Thursday, June 23, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
On June 17, 1971 President Richard Nixon launched the modern-day drug war, an effort perpetuated by every one of his successors.
As the reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) documents in a new comprehensive study, the drug war has destroyed lives and property, shredded the constitution, and distorted American education, health care, and even foreign policy. That's why, notes LEAP, fully 75 percent of Americans and 69 percent of police chiefs agree that the drug war has failed.
Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with LEAP's Executive Director Neill Franklin, a retired major in the Maryland State Police. As Franklin explains, he was one of the most bellicose drug warriors around until a comrade was killed during an undercover operation. The best way, argues Franklin, we can pay tribute to his fallen friend - and all the other people whose lives have been laid waste by a war on drugs that has caused far more bad than good - is to turn away from prohibition and embrace regulation and control similar to that used for alcohol.
Conversation at a Grocery Store
by Butler Shaffer
As I was leaving our neighborhood grocery store, I was met by two college-age women who told me that they were working for Greenpeace, and would like to have my support.
"To do what?," I asked.
"To help save the rainforests, protect endangered species, and end pollution," one of them responded.
"Those sound like worthwhile ends," I said. "What is Greenpeace doing to bring them about?"
"We’re trying to get the public to become aware of these problems," I was told.
"So that the public will do what?," I went on.
"To get people to stop doing business with the big corporations that are engaging in these destructive practices," one woman answered.
"I have no problem with people withholding their patronage of business firms," I said. "But what if this approach doesn’t alleviate the problems that concern you? What is your organization prepared to do in that event? Is Greenpeace dedicated to using voluntary, persuasive means to accomplish its ends, or will it resort to violence if necessary?"
I was reassured that Greenpeace was a peaceful group, and did not believe in using violence.
"Does any of the money Greenpeace raises go to political efforts?," I asked.
"We do have lobbyists in Washington," I was told.
"And don’t these lobbyists try to persuade members of Congress and other government officials to adopt policies and enact statutes that you favor?"
"Of course," one of the women replied.
"But isn’t this having resort to violence? Legislation gets enacted that requires people to act in ways they do not choose to act and, if they violate the statute, they will be punished or imprisoned, isn’t that so?"
At this point I was subjected to a brief review of my high-school civics class catechisms about how the public interest is served by government doing such things.
"You say government action is required to keep the ‘big corporations’ from engaging in the practices of which you disapprove. Who do you think controls the government?," I asked.
"What do you mean?," one answered.
"Let me put it this way: what did you do with your billion dollar bailout money that President Bushobama shelled out some time back?"
She acknowledged that she hadn’t received any of these funds, leading me to inquire: "if government acts to further the ‘public interest,’ why did only major corporations receive this money? And if these big corporate interests are the recipients of this bailout money, don’t you suspect that they pretty much control other programs to suit their ends?"
I then commented on how "environmentalism" was a new religion, complete with "original sin" (i.e., humans upsetting the pristine conditions of Earth), an "apocalypse" (i.e., when mankind’s profligacy will lead to its destruction), with all kinds of "sins" thrown in.
"If you are truly interested in protecting wildlife, saving forests, and the like," I continued, "why don’t you undertake actions that you can control, and that don’t depend upon your using government violence to force other people to conform to your preferences?," I queried.
"What do you mean"," one answered.
"There are a number of conservation groups who have figured out that, when they have to compete with big corporations for government backing of their programs, they usually end up getting only a trifling of what they want. They have decided that, instead of devoting their resources to trying to persuade congressmen, they are better off using their funds to purchase, for example, stands of redwood trees. As the owners of these resources, they can do what they want with them, including deciding to not cut down the trees. With this approach, the conservationists are no longer in conflict with lumber companies."
I went on to point out the many privately owned forests that operate as preserves, which members of the public can voluntarily support and visit. Private groups have purchased ‘conservation easements’ from landowners, for the purpose of preserving wetlands. I told them of the late actor, William Holden, who devoted most of his wealth to creating and maintaining a preserve in Africa wherein wild elephants could live. I also know of a man with no family who plans to leave his entire estate to the care of wild gorillas in Africa. "If individuals and private groups can do such things – without putting themselves in conflict with others – do you think you – or Greenpeace – could figure out non-political, non-violent ways of accomplishing ends that you value?"
I further suggested that the people who want the government to undertake various programs seem reluctant to enthusiastically devote their energies or resources to such ends. "Do you really want to accomplish these objectives, or do you only want the government to compel others to do so?"
As an apparent effort to conclude the conversation, one of the women said: "we’ll just have to keep fighting!"
"But don’t you see that this is the problem? Political systems divide people into exclusive groups, making their coercive powers available to those who control the state’s machinery. This can only produce conflict, anger, and, ultimately, the violent and destructive world in which we now live. The corporations you fight today can so easily become the people the government kills in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere."
Our conversation came to an end, and I could see the look of complete bewilderment on the face of the woman who had been the most vocal. I knew two things: (1) I had not convinced her of my point of view, nor had I sought to do so, and (2) she had heard ideas that were unfamiliar to her. Having heard them, they will remain in her mind; she cannot unhear them. At some point she will hear them from someone else and they will not be so unfamiliar. When she hears these ideas a third or fourth time from others, she may be inclined to think to herself: "I’ve always known that."
As an aside, I’ve thought of the benefits of having three or four libertarians visit a grocery store on a day when statist proselytizers stand outside to promote some piece of legislation. Each of these libertarians would separately leave the store – perhaps five minutes apart – stopping to argue with or question these clip-board collectivists. What impact might this have on the statists’ assessments of public opinion?
June 20, 2011
Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Friday, June 17, 2011
An excellent article from Ryan McMaken on why government should have no role what so ever in marriage:
Privatize Marriage Now
by Ryan McMaken
Ann Coulter, that warmongering demagogue of Conservatism, has declared war on Ron Paul. Naturally, she hates Paul because he stands for peace, free markets and the rule of law. Coulter hates of all of these things since she loves war, the police state, and the destruction of the constitution in pursuit of untrammeled political power for Conservative nationalists. In other words, like most Conservatives, she loves socialism, although she prefers to cloak her socialism in words like "national greatness," "secure borders" and "family values."
In a recent column, Coulter attacks Paul for a variety of his pro-freedom positions. In this column, however, I’ll focus only on her wildly inaccurate claims about how marriage is a "legal construct" and how every good American should insist that government maintain its death grip on the institution. She denounces Ron Paul for his insistence that marriage should not be controlled by government and that people should be free to contract with whomever they choose. Coulter of course insists that marriage should be socialized, regulated and controlled by government.
Coulter counters Paul with a claim that "there are reasons we have laws governing important institutions, such as marriage." Well she’s right there. There is a reason that governments regulate marriage: Governments couldn’t resist the urge to seize control of marriage which was a traditionally religious and non-governmental institution.
Let’s briefly examine the history and nature of marriage in the West and see just why we have laws. By "laws" of course, Coulter means secular civil laws. She’s not talking about Canon Law or Church Law, which is what governed marriage throughout most of the history of Christendom.
Being a sacrament, marriage was traditionally governed by religious law and was a religious matter. The Church recognized that with marriage being a sacrament, the state had no more right to regulate marriage than it had the right to regulate who could be baptized or who could be ordained a priest.
Indeed, in the Catholic Church to this day, a couple may become sacramentally married without even the presence of any clergy, let alone a government agent. If no clergy is available, couples may simply make vows in the presence of lay witnesses. The marriage is then perfectly valid according to the Church’s own law. This further illustrates the traditional, religious status in the West of marriage as a private bond between two persons. There’s certainly no state-sponsored marriage certificate required.
Naturally, marriage, being what it is, did nevertheless impact the distribution and ownership of property. Who were the legitimate heirs of a married couple, for example? Could Bastard Jimmy inherit the property of his father instead of First Born Tom who was the child of both dad and his wife? These considerations attracted the state’s attention.
The state hates it when property changes hands without being taxed and regulated, so the state set its sights on marriage centuries ago. Over time civil governments inserted themselves more and more into the religious institutions of marriage. This was helped along by the Reformation and by defenders of government-controlled marriage like King Henry VIII of England. As nation-states consolidated their monopolies on all law and over all institutions in society, the state finally displaced religious institutions as the final arbiter on marriage.
So yes, Ann, there is a reason that governments control marriage: They couldn’t keep their mitts off it.
The natural outcome of widespread approval of this state of affairs is that governments are now seen as the institution that can legitimately define marriage itself. We now have civil laws deciding what marriage is and what it is not and who can be married and who can not.
For anyone who has an interest in actually defending the historically traditional status of marriage, this power should be viewed as both dangerous and illegitimate. Thanks to the secularizing efforts of Christian reformers and anti-Christian types throughout history, marriage gradually became for many a civil matter only. Many people get "married" in courthouses in totally non-religious ceremonies. Such marriage contracts are in essence no different from run-of-the-mill legal contracts. The fact that we call such unions "marriage" doesn’t make them so. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, marriage is a religious matter. Some government judge can’t make you "married" any more than can your hair dresser. Here, we see that the so-called "traditional" marriage types who nevertheless defend government civil "marriage" (as defined by them) have already sown the seeds of their own defeat. They’ve already removed the institution of marriage from its traditional role and status.
What they should be arguing for is the removal of civil governments from the marriage bond altogether. Couples who wish to marry should approach their religious authorities about it. Then, if they wish they can join into some kind of civil union, which is just a contract. People who wish to have a civil union but no marriage may enter into that arrangement, and those who wish for a marriage with no civil union should be able to do that as well. Marriage, properly understood, should be considered off limits from government meddling. People are welcome to contract, but if the "defenders" of marriage had done their jobs right, there would be no confusion today about what is marriage and what is a government-approved contractual union.
Unfortunately, though, when Conservatives and Christian Right types bemoan the loss of so-called "traditional" marriage yet agitate for more government control of the institution, they really have only themselves to blame since they’re therefore accepting the proposition that government has the legitimate authority to regulate and control marriage. The power to regulate marriage is the power to destroy it.
This fact certainly doesn’t stop Coulter. Coulter is such an authoritarian on marriage, in fact, that she even apparently supports government-mandated blood tests as a means of enhancing government control of the institution:
Under [Ron] Paul's plan, siblings could marry one another, perhaps intentionally, but also perhaps unaware that they were fraternal twins separated and sent to different adoptive families at birth – as actually happened in Britain a few years ago after taking the government-mandated blood test for marriage.
Here she is apparently using a one-in-a-billion event to justify the forced government drawing and analysis of blood and, by extension, government regulation of who may or may not marry. I know that many Americans probably consider mandatory medical procedures to be no big deal, but all that tells us is how willingly Americans will approve of even the most invasive government regulations.
Nevertheless, some states in the United States, such as Colorado, do not mandate such things. In Colorado’s case, we have a few vestiges of frontier traditions of freedom left, and we have yet to totally succumb to a traditions of Coulter-esque police-statism.
No blood tests are required, and indeed a couple can become common-law spouses with not much more than a public declaration that the marriage exists. In Coulter’s view, this is pure chaos. How Colorado society manages to function without governments checking up on the health and genetics of our betrothed remains an inscrutable mystery.
And Coulter doesn’t stop there. While a true defense of marriage would consist of putting it back in the hands of private institutions, that certainly doesn’t fly for Coulter who says that "[u]nder Rep. Paul's plan, your legal rights pertaining to marriage will be decided on a case-by-case basis by judges forced to evaluate the legitimacy of your marriage consecrated by a Wiccan priest – or your tennis coach. (And I think I speak for all Americans when I say we're looking for ways to get more pointless litigation into our lives.)"
She seems to think that there are no disagreements about the terms and validity of marriage contracts under the present regime. Well, such disagreements do exist and disagreements over legal contracts are decided on a case-by-case basis right now. So Coulter isn’t doing anything here other than simply exhibiting her ignorance about the status quo. One could also point out that, while Coulter presents this point as some kind of big deal, all she’s really saying is that a more complex and decentralized system would be an inconvenience to some people, and that this therefore justifies more government regulation of our lives. .
Meanwhile, some societies do in fact base marriage decisions on the judgments of religious organizations. Marriage in Israel, for example, is founded on a system in which the validity of marriage is based on whether or not one’s marriage is approved by a religious institution. In other words, this is essentially the system that Coulter says only crazy people would support.
Israel’s system is far from perfect – there’s far too much government involvement – but it is nevertheless a functional and decentralized system.
Why not let your Wiccan "priest" also be considered a legitimate authority for approving marriage? So what? Why is this the state’s business? It certainly has no effect on my views about the validity and -dare I say it? – superiority of my own Roman Catholic marriage. Wiccans will disagree with me, but that’s their business.
Of course, when you’re a Conservative, everything is the state’s business from whom you hire (no foreigners!) to what you smoke in your living room, to what your genitals feel like at the airport.
Coulter grudgingly is forced to admit that "eventually – theoretically – there could be private institutions to handle many of these matters" so we’re forced to assume that she’s unaware that private institutions handled marriage in Western Europe for at least 1,500 years. But this admission also shows that her insistence on government control of marriage isn’t actually necessary. It’s just her personal preference.
As with most Conservatives, Coulter can’t imagine a world in which government isn’t a massive overweening institution that regulates the personal decisions of millions of people every minute of every day. Only crazy people want freedom in her mind, and Coulter will be happy to condemn anyone like Ron Paul who dares challenge the status quo.
June 17, 2011
Ryan McMaken teaches political science in Colorado.
Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
From the Foundation for a Free Society:
In this follow up video to The Philosophy of Liberty: Property, we explore Frederic Bastiat's concept of Legal Plunder. Is it ever OK for government to steal your stuff and give it to someone else? Or is government just a glorified organized crime syndicate ala Tony Soprano? Does it really make sense for citizens to plunder each other like competing bands of vikings?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Jack Hunter comments on the tired political charge of isolationist used against anyone not favoring eternal American Empire.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
From Reason TV:
A few weeks back, Hollywood movie stars and groups such as the Creative Coalition stormed Washington, D.C. to lobby for increased taxpayer funding of the arts. Most memorably, Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey told Hardball's Chris Matthew that Abraham Lincoln was a huge theater fan who "understood that he needed the arts to replenish his soul." (Not surprisingly, Spacey didn't mention where Lincoln was assassinated or the profession of his killer).
But funding the arts with taxapayer dollars is a bad idea for at least three reasons.
1. Publicly financed art is easily censored art. Last December, the National Portrait Gallery almost immediately pulled a four-minute video called "A Fire in My Belly" after complaints from the Catholic League and politicians such as Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who objected to images of ants crawling over a crucifix. It's hard to imagine a private museum so quickly and cravenly pulling an offending piece. But when the taxpayer is footing the bill, the most easily aggrieved among us yields a thug's veto. Indeed, in February, scandalized Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) even called for getting rid of a 1922 statue in New York City due to what he says is its sexist portrayal of women.
2. We're broke. Advocates of public funding for the arts routinely argue that the budget of groups such as the National Endowment for the Arts comes to just pennies per citizen and the cost of just one Pentagon bomber is comparatively huge. But government at every level is flat broke, so it's all money we don't have. Defense spending, which has jacked up by over 70 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2001, should be cut drastically. But that doesn't mean smaller items should get a pass or that taxpayers should pony up for another season of Dr. Who reruns on PBS.
3. It's unnecessary. NEA head Rocco Landesman has defended grants to groups such as the San Francisco Mime Troupe on the grounds that it is a world-famous outfit that has contributed mightily to the stage. Which is another way of saying it should have little to no trouble finding private patrons to help it out. Americans give around $13 billion a year in private donations to the arts. That's a lot of money and if it's not enough to fund every request, groups such as the San Francisco Mime Troupe will just have to figure out how to better work the crowd.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Yes, the US Department of Education has a SWAT Team that busts down people's doors and drags them outside. The man in this video claims they were looking for his estranged wife who has defaulted on her student loans. But the Department of Education claims it wasn't for that. No it was for bribery, fraud or embezzlement. From Reason.com:
Yesterday, the Depart of Education's office of inspector general executed a search warrant at Stockton California residence with the presence of local law enforcement authorities.A SWAT Team raid at 6am for a non violent crime? They think that is okay? What's next, SWAT Team raids for an unpaid parking ticket?
While it was reported in local media that the search was related to a defaulted student loan, that is incorrect. This is related to a criminal investigation. The Inspector General's Office does not execute search warrants for late loan payments.
Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we can't comment on the specifics of the case. We can say that the OIG's office conducts about 30-35 search warrants a year on issues such as bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds.
All further questions on this issue should be directed to the Department of Education's Inspector General's Office.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Texas Congressman Ron Paul speaking in favor of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's Resolution (H.R. Con. Res. 251) which would have directed the President, pursuant to the War Powers Act, to remove all troops from Libya within fifteen days after the resolution was adopted. The Resolution failed because only 148 Congressman upheld their duty to the Constitution.
More from Ron Paul:
More from Ron Paul:
Holding the President Accountable on Libya
Last week, more than 70 days after President Obama sent our military to attack Libya without a congressional declaration of war, the House of Representatives finally voted on two resolutions attempting to rein in the president. This debate was long overdue, as polls show Americans increasingly are frustrated by congressional inaction. According to a CNN poll last week, 55 percent of the American people believe that Congress, not the president, should have the final authority to decide whether the U.S. should continue its military mission in Libya. Yet for more than 70 days Congress has ignored its constitutional obligations and allowed the president to usurp its authority.
Finally, Congressman Dennis Kucinich was able to bring to the floor a resolution asserting that proper constitutional war power authority resides with Congress. His resolution simply stated that "Congress directs the President to remove the United States Armed Forces from Libya by not later than the date that is 15 days after the date of the adoption of this concurrent resolution."
Opponents of the withdrawal resolution said the 15 day deadline was too abrupt. But as I pointed out during debate, the president attacked Libya abruptly – he didn't even bother to consult Congress – so why can't he order an end to military action just as abruptly? When members of Congress took an oath of office to defend the Constitution, we did not pledge to defend it only gradually, a little bit at a time. On the contrary, we must defend it vigorously and completely from the moment we take that oath. I was pleased that 87 Republicans were able to put the Constitution first and support this resolution.
House Speaker John Boehner offered his own resolution on the same day, which declared that Congress would not support the insertion of US ground troops into Libya. Although this unfortunately was far from adequate to satisfy our constitutional obligations, it certainly was a step in the right direction and I am pleased that it passed in the House. Just days before Speaker Boehner's resolution, an amendment to the defense authorization act prohibited the president from using any funds in the bill to insert US troops into Libya. A separate amendment last week prohibiting any funds appropriated to the Department of Homeland Security from being used to attack Libya came within just a handful of votes from passing. All of these votes demonstrate that members of Congress increasingly understand that our foreign wars are deeply unpopular with their constituents. We are broke, and the American people know it. They expect Congress to focus on fixing America's economic problems, rather than rubber stamping yet another open-ended military intervention in Libya.
I believe these resolutions and amendments indicate that the tide is turning in the right direction. I am confident we will see Congress move toward ending our unconstitutional wars. The American people are demanding no less. The president's attack on Libya was unconstitutional and thus unlawful. This policy must be reversed.