Category Archives: Theory and Ideas

Quote of the Day: Honest Debate Edition

popehatOver at Popehat, Ken White makes the point that gun control advocates should have the balls to say that all firearms should be banned instead of using purposely vague or misleading language (as people on the Left tend to do). Using vague, sometimes Orwellian terms tend to creep into other areas of our private lives

I want [gun control] advocates to learn the difference [between ‘automatic’ and ‘semi-automatic’ firearms for example] so I can have some level of confidence that I know what kind of proposed government power we’re debating […]

[…]

Gun control advocates may argue that it’s pointless to define terms because gun control opponents will oppose gun control laws no matter how they are crafted. […] But it’s not a logical or moral excuse for not trying. Urging vague and unconstrained government power is not how responsible citizens of a free society ought to act. It’s a bad habit and it’s dangerous and irresponsible to promote it.

[…]

We live in a country where the government uses the power we’ve already given it as a rationale for giving it more: “how can we not ban x when we’ve already banned y?”

Nationalism Vs Patriotism

gadsden

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the United States. Americans will celebrate declaring their independence from the British Crown in 1776. Hopefully many will take time to reflect on what their country stands for and what makes it unique in the world.

I recommend reflecting on the idea of patriotism itself. What makes patriotism, a generally good thing, different from nationalism, which usually leads to many terrible things? There is definitely a fine line between the two concepts. Nationalism vs patriotism is one of the oldest arguments in history.

What is a patriotism? Lawrence Reed at the Foundation for Economic Education has an excellent definition.

I subscribe to a patriotism rooted in ideas that in turn gave birth to a country, but it’s the ideas that I think of when I’m feeling patriotic. I’m a patriotic American because I revere the ideas that motivated the Founders and compelled them, in many instances, to put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line.

 

What ideas? Read the Declaration of Independence again. Or, if you’re like most Americans these days, read it for the very first time. It’s all there. All men are created equal. They are endowed not by government but by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Premier among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government must be limited to protecting the peace and preserving our liberties, and doing so through the consent of the governed. It’s the right of a free people to rid themselves of a government that becomes destructive of those ends, as our Founders did in a supreme act of courage and defiance more than two hundred years ago.

 

Call it freedom. Call it liberty. Call it whatever you want, but it’s the bedrock on which this nation was founded and from which we stray at our peril. It’s what has defined us as Americans. It’s what almost everyone who has ever lived on this planet has yearned for. It makes life worth living, which means it’s worth fighting and dying for.

Or as Benjamin Franklin said, ““Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”

America is more than just a place, it’s an ideal. It’s a land where people are free to say what they want, believe what they want, and do what they want as long as they don’t hurt others or destroy their stuff. It’s a land where everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their life. It’s a land where people govern themselves and no government can exist without the consent of the governed.

We believe all men are created equal and are always equal in the eyes of their Creator.

A patriot believes in an ideal, not in a particular place. There is nothing exceptional about a country that has no ideals.

Nationalism on the other hand is all about flag-waving, a particular place, or even a particular ethnic group or religion. It is a mentality of “my country, right or wrong” instead of being an honest critic where necessary of one’s government. It often includes hatred of those who are different.

What worries me is that for far too many Americans this country is becoming less about ideals and more about a place on the map. The second we stray from our ideals is the second America is no longer worth celebrating.

Be a patriot, not a mindless nationalist.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Your Ox Will Eventually Be Gored (Re-post)

dtoe

It seems logical that every American, regardless of political affiliation/philosophy, race, religion or creed, would be concerned about the revelations concerning domestic spying on the part of the NSA. If the Obama administration can spy on and mistreat the Tea Party and other right wing causes, the next Republican administration could spy on and mistreat Occupy Wall Street and other left wing causes.

As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case. According to an article by David A. Love, the black community has largely greeted this news with a shrug and a yawn.

Is this lack of concern because many blacks do not want to be critical of the first black* president? This might account for some of this shrugging but Love suspects that there is something much deeper at work here:

The black community has decades of experience being monitored, so this type of surveillance is nothing new. Given the long history of being spied upon, many blacks already assume they are being monitored by the government […]
[…]
African-Americans are no strangers to surveillance, as their activities were highly regulated through the slave codes, laws which controlled both slaves and free blacks.

The mistreatment of blacks did not end when slavery was abolished, of course. Love goes on to describe several other atrocities such as the Tuskegee experiment, J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal spying on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and others.

Tragic chapters such as Tuskegee have been cited as a reason why African-Americans distrust the medical establishment and are hesitant to participate in clinical research. One study found that 67 percent of black parents distrusted the medical profession, compared to half of white parents.

As I read this, I wondered why there isn’t a similar distrust of the government as the medical establishment by blacks in general. The Tuskegee experiments were done at the behest of the U.S. Public Health Service, after all!

After finishing the article, I decided to read through the comments section (this is a blog that is dedicated primarily with concerns of the black community; the comments can sometimes be very illuminating). The very first comment by a user with the handle “Blackheywood Heywood” did not disappoint:

The US government began spying on Black folks before this government was created, yet it was no outrage.Give me a break, it seems slowly mainstream America is discovering how it feels to be thought of as suspicious or guilty before being accused, never mind arrested. Welcome to the world of the American Black male.

Heywood has a valid point. The answer to the question why the lack of outrage by the black community concerning the NSA and IRS scandals could just as easily turned against what Heywood called “mainstream America.” Indeed, where was the right (for lack of a better term) on these outrages? Where has the Tea Party been on the question of “stop and frisk,” in New York in which minorities are especially targeted to be searched, supposedly at random? Is this simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind?”

I believe there’s also another phenomenon at work: the memory hole. Near the close of the article, Love mentioned an event that took place in Philadelphia in 1985 I was completely unaware of:

On May 13, 1985, following a standoff, a Philadelphia police helicopter dropped a bomb on the house on Osage Avenue occupied by the black “radical” group known as MOVE. Police reportedly fired on MOVE members as they escaped the burning home […]
[…]
The 1985 bombing—which killed 11 people, including 5 children and destroyed an entire neighborhood of 61 row homes in West Philadelphia—marked the first such attack on U.S. citizens by government authorities. The survivors and victims’ families received $5.5 million in compensation from the city of Philadelphia.

I try my best to be informed about historical events as well as current events. How is it that this is the first I had ever heard about the Philadelphia Police dropping a freaking bomb on a neighborhood in an American city?** I must have been sick that day in American History class (I also didn’t learn about the Tuskegee experiments until well into my twenties; maybe I was sick on that day as well).

Maybe MOVE was a radical organization maybe it wasn’t*** but nothing could justify the police dropping a bomb on a neighborhood. Perhaps this atrocity is well known by people in the black community, both young and old but not so much outside the black community (or maybe I’m one of the few Americans who never heard about this but I doubt it).

MOVE probably wasn’t the first group the government described as “extreme” to a point where government officials ordered and used military force against its members; it certainly wasn’t the last. How many people out of a hundred know about what happened at Ruby Ridge? The Weaver family, why they were “extremists” after all and therefore, why should anyone care about their rights? How many people out of a hundred know about the conflicting accounts of what really happened at assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas? (Here’s a hint: a great deal more than what the MSM reported at the time). I suppose because these people were part of some sort of cult, their rights didn’t matter either!

This is where the real problem of indifference lies. I’ve heard far too many people with the attitude “it’s not my problem” or “it doesn’t affect me”. Even more disturbing is the attitude some people have that they are happy when someone of an opposing view has his or her rights of life, liberty, and/or property trampled on (i.e. “Screw them, they are ‘extremists’”). Far too often, concerns about civil liberties depend on whose ox is being gored at that particular time.

I would like to humbly suggest that if you are not as upset when its someone else’s ox, even if it’s the ox of your opponent’s, one day it will be your ox that will be gored. Perhaps Martin Niemoller said it best in his very short work “First they Came” describing how the Nazis took freedom away from the whole population, one group at a time. By the time the Nazis got around to taking freedom from what remained of the population, Niemoller concluded “there was no one left to speak for me.”

To be clear, I am not comparing the U.S. government to the Nazis. Such hyperbolic comparisons are not constructive and minimize the very crimes against humanity the Nazis committed. I am making a comparison about how populations respond to encroachments on liberty, however. As demonstrated in Love’s article, there are plenty of examples of injustice from American history.

Here are just a handful more:

  • The Indian Removal Act
  • Slavery
  • The internment of Japanese Americans
  • Jim Crow
  • McCarthyism

And many, many more.

Each of these policies were permitted to happen because the majority apparently felt that curtailing freedoms of these minorities would somehow not affect their own freedoms. We should acknowledge that these injustices occurred and try to learn the right lessons (rather than pretend the U.S. government or the American people have committed no wrongs ever) and move on.

Every injustice and every violation of rights of life, liberty, and property must be answered by all of us as if it’s our own liberty that is at stake.

*Yes, I’m aware that Obama is actually half black. However, if a man of his description was accused of committing a crime and at large, he would be described as a black man.

**In light of this, Rand Paul’s questions about government using drones to attack Americans on American soil no longer seem so far fetched, unfortunately.

***All I know is what I read in the cited article.

Should Libertarians Worry About Political Refugees Seeking Asylum in the LP?

To quote Tom Petty, the message to the newly politically homeless: you don't have to live like a refugee

With the primary phase of the 2016 campaign coming to an end, there’s little doubt that many rank and file Republicans and Democrats are not very pleased with their party’s presumptive nominee. For Republicans who actually care about principle, Donald Trump is a non-starter. Many if not most will ultimately decide to vote for him anyway because of the idea that Donald Trump is the lesser evil when compared to Hillary Clinton. Other primary voters who were serious when they said #NeverTrump meant it before May 3rd and mean it now after May 3rd. They have reached the conclusion that Hillary is actually the lesser evil when compared to Trump or at best see them as equally evil.

What are the anti-Trump Republicans to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?

Die hard supporters of Bernie Sanders find themselves in a similar situation. While I haven’t followed the Democrat race for the White House as closely, there does seem to be some angst about Hillary Clinton. Will they decide that from their point-of-view that Hillary is the lesser evil compared to Trump? I’m thinking most will but at least a fraction of the Bernie Sanders voters will make a different choice.

What are pro-Sanders, anti-Hillary Democrats to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?

Less than a month ago, a press release was posted on the Libertarian Party home page inviting political refugees from the Republican and Democrat parties to join the LP. Here’s an excerpt:

Here in the Libertarian Party, we are friends of refugees…those fleeing war torn countries, those fleeing desperate poverty, and also those fleeing despotic candidates such as Mr. Trump and Sec. Clinton.

We welcome former Republicans and Democrats who value “liberty and justice for all” to find a new home in the Libertarian Party.

Libertarianism is the idea that you should be free to make your own decisions in all aspects of your life as long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others.

I find the idea of a flood of political asylum seekers coming to the LP both exciting and terrifying.

If the LP were a nation, it would be a small nation of immigrants. Sure, there are indigenous Libertarians but they are surely the minority. Most Americans grew up in Republican and Democrat households – to the extent Americans are politically active at all. Most Libertarians came to either the party or the philosophy over time and after realizing the party they thought represented them didn’t. I too am a political refugee. The leading candidate for the LP presidential nomination and 2012 nominee, Gary Johnson was a refugee and he’s hardly the first.

The real question is, what do these refugees want?

If they simply want a temporary visa and support the LP nominee for president, even if simply as a “protest vote” most native Libertarians would welcome and encourage that. For those who want citizenship, more would be expected.

What specifically am I talking about? Allow me to address any would-be asylum seekers:

Chris Byrne explains this in some detail in his post that there’s more to libertarians than conservatives who want to legalize pot. If everything you have learned about libertarian philosophy comes from Salon, Slate,The Young Turks or other left wing outlets (and some right wing outlets as well) which deliberately misrepresent what libertarians stand for…you need to forget all of that. Familiarize yourself with actual libertarian institutions/projects such as The CATO Institute, The Reason Foundation, The Mises Institute, The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, The Free State Project, The Tenth Amendment Center, The Institute for Justice and of course the Libertarian Party (especially the party platform). I should point out that among these groups, there are disagreements.

Some of these groups don’t even like each other. Its also quite possible that some of my fellow Liberty Papers contributors might object to listing some of these groups and/or failing to mention another. The point is there is a great deal of philosophical diversity within the broader libertarian movement and, therefore; cannot be pigeonholed into the caricature of libertarians Salon wants you to believe. One thing libertarians of all stripes believe (whether its called the Non Aggression Principle or something else is a debate in and of itself) are the individual rights of life, liberty, and property. Explained another way: Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.

As Tom Petty likes to say, you don't have to live like a refugee.

As Tom Petty likes to say, you don’t have to live like a refugee.

Refugees who actually value the individual rights as described above – having them join the LP would be a great help. For those who want to come in yet hold on to the customs of the party they just left, they need to find asylum elsewhere.

Pivoting back to the original question, should libertarians worry about a bunch of posers coming in and transforming the LP into another Republican Party?*

I believe this would only be a problem if the LP actually started achieving significant electoral success. The reason the LP has been able to stay true (for the most part) to its founding principles since 1971 is because LP candidates haven’t been elected and, therefore; haven’t had to govern. For 45 years, voting/running for the LP has meant never having to say you’re sorry. “Don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian!” Once Libertarians are elected, then we find out how principled they really are.

Until that time comes, I’m very confident that libertarians will expose the frauds. In the LP and/or the greater liberty movement there’s no such thing as “The 11th Commandment.” If you have called yourself a libertarian and another person who calls himself/herself libertarian hasn’t questioned your street cred, you haven’t been a libertarian very long. The intramural battles between Team Cruz and Team Trump or Team Sanders and Team Hillary are mere child’s play by comparison.

In the final analysis, its my belief that the LP will continue to be the LP as we know it only larger. The refugees who want to bring Sharia Law** to the party platform will lose patience dealing with people who actually have principles and self deport.
suck

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Hey There Republicans Fleeing Trump, Welcome to the Party

#NeverTrump

Welcome Republicans, and #NeverTrump

To disaffected Republicans coming to the Libertarian party… or to libertarianism and libertarians in general…

First…Welcome friends…

We’re really glad to have you here, and we’re looking forward to working with you, to get through this crazy time… Oh and #NeverTrump…

Heck, most of us were frankly wondering what took y’all so long to jump ship… the way things have been getting crazier and crazier over there the last… Oooh… let’s just say… the last while, or so…

Which brings us to point two…

Surprise!!!

LIBERTARIANS ARE NOT CONSERVATIVES OR REPUBLICANS!!!

Oh and they… WE… are also NOT liberals, leftists, “progressives”, or Democrats…

We are most certainly NOT “just conservatives who like sex and weed”, nor are we “just liberals who hate taxes, poor people, and political correctness”… though I have been called both in the same day.

Shocking I know, that there are more than two political positions, and bodies of thought, and philosophies; and how everything isn’t actually a (false) dichotomy, us or them… or a two way horse race etc… etc…

Yes… there are people that agree with you… actually are likely further to the notional “right” than you are, about economics, and individual rights and liberties, and even the constitution…

… and some of them smoke weed… or are gay… or atheists… or all of the above… or don’t care if anyone else is or does whatever they want so long as nobody’s getting hurt who isn’t paying extra…

Heck, some of the folks over here probably look and sound a lot like democrats to some of you… or even socialists…

… we all have our kooks after all…

… which reminds me… if you think right and left wing conspiracy nuts are bad… trust me, libertarian conspiracy nuts are worse… don’t worry, just ignore them, and back away slowly… we all do…

… Oh, and hey, some of the folks over here even totally agree with you in principle about the gays, and the marriage, and the weird genders, and the drugs, and sex, and all that…

..They just don’t believe that it’s their job to police other peoples personal choices, and it’s especially not their job to get the state to do it for them.

We’re not crazy, we’re not immoral or unethical… in fact, in my experience, we’re a lot more conscientious, aware, and understanding of our morals and our ethics than most, because we have to be…

… We just don’t believe ALL the same things that you believe…

Most particularly, we don’t believe it is moral or ethical, nor is it generally efficient or effective; to initiate coercive force against someone… including and especially, the coercive force of the state… to make them do what we want them to…

…Even if we KNOW that we’re right, and we KNOW that what we want is better for them, for us, and for society as a whole… We just don’t have the right to do so, unless they are violating the rights of others.

This basic principle… in some form or another… is the absolute core of libertarianism. It is our most closely held principle of interaction with others…

….and while we may… in fact we quite regularly and vigorously do…argue over exactly what it means, and exactly how to follow it…

…We’re not going to give it up, or forget about it, or weaken it, or make special exceptions; just because someone else… or EVERYONE else for that matter… thinks we should, or would be more comfortable, or would like us better, if we did.

So no… Your advice… or in some cases rude, arrogant, condescending, and aggressive demands…

…that libertarians be more conservative and align more with Republican ideas about drug policy, and personal liberty, and social issues, and military spending… just as an example or three…

… It’s not going to get you anywhere.

You’re the ones who couldn’t deal with your corrupt, your ignorant, and your angry, and created the douchealoompa…

We’re absolutely happy to have you… and to welcome you, and help you understand what we believe and why, and how we can work together to help try to avert disaster… and maybe even get some good done together while we’re at it…

…But we’re not going to change our firmly held principles, in order to pander to you or court you…

If we were ever going to do that, we would have done it a long time ago…

We haven’t… and we won’t. Even if it means losing… again… just like every other time…

But… Here’s the great thing about being a libertarian…

We don’t believe in forcing our ideas on anyone else…

…So, you’re entirely free to believe that drugs and sex are bad and wrong, and anything else you like…

You just cant use the state… or the party… to try to make other people behave according to your beliefs or preferences.

Yes… it can get frustrating… incredibly infuriatingly frustrating at times… Even heartbreaking… as we watch people do bad and stupid things to themselves and we can’t stop them…

…but it’s quite satisfying… it’s worth it… when nobody else can force YOU to conform to THEIR beliefs and preferences either…

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

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