Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Happily, you need not invest the next few weeks of your life reading the 1,990-page House overhaul of the health-insurance -- and by implication, the healthcare -- industry. A convenient summary has been provided, compliments of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that the American people shall henceforth be:
Watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. ... [A]t every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. ... [U]nder pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, ... place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored.
All in favor say aye. The rest of you can go to hell.
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
During World War II, Congress enacted YEAR-ROUND Daylight Saving Time, again to conserve energy. In September 1945, at the war's end, what was officially designated as"War Time" was again repealed, leaving the practice entirely up to states and localities. This created a patchwork system, in which different states would start or come off Daylight Saving Time on different dates, if at all. As a result, United Airlines reportedly had to publish twenty-seven different time tables each year. So it was the airlines, along with other transportation industries, that lobbied for national uniformity, which was embodied in the federal Uniform Time Act of April 1966.
Under this act, state governments can exempt themselves from Daylight Saving, as long as the exemption applies to the entire state (or if the state is divided into more than one time zone, to at least the area encompassing one of the zones). Only two states still take advantage of this option: Arizona and Hawaii. Congress also subsequently played around with the starting and ending dates, shifting them for assorted reasons, with the last change (so far!) being enacted in 1987.
Yet there has never been any solid evidence that Daylight Saving Time saves energy. For an economic critique of the practice, see the article by William F. Shugart II,"Time Change Could Prove Hazardous to Your Health":
Nowadays, democracy’s defects are more likely to be seen as relatively benign ― its devotees like to quote Winston Churchill’s quip that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” ― or as defects not of democracy itself, but of the party shenanigans and other frictions that keep the democratic system from operating more fully. Thus, people complain of “gridlock” and bemoan a “do-nothing” Congress because these things impede the unrestricted functioning of democracy.
Public choice theorists have written countless articles and books spelling out the manifold ways in which democracy, viewed as a political decision rule for making collective choices by means of voting, may fail to aggregate the preferences of individual constituents into an outcome that represents the “will of the people.” More than fifty years ago, Kenneth Arrow showed that no such aggregation is possible, given certain seemingly appealing restrictions on the nature of people’s preferences, such as transitivity (if A is preferred to B, and B is preferred to C, then C cannot be preferred to A).
None of this theorizing had the slightest effect on the common people’s idea that democracy can and should translate the “will of the people” into collective choices; nor has it kept generations of politicians from talking as if such a translation were possible and desirable. (Political practice, in contrast to political rhetoric, has always proceeded in the usual corrupt fashion, featuring scheming plutocrats, privilege-seeking special-interest groups, and the iron law of oligarchy.)
I mention these things only by way of introduction, however, because here I wish to claim that democracy’s gravest defect has little or nothing to do with the defects traditionally ascribed to it. I maintain that its severest defect, indeed, a flaw so critical that it gives democracy the potential to destroy civilization, pertains to its effect in corrupting the people’s moral judgment.
To see how this corruption comes about, let us begin by recognizing that in many people’s eyes, certain government functionaries may legitimately take actions that would be condemned as criminal if anyone else were to take them. If you or I were to threaten a neighbor with violence unless he handed over a specified sum of money, we would be universally recognized as engaged in extortion or attempted robbery. Yet, the functionaries of St. Tammany Parish, the state of Louisiana, and the United States of America routinely obtain money from me in precisely this manner. And although many people subject to such takings may complain that the amounts demanded are excessive, hardly anybody describes the exactions as constituting nothing more than extortion or armed robbery. Why not? Because the functionaries who assess and collect these sums of money ― which they style “taxes,” not loot, plunder, or swag ― are democratically elected “public officials.”
From a moral point of view, I am hard pressed to see how their employment status gives them a defensible right to act in ways that everyone would recognize as criminal if undertaken by a private individual. In political theory, a representative democratic government is said to derive its just powers by delegation from the people who are governed, with their consent. I assure you that I have never consented to have the various governments rob me, especially for the financing of countless activities that I consider to be useless, destructive, or inherently criminal. Regardless of the uses to which a government puts its booty, however, the people cannot justly delegate to political representatives any rights that they do not possess. If I do not have a right to plunder my neighbor, how can I delegate that right to a government functionary who purports to represent me?
The situation is the same with regard to innumerable other actions that governments carry out, including unjust imprisonment, murder, and demands for compliance with so-called “regulations.” If you or I were to demand the same actions that regulators commonly prescribe, our demands would be plainly seen to constitute unjustified intimidation and lawless coercion, at best. Likewise, if I were to send a private Predator drone to Pakistan to fire explosive missiles into villages, killing women, children, and other innocent persons, I would be seen as a monstrous mass murderer, and demands would be made that I be apprehended and “brought to justice” or killed. Yet when President Obama causes deaths in this way, no such demands are made. How did Barack Obama come by the right to kill innocent people? By democratic election to the presidency of the United States, of course. Most people actually believe, and act on the belief, that mere election to a political office can endow a person with standing to disregard the moral requirements applicable to people in general. And not only the elected official, but all those officials beneath him in the chain of command ― nobody demands that the technician who sits comfortably in the United States and directs the exact operation of the lethal drone be brought to justice; he, as the saying goes, is “only following orders.”
In the war-crimes tribunals conducted after World War II, many defendants pleaded not guilty on the grounds that they were only following orders. This defense, however, was ruled inadmissible, because the top authorities of the Nazi regime, from Adolf Hitler on down, were themselves viewed as war criminals, albeit unavailable in many instances to stand trial as such. In contrast, none of the military officers and men who carried out the fire bombings of Tokyo, Hamburg, and Dresden were indicted; nor were those who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; nor were Churchill and Truman (Franklin Roosevelt having already departed this realm of political strife). Strange to say, Hitler himself originally came to power through democratic procedures, which shows that sometimes democracy is not enough to absolve a leader of criminal acts. Winning a war may also prove decisive when innocence and guilt are being decided and punishments administered.
I fully understand how most Americans would react to the preceding observations. They would say that in wartime, certain actions that would be regarded as crimes during peacetime automatically cease to have this character. It’s an interesting theory: if the leader, especially a democratically elected one, prosecutes a war, he thereby overturns the entire basis of morality ― provided of course that his side wins the war. Killing the innocent, for example, carries no stigma; nor does wanton destruction of property, unjust punishment or imprisonment, and a thousand other actions that would be regarded as flagrant crimes during peacetime.
As the government has grown in this country (and others) during the past century, the scope of government action has widened greatly. Government officials now demand vastly greater sums of money from their subjects, and they demand compliance with vastly more regulations. They and they alone may act in these ways without bringing moral denunciation down on themselves. No wonder they sometimes deport themselves as gods: by their election they have been loosed from the moral bonds that constrain you and me, and, thus unencumbered, they have soared to ever greater heights of criminality and savagery. “When the president does it,” Richard Nixon insisted, “that means that it is not illegal.” Interviewer David Frost pursued the point, asking: “the dividing line is the president’s judgment?” To which Nixon responded, “Yes, and the dividing line and, just so that one does not get the impression, that a president can run amok in this country and get away with it, we have to have in mind that a president has to come up before the electorate.” Ah, yes, blessed election ― that “accountability moment,” as George W. Bush described it ― surely covers a multitude of sins. We may think of those sins as democracy in action.
Libertarians often argue about whether they might more successfully recruit followers by showing that a free society works best or by showing that an unfree society is unjust. Most libertarians, as I see the matter, have chosen to base their arguments on utilitarian grounds, often because they despair of ever convincing the average person that government officials chronically, or even intrinsically, violate moral strictures. Although I have no doubt whatsoever that free societies do work better than unfree ones, that they deliver, for example, greater prosperity and more rapid economic progress for the masses, I am skeptical that we can cut deeply into the current mass support for the welfare-warfare-therapeutic state unless we open people’s eyes to see that the government actions they now support ― and demand ever more of ― are utterly immoral because they violate individuals’ just rights on a gigantic scale and because the government leaders who propose and implement these measures acquire not an ounce of moral justification from their democratic selection for office. “What works best” remains ever open to dispute, as public policy debate on almost any current issue illustrates: each side has its academic experts, prestigious scientists, or other authorities to prop up its position, and although these two sides rarely offer equally compelling evidence, the lay person can scarcely be expected to see through all of the disinformation and rhetorical flimflam.
Everybody understands, however, without any advanced instruction in the matter, that murder and robbery are wrong, and that no one has a justifiable right to bully his neighbors simply because he does not like the way in which they are conducting their lives. The greatest barrier to libertarian progress continues to be that most people give a moral pass to such criminal actions when democratically elected functionaries take them. This presumed moral immunity by virtue of election to public office is the sheerest superstition ― a montrous mistake in moral reasoning ― and if people can be brought to see it for what it really is, then they will be able to act more effectively to regain some of their lost freedom.
Jonathan J. Bean
That thought came to me as I read about the demise of an institute (at Hamilton College) that did everything right, yet the overlords of Political Correctness purged themselves of enemies and “deviationists.” I use these terms because the notion that all-is-political, enemies-must-be-destroyed is linked so strongly to communism and its close cousin national socialism.
In the above unhappy story, Mark Bauerlein tries to see a silver lining by noting that the Institute survives outside the college. Students can go there and read books for which they receive no academic credit, of course. If ever there was a case study in how much the Left prizes control of higher education, this is it.
The next time you are tempted to think that much of what happens is a “misunderstanding” or “good intentions gone awry,” please banish the thought. When push comes to shove, there are those who would put a bullet in your head if this were a different place and time. Instead, they kill ideas by depriving them of air space on campus. No institute, no nonconformist faculty.
Or, as Stalin put it: “no people, no problem.” We, the few, will retire some day and then there will be nobody to speak out against the barbarians.
Also, with so many criticizing Julie Jacobson for taking the photo, Reed feels it is appropriate to point out that she “has more combat time than the aggregate for Bush II, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Obama, Biden, Gonzalez, Clinton, Perle, Abrams, Kristol, Feith, Podhoretz, Krauthammer, George Will, Dershowitz, and Gates. These men, if the word is appropriate, killed that kid. Jacobson just caught them in the act.”
Jane S. Shaw
Jay's argument in favor includes a sample syllabus for an American history course.
Aeon J. Skoble
David T. Beito
First, I believe a rape occurred. Second, the victim -- now in her forties -- has asked repeatedly and without duress from Polanski to have the matter dropped. She has settled a civil case with him. She has publicly forgiven him. And, for me, that settles it. The victim should control whether a prosecution occurs. Period. Third, it is a scathing damnation of our legal/court system for the victim to claim that the system traumatized her far more than the rape itself. The authorities should not be allowed to continue 'raping' her.
Fourth, I do not believe Polanski received a fair trial. I think there was clear and extensive misconduct by the judge (and others) in the original proceeding. Fifth, I recommend the HBO documentary"Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" without which I do not believe prosecution would be occurring. Sixth, the state is clearly pursuing prosecution not for the victim but on its own behalf because Polanski fled its jurisdiction and lived well thereafter. In short, Polanski has flouted authority and 'authority' is pissed.
Seventh, this is an example of the U.S. imposing legal jurisdiction around the world. A bad precedent is being set. Eighth, I do not believe that Switzerland has not received a quid pro quo for nabbing Polanski.
Ninth, it is fascinating to watch political reactions. E.g. the founder of ultra-progressive Feminist Majority thinks Polanski should not be arrested. According to the L.A. Times"My personal thoughts are let the guy go," said Peg Yorkin, founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation."It's bad a person was raped. But that was so many years ago. The guy has been through so much in his life. It's crazy to arrest him now. Let it go. The government could spend its money on other things." Amazing.
Tenth, you know how sick you were of hearing about Michael Jackson... Well, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
For more commentary, please visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
TASER Restrictions: Aim for what now? [Quoting from the Arizona Republic.]
The maker of Taser stun guns is advising officers to avoid shooting suspects in the chest with the 50,000-volt weapon, saying that it could pose an extremely low risk of an"adverse cardiac event."
The advisory, issued in an Oct. 12 training bulletin, is the first time that Taser International has suggested there is any risk of a cardiac arrest related to the discharge of its stun gun. But Taser officials said Tuesday that the bulletin does not state that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest. They said the advisory means only that law-enforcement agencies can avoid controversy over the subject if their officers aim at areas other than the chest.
So what use is the TASER if you can't fire it at the largest target possible - center mass? We guess we'll be going back to shooting and killing non-compliant subjects and mentally disturbed individuals shortly.
First of all...WONDERFUL. Even a cop I semi-respect predicts that taser restrictions will mean"going back to shooting and killing non-compliant subjects and mentally disturbed individuals shortly." Note: he doesn't say"violent" or"threatening" subjects but uses the word"non-compliant." As in the non-protestor who was forced to his knees by police for a trophy photo during the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh? If the student (who was returning home from a pizza parlor) has been less compliant in kneeling before the ring of policemen, would he have been tasered and/or shot? What an honororable profession it is to be a policeman!
Second and last of all...I wish people would stop calling tasers"non-lethal." There are dozens of cases in which tasers have clearly caused death. What they are is"less lethal" than guns...at least, guns in the hands of cops. In the hands of people who use guns responsibly, the weapons prevent violence and do not cause it.
For more commentary, please visit www.wendymcelroy.com.
If you’re interested, here’s an article about Cruz:
Jonathan J. Bean
Limbaugh’s defense highlights several problems for libertarians and conservatives:
First, playing defense 24/7 is no way to move forward. It places libertarians and conservatives in the untenable position of answering “when did you stop being a racist?” Repeated denials inspire the race hustlers to keep asking the same question. To Rush Limbaugh: You wanted to purchase a football team that played both offense and defense. There is a lesson here.
Second, the Left dominance of higher education really does matter. Conservatives and classic liberals are in a state of denial about the insidious influence K-16 education has on the professions that shape public opinion: schools of journalism, education, law, social work are monoliths of the Left. Add the power of left-wing accreditation bodies and you have “the sound of one hand clapping”—the left hand, of course.
Above all, there is the problem of ignorance and miseducation of our youth. Yes, surveys may show that graduates retain some of the values they had prior to entering college. Yet they are not educated well enough to refute left-wing attacks.
Let me give you an example: Since 1995, I have advised College Republicans and Campus Libertarians. The knowledge base of libertarian and conservative students has seriously eroded. If I ask “why are you a libertarian? Why are you a conservative?” The answer is superficial: “because I am not a liberal.”
These students may retain a vague belief in individual freedom, nondiscrimination, limited government and meritocracy but they fail to argue effectively against the Left. Why? Because they have never been exposed to information subverting the smug assumption that Leftists have always have been “the angels of history.” Conservatives and libertarians are (and always have been) the villains, according to this fairy tale.
That brings me to my book Race and Liberty in America: The Essential Reader (2009). This reader debunks the crazy notion that belief in individual freedom, capitalism, and colorblind law = racism. The book highlights how Frederick Douglass, Branch Rickey, Zora Neale Hurston, Clarence Thomas and others consistently championed the bedrock belief that all discrimination is wrong—and they embraced a philosophy of limited government. They experienced first-hand how the State acts as sponsor of discrimination.
Back to the football analogy. Here is the offense: those “angels of history” on the Left—labor unions, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and LBJ—committed some of the worst racist actions in our history. The Left ignores (or “contextualizes”) Wilson’s segregation of the federal government, LBJ’s declaration that an anti-lynching bill was worse than lynching itself, or FDR’s defense of quotas to keep Jews from overwhelming Harvard (where he sat on the Board of Trustees). FDR also wrote that interracial “mingling” (marriage) produced “horrific results.” As president, FDR blocked Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and interned Japanese Americans during World War II. Not surprising.
It is time for so-called liberals to give up the race hustle and learn their history. In so doing, they may discover some heroes of the classic liberal sort—neither Left nor Right—but committed to racial freedom and equality.
David T. Beito
A new report from Treasury Department's independent watchdog, however, has poured a bucket of cold water on this dubious claim. The report finds it"extremely unlikely" that the taxpayers will recoup their losses, much less make a"profit."
Cooley’s intentions raise a number of questions. He says he will “target stores who are profiting and selling to people who don't qualify for medicinal marijuana.” Since he has no medical expertise how is he to determine who does and does not deserve relief? This becomes just another case of law enforcement putting their ill informed judgments ahead of doctors. Also, physicians, hospitals, laboratories, and insurance companies all make profits supplying all sorts of medical services why should medical marijuana clinics be any different? In addition, city government has “been unable to pass an ordinance governing the dispensaries.” How can people follow rules that do not exist? It seems that whether or not you are in compliance depends upon the whim of Steve Cooley. Lastly, because robberies, rapes, and murders occur in Los Angles County on a daily basis would not the public be better served by a different employment of limited law enforcement resources?
Clearly, the people living in Los Angles County are in the same predicament as those residing in San Diego County. They both are saddled with vicious district attorneys who care much more about the welfare of their political careers than they do about the well being of the citizens they are supposed to protect.
Cross posted on The Trebach Report
Yet, to allow the Rev. Al Sharpton to comment on the matter of Mr. Limbaugh’s removal from a group bidding on a sports team (due to concern over his past comments on race) is a perfect example of how the question of race causes Americans to immediately slide a few standard deviations down the Bell Curve. I suppose it does make sense though, as who better to tell us all about a racist than one of our country’s supreme race baiters, Mr. Tawana Brawley himself?