We’re winding down on another year. Much like recent years, 2011 represented challenges for liberty and the Constitution. These hurdles came from all sides, including the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress, and we are ending the year a little less free than in 2010.
Below is a recap of some of bigger stories of the year that were covered here at United Liberty (though a couple are thrown in for fun). Thanks for reading in what was a record breaking year for this blog. We appreciate the readership and hope you’ll keep coming back in 2012
Happy New Year!
— The Death of Osama bin Laden (Jason Pye): On Sunday, May 1st, word broke that the White House had called notified the press of a major announcement. You could tell that it was a significant event since the president was making such a statement late on a Sunday evening.As you probably remember, wild speculation started almost immediately as many people said that it could have only meant a couple of things, either we were going to war or Osama bin Laden had finally been captured.
Around 11pm, President Barack Obama told Americans that, after nearly 10 years after murdering nearly 3,000 innocent people, Osama bin Laden was dead. Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by a group of Navy SEALS at a compound that he had lived in for five years.
The choices for libertarian oriented Republicans in this year’s Republican field are, admittedly, better than they have in the past. Not only is Ron Paul doing much better than he did four years ago, getting more press attention, and seemingly surging into second place in Iowa, but we’ve also got Gary Johnson, former two-term Governor of New Mexico.
There’s been much to lament about Johnson’s campaign, of course, not the least being the near disaster caused due to a campaign miscommunication that almost kept Johnson off the New Hampshire ballot, as well as staff problems inside the campaign. At the same time, though, Johnson has largely been ignored by the media, and kept out of nearly all the debates due to low poll numbers (although, as Johnson has noted himself, it’s hard to do well in the polls when they don’t even include your name on the list of prospective candidates).
The possibility that Johnson could run for the Libertarian Party nomination for President next year is also encouraging. It’s not perfect, of course, and libertarian Republicans have had to sit back and watch a bunch of incompetents like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain rise in the polls and get far more media attention than either their qualifications or their accomplishments would seem to warrant while a two-term Governor is ignored. Nonetheless, it’s better than we’ve had it in the past, and hopefully a sign that libertarian-leaning candidates are gaining wider acceptance in the Republican Party as a whole.
Dan Drezner, a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine, has a great blog post up explaining why he calls himself a “RINO,” or “Republican-In-Name-Only,” that epithet usually utilized by such sagacious and distinguished intellects as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter. While it does lean towards foreign policy (naturally), the whole thing is a good read. Here’s the snippet I want to focus on, though, his three reasons for being a RINO:
In my case, at this point in time, I believe that last appellation to be entirely fair and accurate. I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t think I’ve become more liberal over time. That said, three things have affected my political loyalties over the past few years. First, I’ve become more uncertain about various dimensions of GOP ideology over time. It’s simply impossible for me to look at the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis and not ponder the myriad ways in which my party has made some categorical errors in judgment. So I’m a bigger fan of the politics of doubt during an era when doubt has been banished in political discourse.
Second, the GOP has undeniably shifted further to the right over the past few years, and while I’m sympathetic to some of these shifts, most of it looks like a mutated version of “cargo cult science” directed at either Ludwig Von Mises or the U.S. Constitution (which, of course, is sacred and inviolate, unless conservatives want to amend it). Sorry, I’m not embracing outdated concepts like the gold standard or repealing the 16th Amendment. Not happening.
For those of you who have never heard of Alfonzo Rachel, he is a conservative commentator who recently joined PJTV team after becoming a viral success on YouTube:
AlfonZo Rachel is a musican and martial arts instructor who founded Macho Sauce Productions to create right-minded entertainment. His popular rapid-fire rants, originally self-produced on YouTube, have now found a home on PJTV.
His videos are a bit unorthodox among conservative pundits, which may have much to do with its appeal to younger conservatives and even some libertarians. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw this:
‘Zo’ begins the video quite oddly by equating independents with libertarians. He then defines a libertarians as “just liberals that don’t have a love-hate relationship with capitalism.”
Then comes a key comment: “The Constitution does not say that the government can tax the fruits of our labor, or impose an income tax. Which makes total sense because the government would bleed the people dry like they’re doing now as they defy the Constitution.”
I’ve long held that, to be effective politically, conservatives and libertarians (or center-right independents) need to find common ground, and that if libertarians want to see policy and political change, it needs to be an inside job.
While this video isn’t surprising, it’s sad to me to see an outspoken conservative like Alfonzo Rachel divisively deriding libertarians as the 2012 cycle begins to pick up. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me want to stay home on Election Day.
Consider this an open thread.
Since 1993, CNN has regularly asked a pair of questions that touch on libertarian views of the economy and society:
Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view?
Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?
A libertarian, someone who believes that the government is best when it governs least, would typically choose the first view in the first question and the second view in the second.
[I]n CNN’s latest version of the poll, conducted earlier this month, the libertarian response to both questions reached all-time highs. Some 63 percent of respondents said government was doing too much — up from 61 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2008 — while 50 percent said government should not favor any particular set of values, up from 44 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2008. (It was the first time that answer won a plurality in CNN’s poll.)
As President Obama laid out his case for intervention in Libya (and really, almost anywhere) some remarked, on Twitter and on blogs, that his speech was the best one George W. Bush ever gave. The implication was that Obama’s justification for aggressive action paralleled Bush’s almost to the word - wherever people are “yearning to be free”, the United States must be on the side of the yearners. It is a frighteningly broad criteria for making war, because, let’s face it - most of the world is not free, in fact massively so. Can we possibly take sides everywhere some are oppressed?
Given the actions of the left during the Bush presidency and the Iraq War, it would then not be irrational to expect widespread demonstrations and protests. Surely Code Pink, MoveOn, et al would hold rallies and vigils against a truly unjustified military action that put our troops at risk for no good purpose. After all, we can’t just go about shooting missiles everywhere, right?
Yet the so-called “anti-war” left is mostly silent, with few exceptions. Surely this is a double standard, but it should not surprise anyone in the least. The left has fashioned itself as being entirely in favor of intervention in every other aspect of life, from our choice of light bulbs to whether or not we choose to buy health insurance. So for what logical reason would they have any deep opposition to intervening abroad? The fact is, the left has never been and never will be truly anti-war.
Some basic libertarian principles are catching flak over a house burning down. It seems that in Obion County, Tennessee, you’re required to either pay a $75 subscription fee for fire service or else risk your house burning down. Homeowner Gene Cranick didn’t, and when his house caught fire, firefighters watched it burn.
Some on the left are using this as evidence that libertarianism fails and is morally bankrupt. They also don’t know what they’re talking about.
First, many libertarians have no problem with municipal fire services. They don’t. Only a small handful want that in the private sector’s hands completely with subscriptions and such. However, what happened in Obion County wasn’t even what these people envision.
You see, Obion County does let residents opt in to paying for fire service. That is all fine and good. However, they also have a monopoly on fire services. I can subscribe to their service, or get nothing. That’s not the free market at work, that’s a tax they’re calling a fee but making optional. Gene Cranick should have had the choice of several operations if you’re going to make it optional. If the answer is still no, then oh well.
Cranick has stated that he would have paid anything once the fire broke out, and a free market operation would have responded to such. You see, the $75 subscription fee, in a free market, would have been part of a list of fees. Putting out a fire without the subscription fee would have cost more, but a free market operation would have been willing to do it for the extra income. Greed ain’t always a bad thing after all. Greed, the progressive boogie-man, would have put out the fire at Gene Cranick’s house. Adhering to regulations - you know, like all the regulations progressives seem to love? - caused Cranick’s house to burn down.
Note: Here’s something that I wrote for Lew Rockwell a little while ago. It’s an oldie-but-a-goody, and one of my favorites. Seeing so much propaganda and hype for the “Glee” television program got me thinking about it again… most of the philosophy behind my critique of High School Musical can be applied to Glee. -sjm.
Pom-Poms and Prisons: The Powerful Statism of Disney’s High School Musical
From both the left and the right, you can always count on some level of support for television and movie censorship. Both groups seek to protect their collectivist interest and pet opinions through the use of government enforced broadcasting laws. Whether it is the latest school shooting or gruesome rural murder, TV is often blamed. But we rarely hear of any group protesting the even more destructive programming of glorifying our statist Prussian education. Even our churches and libertarian communities are usually silent on the issue. From Happy Days to Saved By The Bell, Hollywood has long been the public relations wing of our federalized educational system. Today’s juggernaut of public school idolatry is the Disney’s High School Musical series. There is no more pro-state entertainment program as deft and dangerous as the Disney High School Musical franchise. Indeed, it promotes more immoral attitudes and beliefs than any sexy slasher film that I can think of.
Recently I was prompted by an anthropology student at the University of Washington to answer several questions about libertarianism. The exchange was great, and provided a means to clarify several things that have been otherwise muddled.
1. How do you define a libertarian?
To me a libertarian is someone who believes in a limited government, which provides basic needs that most people believe to be necessary but does not try to stuff ideology down the citizens’ throats, the freedom of the individual to become whatever it is they want to be and a free market that allows great deals of mobility and ingenuity.
2. What influenced you to become and/or remain libertarian?
I love this country (for the ideals it was founded on, not because of nationalism, regionalism or nativism), and when I entered college, it became very clear that other students and professors didn’t. A bit of a blanket statement, I know, but it’s relatively true. I found myself defending slanderous left-wing statements about this country’s history, and in that process I realized I was libertarian. Liberty is the foundation of American society and government, and even if they don’t call themselves such, I think most Americans who love their country and find it exceptional are libertarians to a certain extent.