etc.) all seem to want to combat these threats but will also most likely continue to grow the government in much the same way as President Bush has. Ron Paul would work to decrease the size of government and restore some of our lost liberties but would cut and run in Iraq and leave America vulnerable (as would most if not all of the Democrats who are running). No good can come from a defeat in Iraq. There is at least one candidate who is perhaps even less well known than Ron Paul that might be a reasonable compromise between the G.O.P. front runners and Ron Paul; meet Oregon Republican Michael Charles Smith.

For those of you who are looking for the perfect presidential candidate, I have some bad news: there is no perfect candidate. But as I went through the list of things I am looking for in a candidate, Michael Charles Smith is about as close as I can find who reflects my views. Smith is not your typical Republican and certainly won’t be receiving any support from the Christian Right. Smith calls himself a “fiscal conservative” and “social libertarian.” By fiscal conservative he means that federal spending should only be used for functions specifically mandated in the U.S. Constitution (what a concept!), federal taxing and spending should be reduced in favor of state and local control, and the federal income tax should be abolished and replaced with the Fair Tax. By Social libertarian he means that he is pro choice, that illicit drugs should be de-felonized (not a complete withdraw from the war on drugs but a start), and that gays should have the same rights of marriage and be able to openly serve in the military.

In matters of war and peace Smith was opposed to going to war in Iraq but does not believe the troops should leave until the job is done. Though I did support the reasons for going to war with Iraq and continue to support the war, the president and the congress did not use the constitutional approach and was therefore; reckless and possibly illegal (I’ll leave that up to the lawyers to decide). Smith, on the other hand, actually believes the founders had it right in the first place. Smith explains:

Fundamentally, our approach to military engagement should be reset. The threshold for military commitment should be stringently limited to specific threats to Americans, not American “interests.” Any extended commitment of military force should require a formal declaration of war from the Congress. Discretionary commitments and preemptive justifications are too prone to political motivations and lack sufficient checks and balances.

Let’s honor the sacrifice of those who volunteer to protect our freedom by not carelessly putting them in harm’s way.

While I don’t think Smith would be as strong of a leader in the war on Islamofascism as Giuliani, at least Smith seems to recognize both external and internal threats to liberty in the United States. Most importantly, he wants to restore what he calls “constitutional integrity” by returning to a smaller government, less spending, returning more responsibility to the states, restoring the Bill of Rights by upholding church/state separation, civil liberties, and state’s rights.

Obviously, the chances of Michael Charles Smith being the next POTUS is a long shot (lack of campaign funds, name recognition, the MSM, the G.O.P. establishment, etc.) at best. He probably will not even qualify for the early primaries. Though I’m not prepared to give Smith my endorsement at this moment, I think he deserves some careful consideration by those of us with libertarian leanings. How great would that be to have not one but two ‘true’ Republicans in the Republican debates with the likes of Rudolf Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Duncan Hunter? Is it possible that perhaps one of the front runners might adopt some of the Smith and Paul platforms? In this 2008 beauty contest, this is probably the best we can hope for.

The Present And Future Of The Blogosphere

A few days ago, I reposted The Future Of Liberty, in order to set the stage for a post on the American’s article on Milton Friedman & blogging. Yesterday, though, Doug jumped in between steps A and B with his own post… But I think there’s more that can be said.

A lot of people these days don’t understand blogging. Even several of the commentors on a recent post seem to view blogs as little more than an expansion of IRC, or in their parlance, little more than a bathroom stall wall, full of potty-mouthes and bravado, but lacking in any intellectual heft. In some ways, they’re quite right. But that’s the thing… If you try to compare blogging to mainstream newspapers, it’s apples and oranges. Trying to refer to “the blogs” as if they’re an organized or cohesive group completely misses the point. As The American’s article points out:

The “blogosphere” is like a little experimental universe validating consumer choice vs. regulation—and consumer choice has won a colossal victory. Trial and error may not help find the right surgeon, but it seems to be a great way to find your right media diet. By and large, blog consumers have shown an incredible sense for quality and reliability.

Blogging’s greatest “weakness” is thus its greatest strength: Web authors and their sites come with no expectations, claims, or certifications of quality or reliability. Precisely because there is no authority filtering our blogged content, because of this healthy lack of “if it is printed, it must be true”, the reader can and must judge for himself. Instead of floundering helplessly in a sea of (mis-) information (the self-serving admonition from media traditionalists), the internet news-and-entertainment hungry reader develops a knack for picking the cherries out of the innumerable offerings. The blogosphere has something for everyone. Viewpoints are chosen, not dictated, and niches of interest explored, not marginalized.

Bloggers and pundits refer to “the blogosphere” in the same erroneous way that economists and journalists refer to “the market”. The market is simply a collection of sellers and buyers, each doing what they want to do for a whole host of reasons. You don’t look at McDonald’s as an expression of what “the market” produces, you look at it as an actor within the market. Likewise, you can’t look at the blogosphere by what its individual blogs put out.
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Health Care @ Coyote Blog

Over at Coyote Blog, Warren takes WaPo columnist Steven Pearlman to task for an article on health care. It’s far too extensive to summarize, but I highly recommend taking a look. An excerpt:

But let’s get into all that money-grubbing. Mr. Pearlstein reads the study as saying the problem is all that profit. Because we have layers of profit in the distribution channel, our health care costs more than it does in Europe, where you have the efficiency [sic!] of government management. Before we get into detail, I would observe that this fails a pretty basic smell test right off: Nearly every single product and service we Americans buy, all of which are rife with layers of nasty profits in the supply chain, are cheaper than their counterpart services and products in Europe. If this layering of profit without government management is a problem, why is it only a problem in health care but not a problem in thousands of other industries.

Go check out the rest.

The Blogosphere As A Spontaneous Order

American Magazine has an interesting article arguing that the blogosphere is the perfect example of a spontaneous order in action:

Left to the free market of ideas and instant reader feedback, good writing, quality and reliability in blogging secures a readership and reputation solely on merit. The analogy to “democracy” may be clichéd but the blogosphere is a prime example of Milton Friedman’s credo (“Capitalism and Freedom”) that minimal (or no) regulation and state licensing are best; they are too often a pretext to shut down competition not protect the populace.

All the more reason, then, why Friedman should be the patron saint of the Age of Blogging:  people with brains, networks, and powers of self-expression don’t wait for journalism degrees anymore to have an impact. Indeed the response of ‘mainstream’ journalism to blogging (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) vindicates Friedman’s skepticism of credentialing like few other phenomena of the past 50 years.  This may be a sub-part of what Friedman saw as the power of the Internet:  “The Internet is the most effective instrument we have for globalization,” he said in 2005, referring to the power of instant electronic connections for commercial purposes.  The same applies, of course, to the world of ideas, flourishing free of the state.

Professional journalists often say that blogs will never compare to the “tradtional” media because they lack the discipline that comes with experience and a trained editor. However, blogs have something that the traditional media lacks — an evolving tradition of self-regulation that correction. A blog post based on information that turns out to be incorrect is not going to be ignored; it’s going to be critiqued and criticized, and the writer is going to be under pressure to come clean when it’s been proven that a mistake was made. When was the last time the MSM admitted it was wrong ?

The Future Of Liberty

I wrote this post back in January 2006 at The Unrepentant Individual. I’ve got a post I want to write in a day or two about blogging in general, but this post will lay the groundwork.

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Since the American Revolution, and particularly in the past 100 years, we’ve seen a ceaseless growth of the scope and size of government. In discussions with other LLP’ers, I often find that there is a latent air of futility. Many of my fellow libertarian bloggers see our role as a brake on that growth, rather than see the possibility of reversing it.

To some extent, I understand where they’re coming from. To affect a change that will reduce the scope of government will demand the support of a large swath of the voting public. This is a tall order, as much of the public has become hooked on the bread and circuses doled out by our federal government. In addition, it will require convincing legislators that bold action is required to keep their power. Our current system rewards politicians who spout meaningless platitudes, while actively punishing those who pursue bold action. In short, it will require that all of our culture as has been developed over the last hundred years be completely upended.

Those who feel they’re fighting a rear-guard action, I understand. But I don’t think it’s a futile endeavor. Perhaps I’m still young, dumb, and full of– bravado, but I think real change is possible. I see a fundamental change already occurring in our culture. This fundamental change is one that will wholly transform culture in this country in a way more widely felt than the invention of the television. In addition, it will be a change which empowers individuals, rather than turns them into mindless drones, as the television accomplished. The internet, my friends, is the answer.

I’ve made the point before, but since the time radio and television took over American media dominance from the newspaper, we have seen a slow– but steady– consolidation of media power. This consolidation has ensured that to have a voice in the national political debate, you needed money. Lots and lots of money. Large amounts of money have their own way of accumulating, whether it be in corporations, special-interest groups, or political parties. But when the only voices in the debate are those of the powerful, citizens have only one recourse– our votes. Despite what you might hear from P. Diddy, your vote doesn’t carry as much weight as the voices of the powerful.

The powerful care about only one thing: continuing their power. When Eric and I both discussed Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, we discussed the idea that inducing fear is a very simple way to control the populace, and that control perpetuates the powerful’s grasp on society. Fear can only be defeated by information. In a world where media and the control of information is dominated by the powerful, the foxes guards the henhouse. The powerful are the ones perpetuating a state of fear, and have no desire to allow the spread of information that may damage their position.

But the consolidation of the media has been breached. The playing field has been leveled. No longer does it take millions of dollars to get a message out to the public. The internet in general, and blogging in particular, will restore the flow of information that the current media inhibits. It has created a whole new forum, and widely expanded the popular media. At the same time, it has already had some effect on the legacy media, as we’ve seen in the Rathergate mess. The effect of the internet on our culture has barely been felt. But the internet has barely seen 10 years as a mainstream communications medium, and is still in a stage of infancy. Yet, we are already seeing its power. Blogs, also still in their infancy, have acheived enough prominence that the major media are paying attention, and in several cases, blogs have changed the debate. Some have claimed, and a case can be made, that George W. Bush would not have been reelected without bloggers shaping the debate.

The internet is a medium with little or no cost of entry. It requires nothing more than a will and a message to get your voice out there. Of course, unlike the current television media, finding people to listen to that voice is not easy. On the bright side, however, compelling information has a way of ensuring that it is heard. The terms “meme” and “blog-swarm” express just how quickly and widely information can stretch their legs. Last year, when I was (I still am, of course!) a small-time blogger, I started a meme, and checked back on it every month or so using technorati. The meme was going strong for months, finding its way to corners of the blogosphere that I would never have known to exist. And blog-swarms are feared by those in power. A couple of bloggers uncovering problems with documents ignited a blog-swarm which destroyed the credibility of Dan Rather and seriously injured that of CBS. It eventually grew large enough to force the major media outlets to cover the story.

Heretofore unexplored, of course, is how the growth of the internet and blogs as a medium will affect liberty. Here, it comes down to a matter of core beliefs. I’ve always believed that those who are conditioned to follow, will follow. Those who are conditioned to make up their own mind, will make up their own mind. This is all about changing people’s conditioning. As I said initially, this is a tall order, because years of television have given our nation the wrong conditioning. But the internet empowers people. Those of us who are trying to make our voices heard can do so. Those in the world who are looking for information outside that provided by the major media outlets can find it. When individuals become empowered, it is contagious.

What do we need to do to restore lost liberty and return to smaller government? We need to empower people and let them see– for themselves– that they don’t need government to provide for them. They need to see that by controlling the reality of the world around them, that they can do so much more efficiently than the government. They’re already getting this on their own; all they need are guides to find their way. In the run-up to the American Revolution, people weren’t striking out against England because they “all of a sudden” started believing in independence. The world was changing, and the old power structures were no longer viable. Our Founding Fathers were guides along the path, setting up a nation which they believed was suited to the new environment.

Our world is changing, and the old power structures are no longer viable. Whether or not your or my view of how the new structures should fit are correct, what we are doing is not futile. I honestly believe that liberty is not dead, and that big government can be defeated, and will do all that is in my power to achieve that end.

Edwards & His “Blogger Problem”

Barely a week ago, John Edwards hired Amanda Marcotte to be one of the head bloggers on his campaign. As is expected whenever something of this magnitude occurs, people started looking into her past writings. I— and quite a lot of other people— pointed out that she’s a bit unhinged, caustic, and was at best a questionable choice to be the “voice” of your campaign. Well, the pressure ratcheted up, and rumors circulated about Edwards firing Marcotte (and another blogger, Melissa McEwan, who didn’t attract nearly as much vitriol). Edwards chose to retain the two– publicly, at least.

Now Marcotte has resigned. And in typical Marcotte fashion, her own writings have absolutely no impact on her choice, it was all due to a right-wing smear job by the patriarchy!

I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics (I’m anti-theocracy, for those who were keeping track). Bill Donohue—anti-Semite, right wing lackey whose entire job is to create non-controversies in order to derail liberal politics—has been running a scorched earth campaign to get me fired for my personal beliefs and my writings on this blog.

In fact, he’s made no bones about the fact that his intent is to “silence” me, as if he—a perfect stranger—should have a right to curtail my freedom of speech. Why? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m pro-choice? Because I’m not religious? All of the above, it seems.

No, Amanda, we’re not attacking you because you’re a woman, or because you’re pro-choice, or because you’re not religious. It’s because you’re the one running a scorched-earth campaign against anything with which you disagree, spewing venom and ad hominem attacks at anything in your path. It’s because you’re not a very nice person (at least publicly on your blog). While you may have described your religious writings as “satirical”, they miss a crucial trait of satire: they’re not funny.

The attacks against Amanda weren’t lies. It wasn’t a “smear job”, unless she considers pointing out the very things she wrote on your blog to be a “smear job”. The way she writes is offensive. It belittles anyone who disagrees with her, rather than trying to argue against their points. From the way she write, it gives readers the impression that she sees a bogeyman behind every corner, attempting to steal her uterus and shove a baby into it. She’s angry and hysterical, and it’s difficult for me to take her seriously because of that.

Now, I can’t speak for Bill Donohue, because I’ve never heard of him. And I’m not trying to silence anyone. But I’ll gladly engage in a little bit of schadenfreude when John Edwards hires such a loose cannon to run his campaign blog. From a political standpoint, it might have been smarter to let Edwards off the hook, and hope that Marcotte did more damage as a part of the campaign than outside of it. But Edwards may not last that long as it is, so I’ll point and laugh while I’ve got the chance.

One bit, though, stuck out. When the left gets attacked, it’s always “well-financed shills” who are doing the dirty work:

The other good news is that the blogosphere has risen as one and protested, loudly, the influence a handful of well-financed right wing shills have on the public discourse.

I’m assuming the check is in the mail?

John Edwards Has A New Blogger On Staff

Hit & Run is reporting on John Edwards’ new blogger, Amanda Marcotte. Some of you remember Amanda as the raving feminist* from Pandagon. Well, it seems that one of the earliest things Amanda has done after the announcement of her new position is to go back and delete a post where she jumped to conclusions about the Duke rape case.

Perhaps she should look further back in her history, to the blog Mouse Words. Before she got picked up by Pandagon, she made a name for herself on that blog. Back in the day, I was a very new blogger, and adopted the resident libertarian position, debating her.

But for those of you “right-wingers” like me (I include libertarians in that group because to a leftist like Amanda, anyone who doesn’t agree is a right-winger), you should know something about her. She thinks that those of us on the right are either evil or stupid. I got into it with her on this post at Mouse Words, dealing with creationism and public schools. It was then that I realized she divides right-leaning individuals into one of two groups, and as I pointed out at Unrepentant Individual at the time, she thinks I’m in the wrong one.

I’ve realized that to the left, there are two types of right-wingers: the stupid, and the evil. The evil is a very small, powerful group. Their goal is to find ways to destroy the country in such a way that it shores up their power, and makes them the ruling elite of the country. The stupid group is everyone else that votes Republican. They are pawns, too dim to understand that they are being manipulated by their evil string-pullers.

Now, I tried to defend myself and my right-wing brethren, and mentioned that we are not trying to destroy America as we know it. We have honestly weighed the policies, and believe that the policies that we are supporting are in the long-term interests of our nation as a whole. My frank response got me this:

“Brad, I don’t think you do. I think the people who want to be our evil overlords dump millions of dollars into right wing think tanks to come up with arguments that everyday folks think sound reasonable enough and then manufacture crisises so that everyday folks think that we have no choice but to implement the plans that the right wing think tanks come up with.”

Looks like I must have landed myself in the “stupid” group. Which undoubtedly has me a little angry. I don’t consider myself to be a slouch intellectually, and I’m enough of a skeptic to watch out when people are trying to exploit me. Despite my slight megalomania and delusions of grandeur, I’m not evil. The only explanation I have left is that they must be drugging my water.

This is the kind of mentality that we have to deal with from the left. Obviously our policies are absolutely atrocious, so to support them we must be evil or stupid.

So, if Amanda takes down her older old blog, remember one thing. If you don’t agree with her, she thinks you’re evil, or you’re stupid. And if the folks at Hit & Run are right, she really thinks you’re stupid, because she thinks she can just remove her previous words and they’ll go away. As they ask, hasn’t she ever heard of Google Cache or the Wayback Machine? And she thinks I’m the daft one?
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Old Media vs. New Media

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.

My original point had to do with the MSM’s (the old media’s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.

The following is the statement I made in the original post:

Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor.

William L. Anderson of LewRockwell.com made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Anderson’s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.

This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:

I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldn’t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.

I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadn’t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasn’t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a ‘whore’. I wasn’t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.

When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnum’s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnum’s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnum’s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnum’s ever-changing statements.

As to the motives, veracity, and ‘high mindedness’ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means ‘any more pure than the rest of society.’ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. It’s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.

Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a ‘pat on the back’. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?

The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.

One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. At the time I didn’t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.

There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.

As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?

Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.

New Libertarian Social News Site

Many of you are familiar with Digg.com, a news aggregator site where the actions of the community of readers propel “worthy” stories ahead of the rest. Essentially, they’re designed to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, Digg has some inherent biases and a herd mentality that usually forces smaller blogs and news items, despite their worth, to be overlooked. That being said, several of us here have submitted stories there regularly, because every new reader which happens upon this site is valued.

Recently a new site devoted to the libertarian side of the internet has opened. Liberty Loop operates on the same sort of principle as Digg, but the content is mostly libertarian-oriented. It’s also a new site, so submitted stories are more able to rise to the top and be seen than on the larger sites, and based on it’s libertarian theme, the stories are likely to be seen by their true target audience. Check it out, I’ve been browsing a bit already and it looks like there’s some good content over there.

Hat Tip: Hit & Run

Why Is It?

Why is it that most dogmatic conservative and libertarian blogs don’t provide trackbacks or comments? If they did then Anthony Gregory, Thomas Woods (of Lew Rockwell Blog) and Kevin might be able to have a constructive dialog. Instead, we have this. Such posts make people feel better, superior even. They probably get appreciative head nods from various readers and followers. But they don’t advance discussion at all.

Oh, just in case Anthony or Thomas drop by, The Liberty Papers is not Libertarian (or Republican or Democrat for that matter).

The Tyranny Of The Majority

As both Adam and Brad have noted, I stirred up quite a little hornet’s nest with my post earlier today addressing a liberal leftist who didn’t really seem to understand (or respect) libertarian thought.

I had hoped, perhaps naively, that it would result in a serious debate and exchange of ideas. Instead, in my absence during the day, it quickly devolved into a name-calling contest in which Brad and others were denounced as trolls rather than given the respect that someone with ideas deserves. As Adam said, had Ms. O’Brien or her readers come here and commented, I have no doubt they would have been treated with far more respect than they gave to their opponent on their home turf.

What these people seem to continually forget, is the fact that democratic majorities can be as tyrannical as the most despotic dictator. John Stuart Mill put it best in his great 1859 work On Liberty when he said:

The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; the people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power. The limitation, therefore, of the power of government over individuals loses none of its importance when the holders of power are regularly accountable to the community, that is, to the strongest party therein.

In other words, the mere fact that the men and women who make government policy are elected by a democratic means, rather than inheriting their position by royal blood or privilege, or by blood, does not mean that the policies they enact cannot be oppressive. In fact, when government is put in the hands of a majority by democracy, it is often more oppressive than its non-democratic predecessors might be. Jim Crow laws, to pick just one example, were not imposed by Kings or Premiers; they were voted into law by men elected by a majority of the eligible voters of the Southern United States.

This is why the Constitution created a government of limited power. The Founding Fathers knew that unlimited power, even in the hands of a democratically elected government, could be the path to tyranny and despotism

Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to recognize that idea:

If We, the People, want to promote the general Welfare by initiating taxpayer funded universal health care, for example, ain’t nothin’ in the Constitution that says we can’t have it. People opposed to it can argue about why they think universal health care is not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and then the voters can decide which way they want to go. But when such a program is nixied purely on some ideological dogmas about “big government,” that’s essentially an argument against republican government, and against democracy itself. It’s an argument that says people may not govern themselves, and it’s a violation of the principles on which this nation was founded.

And there lies the fundamental problem that the author just does not understand. The Constitution and Bill of Rights clearly stand for the principle that if it isn’t in the Constitution, then the Federal Government can’t do it.

More importantly, though, it makes clear the point that, without limited government, individual liberty cannot survive for very long.

I Thought About It

I thought about responding to the Maha Blog after this post and comment thread. In the course of the thread, Maha decided to censor two Liberty Papers contributors, including myself and Brad. She also removed a comment from “Mycroft Holmes” without comment at all when he had the temerity to point out that she had a strange way of defending liberty (which she claims to do).

I thought about a lot of things, but decided that you folks are bright enough to be able to figure things out on your own. For example, I decided you could see through the so-called liberalism of her blog to the actual populism. Like the idea that we shouldn’t bother with an amendment process because that would just “get in the way” of doing what the people want. Never mind all the examples in history of tyranny and oppression brought about by not obstructing the “will of the people”. Just one example.

Both Maha, and her fan club, oppose W and Co for their increase in oppression, failing to notice that their populist socialism is oppressive as well. Ah well.

Maha decided to call Brad and I trolls when we insisted on publicly debating her. She decided that the conversation went “right over our head” when we disagreed with her. Check it out for yourself, if you are so inclined. If I really wanted to, I could keep commenting on her blog through the simple expedient of using a different name and email address and a web proxy to change my IP address. But, it just isn’t worth my time at this point.

One last thought. If Maha should choose to come to The Liberty Papers and discuss her position, we will provide an uncensored environment for the discussion. No one’s comments are ever removed, except actual spam. No matter how much we dislike what she says, no matter how many comments she posts, she will not have her comments removed. Even when the contributors here have vehemently disagreed with commenters (John Newman, for example), they have never censored. I wonder if she understands the irony of censoring “Mycroft Holmes”?

America Goes Commie — What Do You Do?

Over at Catallarchy, Jonathan Wilde asks a very interesting question:

At some point in the future, the majority of US voters come to believe passionately in communism. As the presidential election approaches, all polling data points to a probable win by the communist party candidate. And I don’t mean ‘communist’ like Barack Obama or George W. Bush, but rather, a real red-tempered communist like Fidel Castro.

As a person who believes in liberty and markets, what is your best course of action?

Assassination?
Spurring revolution?
Creating/promoting an opposition party?

In this case, escape is my #1 option. I’ve said before, the day I see America coming after the guns, it’s time to bug out. I’m not even a gun guy, but that’s one of those signs that things have gone too far. But as some of the comments there point out, where do you go? If America gets that bad, it may not be easy to find someplace better to go.

What would you do?

Responding to Walter

So, we have a reader, Walter, who advocates going toe to toe with the Chinese over Taiwan. In response to a single comment by me, he posts a couple hundred words tackling me and his perception of what I advocate or believe.

Below the fold, I tackle his comments. I’m sure they won’t make much difference, but it’s worth a shot. Maybe Walter will at least learn a bit about how to conduct a debate.
» Read more

I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This

But, I actually like something that Markos Zuniga Moulitsas a.k.a “Daily Kos” has written:

The Case for the Libertarian Democrat

In this article, Kos attempts to describe why he thinks there is a more natural alliance between those with libertarian principles, and the Democratic party; as well as why the Republican party has been losing so much of it’s traditionally libertarian center…

…and but for two important points, I’m agreeing with what he’s written (which by the way isn’t what I think he truly believes. I’ve read enough of his stuff over the years that I know he’s way more to the left than he’s presenting himself here).

The first principle that I utterly disagree with, is that corporations are the ultimate evil in this world; and that capitalism must be strictly regulated and monitored by government or it will inevitably become a totalitarian evil.

The funny thing about that one is; it’s not too far wrong. Oh it is completely wrong in reality; but the difference between reality, and this socialists paranoid dystopian fantasy future isn’t very large. Mercantilist fascism is a distinct posibility if certain elements get tweakend in certain ways.

The irony of this principle, is that this result is exactly what we KNOW to be true, and will ALWAYS happen with an unfettered government; which brings us to the second issue I have…

The second principle he espouses here that I completely disagree with, is the core philosophy which separates Liberals, Democrats, Libertarians, libertarians, Republicans, and Conservatives alike.

Those on the left and the right (presuming a continuous linear spectrum as presented above) both believe that government can to some degree or another, do good; and be a legitmate and positive force; either for change, or to maintain stasis.

Those who are Libertarians, or libertarians; in general believe that all government is inherently a negative thing, but that some government is less negative than the alternative.

This principle was once the guide of the centrists wings of both the Democratic, and Republican parties; however those wings are severely weakened (in the case of the republicans), or have simply been purged from the party over the past 40 years (the democrats).

This means that there is no longer a functioning constiuency for severely limited government in power today. Both major parties are operating under the principle that with THEIR guidance, government can and WILL do good (or what THEY consider to be good – which is nothing of the sort), no matter the consequences.

One thing that these types never seem to understand, is the law of unintended consequences, and it most important corolary, the corolary of intentions.

ALWAYS REMEMBER THIS:

No matter what you do, what you know, or what your intentions are; every word you say, every thing you do, will have consequences you did not intend, forsee, or understand. Good intentions matter, but good results matter more.

Oh, and I suppose there’s one other principle that Kos is espousing that I can’t take: The idea that the way to fix the country is by voting democratic; and that if enough libertarians come to the democratic party, things will be alright again (or it’s corrolary, that tactically voting against republicans will force them to become more libertarian as a reaction to their electoral losses).

I reject this concept as utter folly; and dangerous folly at that. If the democratic party is ever allowed into the kind of power position it had in the late 70s again; it will destroy America utterly, and possibly kill us all in the process.

No, I’m not being hyperbolic, I am simply doing that which is prudent: the consequences of following what democrats say are, or have proven to be, their policies; will be the utter subjugation of the west to political correctness, weakness, appeasment, “tolerance”, and “multiculturalism”; and that WILL get us all killed.

The Democratic party, and the left who have chosen the Democrats as their represntatives; are in fact not liberty oriented at all (though some individuals may be). They are controlled by totalitarian transnational “progressivists”.

If these political philosophies are given reign over the country, it will weaken us to the point where we would be unable to resist the muslim and communist assault on our society, and we would all be killed or converted.

This is not to say the Republicans are all that much better; but I do not fear for my immediate safety, or the safety of my children given Republican principles and track record. Yes, taken too far, we COULD become that totalitarian mercantilist fascist state that frothy leftists have paranoid wet dreams about… but I for one would rise in bloody revolution first, as I know would at least hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens; and we’ve all got plenty of guns.

Of course we wouldn’t if the transnational progressivists had their way, now would we.

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

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

Brad’s Smoking and Bare-Knuckle Boxing Emporium!

If you’ve been keeping up with things, you’ll have noticed that smoking bans have become the new (old) debate. Columnist Bill Fergusen explains why a libertarian can support such bans:

That’s why this libertarian supports efforts to restrict smoking in public places not clearly designated as smoking zones. Smokers should have the right to smoke, and I should have the right to breathe clean air. That means no smoking in generally accessible areas like workplaces, restaurants, and stores, except in clearly designated, and separately ventilated, areas.

Well, this has garnered some attention for Fergusen, which was probably his intent. Of course, more type is being spent asking whether he’s really a libertarian than anything else. Stephen van Dyke takes issue with this, Sean Lynch of Catallarchy responded that fighting smoking bans should be about #258 on a libertarian to-do list, and Atlas Blogged suggested that the smoking bans should be a libertarian litmus test.

Now, I’ve posted on smoking bans before, and there’s rarely more to be said. But this comment to the post at Atlas Blogged really got to me:

My perspective then, since I believe that secondhand smoke is harmful, is that a smoker should be allowed to harm themselves but should not be allowed to harm others.

No one is allowed to randomly throw knives in a restaurant, because that’s harmful. No one should be allowed to fill the room with smoke that others have no choice but to breathe, because that’s harmful.

You might say, “You do have a choice. Leave if you don’t like it.” Then I should also just leave if I don’t like someone throwing knives. But I don’t have to worry about knives, because it’s illegal for people to throw knives in restaurants. I shouldn’t have to worry about breathing secondhand smoke in restaurants either.

The only reason the analogy may sound absurd is because you don’t believe that secondhand smoke is harmful. Get hit by a knife, you see the immediate and obvious damage. Inhale a lungful of secondhand smoke and you don’t see immediate damage, but it’s happening nonetheless (albeit much more slowly than a direct hit from a flying knife).

Should a restaurant be free to allow smokers to smoke throughout their building? On the surface, it seems the answer should be “yes.” But should they also be free to allow knife-throwing inside as long as they post a sign on the front door that reads “Knife-throwing Allowed”? No.

I think there’s another problem with that analogy. To go on with the “your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose”, what if I wanted to start my own little “Fight Club”. I buy a little store, set up a boxing ring, and everyone who wants can come in and get into a fistfight.

Assault is illegal. But if I have consenting adults fighting in my ring, are anyones rights being violated? And if so, how is the sport of boxing (or football, or any other contact sport) any different? It’s true, it might not be knife-throwing, but I think there’s undoubtedly be the occasional injury in my “Fight Club”. And the normal rules, if I remember the movie correctly, is that you come to “Fight Club”, you fight; there are no spectators.

Now, would it be fair for me to wait until someone randomly walks into my store to ask for directions, and haul off and jack them in the face? Of course not. They haven’t consented to such behavior. And the knife-throwing (or smoking) analogy fits, if someone must be exposed to that before they have the ability to withhold their consent, but that’s a pretty minor issue in the long run, at least with the smoking part.

I agree with Atlas Blogged, this makes a great litmus test for libertarians. A libertarian can support smoking bans in places like hospitals, perhaps government buildings, places where you have no choice but to consent or not consent. But I don’t see any way to logically allow smoking bans in places like restaurants, bars, workplaces, etc that people can choose whether or not to attend.

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