Sunday, December 26, 2010

Is Tolerance a Myth?

The conservative Wilberforce Forum released a publication called The Myth of Tolerance. Here is how they describe their own views.

“With Lawrence v. Texas decision and the debate over the federal marriage amendment, the rhetoric of tolerance is louder than ever. But what exactly is true tolerance? In today’s society, people believe that tolerant people “do not ‘force’ their views on others,” writes Gregory Koukl. “They are...committed to one of the most entrenched assumptions of a society committed to relativism: All views are equally valid.” Koukl debunks the notion: The idea that “all views are equally valid” self-destructs when put into practice—and trying to follow it results in intolerance.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The GOP and Bigotry

McCain learns there are gay Mexicans!
It strikes this writer that the Republican Party represents the organized forces of bigotry in America. Consider two issues that came up before the U.S. Senate today: the repeal of the widely unpopular Don't Ask, Don't Tell regulation and the Dream Act. The GOP cast lopsided votes against each.

First consider the Dream Act. American regulations and red tape make it virtually impossible for hard working immigrants to come to America legally. My ancestors "came to America legally" but that was because it was relatively simple to do so. These days it is almost impossible without decades of trying, lots of money and the use of attorneys. I looked into the matter to help a friend get out of a dangerous country, where his life was literally at risk. I was told it would take tens of thousands of dollars to hire an attorney, just to get a shot at things, that it would take anywhere from five to 10 years to process everything and that, the chances were almost 100% that all efforts would fail.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Natural law, theology and good government.

It is sometimes claimed that “natural law” theory is inherently Christian. This simply is not correct, though it is true that Christians, especially Thomistic Catholics, later adopted some aspect of natural law theory. In his work, Natural Law, A.P. d’EntrĂ©ves said that: “The Thomistic interpretation of Christianity is unthinkable without the notion of natural law.” But natural law originated in Greek culture. According to d’EntrĂ©ves, the theologian E. Troeltsch, wrote that natural law was “an alien element in Christianity” and represented “the inheritance of the ancient world which could be adapted to Christian teaching.”

Prof. Paul Conkin, in Self-Evident Truths, writes: “Natural-law theories originated in Greek philosophy. Plato and Aristotle affirmed not only a formal logical order in the world but an inherent purposefulness in all things. Nature stood for both the order and the purpose. Aristotle’s universe was one vast congeries of yearnings, of informed objects moving toward their own perfection and, in a sense, trying to imitate the objects above them in a chain of being stretching to a perfect mind which pulls all things toward it. Man, by his intellect, can grasp the formal truth in objects, can understand the structure of the universe. More importantly he can understand himself, grasp his own nature, which is also to perceive his own highest good.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Morality, state power and war.

Classical liberals and libertarians have often applied the morality of the individual to the collective. By that I mean they argue, and I think persuasively, that the collective is bound by the same moral principles as the individual. This was articulate nicely by Frederic Bastiat almost 160 years ago in his essay The Law.
But I think there is an error that some libertarians fall into regarding this argument. We see this error in the arguments of some of the pro-war libertarians and pseudo-libertarians. One argument may go something like this:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Book Site Up and Running

Fr33Minds, the book distribution arm of the Moorfield Storey Institute now has a live site where you can order a range of libertarian oriented books and DVDs. Fr33minds will be expanding on a regular basis so visit often. We have some of the best prices around. And all profits from sales go to further the mission of the Storey Institute. Fr33Minds will also be selling all the books we have published. There are some great holiday gifts there.

You can also sign up for our e-newsletter there or here, immediately to the right at the top of the page.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Sister is out to ruin your shopping too

Big Sister, Janet Napolitano, now has "public service" messages that are supposed to play in WalMarts encouraging people to report "suspicious" activities to the police. I guess there isn't enough paranoia out there so Janet has to stir it up. After all she has justify her assault on American scrotums somehow.

If you don't want to see Janet's mug at WalMart then let the company know. Unlike the Homeland Gestapo they actually have to keep customers happy, they can't use coercion against people, not like Janet and her thugs. WalMart can be called at (1-800-925-6278). 

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Civil Rights Fight of this Decade?

Next some really odd Republican logic, after the break.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Julian Assange and the alleged sex charges.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is now the subject of an arrest warrant allegedly for sexually assaulting two women. But that case stinks to high heaven. And it appears he may well be the victim of an attack by two women who are angry that he was having a consenting relationship with both of them simultaneously, something they only discovered when they spoke to each other. 

One of the "victims" was Anna Ardin who told the police that Assange sexually assaulted her on August 14th. Ardin is a radical leftist, a feminist, an "animal rights" activist and a Christian involved with the Brotherhood Movement. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Improving State of Human Well-Being

This very short video is a brilliant demonstration as to how two major factors of human well-being (wealth and health) have increased since 1810.  In just a few minutes you can see the dramatic changes that have taken place. Hans Rosling, of Sweden, is an expert on the links between health and wealth and his demonstration ought to be viewed by everyone.

The only caveat I have is that several times he emphasizes inequality, which I consider to be a major red herring.

Watch the video and then come back for the discussion that follows below the cut.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homeland Security's Stranglehold on America

There can be little doubt to me that the greatest threat to American liberties is not terrorism, but Homeland Security. Janet Napolitano, not Osama bin Laden, is the one attacking "our way of life."

When the Homeland Security department was created it was endowed with unheard of powers, many agencies were centralized under it's control. It used the 9/11 attacks to justify every attack on the privacy of Americans that it engaged in, and it engaged in many.

Consider the recent scanners that basically photograph airline passengers in the nude. Consider also the very intrusive "pat-downs" where federal agents feel the genitals of American citizens in the guise of
preventing another 9/11.  And we heard this all justified on the basis of how horrific 9/11 was.

To recap 9/11: a small band of terrorists hijacked airplanes and used them as missiles to take down the Twin Towers. Airplanes are massive, very fast, and filled with explosive fuels that will detonate upon impact. It was this combination of factors that made them so deadly. And this was the justification for a very intrusive government agency that routinely mistreats people and threatens anyone who complains at the airport. The entire purpose of the fondling process is to punish people who opt-out of the porno scanners that Janet Napolitano put into place.

So, what then is the excuse for TSA setting up the same sort of system at bus stations? Buses are not missiles, they won't bring down buildings. They aren't filled with enough explosive fuel to do anything close to what happened on 9/11.

Why Liberty: Personal Journeys Toward Peace & Freedom

All across the world individuals have learned that only by interacting peacefully can we achieve a more harmonious, prosperous, healthy and tolerant society. To these ends millions have optimistically involved themselves in a global liberty movement. 

These libertarians, while seeing the promotion of individual rights a worthwhile goal in itself, also believe that a free society is a universally beneficial one. Consider the stories of the diverse contributors who share with you the reasons that they were convinced to embrace freedom and the idea that men and women should govern themselves. 

Fifty-five authors from fifteen countries collaborate in this venture. Included are philosophers and physicians, economists and judges, military officers and environmentalists, police officers and soccer moms, lawyers and small business owners. You can read about the paths to understanding of people like well-known journalist John Stossel or Susette Kelo who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to try to keep her home from being confiscated and delivered to a private business. From Africa, from behind what was the Iron Curtain, Europe, Asia and Africa, and North, Central and South America there are dozens of tales of why these diverse people came to similar conclusions: freedom is best for all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Letter to Conservatives

Dear Conservative:

I want to take you on a nostalgic tour of the modern conservative movement. Now, I know that there will always be individual exceptions to any of the issues I mention here. So I acknowledge them and confess to be speaking about modern conservatism in general. But the exceptions are just that, exceptions. My analysis holds true in general and when we judge a movement it is the general movement, not various individuals, that must be judged.

Let us go back to the 1950s as a starting point; surely over half a century of history will give us an accurate appraisal of conservatism.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Religion Interfers With a Contract

Sheila Matthews
Imagine the following scenario. You hire someone to work for you doing a very specific job. They are paid quite well to perform the job but, after they are hired, they inform you that due to their own religious sentiments they will refuse to perform the job in certain circumstance.

Assume they tell you that their religious beliefs clearly state that Jews killed Jesus and are a cursed people. This employee will therefore refuse to perform their job when the customer in question is Jewish. They will simply "abstain" from doing the job. You balk at this. You have policies where all customers, whether Jewish or not, are treated the same as all other customers. This policy was known when the employee took the job. She insists that because Jews are a minority, and maybe 1 in 20 customers is Jewish, that you should simply allow her to refuse to do the work because it doesn't happen that often.

You tell her that she is required to do the job for which she was hired and that if she refuses you will have to let her go. You are rather appalled that she is so openly bigoted and you don't think you should surrender to her prejudices, whether they are religiously inspired or not. So you let her go. And the next thing you know she is screaming that she is a victim and that you are a bigot discriminating against her on the grounds of her religion.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crafting a new alliance

By Gary Chartier

Libertarian outreach to the left hasn’t made this much sense in a generation.

Four decades ago, libertarians built a thriving alliance with the New Left that focused on the twin issues of war and the draft—of aggressive violence and slavery to the state. It was fruitful and exciting, but it fractured for a whole host of reasons, including the fact that some people on the New Left rejected the ideal of a peaceful, voluntary society and embraced revolutionary violence.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Does the TSA discriminate against gay people?

The Washington Post reports that a growing number of the public are becoming disgusted by government agents groping and fondling them in the name of airport security. In addition the government has imposed x-ray machines that basically look through your clothes and take very realistic, nude images of your body and transmits them to government agents in another room.

Anyone concerned about having federal agents take nude photos of them can "opt out" and instead go through enhanced pat down security. The Post says this involves "the touching of breasts and genitals" and "invasive searches designed to find weapons." Please note that if anyone else walked up to you and fondled your genitals, without your consent, they would be put on the sex offender list after serving time in jail. So, if you don't consent to the pornoray machine you will be punished with state-mandated fondling.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong?

This is a panel discussion on the science of morality. It is well worth watching. Others videos follow after the break.

A very long engagement, indeed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our first loans through the Adam Smith Benevolent Fund

Adam Smith
One of the projects of the Moorfield Storey Institute is to raise monies and distributes grants specifically to fund microlending projects in developing nations, encourage private education in poor countries, and contribute to worthy, non-governmental infrastructure projects. As libertarians we believe in charitable giving. We have now made our first four loans to worthy projects in the developing world. More information on each of those loans is below.

A percentage of all donations we receive will be used for these purposes. You may also earmark donations for the Adam Smith Benevolent Fund and we guarantee that 95% of such donations will be distributed. 

We believe that libertarians must be charitable if they are to sell the virtues of voluntary charity to a skeptical public. We would like you to join us in this entirely libertarian charitable enterprise.  You may make a donation directly to the Storey Institute, may earmark funds for the Benevolent Fund, or join our charitable group at Kiva. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pondering Victimless Crimes

James Peron

Sam Harris in The End of Faith, wrote:
It is time we realized that crimes without victims are like debts without creditors. They do not even exist. Any person who lies awake at night worrying about the private pleasures of other consenting adults has more than just too much time on his hands; he has some unjustifiable beliefs are the nature of right and wrong.
This is not to say that one should not lay awake at night pondering the deep questions of individual ethics. But with Harris I suspect we shouldn't spend much time, if any, worrying about the actions of consenting adults. Alas, there is still much to ponder and lie awake over.

Does Freedom Impose Morality?

James Peron
Over the years I've come across various forms of the same argument mostly from the same sort of people: fundamentalist or conservative Christians.
They will come along and argue that homosexuality ought to be illegal, that censorship should be imposed by the state to keep sexual material illegal, that abortion should be banned, etc. And many who oppose them argue that it is wrong to impose your morality on others.

The fundamentalist then says: "Why not? Aren't you imposing your morality on me?"

And typically the opponent of the statist conservative is confused by this. Why are they confused?

The Peace Principle: The Foundation of Civilization

The Face of Peace - Picasso

By James Peron

The key principle of liberalism is peace. Some would say peaceful cooperation is the key. But in a free society one is also free peacefully not to cooperate. 
Many would say the core principle of liberalism is freedom, and since the word liberalism is derived from the Latin liber, which means free, that is a reasonable conclusion. But underneath this is the principle of peace. Or perhaps it is better to say nonviolence. 
If I wish to gain a value I can do it peacefully or violently. Liberalism eschews the use of violence in gaining values. Only peaceful methods are permissible. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Conservatism versus Liberal Capitalism

By James Peron

Let me begin by stating my thesis: social conservatism is undermined by, and inconsistent with free, or depoliticized markets. More specifically depoliticized markets undermine the sort of static social structure that conservatives yearn for. Far more consistent with such goals is a system of state, or bureaucratic socialism. Social conservatism is not achievable with depoliticized markets operating within a system of limited government. The very nature of the markets themselves undermines the goals of the conservative.

What do I mean by social conservatism? First, I am not referring to individual preferences or choices. A woman who becomes pregnant and decides to not terminate the pregnancy may do so out of certain conservative convictions. But, if she has no desire to prevent others from making their own choices, she may be a personal conservative, on that issue, but not a social conservative. One may choose to shun the use of various drugs for recreational purposes, or even alcohol, and have personal preferences that do not translate into social preferences—that is they do not wish society to restrict those choices.

Taking the Left Out of Liberalism

Michael Strong
In the past year there has been a constant stream of articles claiming that “progressive” or “liberal” ideas have lost credibility due to the massive funding or superior stratagems of “right-wing” think tanks. But in 2001 liberal foundations spent $136 million on public policy institutes whereas conservative foundations spent only $30 million.1 The fact is that liberals desperately need to re-think their ideas. They need to return to liberalism, an intellectual tradition that has almost disappeared from contemporary academic life (and, consequently, from the agendas of many mainstream foundations who consider themselves “liberal”).
The Left has, for more than a hundred years, encouraged the belief that if one is not Left-wing, then one is Right-wing. But liberal, properly understood, is neither Left nor Right; it is Up-wing. Because the Left has long accused anyone who does not subscribe to their brand of “progressive” as being “conservative,” it is worth being clear just how un-conservative I am.

What is the Moorfield Storey Institute?

The classical liberal founders of libertarianism were great advocates of extending social freedom and improving the lives of the most vulnerable in society. Classical liberalism, before Smith’s Wealth of Nations was even written, fought for freedom of conscience and for the separation of church and state.  Classical liberals actively opposed slavery and the slave trade and helped lead the Abolitionist cause. Similarly our philosophical forefathers fought for free trade, not merely because it was more profitable, but because it improved the well-being of the working poor and furthered the cause of world peace. The concentration of power rarely benefits the poor and powerless, but is almost always used to further the interests of the rich and powerful.

Throughout history there has been an intricate and intimate link between economic freedom and social freedoms and equality before the law. True emancipation and equality of rights before the law, are only possible when the economic system is depoliticized within a regime of private property and the rule of law. Libertarian thinking has always had much to contribute to the struggles of the oppressed and marginalized.

Who was Moorfield Storey?

From Reason magazine:

Moorfield Storey

A fierce critic of imperialism and militarism, [Moorfield] Storey was a founder and president of the Anti-Imperialist League, which opposed U.S. annexation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and counted Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, and President Grover Cleveland among its members. An advocate of free trade, freedom of contract, and the gold standard, Storey also helped organize the independent National Democratic Party, also known as the Gold Democrats, who fought the anti-gold populist William Jennings Bryan’s presidential bid in 1896. An individualist and anti-racist, Storey was the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where he argued and won the group’s first major Supreme Court victory, Buchanan v. Warley (1917), a decision that relied on property rights to strike down a residential segregation law.
Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1845, Moorfield Storey was a successful lawyer whose politics tended toward “good government” reform until the mid-1890s. Then came the presidential election of 1896, when the Democrats selected the agrarian insurgent William Jennings Bryan as their candidate. Bryan’s chief cause was “Free Silver,” a call for the government to coin unlimited amounts of silver at an artificially inflated rate. As the historians David and Linda Beito have noted, “the result would have been a pell-mell rush of silver holders to exchange their metal for dollars, and hence rapid dollar inflation and a corresponding depreciation of the currency.” Bryan expected and welcomed this result, believing it would put cheap dollars in the hands of debt-ridden farmers, leaving the banks and other hated creditors to absorb the losses.