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Posts Tagged ‘libertarianism’

Rand Paul “no longer outside the mainstream”

Posted by Richard on March 24, 2014

Scott Conroy has an interesting article about Sen. Rand Paul at RealClearPolitics. It’s clear that Paul is able to appeal to people outside the GOP, especially the young. But Conroy argues that many rank-and-file Republicans have shifted significantly in the direction of Paul’s more libertarian views:

With the Republican Party facing widening demographic challenges, the Kentucky senator has been aggressively presenting his libertarian-leaning brand of politics as an opportunity to expand the GOP’s reach.

To some, these efforts to emphasize his credentials as a different kind of Republican offer limited benefits and outsized risks in the coming primary fight.

…  

But a couple of factors leading into the 2016 election suggest that Rand Paul’s opponents won’t be as eager to challenge his national security views so vociferously and that attention-grabbing moves like his trip to Berkeley are grounded in sound political strategy.

First, he is a savvier politician than his father and typically calibrates his remarks to avoid raising the ire of a clear majority within the GOP. 2016 debate watchers can expect to hear Paul lambast the NSA’s domestic surveillance program and perhaps even question the “traitor” label often assigned to Edward Snowden, but they are unlikely to hear him question the almost universally praised killing of Osama Bin Laden, as his father did.

Second, mountains of evidence indicate that rank-and-file Republican voters have shifted precipitously in recent years toward Paul’s noninterventionist foreign policy stance and are now much more skeptical of government programs that infringe upon liberties.

In short, most GOP strategists agree, Rand Paul’s views on these matters are no longer outside the mainstream of Republican politics.

I certainly hope that’s correct.

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Beck to GOP: Apologize — and mean it!

Posted by Richard on February 22, 2010

Allahpundit has the complete video of Glenn Beck's keynote speech at CPAC. I don't have time to watch it tonight, but it sounds like a humdinger. I love the pull quote:

“It’s not enough to not suck as much as the other side,” said Beck, on how Republicans can regain their ideals. “The first step to redemption is admitting you have a problem. … When they do say they have a problem, I don’t know if I believe them. … They’ve got to recognize they have a problem. … ‘I’m addicted to spending and big government.’”…

Beck went on to compare GOPers to Tiger Woods, who recently gave his first public apology for his cheating candal. Beck said some people believed he was only sorry because he got caught. Beck, to GOPers in Congress: “You got caught. Are you sorry?”…

More Beck: “One party will tax and spend. The other party won’t tax, but spend. It’s both of them together. I’m tired of feeling like a freak in America.”

If CPAC is any indication, the conservative movement has become decidedly more libertarian, as well as more energized. Limited government, fiscal sanity, and other economic liberty issues are at the forefront. Social conservatism has taken a back seat or faded altogether. For instance:

  • A warmly received Dick Cheney said he's OK with gays serving openly in the military.
  • Ron Paul was the top vote-getter among potential presidential candidates in a straw poll of attendees. 
  • In that same straw poll (PDF), 80% said their most important goal is "to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government," versus 9% who chose "to promote traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn."
  • The poll found that 52% chose reducing the size of the federal government and 33% chose reducing federal spending as one of their top two issue priorities. Only 5% chose promoting traditional values, and 1% chose stopping gay marriage.
  • A speaker who criticized the inclusion of the gay Republican group, GOProud, was roundly booed. (To be fair, Ron Paul's straw poll finish was booed too. But I can think of some pretty good reasons for that, even from a libertarian perspective.) 

My experiences with the Tea Party movement tell me that the "conservative" grass roots of America are already pretty libertarian in many respects. About half of the 10,000 attendees at CPAC are 25 or younger, suggesting that conservatism is going to move even closer to libertarianism in the future. 

That's change I can believe in! Hopenchange, man, hopenchange!

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FreeColorado.com wins top Sam Adams award

Posted by Richard on April 7, 2009

Ari Armstrong's FreeColorado.com has won the highest honor in this year's Samuel Adams Alliance Sammie Awards competition, the "Modern-Day Sam Adams Award." Armstrong's award, according to the Sam Adams Alliance, is significant and noteworthy:

Armstrong wins the $10,000 prize for his relentless—and ubiquitous—defense of free markets and individual liberty in the state of Colorado. He is author of FreeColorado.com and a columnist for the Grand Junction Free Press. In the last year, Ari’s work has been published in the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post Online, and featured on numerous radio and television news programs. 

According to FreeColorado.com, the Sammie Awards will be presented later this month by luminaries of the pro-freedom movement: 

Armstrong will receive his "Golden Sammie" April 18 in Chicago. Presenting the awards will be Michelle Malkin, Stephen Moore, John Fund, Jonathan Hoenig, Mary Katharine, and Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher.

In his entry, Armstrong summarized his "food stamp" diets of 2007 and 2009, his fight against political correctness (as with the "bitch slap" controversy of 2008), his work on health policy, and various other projects.

Armstrong said, "I congratulate the other winners and look forward to learning from their example. I thank the Sam Adams Alliance for recognizing the important work for liberty done at the regional level. Finally, I thank my fellow liberty activists in Colorado — especially my wife — for teaching me so much about liberty, individual rights, and free markets, and how to advocate those values through intellectual activism. This award is for you, my brothers and sisters in liberty."

Armstrong founded FreeColorado.com (then co-freedom.com) in late 1998, before the term "blog" had been coined.

My heartiest congratulations to Ari, a most deserving recipient of this award. He is an intelligent, articulate, and passionate advocate of the freedom philosophy, and I'm proud to have worked with him in the Libertarian Party of Colorado in the years that I was active in that organization. Bravo, Ari!

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Drew Carey explains libertarians

Posted by Richard on December 3, 2008

On the Late Late Show, Drew Carey informed Craig Ferguson that he's a libertarian. Then he had to explain that to Craig:

Libertarians are, like, conservatives who still get high. 

Hmm, I guess I've been doing it wrong for a number of years now.

Maybe I should correct that. Anyone want to help? 🙂

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Ron Paul doesn’t speak for all of us

Posted by Richard on July 18, 2007

A great big thanks to Randy Barnett for informing the readers of the Wall Street Journal (and OpinionJournal.com) that not all libertarians subscribe to a "blame America first" foreign and national security policy virtually indistinguishable from that of Dennis Kucinich. The war against Islamofascism is, as Barnett spelled out quite even-handedly, a subject about which libertarians disagree:

Many libertarians, and perhaps most libertarian intellectuals, opposed the war in Iraq even before its inception. They believed Saddam's regime neither directly threatened the U.S. nor harbored or supported the terrorist network responsible for Sept. 11. They also feared the risk of harmful, unintended consequences. …

Other libertarians, however, supported the war in Iraq because they viewed it as part of a larger war of self-defense against Islamic jihadists who were organizationally independent of any government. They viewed radical Islamic fundamentalism as resulting in part from the corrupt dictatorial regimes that inhabit the Middle East, which have effectively repressed indigenous democratic reformers. Although opposed to nation building generally, these libertarians believed that a strategy of fomenting democratic regimes in the Middle East, as was done in Germany and Japan after World War II, might well be the best way to take the fight to the enemy rather than solely trying to ward off the next attack.

Naturally, the libertarians who supported the war in Iraq are disappointed, though hardly shocked, that it was so badly executed. …

Still, there are those pro-invasion libertarians who are now following the progress of Operations Phantom Thunder and Arrowhead Ripper. … They hope this success will enable American soldiers to leave Iraq even before they leave Europe and Korea, and regain the early momentum that led, for example, to Libya's abandonment of its nuclear weapons program.

These libertarians are still rooting for success in Iraq because it would make Americans more safe, while defeat would greatly undermine the fight against those who declared war on the U.S. They are concerned that Americans may get the misleading impression that all libertarians oppose the Iraq war–as Ron Paul does–and even that libertarianism itself dictates opposition to this war. It would be a shame if this misinterpretation inhibited a wider acceptance of the libertarian principles that would promote the general welfare of the American people.

What he said.  

 

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Remembering Heinlein

Posted by Richard on July 9, 2007

Glenn Reynolds has posted the transcript of Bill Bruner's remarks at the Heinlein Centennial in Kansas City. Bruner, NASA's head of legislative affairs, talked about what Heinlein meant to him personally and what he meant to the future of freedom in space:

Beating the odds, I was the first in my family to earn a college degree – a Bachelor’s in Astronomy. Now, I am a retired Air Force fighter aviator & colonel working for America’s space agency – in large part because RAH told me that race doesn't matter, military service is honorable, freedom is better than tyranny and humankind's destiny lies among the stars.

Go. Read the whole thing. Might put a lump in your throat.

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Heinlein’s 100th

Posted by Richard on July 7, 2007

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
— Robert A. Heinlein

Today is Robert A. Heinlein's 100th birthday. There's a big celebration this weekend in Kansas City. The Peoria Pundit, at his alternate location, Heinleinblog, posted a wonderful description of what discovering Heinlein as a young teen meant to him in the long run:

My youthful politics were liberal. I've stood there like an idiot with signs proclaiming that we ought to just give peace a chance.

Heinlein would have wanted to slap me upside the head and tell me to wake up. In a way, he did just that. My first Heinlein book was "Friday." … I bought it because the cover showed a busty blonde chick wearing a blue jump suit unbuttoned down to there. I was in junior high at the time, and the sexy passes left me flustered. The heady political commentary no doubt festered in the back of my brain.

You see, that's how insideous Heinlein is. You read his stuff becauseit's so damn much fun – all that violence and action – and you end up being taught tot hink for yourself. I remeined a liberal Democrat for the next 15 years or so, but in retrospect, I have to admit there was always a little tinkle, a buzz, really, that was telling me that people really ought to be more self-reliant, and that I ought to not be supporting candidates who want to take away folks guns.

Still I knew I wasn't a Republican or a conservative.

I came across a passage describing Heinlein as "libertarian," so I visited a few Libertarian Party Web sites and decided I found a home. I left THAT home after 2001 when I heard LP standard bearer Harry Browne blame the United States for causing the terrorists to attack us. Heinlein woduld have slapped Browne silly – figurately speaking, of course. Whether or not a more libertarian-minded foreign policy priot to Sept. 11, 2001, would have gotten the terrorists mad at us or not is debatable, but there's no debate in my mind on what should have happened after Sept. 11, 2001. And it isn't sitting around hoping that they don't get mad at us again. "Starship Troopers" told us what Heinlein would have thought about that idea.

So, Heinlein left me a man without a political party to call my own. Which is where any person with a working brain ought to be.

Heinlein would approve.

There's a campaign under way to get one of the futuristic new Zumwalt-class destroyers named the USS Robert A. Heinlein in honor of the Annapolis graduate and proud Navy man. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is on board. It sounds like a fine idea to me, so I'll be sending a letter.

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Does the LP help or hinder liberty?

Posted by Richard on December 20, 2006

Last week, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr switched to the Libertarian Party. He not only joined the LP, he immediately became a Life Member and a leader, joining the Libertarian National Committee as Region 4 (Southeast) representative. Barr told Reason that he left the GOP for the LP in order to save the Constitution and preserve liberty:

I chose to join the Libertarian Party because at this time in our nation’s history, it’s fundamentally essential to join a party, work with a party, that’s 100 percent committed to protecting liberty. As great as the Republican Party is — and I have been fortunate to work with that party for many years and still have the highest regard for it — the Constitution is under such assault in this day and age. In order to have any chance of saving the Constitution and our civil liberties, we need a party dedicated to that cause.

Bruce Bartlett thinks Barr made a terrible mistake. According to Bartlett, joining the LP actually hurts the cause of liberty instead of helping it. His opinion of the party and the effect it has on the political debate isn’t kind:

Over the years, I have known a great many people who have flirted with the Libertarian Party, but were ultimately turned off by its political impotence and immaturity. C-SPAN runs Libertarian conventions, and viewers can see for themselves how unserious and childish they are. They show that the Libertarian Party is essentially a high-school-level debating club where only one question is ever debated — who is the purest libertarian, and what is the purest libertarian position?

At times, serious people have tried to get control of the Libertarian Party and make it a viable organization. But in the end, the crazies who like the party just as it is have always run them off. In the process, however, they have also run off millions of voters who have supported libertarian candidates at one time or another. After realizing what a waste of time the Libertarian Party is, many became disengaged from politics and don’t vote at all.

The result has been that libertarian-leaning activists have been drawn away from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party by the Libertarian Party, leaving the major parties with fewer libertarians. In other words, both major parties have fewer libertarians than they would without the Libertarian Party, meaning that the net result of the party has been to make our government less libertarian than it would otherwise be.

Bartlett wants the LP to disappear completely and be replaced by an advocacy group like the NRA, complete with lobbyists, advertising, and focused campaign contributions. I’m not entirely persuaded, but I must admit that in the last few years, I’ve focused my attention — and money — on organizations like Cato, the Institute for Justice, and the Club for Growth, not the LP.
 

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Good election news

Posted by Richard on November 8, 2006

As regular reades no doubt could guess, I’m not exactly cheerful about spending the next two years hearing about Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means Chair Charles Rangel, and Judiciary Chair John Conyers. And I’m disappointed by the departure of Rumsfeld. Nevertheless, I’m basically a "glass half-full" sort of guy, and I think there’s some good news related to yesterday’s elections.

One big bright spot: the property rights protection movement racked up an impressive string of victories. Ten of twelve ballot measures passed, and eight of them are constitutional amendments (one victory, Louisiana, was in September). Only California and Idaho defeated citizen initiatives dealing with eminent domain. They were thrilled yesterday at the Institute for Justice:

“Election Day usually reveals how polarized public opinion can be as campaigns focus on highly divisive issues.  Today, however, the vast majority of voters across the country all agreed that the fundamental right to property must be protected,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners in Kelo before the Supreme Court.  “Citizens around the nation agree that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo was wrong.  As we’re seeing tonight’s results, this issue cuts across party lines, state borders and socioeconomic levels.”

“The American people are furious their property rights are up for grabs to the highest bidder,” said senior attorney Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case for the Institute.  “They understand that the U.S. Supreme Court declared open season on everyone’s property and the resulting momentum for eminent domain reform shows no sign of slowing.  The significant margins in the votes today show just how wrong a narrow majority of the Supreme Court was.”

The margins were truly significant, typically three or four to one.

Here’s another bit of good news: Dennis Hastert won’t run for minority leader. I’ve made clear my low opinion of Hastert. I think he bears much of the blame for the Republican losses. Hastert helped create the "culture of corruption" by dismantling the 1994 ethics and accountability reforms. His lack of principles, inarticulateness, and focus on wielding the levers of power helped create the widespread distrust of the Republican Party.

If the Republicans really have been chastened and want to mend their ways, in January they’ll follow Human Events’ advice and elect Mike Pence minority leader. Furthermore, they should correct a mistake they made when DeLay departed and pick John Shadegg over Roy Blunt for the number two post, minority whip.

More good news came via Josh Poulson, who argued that the GOP lost because it "abandoned its libertarian wing," and cited a couple of interesting related items. One is this post at Economist.com about the growing clout of Libertarians:

GLUM Republicans might turn their attention to the Libertarian Party to vent their anger. Libertarians are a generally Republican-leaning constituency, but over the last few years, their discontent has grown plain. It isn’t just the war, which some libertarians supported, but the corruption and insider dealing, and particularly the massive expansion of spending. Mr Bush’s much-vaunted prescription drug benefit for seniors, they fume, has opened up another gaping hole in America’s fiscal situation, while the only issue that really seemed to energise congress was passing special laws to keep a brain-damaged woman on life support.

In two of the seats where control looks likely to switch, Missouri and Montana, the Libertarian party pulled more votes than the Democratic margin of victory. Considerably more, in Montana. If the Libertarian party hadn’t been on the ballot, and the three percent of voters who pulled the "Libertarian" lever had broken only moderately Republican, Mr Burns would now be in office.

The other item is Sen. Tom Coburn’s statement on the elections:

“The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

“A recent CNN poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe government is doing too much while only 37 percent want government to do more. The results of this election reflect that … the Democrats who won or who ran competitive races sounded more like Ronald Reagan than Lyndon Johnson.

“This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

“The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994 or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders. If Republicans present real ideas and solutions based on these principles we will do well in the future.

Read the whole thing. If you’re a discouraged limited-government type, libertarian or conservative, you’ll feel better — and you’ll be glad there are people like Tom Coburn in politics.
 

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Cordite and cranky libertarians

Posted by Richard on September 20, 2006

For some great gun rights and self-defense reading, along with the usual unusual weaponry stuff, range reports, etc., check out Carnival of Cordite #72 at Spank That Donkey. It’s got titles like "Bad, Bad Assault Thingy," "Guns and Democrats," and "Commie Junk My A$$!" that are bound to suck you in.

Meanwhile, over at the Unrepentant Individual, Brad Warbiany wants you to "see the world through a bunch of cranky libertarians’ eyes" in Carnival of Liberty #53. It’s chock full of submissions, and they’re presented with meaty excerpts so you can get a good sense of them. Go read — you know you want to!
 

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The GOP’s wrong turn

Posted by Richard on September 12, 2006

This looks like a terrific read:

In THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, New York Post and RealClearPolitics.com columnist Ryan Sager argues that the GOP has lost its way and that its wrong turn will cost it — not just in conservative dreams deferred, but ultimately at the ballot box.

The problem — the elephant in the room, if you will — is the so-called “big-government conservatism” embraced by President Bush and the leaders of the GOP Congress. The conservative movement has long been a fusion of social conservatives and libertarian conservatives around a shared commitment to minimizing the power of Washington, D.C. But as the GOP has taken over the nation’s capital, it’s gone native — and now all bets are off.

What’s more, as the nation’s population and electoral map shift South and West, the current Republican Party increasingly favors southern values (religion, morality, and tradition) over western ones (freedom, independence, and privacy). The result? The party is in danger of losing crucial ground in the interior West — specifically in “leave-me-alone” states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Montana.

All hope is not lost, however, as Sager proposes a way out of the mangled mess. He calls it a renewal of fusionism, a better blend between liberty and tradition, between freedom and responsibility; one that emphasizes small government instead of Republican-controlled government, morality instead of moralism, and principles instead of politics.

The book’s subtitle is "Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party." Read Bruce Bartlett’s review at Human Events. Read the first chapter of the book at TCS Daily. I’m ordering a copy.

I suspect the only thing preventing even more libertarian-minded, limited-government Republicans from bailing on the party is the thought of what a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would be like.

Apparently, quite a few Americans are having second thoughts about that prospect. Throughout the spring and summer, the polling numbers for the GOP have been grim, and every media pundit in Washington has said that the Dems practically have a lock on taking control of the House and a good shot at the Senate. But Mike Franc at Human Events thinks the prognosticators may be all wet, and he points to recent polling showing significant shifts (emphasis added):

The September consensus: nearly unanimous. “Voter anxiety over the economy, health care and financial security,” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz observed, “threatens to put Republican candidates across the country on the defensive this fall.” Veteran Congress watcher Stuart Rothenberg predicted “a heavy-damage scenario for the Republicans.” The House minority leader even guaranteed that “we’re going to win the House back.”

Those prognostications were made in September 2002, before the last mid-term election, and they were all wrong. …

Four years later, Republican lawmakers are again facing ominous headlines: “GOP’s Hold On House Shakier” (Los Angeles Times), “GOP Seen to Be in Peril of Losing House” (New York Times) and “More GOP Districts Counted as Vulnerable: Number Doubled Over the Summer” (Washington Post). … With independent voters “alienated” and the Democratic base “energized,” once-safe Republican incumbents are now “on the defensive.”

Ignored was a Gallup Poll released in late August that found an unexpected tightening in what pollsters call the “generic ballot” question: “If the election were being held today, which party’s candidate would you vote for in your congressional district?” …

… The advantage for the generic Democratic candidate slipped from 11 points in late July, to nine points in early August, and then to a statistically insignificant two points (47% to 45%) in its August 18-20 survey. Among those most likely to vote, moreover, the Democrats’ advantage disappeared entirely, with Gallup reporting a dead heat: 48% to 48%.

Anxious to understand this movement toward Republican candidates, Gallup sorted the responses to the generic-ballot question into two new categories. Are Democrats, it wanted to know, “competitive in U.S. House districts currently held by Republicans,” or “just getting a larger-than-normal share of the vote in the districts they already hold”? …

Using area codes and exchanges to identify whether the voter resides in a district represented by a Democrat or a Republican, Gallup reviewed the 13 polls in 2006 in which it asked this question. Through July, Democrats not only posted two-to-one margins in districts they currently represent, but were unusually competitive in Republican-held districts as well.

For example, Democrats outpaced Republicans in Republican-held districts in several polls, with their advantage peaking at an astounding 11-point margin (51% to 40%) in late June. This verifies the widespread perception in conservative circles that Republican base voters were in open revolt against their party earlier this year.

But then Democrats began to lose favor in Republican districts, falling steadily from 51% in late June, to 46% a month later, then to 43% in early August, and finally to the current low of 40% in the August 18-20 survey. Support for Republicans, in contrast, rose 14 points in six weeks, from a low of 40% to its current level of 54%.

Personally, I think a good portion of that turnaround isn’t due to anything the GOP did — it’s disgruntled Republicans looking at and listening to the country’s leading Democrats, and saying, "Whoa… are these folks for real?!?" — and then swallowing real hard and deciding that the good-for-nothing, unprincipled Republican who they had no use for a few weeks ago may be tolerable after all.

I can understand that. I hate that things are that way, but I can understand it. My best-case scenario for this November’s election is that the Republican base is just pissed enough to badly scare and chasten the GOP, and maybe get some of them listening to people like Sager (or even Gingrich) — but that we avoid having to live with Speaker Pelosi. [shudder]
 

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New freedom quiz

Posted by Richard on June 23, 2006

The Orange County Register, America’s most libertarian general-circulation newspaper, came up with a new test you can take to determine how libertarian or authoritarian you are. They call it the freedom IQ test. It consists of 20 questions, and they’re more detailed, specific, and much more verbose than the 10 questions in the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, which the Advocates for Self-Government have been circulating for more than 20 years now.

Where do you fit?The Advocates’ quiz strikes me as the superior tool, though, in several respects. For one, it distinguishes between economic and personal liberty, and it places people on a two-dimensional political map (that’s it to the right) that’s far superior to the traditional one-dimensional left-right axis. For another, the Advocates’ quiz has many years of research and refinement of the questions behind it, and political scientists have demonstrated that it’s remarkably accurate.

Since 1985, when Marshall Fritz took David Nolan’s two-dimensional political map, added 10 questions to determine where you fit, and squeezed the whole thing onto the two sides of a business card, the Advocates have distributed over 7 million printed quizzes. More than 4 million people have taken the quiz on the web since it went on line in 1995.

But, hey — the OC Register’s freedom IQ test is fun and interesting, too. Check them both out.

(HT: LP Blog)
 

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Carnival of Liberty #41

Posted by Richard on April 18, 2006

Left Brain Female is hosting this week’s 41st edition of the Carnival of Liberty. Kay did a great job of grabbing the carnival metaphor and running with it, complete with rides, cotton candy, sideshows, and games of skill. Go check it out — there are a ton of entries this week. In fact, let me know which ones you think are the best, in case l don’t have time to read them all. 😉

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Patriotism

Posted by Richard on April 5, 2006

I attended the Advocates for Self-Government 10th anniversary conference in Atlanta — was it really 10 years ago? — and thoroughly enjoyed it. Great crowd, great speakers, organized and presented well by Sharon Harris and her staff and volunteers. I’m sure they do a nice job every year, but it’s not cheap flying from Denver to Atlanta, staying at the hotel, etc., so I’m not a candidate to attend just any old year.

I was, however, a prime candidate to attend the recent 20th anniversary conference. I didn’t go, though, and it wasn’t just that I was pretty busy. I also wasn’t as enthusiastic about spending a weekend in the company of a whole bunch of libertarians as I had been ten years ago.

I suppose I was afraid that I’d meet people who were proud that they attended the Badnarik2004 September 11 Meetup, wearing black to mourn the victims of the U.S. government. Or people whose rhetoric on the war is indistinguishable from that of the leftist rabble, with talk of "U.S. occupation," "imperialist war-mongers," "the U.S. armed Saddam, the CIA created al Qaeda," and so on. If that happened, I’d either start screaming at them, "How can you be so stupid?" or I’d just walk away shaking my head and go get another drink.

So, I didn’t try very hard to find the time or the money to attend. According to David Aitken, a lot of other people didn’t try very hard, either. I’m sure most of the other non-attendees had reasons other than mine, but there’s no question that a lot of the air has gone out of the libertarian movement’s tire in the past two or three years, and I’m convinced that the prevailing libertarian views on the war and foreign policy — and patriotism — have something to do with it.

I know I’m not the only libertarian bothered by those prevailing views. I’m not even the most bothered — heck, I’m still a registered Libertarian. I spoke with a former Denver LP chair this past Saturday — in fact, the most successful chair the Denver LP ever had, who regularly drew 50 or more people to our monthly meetings. She’d just come from the Arapahoe County GOP convention. She was a delegate, and will be a delegate to the GOP state convention, too. She left the LP in disgust over what she perceived as its greater animosity toward the Bush administration than toward Islamofascism.

Aitken observed that "most libertarians are libertarians first and Americans second," and that that’s a problem:

I’ve been a member of the Libertarian Party for about 20 years and I don’t ever recall seeing any public displays of patriotism or love of country at any official function of the party, either state or national. None of our candidates express that; they all talk about what needs changing or what’s wrong, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a candidate say "This is the best country in the world", or something to that effect (I’ve been a candidate and I’m guilty). I am not saying "my country right or wrong" and I’m not a nativist, but we hear NOTHING except bitch, bitch, bitch, and that doesn’t attract voters.

He then linked to a beautifully written Peggy Noonan column (I think Noonan’s columns are always beautifully written, even when I disagree with them) that starts out talking about some of our living Medal of Honor recipients and ends up talking about immigration, and somehow it relates importantly to Aitken’s point. Noonan thinks we’re assimilating immigrants culturally and economically, but that’s not enough:

But we are not communicating love of country. We are not giving them the great legend of our country. We are losing that great legend.

What is the legend, the myth? That God made this a special place. That they’re joining something special. That the streets are paved with more than gold–they’re paved with the greatest thoughts man ever had, the greatest decisions he ever made, about how to live. We have free thought, free speech, freedom of worship. Look at the literature of the Republic: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist papers. Look at the great rich history, the courage and sacrifice, the house-raisings, the stubbornness. The Puritans, the Indians, the City on a Hill.

(God, that woman can write.)

Do we teach our immigrants that this is what they’re joining? That this is the tradition they will now continue, and uphold?

Do we, today, act as if this is such a special place? No, not always, not even often. American exceptionalism is so yesterday. We don’t want to be impolite. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want to seem narrow. In the age of globalism, honest patriotism seems like a faux pas.

And yet what is true of people is probably true of nations: if you don’t have a well-grounded respect for yourself, you won’t long sustain a well-grounded respect for others.

I don’t think it’s just the immigrants — after Viet Nam, Watergate, and the triumph of post-modernism in academia, we largely stopped teaching our own children the legend, the great thoughts, the traditions — the love of country not out of some blind, irrational "nationalism," but out of deep admiration and respect for the people and ideas and values that brought it about and that still set it apart from all others. People and ideas and values that are unique, powerful, and soul-stirring.

Aitken and Noonan are right — America always has been and still is an exceptional place. If you don’t believe that, you need to get out more — learn more about the rest of the world and about history. Libertarians of all people should recognize that.

Instead, too many libertarians just bitch, as Aitken said. Even if they still admire America’s founders and history, they see only negatives in their own lifetime — taxes are higher, regulations more onerous, the police state is creeping closer, we’re losing our liberties all the time, yada, yada, yada. Well, granted, the Federal Register is a depressing document for a libertarian.

But in my lifetime, liberty has made more gains than retreats — people no longer fear jail (or worse) for drinking from the wrong water fountain or sitting in the wrong bus seat. The Lenny Bruces and Al Goldsteins of today aren’t being hauled off to jail. Yes, McCain-Feingold is an abomination, but on the whole, no people on earth are or ever have been more free to express themselves. Significant strides have been made in restoring some of the economic freedoms given up in the first half of the 20th century. Thirty-nine states (up from half a dozen) now recognize that our inherent right to self-defense, if not absolute, at least puts a significant burden on the state to demonstrate why we should not be able to go about armed.

I could go on. And we could argue endlessly about which pluses balance out which minuses and what the net score for liberty is from year to year. But that’s not the point. The point is that there are always things to criticize and things to praise, but at the end of the day, America as an idea and an institution and a heritage is worthy of our love and affection. Libertarians of all people should recognize that.

Just as we admire and love people who personify and concretize virtues and traits of character that we think are noble and worthy, it’s appropriate for us to admire and love institutions that embody and concretize ideals and principles that we think are noble and worthy.

Libertarians of all people should get choked up when they hear the Star Spangled Banner, when the fireworks go off on Independence Day, when an immigrant weeps at a naturalization ceremony, or when a Medal of Honor recipient, asked why he performed his great act of heroism, struggles to express himself clearly:

He couldn’t answer for a few seconds. You could tell he was searching for the right words, the right sentence. Then he said, "I get emotional about it. But we’re a free country." He said it with a kind of wonder, and gratitude.

Instead, too many libertarians have lost all sense of perspective and have adopted their own version of the sick moral equivalence game played by the left, which says that we’re no better than the people who attack us. Witness the libertarian who left this comment on one of my posts about Jay Bennish, the geography teacher  who indulged in the "Bush is like Hitler" classroom rant:

Actually, I think Bush is somewhat like Hitler – but what president in recent history hasn’t been? They are all after more power and more police-statism, and a bunch of nanny-statism to boot.

I responded:

Dick: Thanks for dropping by, but your first paragraph exemplifies what’s wrong with far too many libertarians.

George W. Bush is "somewhat like" Adolf Hitler in the same sense that a shoplifter at Target is "somewhat like" Genghis Khan because both took things that didn’t belong to them.

Well, that was Dick’s second paragraph, but I think I otherwise nailed it with my rejoinder.

To a lot of my fellow libertarians, I want to shout, "What the hell has happened to your sense of perspective? You rant about the Patriot Act — have you been to Britain or France or any of a 150 places far worse? You rail against Kelo (as did I) — did you know that in Egypt, according to Hernando De Soto, about 90% of all property owners don’t have a legal title and could lose their home or business at the whim of an unbribed bureaucrat? You carp about regulations and bureaucracies — did you know that starting a small business, which takes at worst a few days here, can take years in many countries? When was the last time you took a break from complaining and criticizing, and said, ‘I’m so grateful that I live here and not there, I’m so glad to be an American’?"

If you can’t see the huge gulf that separates "America isn’t perfect" from "America is no better than any other statist hell-hole," you need to seriously re-examine yourself and your values.

Linked to: TMH’s Bacon Bits, Blue Star Chronicles, third world county, Adam’s Blog, Conservative Cat

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