As I noted last week, Van Jones recently made some disparaging, ill-formed comments about libertarians, calling us bigots and anti-gay. But in an interview on Friday on The Alyona Show, Jones attempted to clarify his remarks , saying now that the comments were not directed at all libertarians, rather those that associate with the “far-right” (relevant section of the interview is at the 12:50 mark):
Like I said last week, libertarians aren’t racists or bigots. There are certainly libertarians that tend to focus their activism on fiscal issues, which at times puts them close to conservatives. However, the libertarian philosophy also places emphasis on social tolerances, including support for immigration and personal liberty (ie. allowing someone to marry who they want).
The criticism of libertarians in this manner is odd given that it’s coming from someone that once identified himself as a communist, a collectivist political philosophy and economic system that has claimed the lives of millions of innocent people. Should I lump Jones into the same category as Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin? If I were to use his “overly broad generalization” of libertarians in the same manner, maybe I should.
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.
At an Occupy Wall Street rally last weekend, Van Jones, a self-described communist and former Obama Administration official, slammed libertarians, claiming that we areall are anti-immigrant and anti-gay:
In a venomous speech this weekend, notorious ex-Obama aid Van Jones went on a hate-filled rant against “cheap patriotism” and “libertarians,” calling out his free-market opponents as “anti-immigrant, bigots.”
Jones was introduced by actor and Obama activist Edward Norton, who likened the disgraced former Green Jobs Czar to the Dali Lama.
“When I was on a panel once with [Jones] and the Dali Lama it was a toss up as to who was wiser, Van or the Lama” Norton mused.
Jones began his speech by citing his six months of work in the White House before launching into a tirade against the “so-called Libertarians.”
In citing the Libertarian principle of economic liberty, Jones stated “They’ve taken their despicable ideology and used it a wrecking ball, that they have painted red, white and blue, to smash down every good thing in America.”
Jones continued, “They say they’re Patriots but they hate everybody in America who looks like us. They say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, ya know ya’ll.”
I’ve never been a big reader. Of course, I read a lot for research for what I write here on the blog, but apparently it’s not the same as reading books. Recently I’ve noticed that my writing is better when I’m reading, so I’m going to make an attempt at reviewing one book a month in an effort to keep myself reading.
This first review is of How to Run for Office on a Liberty Platform, a collection of advice submitted by liberty candidates from the last couple of years. I found out about this book when I heard Gigi Bowman on my friend Valerie Meyers’ internet radio show.
Basic premise of the book. It’s an interesting idea: collect bits of wisdom from similar candidates, compile it, organize it, and share it for others’ benefit.
What I liked. It’s a well-organized book, the information from the candidates is broken up into small pieces so it’s easy to pick up and read a little at a time. Most of the information is very valuable, though sometimes contrary (one candidate says not to waste time going door-to-door while another says it’s the best way to meet voters). A few of the candidates really stood apart from the others, and if I were planning a run for office, I’d contact them directly for more input on how to run for office.
Politico reports that Ron Paul’s campaign is hemorrhaging money, according to its latest FEC filings, leaving a little over $1 million headed into this month:
Ron Paul’s flagging presidential campaign is also bleeding cash, spending more money than it raised in February and finding itself with less cash on hand than during any other point this election cycle, federal filings show.
Paul ended February with about $1.37 million in his campaign account — a pittance for a political campaign competing nationally.
During February, Paul’s campaign raised $3.27 million while spending about $3.55 million, according to his latest filing.
Top expenditures include postage and mail processing ($921,700), political strategy consulting ($410,600), campaign merchandise ($294,000), airfare ($257,200), advertising ($144,344), shipping ($142,500), salaries ($117,000), hotel accommodations ($113,000), telemarketing ($88,300) and rental cars ($79,700), an analysis of Paul’s February filing indicates.
Paul’s campaign in January raised a comparatively robust $4.48 million and spent $5.23 million, ending the month with about $1.64 million. During the fourth quarter of 2011, Paul raised $13.32 million.
Such declining campaign finance health coincides with the decision by Endorse Liberty, a super PAC supporting Paul, to reassess its efforts and consider broadening its support to other political candidates.
I’m not a fan of Rick Santorum, and my very direct opposition to the liberal Republican from Pennsylvania (see, there I go again) has brought several of my Christian friends to the surface to ask why I could oppose such a God-fearing, wholesome, family-oriented man like Rick Santorum. After all, isn’t that the exact type of person we need in the White House?
And, yes, the man Rick Santorum wants us to believe he is – that is the type of man we need in the White House. I want a President with a backbone, who knows when to put his foot down and stand strong against an issue, who has the moral character to stand against what is wrong, and who has the courage to stand for smaller government. That man, however, is not Rick Santorum.
Erick Erickson, who I don’t always agree with, but who is certainly right on Santorum, explains in great detail Santorum’s record as a liberal Republican. You can’t look at that record and still make the argument that Santorum is a conservative. It’s impossible.
But beyond his liberal record in Washington is his violent opposition to the concept of freedom. In this interview with Jennifer Rubin, David Boaz (Cato Executive VP) talked about why he opposes Santorum:
A few weeks ago, Conn Carroll, responding at the Washington Examiner to a list of flip-flops charged by Ezra Klein, noted that the reason for the shift increasing libertarian influence among Republicans:
Some Republicans used to like Keynesian stimulus, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. Some Republicans used to like individual mandates, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. Some Republicans used to like cap and trade, now they don’t. Libertarians never did. You get the idea. There is a reason Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has been speaking so highly of Ron Paul.
The fact is, Americans are just becoming more libertarian. Republican leaders are only responding to those changing beliefs. That may be frustrating for a policy wonk who wants to see as much power transferred to Washington, D.C., as possible, but the American people just have a diametrically opposed view of which direction the country should be going.
To borrow a memorable phrase from the tumultuous ’60s, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Despite the greatly exaggerated reports of the “death of the tea party,” the political wind is undeniably blowing against more bailouts and debt, and toward smaller, constitutionally limited government. If the tea party is “dead,” it’s because tea party ideas have taken over the GOP.
Libertarianism is becoming more and more popular. Ron Paul’s relative success compared to four years ago is evidence that folks are starting to get turned onto the idea of liberty not being a dirty word. However, as evidenced by Paul’s inability to win a single state thus far, there’s still a long, long way to go.
A couple of days ago, Jeremy Kolassa wrote a piece about some of the problems found in libertarian circles. Honestly, he’s dead on correct on pretty much everything he said. There’s more coming, and I’m not about to steal his thunder. Frankly, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.
No, instead I want to talk about something related, but slightly different and that is actually winning elections.
Libertarians don’t really win them. Oh sure, they score victories in local government - which admittedly does have a significant impact on people’s lives - but not at the higher levels. There aren’t really any in Congress besides Paul and his son Rand (who only leans libertarian on some issues…not so much on others). If we are going to have a prayer of accomplishing much of anything, we have got to figure out how to win elections.
Part of the problem with libertarianism is really just difficulty in communicating the essence of what we are talking about. For some, they have boiled it down to property rights, the idea that “you own you.” Of course, that’s very accurate. However, many people just don’t grasp that concept. For some reason, “property rights” makes them think of the Monopoly guy with his feet on his desk, looking at his financial empire…including all the property he owns.
Instead, I’m going to break it down into one word: choice.
Freedom ultimately boils down into the ability to make a choice. If you ban guns, you no longer have a choice whether you own one or not. If you ban certain kinds of speech, you no longer have the choice to say certain things.
Now, this assumes a law-abiding nature. There will always be those who will do whatever regardless of legalities, but it’s not about them. It’s about the law-abiding who are impacted by things like laws.
When governments pass laws, they are generally seeking to limit someone’s choices. That’s just the simple nature of government. Some choices should be removed, like you being able to choose to punch someone for no reason, since that choice impacts someone else’s choice to not be punched. Other choices, not so much.
When the United States entered prohibition, the idea was to eliminate the choice for adults to consume alcohol. Drug laws took away people’s ability to choose to use drugs, an act that in and of itself impacts no one else’s choices. Laws banning prostitution limit individuals’ choice to sell sex for money.
However, choice has one significant advantage. People like choice. Just look at the variety of products available that, at least to many, have little appreciable difference. People like the choice of being able to select product A over product B. So how does that help in politics?
Doug Mataconis has already written a very good post weighing in on the legal battle between Charles and David Koch and the Cato Institute, so I’m not going to get into the meat of the issue again. But this recent bomb on the libertarian movement does have me concerned about its future, and with that, it’s something that you can expect us to cover as the case develops.
When it comes to the Koch brothers, I’m typically defensive. I think they’ve become a boogeyman for the Left. With that said, however, the Cato Institute is well-respected for their work promoting free markets, school choice, civil liberties, and an non-interventionist foreign policy. The folks at Cato are willing to call out all sides, including conservatives and Republicans, for trying to increase the size and scope of government. Making the Cato Institute a partisan would be a disaster, ruining the credibility of this respected think tank.
Below is a roundup of the various news and blog coverage of the fight for, what I consider to be, the very heart and soul of the libertarian movement (in no particular order). Not all of it is unbiased, meaning that it does include links to people with close ties to Cato, but it all makes for good reading if you want to follow the story: