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

“There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination and wonder.”     Ronald Reagan

December 22, 2012

Thoughts on the fiscal cliff

by Quincy

Just some quick thoughts on the fiscal cliff…

IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID

It’s frustrating that no one is discussing the fact the the Obama plan for deficit reduction actually increases spending with the inclusion of a stimulus package in 2013. Raising taxes and borrowing more money for more stimulus not debt reduction. It’s just more debt.

The political failure from Republican leaders in the House is staggering. Republicans should have been hammering Obama’s plan so damn hard even the media had to listen. The ad writes itself: “Obama’s plan is tax now, borrow now, spend now. Is that a balanced approach?” It’s a compelling message, a potent political weapon, and it’s true. Had Boehner been looking for any of those, he would have figured this out. Unfortunately for the American people, Boehner felt it was more important to compromise with Obama.

At this point, if I were Boehner, I would actually give into Obama on tax increases but insist that tax increases be met dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts. If suddenly there were no conflict about tax rates but there was no deal, it would force people (even reporters) to ask what the remaining barriers were. This would allow Boehner to shift the conversation where it needs to be… on spending. (Yes, I know this plan is insane. However, when you’re negotiating someone who’s view of compromise is “heads, I win; tails, I win”, there is no such thing as sanity.)

NEWSPEAK OF THE DAY

From the WaPo article linked above:

Boehner’s latest offer calls for $2 trillion in savings over the next decade, half from higher taxes and half from cuts to the fast-growing health and retirement programs that are the federal government’s largest expense. All told, Obama’s latest offer calls for about $2.15 trillion in savings.

Taking more money from the citizens is “savings”? Who knew bank robbers were being so darn responsible, saving all that money?

The accurate description of Boehner’s plan would be $1.2 trillion in savings and $800 billion in taxes. Obama’s plan would accurately be described as $1.5 trillion in new taxes, $80 billion in new spending in 2013, and $570 billion in cuts thereafter. The truth, of course, would disrupt the narrative that the President’s plan is balanced while Boehner’s is not. Therefore, spending cuts and taxes are all called savings.

In other news, the English Language filed assault charges against the Washington Post after reading the article. (If only.)

WHAT IF GOING OVER THE CLIFF ISN’T THAT BAD?

The conventional wisdom is that going over the cliff will be an economic nightmare. But what if it isn’t? There are a some positives in going over the fiscal cliff:

  1. Government spending will go down.
  2. The debt limit will not need to be increased.
  3. Americans will actually be impacted by the cost of government.

Might these mitigate the harms of going over the cliff? In the short term, I don’t think so. The financial hit taken by Americans coupled with the continued economic uncertainty of a government groping for a solution will cause a lot of pain.

In the long term, the pain might (notice I said “might”) produce a healthy skepticism of government spending among the citizens. A 2011 Gallup poll already indicated that the public overwhelmingly favors spending cuts in the abstract. However, they tend not to favor cutting things that benefit them directly. Since different people benefit from different programs, this produces an unwillingness for politicians in either party to cut spending. If people suddenly become concerned with the economic pain of the fiscal cliff, they just might be receptive to a trade-off of reduced government benefits for decreased taxes and increased economic stability.

Of course, there has to be support from the GOP in Washington for this, since it certainly won’t come from the Democrats. Well, there goes that idea…

CONCLUSION

Take these thoughts for what they are… frustrations and wild speculations about the fiscal cliff. Hopefully they start a good discussion on the subject. Maybe they’ll even open a few eyes to facets of the situation left unreported by the mainstream media.

Let me steal adapt a song title from Avenue Q for a closing thought: There is life outside of the Beltway. This country has survived a hell of a lot and it still can. The will of the American people to be successful and prosperous has survived recessions and depressions and governments more suffocating than what we have today. We can do it again, even if we go over the cliff.

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December 18, 2012

The Part of the Clackmas Town Center Shooting Story You Probably Missed

by Stephen Littau

As usual, before many facts were known, before the victims were removed from Sandy Hook Elementary, and probably before the bodies were even cold, people on the Left and the MSM (but I repeat myself) were already calling for more gun control laws. It’s this so-called “gun culture” that is causing this death and destruction we are told.

Allowing people to get a conceal carry permit? That’s crazy talk.

Or is it?

Certain people I have been debating about this issue try to tell me that not a single time a person with a concealed handgun has stopped a mass shooting. This is an uninformed statement to be sure but why? Could it be that the MSM doesn’t always report the full story, especially if the facts don’t support a stricter gun control policy?

Let’s just take another recent shooting for example, the shooting at the Clackmas Town Center. If you read the article from The Detroit Free Press or CNN, or many other articles you would never know that an individual by the name of Nick Meli pointed his Glock .22 at the shooter shortly before the shooter took his own life. Nick Meli was not a police officer but a CCW holder. Here’s the story:

Did Meli stop the shooter from continuing his rampage? We can never know for sure. What is troubling to me is that this is one of the few reports of this individual possibly preventing more innocent people from being gunned down. Report the whole story and let the news consumers draw their own conclusions.

Yeah, there’s no media bias against guns; there’s no agenda here.

Related: Random Acts of Violence Can Be Mitigated But Not Prevented

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December 11, 2012

Quote Of The Day

by Brad Warbiany

Governor Moonbeam? Or Governor Death Ray?

You decide:

Answering critics at a solar ribbon-cutting earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown laid down the gauntlet, affirming his commitment to solar energy and saying he would “crush” opponents of solar.

“There are going to be screw-ups. There are going to be bankruptcies. There’ll be indictments and there’ll be deaths. But we’re going to keep going – and nothing’s going to stop me,” Brown said.

Wow. I knew he thought it… I just never thought I’d hear him say it.

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History, Moral Philosophy, and Libertarianism

by Chris

I’ve written fairly extensively about the philosophy behind my particularly type of libertarianism… and how there are a LOT of different schools of libertarian thought… and a lot of pointless, anal, wonky, yet often completely epically vicious… argument and disagreement between them.

A selective overview of these pieces can be found here: A Refresher on Philosophy

Being a libertarian, I do love to argue philosophy… and I do so on several other blogs, and libertarian subforums of various other web sites not dedicated to politics or libertarianism (most actual libertarian forums are… impossible to tolerate… unless you ENJOY drinking bilious idiocy from a firehose ).

In a “neverending thread that will not die”™  about the oxymoronic concept of “libertarian socialism” (in actuality a deliberate socialist linguistic distortion to further a fraudulent concept), a commenter asserted:

Libertarianism is the belief in the non-aggression principle. That’s it. Everything else follows from that. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Now, I disagree entirely with such a blanket statement… It’s simply untrue, and in fact ignorant.

I mean that literally by the way, not as a characterizing statement. Someone who believes such a thing must be ignorant of the much larger sphere of libertarian history and philosophy.

My response:

Actually the non-agression principle is only one school (actually several related schools) of libertarianism. There are others that are not based on non-agression/non-initiation. 
–AnarchAngel

Our correspondent countered with:

If there were a form of libertarianism not based on the non-aggression principle, wouldn’t you have been able to name it? 
In fact, since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s–which was the start of the modern libertarian movement– until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don’t support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word… but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don’t support the NAP. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Well now…

Again, I have to say that this viewpoint, while not uncommon, is incorrect; and in some very significant ways, ignorant of history and philosophy.

While the Libertarian Party was founded as a non-aggressionist organization; non-aggression is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for a libertarian philosophy.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; it’s not… in fact it’s generally a very good idea. But the concept that libertarian philosophies MUST, ALL, ALWAYS, be predicated on non-aggression; and that anything which isn’t, is not actually libertarian…

…That’s just plain wrong.

…As for that matter, is the suggestion that the Libertarian Party is the authority, or even a reasonable exemplar, of what libertarianism is.

The LP is simply a collective of theoretically libertarian individuals who have been able to agree sufficiently on goals and process to form an organization (sometimes… barely… ).

Again, I don’t think the libertarian party is a bad idea, or that they aren’t actually libertarian; just that they are not an organization encompassing all libertarian philosophy, or systematology.

…or that there even COULD be such an organization…

Now…

The reason I didn’t name specifics in my initial response to our correspondent, was because to do so would require a HUGE, long, detailed, and wonky explanation of the history and moral philosophy of libertarianism, and the nature of rights.

Several thousand words worth, and several hours writing, at a minimum

I wasn’t going to bother… and then I decided that if I didn’t the pointless tangenital arguments and arguing around each other would just go on and on…

Basically, it would become more irritating to me, than actually writing this damn piece.

So I wrote the damn piece… all… 3000 or so words I guess?

note: I’ve expanded and clarified somewhat here from the reply I posted in the other thread

Let’s start with the historical question

since the founding of the Libertarian Party in the 1970s–which was the start of the modern libertarian movement– until recently they required all members to sign a pledge promising to uphold the non-aggression principle. 
–IgnorantCommenter

Libertarianism, *including the modern libertarian movement*, has been around a lot longer than either the libertarian party (1971), or the formal codification of the non-aggression/non-initiation principle as a foundational libertarian principle by Murray Rothbard (1963).

There is no clear date for the modern libertarian movements “founding”, but it was clearly in existence by the time of Nock’s “Our Enemy, the State” (1935), Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” (1943), Von Mises “Omnipotent Government” (1944) and “Human Action” (1949), etc…

Hayek and Von Mises were clearly libertarian in their philosophy, though primarily (but not entirely) of the consequentialist/utilitarian school (as is typical of economic philosophers).

Then there’s the objectivists, both pre and post Randian; including both those that self identify as libertarian objectivists, and those who claim to be opposed to libertarianism (but who mostly are opposed to Rothbardianism, and strict non-aggressionism; as reducing maximum utility).

There was a pre-Rand objectivist/utilitiarian movement, primarily based in the rule utilitiarianism school, proceeding from John Stuart Mills book “Utilitarianism” (1861), Henry Sidgwicks “The Methods of Ethics” (1876), and the various works of David Hume (published 1734-1779). This movement was well established in moral philosophy by the interwar period.

Randian objectivism (which you may or may not call libertarian) has existed in an organized way since the late 1950s.

There was a reasonably coherent self identified libertarian movement by the time of Rothbard, Tullock, Block et al (the late ’50s and early ’60s)

Clearly, the “Modern Libertarian Movement” is neither bounded, nor defined, by the Libertarian Party.

Now, the question of moral and political philosophy

Libertarianism is the believe in the non-aggression principle. That’s it. Everything else follows from that. 
…snip… 
In my experience, those who say they are libertarians but don’t support the NAP, are usually not libertarians at all, and are simply trying to coopt the word… but hey, please feel free to show me some examples of genuine libertarians who don’t support the NAP. 
–IgnorantCommenter

This comes down to the question, what exactly IS libertarianism?

That is, what would be a single, entirely inclusive definition of all things which may be reasonably and properly considered libertarianism?

Frankly, I don’t believe that there IS such a single definition; nor CAN there be.

There are schools of libertarian thought that have conflicting… in fact mutually exclusive… core principles, which cannot be reconciled philosophically (though they may be reconcilable practically or pragmatically; focusing on outcome not rationale for example).

Using the non-aggression principle as a sole determinator… Libertarianism’s John 3:16, or Shibboleth as it were…

… It’s simply insufficient.

The non-aggression principle is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for libertarianism.

Libertarianism is a set of moral, political, and ethical philosophies intended to preserve, promote, and expand, human liberty (under whatever rationale). The non-aggression principle is a moral concept that is generally associated with those philosophies.

In fact, simply declaring it as the “non-aggression” principle is incorrect. There are five closely related principles, which serve the same essential function but which are different in detail (which differences can have important consequences):

  • Non-Aggression
  • Non-Initiation
  • Non-Intervention
  • Non-Interference
  • Anti-Coercion

Going into the differences between those principles can (and has) take its own book(s), never mind a (comparatively) short piece here. Even within the specifics of each term, there are disagreements as to their definition and meaning (both semantic and philosophical).

For convenience and a (nearly futile) attempt at clarity, I will refer to these various principles as “non-agression” for the remainder of this piece

Normally I don’t like using wikipedia as an authoritative source, but I don’t happen to have a copy of the “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy” handy, and wikipedia cites it directly:

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines libertarianism as the moral view that agents initially fully own themselves and have certain moral powers to acquire property rights in external things. 
–Wikipedia

That isn’t actually an inclusive definition of libertarian philosophies, because it  describes the root of propertarian principles; and there are schools of liberty which do not include the propertarian principle as a first principle (for example, “endowed rights” based philosophies).

That said, in general, much of the wikpedia page on libertarianism is decent. For example, it includes discussion of propertarian vs. non-propertarian, and consequentialism vs. natural rights.

These are all fundamental or primary principles on which a libertarian philosophy may be based.

So, “the” fundamental principle of libertarianism is NOT non-aggression.

The non-aggression principle IS fundamental to many schools of libertarianism; but not to all of them.

What our correspondent is declaring to be the only “true” libertarian philosophy (arguing from both a “no true scotsman” fallacy, and an “appeal to authority” fallacy in the process) is essentially Rothbardian libertarianism.

Rothbard and Block argue textually, that non-aggression/non-initiation/non-coercion is an irreducible first principle; but contextually (even in their own writings) it is clearly a derived principle (it is reducible). Essentially, they declare it irreducible as a fundamental moral precept a priori. Therefore it should be taken as a primary principle (for those schools of libertarianism which subscribe to it), but not a first principle (which are irreducible).

I am not a Rothbardian, but I am very definitely a libertarian.

I am a propertarian, natural rights, minarchist, libertarian (and to an extent non-aggressionist, but not strictly so… depending on definitions).

This is a combination of moral and ethical philosophies, and a school of government (though not a specific system of government).

Rothbardian libertarianism is itself a propertarian, natural rights (depending on your definitions), essentially minarchist (depending on your definitions), non-aggressionist, libertarian school; and in part a specific system of government…

..It’s just a slightly different one from that which I subscribe to.

Minarchism is a pragmatic, utilititarian, and consequentialist school of government (NOT a political or moral philosophy) with a few basic principles (all of which are derived principles, proceeding both from political and moral philosophy, AND from the practical and pragmatic reality of human society):

  • The only legitimate purpose and function of government, is to provide for organized collective action to maximize human liberty; by resolving disputes between individuals as a disinterested arbiter, and by protecting the rights, liberties, and physical persons and property, of a polity
  • Government, by its nature, must have a monopoly of initiation of legitimate collective coercive force. All else is tyranny or anarchy.
  • Therefore all government must engage in the coercive restraint of human liberty as part of its function.
  • Therefore, all government is an evil (greater or lesser)
  • Anarchy however is not a stable order respecting of liberty. All anarchy will eventually result in the tyranny of the strong over the weak, and the many over the few.
  • Therefore, although all government is an evil; government is necessary to protect the rights of the few and the weak against the will of the many and the strong, and must exist
  • Given that government must exist, but is an evil; human liberty must be protected from that evil to the greatest extent that is practical
  • Given that liberty must be protected from the inherent evil of government; the optimal government, is the smallest, least intrusive, least pervasive, most limited government; that is practical, functional, effective’ and can protect the rights, principles, and physical persons and property, of a polity.

In propertarian/natural rights libertarianism, the first principles are that of private property and of natural rights (both of which are irreducible); the synthesis of which is the principle of self ownership.

The natural rights principle is that sentient beings have certain rights, which are not contingent on any other individual or collective (except where they are limited by conflict with the natural rights of others); and which are those principles or components of the state of being, which cannot be limited or abrogated but by force, fraud, or willing consent (exact lists and definitions thereof vary and conflict widely)

The propertarian principle is that the right to private property exists, and that you have the rights of exclusion, protection, determination, and product; for your own legitimately held private property.

The intersection of these principles is the principle of Self Ownership. You own yourself, in the entirety, including all rights of property.

Essentially, the first principle of this moral philosophy, is that the right of private property is the ultimate fundamental right, from which all other rights are derived; and beginning with the ownership of self.

This is also called the principle of “the sovereign man” (though technically, there are multiple interpretations of what that means as well).

In this interpretation of moral and ethical philosophy, non-aggression isn’t even a first principle; it is one of a set of derived principles, which are internally justified and consistent (without endowment, appeal to authority, or a priori assertion of second order principle).

This set of principles can be described thusly:

  • You own your entire self (body, mind, and soul).
  • Because you own yourself in the entire, you have the absolute right to:
  1.  Self determination
  2.  Freedom of conscience
  3.  Your own property legitimately acquired and held (which includes your entire self)
  4.  The efforts, products, outputs, and rights inherent to or proceeding from all the above
  • You have the absolute right to defend those things, and the product or output of them; up to and including lethal force (except where limited by conflict with the rights of others).
  • There are no other rights. All other privileges, powers, and immunities, are less than rights; and are either derived from, or in opposition to them.
  • You may not initiate force or fraud against any other to abrogate their rights; or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; but including defending those rights for others who either cannot defend themselves, or those who delegate that defense to you.
  • None may initiate force or fraud against you to abrogate those rights, or for any reason other than the defense of those rights; including defending others rights from you.
  • There are no rights, privileges, powers, or immunities which are not derived from the rights of the individual.
  • A collective cannot arrogate rights, privileges, powers, or immunities on itself which are not delegated to it by individuals; therefore no collective may exercise more or different rights, privileges, powers, or immunities than any individual, nor may it exercise those things which have not been explicitly delegated to it.
  • You have absolute responsibility for all of the above. All consequences are yours, good or bad.

Only ONE of those core principles (expressed as two entries in this list, describing the principle and its reciprocal) is non-aggression.

There are many other schools of libertarian moral and political philosophy, some of which don’t include the non-aggression principle at all (or do so in a significantly different, or  nearly unrecognizable form).

I make no judgement here as to what the “best” form of libertarian moral, ethical, or political philosophy, or school of government, might be.

I have a system which is internally consistent, and works for me. You may disagree with it; in fact, your beliefs may directly conflict with or contradict mine. They may even be mutually exclusive.

So long as I don’t attempt to use coercive force on you to make you believe in or follow my system, and you don’t attempt use coercive force on me likewise; we may both be “true” libertarians (or maybe not, depending on what else we may believe).

On first glance, you might say “well, that’s just the non-aggression principle again”… but if you think about it for a minute you should realize that it isnt.

The statement is not exclusionary or deterministic. In either of our belief systems, there may be circumstances under which the initiation of coercive force on another is acceptable, or even required. Or, both of our belief systems may allow for a disinterested arbiter to resolve disputes (mine certainly does).

So… Non-aggression is a generally good principle… but it isn’t absolute, it isn’t deterministic, and it isn’t universal.

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December 7, 2012

Open Thread Question: Did FDR Know the Pearl Harbor Attack Was Coming?

by Stephen Littau

I’m not normally one who takes conspiracy theories seriously but I have a very open mind about the question: what did FDR know about the Pearl Harbor attack and when did he know it? When people I respect like Judge Andrew Napolitano say he believes that FDR “knew goddamn well” the Japanese were going to attack Pearl Harbor and he stood by and did nothing, that gets my attention.

This conspiracy theory, I think, is very different from what the 9/11 Truthers say about 9/11 or those who believe the government faked the moon landing. I’ll readily admit that I have a strong anti FDR bias so my judgment might be compromised. I do think that foreknowledge on FDR’s part is entirely plausible because from what I know about the man, he seems to have been a “the ends justify the means” kind of guy. Also consider that U.S. history has several examples of presidents and/or other high ranking officials lied in order to draw the nation into war (the Gulf of Tonkin incident comes to mind).

On this 71st anniversary of the attack, I’m wondering what you think. Is this a nutty conspiracy theory or does it have merit? Does anyone have anything in the way of proof one way or another? The floor is yours.

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December 5, 2012

Your Incredibly Stupid Progressive Economic Propaganda for the Day

by Stephen Littau

There is so much economic ignorance/stupidity in this video (below), I wouldn’t even know where to begin. John Maynard Keynes himself would probably be embarrassed by this video courtesy of the California* Federation of Teachers and narrated by the great economist of our time Ed Asner.

I don’t have much else to say about this video right now, it’s too easy (though feel free to rip it apart here…or defend it). Actually, I am in the planning stages of writing a book that challenges this sort of mentality (I’m shooting for a release date about May 2013). I’m hoping Liberty Papers readers will buy it; I will have discounts for Liberty Papers readers.

And now for your, um…enjoyment[?]: Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale**

WARNING: This is 7 minutes and 50 seconds of your life you will never get back.

*Oh yes, the state of California which is being run by people with this kind of mentality! Yeah, their economic policies have been working great, haven’t they?

**Fairy tale is actually a very good description.

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December 3, 2012

Former Liberty Papers Contributor Jason Pye to be a Panelist in Cato Discussion

by Stephen Littau

Former Liberty Papers contributor and current editor at United Liberty Jason Pye is going to do something I have only dreamed of doing: being a panelist in a Cato Institute discussion.

If you want to know more and possibly attend this event, here’s a link to Jason’s post at United Liberty.

As for me, I will be watching the pod cast and sharing it here once Cato makes it available.

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November 29, 2012

Your Feel-Good Cop Story Of The Year

by Brad Warbiany

Here at TLP, we commonly bring you stories of police abuses, bad behavior, and general asshattery that often accompanies giving someone power over another…

…but it’s not always like that. “Thin blue line” concerns notwithstanding, the vast majority of people who go into law enforcement do so because they honestly want to serve and protect people. And the below story is one of personal kindness and compassion that warms the heart (and feet).

25-year-old Officer Lawrence DePrimo was on duty in Times Square when he encountered a barefoot homeless man walking gingerly on his heels with visible blisters on his feet on Nov. 14. After learning his shoe size, DePrimo ducked into a Skechers store, then knelt on the ground as he helped the man put the new pair of shoes on—a moment captured on the cellphone of an Arizona tourist, who later described the shot to the NYPD in an email.

Boots

Maybe I’m just getting sappy in my old age, but I’m increasingly realizing that a lot of people talk the talk about helping, but few walk the walk. Too many want to “raise awareness” or “lobby Congress” to solve problems, when those problems are right in front of them and don’t need to be solved by someone else. In my own life I’m working on trying to be better about doing rather than talking in the regards of charity.

So I applaud Officer DiPrimo. He saw someone who needed help. He had the means to help. And he rolled up his sleeves and took care of the problem. Not because he wanted accolades; just because it needed to be done. That’s a lesson that all can heed, cop and citizen alike. Good work! If he’s ever out here in SoCal, the pizza and beer from the kegerator are on me.

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November 19, 2012

I, Pencil: The Movie

by Stephen Littau

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is working on a film series based on Leonard E. Read’s 1958 essay entitled: I, Pencil in which the author makes the claim “[N]ot a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me [a pencil].” The video below is their animated adaptation of the essay (I, Pencil: The Movie). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the essay, its one of the best explanations of how spontaneous order works IMO. For those who have read the essay, I think you will enjoy this video as well.

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November 15, 2012

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 3 of 3)

by Stephen Littau

Part 2

Did Voters Reject Capitalism?
Some on the Right have said that the 2012 election was a rejection of Capitalism. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Yes, there seems to be a large percentage of the electorate who want money to be taken away from the top 1 or 2% and redistributed to the remaining 99 or 98%. Yes, more people are reliant on some sort of government check than ever before. Is it possible that there was some other reason voters rejected the alternative Barack Obama in this election?

The answer to this question, I think, has more to do with where conservatives come down on certain divisive social issues. The rhetoric on issues like abortion and gay marriage for example have alienated certain people who agree with Republicans on taxes and spending may have otherwise voted for the Republican candidate. For voters who decide these issues are at least as important as economic issues, they either support Obama, support Gary Johnson,* or don’t vote at all.

Anti-choice Extremism of Suck
To be fair, abortion is an issue that even divides libertarians. Sadly, this is not an issue that is likely to disappear anytime soon.** But the way Republicans present the issue needs to change unless they want to continue to chase away the female vote. I don’t think it’s even necessarily about abortion per se but more the cavalier attitude some Republican politicians seem to have about anything concerning women’s reproductive cycles.

While it’s reasonable to say that the government should not force insurance companies to pay for contraception, when someone like Rush Limbaugh calls someone like Sandra Fluke a slut or a prostitute, for advocating the opposite view, this distracts from the argument. There has always been a double standard in our society concerning sex. Men are studs for putting notches on their bedposts while women are sluts for doing the same. Comments like these remind women of this double standard and make it seem that Republicans have not moved beyond this double standard.

They refer to the “morning after pill” (marketed as Plan B) as an “abortion pill” when in fact it is not. In fact, according to this article on WebMD the morning after pill doesn’t work for women who are already pregnant (that’s a different pill). The article further explains that the pill does one of two things depending on where a woman happens to be in her cycle when the pill is taken: 1. prevents or delays ovulation or 2. keeps the egg from being fertilized. Some may also recall that Ron Paul, who was arguably the most anti-abortion candidate in the race and someone who was an obstetrician by trade (i.e. he knows what he’s talking about) said as much in one of the debates when the morning after pill was brought up. Anyone who says the morning after pill is an abortion pill is either uninformed or lying.

You have Republican men like Todd Aiken talking about “legitimate rape,” basically saying to women who are real victims that if her body didn’t “shut that whole thing down,” they weren’t really raped to begin with, therefore; there shouldn’t be a legal exception for rape to allow for an abortion. Another senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, said that a pregnancy that is the result of rape is “a gift from God.” Seriously.

Whether they realize it or not, Republicans are basically saying that pregnant women are second class citizens. For nine months, her rights are second to the concern of the unborn child regardless of the circumstances of how the child was conceived and regardless of legitimate health concerns of the mother. It should come to no surprise that some women might object to these attitudes and vote accordingly.

The issues concerning reproductive rights are delicate but often not treated as such among Republicans. Maybe just maybe, the GOP should allow the women to be the spokespersons on these issues, even if they are staunchly anti-choice. Instead of a blanket one size fits all federal policy outlawing abortion; the GOP should say the issue should be decided state-by-state.

Anti-Gay Attitudes of Suck
Face it Republicans, gays are serving in the military and they will eventually have the ability to get married in all 50 states. The train has left the station a long, long time ago. You can concede that you have lost on this issue or you can continue to take a beating at the polls, and deservedly so.

So what’s a socially conservative person to do?

No one says you have to like the gay lifestyle. Go ahead and preach from your tax exempt pulpit about the immorality of homosexuality. Go ahead and write blogs or write on your Face Book wall about how much you disapprove. Whatever. It’s your right to be as intolerant as you want to be.

The problem for libertarians at least is when you want to use force via the government to get your way. Libertarians would also say that churches should not be forced by the government to marry gay couples (or any couple for any reason for that matter). Let the churches discriminate but also allow gay couples to have the same legal contract*** rights as heterosexual couples. And if a gay couple can find a church that will marry them, that should be the end of it. Who are you to infringe on their religious liberty?

Conclusion: Slaying the Suck
The days of appealing only to white Christian men over 50 are coming to an end as white Christian men over 50 are quickly becoming a minority. The Republican Party must learn to reach out to minorities, to women, and to younger voters.

Sure, Republicans had minorities speaking at their convention and I’m not accusing the GOP of tokenism (though I’m sure others, particularly on the Left will make that charge). But it simply is not enough to have Condoleezza Rice, Susannah Martinez, and Marco Rubio in the party to say that you are “inclusive.” Minorities need to be included in the conversation, heard as opposed to talked at. How are your policies better for them than the Democrats’?

Ask yourself: “If I were female, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Muslim, atheist, or gay, would I feel welcome in the Republican Party?” If the answer is “no,” the Republicans have some serious work to do if they want to win in the future. While none of these minorities in of themselves cost Romney the election, together they make up a significant voting bloc that would be foolish to ignore.

Some of the issues I have mentioned in this series are popular within the GOP but don’t necessarily play all that well outside the GOP (i.e. independent voters). This doesn’t mean surrendering their principles necessarily but it does mean re-thinking some of them, presenting their ideas better, and deciding which issues are worth fighting for and which (if any) need to be jettisoned.

While some people may have liked Mitt Romney’s economic proposals, they may have also disliked his social proposals. The problem with supporting a candidate for office is that the person you are voting for is a package deal. Some of us are simply unwilling to choose between economic liberties and civil liberties (and when the Republicans are only marginally better on economic liberty than the Democrats AND when Democrats are only marginally better than Republicans on civil liberties, some of us prefer the real deal and vote Libertarian).

In closing, I think Rep. Ron Paul had some very good thoughts in his farewell speech from the House that would serve as a guide on how the Republican Party can slay the special kind of suck that gave a terrible president a second term:

The problem we have faced over the years has been that economic interventionists are swayed by envy, whereas social interventionists are swayed by intolerance of habits and lifestyles. The misunderstanding that tolerance is an endorsement of certain activities, motivates many to legislate moral standards which should only be set by individuals making their own choices. Both sides use force to deal with these misplaced emotions. Both are authoritarians. Neither endorses voluntarism. Both views ought to be rejected.

Yes, these views ought to be rejected and the GOP should return to the strategy they used to win in 2010: economic issues front and center and social issues on the back burner.

*I am proud to say I was one of the 1% or roughly 1 million who supported Gary Johnson for president. Though in terms of the election is a small number but set a new record for the Libertarian Party.

**Call me cynical but I think both Republicans and Democrats want abortion to always be an issue for fundraising reasons. This is an issue that animates the bases of both parties.

***Don’t waste my time with the slippery slope arguments “that if gays can marry what’s next, people marrying their dogs?” or “marry children” or “marry their cars.” The key here is contract rights. Dogs, children, and cars all have one thing in common: none have the legal ability to enter into a contract.

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November 14, 2012

Ron Paul’s Farewell Speech

by Doug Mataconis

When the 112th Congress comes to an end, it will also mark an end to the political career of Ron Paul, who represented the 22nd Congressional District in Texas from 1979 to 1985 (after serving a one term stint from 1976 to 1977) and the 14th Congressional District from 1997 through 2012. I’ve had made disagreements with Ron Paul over the years, specifically involving his ties to people like Lew Rockwell and the unfortunate history surrounding the newsletter he published during the years that he was absent from Congress. However, he’s also the first person I ever voted for as a Presidential candidate way back in 1988 when he was the Libertarian Parry’s candidate in 1988. Despite his faults, he was always a steadfast advocate for individual liberty and limited government at home, and a restrained foreign policy abroad, both of which are things I support wholeheartedly.

Thankfully, the fact that he’s leaving Congress doesn’t mean that the voice of liberty has been silenced on Capitol Hill. There are others who have already taken up the cause, such as Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, just elected to his second term last week, and, of course Senator Rand Paul. One can hope that their caucus becomes larger in the years to come.

Here’s Congressman Paul’s speech. It lasts nearly an hour, but it’s well worth listening to:

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November 13, 2012

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 2 of 3)

by Stephen Littau

Part 1

Confusing Economic Policy of Suck
I’m sure there are many other areas where Romney went wrong but I think most of the rest of this special kind of suck is courtesy of other Republicans. During the Republican primary, the “anyone but Romney” crowd was so desperate to eliminate Romney that they resorted to a line of attack one would expect to come from Democrats. Many Republicans seem to forget that the attacks against Romney concerning Bain Capital were first leveled by Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry at campaign rallies, in the primary debates, in their campaign ads, and in anti-Romney super PAC ads. Perry called Romney a “vulture capitalist.” The Obama campaign picked up this line of attack where Gingrich and Perry left off. In swing states like Ohio, this message had basically been pounded since before the state’s primary and never let up for the rest of the campaign.

Once charges like these are made by Republicans who are supposed to be proponents of free market capitalism, it’s kind of difficult for people who actually understand how the free market works to explain why business practices employed by Bain Capital are not only legitimate, but also necessary. In this Occupy Wall Street era we live in, there seems to be an attitude that no one is ever supposed to lose his or her job and that every job is not only necessary but equally valuable.

Companies like Bain invest in businesses in trouble and try to make them profitable. In making a business profitable, sometimes this means that some people are going to lose their jobs. Like a doctor who is trying to save the patient’s life, sometimes a limb needs to be amputated. No one wants to lose an arm or a leg in such a scenario but most who face such a dilemma would rather lose an arm or leg than lose his or her life. If the amputation is done soon enough and correctly, the patient lives. Other times, however; even despite taking such drastic measures, the patient still dies. The same is true for some of the companies Bain tried to rescue. Of course no one wants to think of themselves as a limb that needs to be amputated in order to save their company*.

Immigration Policy of Suck
In addition to the mixed messages concerning Capitalism, the Republican Primary debates took on a very harsh tone concerning immigration. Any candidate who suggested that the idea of rounding up each and every illegal immigrant was impractical and that perhaps deporting individuals who were otherwise productive members of our society, said candidate would be accused of advocating “amnesty” – a four letter word among conservative Republicans.

Such harsh anti-illegal immigration rhetoric carried over into the general campaign when President Obama (rightly, in my view) made an executive order to allow individuals who were brought here illegally as children under the age of 16 to stay and have temporary work permits. This was an outrage among Republicans because, you know, the law is the law.

As Gary Johnson pointed out on several occasions during the campaign, while it’s true that we live in a nation based on the rule of law, too many Republicans fail to understand that the laws are changeable. And as I pointed out at the time, when there are more than 27,000 pages of federal law on the books with over 4,500 criminal laws, this necessarily means that any president would have to prioritize and choose which laws he will enforce and which he will not. When the number of laws is this numerous, it’s the same as having no rule of law at all.

Immigration is an issue the GOP needs to figure out and figure out quick as the Hispanic population will become an increasingly major factor in future elections (even GOP strongholds like Texas might eventually turn blue due to this demographic reality). Should we be surprised that the Hispanic population overwhelmingly supported Obama over Romney given the rhetoric?

It’s time to reexamine the notion that the border should be secure first before any comprehensive reforms are made. I think this is exactly backwards. If the legal immigration process wasn’t such a bureaucratic nightmare to begin with, I doubt seriously that illegal immigration would remain an issue.

This much needed debate** is not going to be very productive if every time someone proposes something other than building a 20’ tall fence along the Southern border, checking ID’s of everyone with brown skin, and rounding up every illegal immigrant regardless of circumstances, s/he is accused of promoting amnesty. Even more importantly, whatever the GOP decides immigration policy should be, they need to soften their tone and be mindful that we are talking about human beings here. I think it’s safe to assume that just about every legal immigrant (especially from Mexico) has at least a few family members who are here illegally. They do not like to think of their relatives as “invaders” who need to be rounded up. These people vote too.

*And I’m writing as someone who has been the limb being amputated. Just a couple of years ago, it was my department that needed downsized to save the company…at Christmas time no less. I’m happy to say that the downsizing measure did in fact save the department and six months later, they called me back and have been working there ever since.

**Doug and Kevin have each offered up some ideas for immigration reform that I think warrant consideration.

Part 3

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November 10, 2012

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 1 of 3)

by Stephen Littau

Barack Obama’s Record of Suck
Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. He promised hope n’ change from the failed policies of George W. Bush. His policies were going to lower the debt, reduce unemployment to around 5%, become the “most transparent administration in U.S. history,” close Guantanamo Bay, and restore the damaged international relations around the world.

Four years later, Obama has increased the debt by $6 trillion (the national debt is now over $16 trillion), kept unemployment hovering around 8% for nearly his entire first term despite his Keynesian efforts to stimulate the economy, and punished whistleblowers for daring to shed light on what has arguably been one of the least transparent administrations in history. Guantanamo Bay is not only still open but now with Obama’s signing of the NDAA, even American citizens can be taken there and detained indefinitely without charge or trail. If this wasn’t enough, the Obama administration also developed a “secret kill list” from which drones search for and kill targets from that list– including American citizens, who are sought out in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, and who knows where else without any Constitutional authority whatsoever.

Then there’s “Fast and Furious,” an operation of Eric Holder’s Justice Department in which the BATFE purposely gave weapons to Mexican drug cartels resulting in untold deaths including a Border Control Agent by the name of Brian Terry. Obama has since invoked executive privilege to protect Holder from congress getting too close to the truth.

Finally, there are the terrorist attacks in Libya and Egypt on September 11, 2012. Rather than admit the obvious, President Obama and his administration lied to the American public concerning the nature of the attack claiming the attacks came from spontaneous protesters who were angry about an obscure YouTube video that “slandered” the prophet Mohammad.

A Special Kind of Suck
This is only a thumbnail sketch of the failures and malfeasance of the Obama administration in one term of office. Today the news should be about the Romney/Ryan transition team after a slam dunk landslide victory. But that is not the news today, is it? Yes, the Republican Party sucks but for the Republican challenger to be beaten despite Obama’s record, an advantage the last Republican challenger did not have, that takes a special kind of suck.

How exactly did the Republican Party achieve this special kind of suck? That is the question political observers are asking and what the party needs to answer if the GOP wants to win future elections. Reflexively, many on the Right are blaming the main stream media for its pro-Obama bias. There’s no question the MSM was more critical of Romney than Obama. They downplayed team Obama’s missteps but never missed an opportunity to report each and every gaffe of team Romney. Romney was also running against history – America’s first black president. While this is all true, it’s also true that Republicans won control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections on a wave of Tea Party fervor. The MSM had just as much of an Obama/Left wing bias then as they do now yet the Republicans gained ground. What was different this time?

Mitt Romney, the Nominee of Suck
No doubt, Gov. Mitt Romney is probably getting most of the blame and he deserves much of it. That being said, the reasons Romney failed to beat a failed president go well beyond Romney or his campaign. Maybe, Romney is a good place to start though.

Rather than make a choice that would be a champion of the limited government issues Republicans claim to care about (like say Gary Johnson or Ron Paul), the GOP decided they would go with Mitt Romney. Never mind that he authored the forerunner to ObamaCare (RomneyCare) or that he was a political chameleon (does anyone seriously think he made a principled change, as opposed to a political calculation, on abortion when it was time to run in 2008?). No, Romney was “electable” and by gosh, it was “his turn.”

Much of the destructive foreign policy of the Obama administration was right in line with what Romney said he would do. Romney had no problem with the NDAA, Guantanamo Bay, the secret kill list, or renewing the Patriot Act, therefore; these areas which were ripe for criticism were off the table. Other than the question of defense spending, they seemed to both have identical policies concerning Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and both pledged they would “stand with Israel”…whatever that means. In the foreign policy debate, the moderator handed Romney a golden opportunity to go after Obama on the recent terror attacks but decided not to do so. On another occasion, Romney did casually bring up Fast and Furious in response to a question about gun control but didn’t ask Obama some of the hard hitting questions many Americans were dying for Romney to ask.

On domestic issues, Romney allowed his opponents to define him as an out of touch millionaire who didn’t care about the 47% of the people he determined wouldn’t support him. Romney did a very poor job of defending free market capitalism* in general and his record both as governor and as a businessman in particular. When asked about the alleged gender pay gap in one of the debates, rather than explaining that the statistic doesn’t actually compare women and men of comparable occupation or work experience he said he asked for “binders full of women” from which he picked to be in senior positions when he was governor of Massachusetts. The Democrats took that line and demagogued** the hell out of it and made it part of their “war on women” mantra. If Romney didn’t want to go through the trouble of explaining why the gender pay gap is a myth, he could have respectfully asked Obama why the women on his staff and why female staffers for Democrats in the Senate are paid far less than their male counterparts. Another hanging curveball that Romney didn’t even take a swing at.

The Romney campaign was ultimately a campaign of missed opportunities; a campaign in which the candidate failed to make the case that he would be a better alternative to the incumbent. When asked how his “numbers would add up” concerning his economic policy, his answer was basically “trust me, the numbers add up.” Barack Obama could get by with his slogans and his platitudes as MSM dutifully filled in the details. But to run against an incumbent who the MSM clearly supported, the challenger apparently made the mistake that the MSM would do the same on his behalf. When you are running against an incumbent and the MSM, you better understand that you have to explain your positions yourself (particularly in the debates) rather than hope others will carry your message for you.

*Though really, I’m not sure how much Mitt Romney really believes in free market capitalism given his desire to start a trade war with China.
** Frankly, I never quite understood what their criticism was in this instance. Was it just that “binders full of women” sounds funny?

Part 2

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November 7, 2012

Four more years…

by Quincy

This quote from Santayana seems to sum up the first four years of Obama’s reign:

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

We’ve endured four years of government action designed to stimulate and save a failing economy. Four years where the average American saw an economy in shambles, friends and neighbors in trouble. Four years of sweeping changes to laws that affect the economy. Four years of a president taking undeserved credit for any signs of progress while avoiding all blame. Despite all that, the American people came out yesterday and said we want four more years of this.

Taking a cold, dispassionate look at the results, voting for four more years of Obama is ludicrous. He is, by all metrics, an abysmal failure. Obviously, the electorate failed to learn from the past, right?

Not so fast. The years in our history that parallel our current situation are ones where our collective memory, such as it is, recalls history as written by the victor: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Every statement above is equally as applicable to FDR in 1932-36, but history remembers him as a hero, not a goat. To a certain degree, FDR got lucky. A world war and a vice president kind enough to quietly reverse his economic course after his death certainly saved his reputation.

However, it should not be underestimated the role that certain historians played in shaping our memory of FDR. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s The Age of Roosevelt trilogy was the definitive work on FDR for several decades. It was strongly pro-Roosevelt and set up the narrative that Roosevelt saved the nation from the Great Depression.

In the years since, other interpretations of Roosevelt’s impact on the nation and the economy have been put forward. To my mind, the interpretations that rest upon sound economics and data from the period are much more credible than Schlesinger’s take. (See, for one, Milton Friedman’s work on the subject.) But the narrative was set and the damage was done. The vast majority of the populace believes FDR saved the nation from the Great Depression with the same sort of policies favored by Obama.

Today, history is written very differently. Rather than taking place over decades, it often crystallizes days and weeks after events occur. As the last decade has shown, this narrative can be formed or changed by ordinary people with good insights and ideas. Where 76 years ago, the people had to rely on newspapers and radio for information, today we have a platform that allows everyone a voice. In this dark hour, that is a beacon of hope.

As we deal with four more years of Obama, we the people need to stand up for the truth. No one else will do it for us. Write what you see, what you hear. If the narrative put forth by the mainstream media is suspect, question it. If a politician claims credit for something he can’t have caused, call it out.

Most importantly, if you hear Obama supporters complaining about the consequences of one of his policies, educate them. Obama supporters complaining they can’t find a job? Talk to them about the impact Obamacare and regulatory uncertainty are having on employers. Complaining about high gas prices? Talk about the ban on gulf oil drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. Make the link between their complaint and their vote.

Do this gently. Do it in a friendly, engaging way. But do it. Every. Single. Time.

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November 6, 2012

Quote of the Day: Election Auction Day Edition

by Stephen Littau

“Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.” – H.L. Mencken

I don’t know about you but I’m very eager for this Auction Day to be over with.

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October 31, 2012

The Basic Premise Behind Campaign Finance Laws

by Chris

A great deal of ink (or film, or bits) has been expended this election cycle, primarily on the far left (though some on the right… particularly with the more populist factions), decrying the actions of “independent” political action committees, superPACs, and “issue advocacy groups”; as somehow corrupt, evil, anti-democratic etc..

The rhetoric on the left, is that the “citizens united” decision has basically given “shadowy actors” like say, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, effectively a blank check to “buy elections”.

Of course, the idea that we need to “get the money out of politics” has been a political meme for approximately as long as politics has existed…

… and to a degree, there is a point there. ACTUAL political corruption, in the sense of directly buying influence or buying votes; is certainly something we need to combat as much as possible.

We’ll never eliminate it of course, humans have an endless capacity for venality, greed, and self interest. That’s just the way it is…

Frankly, the only way to get money out of politics; is to get politics out of money.

By which I mean, that so long as politics has an impact on my business and my life (and it always will); if I have money, I’m going to have a strong incentive to spend it, to make the political process work to my advantage… Or even just to hurt me less.

And that’s the way it SHOULD be… I SHOULD be able to spend my money to reduce the harm that government does to me, or to try to make government come out to my advantage; so long as I am not actually bribing a legislator to vote the way I want, committing fraud etc…

There’s a simple way of combating this; and that’s reducing the power of government to impact the individual, such that they no longer have any incentive (or really, so that their incentive is lower… since you’ll never get that little political interference) to spend their money in that way.

But that’s not what these folks are decrying from the hilltops.

What they are screaming about, is essentially free speech they don’t like.

Make no mistake, money IS speech. If you don’t have money, you can’t buy media air time. If you can’t buy media air time, then you can say whatever you want, but you’ll be speaking to an empty room.

One of the basic principles of free speech, is that you have the right to say whatever you like (short of libel, slander, fraud, or incitement to crime); so long as you are not infringing on others rights by doing so.

Another one of those basic principles is that you have the right to say it… But I don’t have to listen to it, and you don’t have the right to make me.

It’s up to me, to decide who and what I listen to, and to use my own judgement and experience in doing so.

So, you may not like what these people are saying; but so long as media companies are willing to sell them airtime, you have no right to restrict that. By attempting to do so, you are attempting to regulate free speech (conversely, you also have no right to force those media companies to sell time to opposing viewpoints; another leftist canard about “fairness”).

Makes sense right?

Well, it does to me… and to the supreme court; and when it’s causes that leftists agree with they’re perfectly OK with it.

The REAL argument, comes down to this:

“We can’t allow these bad evil people and groups to speak, because although I’m smart enough to know the difference between lies and truth, the general population are too stupid to do so”

So, rather than actually convince the people of their own side of the argument, they seek to prevent the other side from even speaking.

It’s entirely consistent with the historical leftist narrative that the “proletariat is fooled by the comfortable goods of the bourgeoisie and the lies of the ruling class” etc… etc…

Their basic premise here being that if the people could only hear and understand the truth, that the leftists ideas would be universally acclaimed as true and necessary, and immediately put into place (with the leftist elites themselves in charge of course… after all, who better to lead than those who understand the ideas the best).

They can’t accept the idea that maybe people don’t WANT more government, with more power over everyone’s lives and businesses… Because that would go entirely against the ideas they have based their entire lives and identities on; and that simply can’t be possible.

…but that’s another argument entirely.

Oh and I should note that there is a “right wing” authoritarian narrative that is nearly identical in principle, that the people are too stupid, lazy, corrupt etc… To be trusted to make their own MORAL decisions; and that the force of government must be used to make people “do the right thing”. That’s equally as bad; it’s just not what we’re talking about right now.

Now… I hate these ads as much as everyone else… But not because I decry “those fools actually believe these foul lies” (though they may be foul lies, and “the people” may believe them); simply because they’re REALLY IRRITATING.

If the people actually are so stupid that they believe “foul lies”; and the other side isn’t smart enough, or doesn’t have a good enough argument to convince them otherwise…

Well, so be it.

That’s the problem with a democratic representative republic. You have to live with the representatives the electorate choose, and the things they vote for.

It’s also why it’s so critical that we have a strictly limited government of enumerated powers only… Or rather, that we return to that; as we haven’t actually had such a government since 1861.

Our government was intended to provide protection against the tyranny of the majority… Unfortunately from the first day that government was put in place, people with “good ideas” have attempted to (often successfully) use the force of government, to have those ideas implemented, without regard to the legitimate powers of government, the desire of the people, or the rights of those being governed.

The left are perfectly willing to crow about how great democracy is… until the people refuse to vote for what they want; at which point they try to get the courts to make the people do what they want anyway.

Because, as we all know, when it comes to leftist causes, they are all “moral imperatives”…

Or as a very smart man put it once “The ends justify the means”.

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October 27, 2012

The Innocence Project Marks 300th Exoneration; Provides Statistics About the 300

by Stephen Littau

Back in the spring of 2011, some of you may recall our fundraising efforts to raise $500 for The Innocence Project. Our Liberty Papers readers and writers surpassed that donating $570 of the $20,000 The Innocence Project’s overall goal for that period. Though our fundraising effort is over for the time being, you can always donate at their page if you feel compelled to do so (actually, it’s a very good time to donate as right now, the next $19,000 are being matched by other anonymous donors).

Back when we joined the effort, The Innocence Project had marked 266 exonerations; as of last month they reached the 300th exoneration milestone, well ahead of where I predicted they would be by this time when they reached the 225 mark. Their 300th exoneration, Damon Thibodeaux spent 15 years on death row before being cleared with DNA evidence.

This is a great cause that I cannot say enough good things about. While the 300 exonerations is a very impressive achievement, more important is their efforts to reform the system to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in the first place. This infographic from The Innocence Project provides some very eye-opening statistics concerning their first 300 exonerations.

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October 22, 2012

Why Democracy Doesn’t Work, Evidence #1,083

by Brad Warbiany

Over at Ezra Klein’s place, Dylan Matthews points to the fact that elections are driven by the economy (and in some years, by war). And that George McGovern, who died yesterday, gets a bit of a bad rap based on the fact that he was up against an incumbent President presiding over a rapidly-expanding economy and a major drop in Vietnam casualties during his first term.

He points to a model from political scientist Douglas Hibbs, called the “Bread & Peace” model. And uses this chart as a telling guide:

Seems pretty clear to me. When the economy is doing well, the incumbents do well. When the economy is in the crapper, the incumbents get tossed out.

That makes perfect sense if we assume that the incumbent party (Congress or the President) has a big impact on the performance of the national economy. But I don’t think there’s any evidence to support this. Business cycles tend to occur in many ways orthogonal to political cycles. Policy tends to have long-running effects on the economy, but it’s measured in decades, not electoral cycles.

It’s pretty clear that voters are not really answering the question of “who is more qualified to lead us?”, or even “who has better policies?” The question they’re answering is merely “am I doing good right now? If not, whoever is in charge is obviously to blame!” Which causes me to ask a question (one Dylan Matthews doesn’t think to ask): if elections are driven by factors often widely outside the realm of short-term election cycles, why exactly do we think that elections are a good way to decide who to put into power?

About the only acceptable answer to that question that I can find is “it’s a better system than any others we’ve tried.” Frankly, such an answer doesn’t inspire confidence.

And further, when elections are driven by forces outside the candidates’ control, how exactly can we sit idly by and let politicians claim a mandate for their policies based upon the fact that they’ve won office? Voters don’t know what will fix the economy (nor do most politicians, frankly). But I guarantee that if Romney wins, it will be claimed as a mandate that the policies of Obama are to blame for our failure to generate an economic recovery, and that Romney’s policies are much better for all of us*.

Every four years, America goes through a big circle jerk to congratulate ourselves for “freedom” and representative democracy. After all, we get to choose who represents us in Washington and we have an inherent assumption that the fact that we’ve voted for them indicates that we have given them a vote of confidence. Yet we have a Congress with a approval rate in the teens and a re-election rate usually well above 90%, and we have Presidential contests that are usually decided based upon the growth of the economy rather than the qualities of the individual candidates.

But when I point out that we, as a people, don’t do a very good job deciding who to send to Washington, so just maybe we should limit the amount of power they’re allowed to wield, I’m suddenly a libertarian extremist?
(more…)

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October 11, 2012

Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

by Stephen Littau

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

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October 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: Small Things Edition

by Stephen Littau

[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

That was then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. This (below) is President Obama’s campaign in 2012:

If ending the federal subsidy to PBS doesn’t qualify as a “small thing” being used to distract from a failing president’s record, I don’t know what does.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye at United Liberty

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