A Tale of Two Bills

Using the near-impossibility that any bill entitled “ethics reform” will be rebuked, House members have proposed campaign finance restrictions be rolled into ethics reform:

House Republicans launched an election-year drive Wednesday to rein in political groups that operate with looser restraints than candidates and their parties, an attempt to blunt the activities of liberals such as billionaire George Soros.

Wealthy supporters, who make donations of $1 million or more to such groups, could contribute no more than $30,000 under the legislation, according to Republican officials. The organizations would be subject to more frequent disclosure requirements.

House Republicans indicated late last year that they wanted to limit the activities of loosely regulated political organizations, trying unsuccessfully to attach legislation to a must-pass bill setting overall policy for the military. They retreated under bipartisan fire.

At the time, the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee said the effort was designed to close “a loophole that is allowing big donor money into the process.”

How did freedom of speech become a “loophole”? Is that similar to how when they give us a tax cut, they count that as an “expenditure”? It used to be that individual rights were something inherent, and which were not to be infringed by the government. Now they’ve taken the stance that they’re the arbiters of all that exists, and they’ll parcel out to us those rights which they think we’re worthy of being granted.

The Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Act of 2003 is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to keep the message in the hands of people that don’t want to rock the boat. But as with anything, when there is that much power at stake, people will find a way to be heard, and 527 organizations fit the bill. Yet from a government standpoint, it was at least an improvement. While they couldn’t silence everyone, they were able to make sure all except the very powerful remained quiet. The powerful have an incentive to keep the status quo, lest they lose their power.

But some voices are bucking the trend. George Soros* has an established fortune (i.e. little fear of losing it, being fired, etc), and an agenda. To our government, Soros is simply too unpredictable and uncontrollable to be allowed to continue operating. They are desperately trying to continue their ability to control the message, and will take down the “whales” of political donations if necessary.

When you see that, you wonder whether our Congressman really want any part of the Online Freedom of Speech Act, set to come up for a vote tomorrow:

Redstate: We’ve been working for a long time on HR 1606 – The Online Freedom of Speech Act. It will come up for a vote on the floor of the House TOMORROW but as you read this – the campaign regulation community is hard at work – working the halls of Congress, lying about not only our bill – but “their” bill as well. And as far as their intentions go – well, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to THEM bragging about protecting free speech – they are not to be trusted.

Of all the work you’ve done on this issue – no day is more important that today. Start with this list. Call the Republicans that wobbled last time 1606 was on the floor. And don’t stop there.

Congress doesn’t want bloggers speaking freely. They accept us grudgingly, although I’ll bet some of the lesser known folks on the hard-right, hard-left, or libertarian ends of the spectrum giving them assistance (as I think the blogosphere tends to be populated by ends of the spectrum, rather than the middle). But the vast majority see us as a threat. They saw the Patterico Pledge, and they understand the power of the press, even if it is simply online self-publishing.

It’s a sad day when freedom of speech has become a battleground. But it’s a battle we cannot afford to lose. Liberty must constantly be guarded, as there are always forces ready to snatch it away. Let’s make sure that if it goes, it goes with a bang, not a whimper.

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What Progressives Really Think

DADAHEAD recently wrote about trade, in the context of the upcoming election(s).

[T]he majority of Democratic office holders are not

really populists or progressives; they're welfare-state capitalists, and their allegiance to big business is as axiomatic as any Republican's.

In response, Neil wrote the following:

Personally, I'm happy to identify as a welfare capitalist — can you not be that as well as a populist or progressive? If you set up the economy so that the maximum amount of money

flows in, and it happens to flow in to rich people, that's just fine as long as you tax those rich people heavily enough to fund education and health care, etc, for everybody.

If it slots turns out that it's easier to fund the betterment of the working poor that way than to actually set up the economy so they make more money in their jobs, that's the way we should set up policy.

So, according to at least one progressive (and probably many more), capitalism is great, insofar as the benefits flow away from those who create the capital and towards those who produce nothing. How, exactly, is this ethical, Neil?

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Responding to: you know Who

Recently a commenter known as: Who reacted to (and again on his own blog …I guess I’m “another journal”, referenced in the title, although he neither mentioned my name not provided a link to my blog).

You once wrote: “As an individualist, I support the freedom of another to self destruct, as long as there are no other victims.”

And later, aware of a degree of contradiction or paradox, “No one is an island.”

Firstly, what is an individualist…or individualism? Well, Merriam-Webster Online defines it this way:

(1) a: a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount; also: conduct guided by such a doctrine (2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals b: a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests; also: conduct or practice guided by such a theory

Now, while I happen to agree with much of Ayn Rand’s philosophy (among others), vis-a-vis individualism, I do not in fact espouse individual isolationism. I appreciate the various benefits that are attendant to civilized society…ergo, “no one is an island”.

On a purely conceptual level, individualism is integral to the human experience. Each and every individual is unique in the universe; each has the ability (theoretically at least) to think and act independently…or, if phonegame download you like, individually. Furthermore, each individual is personally responsible for their own choices and the consequences that inexorably follow (see this).

It may sound elementary, but apparently, not everyone understands it; Who continued:

There is a hidden assumption behind the individualist position, the assumption that we are independent beings. Time(s) and space(s) and matter(s), however, are not compartmentalised on all levels. On subtler levels they are fully connected. It is simply an error to see only the gross.

From a quantum mechanical perspective, the interconnectedness of the material universe goes without saying; everything is matter and/or energy. But that’s not exactly relevant to individualism. What’s more, “the

assumption that we are independent beings” is quite a sound one in my view. For humans may be made of similar stuff, but not the same stuff

(i.e., each individual / mind is a distinct entity). This is not a distinction without a difference.

My first assumptions are that matter and energy are gross forms of consciousness and that there are no boundaries obstructing consciousness from what it wants to experience. Further, it is an illusion that there are numerous independent consciousnesses.

Read the last sentence again…and than again if needed. That’s right, Who claims that “independent consciousnesses” are “an illusion”. I just have one question: on what do you base such an assertion?

So, if somebody overdoses with drugs in the USA, it does affect me here in the UK, truly. If a large number of people do that, it will somehow degrade my own experience of life and I may feel motivated to act. There are always other victims.

I’m not sure I follow his line of reasoning, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. It sounds like he’s arguing that actions have consequences, which is just stating the obvious. But

the subtler implication is that government, or society at large, ought to simply prohibit activities that could conceivably cause harm to another. Frankly, that’s bullshit! For instance, why don’t we (government, society, the “global community”, whatever) urge lawmakers to criminalize: the driving of automobiles, the owning of baseball bats and steak knives, the drinking of alcoholic beverages, the possession of firearms and the like? The answer is simple really: such prohibitions are an affront to, and egregiously impinge, individual liberty…period.

Here’s a novel idea: why don’t “we” punish actual misconduct that results in harm done to another, instead of advocating the punishment of potential harm?

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Isms – part 1

Let’s talk about -isms, in particular political -isms

Oh and we’re working with a bit of obscure and boring stuff here, so if you aren’t into theoretical underpinnings of political systems, go ahead to the next post.

Let’s begin,

There are several over-arching political -isms that you can use to categorize most of the other isms; and they can be arranged into two axes, the axis of rach, and the axis of force.

At a fundemantal level all systems come down to the structure and limits of governmental reach, and governmental force. In other words, how many areas the government has a legitimate interest in controlling, and how much control they have over it.

The first measure, reach; is bounded on the extreme low end by true anarchism: The belief that there is no legitmate role for government of any kind.

On the extreme high end of reach, we have the totalitarians, who believe that there is no limit to the legitimate reach of government. Government can and SHOULD be involved in all aspects of life.

The other axis is force; delineating how much authority government should have over it’s legitimate areas of reach, and how much force can be used to execute that authority.

At the extreme low end of the force scale are anti-coerciveism (also called anti-intialism) and pacifism. The first is a philosophy of rule that declares no coercive force of any kind can be initiated against any other for any reason. Pacifism is somewhat different, in that it rejects all force, whether it be coercive, neutral, or defensive in nature as illegitimate; whereas the anti-coercives allow for defensive force, and the response to an initiation of force.

At the other end of the axis are the authoritarians, who believe that government has the legitimate authority to use all force it deems necessary within it’s legitmate reach.

You can see that all political philosophies will have a position on these axes, even if they are somewhat fuzzy, and may actually need to be plotted as a curve (most systems would be); but you can loosley classify the major political-isms handily.

It would seem clear that the most harmful systems to liberty would be the authoritarian totalitarian systems:

Maosim
Stalinism
Fascism
Communism
Democratism (yes, this is without question harmful to liberty because it submits the will of the majority as the absolute authority)
Militarism
Imperialism
Feudalism
Hierarchicalism (these include meritism, oligopolism, monopolism etc..)
Islamism (and other political theisms)

Conversely one would assume that the systems most conducive to liberty would be the opposite, true anarchy. Unfortunately, this is not the case; because without any form of government, or the ability to initiate force against others, a society will inevitably collapse into crime, and the rule of the strong over the week will assuredly prevail.

The systems that tend towards maximising human liberty are the ones more to the middle, that limit the reach of government, and strictly limit it’s authority within that reach; but which allow for an effective defense against both external attack, and internal parasitism and criminalism:

Limited Republicanism (which is NOT democratism)
Libertarianism
Liberal Constitutionalism
Minarchism
Syndicalism

You might note that democracy, republics, even purely constitutional states aren’t necessarily good for liberty; because they allow for the tyranny of the majority. These systems can easily become authoritarian at the whim of an angry populace.

It is necessary to have a strictly, and structurally limited form of government in order to prevent both the rise of strongment, and the tyranny of the majority.

One might also note that collectivism isn’t necesarrily harmful to liberty, so long as that collectivism isn’t involuntary (as in communism, marxism etc…). For example, in syndicalsim, the participation in the collective is voluntary ; and it is entirely acceptable that one may perform actions in competition with syndicates, or in co-operation with them, without being a member. I generally dont consider syndicalism the best system for maximizing liberty, but it CAN be an effective way for anti-coercive individuals to provide for collective action without the initiation of force.

Most people who call themselves anarchists, are in fact anarcho capitalists, or anarcho syndicalists, who believe that there should be no government, and no governmental authority, but that markets or voluntary collective action can provide all the functions necessary for a government.

I think both of these philoshophies are a bit off; both simplistic in ways, overly dependent on uncertainties in others; and in both cases unreasonably optimistic about the purity of their systems. Only if the systems are kept rigorously pure can they properly function; and the mechanisms for assuring this purity are explicitlty disallowed by the nature of the systems.

To my mind, the best systems for human liberty are minarchist systems (of any structure); which specifically limit the government to the most basic functions:

  • We need a neutral arbiter for disputes. This function is served by civil courts.
  • We need to keep people from commiting crimes (the strong harming the weak). This function is served by police.
  • We need to catch people who do commit crimes, to ensure they can be punished, and that restitution can be made. This function is also served by the police.
  • We need to have a system for determining who is punished, how they are punished etc.. This function is served by criminal courts.
  • We must prevent those from outside our society who would harm us, and our vital interests, from doing so. This function is served by the military, and to an extent by diplomats as part of the executive office.
  • There must be an agency for negotiating and concluding agreeements with other nation states in support of our vital interests. This function is served by the executive office.
  • In the united states, or any other federal entity, there must be an agency for settling disputes between the states. This function is served by the federal courts and particularly the supreme court
  • There must be a system for creating and defining legislation. A written code of laws is essential to a free society. This function is served by the legislature.
  • There must be an agency for selecting those who are given authority by the government, whether in police, military, court, legislative, or executive roles. In our society this is served through the franchise, as adminsitered by the states, counties, and precincts.
  • There must be the systems and infrastructure in place to enable and support these functions. This function is served by the bureaucracy of civil service.
  • There are some functions which are best served through collective action, such as public works. Though much of these can be privatized, there is a legitmate claim for functions such as roads to be provided by the government, as it is not possible to perform the basic functions of government without them. When not served through private contract, these functions would also be provided through the civil service.

This would allow for far more government reach and authority than anarchists, and even most libertarians would allow for; however it is very difficult to have a functioning society containing more than a few thousand individuals without those enumerated functions.

In a minarchist systems, the absolute minimal rach, and authority of government are strictly defined, and then strictly enforced, through a consitution, and code of laws to enforce it, which CANNOT be overridden; except by the overthrow of the government.

In these systems, it is not necessary to change the constitution; because the constitution only specifies that which as absolutely necessary to the function of government. All else is either left to the individual, or codified in law. This prevents a supermajority from forming to change the constitution to the detriment of individual liberty (a common argument anarchists use against constitutional systems).

If such a supermajority DOES form, it can simply overthrow the government and form another one; which is the ultimate recourse of any population. Of coruse in this they may forma new government harmful to liberty, but so long as they do not coerce others into that form of government, they are wlcome to do so. If they DO coerce others, than there is ample justification for resistance with force.

Of course if the force is 1/3 vs 2/3 and no chance of outside support… well then you’re screwed. Go read “The Moon is a harsh mistress”.

In part two we’ll go into a lot more detail about the systems themselves.

Crossposted from The Anarchangel

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

Marc Emery and the Seedy War on Pot (and drugs in general)

At first glance, if you’ve read my bio, you might wonder what the heck a gal like me could have to say about the war on drugs. If you really don’t know me, you might read to the first line of the fifth paragraph of my bio and immediately discount anything I have to say – but hey, that’s your right and your bias – not mine.

But in reality, I’m in a unique position to comment on this topic – for a couple reasons. First, I have no hidden agenda. I’m an almost 45 year old woman who has NEVER so much as smoked a cigarette. I’ve never eaten a pot brownie or smoked a joint. Never tried any mind altering drugs – other than the occasional glass of wine or mixed drink. To say I’m “squeaky” clean when it comes to the usage of drugs is an understatement, and the only things I can attribute it to are good parents and teachings, and a very strong sense of needing to be in control. So if and when drugs are ever legalized, I’ll probably still not partake. My need to be in control of myself and my actions far outweighs any curiosity that I have.

What has got me thinking about this today was watching 60 Minutes last night and seeing the segment on Marc Emery entitled “Prince of Pot“. It seems that Marc Emery (who may be far better known to others than he was to me) has been selling marijuana seeds for years over the internet to folks all over the world. Marc Emery did what many do covertly here in the States. Hopefully, he had a service like Easy Pay Direct – High Risk Merchant Credit Card Processing which could have helped him secure his financial transactions. He’s currently under indictment for selling and distributing marijuana (among other things) and is waiting to see if the Canadian government is going to extradite him to the US.

I truly, honestly believe that the “war on drugs” is a bogus waste of time and money, and we’d be much better off if we simply legalized at least marijuana and allowed it’s free and open use as we do alcohol. The only caveat would be that users would have to be aware that penalties for crimes or accidents committed under the influence would result in very stiff penalties.

The upshot of legalizing pot would be to put a lot of dealers out of business – the war on drugs as it stands right now is really good for their business – they don’t want legalization – and that’s what I see as a difference between Marc Emery and drug dealers. You see, Marc Emery WANTS marijuana to be legalized, and he’s spent the majority of his profits trying to institute change in a system he believes to be wrong.

One area that was not touched upon in the “Prince of Pot” segment was one I consider to be important – that of the need for marijuana for medical use, which is just as illegal in the US as non-medical use. If I had a friend or family member who had a disease which could be eased by the use of marijuana, (i.e. glaucoma, cancer, MS, chronic pain, etc.) I’d want them to be able to use it if it could ease their suffering – and that without being concerned that it was an illegal substance.

I haven’t had the time to fully examine the site, but the Drug Policy Alliance appears to be one of the best sites promoting common sense when it comes to a drug policy in the United States.

So, here I am, mother of two, straight arrow, fiscal conservative, social liberal and against the war on drugs. Whew. Politics do make strange bedfellows, eh?

Homeschooling Security Mom, Political Junkie, Believe in upholding the Constitution – and subscribe to the theory that gun control is the ability to hit your target!