Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh, How The World Has Changed

This YouTube got me to thinking about the Bush/Obama "free speech zones," and how far we have come in just one generation:

And then there was this:

I was a freshman at the University of Michigan in the 1975-76 school year when Gerald Ford decided to announce at his alma mater his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President.

The event was held at the basketball arena not too far from Central Campus. I, and thousands of other U of M students and local residents, flooded the streets as if we were going to a sporting event. I remember reaching the door to the arena and being surprized that every single person was given a once-over and a bag check before being allowed inside. They even took my umbrella and examined it closely (it was a rainy day). I'd never been exposed to official paranoia before. I remember thinking how silly it was.

The arena was packed. I don't remember exactly, but I think it held about 15,000, and since this was not that long after the Nixon pardon, it was not a friendly crowd. When the president finally appeared at the podium for his speech, the place went nuts. There was little chance of actually hearing Ford over the screaming, yelling, chants, insults, and general mayhem. At one point, someone lit a string of firecrackers (remember, Ford had been the target of two prior assassination attempts) and Secret Service agents came out of the woodwork, tackled Ford, then dashed out into the audience to look for the perpetrator. A half minute later, Ford stepped back to the podium and continued speaking through the renewed chants and cat-calls.

I'm sure Ford could not have picked a worse place to launch his candidacy. The opposition to him was fierce. He must have left Ann Arbor with a very bad feeling about his political future.

Contrast that event 35 years ago with the Bush/Obama era of "free speech zones." Shunted off to fenced-in locations blocks away from the President, the protesters shout but no one hears. They wave signs, but no one sees. How in heaven's name is our government to know when the people are angry? This cannot end well.

I'm afraid our children will come to think of this as normal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Escape Clause

Most Americans are sympathetic to the libertarian ideas of small government, low taxes, equality before the law, innocent until proven guilty, and self-reliance. Many a Tea Party speech has begun with a quote from Jefferson, Madison, and Thoreau. The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are enshrined as near perfect documents. Why, then, are people repelled by the term 'libertarian?' Why do some of the advocates of small government attack 'libertarianism' with terms like 'juvenile,' or 'moronic,' or worse? Even regular posters at the are dismissive of libertarianism, though Ron Paul himself describes himself as a libertarian. How could it be libertarianism could come to be so reviled among people who would otherwise be considered fellow travelers?

I think it's because there is no Escape Clause.

There are different approaches to the origins of libertarian philosophy, but the most common one is the 'non-agression' principle. Stated simply, you may do as you wish with with your life and your property as long as you do not initiate aggression against anyone else's life or property. Nearly everyone says, 'this is all fine, but...'

But what about the poor...we need to steal from some people to give wealth to others.
But what about drug users...we need to take control of their lives because we don't like what they are doing.
But what about health care...we need to force people to value it as much as we do.
But what about (your favorite cause)...we need to enslave others because the results will be good.

Everyone has their Escape Clause. They are happy to agree to the non-aggression long as they are exempt from it. Everyone seems to have a little larceny in them. Of course, and entire society built around larceny quickly becomes a free-for-all for pickpockets. That, I think is the society we currently live in. Many of my friends would say, "So...?" They accept the idea that everyone is out to steal from everyone else...that's just the way it is.

Yet these same people are the Tea Partiers who decry the confiscation by taxes of their hard earned money. I believe they are concious of their hypocrisy...they just can't help themselves. They feel they need the legal option to steal or enslave, at least a little, if they feel like it. They WANT their Escape Clause.

So they have it. And they have the society that results from it, and they are not happy. What these Tea Partiers can't fathom is that once it is accepted that robbing, maiming, and killing others for what they consider necessary reasons, they have essentially muttered the open sesame that makes all other reasons acceptable. The tepid conservatives, who mouth the words about individual liberty, hand to their big-government, big spending, high tax, regulate-them-'till-they bleed, opposition all the justifications for every confiscation, imposition, and oppression known to man. The big government people don't need an escape clause. They just need the small government people to agree there must be one. Or one hundred. Or seventy thousand (the number of pages of Federal Regulations, minus the sixteen thousand pages of the Tax Code).

This is the essence of the Escape Clause. It is the escape from morality, the blessing of the cruel, and the justification of the unjust. It is the purposeful breaking of our moral compass so we can be freed from the dictates of universal principles that cross over all cultures and epochs: It is wrong to rob, injure, enslave, or kill another human being. Indeed, an entire class of educated, attractive, and engaging people argues that not only are these actions acceptable, they are necessary and noble. Psychology labels these people 'sociopaths;' they label themselves 'public servants.'

Libertarianism does not have Escape Clauses. It says you should not rob, nor is it acceptable to get your Congressman to rob for you. You should not injure, nor should you get the police to do it for you. You should not enslave, and no government should force other's to live for your sake.

So because libertarianism advocates individual liberty, but does not twist itself in a knot creating moral loopholes, it is considered moronic.

Got it.