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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why Libertarianism Hasn't Been Tried

...because you authoritarian hornswogglers never give us a chance (via the Arizona Daily Star):
PHOENIX - Contending one and maybe two congressional races were stolen from them, Republican legislators have approved and Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a measure to finesse election laws to keep out the Libertarians who they say are taking votes from their candidates. 
The change, tucked into a much larger set of revisions to election laws, would sharply increase the number of signatures that Libertarian and Green Party candidates need to get on the ballot for their own legislative and congressional primaries. 
Barry Hess, the Libertarian Party's former candidate for governor, said in most cases the number of signatures required is far more than the number of people actually registered in most districts. He said unless these minor parties could find independents willing to help them get on the ballot, it would create an "insurmountable obstacle" to any minor party candidate getting nominated, much less being on the general election ballot.
Just in case Michael Lind didn't receive enough of a response to his assertion that libertarian philosophy is impractical because it's never been tried.

Now granted, libertarianism already starts out at a disadvantage, since its ethos is one of less power over others, and elected office by definition is a position of power over others.

However, I've been in the trenches of ballot access petitioning in the past, and you'd be surprised how few people who claim to want liberty fail to extend that courtesy to other people when those other people have a differing opinion.

Just remember folks, the GOP was a third party at one time. If laws like Arizona's were around in the 1850's, we still might have slavery.

Libertarians Are Self-Indulgent Crybabies and Other Unfacts

The Huffington Post has another libertarian hit piece out today, proving yet again that liberals have absolutely clue how to use a dictionary.

In it, George Washington University professor Amitai Etzioni claims that "libertarians" should not fight mandatory tornado shelters and then turn around and claim money from the government for failing to provide such shelters. And in this point, I agree with Mr. Etzioni.

But what I fail to understand it why the good professor seems eager to apply this hypocrisy to the libertarian strawman he has created. Perhaps he found some jerk calling himself a "libertarian" complaining about not being FEMA Fabulous after the storms, but I contend no genuine believer in individual liberty is crying about a late FEMA check.

A tornado shelter mandate would be unnecessary if the government stopped subsidizing poor decisions, like living in Tornado Alley without a tornado shelter. This is a classic example of the government creating a problem and then trying to fix it.

What Etzioni fails to understand, as do most liberals, is that libertarians expect the individual to fend for themselves in these situations. These are just good old conservatives, who, like always, complain about big government until they actually want it for themselves.

With greater individual liberty we expect people to exercise greater responsibility. Libertarians say we don't need the government because we can do it better and faster and cheaper on our own.

The problem here is government, who always steps in to bail people out of the consequences of poor decisions. This holds true for everything from individuals to large, rich banks, as we've seen in the not-too-distant past.

There is no reason to stop diving off cliffs if there is always someone there to catch your fall. If people who live in tornado-prone areas knew they either build a shelter or lose everything, far more people would build a shelter on their own merit.

Ideally, one who fails to protect their home and family from a reasonable threat should face negative consequences. Sometimes these can be dire, but nonetheless, one can never be motivated to act if one's mistakes are constantly erased.

But should they just starve? Are we libertarians really that callous?

Of course not. It's 2013, and no one realistically expects there to be no social net. We just question that net's size and scope.

But this isn't good enough for Etzioni:
When libertarians get hurt because they refused vaccination or to wear a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet, or have their property damaged because they build too close to the shoreline -- they call on ambulances, hospitals, and FEMA for help. 
They claim that they paid for these services with their tax dollars, but it turns out that what they pay does not even begin to cover the costs of training the doctors and nurses and building the hospitals. Instead, a good part of the funding for these emergency services comes from the national debt that libertarians claim to so hate, and which they want to reduce -- by cutting services to other people, especially those on food stamps and Medicaid.
First of all, even middle school kids know what insurance is, if that's the bar we're setting here. Why is the assumption that the government pays for everything?

Etzioni has no way to prove the claim that libertarians don't pay their fair share of emergency services (or if he does, he didn't see fit to include that data in his anti-libertarian screed). But that doesn't stop him from claiming that we're all a bunch of freeloaders.

But I can't blame him, since any attempt at talking about budget cuts brings about the usual liberal whining about losing emergency services, as if the first priority of any deficit hawk is shut down the saving of people and property.

It's probably just a reflex.

We oppose regulations like this because, in practice, mandates on private property create far more unintended bad consequences than intended good ones, and not because we want to be self-indulgent middle schoolers.

Ascribing a false argument to an opponent and then attacking that argument is intellectually dishonest and in bad form. I appeal to the liberal world to actually look into libertarian ideas before mocking them, since the term seems to be synonymous with "young conservative" for people like Etzioni.

Bitching about the government then taking from it is truly a Republican thing, but don't let that fact get in the way of a good hit piece.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Senate Trades Mexicans for Drones

First Marco Rubio proposed the language requirement, and now we get this (via Reuters):
Federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border would double to about 40,000 under a deal reached on Thursday in the Democratic-led Senate to draw more Republicans to a landmark immigration bill headed toward anticipated passage.  
Some questioned the costs and benefits of up to $50 billion in the extra border security, which also will include high-tech surveillance equipment such as manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, radar and seismic devices.
At a time when we can't trust the government's surveillance apparatus, do we really want an increase in domestic drone use?

This is one issue where the recently publicly-known libertarian figures, like Ron Paul, are simply wrong. People have a right to make a life in this country, just like most of their ancestors did, because our government rests on documents that clearly state that all people are created equal, not just all native-born citizens.

That old, paleolibertatarian and frankly nativist saw must be cast aside, for how can we claim to offer freedom to the world if willing members of that world can't experience it?

And I don't say this because I merely disagree with them, but rather because harsh restrictions on immigration are not in keeping with principles of libertarianism, and with the principles of a modern free society.

It's a shame that Rubio, who runs campaign ads in Spanish, picked up this obsolete banner, and it's a shame that some GOP members are willing to use the civil rights of millions as a bargaining chip to bolster their security state.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

We're Going to War Again, Again

Just when you though the U.S. had its fill of endless war in the Middle East, the President just announced that he asked Congress to authorize military action he determined Syria used chemical weapons, killing about 150 people in Syria, and that we're getting involved in yet another mostly-Muslim country.

From the L.A. Times:
WASHINGTON — The White House declared Thursday that Syria had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons in that country's civil war, and in response, U.S. officials said, President Obama had authorized sending arms to some rebel groups. 
The arms will be provided to the rebel Supreme Military Council, an official said. The council is the military arm of an umbrella group that represents more moderate factions of the forces arrayed against the government of President Bashar Assad. White House officials would not comment on the decision to supply arms.
Remember when that "red line" used to be Congress authorizing the use of force against another country? Say what you want about Bush II, but at least he talked congress in giving him the go ahead.

This time the Republicrat president is not even pretending to follow the constitution:
The administration intends to consult with the United Nations and allies, as well as Congress, before choosing how exactly to respond, Rhodes added. Obama plans to meet with allied leaders and with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Northern Ireland when he attends an annual economic summit.
Of course McCain is on board, if any of you anti-war Democrats were starting to question your vote in 2008. Mitt Romney is probably already over there...

So here we go again, another war.

Image From FunnyOrDie

Another kind-hearted and noble attempt to help rebels defeat the alliance or something. And another mess in 10-15 years when those rebel groups turn on us like they always do.

Another transfer of U.S. men and ships and guns and treasure to the Muslim world. And another sea of silence from the masses of Obama voters who thought he'd bring them an end to endless war.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Wall is Cracking

After reports surfaced earlier that internet companies were seeking permission to friggin' talk about what's going on, Google begins the posturing.

From the L.A. Times:
SAN FRANCISCO -- Google and other technology companies are pushing back against media reports that they gave national intelligence agencies direct access to their servers to turn over emails and other online communication from users. 
Google, Facebook and Microsoft each called on the U.S. government Tuesday to make public the number and scope of national security requests. 
When Google receives court orders to turn over information to the government, it uses FTP, a secure way of sending encrypted files over the Internet, according to Google spokesman Chris Gaither. 
"The U.S. government does not have the ability to pull that data directly from our servers or network," Gaither said.
But the interesting language comes at the bottom:
Google's legal chief, David Drummond, said in a public letter Tuesday that "assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue."
Google looks like it's clarifying its stance in the public eye, asserting that they are not complying with illegal requests. This puts the any illegal activity that might be uncovered solely on the NSA...

Why the Snowden Affair is Important

With NSA leaker Edward Snowden still on the run, and therefore keeping the story alive, prominent figures in political media are weighing in.

Disparate voices from Glenn Beck to Michael Moore are publicly declaring support for Snowden's disclosures, calling him a hero, and the usual voices of statist apologists are spewing their familiar venom, pointing to Snowden's lack of a high-school diploma (which says more about the value of diplomas than it does about Snowden).

This article is the most ridiculous attempt at damage control ever. In summation, the NSA says trust us, we have the capability to use PRISM judiciously. I don't think anyone disputes that fact, but it's the intent and not the capability that is of concern here.

But all the media praise or scorn will mean very little if and when Snowden is detained.

I want to hope he is able to flee to some place where he can be safe of the U.S., and can remain in the public eye to prevent being "disappeared." If anyone can do it, I think a Super-Rich Libertarian Hacker Spy can.

It needs to stay in the public consciousness because we need to have a public debate on whether programs like PRISM are right for America. We don't want to go the way of supposedly post-communist Russia, outlawing basic rights to protect the government's positions.

Many libertarians are not terribly excited by the recent news, since we've been warning everyone about this for years. Wake up, civil libertarians! The time is right, and right now, to take a stand on this.

I expect many attempts to discredit Snowden over the next few weeks, but we mustn't shoot the messenger, because in this case the message is too important.

And I fear that if this chance to change government surveillance policy is missed, it may never come again...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Maybe-Libertarian Hacker Spy Is the Leak

The leaker outs himself:

If you haven't been paying attention, here's the Washington Post article. And I said "maybe-libertarian" because according to Reason, Snowden made donations to Ron Paul's 2012 presidential run:
We know from the reports in the Guardian and from Booz Allen, itelf, that he worked most recently in Hawaii, and OpenSecrets lists an Edward Snowden of Waipahu, Hawaii, making a $250 donation to then-Rep. Ron Paul on May 6, 2012. An Edward Snowden of Columbia, Maryland, made a contribution to the Ron Paul campaign in the same amount two months earlier.
Snowden faces some serious consequences for his principles if indeed that is the motive behind all this. But I applaud the stand he's taking, and the timing in which he's taking it, that is, during the Bradley Manning trial.

Wake up, America. Libertarians are here to stay, and more powerful than you realize. We need to start re-examining our government's policies, one post-9/11 overreach at a time...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We Called This One

By we, I mean libertarians.

We've been warning America since day one that the Patriot Act was a bad idea (Rep. Ron Paul most notably). We used to count the left as our ally in this, until the left took it over in 2008 and expanded it.

And now look what you did. From the Washington Post:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. 
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
Every email you've sent since 2009, every drunk Tweet or text over Google Voice might now be in a secret NSA facility built in Utah, as Wired reported in 2012.

Think back to every keystroke you sent forth over the internet and wonder if you ever said anything suspicious, because there's probably some NSA employee or computer doing the same thing.

The only way Obama can redeem himself is to put an end to this immediately. Because before too long, political dissent will be choked by the fear of unsafe language. Do you really want to put that power in the Republicans' hands in 2016?

Pull a Bruce Wayne and auto-delete this shit...

Why the Old GOP Has No Cred

...because all this wiretapping business started under Bush.

There's going to be all sorts of criticism directed at Obama from the right, but I don't care. The right said nothing under Bush, and until they acknowledge this and realize it's an inherent problem with big government, their arguments are invalid.

UPDATE: Yet another reason to stop punishing whistleblowers like Bradley Manning.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Libertarian Bashing Continues Apace

I mentioned yesterday that the Motley Fool ran a hit piece on libertarians (pivoting on the 26th anniversary of  of the ascent of Alan Greenspan, of all dates).

Tuesday is Salon's turn, I suppose.

To spare you the details, the article basically asks why libertarianism hasn't even been tried since we keep claiming it's such a good idea. Well, the answer to this has many parts.

1. The U.S. at it's founding was probably the most libertarian country that existed at the time. I mean this in comparison to the rest of the world, not as compared to an ideal libertarian state.

Slavery is obviously in violation of the core libertarian policy of individual liberty, and there were many forms of government interference that would not exist in a libertarian utopia. However, the country was founded on many individual rights and economic freedoms that form the core principles of modern libertarianism.

Sure, we've drifted away from some of these concepts and fixed some rather un-libertarian policies over the years, but if they want at least a partial example of libertarianism in practice, the USA is a great place to start.

2. Libertarianism, by definition, is in conflict with centralized power. Most of those who enter politics desire power, because politics is the business of gaining power. Teachers get into teaching to teach, politicians get in to politics to exercise power.

Libertarians generally oppose exercising power over others, which sounds nice to voters, but not as nice as the other guys (see the left and the right) who promise to exercise their power for the voters' aims. The impulse to "do something" overrides the impulse to "live and let live" almost every time.

And that libertarian "live and let live" may win philosophical arguments but doesn't garner popularity when it comes time to vote. People want their guy exercising power their way rather than some guy exercising no power.

It may not be correct, but it is the way it is. The general election of 2004 is a case study in the fact that something being popular doesn't make it right.

3. Hey Michael Lind, have you ever spoken to a libertarian before? We're willing and much more able to answer your questions than the strawmen you've hastily stitched together.

I think it's awfully arrogant to claim you've asked an unanswerable question. And I really don't understand the comparison of libertarianism to Soviet Communism, since the latter was tried and did fail miserably in both the spheres of economic and civil rights.

4. Lind throws around a big number like "193 sovereign states" in order to say things like "193 countries and not one is libertarian? WTF?!?"

But he fails to mention that included in that 193 figure are some real shitholes like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, North Korea, Haiti, and the Sudan. It would be intellectually dishonest to say libertarians can't do better than some of these places, not matter how much you disagree with us.

If you look at those 193, nine have real-life ruling monarchs, another six run by monarchs with absolute power, eight that simply outlawed political dissent, a fucking theocracy, and two whose governments came to power via military coup.

And these are just the ones who are openly flaunting their lack of a free society. Many more of the countries on that list are democratic in name but dictatorial in practice. For a movement that aims to limit government power, you can see why libertarianism has far fewer paths to relevance before it than the 193 figure Lind cites.

5. Lind's "proof" is to cherry pick an island off the coast of Africa, use a Republican freedom metric (the Heritage Foundation is Republican, not libertarian) and then claim that less government equals more dead babies.

This ridiculous line of reasoning does not merit a response, sorry. It's like trying to explain to Ken Hamm how carbon dating works.

This is just another mindless attack on the growing libertarian movement that threatens modern liberalism's grasp on power.

After all, not trying something simply because it's never been tried before (which is what Lind's article implies) is a rather conservative stance for a supposedly progressive publication to take.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Motley Fool Attacks With Headlines, Few Facts

Yesterday, the Motley Fool ran a story about the 26th anniversary of the nomination of Alan Greenspan, an event for which I was woefully unprepared. In fact, I seem to miss this holiday every year.


Because it's a completely insignificant milestone to most of the world. But for the Motley Fool, it's a perfect occasion to blame "libertarians" for the late 'oughts Housing Crisis and other bad Republican/Democratic administration policies.

I welcome the opportunity to debate what supposed libertarian ideas were at fault, but since the story fails to cite any, I have only the unfamiliar characterization that Alex Planes hoists up to knock down like a piñata. And in this case the one holding the bat is similarly blinded.

Just because Greenspan called himself a libertarian and read Ayn Rand novels does not mean his policies or the policies of the government that lead to the housing crisis or the dot-com bubble were in any way libertarian. It's like Bush calling himself a conservative or Joe Biden calling himself sane.

Since libertarianism has been gaining steam in mainstream circles, lots of people are using the term to cast their political views in a new cool, hip light. That's how you end up with a broad spectrum of people from Bill Maher to Glenn Beck calling themselves libertarians.

But when you're trying to paint a growing freedom movement with the brush of disasters, why let facts get in the way?

So what if many un-libertarian, centralized-government policies more likely led to our recent troubles? We wouldn't want to upset the current status quo of government interference causing problems that require even greater government interference.

But I shouldn't accuse a news source custom-tailored to the very class that libertarianism threatens of intentionally misleading people. That being stated, the timing of this story is curious.

Rand Paul's recent popularity has given the hope of relevance to many long-frustrated libertarians, even though many still, including this author, have some bones to pick with the Kentucky senator.

In a world of news by keyword, did the Motley Fool put "libertarian" in the headline of a mainly GOP-bashing article to create guilt by association? I can't say for sure, but it is clear from the article that introducing facts to the public is a motive that can be ruled out...