Category Archives: Liberty

Thoughts On The Libertarian/Conservative “Alliance”

Over at Liberty Pundits, Melissa Clouthier argues that libertarians and conservatives are natural allies:

Libertarians want the government to bug out. Conservatives want the individual to empower himself. Libertarians believe in rational self-interest. Conservatives believe help and charity come from a giving heart–not from the government’s pointed gun.

Their motivations might be different, but their desired outcomes are the same. When Big Government Republicans talked about compassionate conservatism, they implied that conservatism is mean and harsh. They believed that they cared because they wanted to give people something for nothing.

They cared with other people’s money. I can be very generous when I’m writing checks off of someone else’s checking account. And boy do they all feel generous. But we are all paying the bill. And maybe some of us would pay for some of these things anyway. Americans are a very generous people. But many things are useless or worse, actively harmful and the government has no business being in that arena.

Conservatives and libertarians have much in common. Libertarians need to get over their God issue and actually see their friends in the conservative movement. They need to see the Restoring Honor rally for what it is: a call for personal responsibility and living free as an individual (which means being free to live with consequences and not expect someone else to bail them out).

And conservatives need to ignore the libertarian drug and sex obsession and see the small government, fiscally responsible desires in the libertarian movement.

(…)

The small government strains coming from these two groups naturally work together. Both true conservatives and libertarians distrust big government in all its forms whether the party is Republican or Democrat.

While I don’t doubt Melissa’s sincerity, I think what she misses here are the facts which seem to establish that that the conservative/libertarian “alliance” is really just a marriage of temporary convenience.

For better or worse, victory for conservatives means victory for Republicans. You can make distinctions between small-government fiscal conservatives and “Big Government Republicans” all you want, but the truth of the matter is that conservatives cannot succeed unless the Republican Party as a whole succeeds, and that means allying with and often voting with “Big Government Republicans.” Now, personally, that doesn’t bother me on some level. I”m willing to take an Olympia Snowe or a Mike Castle if it means Rand Paul is part of a Senate Majority. However, if you look at the history of the GOP as a whole, it’s hard to find any example from recent where the party was truly responsible for a reduction in the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government. It happened during the Reagan Administration, but even those modest gains have been reversed over the past decade, thanks mostly to a Republican President and Congress. So, on some level, libertarians and conservatives who hitch their star to the GOP are selling their souls and accepting the reality of short-term, temporary gains rather than long-term change.

More importantly, though, there are fundamental differences between libertarians and conservatives that make any kind of an alliance one of mere convenience rather than anything permanent. The great Frederich von Hayek outlined some of those differences in his 1960 essay Why I Am Not A Conservative (note that when Hayek uses the word “liberal” he is referring to it in it’s classical, principally British, sense of a belief in free markets and individual liberty, not the modern sense):

Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments. But, though there is a need for a “brake on the vehicle of progress,”[3] I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake. What the liberal must ask, first of all, is not how fast or how far we should move, but where we should move. In fact, he differs much more from the collectivist radical of today than does the conservative. While the last generally holds merely a mild and moderate version of the prejudices of his time, the liberal today must more positively oppose some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists.

(…)

The position which can be rightly described as conservative at any time depends, therefore, on the direction of existing tendencies. Since the development during the last decades has been generally in a socialist direction, it may seem that both conservatives and liberals have been mainly intent on retarding that movement. But the main point about liberalism is that it wants to go elsewhere, not to stand still. Though today the contrary impression may sometimes be caused by the fact that there was a time when liberalism was more widely accepted and some of its objectives closer to being achieved, it has never been a backward-looking doctrine. There has never been a time when liberal ideals were fully realized and when liberalism did not look forward to further improvement of institutions. Liberalism is not averse to evolution and change; and where spontaneous change has been smothered by government control, it wants a great deal of change of policy. So far as much of current governmental action is concerned, there is in the present world very little reason for the liberal to wish to preserve things as they are. It would seem to the liberal, indeed, that what is most urgently needed in most parts of the world is a thorough sweeping away of the obstacles to free growth.

This difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long-established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.

The truth of Hayek’s observation can, I think, be found in the history that has passed since he wrote those passages fifty years ago. Except on the margin’s the march of the state has continued unabated regardless of which party was in power and regardless of whether the President was a (modern) liberal or a conservative. Ronald Reagan, as I noted, did little to reverse either the New Deal or the Great Society and Republicans, who campaigned on eliminating the Department of Education in 1980, turned around made it even more powerful when they finally achieved long-sought-after goal of a Republican President and Republican Congress.

Moreover, when it comes to certain aspects of government, conservatives have proved themselves as willing to increase the power of the state as their liberal opponents. The National Security State is largely a creature created by Republicans, and the PATRIOT Act, passed without even being read in the panic that ensued after the September 11th attacks, is now being used by law enforcement to go after people who have no connection to terrorism at all. Privacy from government surveillance and intelligence gathering is fast becoming a myth, and neither conservatives nor liberals seem willing to do anything about it.

And then there’s the issue of the social conservatism aspect of modern American conservatism. Whether it’s same-sex marriage, sexual privacy, or individual automony there are fundamental philosophical differences between libertarians and conservatives that become more apparent once you look past the agreements on fiscal policy.

So, yes, on a temporary basis, libertarians and conservatives have common ground at the moment. But it’s very small common ground and I don’t expect any “alliance” to last very long given past history.

Even Death Penalty Supporters Urge Ohio Gov. Strickland to Spare Kevin Keith

Its one thing when anti-death penalty activists petition a governor to pardon or commute a sentence of an individual scheduled for execution but quite another when death penalty supporters agree. Kevin Keith is scheduled to be executed by the state of Ohio on September 15th for the 1994 murders of 2 adults and 1 child; a crime he has maintained he did not commit. Despite exculpatory evidence which points away from Keith and despite Gov. Ted Strickland’s (D) own public comments where he said he found “certain aspects” of the case “troubling,” the parole board voted 8-0 in favor of executing Keith.

Fortunately, the parole board’s decision is non-binding; Gov. Strickland or perhaps SCOTUS can still do the right thing and halt the execution until the more ‘troubling’ aspects of this case can be fairly reconsidered.

According to this article in The Guardian, among those who are urging Gov. Strickland to halt the execution are more than 30 former judges and prosecutors including former Ohio Attorney General and death penalty supporter Jim Petro (R) and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Herbert Brown.

Jim Petro in a letter to Gov. Strickland:

“I am gravely concerned that the state of Ohio may be on the verge of executing an innocent person”

Justice Herbert Brown in another letter:

“There is a mass of exculpatory evidence, suppressed evidence, faulty eyewitness identification and forensic reports that support legitimate claims of innocence”

Innocence Network President and Clinical Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School Keith A. Findley, while likely biased against the death penalty also wrote to persuade the governor:

Like so many of the wrongful conviction cases, tunnel vision by police, prosecutors, and even courts appears to have played a central role in Mr. Keith’s case and his ultimate conviction.

[…]

The evidence of these pernicious effects of tunnel vision, coupled with the compelling new evidence in Mr. Keith’s case, suggests that Ohio might be on the verge of executing an innocent man […]

Keith’s defense team, in a statement following the parole board’s decision points out that Gov. Strickland signed a bill into law which prohibited some of the very techniques investigators used against their client. Unfortunately for Keith, the banning of these faulty procedures came too late.

Yes, the case of Kevin Keith is indeed troubling. Maybe if a few thousand more can petition Gov. Strickland, he will be even more troubled to the point to where he will end this madness (click here to sign the petition).

In other troubling death penalty news, a federal judge has denied Troy Davis’ innocence claim despite 7 of 9 eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies against him.

Ron Paul Breaks With Son Over Mosque

This is one of the Texas congressman’s best appearances since the heyday of his presidential run. I’ll admit my enthusiasm for him has waned mostly due to his son and a lot of the people who have associated themselves with Paul. Paul himself, however, is consistently a voice of reason over the irrationality and hatred of both political “sides.”

Failbook: Facebook Bans Anti-Prohibition Group

It’s beginning to be really easy to hate Facebook. While Google has stuck to its libertarian principles of free exchange of information by not cooperating with Chinese censorship, Facebook has become more and more creepy:

The people behind the “Just Say Now” marijuana legalization campaign (oft-Boinged Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald is one of many political thinkers on their board) want Facebook to back off its decision to pull their ads from the social networking service.

This is what Facebook’s PR says:

It would be fine to note that you were informed by Facebook that the image in question was no long acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies. Let me know if you need anything further.

One key indicator that you are dealing with unapologetic authoritarians is when you’re being harshly reprimanded for violating regulations and rules that are unpredictable, undefinable and more than likely not even known by the person touting them. That appears to be the case with Facebook’s policies:

But the group points out that Facebook’s ad policy doesn’t ban “smoking products,” just “tobacco products.” Also, Facebook does permit alcohol ads, even ads featuring images of alcohol products and packaging, though alcohol ads that make alcohol consumption “fashionable,” “promote intoxication” or that “encourage excessive consumption” are banned. Just Say Now calls Facebook’s action censorship.

Perhaps Facebook goes by the old Jack Webb Dragnet school that pot consists of “marijuana cigarettes.”

There’s alot of faux outrage out there, as the Cordoba Crowds in NYC have shown us. Given the extensive cost to normal livelihoods by the continued prison construction and law enforcement funding required by prohibition, Facebook does deserve to be boycotted for trying to silence a group like Just Say Now.

Just Say Now’s Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com, is also on the side of liberty in her fight against punitive immigration laws. Check out an appearance she did that I posted at my website Voice of the Migrant. She’s also a cancer survivor and all around political superhero. Give her support and take it away from Facebook.

Jon Stewart Has Earned My Respect

I used to think that Jon Stewart was another garden variety left winger but lately, I’ve found him to be perhaps the most reasonable political commentator anywhere. Whether the issue is the controversial South Park episode featuring the prophet Mohammed, Obama’s about face on civil liberties now that he is president, or this most recent ground zero mosque controversy, Jon Stewart, a comedian is the voice of reason as many other pundits take one extreme view or the other.

In this Daily Show segment below entitled “Extremist Makeover – Homeland Edition” Stewart does something that I’ve seen very few pundits do publicly: admit he was wrong. In observing the overreactions of this mosque controversy in which many on the right want to deny freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and property rights to a religious minority out of fear, Stewart realizes that he too overreacted in the wake of the Columbine Massacre when he and others on the left condemned the NRA for going ahead with their scheduled convention in Denver (near ground zero for this tragedy). From there, Stewart plays excerpts from then NRA President Charlton Heston and admits that Heston was right and he was wrong.

Stewart:

If you replace ‘NRA’ with ‘Muslim community’ and ‘Second Amendment’ with ‘First Amendment’ he [Heston] is still right.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Extremist Makeover – Homeland Edition
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Jon Stewart has earned my respect for his intellectual honesty even as others (*cough* Wayne Allyn Root *cough*) have lost it.

The Whys And Wherefores Of Armed Rebellion And Beer

Over at Popehat, Ken has posted a very thought-provoking question about the American Right’s rhetoric lately regarding armed rebellion. He delves into two topics, first exactly what the reasoning, scope, and result of revolution might be, and secondly into why the rhetoric tends to follow very similar paths to rhetoric of the socialist revolutionaries of the last century. It’s worth reading for the post, and there’s been a pretty good discussion in the comments section as well.

TJIC responds with a very long post of his own, laying out not only a justification for what conditions make rebellion morally acceptable, but also a bit of a “how-to” guide to destroy the state without obscene collateral damage. Again, very interesting.

In particular, though, I personally (for several obvious reasons) was struck by this visual question/response in TJIC’s post:

Ken: [After revolution] When do we get free elections again?

TJIC: Why would we want elections when we can have freedom?

In a mere two pictures, this illustrates my beliefs on democracy, anarcho-capitalism, and [of course] beer.

Democracy is a choice of rule, of whether you will have Left or Right, Republican or Democrat, Bud or Miller. It is both limited and binding. If the populace chooses Miller, the shelves are stocked with Miller Lite. Or more accurately, in our current system the shelves are stocked with ONLY Budweiser and Miller, in proportion to the vote count. At the top (President), perhaps the decision is that only one of them is then allowed to advertise on the networks [to strain the analogy well beyond its breaking point]. This situation is great for Budweiser, and great for Miller, regardless of where they fit along the spectrum of 60/40 split or 40/60 split of market share. The situation isn’t so good for the folks who don’t like either — but this is a democracy and they’re stuck with it.

In such a situation, would you say that the people who don’t like Bud or Miller are fully enfranchised? After all, they have every right to vote alongside the B party and the M party. After all, if they really want to drink something else, why don’t they just convince the rest of the voting public to join them.

That answer isn’t suitable for beer, that answer isn’t suitable for restaurants (imagine if McDonald’s vs. Burger King were your only choices), or for musical taste (imagine Lady Gaga vs. Jay-Z as your only choices), or for automobiles (Ford vs. GM). Yet we allow that answer to be suitable for something far more important, our governance.

When it comes to beer, I want freedom. I don’t want to stop people from drinking Bud & Miller, even though I find both of them to be a bit bland and boring. After all, bland and boring works for some people. My sister-in-law rarely eats anything more exciting than spaghetti or grilled cheese, and while I often chide her in a good-natured way, I have no interest in forcing her to eat sushi. With freedom, though, the people who want Bud/Miller can have it, and the people who want wide selections of craft beer can have it. Bud/Miller/Coors make up about 90% of the US Beer market share, but that leaves a lot of room for us on the “long tail”. And when I want a beer that no brewery can make for me, I just fire up the burners, grind some grain, and make it myself. That’s freedom.

Likewise, when it comes to governance, I want freedom. My right to vote for the Bud party or the Miller party doesn’t mean I get anything close to the government I want or find legitimate. Democracy has its advantages over many other forms of government, but it still forces everyone into a lowest-common-denominator one-size-fits-all political system. Those of us who don’t fit that mainstream get crushed right in with the masses. Like beer, I don’t really care what governance *you* want — if you love the Republicans or Democrats, you’re welcome to them. The problem in Democracy is that if 90% of the people in this country want Republicans or Democrats, the other 10% don’t have a chance at getting Libertarians. Your vote only matters if you have popular interests. There is no long tail. Freedom and liberty shouldn’t be subject to a vote, but unfortunately that’s the world we’re living in.

Point: The ACLU Is A Friend of Liberty

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my critique of the ACLU, click here.

The Left and Right political labels are pretty useless at a certain point, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the Left wing label in order to defend the ACLU.

The political Left has at its core both a democratic and an authoritarian side. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling and Christopher Hitchens are among some of the most prominent intellectuals to have split with the Left on occasion in order to speak out against tyranny. This dichotomy is one I like to call the “Napoleon-Snowball dichotomy,” after the characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleons don’t simply show up in third world countries like North Korea or Venezuela – they also have their place in the United States. Despite his coming to the mainstream fore speaking of the need to defend civil liberties, Barack Obama has accelerated the authority of the government to new heights. Obama has grabbed the authority to kill American citizens anywhere in the world. He has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner. Obama’s civil liberties problem was made clear as well by his firing of Shirley Sherrod on the grounds of a sloppy hit job by Andrew Breitbart. Any administration that would fire a public servant so quickly on such shaky grounds must have some sort of anxiety about its power.

For Obama’s Napoleonism, the ACLU has acted as a modern day Snowball, defending against the frightening precedent of a president being able to eliminate Americans by executive order.  In a suit filed against the government, the ACLU argued that the Obama administration had “asserted authority to use lethal force against US citizens located far from any battlefield without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

The ACLU is also victim to a lot of misinformation, including the urban legend that they had filed suit to have crosses removed from graveyards. In fact, in 1999, they did precisely the opposite:

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — In the first case to be filed under Florida’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida goes to trial today on behalf of seven families seeking to prevent the removal and destruction of religious symbols placed at the gravesites of their loved ones.

At issue is the City of Boca Raton’s threat to remove various vertical memorials, including Christian crosses, Stars of David and other religious symbols, from cemetery plots at the Boca Raton Community Cemetery. The ACLU will argue that under the new law, passed in 1998, removal of religious items from grave sites would constitute a substantial burden on religion.

The brilliance of the American constitution is not anarcho-libertarianism – it’s a balance of power through checks and balances. The ACLU is a great bulwart against granted authority becoming too powerful.

Quote of the Day: Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider on Al and Tipper Gore’s Marriage Woes

“Let’s cut to twenty-five years later, I’m still married – none of my kids have been busted for drug possession. Can Al and Tipper Gore say the same thing? I don’t think so – oh, snap!” — Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider

We’re not gonna take it,
No, we ain’t gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it
ANYMORE!!!!!!!

Wayne Allyn Root: Religious Freedom And Property Rights ? Not For Them Muslims !

bill_of_rights_cropped1-570x3881

I’ve written before about the questionable libertarian allegiances of Wayne Allyn Root, the LP’s 2008 Vice-President nominee and currently an At-Large member of the Libertarian National Committee. Now, Root is out with a blog post about the so-called “Ground Zero” Mosque that is anything but libertarian in it’s sentiments and it’s conclusions, and it should be of concern to anyone who thinks that Root represents the direction the Libertarian Party should take in the future.

Root starts out with the same sort of milquetoast paeans toward religious liberty and property rights that we saw in his book, but he quickly goes off in a direction that makes it clear that, on this issue, he is more in line with Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich than any Libertarian (or libertarian):

This proposed building of a mosque on hallowed ground is an ATROSITY towards America. To build a celebration of Islam within steps of 9/11 does nothing to increase religious freedom…it inspires hatred, divides our cultures, and increases the odds of violence and hate crimes. Common sense suggests this mosque, being built in this specific location, is NOT being built as a sign of friendship between Muslims and Americans…but rather as a sign of the lack of respect…a belief in our weakness…and an attempt to embarrass and belittle us. The financial district of Manhattan is not a residential area with a large number of Muslim residents for the mosque to serve. Therefore common sense suggests that the only possible reason to build it there (rather than in Brooklyn or Queens where there are large Muslim populations) is to show Muslim contempt for Americans by building a monument to Islam in the shadow of the site of their greatest triumph over America.

It is an offense to build a mosque in that location- an offense to all Americans (including Muslim Americans), all Christians and Jews, all relatives of 3000 dead heroes at the World Trade Center.

First of all, Root is just completely wrong on the facts here. The Cordoba House isn’t at all what he and the project’s critics have represented it to be:

The building’s planners, the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, have said it’s modeled on religious and community centers such as the YMCA, and that the 13-story, $100 million building would also include an arts center, gym and a swimming pool, as well as a mosque. It would be two blocks away from Ground Zero.

Two blocks away and nowhere within line of sight of the area where the attacks actually occurred.

The attempt by Root, Palin, Gingrich, and other opponents of this project to call this a “Ground Zero” mosque are therefore a complete misrepresentation of the location of the project. A misrepresentation obviously intended to lead people to think that a mosque is being built on the location of the World Trade Center rather than being constructed inside an already-existing decades old building as part of a larger project that would be open to the public as a whole. For that reason alone, Root’s appeals to emotionalism and the supposed “atrocity” that this project represents should be rejected as silly and, quite frankly, dishonest.

Root goes on:

Yes, private individuals and organizations have the right to build houses of worship with their own funds. But one has to wonder where the money is coming from to build a 15-story building on some of the most expensive real estate in the country. We Americans believe in the separation of Church and State. If it turns out that this project is sponsored by a foreign government — either directly or through a state-sponsored organization that engages in terrorism — than the idea of this being an issue of religious freedom is a sham and an argument can be made that our Constitution would actually prohibit this mosque from being built.

Except, of course, for the fact that there is no evidence that this is the case. More importantly, there is no connection between the organization that wants to establish the center and anyone associated with the September 11th attacks.

In the end, Root falls into the same anti-Muslim hole that Palin, Gingrich, and others have. All he’s really saying is that we can’t let them scary Muslims build what they want to in a building they own. While he doesn’t go as far as Gingrich and Palin in calling for government action to stop the project, he adopts the same attitude of religious intolerance and, for any libertarian, that’s just unacceptable.

Let’s contrast Root’s paean to fear-of-Muslims with something published this past weekend by Libertarian National Committee Interns Marissa Giannotta and Josh Roll:

The attacks on 9/11 and its victims should not be ignored, however, we cannot lay blame on the entire Islamic community for the terrible acts that occurred on that day. The Islamic cultural center would be a great way for others to learn about Islam and ultimately build bridges between the United States and the Muslim World. Islam by principle is not an extremist religion and not all Muslims should be portrayed in such way.

More importantly, those who have ownership of the site should have the freedom and the right to build what they wish. Property rights should be respected as a right for all citizens, not just a few. Our platform clearly states, “The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others.” The Islamic cultural center does not infringe on the rights of others.

As Steven Chapman describes in his article at Reason, “Palin is not a slave to intellectual consistency. Change the church to a mosque, and put it a couple of blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, and she suddenly loses all patience with the rights of religious believers.”

Libertarian Party candidate for New York State Governor, Warren Redlich, also weighed in on the issue stating, “…I have asked some people if they would object if it was a synagogue, church, Jewish community center, or YMCA. All of them say that wouldn’t bother them. So the reason for opposing this facility is because it’s associated with the Muslim religion. That violates freedom of religion under the First Amendment.”

As Thomas Knapp notes, this is a litmus test for all libertarians (Big-L, or small-l):

If you don’t support private property rights and freedom of religion, you aren’t a libertarian.

Period.

Cordoba House, the project being fraudulently referred to as a “mosque” by those attempting to prevent its construction, is planned for construction on private property and with private funds.

The opponents of Cordoba House are attempting to stop its construction by persuading a government board to declare the building currenly standing at the project’s prospective location “historic” so that the owners can be forced to “preserve” it and forbidden to demolish it and build a structure more to their liking there.

The opponents of Cordoba House oppose private property rights. Their opposition to private property rights stems from their opposition to freedom of religion. They are, therefore, not libertarians.

That, Mr. Root, is libertarianism. Perhaps you’re in the wrong party.

Update: Jason Pye has weighed in with his own take:

Property rights and religious freedom are among the principles of a free society, basic liberties are supposed to be protected from the mob. To hear of anyone casting them aside is concerning. For a libertarian to do it is a betrayal of these core values that we are supposed to believe in.

Indeed.

Contest: Threats To Freedom

I was recently contacted by Templeton Press, the publishers of a new book called “New Threats To Freedom”. While I have not read the book at this time, judging by the theme and by some of the authors who submitted, it’s definitely intriguing.

In the run up to their paperback edition, they’re holding a contest for writers to submit their own new threats to freedom*:

In the spirit of these essays, write or post a response to the question:

What is an emerging threat to freedom and why is it critical to address it in today’s society?

Prize
First Place $500
The winning entry may also be considered for inclusion in the paperback edition of New Threats to Freedom.

Entries must be posted on a personal or professional blog no later than August 15, 2010, by 11:59 p.m. EST.
Blog posts must be 500 words or less.
Entrants must eighteen years or older.

Seems interesting. I’m not sure if I’ll submit something or not, but I’ll make the following offer to our readers:

If you think you have something worthy of submission [and I agree], but don’t have your own blog to present it, I am willing to offer space here at The Liberty Papers to submit your entry as a guest post. Since this is our own space on offer, some caveats apply**.

If you’re interested, contact me at the email address on the left sidebar.
» Read more

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Supports Missionaries?

I’m on the mailing list of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the humanist and author of Infidel. In the latest newsletter from her AHA Foundation I got this message:

“Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Muslim human-rights activist who lives under armed guard for fear of her life, is author of the powerful new book “Nomad.” As secular as they come, she advocates that Christians become more active in countering the growing reach of Islamic radicalism in the Western world with their own outreach program.

“Next to every mosque, build a Christian center, an enlightenment center, a feminist center,” Hirsi Ali explained. “There are tons of websites, financed with Saudi money, promoting Wahabism. We need to set up our own websites – Christian, feminist, humanist – trying to target the same people, saying, we have an alternative moral framework to Islam. We have better ideas.”

Uh…yeah. This is a really bad idea. Many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, already have quite a few Western Christians preying on their weaknesses in order to foment fundamentalism. I recommend Ali read about the anti-gay laws in Uganda which were strongly supported by US evangelicals.

Ali really needs to be careful. Her personal past with Islam could easily lead her into the hands of fundamentalist Christians, many of which are as intolerant and nefarious as the worst Muslim fundamentalists of her Somalia. Islam and Christianity both originated from elsewhere and became widespread in Africa through aggressive proselytizing.

As for humanist and feminist centers, I’m all for the former and possibly for the latter, depending on what kind of feminism it is that we’re talking about.

Yes, the Second Amendment really means what it says… and that means you too Chicago

This past Monday, Samuel Alito, writing for the majority (with separate concurring opinions from Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia) in the case McDonald vs. City of Chicago and Village of Morton Grove; handed down what in 30 years will I believe, be held as one of (or perhaps half of a pair of, or the second in a series of) the most significant rulings in the courts history, not just for the right to keep and bear arms, but for the rights of all people in this nation.

I had meant to get this post out yesterday, but I had to take the time to read the entire opinion… all 214 pages of it… and think about it for a bit.

This judgment is notable, both for what it does, and for what it does not do; and I want to go into that in some depth… and I want to go into some of the background and issues surrounding the decision that aren’t necessarily about the right to keep and bear arms

However, that is going to get long…. and if you aren’t interested in constitutional law and the nature and exercise of the rights and powers of the states, it’s going to be boring. There’s only so much you can do to make enumeration and separation of powers issues over more than two hundred years, all that interesting.


Note: Also, for those of you who DO closely follow con law, this is going to be a gross simplification in some ways. I don’t have time to write a book here, and a book is what it would take to cover this comprehensively (actually several… there are a few out there already, and Heller and its progeny are sure to generate more).

At any rate, I’m going to break it out into another posts, and I’ll update this post with a link when I finish the other one.

… I should warn you, I’m already 5,000 words in, and I’m probably less than half done…

McDonald vs. Chicago is the first major gun rights case brought before the supreme court under the clarified Heller doctrine, to wit:

The right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes is an individual right, possessed by all citizens and lawful residents of this country (provided this right has not been statutorily stripped from them, with due process of law); and the core of that right, is the fundamental right to defense of self, and others.

Actually, McDonald is a bit more than just “first”… In fact, the case was prepared in advance, and filed immediately on the handing down of the Heller ruling; by the lead counsel on the Heller case, Alan Gura.

The issue at hand in Heller was to affirm and clarify the basic right; something which those on the left in general, and in the gun control lobby in particular, had been trying to deny for something like the last 40 years

Note: The modern gun control movement as currently constituted really began in the late 60s; roughly coinciding with accelerating decay of civil order and rise in civil unrest, the rise of the drug and counterculture, and dramatically rising crime rates.

More than anything else, it was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King that kick-started the gun control movement as it exists today.

The gun control movement in the U.S. as a whole has its roots in racial discrimination against immigrants in the pre-civil war northern cites, and blacks in the post civil war south.

Up until the late 1950s, the left as a whole actually advocated gun ownership, as a bulwark against the state… a position generally ascribed these days to the “far right”; but as the left post 1932 increasingly BECAME the state, their position on civilian non-police gun ownership changed.

The issue at hand in McDonald is substantially identical to Heller, with a crucial difference we’ll discuss in a moment; that of incorporation of the second amendment against state and local governments, as other rights enumerated in the bill of rights have been.

In Heller, the substance and nature of the right were affirmed. However, though the assertion of the right is very clear; it’s application is potentially limited.

Because the Heller case pertained to a federal enclave (Washington D.C. is not a part of any state. It is a federal enclave. Precedent in DC cases applies federally, but not necessarily to issues in the several states), the ruling only explicitly applied to the federal government.

In principle the right could be asserted against the states, or it could not be… depending on judicial interpretation. Either way a judge decided, it would almost be certain to be appealed… as indeed it was (in at least four cases so far, all of which were delayed pending the McDonald ruling).

Also, Heller left various questions open to interpretation, such as the standard of review for laws pertaining to the right to keep and bear arms, and whether interest balancing tests could be made.. or for that matter just what types of laws would be acceptable short of outright bans on firearms in the home (which were explicitly forbidden).

In Mondays decision on McDonald, it was affirmed (quite strongly), that the rights protected by the second amendment are equal in stature to the rights protected by the first amendment, and all the others.

In both the majority opinion, and the concurrences, the court made it explicit that the protections afforded by the second amendment applied against the state. Further, they made it clear that a strict standard of review was to be applied to any law regarding the right to keep and bear arms (though they do not by any means disallow all regulation. In both Heller and McDonald, it is acknowledged that some regulation of any right can be acceptable, but must be strictly scrutinized).

There is still one set of questions to be resolved, what exact restrictions against keeping and bearing arms will be acceptable under this standard of review. Just as there are many limitations against speech permitted by current jurisprudence, including many which probably should not be allowed under the constitution (such as most of what is called “campaign finance reform”); there will likely still be substantial restrictions allowed by the court. In any case, it will be years… likely decades… before the whole issue is settled law, and in the mean time, there will be a lot of contradiction and chaos.

The fight is certainly not over… in fact it’s really just getting started.

This is where we get into the theoretical discussion about the constitution, so I think I’m going to end here and pick it up in the next, much longer, post.

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

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

Welcome, but insufficient to the needs of the day

David Cameron today apologized for the  British Armies conduct on Bloody Sunday.

Great… now do something of substance. Either treat the north as a real part of the rest of the damn country, or get the hell out.

The UK is firmly wedded to a lot of government involvement in industry, in finance, in development… fine. Ok. If that’s what the people of the UK want, then so be it. But it stifles entrepreneurship. The barriers to entry get so high, that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything without government support.

This is coming from someone who has founded and run businesses in the republic, in the north, and in England. I am an American, but also a dual citizen with Ireland. My father is an Irish immigrant. His father was a member of the IRA from the age of 15; when the IRA was still a legitimate organization. Most of my family still lives in Ireland; and I lived in Ireland, and in the UK, for years.

This is not just an American pontificating from afar, I have lived and worked there… and my position on the troubles is that none of it is justified, ever. Terrorism is terrorism, and is never to be tolerated. Government repression is similarly, not to be tolerated.

This isn’t about the troubles anymore. This is about the future of the North… or the lack of future represented in todays situation; because mark me, the north has no future, if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Without government support, it’s near impossible to get anything done in the north. It’s somewhat easier in England itself, in that there is no less interference, but that the government cares more about business development; so it makes things smoother, and gives approvals, and planning etc… more attention.

What this means is, effectively, there is no economic development in the north without government intervention… but they don’t particularly want to intervene, and spend the taxpayers money on PRODUCTIVE projects in the north, when so much is already being funneled into nonproductive drains.

So long as there is no real industrial or technical development support by the government, except in a token way; the north will always be an economic disaster. It is that economic disaster, and the sense of neglect, of second class citizenship, of disrespect, disregard, and disdain… which allows the thugs their safety, and their income.

Either REALLY support economic development, or get the hell out of the way and allow some real entrepreneurship. Get people working, productively. Get the tax base up. Get people motivated to seek higher education, by having something useful for them to do when they get it.

So long as the north is dependent on the government teat, the real government on the street will be the organized crime gangs that masquerade as unionists, or republicans. So long as the thugs are safe, the police are not, and will respond with repression. It’s automatic. A + B will always equal C.

Oh and I should be clear, I don’t blame this situation on the great mass of the population of the United Kingdom.

I blame it on an incoherent, and uncommitted government position on Northern Ireland since 1921.

There is no real policy, nor any real rationale behind what is promulgated as policy. The only conclusion one can come to is that the government of the United Kingdom does not want to govern northern Ireland, but also does not feel they can stop doing so…

So instead, they neglect, and waffle, and make bad and inconsistent decisions. They fight, they withdraw. They take a hardline, then they fold…

It’s insane.

Oh and yes I know, they’re a giant welfare suck… But if the people (and the politicians) of England would treat the people of northern Ireland like actual human beings, not just as a national joke, or a drain on social spending, or a potential terrorist, or an electoral distraction… That might help a bit too.

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

The Clown Prince of Islam

Reader Clown Prince (whose name I hope comes from a shared affinity for the villain of the DC Comics Universe) recommended an article from Times Online about women converting to Islam. I thought it was worth noting a few things I found prominent in the article. First:

“Our liberal, pluralistic 21st-century society means we can choose our careers, our politics – and we can pick and choose who we want to be spiritually,” explains Dr Mohammad S. Seddon, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Chester. We’re in an era of the “religious supermarket”, he says.

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Seddon. The beauty of our society is that people can choose where they want to live, who they want to associate with and what faith (or no faith) they want to subscribe to. The problem is that there is an extreme element in Islam, and Christianity to a less violent degree, that can’t handle many elements of this pluralism. Many Muslims think criticism of their religion should be outlawed because their faith doesn’t permit it, putting their own faith over the laws of the countries they’ve immigrated to. Many Christians, because they believe homosexuality is a crime, want their views of homosexuality enforced on the rest of society.

The rest of the article documents several women who lived lives of drunken chaos, nihilism and other youthful decadence. It pretty seems like the same story of those who convert to evangelical Christianity:

“At university, I lived the typical student existence, drinking and going clubbing, but I’d always wake up the next morning with a hangover and think, what’s the point?

“It wasn’t until my second year that I met Hussein. I knew he was a Muslim, but we were falling in love, so I brushed the whole issue of religion under the carpet. But six months into our relationship, he told me that being with me was ‘against his faith’.

“I was so confused. That night I sat up all night reading two books on Islam that Hussein had given me. I remember bursting into tears because I was so overwhelmed. I thought, ‘This could be the whole meaning of life.’ But I had a lot of questions: why should I cover my head? Why can’t I eat what I like?

Some people are apparently unable to live a stable, independent life on their own and need to have the constant validation of orthodoxy to keep them in line. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would be good if religious people were to realize that not everyone has this problem. Many of us are moral and refrain from doing drugs and drinking every day simply because it’s self-evidently necessary.

“When people see a white girl wearing a niqab they assume I’ve stuck my fingers up at my own culture to ‘follow a bunch of Asians’. I’ve even had teenage boys shout at me in the street, ‘Get that s*** off your head, you white bastard.’ After the London bombings, I was scared to walk about in the streets for fear of retaliation.

That’s the sort of ignorance and stupidity that needs to be stomped out. A recent roommate of me remarked about the Jihad Jane story that it was surprising that she was white. Islam is and has always been a global religion since its inception.

“For the most part, I have a very happy life. I married Hussein and now we have a one-year-old son, Zakir. We try to follow the traditional Muslim roles: I’m foremost a housewife and mother, while he goes out to work. I used to dream of having a successful career as a psychologist, but now it’s not something I desire.

“Becoming a Muslim certainly wasn’t an easy way out. This life can sometimes feel like a prison, with so many rules and restrictions, but we believe that we will be rewarded in the afterlife.”

Here Aqeela Lindsay Wheeler validates the arguments of Ali and myself. Organized religion makes oppression based on stupid differences like race and gender sustainable because it leaves the believer in acceptance of their lowly status. I’m a little surprised Clown Prince sent me an article where a Muslim convert essentially validates the anti-feminist nature of the faith.

Islamic orthodoxy is antithetical to liberal enlightenment. Islam must remain one faith among many, separate from the state and policy, if we want to remain free and secular. This is a fine line to walk, because the skepticism of Hitchens, Ali, Dawkins or Harris could turn into the conservative racism and xenophobia of Mark Steyn (who actually used Arabs being elected to political positions as an argument for a European downfall in his screed America Alone).

Anyways, I recommend everyone read Clown Prince’s article and educate themselves about Islam. Westerners are far too ignorant about it.

Wayne Allyn Root Is Poison For The Libertarian Party

Wayne Allyn Root, the businessman and online gambling advocate who served as Bob Barr’s running mate on the Libertarian ticket in 2008, is casting his lot in with the birthers. As Radley Balko reports, Root promotes on his Facebook page his participation in a “trial of Barack Obama” that took place last week in New York:

CM-Capture-23

What’s this trial all about, you might ask. Well, here’s a description:

With thousands of spectators expecting to attend, Dr. James Manning’s ‘trial of the century’ of Barack Obama on charges of treason, fraud, and sedition begins tomorrow morning at 9 AM in New York City. Co-defendants in the trial are Columbia University and the CIA. In the last days of the run-up to the trial, Manning revealed that he has sources in government that will testify against Obama, Columbia, and the CIA. He also reported explosive information that Barack Obama has used upwards of 20 different Social Security numbers during his life. Witnesses are expected to testify at the trial that Barack Obama was never a student at Columbia University, although he received a degree from the school. Dr. Manning claims that Columbia, therefore, is an accomplice to fraud. Other witnesses are expected to testify that Obama fails the Constitutional test for Presidential eligibility due to the fact that his father was a British subject at the time of his birth and his mother was not old enough to confer citizenship when he was born. A dramatic new revelation, however, may serve to re-emphasize the importance of the trial. The state of Hawaii, according to sources, did NOT accept his birth registration that was filed, despite issuing a ‘statement of live birth.’

This is the same James Manning who became famous last year when he started referring to President Obama as a “long legged mack daddy” and who joined Birther Queen Bee Orly Taitz last year at a protest that nobody attended against Fox News for “covering up” the birther story. Root hasn’t said anything one way or the other about the birth certificate issue that I’ve been able to find, but he does seem to buy at least part of the argument:

FireShot Pro capture #267 - 'Facebook I Wayne Allyn Root' - www_facebook_com_profile_php_id=1162754668

Of course, the possibility that Root and Obama may have traveled in different circles at Columbia, a school that had thousands of undergraduates at the time, does not seem to have occurred to Wayne at all, since he’s expressed this belief before. Why is this important ? Well, this year, Root is running for Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, and he’s made it clear that this is merely a stepping stone to the 2012 nomination for President. Based on stuff like this, and the impression I got from reading Root’s The Conscience of a Libertarian, which I will be posting a review of in the very near future, I’ve got to completely agree with Radley Balko’s take on this:

I’m not a member of the Libertarian Party, though I’ve spoken to several state conventions over the last couple years. I have my problems with the party, but I’d like to see it do well, in part because for better or worse the LP has a significant impact on how people view libertarianism.

So let’s be clear about this: If Wayne Allyn Root becomes the face of the LP, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the party. It will also likely do quite a bit of damage to the public perception of libertarianism as a philosophy.

This is batshit crazy, off-the-charts conspiratorial hogwash. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Barack Obama. Root has chosen to dip into angry-white-guy, “Obama’s a secret Muslim” absolute and utter lunacy.

Libertarians: The man is a nut. Associate with him at your peril.

Indeed.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

A New Introduction

I am honored to join The Liberty Papers.

Brad Warbiany and Doug Mataconis have been very welcoming, and my new realm into libertarian thought should be fulfilling and rich.

I’ve been at United Liberty for two years, starting with the 2008 election and running all the way up to coverage of Arizona’s discriminatory immigration law. My work goes back even further, back to the San Francisco Examiner and the neighborhood newspapers North Seattle Herald Outlook and Madison Park Times in Seattle, Washington.

In the times we live in, there seems to be a political shift going on. The United States is becoming more ethnically diverse, the economy continues to stagnate, and government is making short term maneuvers without foreseeing long-term effects. On the other side of the coin, the Right, who talk a lot of jive about freedom, are parading their own twisted form of nationalism. In these times, it’s important to try to solidify and distinguish the libertarian movement as a separate alternative to the forms of authoritarianism so far proposed to us. I hope my work at The Liberty Papers will help to do that.

I am also currently working on a book on the future of race in politics. It should be finished within the year and published subsequently.

Peak Liberty

This is a post I wrote at my personal blog back in June 2005. I was reminded of it today, as many of the points Doug touched on in his post this morning were in the same vein as points I made back then, and after a search I was surprised that I’d never cross-posted the old post here. Even today, infringements on personal liberty such as the individual mandate are only making the situation worse, and the piece, while 5 years old, hasn’t lost its relevance. So here it is.

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America has been, throughout the course of our history, a nation that values liberty. In 1787, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, liberty was on the brain. A Constitution was written to ensure that all people in this nation, for all time, would enjoy the blessings of freedom. Freedom from tyranny of government, which was ensured by the protections of a document that limited its powers and a Bill of Rights that enshrined personal liberty into its hallowed wording. And a nation whose freedom was guaranteed based upon the rule of law as written in that document, not the whims of an electorate or the legislature of the day.

There were flaws at that time, to be sure. The nature of our nation did not yet live up to that document’s billing. “Freedom to all” meant freedom to land-owning white males. Everyone else was out of luck. The work of millions of people helped to change that fact. The souls of hundreds of thousands of young men were lost in a war to bring freedom to the slaves, only to take another 100 years to bring true equality with the end of Jim Crow. Racial equality came to pass. Gender equality came to pass. Even today, these battles are still being fought for the rights of same-sex couples. Since the day this country was founded, you have seen the liberty of unpopular groups gain hold and reach parity with the rest. In a country that is based upon the right to be safe in unpopularity, the march of history has been remarkable to make that a reality.

But there’s another current at work. We are slowly seeing social liberty for all groups reach parity. Parity, however, can be equally great or equally poor. As unpopular groups have raised their level of acceptance and been granted the same rights as those of the popular, liberty has been defined down for all.

We have reached a point, socially, where government regulation intrudes on our lives and decisions from the time we wake until the time we retire, and all through our slumber. Rights, from what one can ingest into his body, be it benevolent medicine to malevolent narcotics, are decided by government. Free speech has survived, mostly, as long as you have a legal degree and training to comply with McCain-Feingold. The 2nd Amendment is still alive, and you’re allowed to own firearms, as long as you apply to the right bureaucrat to inform the government where to look for them. You have the freedom to practice religion, as long as you make sure not to do it anywhere approximating a “public” place. You have the right to be safe from unreasonable search and seizure, provided, of course, that you never visit the library. Seemingly innocuous laws such as the requirement to wear a seat belt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle may be in your own best interest, but forcing such behavior is tyranny nonetheless.

Economic liberty, of course, has become a joke. It is almost unnecessary to even go into the details, but we must remember what we’re up against. The land of the founding fathers was one where government and business were more separate than religion and government are now. Starting with the anti-trust acts (probably before, of course), continuing through Wickard v. Filburn, through the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation of 2002, the government has a hand in regulation of every business in this nation. On the personal level, nearly every monetary transaction performed is taxed through a myriad of different local, state, and federal rules, you only own as much of your income as government allows, and likewise you only own as much of your property as government allows. You exist economically not as an individual, but as a servant of the state.

It is obvious, that as some personal liberties may be slowly advancing, many other liberties are quickly dying. So we ask ourselves, how did it get so bad? Can we turn it around? Jon asks in this comment at Dadahead whether we should start thinking of it as Peak Liberty. I.e. just like the extraction of oil from the ground might eventually hit a point where the increase in demand and limited supply lead to global catastrophe, have we reached a point of no return in our loss of liberty? Have we reached a point where our only options will be an eventual slide into tyranny, requiring nothing less than a bloody revolution to turn around? And if so, how do we know the “Peak”? Has it happened yet?

Then perhaps somewhere it peaked and we’ve been sliding downward, living on the backside of the bell curve for a while now. We’ve peaked and have entered liberty’s long emergency. As with peak oil, defining peak liberty might not be clear except in hindsight. Was it the Civil War? Was it Brown v. Board of Education? The Sherman Anti-Trust Act? The Civil Rights Act of 1964? Was it landing on the moon? ADA?

Or was it some act against democracy that defined the peak (Dred Scott? ERA fails? NAFTA?) Is protecting against “flag desecration” just one more drop out of a near empty tank? Does our ‘democracy’ function like our suburbs now, sprawling, messy and without some sense of direction other than growth?

It is a valid question. After all, we can look at the possible peaks. The Civil War, where slavery was ended but the concepts of federalism were greatly weakened and the federal government made more powerful? The 16th Amendment, where we first determined, as a nation, that the ability to keep ones income was a privilege, and the extent allowed was determined by the whim of government? The New Deal, where many people were helped, but where it was taken as fact that individuals were subservient to “society” and the government thereof? The sixties, where we reached our greatest heights in the civil rights movement, only to transition to the even more obtrusive welfare state of the Great Society, and the victim politics that arised? Or was it today, when our Supreme Court decided that private property rights no longer matter? Or has it not happened yet? Are we still on the upward trend (doubtful).

I can’t answer where the peak was, but it certainly seems like we’re on the downslope. Peak Liberty, as a theory, has some serious flaws. After all, liberty is not a finite resource. It is elastic, and greater liberty can be enjoyed by all. So no matter what happens, it can be reversed. It is certainly possible that an equilibrium point can be reached. It may be argued that Europe has reached that point, and only something as silly as a “European Union” can move them farther down the slope. But the effort and ease at which that reverse occurs depends greatly on what point of the downslope has been reached. If we act in time, we can defeat tyranny at the ballot box. But history has shown that people do not respond to the lack of liberty until it is too late. If the slide continues, the day will come where government will not tolerate our attempts to restrain it, and that government must be replaced, by any means necessary.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, can happen. Each can also be avoided. Peak Oil, of course, is a completely different topic, so the aversion strategies are beyond the scope of this post. But to avoid Peak Liberty, it simply takes education. Oddly enough, our own government has provided us all the lesson plans we’ll ever need. Pissed off about Social Security? A failure of government. Pissed off about the inefficiencies of the IRS? Blame government. EPA declared your home “wetlands” and not letting you build that inground pool? Overreaching intrusion of government on your private property rights. Government educational system in your locale a morass of corruption, lack of discipline, excess of political correctness, and not doing a thing to educate your kids? Ask why we rely on government as the primary source of education in this country? And first and foremost, trumpet Kelo v. New London to everyone in earshot. People listen to what affects them personally. Nothing is more personal than the government seizing your house for what they determine is just compensation, only to turn it over to another private entity.

Peak Liberty, like Peak Oil, relies on current trends. We may have reached Peak Liberty, but by changing trends we can step back from the abyss. Our current populace cares about nothing but bread and circuses, and our current political crop is perfectly willing to erode their liberty while providing those diversions. We can change the trends, but to do that, we need to win the hearts and minds. We can’t change government without changing the minds of voters, so let’s get cracking. There may be dangerously little time left.

Will The Supreme Court Strike Down ObamaCare ? Don’t Be So Quick To Say Yes

The New York Times’ long-time SCOTUS reporter Linda Greenhouse takes a look at how the current court might look at the challenges to the health care reform law:

The challengers invoke and seek to build upon the Rehnquist court’s “federalism revolution” that flowered briefly during the 1990’s. In a series of 5-to-4 rulings, the court took a view of Congressional authority that was narrower than at any time since the early New Deal. The court struck down a federal law that barred guns near schools, on the ground that possession of a gun near a school was not the type of activity that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause authorized Congress to regulate. It ruled that Congress could not require states to give their employees the protections of the federal laws against discrimination on the basis of age or disability. It ruled that the federal government couldn’t “commandeer” state officials to perform federal functions like federally mandated background checks of gun purchasers.

As Greenhouse points out, though, the Roberts Court is very, very different from the 1990s Rehnquist Court when it comes to issues regarding the power of the Federal Government:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is not William Rehnquist, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. is not Sandra Day O’Connor. John Roberts has made his career inside the Beltway ever since coming to Washington to clerk for Rehnquist. As for Sam Alito, I don’t believe that apart from a brief part-time gig as an adjunct law professor, this former federal prosecutor, Justice Department lawyer and federal judge has cashed a paycheck in his adult life that wasn’t issued by the federal government. Nothing in their backgrounds or in their jurisprudence so far indicates that they are about to sign up with either the Sagebrush Rebellion or the Tea Party.

Chief Justice Roberts appears particularly in tune with the exercise of national power. One of his handful of major dissenting opinions came in the 2007 case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which the court ordered the federal agency to regulate global warming or give a science-based explanation for its refusal to do so. That case was brought by a group of coastal states, which argued that climate change was lapping at their borders. Chief Justice Roberts objected that the states should not have been accorded standing to pursue their lawsuit. He denounced the “special solicitude” that the court’s majority showed the state plaintiffs. An early Roberts dissenting vote, just months into his first term, came in Gonzales v. Oregon, a 6-to-3 decision rejecting the United States attorney general’s effort to prevent doctors in Oregon from cooperating with that state’s assisted-suicide law.

And, as Damon Root points out, Antonin Scalia can’t be trusted on this issue either:

It’s also worth noting that conservative Justice Antonin Scalia did his part to thwart that “federalism revolution” by siding with the majority in 2005’s disastrous Gonzales v. Raich, which held that the intrastate cultivation and consumption of marijuana somehow still counted as interstate commerce, resulting in the Court striking down California’s popular medical marijuana law.

I noted last week that, as a matter of law, the odds are against the cases challenging the health care law. As Greenhouse and Root demonstrate, it also appears that we’re dealing with a Supreme Court that is not at all inclined to be sympathetic to arguments that limit the power of Congress.

Right now, I would say that the only vote that could probably be counted on to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional is Clarence Thomas’.

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