Archive for the 'Libertarianism' Category

Uncommon insight

The Saddest Lede on the Internet Today.
Says Ric Locke on his new blog.   And what was the lede?     “Americans believe that the normal state of things is not-violence.”

Do you suppose that’s true? That that’s why we have such absurdities as people climbing in zoo cages to cuddle the animals? It would explain a lot of things.

The blog article he links goes on to make some sort of argument that the normal state of capitalism is violence and that people should think about why we put up with it…. or something like that.

It’s shocking to me, even though I’m used to the notion, that people do not realize that violence and war are the normal state of things and that civilization is what we impose upon the natural state. (And yes, there are people who seem not to realize that the cuddly animals really will not act all loving and peaceful because they have an uncorrupted ability to tell that you don’t mean harm.)

I think that sometimes libertarians are too convinced that they aren’t talking about imposing order and miss the truth of it, (or at least those opposed to libertarian ideas are convinced that libertarians oppose the imposing of order.)     That’s not the difference between libertarian ideas and those ideologies that consider themselves more caring.    The difference with libertarian ideas and with capitalism is that those things work as much as possible with the reality of human nature while recognizing what human nature is.    Which is violent… just like the rest of nature is violent and unforgiving.

Viewing capitalism as the source of unfairness, vice and violence ignores the truth.    Failing to understand the truth of nature and human nature, to face it squarely, means that the proposed cure for social ills will invariably make them far worse.     As Ric says:

It would explain, for instance, why the writer of that article is able to regurgitate a century and a half of Socialist propaganda and get commenters calling it “insightful”. Two centuries of modern capitalism have resulted in such ease, such comfort, such near-total safety and security, that Americans (at least, some Americans) don’t just take it for granted but consider it the normal state of affairs, so much so that they are ready and willing to smash the structures that created it, in the confident “knowledge” that the safety and prosperity will remain because they are “normal”.

He’s a smart guy. Check out his blog.

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New GOP 2012 Challenger: Gary Johnson?

2012 could be an interesting year for GOP presidential candidates if it features both Mark Sanford and Gary Johnson. This, along with the tea party movements, seems to be an outgrowth of the Ron Paul candidacy, perhaps similar to what happened to the Democrats after the Dean candidacy.

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Houston Tea Party

I didn’t get to make it out, as I work almost 30 miles away, but here’s the video:

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Texas Bill Introduced to Reassert 10th Amendment Rights

H.C.R. 50 has been introduced to the Texas House. Authored by Texas State Representatives Brandon Creighton, Bryan Hughes, and Leo Berman, it reasserts Texas’s rights of sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas
hereby claim sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise
enumerated and granted to the federal government by the
Constitution of the United States; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That this serve as notice and demand to the federal
government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective
immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these
constitutionally delegated powers; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That all compulsory federal legislation that
directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal
penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation
or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed; and, be it

It was only introduced yesterday, but it will be very interesting to see if this passes.It would be really amazing to see a resurgence in the 10th Amendment.

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A Rose By Any Other Name

Sounds like they want the Fairness Doctrine to me. If they want this fight, then broadcast TV ought be included. More over at QandO.

“If markets cannot produce what society really cares about, like a media that reflects the true diversity and spirit of our country, then government has a legitimate role to play,” he said.

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What Does It Take for a Police Officer To Get Fired?

Radley Balko compares two police officer firings and finds that it’s pretty hard for an officer to get fired, unless they go easy on marijuana users.The first officer kind of reminds me of Alaskan State Trooper Mike Wooten from Sarah Palin’s silly “Troopergate” fiasco.

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Resignations for Radicals

Sadly, it seems Angela Keaton has finally resigned from the Libertarian National Committee. If you haven’t been following this little bit of salacious Libertarian Party drama, here’s the “Resolution of Discipline” against her from December 1st, which details many of her alleged injuries to the “public image” of the party. My personal favorite demand:

An apology [from Angela Keaton] to the Libertarian National Committee for offering sex to the LNC officers conditional on the performance of our Presidential candidate by stating in an Internet interview on June 26, 2008, “If Bob Barr breaks 1%, the officers of the national party can pass me around like a pu-pu platter.”

For the record, Bob Barr received 0.4% of the national popular vote in 2008, and thus Angela was spared the indignity of becoming a Chinese appetizer in a vorarephilic Libertarian orgy. That in itself is probably a source for some of the hostility by members of the LNC. It’s one thing to brutally mock your party, it’s something altogether more offensive to be proven accurate in your mockery.

Yet with the passing of the colorful and combative Ms. Keaton, there is once again officially no immediate reason to pay attention to the doings of the LNC that I can think of. Not that anyone outside the LP was paying attention to this either…which does call into question the integrity of the charges made by Angela’s critics. After all, a “public image” which is subject to injury, does tend to require a public audience.

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The Third Party Personality Disorder

I found myself complaining to a Libertarian colleague of mine today (note the capital ‘L’), about the deplorable political consensus that has emerged on the bailout strategy for economic resuscitation. The bipartisan policy is a ghastly trifecta of the ineffective, unpopular and unstoppable. It is precisely the sort of situation that makes me slightly more sympathetic to the appeals of my third-party advocating friends.

My Libertarian colleague in this case gleefully protested, as he always does, that it was ultimately the voters fault, for having continued to vote Republican or Democrat despite his warnings. And yes, Joseph Heller was invoked once again to support the blame game. Voters won’t vote LP because the LP is powerless, but the LP is powerless because voters won’t vote LP. You’ve heard this little argument before of course, but how accurate is it really?


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Huckabee: Enemy of Libertarian Republicans Everywhere

Mike Huckabee’s new book is coming out, and in it he takes some pretty heavy shots at libertarian and economic conservatives who don’t share his populist big government views.

The real threat to the Republican Party is something we saw a lot of this past election cycle: libertarianism masked as conservatism. And it threatens to not only split the Republican Party, but render it as irrelevant as the Whig Party.

I cannot understand this view at all. From Reason:

Huckabee trains a lot of fire on the Club for Growth, [..] Perhaps the Club’s biggest success was its pre-emptive demolition job on Huckabee. The governor responds by accusing them and other libertarians of believing in “purity of politics first; people are on their own.” In a chapter titled “Let Them Buy Stocks!” he accuses “libertarian faux-cons” of driving “the party even further away from its base of the hard-working middle class.” He names names.

You can see the growing influence of faux-cons in the 2008 election cycle from the so-called Ron Paul Revolution to the economics-only conservatism reflected by some of the supporters of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani.

Hopefully the GOP does not follow Huckabee or his advice because I foresee a huge exodus of non-social cons. I know I’d be the first.

FYI, Glenn Reynolds is doing an interview with Huckabee this Wed and is currently soliciting questions. Now of course a rude and/or insulting question may make you feel better but won’t get asked so if anyone has a good question put some thought into it and make it respectful.

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Is it the Means or the End that Matters?

Michele Catalano writing at Pajamas Media yesterday, defending Obama’s call for (at one point) mandatory community service,  gets it completely wrong. To backtrack a little bit for those who haven’t been paying attention the last week or so, at President Elect Obama’s website,, there’s an agenda section. At one point part of it read like this:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year

(emphasis mine)

This quickly led to a swarm of criticism. Some of course went slightly overboard and likened it to slavery, as the opportunity to note the irony was just too hard to pass up I suppose. Others saw this as Obama building his “Marxist” personal army.

Now those points can be argued against and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean their main thrust is wrong. Reacting to the criticism, the well oiled Obama online team quickly replaced the text, taking out the required part and changing it to an incentive based service. So good for them, but the piece by Michele Catalano defending it is defending the wrong aspect.

There are thousands upon thousands of high school and college students, as well as adults, doing some form of community service right now. Service to your community is an altruistic thing; it is a way of perhaps giving back to a community that has given to you. It is a way to reach out to a community, to help others who may not be as fortunate as you, to teach young adults about sharing, caring, and helping others, to do something out of the goodness of your heart that will benefit your community. This is not slavery. This is not forced labor. This is outreach. It represents values. Slavery is an act that benefits no one but the person who owns the slave; community service benefits both the giver and receiver and helps make the world a better place and leaves a general good feeling for everyone involved. It is not comparable to slavery.

(emphasis again is mine)

Respectfully to Michele, yes, this is exactly forced labor. Look, no one is saying the end is a bad result, it’s the means with which it’s achieved that is wrong. There was benefit from slavery but that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong, and who benefits has nothing to do with its definition. If you had a slave you could have him or her volunteer at the homeless shelter every day and do a lot of good, but it would still be completely immoral to do so, not because of the work that the person is doing but because the person has no choice.

So this is where she gets it wrong. No one criticising the required language is arguing community service is bad, or not a lofty goal. Millions of people think serving the army is a tremendous good that benefits both giver and receiver (receiver being the US citicizens of course), but no one argues that the draft is either moral or a good idea. So defenders can talk about how much good community service can do all they want, but they need to remember no free man should be compulsed into your definition of “doing good for the community”.

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Against Galt

Synova wrote a little post that gets halfway to where I would come down on this perennial parlor game of  the John Galt general strike. Sy recognized that to be successful, such a revolt would realistically be a miserable experience for a society, resulting in bloodshed and economic ruin. But she does not depart from Rand in assuming that the eventual outcome would be desirable. I’d advise the ancient wisdom that if the means are clearly evil in a political project, one should become immediately skeptical of the alleged justice of the ends.

We should also be skeptical of the social assumption for Galt, that there is a definable and rigid division among men into a minority of Platonic creative guardians, and an empowered majority of proletarian oppressors and their craven political servants — and that these factions could have accurate self-recognition of their social roles. I would contend that anyone who thinks of the majority of the people as disposable abstracted parasites, under a constitutional order that explicitly derives its governing powers from the majority consent of the governed, is never selling you anything that’s going to arrive in a happy place.


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Going John Galt… quietly.

The idea of “Going John Galt” makes me a little bit uncomfortable, to tell the truth.    John Galt essentially said screw them all, and shut down knowing that a whole lot of people would be hurt.    It was about the only way he could make his point and make it stick.

Maybe we could do this without shutting down the economy?

But, as I think about it, a protest citing John Galt and out and out telling people what is going on might be a good idea, because people are going to go John Galt… quietly.

And I have no faith at all that anyone who now thinks that it’s a good thing to make the rich pay are going to understand what happened any more than Chavez or Mugabe understand what happened (or is happening) to their economies.

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FDR Prolonged the Great Depression

says two UCLA economists.

Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt’s record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

“Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,” said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA’s Department of Economics. “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.”

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

Not exactly news to free market liberals, but still something very important to remember in these comming days of cries for the government to “do something” and distrust of the free market.

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So Very LP

What’s this? Bob Barr wanted Ronpaul as his veep? Take your eyes off the Libertarian Party for a minute and you miss a lot of foolishness. Our old friend Steve Newton fills us in on the amusing drama that ensued (Ronpaul said no BTW).

Now, I had been under the impression that Barr already had a vice presidential candidate and it turns out I was right. Evidently Barr sought to dump Wayne Allyn Root for Ronpaul, or Root dumped himself in honor of Ronpaul. Apparently Root had been controversial within the party for his support of the very uncontroversial war effort in Afghanistan.

Sometimes the LP can look like a bloody civil war in Lilliput, fought over possession of a discarded matchstick.

Alas, it also seems some Ronpaulists are now accusing Barr of being a Republican double agent, sent to destroy the Libertarian Party. As if Libertarians ever needed any assistance in doing that. Where Ronpaulists go paranoia follows though, and a faction within the LP has begun an effort to get the Libertarian National Committee to un-endorse its candidates for being clandestine conservative operatives.

So very LP.

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A Western Vibe Ticket

Todd Zywicki, of the Volokh Conspiracy, takes a look at libertarianism in the McCain/Palin ticket and notes a distinct western vibe to the first all-western ticket in our history. He had an interesting observation that I think captures a lot of our hesitation about McCain.

The only caveat to this is that McCain’s westernism is tempered by his military background. And frankly, this is what concerns me most about him–his mind seems like a command-and-control, top-down worldview. To put the matter more elliptically to many but more accurately to my thinking, I think he simply does not understand or trust the idea of spontaneous order. In his worldview, things happen (good or bad) because somebody makes them happen. This is not a worldview that is conducive to understanding spontaneous order. That’s a statist streak in him that offsets some of his westernism.

An interesting point to think about. Does Palin temper that? Does she enhance it?

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Summarizing Bob Barr

From the Onion.

(1995–2007) Trying to control the faith, sexuality, reproduction, drug use, and national allegiance of every single American.

(2007–) Aw, F–k it.

H/T: Reason

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Legislating Morality

Newmark’s Door
We can’t enact or enforce enough laws to manage ethical behavior.

“Goo-goos”–good government advocates–have been fighting corruption in government through endlessly tweaking campaign financing reform laws and ethics laws for at least 40 years.

Senator Stevens is the latest case and even though he may have been up to no good, Newmark thinks it will be difficult to convict him.

What I do assert is, that in the absence of a tape or a document in which Stevens admits knowing that he didn’t pay for the full value of the work, it should be real darn hard to convict him.

The only way to stop this is the classical libertarian approach of smaller government.

I’m not the first person to argue this: either restrict government power or live with a lot of corruption. The goo-goos are largely tilting at windmills.

There may be some related good news . Apparently Trent Lott has had an epiphany on the issues of pork and earmarks.

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Michael F. Cannon at Cato blogs about a NYTimes article on the rife fraud found and covered up at Medicare. A confidential draft of a federal inspector general’s report claimed that the behavior they found at the Medicare Administration was rife with irregularities.

Medicare reported to Congress that, for the fiscal year of 2006, AdvanceMed’s investigations had found that only 7.5 percent of claims paid by Medicare were not supported by appropriate documentation. But the inspector general’s review indicated that the actual error rate was closer to 31.5 percent.

Law makers called it “tantamount to corruption”. Michael ends his piece with some great quotes:

[One] congressional watchdog had seen it all before:

“This report doesn’t surprise me,” said Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California and a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee. He has pushed to cut improper Medicare spending. “To look better to the public, you cook the books,” he said. “This agency is incompetent.”

Of course, Pete Stark’s solution for Medicare’s incompetence is to force you to enroll:

There is a road map laid out for us…Medicare. Medicare has lower administrative costs than any private plan on the market…Medicare has shown us the power of simplicity; we need only expand its promise to the rest of our population.

Medifraud for all!

heh, indeed.

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Black Market Bacon Dogs

L.A. Police have started cracking down on hotdog carts selling grilled bacon wrapped hotdogs. Confiscating all equipment and trashing all food on site. As always, nanny knows best.

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Risk and Reward

Playground Many of us, when we hear the phrase “risk and reward” think of Wall Street.  Or business in general.

But in reality, “risk and reward” affect us throughout our lives.

Our parents take a risk when they conceive us.  They hope that we will provide them with more joy and satisfaction than heartache and pain.  They pray that we will be born relatively healthy rather than sickly.

As we get older, parents do their best to provide a fine environment for us to learn and grow.  What some adults seem to have forgotten, however (if they ever knew at all) – is that all gain requires some risk.  It is impossible to achieve rewards without taking on chances of failure.  Parents want to keep us safe.  Yet, too many protections and too much removal of risk can oddly enough produce difficulties.

Safety is meaningful only in the context of other benefits and risks. Safety always involves trade-offs — of opportunities, of scarce resources and, especially in the case of children’s play, of learning to manage risk. The question is whether the trade-off makes sense. Soft rubber matting will cushion any fall. This is probably a good thing, at least in situations where children may fall on their heads. But rubber matting also gets hot.

There’s only one solution. Someone on behalf of society must be authorized to make these choices. Courts must honor those decisions. Otherwise, the pious accusations of safety fanatics, empowered by the nearly universal fear of being sued, will guarantee a cultural spiral downwards toward the lowest common denominator.

For America’s children today, that means spending more than six hours per day staring at a screen. Is that the way we want our children to grow up?

Philip Howard of The Common Good lectured several years ago at The Center of the American Experiment, and it was my pleasure to be able to hear him then.  Mr. Howard and his organization are battling to return common sense to everyday society.

None of us want a dangerous place for our children – or for adults!  Still, we must never forget that a risk-free society is impossible to achieve.  The removal of some risks must be weighed against what we are sacrificing by removing that risk.  While sometimes we agree that the risk of harm is too great – other times we can see that the purported removal of risk actually heightens the odds of other, not immediately obvious, forms of harm.

If we never forget that reward entails some risk, then we all will be better served.

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When Families Fail

Because of my background in working with emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, and generally abused kids, I am often to drawn to stories about the results of extreme neglect of children. I saw some awfully hard cases with some of the kids I worked with, including a kid who was found as a toddler scrounging for food in a trash can with his younger brother before being put into the foster care system, and a young girl who, although not even ten years old, was “traded” by her mother for drugs on a routine basis. There are some really sick cases out there.

For example, a few years ago some foster parents were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment after someone finally checked up on their kids and discovered a gruesome sight:

Two of the teenage boys were so badly nourished that they each weighed less than 50 pounds and stood about 4 feet tall, authorities said.

An investigation into the family began after police found the Jacksons’ 19-year-old son, Bruce Jackson, rummaging through a neighbor’s trash.

The young man, who was adopted in 1995, measured 4 feet and weighed 45 pounds. He also had apparent heart irregularities.

The three other boys, ages 14, 10, and 9, were removed from the home and hospitalized. The 14-year-old was 40 pounds and 4 feet tall.

Investigators said the couple received a yearly stipend of up to $28,000, but kept the boys locked out of the kitchen and fed them dry pancake batter.

Every state’s foster care system has a few stories like this, some more than others. The sad fact is that there are really bad people out there, for whatever reason, and some of them become parents and foster parents. How can these people become foster parents? Well, as bad as they end up being (and, it is actually pretty rare), they are still better than the home from which the foster kids are typically removed. For example, there’s the case of Danielle Crockett: (more…)

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A New Libertarianism of Paranoid Revolt

Jordan Page (who is a kind of Ronpaulist Joan Baez) reflects on the “Revolution March,” a July 12th Ron Paul protest rally in Washington DC, in part organized by Adam Kokesh (who of late believes the Washington police are involved in a clandestine conspiracy against him).

Now, I grew up in the libertarian movement such as it was. Although I no longer consider myself a libertarian out of respect for the philosophy, I think I knew it well. My libertarianism was of the rightish sort, but fundamentally a movement for liberty through reason. A movement of the great economists and political philosophers of the Austrian School and the University of Chicago. The movement of Mises and Friedman. But this paranoid, revolutionary rubbish presented by Page as libertarianism, is utterly unrecognizable to me.


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Landham Returns

Taking fecklessness to new levels of embarrassment, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky is now considering rescinding its unanimous de-endorsement of genocidal fantasist Sonny Landham, and formally renominating him as its candidate for US Senate.

“We’re really stuck,” said Libertarian Party chair Ken Moellman. “We don’t necessarily want to kick him off the ballot.”


“Our goal was not to kick him out,” added Moellman. “We are in a tough spot.”
(PolitickerKY via Last Free Voice)

Unbelievable. The wide ranging praise the party received for its rejection of a raving lunatic, must have alerted them that they weren’t demonstrating levels of incompetence and irresponsibility commensurate with the Libertarian Party’s long established traditions.

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Sonny Landham Falls

Looks like the Libertarian Party of Kentucky has dumped Sonny Landham, previously their clinically insane pick for US Senate. Good for them. Even if given the psychopathic nature of Landham’s views, I feel a little like I’m congratulating them for breathing.

While the Obama campaign might like to think that the LP could pose a serious threat to John McCain in Georgia, the Landham misadventure only reminds me yet again of the extraordinary amateurishness that seems to characterize almost all Libertarian Party political campaigns. There’s simply no excuse for failing to properly vet a candidate you intend to challenge for the seat held by the Senate Minority Leader.

As a former Hollywood actor and convicted criminal, it wouldn’t have been particularly difficult to uncover Landham’s violent imagination or deplorable associations with rightwing hate groups. A simple YouTube and Google search might have sufficed in fact.

Speaking of which, if you’ve never seen the deranged Bircher-style videos that Landham did while a member of the white supremacist/neo-Confederate organization the ‘Council of Conservative Citizens‘, it’s well worth a watch. The strangely tense and badly rehearsed panel discussion scene seems like something lifted out of a lost David Lynch film: .

Supplemental: I must say I do appreciate the fact that Landham hasn’t disowned himself and begged for mercy from the mob, in that axiomatic ritual of insincere contrition we’ve all grown accustomed to. His quote to the Associated Press: “My views are still the same, I make no apologies for them.”

If you think about it, that’s quite a rare response. Crazy, but commendable for its candor.

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Why I am still an independent #3476

Ah, the Libertarian Party. I wish I could call it home, but like all parties animated by ideals, it is susceptible to grievance mongers who latch themselves onto the rhetoric to justify disgusting views. The Republican Party of La. had the good sense to repudiate David Duke, can the Libertarians manage to distance themselves from Sonny Landham? Steve Newton has the rundown on the latest nuttiness. And yes McQ, that is a question for Bob Barr.

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Harry Reid, Idiot

While my opposition to modern liberal left politics is pretty clear, I generally feel that name calling is rarely needed, or warranted. I certainly do not believe that any particular ideology is more or less likely to have virtuous people, whether we are speaking of kindness, generosity, bravery or integrity.

I also don’t believe that any party or ideology is represented by more intelligent or educated leaders and intellectuals. That being said, I have for quite some time made an exception when it comes to a few people. On the libertarian side, the puppet who speaks, when it comes to mendaciousness and general ideological nuttiness. On the left side of the aisle Harry Reid. He is either one of stupider men to ever hold office, or mendacious in a way that is so totally incompetent that it is almost inconceivable. He makes Bush, Kerry, Quayle and Gore look like absolute geniuses, or maybe straight talkers. I have no idea what is behind much of what he is saying here, stupidity (though it gets my vote above) or some weird attempt at Soviet style New Speak, but this video has to be seen to be believed. Hat tip: McQ via The Lonely Conservative.

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Boundary Issues

Peg pointed me this way, and I really enjoyed nodding in agreement. Of course, I have long nodded in agreement with Megan. Especially on these:

2) Gay marriage. I’m basically pro, but I take the Burkean arguments seriously.

3) Immigration. Again, I’m pro–but while I think the anti-immigration side makes often ridiculously ahistorical arguments about how current immigration differs from past waves, I think that more-open-borders folks like me don’t give enough respect to the real cultural frictions that immigration causes.


5) Taxes. I don’t have any very well thought out position on the optimal level of taxation in society. I take seriously both the justice arguments of the libertarian absolutists, and the notion that anyone living in a wealthy society owes their prosperity at least as much to the wealthy society as they do to their own skill and hard work–and if you doubt this is true, I suggest you go try to deploy your rugged individualist talents in Zimbabwe. I think society has a duty to care for those who genuinely can’t care for themselves, but I am against an ever-expanding notion of what constitutes “can’t”.

6) Intergenerational equity. I don’t mean social security, which I think is largely a stupid program. I mean questions about how we should privilege the interests of people who exist now over those who will exist in the future. The environment is the most obvious, but not the only, area where these questions come up. To me, health care is another one; the core issue is that we can probably help some people by moving to a single payer system today, but only by destroying the innovation machine that will help many many more people down the road.

7) Humanitarian intervention. I am often tempted by the isolationist stance, the cool purity of its single-rule decision making. Then another Darfur rends my heart. I don’t mean to address the prudential, utilitarian calculus, but rather the question: if there’s a good chance that we could make things better, should we? And under what circumstances?

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Bob Barr Doing Well in Polls

Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr is doing very well in the latest Zogby poll Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican informs us. The poll has Barr at 6% in Texas and Florida and a pretty impressive 10% in New Hampshire.

State: Texas

McCain – 42%
Obama – 39%
Barr – 6%
Nader -2%
Someone else – 4%
Undecided – 7%

Over 3,200 were surveyed in the poll, from June 11 – June 30.

Of course this also means Obama is only 3% back of McCain in Texas. So this poll may be an outlier, but hopefully future polls will continue to show the Libertarian candidate getting an historic amount of votes. The goal being to shift the Republicans to the libertarian side of the party.

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Hippocrates Unbound

The idea of state funded and administered universal health care is a bugbear of libertarians everywhere, and especially those who are subjected to such a system as a matter of course. Routinely held up as one of the worst of the lot of state-run systems is Britain’s NHS. Now, direct from the trenches of the NHS battleground, comes one insider who thinks it’s high time that the system was scrapped:

Here is a great new book to cheer libertarians as we draw close to the sixtieth anniversary of the National Health Service. Written by the director of Nurses for Reform, Dr. Helen Evans, and published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, ‘Sixty Years On: Who Cares for the NHS?’ not only shows that the country’s top 100 health opinion formers no longer actually believe in nationalised healthcare but, gloriously, this book fundamentally challenges the medical monopoly inherent in all health systems around the world.

The IEA finds that the study underlying Dr. Evans’ book reveals an increasing dissatisfaction with state-run health care among those charged with providing it:

Containing a series of devastating blows to the NHS at 60, the research shows that when speaking off the record a substantial majority of Britain’s health elite no longer believes in nationalised healthcare. Instead, an overwhelming majority accepts a much greater role for private provision – including private hospitals, clinics, GP services and dentists.

I recall that the President of the Canadian Medical Association expressed similar sentiments not long ago, so this result is not at all surprising. What is surprising is that, despite copious amounts of evidence, and reams of historical documentation, people still believe that government can run anything very well, much less a system devoted to the ever changing circumstances inherent in the provision of health care to the masses.

Let’s be clear: the government — any government, fair or foul — is only good at two things. One, making rules. Two, using the power of the state to enforce them. That’s it. No government anywhere, throughout history, is much more than minimally competent at doing anything other than those two tasks. In fact, that is exactly why the founders of this country set up a system of limited government. Instead of carving sections of life where the government’s powers would not apply, America’s forefathers devised a system of limited government whereby the limits of action were placed on the single most powerful entity in the land rather than on the individuals comprising its subjects. It was an attempt to shackle Leviathan.

Despite that attempt, Leviathan has broken free is some places, and uses that leverage to tirelessly strain against its remaining cuffs. Advocates of universal health care encourage the beast to break free of its binds, seemingly without the least bit of comprehension as to the carnage that will result. They should take heed of those who have suffered the demon. What better authority than those who have toiled in the belly of the beast and know its strengths and weaknesses? Who better to dissuade such tomfoolery as unleashing the unquenchable thirst for power of a government monopoly over our very lives than those who have experienced such unrestrained power?

But I expect that the opinions expressed in Dr. Evans’ book will have little, if any, effect. When as potent a wellspring of power as state-run health care is dangled in front of those who lust for dominion over others, there is little chance that they won’t take the bait irrespective of the nasty hook.

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George Lakoff: Neo-Syndicalist

Syndicalism Over the weekend I read with fascination William Saletan’s review of the new offering from George Lakoff, “The Political Mind,” and was struck by the remarkable similarities between it and the revolutionary syndicalism espoused during the prior fin de siècle.

In particular, Saletan summarizes Lakoff’s principal idea as the need for progressives to recapture the and reformulate the social myth that drives the political decisions of the masses:

Lakoff blames “neoliberals” and their “Old Enlightenment” mentality for the Democratic Party’s weakness. They think they can win elections by citing facts and offering programs that serve voters’ interests. When they lose, they conclude that they need to move farther to the right, where the voters are.

This is all wrong, Lakoff explains. Neuroscience shows that pure facts are a myth and that self-interest is a conservative idea. In a “New Enlightenment,” progressives will exploit these discoveries. They’ll present frames instead of raw facts. They’ll train the public to think less about self-interest and more about serving others. It’s not the platform that needs to be changed. It’s the voters.

Lakoff’s concept is not new, although his explanation as to why myth-making is important may be. (more…)

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Potent Quotables

Eastwood Wales

I’ve always loved that quote from Charles Austin Beard about earning a reputation as a “dangerous citizen” by quoting the founding fathers. This quote is from the man who made the “dangerous citizen” a cinematic icon, including in one of my all time favorite movies The Outlaw Josey Wales:

I don’t pay attention to either side,” he claims. “I mean, I’ve always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else’s hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.

When asked about his current political leaning, Eastwood declares that he’s undecided (”It’s kind of a zoo out there right now. So I think I’ll kinda let things percolate.”), but also claims that he and his wife have had some affinity for McCain in the past.

I’m cognizant of the seeming double standard in quoting a Hollywood A-Lister about a political point when I would likely deride such a person making a point I disagreed with (if it were George Clooney, for example). The difference is that I don’t offer the quote as some sort of proof as to the validity of its subject. Instead, I’m impressed that libertarianism was directly connected with smaller government and a check on political power (“Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.”). Usually the ideology (if you can call it that) is paired by quotable persons with either the war in Iraq or smoking pot. In this case, a silver screen star directly connected personal liberty and smaller government, AND got quoted in a left-wing newspaper.

And c’mon, it’s Clint Eastwood who said it. That’s worth something isn’t it? [/toungueincheek]

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Bob Barr on The Colbert Report

Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr appeared on the Colbert Report last night. Check out the video after the jump. Some commentary from the American Spectator here.


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Political Coup in Nevada GOP Convention

Some political chaos going on in the Nevada Republican Convention. Ron Paul supporters amassed at the convention in hopes of taking it over and electing their own people as delegates.

Outmaneuvered by raucous Ron Paul supporters, Nevada Republican Party leaders abruptly shut down their state convention and now must resume the event to complete a list of 31 delegates to the GOP national convention.

Outnumbered supporters of expected Republican presidential nominee John McCain faced off Saturday against well-organized Paul supporters. A large share of the more than 1,300 state convention delegates enabled Paul supporters to get a rule change positioning them for more national convention delegate slots than expected.

This appears to be part of a wider strategy plotted by Paul supporters a few weeks ago.

This is not the time to back off and just haggle about resolutions and platforms at state and national conventions. It’s time to FIGHT!

The strategy therefore must be to get as many Ron Paul delegates selected to represent their state at the National Convention.

That means our delegates need to stay low key.

Resolutions are a dead giveaway, especially when they are fought over things like opposition to the war, or abolishing the Federal Reserve and the IRS, all signature issues of Ron Paul.

So, the best plan is to shut up, move along, do what you ave to do to get selected, sign the pledge to “support” McCain (it doesn’t say you promise not to abstain!) and just get in short of outright lying, of course.

This seems to be a clear case of using the letter of the law to defeat the spirit of the law. They already voted, Paul supporters are trying to change the result after the fact. They’re coming off as unhinged loons. It’s a disservice to Dr. Paul.

Reportedly video here.

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Jefferson Memorial Follow Up

Following up on Jon’s post a few weeks ago on the group dancing at the Jefferson memorial, we have some more information. A group of friends and other people at the incident have set up a web page. Free the Jefferson 1. The girl was arrested at the incident for “interfering with an agency function,” not “disorderly conduct” as originally reported. The group has also set up a donation page to aid the girl’s legal defense. Lastly you can watch of on .

Watching the videos, it seems obvious the security guards overreacted. The group’s preaching aside, I would blame it on the disposition of the guards, and probably poor training about what the actual rules are for the memorial and park.

UPDATE: For those of you in/around the the DC area, you can join the group Bureaucrash this Friday the 2nd from 5:30-9PM at the Union Pub for a fundraiser. It’s $5 to get in, all of which will be donated to the defense fund. Plus, you’ll get a free drink (well drink or draft Bud, Bud Light, Miller or House Amber) and while supplies last, a bottle of 5 Hour Energy Drink.

The Bureaucrash group will be joined by the First Friday folks and their guest, Christopher Hitchens.

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Hoist by His Own Petard

McCainJohn McCain was one politician I admired greatly. While I still believe that the man is a true hero, and while I still do applaud some of what he does, the veil has been lifted from my eyes for one major reason: McCain-Feingold.

Although I, like so many others, wish that we lived in some la-la land where candidates never had to solicit campaign funds from anyone, and that we could miraculously learn about the candidates’ beliefs, abilities, character, experience, etc. for free, such is not the case. We live in the real world, and in the real world, we need money to accomplish this.

McCain-Feingold restricts our speech and the ability of candidates to communicate with the public. I have always found it to be straight out unconstitutional; perhaps one day the Supreme Court will strike it down.

Until that happens, however, all of us will have to labor under its inequities and burdens. Right now, McCain is finding himself ensnared in a web of his own making.

The McCain camp is teaming up with the Republican National Committee to tap into big, big donations from big, big donors – hoping to close the big, big money gap with Democrats.

Their effort to do so will involve some creative abuse of the campaign finance restrictions Mr. McCain authored a few years back. Whatever. The Arizonan may not yet fully understand that money is speech. At least he has come around to the view that more of the stuff is better when it comes to winning the presidency.

Whether this will ease Mr. McCain’s financial woes is yet unclear, but it’s arguably his smartest move, given the hand he’s dealt himself. Just imagine what might have happened if Mr. McCain had fought instead for simple transparency – and trusted Americans to decide how much to give and to whom. Free speech, via money, can be a liberating thing.

Part of me feels like saying, “Serves you right!” to Senator McCain. But, as I believe he would be a better choice for president than Obama or Clinton, I’ll simply hope that he and others learn from this ironic lesson.

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Patriots Day!

Dale Franks honors the story of how the fight for our Independence began on April 19th, 1775. McQ ponders how we got to where we are today, drawing from the great T Harry Williams, and Jules Crittenden has a roundup of first hand accounts of what took place.

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What Is ASHC?

tensionThere seems to be some confusion on the part of some as to exactly what sort of place ASHC is:

I was rather surprised to read this dubious and scornful appraisal of Michael Yon’s Wallstreet Journal editorial at A Second Hand Conjecture, a heretofore conservative site.

The post Mick Stockinger is referring to was created by Joshua Foust, our resident curmudgeon. Josh took aim at Michael Yon’s apparent advocation for more troops in theater:

This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting.

The title of Yon’s WSJ piece was “Let’s ‘Surge’ Some More.” So the obvious inference was that Yon thinks we should be committing more troops to Iraq as we did with Petraeus’ “surge” last year. Josh took exception with that (in his typical, short-post, snarky way), and he made a valid point: our military is admittedly stretched and strained, to the point that further commitments are not exactly feasible.

I’m not concerned here with the merits of Josh’s post, but instead with the characterization of ASHC as “a heretofore conservative site.” I understand why Mick (and others) think that, but we should set the record straight. This is not a “conservative” site by any stretch of the imagination. The great majority of us support the war in Iraq, but not based on any sort of conservative principles. Essentially we all believe that winning is possible, and that winning is in the best interests of America. The only difference between Josh and the rest of us on this score is that Josh thinks (and can cogently explain when he wants to) that the war was a mistake and that the costs of continuing it are greater than any perceived benefits. Josh and I fundamentally disagree on this point, but that does not make him “liberal” nor me “conservative.”

Which leads me to the ultimate point: ASHC is not a conservative site. We are an amalgamation of views loosely coalesced around the idea that more freedom is better than less. We each hold different views on what that means, and the sole issue on which we are diametrically opposed is with respect to the war in Iraq. Josh stands alone here on ASHC, but I defy anyone to produce a more intelligent and reasoned voice when it comes to articulating why taking on Iraq was a bad idea. Even as I routinely and vociferously disagree with Josh’s assessments, I appreciate the value that Josh adds to the discussion. In other words, Josh may be wrong, but he makes wrong look as right as anyone possibly could.

In sum, if ASHC is deemed insufficiently “conservative” because of Josh’s posts then so be it. We never claimed that moniker, nor is it one that we’ve ever expressed any interest in holding. Personally, I’m proud to have Josh as a co-blogger precisely because our views conflict. You will often find arguments here opining as to how we are winning in Iraq and the GWOT, and you’ll also see arguments suggesting that Iraq was a huge mistake. That does not make ASHC deficient in any category. It makes us more useful and interesting.

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giving it away

As much as I tend these days toward international interventionism, I see a real danger in the simple acceptance of the idea of international law. That, itself, is more of a threat to sovereignty than armies could ever be. It gives it up without a fight and without a thought. Opens the door to tyrants and invites them in.

The UN is a fabulous example but look at how many people just love it.

They LOVE the idea of being ruled by some genocidal despot from the third world who’s been appointed to sit judgment over them.

How messed up is that?

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Where Charlton Heston Stood

Over at Where the Buffalo Roam Peter gives us Charlton Heston’s 1999 NRA Convention Keynote Speech in Denver, which was scheduled shortly after the Columbine shootings in Colorado. A perfect reminder of what he stood for, and against.

Update: Here he is speaking in 1989 on the animating issue of his later life, the Second Amendment.

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Tragic News for Leftists

Due to free markets, capitalism and freedom in general, the world is getting wealthier.

The last quarter century has witnessed remarkable progress of mankind. The world’s per capita inflation-adjusted income rose from $5400 in 1980 to $8500 in 2005.Schooling and life expectancy grew rapidly, while infant mortality and poverty fell just asfast. Compared to 1980, many more countries in the world are democratic today.

The last quarter century also saw wide acceptance of free market policies in both rich and poor countries: from private ownership, to free trade, to responsible budgets, to lower taxes. Three important events mark the beginning of this period. In 1979, Deng Xiao Ping started market reforms in China, which over the quarter century lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. In the same year, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister in Britain, and initiated her radical reforms and a long period of growth. A year later, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and also embraced free market policies. All three of these leaders professed inspiration from the work of Milton Friedman. It is natural, then, to refer to the last quarter century as the Age of Milton Friedman.

Oh!  The agony of it all!

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To Understand Them, You Must Know Them

As Ron Paul’s more disturbing and radical views are emerging, especially how closely he has associated himself with the Mises Institute, it might behoove those of us who consider ourselves on the libertarian side of things to more closely examine who these radicals are.

Certainly we have to understand we have many areas of agreement, but I think it telling that in selecting works of the late Murray Rothbard’s to feature, they would choose some of his most extreme and disturbing works of history at this point in time. Read Murray show not only a great degree of tendentious distortion, but the depth of his loathing, and that of those who would choose this particular piece, in his evisceration of George Washington. Every anti federalist conspiracy theory is presaged here. It is not that he wishes we had been more anarcho capitalist that strikes one, but the seething disgust at any deviation from the faith, even when fighting a war, and the way evidence is presented to paint Washington as an 18th century version of a totalitarian.

Of course, men who can fawn over Milosovic and Putin can twist reality to show whatever they wish.

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Fed Games

Pigs at trough

For a couple of years now, Porkbusters has been on the warpath against wasteful spending in Congress, and although it has had some notable successes (e.g. the “Bridge to Nowhere”), it’s mostly been treading water. The latest battle, dubbed a “Blogger Revolt” by the Club for Growth (via Instapundit) was ignited by the appointment of Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) to the Appropriations Committee, passing over Porkbuster hero, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). For Redstate, Robert Bluey writes:

Bonner may talk a good game when it comes to earmark reform. However, his record is abysmal. The three-term Republican scored just 2% on the Club for Growth’s 2007 RePORK Card, meaning he voted for just one of the 50 anti-pork amendments offered by conservatives. Andy Roth notes that’s the same score as liberal Reps. Steny Hoyer, Bill Jefferson and James Moran. Flake, on the other hand, not only supported all 50, but he introduced many himself.

The National Taxpayers Union scorecard paints an even worse picture. While Flake was earning A’s consistently, Bonner was receiving B’s and C’s. Flake scored 92% in 2006, whereas Bonner had a pathetic 55% on NTU’s scorecard for all tax, spending, trade and regulatory votes.

Clearly the Republican leadership is not any more interested in controlling pork spending than the Democrats. Of course, one of the fundamental reasons for the reluctance is summed up in this statement from Rep. Bonner (my emphasis):

One of my many goals in Congress is to ensure the people of south Alabama get a significant return on their investment in the federal government (taxes). I am here to offer assistance in helping — where appropriate — to return to the people of the First District the tax dollars they send to Washington.

Bonner’s goal is quite common in Congress, a fact noted not just by N.Z. Bear (who cited the quote above), but also by the man who appointed Bonner and sent N.Z. Bear this hypocritical email regarding the announcement (my emphasis):

Jo Bonner fully supports the GOP efforts to put a moratorium on earmarking and the reforms Republicans have unilaterally adopted.

This announcement contrasts sharply with some stunning comments appearing today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch made by a Missouri Democrat who is apparently stuck in the 1990s. “I intend on asking for more and a higher dollar amount,” said Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis. “This is a return on the taxpayers’ investment,” added Clay, expressing a view widely shared in the Capitol.

And there’s the rub. No matter how much politicians say they want to cut pork, the vast majority of them will never follow through, for to do so means political suicide. They are sent to Washington to get back the money paid by taxing their constituents. In essence, the federal government sucks up as much money as it can through taxes, and then congressmen duke it out on the floor, in committees, and in back-room dealing to see who gets the biggest piece of the pie. It’s rather like a giant game of Hungry Hungry Hippos where the taxpayers feed the trough, and their elected officials are the hippos eagerly gulping down as many marbles of largess as they can. That’s how the game is played. That’s the way the system is designed. Until it’s changed, there is little that can be or will be effective in changing the spending behavior of our congressmen.

Considering the above, would Jeff Flake have been a better choice for the Appropriations Committee? Of course! But with so many marbles rolling around the Congressional trough, how likely is it that someone against manning the hippos will be given control of the game? I guess another way of saying this is that pork-barrel spending is not a personnel problem, it’s s structural problem. Change the structure, and then you’ll be able to solve the problem.

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Freedom can’t exist without trusting the untrustworthy

This is an extension of the commentary from this post from MichaelW.

Have you heard the truism that a person is smart, but people are dumb?

On the one hand it’s profoundly true. On the other hand we fail to understand that the opposite is also profoundly true. A person is dumb, but people are smart.

Dumb people, making sub-optimal individual decisions, somehow manage to combine in aggregate into communities that most often are remarkably robust and remarkably effective.

It works with a market, where individuals make poor decisions about what to produce and what to buy. Somehow, with all those individual mistakes the result is highly effective and highly responsive. Compare that flawed mish-mash of poor decisions to what happens when there is directed organization and decision making, usually by experts, and the unwashed masses directing their own lives come out on top. Waaaay on top.

It would also work in education, given a chance.

Do I trust my fundie neighbor to do the best possible job teaching her children? Do I trust the secular unschooler down the street? Do I trust the Muslim who recently immigrated and would rather not have his child in public school? Do I trust the Amish who don’t (I’m told) educate past 8th grade? Do I trust the polyamorist wiccan coven who wants to start a day school?

Not only no, but hell no.

But do I trust them in aggregate? Do I trust the robust nature of the way all of our various choices work together to optimize the end result? Do I trust the flexibility and diversity of knowledge and ideas to mesh into a whole that is by far the most desirable and effective totality of education to advance our country and perhaps our world into an unknowable future?

Yes, I do.

I trust people.

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An Argument Against Public Education

Via Glenn Reynolds, Wired posts an article describing the fight to include evolution in the science curriculum for students in Florida and Texas:

Charles Darwin was born 199 years ago Tuesday, but the debate he ignited about the origins of species rages on. Florida’s department of education will vote next week on a new science curriculum that could be in jeopardy, because some conservative counties oppose it.

Nine of Florida’s 64 counties have passed resolutions over the last two months condemning the new curriculum that explicitly calls for teaching evolution. The resolutions, passed in heavily Christian counties in the state’s northern reaches, demand that evolution be “balanced” with alternative theories, mainly creationist…

Watchdogs say the stakes are high in the pending vote. If Florida backpedals from evolution, Texas may follow suit. Texas is scheduled to update its own science standards this year. In November, an education official was fired for mentioning a pro-evolution lecture. Along with California, Florida and Texas are the largest purchasers of textbooks in the nation.

“Texas buys about 10 percent of all K-12 textbooks, and Florida buys another 8 percent,” said Lawrence Lerner, a science-curriculum expert at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education watchdog. “If they want creationism in their textbooks, Wyoming may not have a choice.”

I still have a hard time swallowing this argument. Is the publishing world so archaic and backwards technologically that they can’t churn out different versions of textbooks for 18% of their customers, while delivering what the other 82% really want? Diane Ravitch made the same case in The Language Police (an excellent book; I highly recommend it), but I didn’t really buy it then either.

Nevertheless, the reason its even an issue is because the state mandates what the curriculum will be for each and every school.

Florida’s current science standards, which tell teachers what their students must learn, don’t mention evolution by name. In 2005, a prominent education think tank gave Florida a failing grade in science teaching, prompting education officials to overhaul the curriculum. The new standards, drafted last October, explicitly called evolution “the fundamental concept underlying all biology.”

But nine counties — Baker, Clay, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Madison, St. Johns, Taylor and Washington — have passed resolutions officially calling for the teaching of evolution to be balanced with alternative explanations of life’s origins, almost certainly religious.

The resolutions have been patterned after the one from St. Johns County, which calls for “teaching the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory rather than teaching evolution as dogmatic fact.”

Critics say the resolutions’ language is thinly veiled creationism — either in the strictly biblical sense, or the more-modern take of “intelligent design,” which purports to use scientific methodology to prove divine intervention.

We’re concerned that we not impose state standards that prevent an open dialogue concerning other theories,” said David Buckles, superintendent of schools in Putnam County, which is also considering opposing the new curriculum. “Did life begin in ice? Or was it the Genesis version? Or intelligent design? We want the pros and cons of all of it.”

Looking just at the bolded portions, isn’t that where the problem lies? Does this issue ever come to a head if there weren’t some state regulators “imposing” rules on the schools? Or am I just some crazy libertarian nutter who doesn’t appreciate the value of a public education (yeah, some value)?

In fact, I do see the value in having an educated public, but over the past 30 years or so I don’t see governments actually accomplishing that task. Instead, we get propagandized curriculum that has little to no bearing on the real world. Classrooms are used as social science labs, and students are treated as the guinea pigs. Whether its the idiots trying to shove PC, multi-culti, white-people-are-racists nonsense down our kids throats, or bible-thumpers filling their heads with religion dressed up as science, I don’t see an educated populace being created. I see a bunch of poorly equipped kids being fed ridiculously antiquated and/or downright false ideas. And to top it all off, we are treated to nanny-staters of all types duking it out in a game of moral oneupmanship for our political amusement. How does any of that add to the value of public education?

I’m one of the lucky ones who can send my kids to private school (barely), but what about all those parents who don’t have that choice? Their kids are left to suffer at the hands of petty bureaucrats and teachers unions, each with their own agenda that’s applied in a “one size fits all” manner, regardless of what might be truly best for the child. And heaven forbid that a teacher develop his or her own method of educating. If that were allowed, then how would the bureaucrats maintain control? Next thing you know, they’ll want merit pay.

For so long as the state is in charge of education, these sorts of problems will only get worse. Are vouchers the answer? I think they would help by putting choice back into the hands of parents. But that wouldn’t do anything about abominations like No Child Left Behind, and the ridiculous wrangling over evolution that comes up again every couple of years. In my opinion, the best thing to do would be to get the state out of the business of education entirely.

By that I don’t mean pulling out all tax dollars. Even though my children don’t actually benefit from it, I don’t have a problem with helping kids get an education. I just have a problem with the government being the one to control and deliver it. Instead, I’d say let all schools be private, and let the government funds used for education now be set aside for use by parents, without any strings attached. They could apply the money towards the school of their choice. And let the schools decide what and how they will teach. If one school doesn’t prepare kids for the future as well as another, then it will see a loss of income. It will be forced to give parents what they want, or go out of business. And for every school that is successful, thus earning a greater share of the tuition, another one will spring up to grab some of that lucrative pie. In the end, we would have schools that are responsive to the needs of children and their parents, and not beholden to local, state or national politics.

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“You grew up in freedom, and you can spit on freedom, because you don’t know what it is not to have it.”

For your viewing pleasure, watch Ayaan Hirsi Ali effortlessly dismantle the typical leftist tropes thrown at her in an interview with Avi Lewis (Naomi Klein’s husband). The quote serving as the title comes across as venomously pointed when read, but when Ali delivers it towards the end of the interview it sounds perfectly reasonable and just.

Enjoy (via Copious Dissent):

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I Approve This Message

(Originally posted at What if?)

From the moment I purchased “Managing Your Money” software many years ago, I realized that Andrew Tobias is a very smart and very amusing fellow. Later, I discovered that Andy is also warm, friendly and has a huge heart. Despite being a huge business and DNC celebrity (he’s the DNC’s treasurer), he frequently takes times to email-correspond with lil’ ol’ me.

Often, Andy and I disagree on a multitude of policy issues. Nevertheless, on at least one issue, we are quite in agreement: gay folks deserve the same rights and responsibilities as the rest of us.

While Andy happens to be gay, I am not. Neither is Jon Kislak, a Floridian active in Republican politics. Mr. Kislak, Andy, I and many others appreciate that your sexual orientation should not be an obstacle to enjoying the same civil rights that heterosexuals have. While I seem unable to put in an excerpt at what if?, please do go to Andy’s site to see what Mr. Kislak has to say. (Just a little warning; you’ll have to scroll down a lot of pro-DNC stuff before you get to it. Forewarned is forearmed! :) )

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His Own Petard?

(Cross Posted at Whatif?)

Mccain_3 When John McCain and George W. Bush were vying for their party’s nomination, I was a McCain fan. How could a person not be impressed by the man who refused to leave Vietnam’s prison camp to stand by his men?

As time has progressed, however, my admiration for McCain lessened. The biggest wound to my opinion of the man was McCain-Feingold. The notion that like-minded people are prevented from pooling their money and expressing themselves about political candidates has always struck me as a clear violation of our free speech rights. No arguments I have ever seen have even mildly dissuaded me from this belief.

Just in the last few days, I had some discussion with those who are strongly in favor of governmentally funded campaign financing. I argued that those with power and money will always find a way to influence politics; the best we can do is to insure that there is full and immediate disclosure as to where funds originate.

My friends responded that “no one pays attention to this”. There may well be truth in this statement. But I argued back that those who pay little or no attention are those who will be voting for someone because they are cute and charismatic, or because of some 10 second soundbite they saw in the middle of a reality show.

I then asked my friends about government financing. “Who gets the money? How much? When do you judge that others are ineligible for funding? What are the caps, and how do you determine them?” And so forth. This was met with: “We have discussed this before, and we will not change one another’s minds, so I am ending the conversation now.” How convenient. Questions are asked that cannot be answered – so the discussion stops.

Well, the discussion is not stopping for McCain now. With wealthy opposition, McCain is growling about his competitor who can self-fund as McCain cannot.

Money finds its way into the process no matter how many artificial barriers get imposed and artificial categories created for it. Americans express their support by their pocketbook — and they turn to other mechanisms when thwarted in efforts to directly support candidates. That accounts for the rise of 527s and their mostly-negative impact on national politics.

Now the author of the BCRA wants to complain about running against a candidate who self-funds. John McCain can’t have it both ways. If he dislikes the wealthy who have to spend their own money to challenge the power system, then get rid of the Byzantine mess that his McCain-Feingold bill has created — and its attendant insults to the First Amendment.

Is McCain being hoist by his own petard? Perhaps. We could find joy in a bit of universal justice at this spectacle. Instead, I would prefer to see this ransacking of our free speech rights simply killed and given the funeral it so richly deserves.

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Harming Poor Kids


(Cross Posted at Whatif?)

The next time one of your liberal associates begins to rail about how conservatives are selfish and don’t care about the less fortunate among us – you show them this.

Chicago is gearing up for another round of tumult from the closing of possibly more than a half dozen failing schools. Whatever the Chicago Public Schools administration does to solve this problem, the parents of students have no choice but to cope.

Middle-class families exercise school choice by loading up a moving van and relocating to a suburb with good schools. The rich can afford private schools. Only the poor — often minorities in inner cities with under-performing schools — are stuck with little or no choice.

President Bush tossed out an idea Monday to open up choice for poor kids but, as usual, it was rejected out of hand by Democrats and teacher unions. The $300 million Pell Grants for Kids proposed by the president in his State of the Union message is modeled on the popular Pell Grant program that helps poor kids go to college. Basically, the Bush plan would turn over tax dollars to parents to send their children to private schools.

In other words, vouchers.

Bush’s proposal was shouted down by Democratic lawmakers and unions with the usual complaint that vouchers pull resources away from urban schools.


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“We are tired of leaders who rather than asking what we can do for our country, ask nothing of us at all.”

That’s part of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ response to the SOTU last night.

Jim Hoft’s reaction: “Huh?” and drawing the obvious comparison to another famous redistributionist.

My first thought was: “Ask? Well I’d be much happier if they’d ‘ask’; that implies I can say no. Instead they all seem to pretty much insist while staring down the barrel of a gun.”

As a bonus, I can pretty accurately predict what Milton Friedman would have said:

President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”… Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.

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Gates Capitalism

Commenting on Bill Gates’ advocacy for “kinder capitalism,” Steven Bainbridge notes:

But when did Bill Gates ever believe in capitalism? He’s an inveterate monopolist and has been since the beginning. Monopolists hate real capitalism, precisely because they hate competition. Monopolists love corporate social responsibility because it creates barriers to entry. So of course Bill Gates is going to turn “a cold shoulder to the blessings capitalism bestows.”

His follow-up is here.

Needless to say, Prof. Bainbridge is exactly right. In fact, it was something that Adam Smith warned of long ago:

To widen the market and to narrow the competition is always the interest of the dealers … The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

The Wealth of Nations, Book I Chapter XI

Another Smith quote seems appropriate to this situation as well:

I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

Here, here.

[HT: Instapundit]

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