Liberty & Power Archive 3-05-03 to 7-31-03

Blog Archives

David T. Beito; Stephen J. Davies; Ivan Eland; Constantine Gutzman; Thomas Fleming; Keith Halderman; David M. Hart; Jeffrey Rogers Hummel; Wendy McElroy; John Majewski; Charles W. Nuckolls; Scott P. O'Bryan T. Hunt Tooley.

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Editor's Note: The Liberty & Power blog initially was run by David Beito. On July 30, 2003 it became a group blog.

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In the wake of the terrible Supreme Court decision approving preferences at the University of Michigan, many conservatives and libertarians have embraced the alternative agenda of"ideological diversity." They reason that because the courts and the Bush administration have now endorsed the goal of"diversity" (in reality biological diversity) the concept should be expanded to include the politically incorrect. The latest example is today's article by Robert Maranto in The Baltimore Sun. Maranto teaches political science at Villanova University. He writes:

"....just as women and minorities are 'protected classes,' conservative college professors should be able to sue on account of discrimination.

After a decade of reform, the University of Michigan could have intellectual diversity to match its ethnic diversity. In academia, shouldn't ideas matter more than skin color?"

Critics of preferences should think twice before they go down this road. While I share their frustrations with the status quo, the"ideological diversity" approach is wrongheaded. If imposed, the actual result would be to foster a sanitized environment in higher education (much like we see today in many high schools) and thus further undermine academic freedom.

The solution to the evils posed by the diversity police is not to replace, or"supplement" them, with another social engineering agenda. Instead, in my view, the University of Michigan decision underlines the importance of reviving the older, but more noble and rewarding, values of merit and non-discrimination.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:30 p.m. EST


With some exceptions, Islam bashing has become rife on the right. While advocates of the ideals of the rule of law and liberty can not deny that Islamic countries have taken the wrong road, they have been remarkably reticent to encourage, or even acknowledge, constructive non-governmental efforts to change the situation. For example, few have considered the uphill battle of groups like The Minaret of Freedom to foster an ideological revolution within Islam.

For more information, check out this Reason Magazine interview with Imad A. Ahmad, the director of The Minaret.

It is worthy of note that, despite his agenda, Ahmad has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:33 p.m. EST


Cobden's image of Imperial Britain as a harmless Don Quixote figure is a bit misleading. The consequences of "forcible liberation" are of course bloody destrcution of life and property. As I was thinking about this issue I came across an article in the Guardian by George Monbiot "America is a Religion: US Leaders see themselves as priests of a Divine Mission to Rid the World of its Demons" where the US intervention in Iraq is interpreted as an act by the "chosen people" to bring "liberty and democracy" to the world by force of arms. This is not a new phenomenon of course. Napoleon thought he could end "feudalism" and bring "liberty" to the people of Europe by force of arms. That is, until the Spanish people invented "guerrilla warfare" after the French invasion and occupation of Spain in 1808 and after the Russians refined it in 1812, thus undoing Napoleon's grand scheme of "forcible liberation". The British thought a similar strategy of liberating the world by force of arms could be used against the Russians after the failure of the 1848 Revolutions in Easter Europe. It was this foolish effort in the Crimea which prompted Cobden to call the Empire a "Don Quixote". The current US adminstration's desire to "liberate" and "nation build" in the middle east seems much more Napoleonic than Quixotic in my view, and just as likely to succeed as Napoleon's.

Posted by David M. Hart 1.00 PM Central Time.

David M. Hart : THE DON QUIXOTE OF THE GLOBE 07-30-03

As a fan of Richard Cobden I am repeatedly reminded of the following passage by the shennanigans of the U.S. government in Afghanistan and Iraq (and now it seems Liberia as well). The speech was given in December 1854 when the Crimean War against Russia was underway and more troops were needed on the ground and the other great powers of Europe were urging peace on the warring parties (sound familiar?). Cobden asked the pertinent question in Parliament whether the UK now saw itself as "the Don Quixotes of Europe, to go about fighting for every cause where we find that some one has been wronged." It looks like the US is set to become the Don Quixote of the entire globe, but where is our "Richard Cobden" in Parliament or Congress urging restraint or even abstention from the use of violence in international affairs?

From Cobden's Speeches, Vol. II, "Russian War", Speech 1 in paragraph II.1.8 (We have put Cobden's main speeches online at The Library of Economics and Liberty.)

But I want to know what is the advantage of having the vote of a people like that in your favour, if they are not inclined to join you in action? There is, indeed, a wide distinction between the existence of a certain opinion in the minds of a people and a determination to go to war in support of that opinion. I think we were rather too precipitate in transferring our opinion into acts; that we rushed to arms with too much rapidity; and that if we had abstained from war, continuing to occupy the same ground as Austria and Prussia, the result would have been, that Russia would have left the Principalities, and have crossed the Pruth; and that, without a single shot being fired, you would have accomplished the object for which you have gone to war. But what are the grounds on which we are to continue this war, when the Germans have acquiesced in the proposals of peace which have been made? Is it that war is a luxury? Is it that we are fighting—to use a cant phrase of Mr. Pitt's time—to secure indemnity for the past, and security for the future? Are we to be the Don Quixotes of Europe, to go about fighting for every cause where we find that some one has been wronged? In most quarrels there is generally a little wrong on both sides; and, if we make up our minds always to interfere when any one is being wronged, I do not see always how we are to choose between the two sides. It will not do always to assume that the weaker party is in the right, for little States, like little individuals, are often very quarrelsome, presuming on their weakness, and not unfrequently abusing the forbearance which their weakness procures them. But the question is, on what ground of honour or interest are we to continue to carry on this war, when we may have peace upon conditions which are satisfactory to the great countries of Europe who are near neighbours of this formidable Power? There is neither honour nor interest forfeited, I think, in accepting these terms, because we have already accomplished the object for which it was said this war was begun.

The Crimean War did however produce some unforeseen benefits: Cobden made some great anti-war speeches, an interesting poem was written on "The Charge of the Light Brigade", Florence Nightingale exposed the corruption and incompetence of the British Army's medical service, a young Russian officer by the name of Tolstoy started to become disillusioned with war, and the Russian defeat gave reform-minded bureaucrats an opportunity to urge the abolition of serfdom in Russia which came several months before Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation in the US.

Maybe there is an Iraqi "Tolstoy" somewhere in Baghdad gathering his or her thoughts for the next great anti-war novel...

Posted by David M. Hart 11.40 AM Central Time.


It is my pleasure to announce the birth of a new blog at HNN which will focus on (but not be limited to) the themes of liberty and power. A distinguished group of scholars have agreed to join our little group including Thomas Fleming, Stephen J. Davies, David M. Hart, Charles W. Nuckolls, Scott P. O'Bryan, and Jeff Hummel. Their biographies are shown above. Others will be added soon.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:23 a.m. EST


Signs of progress. John R. MacArthur in an article for In These Times has a dead-on critique of liberal foreign policy interventionism. For once, it comes from the left, not the right.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:23 a.m. EST


In the past 24 hours, five more Americans have been killed in Iraq.....yet many libertarian bloggers remain silent or preoccupied with other issues, such as the nuances of copyright law. C'mon on guys, speak up.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:51 p.m. EST


My colleague, Charles W. Nuckolls, the director of the Alabama Scholars Association , is getting much local publicity lately (see here and here ) because of his stand defending free speech at the University of Alabama. University administrators have banned all exterior window displays in student residential halls, presumably including American flags, posters showing Malcolm X declare"By Any Means Necessary," or posters of rock stars. The ban does not include displays on hallway doors, however. Why the distinction?

In comments which show an amazing ignorance of the American heritage of free political expression Residential Life Director Lisa Skelton offered the following rationale:"In order to make [the university] more welcolming and in order for us not to be a censor at the same time, we had to say no to everything."

Get it? Ms. Skelton elaborates:

"A floor is a community, and what is displayed in the communty should be a community decision. If they put it on a Burke Hall window, it makes it look like it expressed the entire community's opinion rahter than an individuals."

The controversy became public when Byron Rush White, the professor-in-residence at a residential hall, refused to cooperate with the policy. Professor White deserves the applause of all defenders of academic freedom.

We might have a change to win this one. The most notable development is that the Foundation for Individual Rights has joined the fight against the ban. Stay tuned.

Posted by David T. Beito at 6:16 p.m. EST


Justin Raimondo discusses his recent dust-up with the History News Network and our own Rick Shenkman. I have often enjoyed reading Raimondo's columns and gained much useful information from them. Raimondo's attack in this case strikes me, to say the least, as over the top. Both Rick and the folks at HNN have always gone out of their way to treat me fairly as I express my antiwar and anti-PC heresies.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:16 a.m. EST


Iranian bloggers are criticizing CNN's decision to sit on a video showing an Iranian government attack on student dormatories. According to an article by Gary Metz at Iran va Jahan,"CNN is refusing to air the student's footage, claiming it would endanger the his life. But since they refused to air the footage the story has not received international attention and his life is now in grave danger."

The emerging Iranian revolution is one of the most encouraging developments in the last decade. The media should be far more aggressive in covering it.

It is unfortunate that critics of the Iraq war have been almost entirely MIA on this issue.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:59 a.m. EST


The NAACP's frivilous law suit against the gun industry has been thrown out by a federal judge. It should have never gotten to that stage.

Of course, there is an irony. The historical literature provides overwhelming evidence that blacks have been the leading victims of gun control in American history. Gun control was a staple of such legislation as the slave codes, the black codes, and subsequent laws in the Jim Crow South restricting cheap handguns. Many black leaders, including Ida Wells and Ella Baker, recognized the supreme importance of the right of self-defense. Nearly forty years later, Malcolm X's words still ring true:

"I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns. The only thing I've ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it's time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a shotgun or a rifle." Malcolm X,"The Ballot or the Bullet," in Irving J. Rein, ed., The Relevant Rhetoric, New York: The Free Press, 1969), 67-68.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:59 a.m. EST


According to an article by Stephanie Armour in USA Today,"Diversity Programs are coming under intensified scrutiny amid a weak economy and new research showing that racial and gender diversity has virtually no impact on bottom-line performance."

The article also has some unflattering information about diversity indoctrination....err training....programs which now plague workplaces in corporate America and countless colleges and universities.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:22 p.m. EST


As the Iraqi guerrilla war grows in intensity, I can't help thinking of Douglas MacArthur's wise advice in 1949:"Anyone who commits the American Army in the Asian mainland should have his head examined."

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:45 p.m. EST


About a decade ago, academics and journalists made much of H.L. Mencken's alleged anti-semitism. One late-night comedy show even gave the name"Mencken" to a pro-Nazi fictional character. When all was said and done, however, the case against Mencken was weak. His comments about Jews (while sometimes offensive by today's standards) were probably no worse than those he ascribed to other ethnic groups. Just as importantly, when others were silent, Mencken had a long history defending the rights of Jewish intellectuals who were victims of the early-twentieth century American thought police.

More provocatively, during the 1930s, he urged (see Marion Elizabeth Rogers, ed., The Impossible H.L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories(New York: Doubleday, 1991), 635-39) that we open our doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. Meanwhile, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has usually been given a free pass for such actions, was turning them away. Most famously, of course, in 1939, FDR barred the St. Louis (filled with Jews fleeing Germany) from American ports.

Now, new evidence has been uncovered that Harry Truman, another liberal, and often conservative, icon, often made anti-semitic comments which were far more virulent than any uttered by Mencken. In an article for Front Page Magazine, for example, Jason Maoz quotes Truman as stating that when the Jews"have power, physical, financial or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty."

Bess Truman shared these views and acted on them by adopting a lifetime policy (with her husband's assent) of prohibiting all Jews from entering their home in Independence, Missouri.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:45 a.m. EST


Stuart Taylor Jr. has weighed into the controversy over the outrageous violation of Steve Hinkle's free speech rights by McCarthyesque PC administrators at California Polytechnic State University:

"The episode provides a window into the politically correct censorship that polluted so many of our nation's campuses. For seeking peacefully and politely to exercise his First Amendment rights, Hinkle was subjected to a seven-hour disciplinary hearing, from which his lawyer was barred."

As a result, Hinkle was found guilty of"disruption" and ordered to apologize. Fortunately, he has stood his ground and refused to do so. He deserves the enthusiastic support of believers in the First Amendment (left and right) everywhere.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:10 a.m. EST


During the last week, I have been greatly alarmed by an ongoing, and blatant, PC attempt to impose political censorship at the University of Alabama. It is yet more evidence that the greatest threat to the first amendment today comes from the left, not the right. For this reason, I especially look forward to reading David E. Bernstein's latest book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws.

Bernstein already has a fine track record as a researcher and writer. His other recent book, Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, is one of the most provocative and compelling works in black history published during the last decade. A copy should be on the shelf of every specialist in the field.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:54 p.m. EST


In a well-argued op-ed piece opposing the deployment of U.S. troops to Liberia, William F. Buckley Jr. writes:"The nation-changing program in Iraq is going muddily, and it is good news that the Iraqi guerrillas don't have weapons of mass destruction at hand, but rifle fire and an occasional hand grenade serve their political purposes. They aren't enough to drive Coalition forces out of the country, but they are enough to give off a Chechnyan smell of perpetual armed resistance."

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:47 a.m. EST


Alina Stefanescu has called my attention to a new Cato Institute study by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. which reveals that the Federal Register is now longer than ever. More proof (if any was needed) that Bush is just another big-government politician.

As American soldiers continue to die in Iraq , many, but by no means all, of the libertarian bloggers who I respect remain silent, or virtually silent, on the war. Why don't they speak out? I know from personal experience that their insights can shed much light on this issue.


Seven more American soldiers have been wounded in Iraq with no light at the end of the tunnel, yet Dubya contemplates sending in even more troops. Conservatives angrily dismiss the Q (quagmire) word but few terms can better describe this mess.

On a related world policing note, it is now apparent that thousands of troops will also go to Liberia. Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute has spoken out against this new commitment:"It is unsound strategically to send our military personnel in harm's way when there is no vital security interest at state. Even worse, it is is immoral to risk their lives in such ventures." Well said!

Meanwhile, Howard Dean reveals himself to be a hollow alternative to the foreign policy status quo by supporting the deployment of troops to Liberia as a means to"head off a human rights crisis." Dean lamely rationalizes his stand by arguing that the"situation in Liberia is significantly different from the situation in Iraq."

Through it all, American troops, already spread thin, are caught in the middle as home defense takes second place to endless bipartisan Wilsonian wars of"liberation."

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:42 a.m. EST


Erin O'Connor is now publicizing the case of Mr. Steve Hinkle, an undergraduate and a member of the College Republicans, who was found guilty by the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) at San Luis Obispo on the charge of"disruption" of a" campus event."

Hinkle's crime was that he posted an ordinary flier in a public place advertising a talk by black conservative Mason Weaver, author of It's OK to Leave the Plantation. Some students, who unbenownst to Hinkle were holding an unauthorized meeting while he was posting the flier, found it"offensive" and complained to school administrators.

At a lengthy hearing, Cornel Morton, vice president of student affairs, condescended to offer the following pearls of wisdom to Mr. Hinkle:

"You are a white member of the CPCR. To students of color this may be a collision of experience...The chemistry has racial implications and you are naive not to acknowledge them." In less the forty years, California the state that struck a blow for liberty with the free speech movement, has become a place which empowers the likes of Morton to interpret our first amendment rights.

I am convinced after reading the available facts on the case at the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that it is Mr. Morton, not Mr. Hinkle, who most deserves investigation, though this time it should be on charges of"disrupting" the first amendment.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:38 a.m. EST


In his his article discussing Diane Ravitch's much needed book, The Language Police, John Leo asks the following:

"Which of the following stories would be too biased for schools to allow on tests? (1) Overcoming daunting obstacles, a blind man climbs Mount McKinley; (2) dinosaurs roam the Earth in prehistoric times; (3) an Asian-American girl, whose mother is a professor, plays checkers with her grandfather and brings him pizza. As you probably guessed, all three stories are deeply biased." For why, see here.

While I have not yet read Ravitch's book, somehow I doubt that the PC test writers encountered any protests from the American Civil Liberties Union and/or the National Education Association.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:08 p.m. EST


My good friend Todd J. Olson has called my attention to a thoughtful piece by John McWhorter, "Blacks Should Feel Insulted," which deals with the Supreme Court decision on preferences. Here is a sample:

"The decision ratifies a practice that black Americans themselves overwhelmingly deplore. Too often lost is that while racial preference advocates coo about the importance of 'diverse' perspectives in classrooms, black students tend not to appreciate being singled out this way....The undergraduate-written Black Guide to Harvard insists:"We are not here to provide diversity training for Kate or Timmy before they go out to take over the world."

Meanwhile, as links provided by Ralph E. Luker show, the fall-out from Maureen Dowd's hate-mongering piece continues. In my blog on the subject, I neglected to include her most infamous line. According to Dowd, the GOP at its nominating convention"put on a minstrel show for the white fat cats in the audience." Can you imagine what would happen to a conservative, such as George Will, if he had used the same language to characterize a Democratic gathering which featured blacks?

The Republicans properly stepped up to the plate by distancing themselves from Trent Lott. Will the Democrats act accordingly and hold the likes of Maureen Dowd to, at least, minimal standards? I am not necessarily an enemy of the fine art of political invective but those who love to throw stones should be at least reasonably consistent, shouldn't they? Don't hold your breath.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:08 a.m. EST


Maureen Dowd's columns usually deserve to be ignored but today she hit a new low in a mean-spirited screed against Clarence Thomas. I have mixed feelings about Thomas, especially on issues related to civil liberties, but he has not done anything to deserve this kind of shabby treatment, simply for expressing his views.

As someone who has researched the history of civil rights in Mississippi, I found Dowd's attack-dog style to be hauntingly familiar. Back in the 1950s, many Southern whites belittled black educators and others who had received Jim Crow privileges (such as official appointments to be administrators or teachers in segregated schools) as"ungrateful" for daring to question the status quo. Many of these educators, in fact, suffered personally after the abolition of these privileges....but, for them, the benefits of desegregation to society made the trade-off worth it.

Now, Dowd angrily lashes out at Thomas for stepping off the liberal plantation and biting the hands (including her hands, of course) that feed him by opposing preferences:"It's impossible not to be disgusted as someone who could benefit so much from affirmative action and then pull up the ladder after himself. So maybe he is disgusted with his own great historic ingratitude."

There are two problems with this crude form of attack. First, Dowd's proposition that talented blacks (and, yes, Maureen he is talented) would have failed without preferences is by no means self-evident. As Stephen and Abiligal Thernstrom point out in America in Black and White , blacks were already breaking down barriers in law and the other professions the 1950s and 1960s, long before the rise of preferences. This trend would have probably continued with, or without, the introduction of preferences.

Let's assume that Dowd is right, however, and that Thomas did indeed benefit from preferences. Does this mean that he has lost his right to criticize such policies? This claim is nonsense on its face and even more so if taken to its logical conclusion. For Dowd to be consistent in her theory, she would have to also criticize all individuals who ever called for the abolition of any special privileges they had received in the past. In Dowd's world, this would mean, of course, that those brave whites in the 1950s and 1960s who fought Jim Crow, even though they had personally benefited from the privileges it gave, were just as"disgusting" as Thomas.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:45 a.m. EST


Robert Novak has another perceptive article on how U.S. troops are increasin

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