Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Rotten Attitude

Does anyone out there remember Johnny Rotten…I mean John Lydon? Well, apparently, he’s not dead yet.

SEX Pistols singer John Lydon isn't impressed with Bono's political activism. The aging anarchist snarled to "Every time I see Bono in those big fly glasses and tight leather pants I just can't hack it. I can't see that as solving the world's problems. He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace." Clearly on a roll, Lydon took a shot at another saintly rock royal — Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof. "It was a very shoddy and weak production," Lydon said of Live 8. "And there weren't enough black faces in the show for my liking. I don't think it achieved anything. Bob Geldof is too self-serving."

Whether you love him, hate him or are completely indifferent, Lydon is right about at least one thing: ”I don't think it achieved anything.” I’m not disputing the abundance of ‘good intensions’ surrounding Live 8; I am, however, highly skeptical about the efficacy of the event, as it ostensibly delivered cash to corrupt regimes that maybe—just maybe—found its way to the political allies of brutes like Mugabe. But hey, ‘helping’ poor Africans sure does give one a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Isn’t that what really matters in the end?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My first and only post on Katrina

Our pal Dada Head makes an insightful observation…or not.
Oh well – everything’s political. Or almost everything. And if it ends up being the case that Louisiana and Mississippi suffer because they don't have enough National Guardsmen on hand ... well, should that fact not be mentioned?

I suppose that depends upon whether or not the question that DH asks is pertinent to present reality. I suspect not, but AMERICAblog sees it differently.

The Red Cross has indicated its response will be the largest in its history. So how many National Guard and military troops will Bush send to help save these people? Well, in 1992 his father sent over 30,000 troops to Florida after Andrew, in addition to over 6,000 National Guard activated by the state.

According to today's, Louisiana has activated 3,500 National Guardsmen.

As the waters rise and people are trapped in their homes, think about someone's grandmother trapped in an attic waiting for her government to help her. George Bush's response? He spent yesterday talking politics, and today he's supposed to go to California.

Unless we see tens of thousands of troops activated to support this disaster recovery, the people who die over the next few days because there aren't enough troops are all on George Bush.

Is nothing off-limits for the anti-war Left? Apparently not. But surely they can’t all be too dim to realize that the peace-time, pre-election environment of 1992 is altogether incomparable to the war-time situation in which we now find ourselves. What’s more—and this may sound a little insensitive—there were clarion calls to evacuate New Orleans well in advance of Katrina’s land-fall. Do those who chose to remain bear no responsibility for that choice? Regardless, there are legions of volunteers and government workers that are currently providing assistance to those that are trapped, injured or otherwise inconvenienced. So critics such as these need to grow up and stop using the lame Sheehan-style rhetoric.

Update: renowned Lefty Katrina Vanden Heuvel, of The Nation, is shocked…SHOCKED!...that infamous Right-winger Rush Limbaugh would dare ‘politicize’ a tragedy by renaming the hurricane after her. Of course Ms./Mrs./? Vanden Heuval chose to take the high road.

It's so very easy and childish to personalize tragedy. (Did you hear the one about OxyContin's new tagline: 'What a Rush!'?) It is so cheap to politicize a natural disaster. (Did you see the headline about Louisiana's National Guard watching the destruction of their homeland from Iraq?) But let's try to empathize with those who are suffering through no fault of their own and think about how we can help them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Way to go, Scott!

What a cool coincidence! Just the other day I mentioned Randy Barnett’s thoughts on the Ninth Amendment and low and behold, he is now Scott Sheule’s boss. Congratulations! Also, check out the abstract from The Ninth Amendment: It Means What It Says.

Although the Ninth Amendment appears on its face to protect unenumerated individual rights of the same sort as those that were enumerated in the Bill of Rights, courts and scholars have long deprived it of any relevance to constitutional adjudication. With the growing interest in originalist methods of interpretation since the 1980s, however, this situation has changed. In the past twenty years, five originalist models of the Ninth Amendment have been propounded by scholars: The state law rights model, the residual rights model, the individual natural rights model, the collective rights model, and the federalism model. This article examines twelve crucial pieces of historical evidence that either directly contradict the state law and residual rights models, undercut the collective rights model, or strongly support the individual natural rights and federalism models. Evaluating the five models in light of this evidence establishes that the Ninth Amendment actually meant at the time of its enactment what it appears now to say.

For more from Randy Barnett…

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The anti-war flavor of the month

I’ve not mentioned the anti-war media circus in Crawford, TX because initially, I figured that Cindy Sheehan was in the throws of grief over the lost of her son. I thought that she would eventually suffer in silence. Obviously, she seems to have other concerns at this point. In light of that, I feel no compunction whatever about linking to a post by Greg at Liberteaser.
Orwell (From "Politics and the English Language"): "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print."

Sheehan (To President Bush): "Your house of cards built on smoke and mirrors is crumbling and you know it."

I think she should've added, "and this isn't the pot calling the kettle black, because the bread and butter of the military industrial complex is war, the spice of life. You can't meet with me now, because it's too little too late, and if you could only see the forest for the trees, you'd know that war is no cakewalk. And Mr. President, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You've bitten off more than you can chew with me, Bush, you can't judge a book by its cover. See you in Hell."

Beyond that silliness, Cindy Sheehan wrote something that either demonstrates profound ignorance or...well, you be the judge.

Bush: "On Iraq, Bush said that a democratic constitution 'is going to be an important change in the broader Middle East.' Reaching an accord on a constitution after years of dictatorship is not easy, Bush said."

Sheehan: A Democratic Constitution? Is anyone else insulted that he thinks we are stupid and think that the Constitution they will form in Iraq will be democratic and ensure equal rights to all citizens? Does anyone else know what "democratic" means? It simply means majority rule. Not some high-minded, free-floating, pie in the sky ideal. It means 50 percent plus one. Up to 62% of Americans think our troops should be coming home soon. That is a majority, so why don't we force our employee, the president, to do what we want him to do?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Judge Robert Bork's political philosophy

I’m always pleased to stumble upon a fellow traveler that presents information that piques my interest. The latest one is Kenneth, the self-styled Oldsmoblogger…slow and in the way. He seems to be a liberty-lovin’ individualist that is serious about the freedoms that our forefathers procured with their blood, treasure and sacred honor. Here’s a bit of what he wrote recently:
In fact, the blessings of liberty will never be fully restored and secured for good and all, because there will always be creeping collectivists horrified at the thought of a free people who need call no man their master.

In the post from which the preceding quote comes, Kenneth links to a Paul Mulshine piece that is well worth reading. It is an op-ed that has a decidedly libertarian slant, which suits me just fine.
Randy Barnett, a law professor who is one of the top dogs in the dogfight known as the Federalist Society. Not too long ago, Barnett was in the news because of the far-right position he took in arguing that medicinal marijuana case before the U.S. Supreme Court [Raich vs. Ashcroft].

His far-right position? Barnett argued that the potheads should have their pot. It's none of the federal government's business if California wants to permit medicinal marijuana, he said.

I included that quote mainly because: I’m in agreement with Barnett’s position here, I thought it was worthy of a mention and I wanted to place Randy Barnett’s view into the context of this post…stay with me.

Since 1987, as Eric pointed out: Judicial appointments routinely have been “Borked.” As I was only a punk kid of fourteen at that time, my knowledge of Judge Bork’s rejected nomination is more historical than first-hand. Nevertheless, Randy Barnett had a few revelatory things to say about Bork. The following comes from the Mulshine article (emphasis added):
With the recent publication of [Barnett’s] book Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty, Barnett has become a hero to the libertarians within the Federalist Society, a faction that seems to be in the ascendancy. On the decline is the social-conservative faction, whose hero is Robert Bork, the failed 1987 Supreme Court nominee.

"I was opposed to Bork's nomination at the time," said Barnett. "Everything I've heard from him since confirms my judgment that he would have been a bad choice on the basis of judicial philosophy."

The Bork-Barnett divide centers on the interpretation of the Ninth Amendment, the one that says that the enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution "shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Bork says this means nothing. Barnett says it means everything.

In his books, Bork has advanced a view of the Constitution that could be stretched to accommodate rule by the Taliban. For example:

"No activity that society thinks immoral is victimless. Knowledge that an activity is taking place is a harm to those who find it profoundly immoral."

By that logic, Congress could ban bacon and require burqas unless there is something in the Bill of Rights that protects pork-eating and individual fashion choice -- which there isn't.

This is quite interesting. I was under the impression that to use ‘Bork’ as a verb was rather pejorative and a tactic of the Left to discredit a ‘well qualified’ conservative judge. So I endeavored to ‘hear from Bork’—as it were—in order to ascertain a more realistic view of the would-be Justice’s political philosophy. What I found was alarming…to say the very least, which is a critique of libertarianism by the Honorable Robert Bork. All subsequent quotations will be from said critique.
Libertarians join forces with modern liberals in opposing censorship, though libertarians are far from being modern liberals in other respects. For one thing, libertarians do no like the coercion that necessarily accompanies radical egalitarianism. But because both libertarians and modern liberals are oblivious to social reality, both demand radical personal autonomy in expression. That is one reason libertarians are not to be confused, as they often are, with conservatives. They are quasi- or semiconservatives. Nor are they to be confused with classical liberals, who considered restraints on individual autonomy to be essential.

WOW!...where to begin. Firstly, I reject the premise that ‘libertarians’ are ”oblivious to social reality”; this presupposes that ‘social reality’ necessarily conforms to Bork’s—seemingly narrow—view of society. For what is society, if not the innumerable interactions of autonomous individuals with disparate subjective tastes, that live in a particular area and have certain customs and laws in common? My view of society seems to be broader and considerably more ‘tolerant’ than Bork’s. But oddly enough, Bork’s idea of ”radical personal autonomy” is overly broad, which will become apparent later in this post.

Additionally, to say that ‘libertarians’ are ”not to be confused with classical liberals” is absurd, as classic liberalism is virtually synonymous with ‘libertarianism’, in my view.
Free market economists are particularly vulnerable to the libertarian virus. They know that free economic exchanges usually benefit both parties to them. But they mistake that general rule for a universal rule. Benefits do not invariably result from free market exchanges. When it comes to pornography or addictive drugs, libertarians all too often confuse the idea that markets should be free with the idea that everything should be available on the market. The first of those ideas rests on the efficacy of the free market in satisfying wants. The second ignores the question of which wants it is moral to satisfy. That is a question of an entirely different nature. I have heard economists say that, as economists, they do no deal with questions of morality. Quite right. But nobody is just an economist. Economists are also fathers and mothers, husbands or wives, voters citizens, members of communities. In these latter roles, they cannot avoid questions of morality.

The initial quasi-ad hominem dig: ”libertarian virus” is sadly unremarkable, in light of the fact that such has become commonplace in political discourse. But more interestingly, Bork suggests that ”pornography or addictive drugs” are inherently bad and ought to be prohibited by the State. Would Bork argue that firearms are evil because they can be used to commit unjustifiable acts of violence or even death? Obviously not, as Bork is a ‘conservative’.

I’m a theist, but that in no way gives me—or anyone else—the authority to dictate to others how and when they derive consensual pleasure, if indeed no individual rights are violated in the process. This is important because I would not accept lightly any prohibitions from an atheist or agnostic that would seek to impose similar authoritarian proscriptions on my beliefs or behavior. Consistency and tolerance are crucial, especially in the context of pluralistic society.
Modern liberals employ the rhetoric of 'rights' incessantly, not only to delegitimate the idea of restraints on individuals by communities but to prevent discussion of the topic. Once something is announced, usually flatly or stridently, to be a right --whether pornography or abortion or what have you-- discussion becomes difficult to impossible. Rights inhere in the person, are claimed to be absolute, and cannot be deminished or taken away by reason; in fact, reason that suggests the non-existence of an asserted right is viewed as a moral evil by the claimant. If there is to be anything that can be called a community, rather than an agglomeration of hedonists, the case for previously unrecognized individual freedoms (as well as some that have been previously recognized) must be thought through and argued, and "rights" cannot win every time. Why there is a right for adults to enjoy pornography remains unexplained and unexplainable.

This astonishes me. How could Mr. Bork—a former potential High Court Justice—confuse rights with privileges in such a cavalier fashion. Now, he does correctly imply that simply announcing that X is a ‘right’ does not a right make. However, those activities that are indeed privileged are revocable and typically concern acts of participation with others in society, rather than individual, consensual acts. For example, privileges include, but not limited to: the use of public roads, the voting franchise, access to healthcare, etc. Conversely, drug use, pornography, abortion and the like are areas of individual concern and not the concern of society at large. Notwithstanding the fact that those things are seen—by some—as ‘morally repugnant’, such are ‘victimless crimes’. I would point out that an aborted fetus is only a victim if, in fact, it enjoys the status of ‘personhood’. Since that question is debatable and as yet unresolved to my satisfaction, I would err on the side of individual liberty for the mother.
Can there be any doubt that as pornography and depictions of violence become increasingly popular and increasingly accessible, attitudes about marriage, fidelity, divorce, obligations to children, the use of force, and permissible public behavior and language will change? Or that with the changes in attitudes will come changes in conduct, both public and private?

Now we’re getting a glimpse into Bork’s true mind-set. While he seems to be hung-up on pornography, any calls for ‘gun control’ are conspicuously absent (for the record: I support the 2nd Amendment fully). My point is that actual harm and potential harm are distinct. Surely Judge Bork must know this, but suggesting that pornography is harmful in and of itself is as ridiculous as attributing malice or intent to a gun, or any other ‘weapon’ for that matter. Furthermore, the so-called slippery slope argument is fine for the purposes of persuasion, but the tenor of the Religious Right—and apparently Robert Bork as well—more than hints that coercion is the best remedy for various ‘unsavory’ behaviors…”both public and private.”
The obstacles to censorship of pornographic and viloence-filled materials are, of course, enormous. Radical individualism in such matters is now pervasive even among sedate, upper middle-class people. At a dinner I sat next to a retired Army general who is now a senior corporate executive. The subject of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs came up. This most conventional of dinner companions said casually that people ought to be allowed to see whatever they wanted to see. It would seem to follow that others ought to be allowed to do whatever some want to see.... Any serious attempt to root out the worst in our popular culture may be doomed unless the judiciary comes to understand that the First Amendment was adopted for good reasons, and those reasons did not include the furtherance of radical personal autonomy.

This guy was almost promoted to a life-time seat on the bench of the SCOTUS!!! Notice how conformity predominates his ideology: ”Radical individualism in such matters is now pervasive even among sedate, upper middle-class people.” Apparently, individuality gives way to social status. Nonsesnse!

Bork shows his true colors: ”the First Amendment was adopted for good reasons, and those reasons did not include the furtherance of radical personal autonomy.” I couldn’t disagree more. Personal autonomy is one of the hallmarks of this nation’s founding. For individual liberty (autonomy) is non-negotiable, provided that another’s rights are not impinged upon. But the issues that Bork has addressed are irrelevant, in terms of measurable, intentional harm done to others. This is, quite simply, advocacy for a society/state that ought to save one from oneself. Thank you, no...I much prefer the freedom to direct my own affairs.

Lastly, one should bear in mind that the preceding Bork quotations only represent a small minority of his writings, which obviously span decades. Nevertheless, I can’t possibly imagine what Robert Bork might say—or has said—that could in any way mitigate the anti-individualist views that I’ve addressed in this post. Therefore, with some reservation, I’m forced to conclude that the Democrat Senators, back in 1987, got it right for once. So, I say Bork ‘em all…let God sort ‘em out!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Place Holder (whine fest)

I’ve been working on a house for the past few days that is quite a challenge, which explains my silence. At this point, I’m drawing the ‘framing sections’, which is the tedious task of describing each and every piece of material from the footings to the shingles—and all points in between—for each change in the height and/or pitch of the roof-line. I literally must provide ‘assembly instructions’ for this ridiculously complex house.

Seriously, it is draining my very life’s blood. OK, maybe not, but the geometry is a nightmare! The foot-print of this particular house is Y-shaped (there are two wings that protrude at opposite 45-degree angles) and the roof system is a ‘bastard hip’ (the pitch of the front planes differs from that of the side planes). What's more, there are forty seven distinct planes; two of which have a radius of over twenty feet, in addition to a five-foot radius (flare) around the entire perimeter of the roof at the eaves. And it's only 6000 sq. ft. But hey, at least I don’t have to build the damn thing; I just have to show—in great detail—exactly how it is to be built.

Alright, enough shop-talk…for now, except that I’ll mention that this is the designer for whom I toil day and night. Check out the ‘portfolio’ section to get a sense of what I'm describing, if you’re interested.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Carnival of Liberty 8

The eighth Carnival of Liberty is up! CoL-VIII can be viewed @ Searchlight Crusade, as well as the TTLB ÜberCarnival…enjoy. Additionally, links to all previous CoLs are located in the sidebar.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Get out of Iraq...Now!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Influential Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said on Sunday the longer the United States stayed bogged down in Iraq, the more it looked like another Vietnam.

If Senator Hagel—in suggesting that Iraq is analogous to Vietnam—is referring to the loony lefties who irrationally protest every military action directed by a Republican Commander in Chief, while remaining deafening silent about (or heaping praise upon) military engagements which have been conducted by a Democrat CoC…then I would agree with Chuck Hagel. Sadly, that’s not exactly what he meant.

"I don't know how many more casualties we're going to take. We're spending a billion dollars a week now (in Iraq)," said Hagel.

More than 1,800 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and thousands more have been wounded.

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there. But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East," said Hagel.

Hagel’s statements should certainly be seen in the context of his Presidential aspirations. After all, he has to get through the Primaries, right? But his intrinsic opportunism aside, he clearly wants us to consider his views on Iraq, as he expressed them on national television. Alright then, let’s look at what he’s actually saying. Bottom line: get out of Iraq now, but we can't leave a power vacuum. No…those two propositions aren’t mutually exclusive. But seriously, what is the prudent course of action, given the realty of the situation? Well, according to a July 28th Washington Post article
"The great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces be on their way out as they take more responsibility," [Prime Minister Ibrahim] Jafari said at a news conference with Rumsfeld after their noon meeting in Baghdad.

But Jafari said a withdrawal would require "picking up the pace of training Iraqi forces," as well as carefully synchronizing the U.S. withdrawal as Iraqi forces took charge of different parts of the country.

"The withdrawal should be whenever the Iraqi forces are ready to stand up," Jafari said. "We don't want the Multinational Force to have a surprise departure.

That’s really the only reasonable strategy at this point. Regardless of your view of the current Administration or its rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, we’re there; and a premature pullout would only have disastrous consequences. For if the Taliban could enable al Qaeda to successfully plan and execute their fateful attack from such a backward place as Afghanistan, one can only imagine what would become of Iraq, if indeed all U.S. troops were to evacuate before a capable Iraqi defense force is established. Is this not blindingly obvious by now?

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Do you remember the young Brazilian who was shot in the head by London’s finest? If so, you probably already know that he was not a suicide bomber! Well, apparently there’s been quite a bit of buzz surrounding what Ann Althouse wrote about the shooting. First of all, it should be noted that her web-counter—as I’m writing this—shows 2,114,898 hits (she’s not new to the blogosphere). Additionally, she’s updated the post in question, which begins:
WARNING ADDED: If you've come here from another website and think you already know what this post says, I would recommend that you calm down and read what I've actually written. Some really foolish, hotheaded remarks have been made about this post. Don't let yourself be manipulated.

I read it and you should as well. Even still, I can’t help but agree with Jim Henley’s assessment of it, which reads: Forget in retrospect, even contemporaneously the final paragraph of [the Althouse post] would rank as the most stupendous combination of dumb and sick in - maybe years:
Is it not true that yesterday's sad mistake has already solved the problem it represents? In fact, a further good has been created: as ordinary persons change their behavior and drop the bulky clothing and unnecessary running, the real terrorists will stand out more. Indeed, if anyone ever behaves like Jean Charles de Menezes again, the presumption that he is a terrorist will be so overwhelmingly strong that the police really must kill him.

Let’s hope and pray that Ann Althouse never becomes a cop or—God forbid—ever manages to get elected to public office.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Faith-Based Physics

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

H/T: Reason’s Hit & Run

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


After reading the highly recommended CoL VII, I thought of Kirsten, who, on her blog: Enjoy Every Sandwich, periodically writes rather harsh critiques of posts written by Life, Liberty, Property community members. Thus far I’ve escaped her wrath, but I’m not exactly sure why. As I see it, there are at least three possible reasons: (1) I’m not on her radar…at all (2) I’ve not written anything that has drawn her ire (3) she just hasn’t gotten to me yet. It remains a mystery, but I digress. Kirsten’s latest lancing concerns this post by R. G. Combs, of Combs Spouts Off.

The preceding paragraph is not the subject of this particular post, but rather it’s simply meant to place my limited knowledge of Kirsten’s blog into to context. Also, it’s fair to say that while both Kirsten and I might be under the ‘libertarian’ political umbrella, we very likely agree and disagree in equal measure. Having said that, I’m going to focus on an area of agreement between us, which ironically, is a very divisive issue.

In this post, Kirsten slams the so-called “libertarian-leaning” Congressman Ron Paul (R) Texas (aka Dr. NO!) for the stance he takes in an article entitled: Immigration and the Welfare State. He wrote:

The problem of illegal immigration will not be solved easily, but we can start by recognizing that the overwhelming majority of Americans – including immigrants – want immigration reduced, not expanded.

Amnesty for illegal immigrants is not the answer. Millions of people who broke the law by entering, staying, and working in our country illegally should not be rewarded with a visa. Why should lawbreakers obtain a free pass, while those seeking to immigrate legally face years of paperwork and long waits for a visa?

There's a lot that I could say in response to that, but instead I’ll quote Kirsten, as this is a rare instance of accordance in our views. She wrote:

As I am quite certain Mr. Paul knows, we do not live in a democracy which is governed by what the majority- even an overwhelming majority- want. Whether or not most Americans want less immigration is irrelevant as far as what is either legal or moral.

Nor is the law some infallible arbiter of what is right. When the law is immoral- as it is in the case of violating people's basic right to freely associate on a mutually consensual basis with others- there is nothing wrong with breaking it.


It is the law and those who made the law that are in the wrong here- not peaceful people who have chosen to cross the border in violation of immoral laws.

That’s as far as Kirsten went and I agree with her, as evidenced by what I’ve written before about immigration. But I want to go a bit further, as there is more to the article that needs to be addressed. Again, Ron Paul:

We must end welfare state subsidies for illegal immigrants. Some illegal immigrants – certainly not all – receive housing subsidies, food stamps, free medical care, and other forms of welfare. This alienates taxpayers and breeds suspicion of immigrants, even though the majority of them work very hard. Without a welfare state, we would know that everyone coming to America wanted to work hard and support himself.

Our current welfare system also encourages illegal immigration by discouraging American citizens from taking low-wage jobs. This creates greater demand for illegal foreign labor. Welfare programs and minimum wage laws create an artificial market for labor to do the jobs Americans supposedly won’t do.

Unless Mr. Paul ‘misspoke’, I can’t agree with him. For he is not—in that article at least—calling for an end to welfare per se; he is, however, suggesting that ‘illegal aliens’ ought not to receive ‘public assistance’. And although he rightly criticizes “welfare programs and minimum wage laws”, he all but ignores the ‘illegals’ that actually work for a living and are self-reliant, without availing themselves of confiscated ‘alms’. Is the Congressman implying that ‘undocumented’ foreigners with gainful employment are less valuable to the U.S. economy than unemployed citizens whose subsistence comes at the expense of their fellows? If not, then Ron Paul ought to be working (and writing) to end state-funded welfare ‘entitlements’ altogether, thereby removing the irrational reticence about ‘liberal’ immigration policy.

Economic considerations aside, we must address the cultural aspects of immigration. The vast majority of Americans welcome immigrants who want to come here, work hard, and build a better life. But we rightfully expect immigrants to show a sincere desire to become American citizens, speak English, and assimilate themselves culturally. All federal government business should be conducted in English. More importantly, we should expect immigrants to learn about and respect our political and legal traditions, which are rooted in liberty and constitutionally limited government.

There are a few points here that are worth making. Firstly, notice that ”the vast majority of Americans welcome immigrants who want to come here, work hard, and build a better life”…BUT…immigrants must necessarily immolate their individual identity and indeed emulate ‘our’ culture, in order to become authentic Amurikans. Secondly, what does immigration have to do with the fact that ”federal government business should be conducted in English”? Lastly, I cannot—for the life of me—understand how Dr. Paul can possibly square his idea of ”liberty and constitutionally limited government” with such a ham-handed protectionist prohibition that masquerades as immigration policy.

Carnival of Liberty 7

The seventh Carnival of Liberty is up! CoL-VII can be viewed @ Eric’s Grumbles. Also, check out the TTLB ÜberCarnival…enjoy.

When you’ve finished with the Carnival, come on back here so we can discuss this, that and the other thing. I’m bound to post something—sooner or later—about which you’ll want to take me to task; but if debate isn’t your forte, I will grudgingly accept praise, faint or otherwise.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What a Pain!

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog...AGAIN!

My other new template got fried somehow. It was most likely the result of G.I.G.O. (garbage in, garbage out). Long story short...after getting more than little frustrated with it, I decided to select another template.

It’s just as well though, because I’ve had a couple of gentle suggestions that the former color scheme was not exactly easy on the eyes. So, like it or not, this one's a keeper.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

web-rings, web-rings everywhere…

Does the illustrious Life, Liberty, Property (LLP) blog-community have stiff competition, with respect to the coveted attention of the consumers of bloggy goodness?

Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left (BLL) is here -- a web ring for anarchists and other left-libertarians. This is something I've been thinking about starting for a long time, but it took a little work to research how best to do it (and it still, of course, is imperfect).

... I'm content to let the ring's readers/surfers decide for themselves if you represent what they're looking for or not. There are obvious exceptions (a "Ku Klux Klan Libertarian Caucus" just ain't gonna fly), but libertarian Democrats, non-party anti-authoritarian "progressives," the various brands of anarchist and such are all quite welcome.

But seriously folks, I like the Kn@ppster and wish him well, even though we don’t always agree. For example: Tom Knapp and I have enjoyed several exchanges in the past…see here, here, here and here (sorry guys, but as is par for the course, things get lost during a move; this time it was the comments that used to accompany those posts).

In any event, I’m quite sure that the blogosphere is large enough to accommodate innumerable ‘web-rings’. That having been said, I’m equally certain that the LLP is the preeminent blogger community. >)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

On Capital Punishment

Scott Scheule, of Catallarchy fame, (as well as Life, Liberty, Property) linked to an abstract of a paper by Joanna Shepherd entitled Deterrence versus Brutalization: Capital Punishment's Differing Impacts Among States. Here’s a bit of it:

My results have three important policy implications. First, if deterrence is the objective, then capital punishment generally succeeds in the few states with many executions. Second, the many states with numbers of executions below the threshold may be executing people needlessly. Indeed, instead of deterring crime, the executions may be inducing additional murders: a rough total estimate is that, in the many states where executions induce murders rather than deter them, executions cause an additional 250 murders per year. Third, to achieve deterrence, states must generally execute many people. If a state is unwilling to establish such a large execution program, it should consider abandoning capital punishment.

As most everyone knows, the debate about the so-called ‘death penalty’ is one that divides people along ideological lines. On one side, there are “traditional conservatives” (theo-cons); on the other side, there are the “liberals” (neo-libs—aka compassionate collectivists). The former is fer it, while the latter is agin it.

As it happens, Justice John Paul Stevens, reputed to be the ‘most liberal’ member of the High Court (Republican nominee—Gerald Ford), recently waded into the frey by casting doubt on the propriety of Capital Punishment (CP).

Stevens said DNA evidence has shown "that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously."

"It indicates that there must be serious flaws in our administration of criminal justice," he said.


He said the jury selection process and the fact that many trial judges are elected work against accused murderers. He also said that jurors might be improperly swayed by victim-impact statements.

Again, disagreement about this is nothing new, so I’ll not presume to settle the matter in a blog post. However, against my better judgment, I’m going to ‘step in it’, so to speak.

Alright, essentially, what we have here…is a failure to communicate. That is: to some, CP is a natural means of effecting justice (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth). Others hold that CP is a barbaric violation of “human rights” . While still others take a more consequentialist stance, in that they believe that eliminating a murderer can only benefit society. There are undoubtedly more nuanced positions, but I think that these are fairly representative of modern cultures in general. This may or may not be surprising, but I disagree with all of the above. Let’s take them in succession, shall we?

The “eye for an eye” justification is (A) egregious and vindictive (B) mired in arbitrary religiosity. By that reasoning, parents ought to kill their children via ‘stoning’ as punishment for disobedience, as per the Law of Moses.

The “human rights” point of view is absolutely preposterous. It presupposes that “humanity” (all humans collectively) have rights. Nonsense. It’s quite clear that only individuals have inherent rights, which pertain to life, liberty and property.

The consequentialist position is nothing if not practical. The exact reference escapes me, but I vaguely recall a quote from a (mythical?) sheriff from the Wild West (circa late 19th Century) that goes something like this: He’s not being hanged for a particular murder…he’s hanging for being the type of man that would commit murder. In other words, CP might be an effective preventative measure. But then there’s that pesky problem of proof and evidence.

The primary question in my mind is: would I be willing to accept a ‘death sentence’—at the hands of the state—even though I were innocent of the crime…just to preserve the principle that CP ostensibly represents? Moreover, do I think that the state is sufficiently competent to determine ones fate? My answer is a resounding NO!

Back to the article on Justice Stevens. Not surprisingly, SCOTUS nominee, John G. Roberts, got an honorable mention.

Stevens wrote that 2002 Atkins decision, which was joined by O'Connor. One of the three dissenters was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who hired Roberts as a law clerk in 1980.

A year later, as a Justice Department lawyer, Roberts wrote in a memo that the availability of federal court appeals, "particularly for state prisoners, goes far to making a mockery of the entire criminal justice system."

Stevens, however, laid out the case for close review of appeals, pointing to "special risks of unfairness" in capital punishment.

Umm…since when do appeals constitute a “mockery of the entire criminal justice system”? Perhaps Mr. Roberts was referring to those who are ‘obviously guilty’. But who ultimately makes that determination? Why, none other than twelve fallible individuals who, incidentally, are urged on by the state’s attorney. Now, don’t misunderstand my position here. For I tend to agree with what Neal Boortz often says: one is not innocent until proven guilty, but rather, one is guilty as soon as one commits a crime. There is no disputing that. The problem lies, for me at least, with the phrase: “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In the context of CP, this is simply too problematic, in that it’s invariably subjective. There are no “do overs” with successful executions…death is permanent.

One more reference to the ‘Stevens piece’. Tell me, how does the following strike you?

"[CP] doesn't appear to be shaping up as a major issue," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a pro-death penalty group.


According to the anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center, more than three dozen death row inmates have been exonerated since 2000.

Said Scheidegger, "I wouldn't say that 20 or 30 cases out of 8,000 constitutes a broken system."

Sure, those odds are fine for inanimate objects. But what if one of your loved one has been wrongly accused of a capital crime? What if the innocent one on trial is you? No, the power to kill civilians is not that which the state ought to have, regardless of the crime. Hell, think of how they handle finances and education! Do you really think that the state ought to be empowered to extinguish the life of a free individual?

If not execution, then what punishment is appropriate for those that are, in fact, guilty of murder? To me, confinement for life—the complete loss of liberty—sounds pretty damn harsh. With a ‘life sentence’ though, there remains the possibility of future exoneration, if in fact one has been wrongly convicted. There’s no need to take my word for it; just check out the Innocence Project.

There’s no need to adjust your screen…

…as we are not experiencing technical difficulty (except for my shameful lack of geek cred) and no, this is not an optical illusion. This is the new (and improved?) template of libertopia. For better or worse, nothing has changed but the appearance and the loss of the “L”.

Why did I go for the ‘extreme makeover’? Well, mostly because I grew tired of the drab, antiquated style of my prior digs. Plus, practically every third blog I read uses that template (mild hyperbole). Now I’m not knocking it, as I did voluntarily select it.

In short, since I don’t know how to design my own graphics (or anything else web-related for that matter), I settled on this template because none of the blogs that I frequent are currently sporting it. That, and I'm not afraid of change. There’s really no more to it than that. As Freud once said: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Considering Good Intentions

Why do you blog…whether by maintaining your own site, responding with comments, simply reading others’ posts or a combination of the three? Chances are, the answer is not unlike mine. I want: an outlet through which to express my thoughts, to become further educated and to engage in substantive discussions. Thus far, I’ve not been disappointed.

A recent example would be the debate that resulted from one of my latest offerings. From that comment thread, another lively discussion commenced at Eric’s Grumbles. Essentially, the arguments over there sprang from Eric’s main conclusion:

Holding yourself, and every other individual, responsible for moral and immoral behavior is much the harder path. But it is the only path that acknowledges the reality of human behavior, which is that morality is the province of the individual.

With that in mind, I want to mention a very good blog that I’ve just become aware of, which has recently explored similar subject matter. Kyle Bennett of Human Advancement, in an interesting post entitled: Damning the State, analyzes the state, its constituents and a possible solution to its attendant problems.

The state, like any other abstract collection of people, is not an independently existent entity, it is an aggregate of the decisions and actions of individuals. As such, it does not have any power, ability, or interests beyond those of the individuals comprising it. The state, and I'm now referring specifically to the Federal State under which I live, is made up of some very bad people, some very good people, and the vast middle of honestly well-intentioned people with no clue about what is really good or how to achieve it.

I couldn’t agree more. But I wonder: which is more responsible for the marked erosions of freedom…the bad or the oblivious? The bad are, typically, well known by their words and deeds. The well-intentioned oblivious, however, inadvertently do harm by empowering the state to be “a force for good”, which comes at the expense of individual liberty. For as my pal Ape Snake wrote: Everyone says they hate pork barreling but history shows that the backlash against politicians who clobber voters with their own money will consist of three people per county. That being the case, what’s the solution? Well, Kyle Bennett offers a fairly pragmatic one:

If your preferred state of the union is smashed, then you should realize that you will never acquire a hammer big enough to smash it - not politically, not rhetorically, and not through force of arms. If you want to escape it, then realize that your only possible escape is solitude, and even that is an iffy proposition.

If you want to remove the evil of the state from your society, then you'd better start making distinctions.

Until you break the hold that evil has on the good intentions of your fellow man, you will not break the hold that evil has on your society. You cannot do that until you first realize that they are good intentions, and that they are good. Your cry of "smash the state" in response to every action of the state, good or bad without distinction, is seen, and rightly so, as opposition to good intentions. If you want to smash the state, then start filling the philosophical vacuum that allows evil to turn those good intentions to its own end.

Don't try to convince your well-intentioned fellow man to abandon the state. Instead show him to what ends his good intentions should be put - the ends, not the means. Give him the tools to see that the state is inherently in conflict with his good intentions, and he will remove from evil's grasp the power of his good intentions without your prompting. Then the state will wither on the vine.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

one more megaphone

Alright folks—yeah, I’m talking to you—I’d like to make you aware of the fact that I have yet another outlet for my discontent.

For better or worse—depending upon your point of view—the opportunity to express myself elsewhere has been made possible by Quincy, a fellow Life, Liberty, Property member. Thanks Quincy!

Now, by all means, go read my latest rant, in addition to visiting Quincy and the LLP…oh and don’t forget to leave a comment, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.

Which configuration is best?

Some Guitarded Guy asks a valid question:

"A two-party system needs two parties, both of which need to be competitive, and have broad-based support."

Oh, yeah? If that's true, then who in the world needs ”Neolibertarians”?

Good question. As for me, I stand squarely in support of gridlock. Why? It’s not complicated, really…when politicians fail to pass legislation, individuals keep more of the fruits of their labor (all forms of personal property); indeed, individuals retain more of their Liberty, which is the birth-right of everyone!...even collectivists. Therefore, a two-party system is almost the worst case scenario. I say almost because it’s only slightly more desirable than a one-party system. I’ll leave it to the reader to determine which system currently reigns in America.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Rational Responsibility

I just read a really good article by Jessica Bennett, in which she articulates precisely Where Responsibility Lies. Her piece certainly needs no additional commentary from me, but I’ll just put the excerpt into context.

An analogy is drawn from the recent resurgence of the Super Hero motif in Hollywood, wherein themes include: altruism, self-sacrifice and ‘social responsibility’.

Movies, for all their fantastic plotlines, impregnable heroes, and copious amounts of beautiful people, often reflect generic ideals of society: There are no masked vigilantes crouched atop church steeples, no caped crusaders leaping into the night, or white-haired women whipping up tornados, but there are those with extraordinary power.

But there are those with money, connections, intelligence, or celebrity, and it seems all too often society expects these people to save the world — one begging hand at a time.

Why is it that those with power are expected to be superheroes or supervillians? Is there some social contract that mandates Spiderman’s motto? Must those with power also feel the burden of social responsibility? My answer is no.


No one, anywhere, is ever obligated to save the world. No one should ever be expected to shoulder the weight of other people’s problems. Those who have earned their powers, their money, or celebrity, have the natural right to dispose of their assets in the way most pleasing to them.

There are a lot of great causes in the world, a lot of problems that need mending, but each and every person is liable only to themselves, not society.

My argument is not against giving, helping, or even saving the world; it is against the expectation that we must give and others must take.

She took the words right out of my mouth...then she arranged them more cogently than I did. Alas, it’s not surprising that she gets paid to write the truth, while I'm just an obscure blogger with delusions of adequacy.

Carnival of Liberty #6

The sixth Carnival of Liberty is up! CoL-VI can be viewed @ Stephen's place: Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds. Also, check out the TTLB UberCarnival…enjoy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Carnival of Collectivists

Um…correction…Carnival of UnCapitalists is up. Among the contributors is our one time drive-by commenter: the enigmatic Eugene Plawiuk, aka Libertarian Communist. But the entry that I’d like to highlight is from Thomas Paine’s Corner:
As a people, Americans need to find a way to meet our fellow citizens of the Earth as equals and to channel our vast resources toward bettering humanity and the planet on which we live. A great place to start would be to ensure the rights, dignity, and well-being of our own people, including the oft-forgotten mentally ill.
Now that is as clear an example of collectivism as can be found anywhere. The plural pronouns, pregnant with moral obligation, are a tale-tell sign. Beyond that, notice the emotional vigor with which the post begins:
Like wolves among sheep, America's Plutocracy preys on the weaker and less fortunate members of society. Since America's founding, they have leveraged their economic power to dominate the government and the media, the vehicles through which they advance their avaricious agenda.
Translation: successful Americans have the audacity to amass wealth disproportionate to the general population, then quite despicably, they insist that charity remain in the private sphere; they resist the state-mandated redistribution of their property. What greedy, selfish, rich bastards!

hat tip: who else…dadahead

Fun with Hypocrisy

KJ, of No Government Cheese and a fellow Life, Liberty, Property group member, has collaborated with others to expose the hypocrisy of some on the Left. The product of their efforts is: Conservative Bloggers Who Support The Gay John Roberts

The purpose for reporting this story was obvious. The goal was to undermine Judge Roberts support among social conservatives. It has even been implied at by Leftists and places like Democratic Underground that Judge Roberts may be gay. This, the hypothesis goes, may explain his adoption of children. We believe that these speculations and tactics are despicable. Still, assuming for the sake of argument that they are right, and Judge Roberts has performed legal work that helped homosexuals or, heaven forbid, he is even gay, we respond with a resounding: SO WHAT!

This Blog is being established to support a Blog Community of right-of-center conservative and libertarian leaning Blogs that support Judge Roberts, even if he is gay.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Facets of Freedom

For those of you who are keeping score at home, the topic that I’m going to address here is not dissimilar to this post. More specifically, I’ll try to sharpen the focus on the ideas that arose in the comment exchange of the aforementioned post.

To put this in perspective, the discussion encompassed politics, society and the individual’s relationship with both. Yes—it’s deja vu all over again. Anyway, in that post, I used the term: collectivist, which, in context, is an adjective that is essentially the antithesis of individualist. And while the former is mildly pejorative from my view-point, the latter is somewhat negative for one who prefers a more robust social role for the state. That having been said, in response to the probligo, I wrote:

…I’ve neither criticized any country in particular (NZ included), nor have I heaped praise on the U.S. Both my original post and my subsequent comments have dealt with the principles of my political philosophy, rather than egregious ad hominem statements.

What ad hominem statements you ask? Well, for example: “Your idea of "charity" exists only to hide the fact that you have no charity in your heart.” and “I smell the taint of personal greed running through this.” and “Perhaps some day you should come see the truth rather than blindly following the pap and propaganda you were fed as a pup.” and last, but not least “What your well indoctrinated and propaganda filtered mind is not seeing is that the welfare state, as it operates in NZ, in Sweden, in the UK even, is nothing like what you are saying.” (I would encourage a full reading of the comments to place those quotes in context). Now, the probligo’s counter to my comment (from above) was:

Robert, I take it then that referring to me as "collectivists (like Probligo?)" is not very close to the ad hominem" line?

I pay taxes in exactly the same way as you. In theory at least those taxes are set in response to the wishes of a majority of society. The difference between us is no more than our respective attitudes to taxes. I pay them in a sense of realism. You would not if you did not have to. I suspect, from the tone that I hear in your writing, that "donations to charity would soon fall by the wayside from your purse as well. I suspect also that in your ideal society you would consider the private medical insurance "too expensive" and that you were "unjustifiably subsidising the health costs of others". Ah well, there it is.

The challenge stands -

Show me any example you wish of the "state" running my life by "coercion".

Show me any example you like where you believe my rights are restricted, where you as an American have more right than do I.

There it is indeed. For the power to tax and regulate personal conduct is the power to control. And by control, I mean the act of limiting individual liberty for whatever purpose, though typically it's in the name of “social justice”, morality or both. But with respect to the probligo, he is likely speaking of one of New Zealand’s social policies, known as ”Closing the Gaps”,

which was the name given to an official NZ policy of assisting socially-disadvantaged ethnic groups, particularly Maori and Pacific Islanders, through specially-targeted social programmes. The phrase came to prominence during the term of various National Party-led governments between 1992 and 1999. All government departments were required to report on how their service contributed to "Closing the Gaps".

More broadly, politics has been (especially in last hundred years or so) dominated by debates that revolve around what exactly is an acceptable level state imposed limitation on individual liberty (as distinct from self-restraint, which requires no state involvement). I’m primarily speaking of liberalized pluralistic societies (generic sense of liberal), wherein the populace plays a role in shaping the legal landscape, whether through the voting franchise or “public pressure” that is applied to the governing body.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, I’ll mention an excellent post by Unrepentant Brad entitled Peak Liberty, which incidentally was recently published in the latest issue of The New Libertarian (way to go Warbs!) In his essay, Brad recounts various historical instances in which individual liberty has ebbed and flowed, but mostly ebbed. Additionally, he articulates two distinct facets of freedom: social and economic.

Social Freedom: this refers to those civil liberties that are enjoyed by liberal societies, such as those enumerated in, and guaranteed by, arguably the most essential part of our constitution: The Bill of Rights, which ostensibly restricts state coercion.

Economic Freedom: this refers to the right of individuals to engage in trade, free of onerous regulation, as well as the freedom from excessive confiscation of wealth and property by the state.

Does America currently enjoy perfect freedom? Sadly, no. But as with most things, the devil is in the details, which is to say that politics consists of unending disagreement about the degree to which social concerns trump individual ones, and vise-versa. For example: the anarchist might demand absolute liberty (Murray Rothbard hates the state), whereas the committed collectivist advocates for the eradication of individualism ("We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society." Hillary Clinton, 1993 and "Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all." Nikita Khrushchev, February 25, 1956 20th Congress of the Communist Party)

To be sure, the probligo and I are somewhere between the two ideological poles, though we certainly reside at opposite ends. That is, I favor less government intrusion in individual affairs, coupled with more personal responsibility, whereas the probligo seems to see government as a force for good, which ought to assume a paternalistic role in society. While he is not unique in holding that view, I fear that such a position is rather myopic, in that it focuses upon the perceived positive benefit to those in need, while ignoring the immorality of the means of achieving that end.

To further develop this idea, I’ll address the challenge: Show me any example you wish of the "state" running my life by "coercion". The answer is insidious in its simplicity. For to coerce is: to bring about by force or threat (coerce the compliance of the rest of the community). Such is the specialty of the state, and indeed coercion is the primary function of government, ergo “necessary evil”.

Therefore, contra the implication of the probligo’s assertion, coercion is intrinsic to the state. Here's the rub: the more the state is asked to “provide” for the needs of society (social safety net, healthcare, etc.) or for specific individuals (direct welfare, disability income, etc.), the greater degree of coercion is required, as “entitlements” are not without cost. In addition, liberal states produce nothing, which means that its funding must be seized from the productive individuals that it governs.

While there are those that “don’t mind” paying a higher tax rate in order to “close the gaps”, there are also those that do not appreciate being dictated to in that fashion. And in that vein, many collectivists (see my initial definition) object to mandatory, state-funded religious activity. Regardless, the song remains the same, which is state-forced “contributions”, monetarily or otherwise, to something or someone without the consent of the “contributor”. Both “justifications” for excessive coercion are asinine at best and grossly immoral at worst.

Finally, at the risk of being massively upstaged, I’ll reference the seminal essay by John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, which examines the proper relationship between society and the individual.

The acts of an individual may be hurtful to others, or wanting in due consideration for their welfare, without going the length of violating any of their constituted rights. The offender may then be justly punished by opinion, though not by law. As soon as any part of a person's conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion. But there is no room for entertaining any such question when a person's conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like (all the persons concerned being of full age, and the ordinary amount of understanding). In all such cases there should be perfect freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Porky’s 2005

Via Café Hayek, I’d like to bring to your attention the epoch tale of the frivolous government spending of tax revenue, otherwise known as the pork-laden Transportation Bill.

"I can't in good faith derail this important bill at this late hour," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in acceding to demands that his provision reopening a runway at Malmstrom Air Force Base in his state be removed.

"I'm sorry the House acted as if it knows what is best for Great Falls, Montana," said Baucus, one of the key negotiators of the legislation that will fund highway, transit and transportation safety programs over the next six years.

Did you catch that? The good Senator from Montana tried to stealthily divert funds to his state by reactivating an Air Force base, while at this very moment the Department of Defense is in the process of closing several bases that have been essentially deemed unnecessary.

Ostensibly, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is a part of the effort to streamline the DoD by eliminating redundancies in the system. So what does Sen. Baucus, D-Mont. Do? Why, he caters to his inner sleaze-ball (I mean inner politician), by inserting an amendment intended to divert public largess, to benefit of his constituents. After all, he was doing that which “is best for Great Falls, Montana”. Oh, my mistake. I thought the Senator was attempting to buy votes with the fruit of another’s labor…silly me.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Carnival of Liberty #5

The fifth Carnival of Liberty is up! CoL-V can be viewed @ Owlish Mutterings. Also, check out the illustrious Life, Liberty and Property Group Blog…enjoy.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Coercive Good Samaritans

Much to my dismay, someone has my called my political philosophy into question. Imagine that! Who knew that the concept of individual liberty would prove to be so very controversial? But seriously, I cannot understand why anyone, having reached the age of majority, would willingly divest themselves of the autonomy that was secured by violent Revolution. This divestment is effected by empowering the state to forcibly regulate the minutia of the lives of ostensibly free agents. Of course I’m speaking about Americans in particular, although an aversion to freedom and individuality is hardly unique to my fellow citizens.

Where was I?...ah yes…someone has taken issue with my advocacy of Individualism. It happens to be my favorite New Zealander, Probligo, who wrote: Use me as an example if you want. Try and use my life to justify the "right of the individual against all". OK, I’ll give it a go, though I’ll restrict my comments to his stated political philosophy, as I understand it. (one minor correction: individual rights need not be “against all”, as far as I’m concerned)

To set the stage, I should mention that (on the odd chance that the reader is unfamiliar with the positions and propositions of my previous posts) Probligo and I routinely disagree—civilly—about the legitimate role of government, as well as what constitutes individual responsibility within the context of society. In that respect, I tend to favor self-reliance and freedom, whereas Probligo typically advocates for state assistance, as the default solution to various personal problems. In light of that, here’s a portion of a recent comment that Probligo made in response to this post:

Tell me, in your ideal little "every man for themselves" little world, who should be responsible for the care of a kid whose parents were killed in a car accident? The grandparents who died three years ago? The brothers and sisters of the parents all of whom have kids of their own to support?

Who should be responsible for the support of a community of 3000 people all of whom worked for one major employer who has decided that "in the interests of profit" the mill should be closed and the community abandoned. Doesn't happen?

Who should provide some form of quality of life to the physically handicapped child whose parents have to beg for a living because the "individual responsibility" society won out and state support such as unemployment benefits were discontinued.
I’ll deal with each one in a moment, but before I do, I’ll make a few observations. Firstly, Probligo seems to justify coercion on the grounds of compassion (more on that later). Secondly, the examples he gave represent the exception, rather than the rule.

orphaned children: As a single parent, I can certainly empathize with such a situation, theoretical or not. Now, supposing that there are no other family members or friends that will assume custody, the options are: (a) the kids fend for them selves, (b) state run orphanage or government funded Foster care, (c) private, charitable orphanage (religious or secular) and (d) private adoption. Notice the order in which I arranged the possible solutions—they go from worst to best. The first, option (a), is tragic and hopefully a rare occurrence, if at all. The second, option (b), is almost as bad as the first. To illustrate my point, I’ll give one anecdotal example, as well as an empirical one.

As a teenager, I had a friend who was placed in a Foster home because both of his parents were abusive, drug-addicted alcoholics. Model parents indeed. The Foster “parent” to whom my friend was assigned was a barely ambulatory, decrepit old lady that already had a half-dozen teen-aged wards in her ‘care’. There was little discipline—if any—in that environment, but shockingly, Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS, which incidentally was recently rebuffed because the high school drop-out rate of Foster kids is on the rise) failed to see any reason why that particular woman would be unsuitable to use orphaned children as a publicly funded meal-ticket. Needless to say, my friend was in jail before he reached adulthood. And yes, he made a series of poor choices…but…he was a child with a troubled past, who would have been better served by those that care for orphaned children out of genuine compassion, unlike an impersonal and essentially unaccountable bureaucracy with a virtually endless supply of seized revenue.

A classic empirical example is the deplorable Romanian orphanages. From the BBC: The vast majority of children in Ceausescu's so-called orphanages were not actually orphans.

Banned from any form of contraception, many couples had more children than they wanted or could afford to keep, and left them in state care.

Those may only two cases, but I’d say that they are fairly representative. If so, by way of comparison, state-run childcare is markedly inferior to a voluntary private solution.

unemployment: I’ll ignore the hyperbole (e.g. evil profit chasers) and concentrate on the main issue, which is: for those of us that are not independently wealthy, gainful employment is a necessity. But first, let’s look at the two main causes of unemployment. Generally speaking, either one is asked to leave (for whatever reason), or one voluntarily resigns. Since most people do not have an enforceable employment contract (like that of unionized workers, but that's a rant for another post), both cases of job termination are quite common. Interestingly, few tears are shed for the small business owner that loses a much needed employee on short notice. Conversely, that same business is roundly criticized for eliminating a particular job in order to reduce labor costs. In the case of larger corporations, the share holders are often ‘regular’ folks with a 401k plan. In any event, as I’ve said before, everyone is responsible for maintaining a skill-set that is marketable, in addition to planning for unforeseen circumstances. Options include, but are not limited to: insurance, savings, family, friends or private charity. No government solution is necessary here and coercion is altogether unjustifiable.

disabled children w/poor parents: Again, this is a most unfortunate situation and I’m not unsympathetic. But what ought to be clear by now is the fact that private solutions are appropriate in this area, not unlike those that I’ve already mentioned.

What I’ve done so far is point out the obvious: not only are there alternatives to government 'alms', but state funded solutions are typically the least effective, in addition to often being more expensive, counter-productive and an illegitimate use of political power.

Rather than give a history lesson, I’ll simply borrow a partial quote from Thomas Jefferson: [T]hat to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…, which succinctly defines the nature and the proper, limited role of government. Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, can one find any justification for the public funding of private, individual assistance (the “welfare laws” that currently exist are statutory).

The reason for the constitutional public/private distinction is not very complicated. Simply put, the state creates no wealth. The state may only seize wealth by force from private citizens (and through tariffs). Now, this is a rather delicate issue for me, as I’m neither a Statist or an Anarchist (although I’m much closer to the latter). So, since ones money (aka property) is forcible taken to fund the government, as voluntary taxation is unrealistic (save for a consumption tax, aka Fair Tax HR25), decency dictates that only an absolute minimum ought to be taken. Specifically, the definition of minimum in this case is: courts, coinage and defense…period. I omit ‘representation’ because ideally, that job ought to be a duty similar to serving on a jury, because as it stands, the Legislative branch is little more than a means for layers, crooks and other corrupt individuals to pass ridiculous, paternalistic laws, from which they are exempt.

Finally, collectivists (like Probligo?) seem hell bent on eliminating all suffering and inequality of assets and income. A laudable goal to be sure, but such is clearly unattainable. Furthermore, a main defect in that ideal is that it is devoid of any semblance of compunction, concerning the use of coercion, by the state of course, to create the quasi-utopia for which they tirelessly labor. It boils down to this: in their minds, the ends justify the means...but only in their case. For when the situation is reversed, as in the goals of right-wing authoritarians or theocrats, lefty collectivists scream the loudest.

Therefore, the only consistent position is that of unwavering respect for individual liberty. This is true primarily because, like it or not, everyone is an individual with the right to be at liberty. Whether one avails himself of that freedom or voluntarily subjects himself to another person or group; whether one chooses a life of service to the poor, the sick and the hungry, or if one chooses to enjoy a life of solitary 'selfishness', these choices are the purview of each and every individual, not society. Moreover, it is grossly immoral, prima facie, for one to use force, or the threat of force (whether personally or through the state) to compel one to benefit another.