personal liberty

End the idol worship: Ideas over men

Statue of Freedom

In the final minutes of the 2005 film, V for Vendetta, Peter Creedy, the head of the dystopian government’s secret police, fires several rounds into the Guy Fawkes-masked protagonist, V, fearing for his life.

“Why won’t you die?!” he shouts as his revolver reaches an empty chamber. “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh,” V says. “Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.”

While he got the attention of the repressed people of England and encouraged them to stand up against a cronyist government and the surveillance state, V was a faceless symbol of an idea — an idea he hoped would live on after he died.

Edward Snowden got Americans’ attention last June after he, through journalist Glenn Greenwald, blew the whistle on National Security Agency’s vast surveillance apparatus. The disclosures continued throughout the last year and will, reportedly, end with a grand finale in the coming days when Greenwald releases a list of names the controversial intelligence agency has targeted for spying.

Just last week, Snowden, who is living a seclusion in Russia, gave an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, the whistleblower’s first with a U.S.-based television network, in which, when asked, he said that he thought himself to be a patriot.

“Being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your Constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the violations and encroachments from adversaries,” Snowden told Williams. “And those adversaries don’t have to be foreign countries, they can be bad policies.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy is not a libertarian

Anthony Kennedy

Over the last few years, there has been much discussion about the philosophical leanings of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Long considered a moderate on the High Court, Kennedy has been the deciding vote in many 5 to 4 decisions, leading John Tabin of The American Spectator to note that “[i]t’s Anthony Kennedy’s world; we’re just living in it.”

Some legal scholars have surmised that the Supreme Court may be in some sort of “libertarian moment,” thanks in part to Kennedy. This is not necessarily a new theory. Shortly after the Court issued its decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), a ruling that struck down sodomy laws in 13 states based concerns over privacy, Randy Barnett praised Kennedy’s “presumption of liberty” approach.

Kennedy’s ideology was again the topic of discussion in 2012 after he sided with the minorty in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, in which the majority upheld the individual mandate in ObamaCare.

After the Court’s decision last month in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal provisions in the Defense of Marriage Act, Kennedy’s ideological views are, once again, being discussed by legal scholars.

Nanny Staters Should Mind Their Own Business

Nanny State

In the midst of the debates about banning firearms with certain features, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s failed attempt to ban New Yorkers from drinking soft drinks he felt were too large, and the debate over whether or not same sex couples should have the ability to enter into a legal contract to have the same legal rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples, a thought occurred to me: “Gee there are a lot of people out there who just want to ban things!”

Why is this impulse so prevalent in our society? It seems that nearly everyone wants to be free to live their lives as they see fit. I haven’t met too many people who favor any notion of limiting their freedom because elected officials passed a law or majority of fellow citizens took a vote. When it comes to one’s own personal liberties, everyone is a libertarian! Consider that the Gadsen flag underneath the coiled rattlesnake reads: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

But far too many of these same people who jealously defend their own liberties are more than eager to limit someone else’s when that someone else engages in an activity that, for whatever reason, offends them. No, when it comes to other people, these people who don’t want their liberties tread on are not libertarian but majoritarian (i.e. political might makes right).

Why Republicans have to evolve on social issues to win elections

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cato Institute’s New Media Lunch on some of the issues facing the Republican Party after the 2012 election. The forum, focused exclusively on social issues, was appropriately headlined as “The Republican Problem.”

While Walter Olson went over gay marriage, Rob Kampia on marijuana policy, and Alex Nowrasteh on immigration, I tried to focus on how conservative activists and the conservative blogosphere are adjusting post-2012. With that, I wanted to mention some of what I briefly talked about yesterday in a post this morning.

In the days since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook reading comments from conservative activists and bloggers. They realize that they have a lot of work ahead of them and they can no longer afford to live in a bubble. They see that social issues — such as gay marriage, the war on drugs, and immigration — present a problem moving forward.

Activist organizations are looking for ways to build outreach to younger voters and minorities, though the immigration issue remains a tough challenge for conservatives, and many are realizing that the war on drugs has failed. Right on Crime, a conservative-backed initiative, has become somewhat popular as cash-strapped states look for ways to take some pressure off of their prision systems. While we as libertarians see this as a personal liberty issue, it’s an easier sell as an economic issue to our conservative friends.

Was Election Day a good day for liberty?

As I’ve made clear before I was a fan of neither major party Presidential candidate.  Both stood for big government, continued spending, interventionist foreign policy, and little respect for civil liberties.  So as Election Day approached, I was excited to cast my vote for Gary Johnson.  As far as actual policies go, he was the only candidate running who offered anything different than the status quo.

That being said, I won’t deny that, while I did not vote for him, I was pulling for Romney to win, simply because I don’t think Obama has the slightest clue how to handle the economy.  This fact alone was enough to make me at least flirt with the idea of voting for Mitt as I stood in line to cast my vote.  While I ended up voting Johnson, on Election Night I was quietly hoping that somehow Romney could pull it out.

But once it became clear that he would not, my focus shifted to various other races and ballot initiatives.  And for the most part, these turned out just like I had hoped.  Gay marriage was legalized in Maryland and Maine, and marijuana initiatives did very well.  Not everything turned out great, but it was exciting to see evidence that attitudes are changing on both of these topics.

Furthermore, hard-core social conservatism had a very bad day, which is good for anyone who hopes that segment of the GOP can be reduced in influence.  Michele Bachmann almost lost her election, and both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were defeated soundly after expressing extreme and offensive views on rape and abortion.  It looks as if Allen West was defeated as well.  All of these are good news if you want the GOP to jettison some of its more extreme members.

An Open Letter from a (small-l) libertarian to the Libertarian Party: This Is Your Last Chance

I want to love the Libertarian Party. I really do. It’s the only political party out there that is anywhere close to my beliefs. I cannot stand the Democrats’ Keynesian social welfare malarkey, which ruins our economy, keeps folks from getting jobs, basically makes people dependent on the government, and is run on absolutely no logic whatsoever. Conversely, I cannot stand the Republicans’ social conservatism BS, which oppresses gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, Muslims, pagans, atheists (and agnostics), Hispanics, immigrants, marijuana users and, to an extent, women. I can’t stand either party’s foreign policy, or their joint support of such idiotic civil liberty destroying things such as our current national security state or the war on drugs. Only the Libertarian Party has a platform that I fully (or near as fully as anyone can) support.

But regrettably, the Libertarian Party hasn’t had a lot of success. This is understandable; we are unfortunately stuck on a rather ridiculous plurality vote system that became obsolete in the middle of the 20th century, an archaic throwback to a far more simpler time when the entire electorate was comprised of a bunch of old white landowners (all men, natch.) In our current system, it is nearly impossible for a third party to get success anywhere, though there are examples where they do (notably at the governor level, including, this last time around, Rhode Island.)

A Small, Overdue Victory for Liberty: Blue Laws Shot Down in Georgia

On Tuesday, November 8th, Liberty scored a victory as voters in the surrounding areas of Atlanta, GA were given the right to get government out of the decision as to whether or not they could purchase alcohol on Sunday. In overwhelming fashion, the voters spoke on behalf of freedom.

With a few exceptions, that is (Forest Park, part of Clayton County, Georgia voted the measure down). The Atlanta Journal Constitution captures the story:

Georgia’s age-old, all-out ban on buying beer, wine and liquor at shops on Sunday has met its end.

Early poll results had voters in most of the 51 metro Atlanta jurisdictions giving a resounding yes Tuesday to seven days of package sales in referendums, continuing the slow dissolution of a blue law dating to the late 1800s, one of the last restraints on Sunday consumption.

But at least one city said no — Clayton County’s Forest Park. Mayor Corine Deyton said it was the right choice.

“That’s the Lord’s day, in my opinion,” said Deyton, a Sunday school teacher whose son is a Baptist music minister. “If you can’t do without alcohol one day a week, there’s something bad wrong with you.”

While I understand and respect Mayor Deyton’s opinion pertaining to herself and her family whom she can directly influence, I have to take a strong exception here.

Anti-gun Colorado senator resigns amid recall push

Staring down a recall effort launched by Second Amendment advocates because of her support for onerous gun control regulations passed earlier this year, state Sen. Evie Hudak (D-Westminister) decided to resign rather than face what ostensibly would have been a referendum on her anti-gun record.

“One year ago, on the day before Thanksgiving 2012, I was informed that all the ballots had been counted and I had won reelection to the State Senate with 35,664 votes,” wrote Hudak in a letter posted on her campaign website. “I was thankful for the opportunity to spend the next four years of my life serving Colorado and fighting for middle-class jobs, high-quality educational opportunities, and public safety.

“However, now on the day before Thanksgiving 2013, in the interest of preserving the progress made over the last year, I am resigning as State Senator for District 19, effective immediately,” she declared.

Hudak defended economic legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly. She also defended the anti-gun law she voted for in March. She also said that “[b]y resigning, [she is] making sure that Jefferson County taxpayers aren’t forced to pay more than $200,000 for a special election,” citing spending cuts that have been made by that local government.

Gun rights groups hailed the news, claiming Hudak’s resignation as a victory and a sign of things to come next year.

Senators roll out NSA surveillance reform measure

NSA reform press conference

Congress may be dealing with other legislative priorities at the moment, such as passing a stop-gap funding measure to keep the government open, but the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance apparatus remains a hot topic.

Seeking to roll back the intelligence agency’s ability to spy on Americans, a bipartisan group of senators have proposed a package of measures to reform the PATRIOT Act — the legislation through which the NSA has claimed such broad power — and restore the Fourth Amendment.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and Internet metadata and prevent warrantless collection of communications, according to a statement provided by his office. It would also provide for a “constitutional advocate” on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), an idea backed by President Barack Obama.

“The overbroad surveillance activities that have come to light over the last few months have shown how wide the gap between upholding the constitutional liberties of American citizens and protecting national security has become,” said Wyden in the statement.

Learn Liberty: Does the NSA Violate Your Constitutional Rights?

See Video

In this new video from Learn Liberty, Professor James Otteson discusses the importance of the Fourth Amendment: “Many people don’t know what their constitutional freedoms are or why they have them in the first place. They’ve gotten so used to the freedoms they’ve enjoyed as Americans that they haven’t noticed just how rare and fragile they really are.”


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