Recent Posts From Jeremy Kolassa
President Obama has been playing games over the past week, after Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview that he was “comfortable” with gay marriage and the administration has rushed out to say that he’s not marking a change in government policy or any such thing. There’s even been talk that Biden’s comment was deliberate, an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too.
Meanwhile, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson had this to say in a press release:
Libertarian nominee for President and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson today called for the Obama Administration to “make up its mind” when it comes to supporting marriage equality for all Americans, citing Vice-President Biden’s weekend comments appearing to support gay marriage and White House efforts since to clarify those comments.
Johnson, who supports gay marriage equality, received the Libertarian Party nomination for President Saturday, and will be on the ballot in all 50 states. “The President is playing cruel, cynical politics with a deeply personal issue for many Americans,” said Johnson. “He should quit trying to have it both ways and take a stand.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Johnson said, “Gay marriage equality is not a trick question, and we shouldn’t be getting trick answers from the President of the United States. Gay Americans deserve better than a President who winks and nods and tries to convince them that he will protect their rights, but refuses to emerge from the closet and support one of the most basic rights – the right to equal access to marriage. And frankly, even opponents of gay marriage deserve the truth from the White House. Is the President for it or against it? Right now, the Administration is trying to have it both ways”
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
The famous line, uttered by our nation’s only Catholic president on a cold January day in 1961, is often used by liberals and conservatives alike as rallying cry for public service…and larger government. Citizens should sacrifice, it is said, for the greater welfare of their nation and fellow countrymen, and the government should be there as a parent to watch over us. The great Milton Friedman wrote in the introduction to his 1962 edition of Capitalism and Freedom (h/t Michael Cannon of Cato):
If America truly had a religion, I would argue it would be sports, not Christianity. Collectively, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and NASCAR command our society’s attention like no other thing in our country. It is also a very unifying force. Sure, we disagree about which team or player is the best, or which sport has the most excitement, but ultimately, at the end of the day, everyone comes back home, has a few drinks, and laughs any serious disagreement off. They don’t let team loyalties determine their friendships.
In that sense, sports may be the polar opposite of politics (and thus, one could argue, our nation’s salvation.) Nearly every blog I see that is oriented exclusively to politics makes an exception for sports, most famously Outside the Beltway, where our own Doug Mataconis writes. Why? Because it is an escape valve, a chance for us to talk about a subject other than the madness that occurs inside the beltway. Just as we need our alone time away from our friends, relatives, even spouses (maybe especially spouses), politicos need something else to talk about, or else the battle for Capitol Hill and the White House will turn into an actual battle, with sabers, rifles, and maybe even some good old fashioned fisticuffs.
For me, as a young twentysomething nerd who plays more Dungeons & Dragons than Madden, it’s a bit odd for me, but I understand it. (And personally, I do very much enjoy short track dirt racing, though it’s hard to find in the DC metro area.) I totally get that people need to tune in to something that involves jerseys that aren’t uniformly red and blue to prevent their noggins from turning into scrambled eggs. It makes perfect sense, even if I’m questioning their choice of sports.
But unfortunately, it appears that may be over.
You have to hand it to Students For Liberty. Every day I look around and grow despondent, seeing the tyranny that is promoted endlessly, the ever increasing burden of regulations and dominion, the corruption, the wars, and most importantly the bald-faced stupidity of the public, and I think we’re doomed as a country. But then I take a wild gander at SFL’s website, and realize that there are thousands of young people—both in the United States and around the globe—who have recognized the real problems that are facing us as a society and are working towards fixing them.
Not only, then, are we growing as a movement, but we’re also growing in the youth area, meaning we’ll have long-term and sustainable growth. Perhaps their greatest product has been their book series, edited by Tom G. Palmer, beginning with the knockout The Economics of Freedom and continuing withThe Morality of Capitalism. Now, SFL and Palmer are tackling a subject that I think libertarians have really failed to address adequately so far, in the latest book, After The Welfare State.
It’s not ready yet, but I really look forward to reading it. The first two books were substantive and informative, though simple and relatively lightweight (though considering this movement, I’m pretty much comparing it to Hayek, Friedman, and Mises, so there is a low bar there.) But the reason I really want to peruse this volume is because welfarism is one of our most pernicious foes.
On Wednesday, the United States Senate narrowly avoided a two-year ban on the closing of post offices, which prompted me to ask: do you guys still live in the 1950s?
In a world of Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, cloud services, Google Drive, Dropbox, 3D printing, UPS, DHL, and who knows what else, I have to ask: who still uses the postal service any more?
There are only a few people with which I still get mail from through the USPS. The first are direct mail types, and nobody reads those sort of things. (This is the way your trash can goes “OM NOM NOM.”) The second are my parents and grandparents, so, in other words, old people.
The thing is, as I said, nobody is reading the former, and the latter are getting fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, the postal service is hemmorraghing money; the Cato Institute’s Downsizing Government project notes that it lost $20 billion between 2007 and 2010, and it hasn’t done any better since then. The thing is, we taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill. A bill for something that these days, an increasingly small portion of the populace actually wants. And, at the same time there’s decreasing demand for its services, its costs have continued to go up as it struggles to deal with employee pensions. Not a good situation to be in.
Here’s a better idea: let’s just privatize the post office. And by privatize it, I don’t mean sell it to one major corporation, but let’s privatize the entire industry. Allow competing mail delivery services in the market. Ensure that there are no more monopolies on first-class mail within the United States.
Earlier in the week, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes reported that Hutchinson, Kansas, is looking to pass an ordinance that will require churches to host weddings and parties for LGBT groups—something which, predictably and understandably—got many on the right upset. Then, not too long after, former DC mayor and current Council member Marion Barry made yet another stupid move by criticizing hospitals for hiring Filipina nurses.
My oh my. Looks like discrimination is back in the media again.
The Hutchinson City Council will consider adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes in the city’s human relations code. They are expected to vote on the changes next month.
According to the Hutchinson Human Relations Commission, churches that rent out their buildings to the general public would not be allowed to discriminate “against a gay couple who want to rent the building for a party.”
Meryl Dye, a spokesperson for the Human Relations Commission confirmed to Fox News that churches would be subjected to portions of the proposed law.
Matthew Staver, chairman of the Liberty Counsel Action, told Fox News the proposed law is “un-American.”
“It is a collision course between religious freedom and the LGBT agenda,” Staver said. “This proposed legislation will ultimately override the religious freedom that is protected under the First Amendment.”
He argued that churches cannot be forced by the government to set aside their religious convictions and their mission. And, he warned, some churches could even be forced to rent their buildings for drag parties.
Recently, I authored a series of posts (a series I may continue) on the problems I see with libertarianism. One of the big ones that got a lot of attention was my third post on anarcho-capitalism, the more radical end of the libertarian movement. Yesterday,I wrote a piece responding to a critique of Gary Johnson, which said he wasn’t a libertarian; naturally, I was not supportive of said critique.
One of the comments to my Gary Johnson post was thus:
I like Gary Johnson but the author of the other piece simply did what Kolassa has done on 3 or 4 different blog posts now: calling out a libertarian because he disagrees with some of their views. I actually find this post funny but quite hypocritical.
I’ll admit it. That’s a fair assessment to make. In my anarcho-capitalism post, I laid in a bit too heavily with what I saw were the philosophical problems of anarcho-capitalism, rather than what I felt was the real, major problem.
Basically, I would love it if there was no government, no taxes, and no silly laws, and we all just respected each other and each other’s property. The thing is that I just don’t see this happening—though I am more than willing to be proven wrong on that one—and I see having anarcho-capitalism as the foot we lead with to be counterproductive.
I’m not going to kick anarcho-capitalists out of the movement or call them un-libertarian. (Some may be, but the vast majority are not.) I’m not going to start a purity test. I’ll leave that to the likes of Eric Dondero and people like him, who make fools of themselves every day.
Last week, I read a very interesting op-ed by Thomas Mullen that went by the title of “Gary Johnson is not a libertarian”:
Throughout this election cycle, Gary Johnson’s name has been omnipresent as a libertarian alternative. There’s only one problem. Gary Johnson is not a libertarian.
This just seems to be occurring to some of the faithful after his disastrous interview with the Daily Caller. In it, Johnson proposes to cut the military budget by 43 percent. However, when pressed on one hypothetical military intervention after another, Johnson refuses to rule any out. He’d consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons. He believes that the United States should maintain a military presence in the Middle East. He would continue drone attacks in Pakistan. By the end of the interview, libertarians were likely waiting for Johnson to rip off a mask Scooby Doo villain-style, revealing he was really Dick Cheney in disguise.
This gets back to the point I made in my last blog post about problems with the libertarian movement, specifically foreign policy. We, as a movement, have gotten way too puritanical about what makes libertarians libertarians. Many insist on an absolutionist view of the non-aggression principle, when really, the entire goal of libertarianism is simply maximizing individual liberty.
Is the Drug War flipping inside out?
For decades, we’ve had conservatives—traditionally associated with the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics—rail against drug use and fight for a stronger Drug War that throws more people in jail, while liberals—traditionally associated with the Democrats and the left wing—did the exact opposite, arguing for legalizing drugs or at least scaling back the war. Now, this has never been a perfect analogy—Buckley himself wrote in National Review that the Drug War was stupid and could not be enforced, and many liberals in the government have done truly nothing to try and end this war, and in fact have reveled in it (see: Clinton, Bill and Obama, Barack.)
But lately, we’ve been seeing a complete switch. First, on the conservative side, we have Pat Robertson coming out against marijuana prohibition, followed by George Will’s latest columns that, while not actually arguing for legalization, is seriously questioning prohibiting hard drugs. Meanwhile, President Obama says he wants to have a “debate” about it, but says that legalization is “not the answer.” (To which I say, “Well, then what is, big guy?”)
Of course, we can rack a lot of this up to people being out of power and others being in (and needing to appease the government beasts.) But still, it seems quite baffling to me, where we have conservatives/Republicans questioning the Drug War and liberals/Democrats more or less supporting it.
In my previous posts, I’ve been writing about the problems libertarianism has today, the difficulties it has trying to work with the American public. First, I talked about rhetoric. Then, I wrote about intellectual property rights. Third, I devoted some time to anarcho-capitalism. Now, in what I plan on being my last post in this series (until and unless a new topic arises that warrants my attention; feel free to send suggestions) I want to focus on foreign policy, and how libertarianism, so far, has been fairly inadequate.
There seem to be two chief positions in the libertarian movement on foreign policy. The first is the view taken by Robert Higgs, who wrote in The Independent Review (from the Independent Institute) last fall that “Warmongering libertarians are ipso facto not libertarians.” In the other corner lies neolibertarians like Jon Henke and* people like Eric Dondero, who wrote on our blog, in a comment, that:
When you say “less aggressive foreign policy,” what you really mean to say is “more girly-manish foreign policy,” or cowardness, or just downright surrendertarianism.
These two extremes, honestly, do not have any place in the libertarian movement. While I agree with Higgs that “war is the health of the state,” and the half-century has shown that this government is largely incompetent when it comes to defending us abroad and we shouldn’t be involved in these expeditions, we cannot completely pull back and have a pacificst foreign policy. War is inevitable; it happens, sometimes by people who don’t like us. And sometimes, there are justifications for executing operations in foreign countries.