“There’s a difference between you and me. You think that the people’s freedom exists to provide you with possession; I think your possession exists to provide the people with freedom, and I’m going to make sure that they have it.” – Braveheart
Over the course of the past few weeks, I have observed several articles bouncing back and forth around the internet describing the “problems of libertarian populism“. The debate between non-libertarian’s, who in an attempt to sabotage a young and growing movement, would equivocate ideas and goals of its “populists” and champions.
The articles seemed to begin to flood the internet following the statements made by Governor Chris Christie, who said, “This strain of libertarianism going through the party, is, I think a very dangerous thought.” Without going too deep into it, I think it’s important to remember to not be confused with how Governor Christie bundled all libertarians under the same umbrella (As any proponent of collectivism tends to do); likening believers in liberty, who may or may not agree completely on to what degree or role a government should play in a society, and calls those ideals as “libertarianism”.
The problem, with this statement is that it doesn’t not stand to the weight of scrutiny, and taken on its own merits, it simply is not true. Not only for the merits of the actual message that Governor Christie attempted to imply (That it is a “dangerous thought”), but because, like most ideological movements of both the past and the present, there really is no one “thought” that truly constitutes, “The one and true form” of libertarianism.
I’ll try to explain: If you were to gather a group of libertarians in a room and talk to them, you would learn that there are small (l) libertarians: independents who believe in the Non-Aggression Principle who don’t necessarily subscribe to any given political party, and prefer to have a minimalist government that does not intrude and trample the rights of its citizens under the guise of a prudent and paternalistic ideology. There are big (L) Libertarians, who have organized their beliefs into a political platform and choose to challenge the status quo of the so-called “two party system” in order to enact true changes to the national dialogue on government. You have men like Rand Paul, who has never called himself a “libertarian” but more often has self-described as a “Constitutional Conservative”, attempting to bring back original intent of the founders to government, by governing in strict accordance to Constitutional principles. There are Minarchists who believe in the most minimal state possible. There are the Voluntarists who, in the Rothbardian tradition, believe in a complete dissolution of the state, and believe in the efficiency and power of the Free Market to determine how people will interact with each other. And finally, though there may be some objection to this classification; there are Objectivists, who in the tradition of Ayn Rand, believe in the minimal state. Each of these strains has their disagreements within the ideology of libertarianism itself, and the disagreement is over one simple axiom: What exactly is the Non Aggression Principle (NAP)? What they all agree on, however, is that in any relationship, whether it be a two party trading system, or a government entity asserting power over a given territory, initiation of Force is never proper.
The agreement between libertarians, and many Conservatives, is that government has simply gotten too big and measures need to be taken to reduce its size and scope in order to maximize the liberty and freedom for the individual. The differences between libertarians and Conservatives however are stark, and taken as a whole, neither movement complements the other very well.
Standing on its own, libertarianism is its own real entity, and falls into its own consistent category of maximum freedom, ideological purity, and consistency against any logical challenge to its premises. Libertarians do not agree on the what specifically constitutes the NAP. For example, Objectivists have their own version of the NAP, and the libertarians have theirs. They look rather similar, however, Objectivists would argue that libertarians version of the NAP is a variety of vague abstractions rooted in arbitrary whim, which damages the overall philosophy. Libertarians on the contrary, argue that Objectivists system is closed, problematic, and particularly the Anarcho-Capitalists would argue, that the Objectivists belief in minimal Government is an example of Coercive force on the individual.
In matters of economics, libertarians do not completely agree either. As it stands now, I have heard no debate among libertarians who would agree with the economics of John Maynard Keynes and his championing of using government to provide fiscal stimulus to the market. Since libertarians do not believe in force, and most libertarians believe that taxes are reliant on forcible, State sanctioned theft, any fiscal stimulus provided by government to an economy would be such an example of theft, and pillage of an individual’s property. There are two other schools of thought which libertarians may split on. Varying libertarians may disagree over which economic school best represents the ideals of libertarianism, and best champions the NAP. These schools championed by men from the Chicago School (Milton Friedman), and those of the Austrian School (See Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Hoppe). It should be noted that the Austrian School of economics is not limited to the ideas of Rothbardian “Anarcho-Capitalism” but find their root in the ideas also of FA Hayek, who was not an Anarcho-Capitalist, Ludwig von Mises (Who mentored both Hayek and Rothbard and also influenced the works of Friedman), Carl Menger, Hanz Hermann-Hoppe etc.
The point is simple: Collectivizing the ideas of libertarianism as one simple “dangerous thought” is misleading and constitutes the ultimate strawman, besmirching the principles put forth by libertarians and their single axiom: The Non Aggression Principle. I like to say if you put ten different people in a room and ask them to define a word, you will hear ten different definitions, all with the same goal. Libertarians are no different, but their goal is the same; Maximizing Freedom for the individual.
It should be noted that those who retain power by fiat in upper levels of government; who wield the auspices of power through their relationships with those who drive government policy at the expense of the individual will always try to discredit a movement, and attempt to define it in a manner most convenient to achieve their ends. Governor Christie, who clearly does not empathize with libertarians or their “Dangerous” thoughts may very well be one of those people. He’s but one of many.
Whenever a tragic event happens, and the term “Terrorism” is invoked, there seems to be a public reaction/outcry demanding an immediate and overwhelming reprisal. No less, such attacks have the greatest affectation against moral society, for the act, in its egregiousness causes reactions that may seem logical at the moment, but do not stand the weight of scrutiny once time and logic is used to examine the cause, and the eventual effects.
The Boston Bombing of April 15, 2013 is no exception. As events unfolded on that tragic day, the city of Boston, no less the nation was gripped in a sense of terror. It is not at all surprising to hear hawkish rhetoric not long after the attack that it runs counter to “our” principles and way of life. This rhetoric seems to be affected by such terror as “we” are told by our leaders, our talk show hosts, our police authorities to “go about our daily lives” and that “the terrorists win, only if we submit to terror.” This seems to be the rubric that flows subliminally in our day to day watercooler speech with coworkers and colleagues when discussing such matters as “Terrorism”.
Following the timeline of the event, explosion and aftermath, the immediate response on social media, and the other media outlets was “This has to be terrorism”, “This must be terrorism” basing the event and effects solely on the outcome, without examining exactly what the term implies. ”Terrorism” is a political term describing an act of violence against a population of people to violently advance a political or social cause. Two hours after the bombing in Boston, the outcries of “Terrorism” were bleeding thick from all media outlets, while the only thing we knew at the time, was that the explosion was violent, it was scary, and people were injured and killed. What we did not know, at the time, was what political or social causes were being advanced.
Not more than two hours after the bombing, the New York Post published an article stating that a “Person of Interest” of Saudi descent was being questioned by authorities at the hospital. This story was perpetuated on Social Media, and the outcries condemning Radical Islam became thicker than the blood running in the streets of Boston. This of course based on an unsubstantiated article, without any proof to confirm the assertions of the author of the said article. This article of course was de-bunked by the Boston Police Department and FBI not more than one hour later, telling the American Public that the “Person of Interest” was not in custody, nor was he a suspect. The public moved on, and wanted its revenge.
Of course we know the rest of the story, on Thursday evening, April 18. 2013 an MIT Campus Police Officer was shot and killed by the brother’s Tsarnaev. Martial Law was imposed on Watertown, near the MIT Campus, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout, and young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured in a tarped boat in a residential yard, not far from where the shooting of the Campus Police Officer occurred.
The capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev touched off another debate, and outcry over whether or not the public safety exception should be invoked prior to advising him of his Miranda Rights pursuant to the 5th Amendment. Public outcry against the Miranda Advisement was visceral, being seen to the simplest tweet on Twitter, to outcries on Fox News from such influential pundits as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. It seems that public outrage at the act, justifiable as it may be, was the lone argument about suspending the Constitution and its protections in “certain exceptions.” Senator’s such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham even proposed designating Tsarnaev a “Foreign Combatant” despite not having much information about him. Sean Hannity on his own show, suggested that Miranda Waivers should not be sought for Tsarnaev, and should he still choose not to talk, Hannity implied that we “dunk him in some water.”
These arguments made are exactly what’s wrong with too much public outcry following a dreadful attack. No matter the scale, no matter the havoc and destruction caused by the act itself; whether it be towers that fall on the dreadful September Morning, a Federal Building collapsing following a truck bomb, or a normally peaceful sporting event wrecked by the chaos of self radicalized terrorists; our civil liberties must always remain the same, unimpeached, and unbreakable. The institution of Martial Law on a city, the door to door warrantless searches, the rush to judgment absent facts by the public and media, and the suspension of civil liberties, despite the principle of rule of law, and the concept of rights. Our public in its grief got this one horribly wrong, and they in their grief sanctioned the government to only reap more for the argument toward public safety at the expense of our liberty.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It is the natural progression of things for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” When we invoke a “sometimes” approach to our civil liberties following an act of terrorism, we imply that we are willing to give that ground so government can gain. It has been the nature of things ever since that dreadful September morning, which not only gave us over 3000 dead, but also governmental monstrosities such as the Patriot Act, warrantless surveillance, and worst of all, an unjustified war of aggression in the Middle East (Iraq). It is imperative for us to follow events as tragic as April 15, 2013, 9/11 and other horrible events with careful consideration not only of the affects these acts of violence have on the wounded and dead, but also on the liberties that will be grabbed by the government, in the name of our “Interests.” If we allow our liberties to be circumvented by the government in the name of our safety, we hand the trophy of victory to our aggressors, and we allow them to take from us what they truly want. Our sense of self, our integrity, and our principles.
In the wake of any horrific event, be it Oklahoma City, 9/11, or today’s bombing in downtown Boston, initial responses by an outraged public can be problematic. The common meme heard from the grieving masses is quick speculation as to who the culprit may or may not be.
Already, the speculation has run wild, from the major news networks, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, to the Twitter people, who have been tweeting their thoughts on who may be behind the bombing. Not more than 2 hours had passed since the bombing when Wolf Blitzer of CNN deduced, without any evidence, that this might be the work of Right Wing extremists; on the premise that today is Tax Day, coupled with other significant days for the far right fringes (Most noteably, April 19, and April 20).
It’s important to note that while the blood has not even dried from the sidwalk in downtown Boston, and the FBI and Boston Police Department, have not even begun to collect evidence, how irresponsible it is for any person, be it from John Q public, to Wolf Blitzer, to Sean Hannity, to Barack Obama, to make wild speculations without conclusive, or at least commanding proof to support such claims.
I was on Twitter for 15 minutes, approximately one hour following the bombing, when I immediately saw speculation from members of my own side (the #tcot’s) that this was the work of Islamic Fundamentalists. What made these claims even more egregious was the complete lack of any supporting evidence to back up these wild speculations.
Not long after seeing these tweets, I saw a wild article by the New York Post, stating that Boston Police Department had a Saudi “in Custody” at the hospital. The New York Post would later be rebuffed by the Boston Police Commissioner who stated on the record that they did NOT have any suspects in custody at the time.
The lesson here is simple: Stop with the speculation; it is counterproductive. The police don’t speculate, the FBI does not speculate, why should the Press, or the public? In this country, we indict people through due process, supported by probable cause. This is a basic principle in a society that values personal liberties, and rule of law. To arbitrarily assert words like “Custody” or “Suspect” without knowing the full facts is nothing more than hyperbole, best suited to a political agenda. This is not political; This is a crime.
Just for the sake of argument though, I will throw this bone out there for those who continue to cling to the idea that a “Suspect” of Saudi descent is still being held in custody: I have worked in Law Enforcement for over 10 years, and at any incident such as this one, every person who was injured or killed becomes a crime scene; Every person who may have seen something or was there within the larger crime scene is a witness. Could it not be possible that the Saudi being questioned, (Who happened to be severely injured from the blast, I’ll add) was merely being questioned as a part of due diligence to the incident itself? Just a thought.
The point here is, step back out of emotion, and be objective. It’s way too early to cast a verdict. We must not do this. Following Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 the consensus immediately after was that it was perpetrated by Middle Eastern Men in turban’s. It turned out to be a heinous murder/terrorist act, committed by an overzealous white boy. Let’s step back and see how this turns out. Let’s let Law Enforcement do their job.
As Senator Rand Paul gears up to take the early lead in a potentially contentious GOP field for the Presidential election in 2016, questions abound as to what exactly his take on international relations, and particularly, the United States role in the international community. The common meme, as I mentioned briefly in a prior post, is that Rand Paul’s foreign policy would resemble that of his father’s, who many have deemed an “isolationist”.
Without re-hashing the merits or demerits of such a view, I thought it important to describe exactly what an isolationist is, and what isolationism requires. Isolationism, according to dictionary.com, Isolationism is defined as:
[ahy-suh-ley-shuh-niz-uhm, is-uh-] Show IPA
“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.” — George Washington, farewell address, 1796.
I recently picked up Rand Paul’s book Government Bullies and began reading it. As I made it through the first pages, recounting stories of government abuses against property owners in the name of some vaguely defined cause/law, I was reminded of a story a friend of mine told me a few years back.
About ten years ago, my friend (who shall remain nameless throughout) was running a small business as a practicing chiropractor. One night, a stranger walked into his office on a referral from an advertisement placed in the local newspaper. Having no appointments that day, my friend accepted the stranger as his patient, had him fill out all the proper forms, and began making back adjustments on him. The stranger turned out to be an IRS agent and he and my friend hit it off immediately. My friend, who is not shy to share his opinions, was fascinated by what the IRS does, as well as the ins and outs of tax policy. Seeing that my friend was interested in learning more, the IRS agent invited him to a local community tax seminar he was putting on a few days later. My friend took him up on his offer and a few days later arrived at the community meeting to learn more about tax policy. My friend learned a lot, but not in a way that he expected. After being greeted by the IRS agent, the seminar began and my friend took his seat, he immediately noticed that the once seemingly friendly IRS agent took the stage, his entire demeanor changed and rather than gathering new information on tax policy, my friend listened to the IRS agent lecture his group on paying taxes on time, not trying to trick the system, and that the IRS has seen every scam that people try to come up with. The IRS agent further bragged that he had the power to take liberty away from people and put them in prison for years. That wasn’t the worst of it though; my friend’s ears were appalled to hear the IRS agent say in front of the entire group, “I can come to your house, fuck your wife, and there’s not a damn thing you could do about it.” Not surprisingly, my friend had heard enough and walked out of the meeting.
The kind of rhetoric coming from the IRS agent in that story is not limited merely to my friend’s encounter, but may very well be one of many stories Americans may have of negative contact with government officials gone rogue. It is likely that there are many more nightmare tales of how government agents, officers, and officials have used the rubric of their office to tout their power. Perhaps more than just something one individual might have said, it is an example, and perhaps even more so a symptom, of the fundamental attitudes and arrogance bureaucrats holding powerful positions in our local and Federal Agencies have displayed to the citizens in some kind of attempt to cow them into a kind of sheepish, slavish mentality that would make Nietzche proud. This kind of rhetoric isn’t self contained only to the IRS, however; it can be heard coming from any agent, public officer, be they from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Energy (DOE), local police departments, and most notoriously the Transportation Safety Agency (TSA).
Two years ago Senator Rand Paul was at the airport in Nashville to fly to Washington, DC, to deliver an address in front of 200,000 people at the National Right to Life March that day. In his own account of his encounter with the TSA, Senator Paul approached the security screening station at the airport, removed his shoes, and items from his pockets, walked through body scanner, was stopped, detained, and held by TSA agents for 45 minutes, and then released with no apology but a rationalization. The TSA told him that he was selected for a random bag check. Read his account of the standoff here.
Perhaps not Senators, but definitely people in the public eye, radio talk show host, Dana Loesch and her husband Chris Loesch had a similar incident with the TSA almost exactly one year later. Chris was stopped and detained and held to answer, all without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Dana, for her part, was also threatened by the TSA for taking photographs with her cell phone and filming the incident. She posted her account of the incident on her site. You can read more about it here. Both of these incidents show a frightening trend of growing government irresponsibility by virtually unaccountable federal bureaucracies operating outside the constraints placed on government by the Constitution.
The TSA, the EPA – any agency with law enforcement powers – must have probable cause to execute a seizure; and even though a detention is a limited seizure of a person, or a more relaxed version of probable cause, it still requires a standard known as reasonable suspicion. Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion are constituted simply because a person is walking through an airport trying to fly from one destination to the next. The TSA admitting they stop and frisk people at random violates the very essence of the Terry v. Ohio case law, which sets the standard for law enforcement to detain and pat someone down. Even in that instance, the search is limited to outer clothes in order to search for weapons. The TSA is not immune from these basic constitutional standards simply because it has been given a mandate by the Department of Homeland Security (A Monstrosity in its own right, and the subject of another blog).
I have been working in law enforcement for ten years now, and I have seen every manner of crime, been involved in just about every kind of case one can imagine. In the ten years I have served my community, I have learned that there are three fundamental pillars that is law enforcement’s creed: 1) Preservation of Life, 2) Preservation of Property, and 3) Preservation of peace. All of these pillars are held in a sacred trust or bond between the officers/agency sworn to protect its community and the people who form the community’s body. When any law enforcement agency, be they the EPA, the TSA, the DOE, or even your local police department or sheriff’s office, deprives you of your civil liberties (absent the standards of probable cause and reasonable suspicion), the sacred trust between the local community and its police department, or even more distant federal agencies, is shattered, and the three pillars falter. The community is then deprived of peace, property, and their lives.
Ayn Rand was quoted as saying: “A government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.” This is exactly why a sacred trust must be formed between the law enforcement agency/government, and the community they have sworn to protect. Civil liberties are so much more than just a talking point on cable news network, for they form the fundamental pillars of society, constitute the basis of a rule of law and define the relationship each citizen has with his government. It is imperative for every agency in the government, as well as their officers, to not just have a respect for civil liberties, but to have the highest respect for them and the Constitution. It is not for media pundits, activists, law enforcement agents, politicians or government officials to pay mere lip service to the Constitution and civil liberties whenever it is expedient to do so, but to exercise that due regard for them daily in their jobs and in their lives as well. It seems that in the post 9/11 hysteria, our public officers and public for that matter, decided to trade our liberty in exchange for security, while ignoring Benjamin Franklin’s famous warning about a people deserving neither, should they make that choice. Since when has the price of our liberty been traded so cheaply?
Sadly, the American public has allowed their government to bully them into submission by ever-increasing regulation, all in the name of safety, be it from the use of Drones to patrol our skies; to rhetoric in favor of severe restrictions on our Second Amendment rights; to the nationalization of our health care system; to saddling us with a suffocating debt, we, ourselves did not accrue by choice. They have allowed the main stream media and politicians whose careers are defined by political expediency to chastise them into trading those sacred principles cheaply, while coercing them to mindlessly chant like automatons, “Yes, we can!”
All of these things can be remedied, however, by looking to the examples of people like Dana and Chris Loesch, Senator Rand Paul, and the numerous people whose stories he tells in his own book, Government Bullies. Each of these people at one point has said the one word that the government is not used to hearing, “No.” I know my friend did. In a post script to the story I began this piece with, after the seminar, the IRS agent came by my friend’s office again. When my friend saw him in the waiting area, he came out. The IRS agent tried to greet my friend by shaking his hand. My friend refused and politely asked the IRS agent to leave. The IRS agent wanted an explanation. My friend offered him one; he said, “I don’t have to serve you as your doctor and I suggest you find a new chiropractor, because after what I heard you say the other night, how you would do that to another man’s wife just because of who you were and what you did for a living, you wouldn’t want me working on your neck, and make a mistake.” He never saw that IRS agent again.
Today we celebrate Easter; The glorious holiday on the Christian calendar that offers proof of God’s love for all mankind; A Holiday, in which our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ rose from the grave and gave man a chance at new life. It is written in Revelation 21:5 in which Jesus says:, “Behold, I make all things new.” And this possibility is within all of our grasp. Blessings be unto all of you.
For years, I struggled with faith. I have always been a creature of reason, and logic, and proof. I surrounded myself with people who were like minded and mocked the possibility that a man, such as Jesus could have risen from the grave, and that he was the son of some absent God. These assertions came in direct conflict with what I was raised to believe, as my family, beginning with my Grandmother, and parents were strong adherents of Christian living, and pushed me to have faith in God, as a part of my life and being.
By my own admission and personality, I have always been a bit of a rebel; never taking too seriously prescriptions what others have offered to tell me what I needed to do or be in my life, nor paying much heed to warnings of death, and an eternity in Hell if I chose a path astray from God. I have always been repelled by such notions, and they have largely been counter productive in my journey to the Truth.
A few years ago I discovered Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. Her philosophy appealed to me because of its strong endorsement of using logic, reason, and proof to decide existence, and how we come to know it. To this day I still love Ayn Rand’s philosophy as it also endorses a strong personal connection to self ownership. However, I can never call myself a follower of Rand because of its endorsement of Atheism as a necessary plank to logic and reason; and so my journey has continued.
As I have grown in both body and spirit I have learned, both through my relationships with my friends, family and with Him as well, that every relationship is unique and special. I often like to say, that “Every relationship has it’s own integrity and life all of its own.” No two relationships will ever look the same, and nor should they; and so it goes with my relationship with God. I strongly believe in God as the Creator of all things, and that through his Son, Jesus, all sin of the world was conquered, and through him and his sacrifice, life, for man began anew. That being said, I also believe that God gave us the faculty of reason to make decisions; These decisions include the greatest offering he could give us, His Son. I believe that God has the power to make things happen in our lives, but our lives are less rich, less ours, if he were to do it all for us, without any effort on our part. He has given us all the evidence and reason as incontrovertible testament of his love for us, and we need only discover these things and accept them for what they are. This is the truth He spoke of.
As I have said earlier, I still love the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I still hold to sacred truths that have been imparted to me all my life from family and other loved ones, and even though I do not accept the Atheism of Rand, I still think the faculty she spoke of: Reason, is the only way one can come to know, and have a relationship with God. It is for that reason, above all else, that I can say that without God, or Jesus’ sacrifice, no logic or reason can exist, for as it is written, through Jesus, He, “is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6
I wish everyone a very Happy Easter, and I hope that God’s message and Love finds you; and in the spirit of the great verse from Numbers 6:24-26 “May the Lord Bless you and keep you; The Lord Makes his face shine brightly upon you, and be gracious to you; May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”