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.