Thursday, January 31, 2008

Evil Economists and Moral Repugnance...

Wow. From a NYTimes article:

“The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people,” he said. “They work in a different moral universe. The burden of proof is on someone who wants to include” a transaction in the marketplace... - Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University

I ought to send this to the Weekly Standard so they can add another talking point against the evil Milton "Freedman".

Going beyond evil economists...

I suppose I operate in a different moral universe also. I do not believe that the burden of proof is on someone who wants to include a transaction in the marketplace. We're in Kip's Law territory now. By whose standard is the transaction beneficial? What burden has to be met? Who gets to decide what that burden is? In practice, this is the realm of unbridled democratic majoritarianism and the belief that judicial review should simply defer to these decisions. Not surprisingly, my moral repugnance alarm bells are ringing.

If people want to predict what's repugnant or not, then so be it. However, it is a non-sequitir. Bloom's hubris notwithstanding, moral repugnance is not a negative externality, as defined as having one's rights violated through the actions of another. The fact Person A engages in Activity B that Person C finds offensive but in no way violates his or rights does not give C the right to go to Legislator D, who, along with other like-minded legislators, passes Law E that prohibits A from engaging in B and placates C's sensibilities.

It does not logically follow that because Activity B can not be prohibited by law on the basis that such actions do not violate the rights of others, that is morally acceptable. The decision to choose to engage in Activity B or find Activity B morally taboo belongs with the individual. It is not up to us to "prove" our worth. It is up to government to prove necessity and propriety.

H/T: Greg Mankiw

Monday, January 28, 2008

Will Wilkinson on "National Greatness Conservatism"

Even if the tone has rubbed some people the wrong way, I did take some pleasure in this:

I am more and more coming to the conclusion that National Greatness Conservatism, like all quasi-fascist movements, is based on a weird romantic teenager’s fantasies about what it means to be a grown up. The fundamental moral decency of liberal individualism seems, to the unserious mind that thinks itself serious, completely insipid next to very exciting big boy ideas about shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power. And reading Aristotle in Greek.

and this:

National Greatness Conservatism is like a grotesque wood-paneled den stuffed with animal heads, mounted swords, garish carpets, and a giant roaring fire. Only the most vulgar tuck in next to that fire, light a fat cigar, and think they’ve really got it all figured out. But I’m afraid that’s pretty much the kind of thing you get at the Committee on Social Thought. If you declaim the importance of virtue loudly enough, you don’t have to actually think.

This is was in response to another absurd contribution to the "libertarian-bashing on things libertarians have nothing to do with" mantra by the esteemed idiots at the Weekly Standard who were too f---ing stupid to notice that Milton "Freedman" was mispelled. You'd think someone would have caught that.

It's not without its criticism but I found it amusing nonetheless, and its fairly representative of my disdain toward big-government conservatism and its contempt towards individualism.

Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea, it is not virtue, honor, duty or sacrifice I have a problem with. It is nationalism and collectivism and the perversions that can result from both. That should be evident but people can take what I say the wrong way.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Special Thanks to Publius Endures...

for the Carol Moore links that describes some of the history of movement libertarianism and how it all relates to the situation with Ron Paul, etc.

As someone who was rather oblivious to movement libertarianism up until about six months ago (although the deep divides were made much clearer recently), I found her perspective valuable.

Mark's blog post with the Carol Moore articles is here. If you've never read Publius Endures, you should. Therefore, I am not posting direct links to Carol's articles. How coercive ;)

As a sidenote, does anyone know where I can find Lew Rockwell's article on paleolibertarianism (From 1990)? Liberty's online archives date back to 2002. Maybe I'll actually have to go to a library. Eek. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

With all due respect to Justin Logan...

he's being far too nice when he says...

I’m loath to predict political outcomes. Maybe as a political matter this sort of thing will sell. But abandoning conservative economic principles in the pursuit of political success and simultaneously indulging the worst jingoist excesses of neoconservatism is a positively revolting platform. Looking at the slate of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, maybe this new welfare-warfare fusionism has legs. But it certainly doesn’t offer very much to libertarians.

It offers nothing. Nothing at all.

If I vote for the GOP candidate in November, it would be to keep the Clintons out of the White House. It would have nothing to do with unity towards a GOP I find so repugnant that if the whole movement flushed itself down the toilet, I wouldn't lose a second of sleep over it.

I don't know what a Quantum of Solace is supposed to be...

...other than the new title of the next James Bond movie. That's good enough for me. Unfortuneately, November is a ways away, but there's a Batman movie waiting in the wings as well (no pun intended).

I thought Casino Royale kicked ass, probably a top-five movie out of all the Bond films. The "allow me..." line pretty much did it for me, although I liked watching a Bond that seemed to be a bit mentally unstable at times. Daniel Craig did a great job with the role and I hope he makes more of them (FWIW, I also liked his character best in Munich).

I also hope Judy Dench gets a lot of material to work with as M.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Going for term number three...

Andrew Sullivan writes (referring to Bill Clinton):

It really is time to acknowledge that Clinton is running for a third term - in flagrant violation of the 22d Amendment. He's fighting for unelected power by proxy - just as his wife fought for hers in 1992 and 1996. Their deal is now explicit. And their goal - four terms between them - is in their grasp.

Even I think the first sentence is a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps it's not too unreasonable to discuss the Clintons with respect to the 22nd Amendment. David Boaz did have this to say over at Cato-at-Liberty:

Legally, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton has not previously served as president. She is no less eligible for election to the presidency than was George W. Bush, the son of a president. But the intent of the 22nd Amendment, the spirit of a presidential term limit, is to ensure that no one person holds that vast power for so long. When the federal government and the presidency were vastly less powerful than today, George Washington thought that a republic should not be led by one man for more than eight years. His example set a standard for the American republic until that republic encountered the powerlust of Franklin D. Roosevelt, after which we made George Washington’s example a legal rule.

Even if I may slightly disagree with Andrew's constitutional interpretation, I share his concern towards a third Clinton term (yes, I think that is a very appropriate way to put it) as well as his contempt towards Bill Clinton. David's comments are also a bit alarming to me considering we have a similar (if not greater) sort of powerlust and a federal government that is exponentially more powerful than it was in 1932.

If there's anyone that could force me to vote for a Republican in November, it would be a Clinton. Trust me, that says a lot.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wrestling with pigs...

Apparently, a blogger over at Lew Rockwell decided that to criticize libertarians by digging up from the dead two of the most debunked and, in my opinion, brain-dead criticisms of libertarians: 1) atomistic individualism and 2) libertinism. Going further, he blames the libertines for equating libertarianism to "heroin addict, prostitute and private military contractor, not peace, free markets and local communities."

There's little to say on the libertine/atomistic individual nonsense , as I think Murray Rothbard covered that ground quite well (and you'd think the bloggers at Rockwell's site would know this, especially since this article was on the main page of the Mises Institute site about a week ago or so). Furthermore, in one of my favorite contributions to the fantastic collection of essays in George Carey's Freedom and Virtue, Murray Rothbard writes:

If the fusionist position is simply the libertarian position on freedom-and-virtue, then what of the fusionist critique of libertarianism: that it ignores virtue altogether in the pursuit of freedom (or, at least, ignores virtue insofar as it goes beyond freedom itself)? Much of this critique rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of what libertarianism is all about. Thus, Professor John P. East speaks of the traditionalist concern about contemporary libertarianism (which he, as a fusionist, seems to share): "of taking a valid point, in this case the importance of the individual and his rights, and elevating it to the first principle of life with all other considerations excluded".* Even Frank Meyer, uncharacteristically and in the heat of the ideological fray, identified libertarianism as a "libertine impulse [which] . . . raises the freedom of the individual . . . to the status of an absolute end." But this is an absurd straw-man. Only an imbecile could ever hold that freedom is the highest or indeed the only principle or end of life. Freedom is necessary to, and integral with, the achievement of any of man's ends. The libertarian agrees completely with Acton and with Meyer himself that freedom is the highest political end, not the highest end of man per se; indeed, it would be difficult to render such a position in any sense meaningful or coherent.

Maybe the libertine criticism, as weak as it is, is not directed specifically towards people like me because the first thing I think of when I think of libertarian is individual liberty. Freedom, peace and free markets flow from that, but "local communities"? Like Mark, at Publius Endures, I see the sort of majoritarian difficulty that James Madison so eloquently addressed in Federalist 10, as opposed to a healthy respect for both federalism and the proper role of the state police power, especially when I read complaints about a community's right "to teach intelligent design in their schools". Of course, when "their" schools are government schools (and not "their" schools in the private property sense), it is the state that is teaching religion masked as science, and yes, that is not a valid role of the police power.** If "their" schools were privately funded institutions, I do not know of a single libertarian that would support using the state to prohibit the teaching of intelligent design.

I should also mention, as if it needs to be said, that individuals have rights. "Community rights" should be viewed simply as the collective sum of individual rights and nothing more. To suggest otherwise is collectivism. Libertarianism and collectivism mix about as well as drinking and driving.

More thoughts from Tim Sandefur.

For some background on my choice of a title, please read David Boaz.

** Some would make that argument for public education. I'm avoiding that discussion for the time being.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Random thoughts on a Friday Morning...

Julian Sanchez writes a follow-up blog post regarding some of the comments and criticisms he received by way of the article at Reason co-authored with David Weigel. Sanchez does a good job debunking some of those criticism, and shares many of my sentiments. There's little reason to fisk it since we're pretty much in agreement (although he's far too kind to FormerBeltwayWonk, whose cheap shots at "cosmo-orange-tarians" or whatever the hell term he/she/it's using are absurd (see here)). Julian addresses the "cosmotarian cabal" conspiracy schtick nicely so there's no point in me doing it.

Julian makes a point that I'll reiterate because it's one I've had about all of this. In 1981, I was a third-grader who was the shortest kid in his class and spent my recesses being chased by all the evil little schoolgirls. The Rothbard-Crane split and the squabbling between the Cato and Mises/Rockwell factions never crossed my mind. Hell, when I first discovered libertarian political theory and began to embrace it as my own, I wasn't even aware of these squabbles. Granted, I spent a lot more time perusing the Cato blogs and Reason online than I did Mises or Rockwell although I did and still do visit both of those sites.

I have little use for petty squabbles and less patience for some of the neocon-conspiracy theory mongering that come from certain people. The big picture for me is spreading the belief that liberty matters. What perhaps upset me most about the Reason article was learning that hatred for the state (more specifically, the central government) became more important than the idea of liberty. Like it or not, I find it unacceptable, and it shouldn't take a Beltway-Libertarian-Neocon-Warmonger conspiracy to have to come to that conclusion.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I enjoyed this as much as it pissed me off...

I am way late to the game in getting a post up about Ezra Levant. I was inspired by Levant's closing statements most and it strong enough to cut through the sheer outrage I was feeling towards the Canadian government and anyone who believes this is how governments should monitor their citizens. I'm still outraged for that matter.

A system of law that protects our rights is legitimate. A system of law that panders to the warm and fuzzy in the name of socially engineering a society where no one ever gets mad at each other is both illegitimate and complete B.S.

Hat tip to Fusionist Libertarian for reminding me to put something up about this and every other blogger who covered this no matter what your political affiliation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This will certainly make some friends...

An article written by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel discussing who wrote the newletters going out under Ron Paul's name is available at Reason.

I won't spoil the surprise, although I doubt anyone will be surprised.

Cue hysterical, conspiracy theory-based reactions against the cosmotarians and Tom Palmer in 3...2...1...

Ok, I'm amused...

Fusionist Libertarian points out Lew Rockwell's appreciation for libertarians who do not support Ron Paul.

Rockwell cites a Dennis Perrin HuffPo post to support his "Eek a mouse!" comment. Of course, Perrin addresses the racism comments, the Kirchik hit piece of the smear job, surveillance state issues, etc. in terms of how liberals should address this problem and does not attempt to address the core concerns of libertarians. Of course, that doesn't stop Rockwell from exaggerating its significance. No surprise.

However, I do appreciate the link to the HuffPo article. There's a relevant passage:

To quote James Ridgeway, liberals can be and often are the meanest motherfuckers around. Criticize any of their scared[sic] beliefs, then watch out. They'll come at you with anything they've got, doesn't matter if it's truthful, accurate, or even sane. American liberals truly feel that they are humanity's Final Word. If you dispute that, you're a bigot, a hater, a piece of slime that deserves only the nastiest treatment. And baby, you'll get it.

Sounds a bit too familiar.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Michael Moore Award Nominee Speaks...

An Andrew Sullivan Michael Moore Award Nominee, liberal blogger Amanda Marcotte, writes:

For the slower (willfully and not) people out there, the rhetoric about protecting the innocent states from the all-powerful federal government—rhetoric that would have basically every stalwart Republican and Libertarian out there pumping his fist in solidarity—is referencing Alabama’s “right” to prevent black people from voting, with violence if necessary.

It’s important to have long memories, because the language about “small government” and “states rights” is with us today, and there’s no reason to think the basic meaning has changed significantly from the days when it was about stopping black people from voting. “States rights” dresses itself up as anti-tyrannical language, but it’s actually pro-tyranny.

It’s about crafting a nation that makes it the easiest to use government power to override individual rights. Remember this picture every time you hear someone waxing on about the inherent nobility of “leaving it to the states”, because odds are they’re beating the same drum they have since the South lost their war to preserve slavery. (emphasis added)

Criticisms of states rights don't bother me, but the fact it comes from a liberal blogger who makes a couple of points that rub me the wrong way, I thought I'd comment:

The image of libertarians (perhaps the paleos notwithstanding) marching in unison with Republicans celebrating the "right of the state" to initiate force to oppress the rights of it citizens is patently absurd to the point of sheer ignorance. Of course, the recent association of libertarianism with many of these elements may have crossed her mind when she wrote this. Perhaps I did not concern myself with this issue as much as others did. Last night, I was not willing to give the benefit of the doubt on this point, but I think I will. That said, it's still horrifically wrong and I think some people in the comments section at Pandagon have pointed that out.

Of course, I am more than a bit tickled by the underlined sentence because you know, only people that believe in states rights and people that are far-right wing religious wingnuts are the only ones who would ever consider using government to "override" individual rights. Progressives were more than complicit in using the power of state governments to infringe upon an individual's liberty to contract*.

Furthermore, let us not allow Marcotte's criticisms of the doctrine of states rights to mask the Progressive disdain for federalism. Let's remember that the next time someone waxes poetic about those waxing poetic about "leaving it to the states".

What a Beatdown!

If my criticism of Michael Kinsley's piece on libertarianism, figuratively speaking of course, left him with perhaps a black eye and a bit of a bloody nose. Tony at Rolling Doughnut, again, figuratively speaking, hacks him to pieces.

It's too good not to give a direct link to. Well done!

I probably should have hit the problems of knowledge and interest more than I did. Then again, I always think I should have written a better post after I post it.

Maybe I should read some of the stuff on Mike Huben's old site to find a challenge, although what he calls the "clearest indictment of libertarianism" looks like the twisted offspring of a Hymowitz-Kinsley anti-libertarian screed (and both familiar and predictable). It's a bit dated so I'll leave it alone.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Charged with the Crime of Siding with The State's Thought control in the Ron Paul Newsletter Affair...

You got to be kidding me.

Although the website was taken down, via Julian Sanchez (and commenter Kevin B. O'Reilly), some clown has decided that it would be a brilliant idea to create A Libertarian War Crimes Tribunal. Their crime: "Siding with the State's Thought Control in the Ron Paul Newsletter Affair".

You can see the list of people here.

Of course, it's all about individual liberty, right?

I don't know if I want to grab a beer or brass knuckles after reading this unbridled stupidity.

Question for my one-and-a-half libertarian readers...

Non-libertarians are welcome to chime in as well...

Given everything surrounding the Ron Paul fiasco, does anyone else have the urge to choke the living s--- out of the people at Reason?

Road trip? ;)

About those Paulistinians...

Though, of course, not all...

The Fusionist Libertarian speaks. I listen:

In fact, they're pretty much this woman I once overheard talking about how much she just loved Michael Jackson. And she just couldn't believe the lies circling about him: that he was a pedophile; that he'd paid off children and their families; that his personal life was deeply, deeply bizarre.

It didn't matter to this woman. She wouldn't even entertain the possibility. Why not? Well, she really loved his music, and how could a man who made such beautiful music possibly be a pedophile?

and Bingo was his name-O.

I know not everyone who supports the man feels this way and this is not geared towards those who are rational. I have friends who will still support Ron Paul and I respect, albeit disagree, with their decision.

I know I'm late to the game on this. I haven't blogged at all about the so-called Paulbots because 1) I never encountered them and 2) I figured once their candidate went away, they'd find better things to do with their time then spam polls and flock to any blog that criticizes their man. Of course, now that I have seen a little more at stake here for liberty lovers than the outcome of a presidential election, I've decided that maybe I do have a few things to say about all of this.

**Paulistinian is a registered trademark of The Liberty Papers :)

Blog Roll Updates

Well, I finally updated my blogroll for the first time since I set up this blog. I don't think I got everything on there but close enough for now.

If I'm missing something or if anyone wants to recommend something, please let me know.

-- The Management

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Biggest Problem with Libertarianism is the Belief in Individual Liberty

Michael Kinsley's op-ed on libertarians, as I understand it, makes that argument without really coming out and calling a spade a spade. Since he appreciates libertarians because we force people like him to "think everything through from scratch", I'd like for people like him to force themselves to think a little harder on a few points here.

Before I go on, I'm not exactly sure what he means by "extremely limited government". I suppose it's a matter of perspective but it's not helpful because while libertarians do believe in limits on government, the extent to which government has a role is always being debated internally and there are a diverse range of opinons. Therefore, to respond to Kinsley, I'll speak to my own views.

For those libertarians, like myself, who believe that states can be legitimate (not all states are), the basic argument for a state comes is written quite clearly in the Declaration of Independence: That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Personally, I see the ideas of John Locke as opposed to an introduction to economics.

Second, he conflates the concept of externalties to Kip's Law. While I believe that government intervention to address certain negative externalities is acceptable (so long as a valid public purpose is being served - i.e. public health or safety), he decides what negative externalities are those society can live without and would then support appropriate legislation to remedy those externalities. The example he provides is his support for seat belt laws, although I would argue that the negative externalities in his example are not caused by not wear a seat belt of being killed in a traffic accident, but the traffic accident itself.

Third, he is obviously a utilitarian because he chides us for having "a tendency to see too many issues in terms of property rights". One who views the notion of liberty from a moral (perhaps deontological) position, either rights exist or they do not and if rights exist, then they can not be violated by anyone under any circumstance. The proper role of government is to protect those rights, not to decide whether legislation will produce a net-net gain to society (see Kip's Law). This is not surprising given that he later claims, with respect to bans on unpasteurized milk, "[a]ll that is lost by letting the government take care of it is the right of a few idiots to be idiots. That right deserves respect. But not much. "

For Kinsley, the value of rights is wholly dependent on the amount of respect we should provide to them. Of course, who cares about a few idiots who want to drink unpasteurized milk. The rest of us aren't harmed by this regulation. Let's take it one step further: who cares if states enact gay marriage bans, most of us aren't harmed by it and society is better off if we don't allow gays to threaten the institution of marriage.

It is sheer and utter hypocrisy, yet unsurprising for liberals who view property rights only in terms of who they can have sex with and the ability to terminate pregnancies. I wonder if people who share his mindset realize how much in common they have with the sort of insolent, homophobic bigots they constantly criticize as far-right theocrats. Absurd.

Last, I hate to burst his bubble but his "classic libertarian fantasy", albeit not in the way he describes has taken to fruition in a couple of situations. Private investors paid a tidy sum in exchange for a leasehold interest for the Indiana Toll Road, subject to all sorts of terms and conditions. The Chicago Skyway is under a similar arrangement and several states have contemplated entering into leasehold arrangements or selling off minority interests in toll roads (i.e. The State of New Jersey has considered selling a 49% interest in the Turnpike). Sure, it's not privatized stoplights, but these arrangements are far closer to a free-market contractual arrangement then top-down command and control. Even if the Indiana example has a whole hosts of restrictions and covenants, the investors consented to them. I expect to see more of this kind of thing in the future.

In summary, our views are useful when he wants them to be. Property rights are useful except when they are not and libertarians are simply too stuck worshipping on the altar of Milton Friedman (although he should get a F- for mentioning Ron Paul) to see the good things government can do to increase the common good.

Other than that, it's not a bad op-ed piece. Maybe one rung above Kay Hymowitz on the "Critics of Libertarianism" ladder.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ron Paul Commentary

Tim Sandefur has compiled quite a list of blog links discussing the Ron Paul situation. Great stuff despite my being on there.

The man's on fire. His primer on libertarianism is a must-read as well, especially if you aren't familiar with the different variations.

The Last Throes of the Beltway Libertarians...

Via the Lew Rockwell Blog

We've rendered the DC libertarians' attempts to join the Washington Establishment irrelevant. No wonder they're fuming and grasping at straws.

Dick Cheney wasn't the first person I had in mind:

Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

(hat tip - Tim Sandefur)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Some thoughts on a Friday afternoon...

Patrick's most recent post at Driving Out the Snakes opines about the depravity pervasive in society's moral fabric in the context of reality television, from the Czech Republic, where subscribers to a program can watch prostitutes have sex with johns.

He is certainly well within his right to find such a thing morally depraved. I may have different views on the subject but my primary disagreement is with this passage:

A liberal-minded person might argue that it's all voluntary and no one is harmed. I beg to differ.

Consider poor Nick, who is quoted above (something tells me that Nick isn't exactly a Don Juan back home in France.) This 36-year-old, unmarried "bank security technician" isn't doing himself any favors with this activity, especially if he has any visions of ever settling down with a woman. And there is probably a woman in France who would like to settle down with a guy like Nick - but she won't get to do so because he has taught himself that women are nothing but sex objects. She's a victim, too.

Then there are the prostitutes. They may be well-paid, but at what cost to their dignity, their health, and their self-image? Finally there are the thousands of people, mainly men, who view this material and become addicted. Many marriages are destroyed in this way, leaving wives and children shattered into pieces. From there the trail of destruction expands geometrically.

I don't disagree that the consequences from making wrong decisions can devastate families. I can relate to that specificially, being a child of parents who divorced after 35 years because of the decision of one of them to violate the marital vows. There was harm and I experienced a great deal of pain from it firsthand.

However, should my outrage at my own situation and the harm I suffered be sufficient justification to try to do everything I possibly can to prevent people who have not been harmed from acting in this manner? Should Patrick's outrage towards sleazy reality television and the widespread availability of pornography and the harm he believes to happen as a result sufficient justification for a democratic majority of like-minded individuals to use legislation as a weapon to cure evil social ills?

The problem here is with the use of the word harm. I do not believe it truly represents the classically-liberal/libertarian view on the role of government because the word "harm" can be construed so broadly that governance based on a harm principle can be plausibly argued to justify just about any sort of encroachment into the private affairs of individuals.

This specific liberal (or (l)ibertarian if you will) would argue that not only is the action between two individuals voluntary and consensual, but it does not violate the rights of others. In this context, while we can argue that each of the parties above could conceivably suffer harm, in no case is the rights of anyone violated.

While the woman who could have settled down with Nick may "be a victim" of Nick's poor decisionmaking, she had no right to settle down with him. As far as the prostitute, as she has control over her decisions. Nick is not coercing her into sacrificing her self image, health and dignity. It is a consensual sex act, not an act of rape.

As callous as it sounds, while people who cheat on their spouses or view pornography may be violating a multitude of morally (and perhaps legally) binding oblgiations, looking at rights from the perspective I have been (i.e. natural rights to life, liberty and property), again it is clear to me that no rights have been violated.

To reiterate, I do not mean to suggest that these actions may not be immoral, reckless, irresponsible and/or exercised with the worst judgment possible (if I did this, it would be - that's for sure).

There's more that can be said about this, but Patrick did not explicitly state whether or not government should enforce prohibitions on this sort of activity. Anything else I would add on this involves that discussion, but since we haven't had it, there's little use starting one at this point.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On Cultural Libertarianism...

James Poulos at the Postmodern Conservative writes:

In a world where libertarians are utterly doomed on the political front and turned loose with glee instead on the culture, the flattening out of local, particular political power -- the inevitable result of sovereign individuality -- drives prideful, envious democratic souls to the rational recognition that therapeutically throwing themselves, and one another, into the headlong pursuit of trivial novelties is the only way to enjoy life under the advanced logic of equality and social freedom (without opting for the unpopular hermit route).

Yet again my big prob with libertarians these days is their unwillingness to make this analytical distinction. As bluntly as I can phrase it, with the condition of the west today as the independent variable, cultural libertarianism actively destroys political libertarianism, and unless we figure out a way to do political libertarianism first, we may be in for some serious pink police state action.

Like Julian Sanchez, who responds here, I do not see how cultural libertarianism actively destroys political libertarianism for the fact that if cultural libertarianism is responsible for anything, it is a political environment that allows for people to choose how they live their lives so long as they do not violate the rights of others. If Poulos wishes to criticizes people for their moral decisions, then so be it. I have no problem with that. I do think, however, Frank Meyer did make that analytical distinction (from Murray Rothbard's contribution to George Carey's Freedom and Virtue)

. . . freedom can exist at no lesser price than the danger of damnation; and if freedom is indeed the essence of man's being, that which distinguishes him from the beasts, he must be free to choose his worst as well as his best end. Unless he can choose his worst, he cannot choose his best...

...For moral and spiritual perfection can only be pursued by finite men through a series of choices, in which every moment is a new beginning; and freedom which makes those choices possible is itself a condition without which the moral and spiritual ends would be meaningless. If this were not so, if such ends could be achieved without the continuing exercise of freedom, then moral and spiritual perfection could be taught by rote and enforced by discipline – and every man of good will would be a saint. Freedom is therefore an integral aspect of the highest end...

Furthermore, I would probably argue that what would hold back political libertarianism is not cultural libertarianism but economic libertarianism. I would think that far more people would be offended by school vouchers, the repeal of minimum wage laws, rent control laws, laws requring employers collectively bargain with labor unions, public accommodations laws, anti-discrimination laws, or Social Security than by people who choose to fornicate with whomever and in whatever fashion they see fit.

Perhaps it's why constitutional law protects "sexual" substantive due process and not "economic" substantive due process (as hypocritical as that is).

Yes, Another Thank You Blog Post

This time to Copious Dissent, who has done us all a wonderful service with his series of posts of Milton Friedman "debating" Naomi Klein. I quote the word because it's not a live debate, but then again, if a debate were to take place between the two, I'd still end up putting the word in quotes.

Check them all out!!!

Via Cafe Hayek

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Obligatory Ron Paul Post...


By now, most of the free world has probably heard what some of us already knew about Ron Paul courtesy of Jamie Kirchick's "Angry White Man": that there are publications, points of view and perhaps speeches in the man's past, directly or indirectly, that are obscene, racist, homophobic and downright despicable. That anyone would want to associate with some of the kooks, cranks, nutjobs and outright assholes that have written in some of the publications that have gone out under his name is beyond my comprehension. Furthermore, the fact that his campaign seems to think this is not such a big deal is inexcusable.

Perception is reality, and my perception is (and has been) of a man that has, at best, poor judgment in the type of company he chooses to keep. That alone makes him unqualified to be the President of the United States. Aside from my disagreements on some of his positions, it is his lack of judgment that has completely turned me off. In any event, the hell with it. I never supported him, and to me, he was more Robert Bork than James Madison when it came to individual liberty, preferring an open-ended police power to one which places rightful limitations on what states can and can not do.

I sympathize and agree with Tony here but I wonder what kind of damage can be done:

I don't think the problem has been libertarians supporting Rep. Paul. We all make compromises at some point. But we must be honest about them. We should talk about ideas, and something makes them more possible to discuss in public forums, we should seek to use that opportunity. Still, labels matter. With even a cursory look at his positions, it was always clear that Rep. Paul is not a libertarian.

So now the careless have hitched our principles to an unstable vehicle of political expediency. Why? We knew that we weren't getting a libertarian president in November, even if Rep. Paul was a libertarian. We're often accused of being too rigid in adhering to how little government should do. There is no justification for abandoning that rigidity at the first whiff of minor success in the public consciousness. First impressions.

Now I'm angry at being forced into guilt-by-association. Thanks.

I don't know how much guilt-by-association is really here though. Although I wasn't particularly impressed with Kirchick piece, if he did one good deed, it was this distinction (albeit imperfect)*:

To understand Paul's philosophy, the best place to start is probably the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Auburn, Alabama. The institute is named for a libertarian Austrian economist, but it was founded by a man named Lew Rockwell, who also served as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982. Paul has had a long and prominent association with the institute, teaching at its seminars and serving as a "distinguished counselor." The institute has also published his books.

The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described "anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence" and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession.

In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."

The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine.

Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."

If there was any basis for a guilt-by-association, it existed long before any Ron Paul Revolution. Though I am relatively new to the philosophy (2-3 years) and have known about paleolibertarianism's past, seeing these so-called libertarians cozying up with the populist, nationalist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic elements that are an affront to both liberty and individualism made me sick and upset. I know others who feel the same way. Perhaps a bit of a mea culpa is in order here since I suppose I could uncovered this sooner if I wanted to look harder.

There are numerous places for additional Ron Paul commentary that are worth checking out: Freespace, Althouse, Andrew Sullivan, Volokh Conspiracy, Vodkapundit, Rolling Doughnut, Fusionist Libertarian, and of course Reason (see the link in the first paragraph). The Memeorandum link for more is here.

Update: Paleolibertarian Karen Decoster responds to the Kirchick article here and rants about a blog called Right Watch which, like Tom Palmer's blog, presents the views of certain libertarians in a rather, ahem, harsh light.

Not surprisingly, she takes the anonymous author of Right Watch to task for a lack of evidence yet spends the better part of a long paragraph speculating that Tom Palmer is behind the attacks on Lew Rockwell with, again not surprisingly, no evidence. Pot? Kettle? I suppose it would do no good to say that Palmer himself claimed that he had nothing to do with it but as he's a Washington-insider-neocon-warmonger-statist-[FILL IN THE BLANK HERE], that will probably earn me neocon status, although I don't think the neoconservatives would want me in their ranks.

Lastly, just out of curiousity, what do my libertarian readers think of this rather passionate defense of Lew Rockwell:

His success is hated by those who can't gain the same ground. After all, he has been a one-man show and has done far more for the libertarian philosophy - over the last 9 years - than a whole staff at Cato.

One man, folks. One man has made a huge difference and has brought many Internet wanderers to the libertarian way. And you think they don't envy Rockwell for his highly-successful, decentralized operation?

I didn't reach libertarianism through Rockwell and I am grateful for that (although I am grateful to the exposure to Rothbard and Mises). I'll think I'll stick with David Boaz on this one:

But of course Ron Paul isn’t running for president. He’s not going to be president, he’s not going to be the Republican nominee for president, and he never hoped to be. He got into the race to advance ideas—the ideas of peace, constitutional government, and freedom. Succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, he became the most visible so-called “libertarian” in America. And now he and his associates have slimed the noble cause of liberty and limited government.

Mutterings about the past mistakes of the New Republic or the ideological agenda of author James Kirchick are beside the point. Maybe Bob Woodward didn’t like Quakers; the corruption he uncovered in the Nixon administration was still a fact, and that’s all that mattered. Ron Paul’s most visible defenders have denounced Kirchick as a “pimply-faced youth”—so much for their previous enthusiasm about all the young people sleeping on floors for the Paul campaign—and a neoconservative. But they have not denied the facts he reported. Those words appeared in newsletters under his name. And, notably, they have not dared to defend or even quote the actual words that Kirchick reported. Even those who vociferously defend Ron Paul and viciously denounce Kirchick, perhaps even those who wrote the words originally, are apparently unwilling to quote and defend the actual words that appeared over Ron Paul’s signature.

Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect “paleoconservative” ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism.

And these are the people who claim to be about freedom and liberty? What do you think?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thank You Tim Sandefur...

...for the wonderful news of a new Randy Barnett response to Kurt Lash in their exchanges on the original meaning of the Ninth Amendment.

I read Lash's latest last year, and while I'm not up to speed on the details compared to others, the one thing I never understood from his work (and perhaps the works of others) is how one gets from the concept of individual rights (a la Locke or the Declaration of Independence) to the concept of collective rights (the theme throughout Akhil Reed Amar's The Bill of Rights, where he speaks of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in the collective sense).

If the idea that we are endowed with natural rights by our Creator and those rights are inalienable, then are they not (without some exceptions) beyond the reach of positive law, whether such a decree comes from a monarch or a democratic majority?

Of course, I admit that I may be straddling a philosophical argument and a more formal legal argument and that those who believe that our principles have support in the natural rights philosophy are a relatively small number of classical liberals and libertarians.

Nonetheless, the articles written by both of them have interested me and I am grateful that there are people out there having these debates, whether I agree with them or not.

Tim's Blog Here

Monday, January 7, 2008

Padilla v Yoo? - my layman's "perspective"

(h/t: Volokh Conspiracy)

Although, legally speaking, this is way out of my base of knowledge, I was intrigued to read that Jose Padilla has filed a lawsuit against Jose Padilla. A press shown on Volokh's site reads:

John Yoo, the author of legal memos that gave the go-ahead for government agents to use torture against terrorism suspects, was sued this morning in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit was brought by Jose Padilla, an American citizen seized from a civilian setting and interrogated for years in a military prison, and his mother, Estela Lebron. The lawsuit claims that Yoo, then a senior lawyer in the Justice Department, purported to provide legal justifications for torture. This is the first lawsuit against Yoo seeking to hold him accountable for the suffering unleashed by his 'Torture Memos.' Yoo's memos justified and set in motion the use of harsh and illegal interrogation methods not only abroad -- in places like Guantanamo Bay and the secret CIA 'black sites,' -- but also here in the United States.

More at Legal Ethics Forum and Opinio Juris. There are enough legal issues (immunity, whether or not lawyers can be held legally liable for their opinions, causation, etc. etc.) to make my head swim. Ouch!

Look, I may have more than a few rather strong disagreements with John Yoo's legal opinions (nor am I the only one), but given that the prayer for relief consists of $1, attorney fees and "a judgment declaring that the acts herein are unlawful and violate the Constitution and the laws of the United States", nothing more than a judicial rebuke, then why go after John Yoo?

Duncan Hollis' at Opinio Juris writes: naming Yoo alone, it makes this case less about upending the Executive Branch or Justice Department's positions, and much more about attacking John Yoo as a lawyer. Indeed, Padilla and his counsel appear to have made a conscious decision to use this suit as a rhetorical tool. Yoo’s assets aren’t the focus of attention here. I suspect, for example, Yoo will argue immunity and get a government-funded lawyer in his defense (although he may well spend some money to retain his own counsel and maybe those costs could add up). And although a judicial rebuke, however unlikely, of Yoo would have undoubted implications for the President and the Executive Branch, the end-game appears to be much more about shaming John Yoo. Indeed, the prayer for relief suggests a remedy that simply declares that John Yoo was wrong, with the attendant effects that might have on his reputation and standing in the academic and legal communities...

Again, while I may be a fish out of water with regards to the multitude of legal issues I have encountered while reading up on this situation, I don't know if I like the implications here either. Those his legal opinions may have led to the violations of rights of an individual or individuals, he didn't directly order any such actions that would have led to a violation of rights (proximate causation?).

I'm not sure I like where something like this could go. Does this mean that if Lawyer X advises President Y about Issue Z, which Person A challenges in federal court and ruled unconstitutional, that Person A may have a civil claim against Lawyer X (or worse)?

I'm sure I'm missing a few things here (perhaps notable as well), but I'm not comfortable with this. As always, I'm open to suggestions and commentary, especially from people who know this stuff better than I do.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A few certainties via Tyler Cowen

I tend to agree with Tyler on all counts. While many are significant, Number 12 really jumps out at me:

It is a big mistake -- even in rhetoric -- to conflate concern for the poor with comparative egalitarian intuitions. The left ought to turn its back on this mistake, although it would mean losing one of their most effective rhetorical tools.

This is probably because I had the misfortune of reading an Ezra Klein juvenile, anti-libertarian temper tantrum(H/T Julian Sanchez) which, well, does reinforce not only Number 12 but Number 13 as well:

When your ideology actually boils down to things like "I think a substantial majority of this nation's children should go without health insurance" and "I think the Civil Rights Act was an unconscionable infringement upon individual property rights," you probably shouldn't try and play the "shorter X" game.
At the risk of violating certainity Number 13 (and launching a polemic), I will call bullshit on that position. In a response to a liberal blogger lamenting the practices of credit card companies KipEsquire writes:

Isn't "my outrage and disgust over it entitles me to prevent those who are not outraged and disgusted over it from doing it, despite the fact that I am in no way harmed by others doing it, apart from my outrage and disgust" the modus operand of the anti-gay bigots? Why would you possibly want to borrow a page from their playbook?

In principle, the moral authoritarianism of the Left and Right are identical, as both wish to use the state and the purported "legitimacy" of democratic processes to create a society in the majority's image. Richard Epstein, while defending same-sex marriage, wrote in an op-ed piece from 2004:

My fear is that the American left chiefly understands liberty by carving out some preferred class of "intimate" associations of two (but in an unexplained burst of traditionalism, most definitely not more) individuals. After all, even on associational freedoms, the American left has become far more statist in rejecting freedom of association claims in the Boy Scout and campaign finance cases. Its support for gay marriage, therefore, looks opportunistic because it refuses to apply the same standard of free association to economic legislation for fear of what it will do to unions and their fiefdoms...In its own way, the moral left is as authoritarian as the moral right.

On that note, can someone please explain to me why liberals, who have more in common with anti-equality homophobic bigots than they may realize, would presume to lecture libertarians on notions of equality?

Pot meet kettle.

Does it Really Matter That Much?

William Kristol has joined the editorial staff of the New York Times. Ok. I know a few liberals who are a bit upset by it. I also understand that, not surprisingly, that the left blogosphere threw an apoplectic fit. No biggie.

Personally, as much as I find Stephen Chapman more up my alley, I could care less. As far as I see it, it's just another target for me to take from the NYTimes op-ed page.

Via Reason, I came across a Slate article written by Jack Shafer defending the Kristol hiring.

Calling Kristol's addition to the page redundant because David Brooks, a former Weekly Standard-bearer, already works there reveals a lack of familiarity with both men's writings. Brooks is "pro-choice and pro-gay marriage," as Ross Douthat noted three years ago in the National Review. Kristol is neither. Brooks is a journalist first and always has been. Kristol is a political operator. Brooks tries to persuade his readers of his views gently, as if he's a guest in the house. Kristol lives to brawl and make enemies. To him, writing is fighting.

Good. Bring on the fight. Give NYTimes readers a swift kick in the ass. Hopefully, he'll send a few my way (albeit indirectly of course).

What fun is consistently reading people you agree with anyway?