As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches this Sunday, I cannot help but feel it will be a commemoration of not one, not two, but at least three different tragedies that have befallen the American people. The first is the obvious tragedy of the attacks themselves, which took thousands of lives in an act of barbarism and insanity. The second tragedy is what happened to the American consciousness afterwards. And the third is what our children understand about it.
I read earlier this week about a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The results were disquieting, to say the least. Some of the highlights:
- 71% of Americans favor surveillance cameras in public
- 47% support the government reading emails outside the US without a warrant
- 30% support the government monitoring emails within the country
- 58% support random searches involving full-body scans or patdowns at airports
- 35% support racial or ethnic profiling at airports
- 55% support the government snooping into financial transactions without a warrant
- 47% support a national ID card to show to authorities on demand (a “Show-Me” Card, if you ever watched Fringe)
- 64% believe it is “Sometimes necessary to sacrifice some rights and freedoms” in order to fight the war on terror
- 53% think you can’t be too careful dealing with people (which is a slight improvement from 2002, I suppose, which was 58%, but…)
- 54% would, between counterterrorism and civil liberties, come down on the side of civil liberties
Like I said, disquieting. All but the last should be far lower; the last should be far higher. Only 54% would go for civil liberties? That means 46% would put counterterrorism operations above what it actually means to be an American?
I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about national politics and sea changes in public policy. If it wasn’t for some great professors, I probably would’ve never taken an interest in urban development policy — at least not until I acquired some property of my own and attempted to do something with it (I’m not a homeowner).
I argued at The Dangerous Servant earlier this year that
This is a game of concentrated benefits with diffused costs, and it takes the form — in this case — of zoning laws, but it also includes building codes.
City planners use zoning laws to create geospatial distinctions in an urban jurisdiction by restricting the ways in which property owners can use their land or buildings. When regulations help crowd economic activity out of a residential area, home prices rise artificially because the zone becomes less noisy, less polluted, and less congested. As a result, existing homeowners wind up paying a higher amount of property taxes each year the zoning rules are in effect. Any new developments designed to attract new residents to a jurisdiction also take on a disproportionate share of property taxes.
Man, I looove me some fireworks. The bright flashes, the intense color, the wave of energy expanding across the room—
Oh, you thought I meant that stuff they light off at the Fourth of July. No, I was referring to the fireworks that occur in a debate. And what a debate we’re going to have!
The sparks started flying when Matt Yglesias, poster boy for the Center for Authoritarian Propaganda American Progress tweeted “David Boaz is dumb.” (Hmm, I wonder what he had to say about naughty rhetoric back in January…) Boaz then retorted that Yglesias had completely missed the point, which I guess is not surprising. Yglesias then decided to tackle Daniel J. Mitchell’s take on Paul Krugman’s…well, I’m not really sure what you could call it. Lunacy? Let’s be nice and just call it “absurdity.” Anyways, Yglesias basically stated that “money doesn’t matter” and that the broken window fallacy itself is broken. A very succint summary of modern progressive thought, I would imagine.
So why do I bring this all up?
Because tomorrow, Cato On Campus is hosting (at the Cato Institute, natch) a debate titled: “US Debt and the Millennials: Is Washington Creating a Lost Generation?” Attending will be Megan McArdle of The Atlantic, Matt Mitchell of Mercatus, and Matt Yglesias of Center for American Progress. Three guesses as to who will be moderating. Yes, Dan Mitchell of Cato.
This week we celebrate the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the act of which broke ties with King George’s England and gave birth to a new nation. The decision to break with England was not one made lightly, but one that came after “a long train of abuses and usurpations” which finally made the oppression unbearable. And what comprised this long train of abuses? In part, it was the denial of self-governance and obstruction of the administration of justice. It was the erecting of “a multitude of New Offices, and [sending] hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance”, the subjection of citizens “to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution”, and cutting off our trade. It was imposing taxes on us without our consent, and exciting domestic insurrections.
It was this and more that led us to dissolve our political bands with England, declare our independence, and shed our collective blood in defense thereof. Yet, if we truly believed that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what else could we have done? When we truly comprehend that we are all children of God, sovereign by virtue of our very creation, how can we be content to be slaves? How can we be content to suffer the indignities of oppression?
It was this new philosophy that emboldened the hearts and minds of Americans. It was this belief that led Patrick Henry to declare “give me liberty or give me death!”, and that led Nathan Hale to proclaim moments before his execution by the British that “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”.
Fudgeknuckles. You can never be happy with politicians as a libertarian—just when they look like they’re on the path to true limited government, free markets, and individual liberty, they come out with something stupid like this:
“I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman,” Christie said. “I wouldn’t sign a bill like the one that was in New York.”
That sound you are hearing is my head slamming into my desk at Warp Six.
I admit, I was becoming a fan of Chris Christie. The way he was socking it to the parasitical public unions in New Jersey was inspiring. Sure, he was not perfect—he probably could have cut back more in some areas—but considering political inertia, he was doing a tremendous job.
Naturally, while I’m feeling really great about this guy, he throws a social conservative curveball just to keep me a grumbling libertarian.
The article does state that he will push for civil unions in New Jersey, as if, “Well, he’s not so bad.” But it is, in fact, horrific: what Christie is saying is that he supports discrimination based on sexual orientation, a boundary that says “You are not like us, you cannot be like us, you cannot have the same rights and privileges as us.” That’s a very disturbing thought. What I don’t understand is how it meshes with the small government ethos of most conservatives. Let’s end regulation and meddling in the economy, let’s make government smaller, cheaper, and more efficient—but then try and wedge it into the bedroom?
By February 2011, now just over four months away, America will know whether the Republican Party that they have returned to power in the House, along with the increased number in the Senate, truly are a new breed of Republicans (or rather, a return to the traditional Republicans of the past…true limited government, low tax conservatives), or whether we have the same mess as before in new packaging.
To be sure, Republicans are unlikely to accomplish much in 2011 and 2012, at least from an administrative standpoint. Even if they regain a majority in the House (very likely) and Senate (an outside possibility requiring all the stars to align), they are still faced with an opposition president wielding veto power, a president who has vowed that there will be “hand-to-hand combat in Washington” if Republicans win. Despite his lofty rhetoric of ushering in an era of true bipartisanship, Obama’s latest comments reveal what most of us already knew. Namely, that “bipartisanship” to Democrats means Republicans must vote for everything that the Democrat majority passes or be labeled as “obstructionist”.
This is the same president who, shortly after taking office in January 2009, and when facing Republican opposition to the stimulus package, repeatedly reminded Republicans that he’d won the election. Therefore, the implication being, America has accepted his goals and his agenda and there will be no compromises. The stimulus package was rammed through with almost no Republican support (a good thing, because now Democrats have to take full responsibility for its failure), as was ObamaCare (passed with NO Republican support, also a good thing).
In this second edition of Liberty Locally, I want to explore something that in my experience not many people do.
You see, in my experience most people are focused squarely on what is coming out of a city that is hundreds of even thousands of miles away from many of us - Washington, DC. SOME people may look at their state legislatures as well, but by and large the primary focus of most seems to be DC.
Here’s the problem with that: As powerful as the Feds can be, their direct influence on your normal life is tangential, if at all. For example, ObamaCare may raise your health insurance costs, but that typically doesn’t affect your every day life. Similarly, Georgia’s Super Speeder law may mean you pay a higher fine if you get caught driving fast, but except on the day you get caught, it really doesn’t affect your every day life.
So Congress and your state legislature (with their associated President and Governor) don’t impact your every day life to a truly significant degree.
Now, your local city council or county commission, they impact your daily life to a higher degree than you may think. These are the people who decide your trash rates, how your home can be built, if your neighbor can have chickens in his back yard, if that tire-warping pothole down the street will ever be fixed, how fast people can drive down the street you live on, your local utility bills, what types of businesses you have in the City and what kind of signs they are allowed to use, and many other things that you probably don’t realize they have a degree of control over.
I’m temporarily living in a small Alabama town that’s still safe enough to allow my children to ride their bikes down the street unattended and to leave your door unlocked while you run to the store. It’s quaint and seems untouched by the goings on in Washington, DC… and sometimes even Montgomery. But of course, it’s not. And conversations with the people you meet at the grocery store or the park reveal that. People are angry. Very angry. Thankfully, they’re also becoming organized and that is starting to make a difference.
I’m not a whole-hearted Tea Partier. I have my doubts about its long-term effectiveness, especially at a federal level if they continue to put all their efforts behind big-ticket races. But I think their potential is almost unlimited when it comes to smaller, local offices.
Recently, our town had a street festival featuring music, crafts, vendors and of course, politicians running for office, busy greeting people and kissing babies. I stopped to talk to one of the candidates who is running for a state house seat as he stood in the middle of the street handing out balloons. Though my questions were asked with cynicism, the answers returned were thoughtful, sincere and refreshing. Before too long, I realized I was talking to a real Tea Party candidate. This guy was a true believer in the need to shrink government and his mannerisms were about as un-politician like as you can get.
But it got better. As he told his story, it become clear that he had been the underdog in the primary, battling against a better-funded, establishment-picked candidate who hardly qualified to even be called a Republican. But he’d won. By a very large margin.
“All y’all dumb motherf****** don’t even know my opinion on sh**.”
If there was ever a defining moment in the 2010 midterm elections, I would have to argue that it occurred when the statement above was made by a black construction worker who had just passed through a gauntlet of “protesters”. The crowd had assembled in lower Manhattan to express their absolute hatred for Muslims, fueled by years of neoconservative propaganda (though it only seems like a few weeks). The unidentified man, wearing a skin cap, immediately assumed to be a Muslim artifact, made the completely appropriate statement, under the circumstances, when the crowd started directing their vitriol toward him.
Clearly, none of the protesters were interested in knowing his opinion but rather projecting it upon him. Yet, he probably made the most sensible and astute comment they had heard since tuning off Fox News before traveling to New York.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourself why a liberty-themed site that hits on tough national issues like the 2nd Amendment, Eminent Domain, Civil Liberties, and the like now has a post talking about playgrounds. So let me explain:
This is my first (second) post on this illustrious forum. I created another site about a year and a half ago, where UL-writer Tom Knighton is my business partner. I also wrote “The Cult of Christianity”, which appeared here as a guest post this past Easter. My own philosophy for promoting Liberty is to work from the ground up building support locally and then spreading from there. Hence the reason I wanted to start off by exploring various ways to promote Liberty Locally and show people that we who value Liberty are not crazy anarchists who don’t want government to exist at all.
So let’s talk about playgrounds, shall we?
Nearly all of us played on various playgrounds as kids. Whether it be swinging, sliding, climbing monkey bars, or simply playing tag on an open field, play is an important part of childhood and one many of us look back on fondly.
The problem for local governments is that these days, playgrounds can be expensive. Depending on exactly what you want, they can easily cost upwards of $20K for a small one, and in the six figures for larger ones. Even for larger towns, this is a lot of money - and my town only has a population of around 3,000 people!
So how do we as a community promote small government while also providing ample play space for our community’s children?
One way is to get a single rich donor to donate the money to both buy the equipment and have it installed. No government expense at all, but sufficiently rich donors can be hard to come by in small towns like mine.