Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Stonewall Uprising

PBS has an excellent documentary on the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. What is often forgotten is that millions of gay people were regularly and horribly oppressed by the state. So-called sodomy laws were selectively enforced against blacks and gay people according to the biases of the police. What happened in 1969 was the police once agains raided a gay bar and started hassling, harassing and attacking patrons. This time patrons fought back, which had never happened before. As the police gathered outside to counterattack they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of other angry people who were also tired of how the State treated the LGBT community.

That night changed modern society because the patrons were joined by hundreds of others, then thousands. The gay liberation movement that was born grew to tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions. While a gay rights movement later formed, the early gay liberation movement was essentially a libertarian uprising against big government. It was a defense of the individual against the state. Like abolitionism, and the civil rights movement, what started that night pushed forward the cause of liberty and all libertarians ought to applaud it. The following video is about 90 minutes.

. See more American Experience.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No, Calvin, this is different!

In the film Blast from the Past, a somewhat paranoid genius, Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken), has built a sophisticated bomb shelter for himself and his pregnant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek). When the Cuban missile crisis starts, he insists the two of them enter the shelter. Unbeknownst to him a plane overhead runs into trouble and crashes in his back yard. Taking this a proof that the “big one” has gone off, he seals the shelter for 35 years. The story is a comedy about what happens when 35 years later their son Adam (Brendan Fraser) returns to the surface, believing the world to have experienced a nuclear catastrophe. In addition Adam brings with him vales and attitudes that are decades out of date.

Calvin thinks of everything and even has an entire section of the shelter set up to completely mimic the home that they had been living in.  Just as they enter the shelter, Helen is rather dismayed at circumstances, especially when she learns that Calvin has just incarcerated them in this place for 35 years. She exits the faux house for the equally fake patio and rubbing her arms as if cold. Calvin tells her that isn’t possible since the place is kept at 73 degrees.

Helen: Maybe I’ve just got the creeps.
Calvin: How could you?! This is just like home!

As the camera reveals the nature of the shelter and just how unreal this “home" is,  Helen makes her views clear: “No. No! Calvin, this is different! Believe me!”

So what does this have to do with libertarianism?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Atlas Shrugged: Film Review

Since I went to the opening night showing of Atlas Shrugged some people have asked me what I thought. I posted some preliminary responses on my personal Facebook page to satisfy some of the more urgent demands, but felt a more in-depth discussion was warranted as well. And I know already that I will differ with some of the hardcore fans and some of the hardcore critics.

I should warn those who are utterly clueless as to the plot of the film that I am presupposing that readers will know the plot and thus there will be comments that will give away parts of it. If you don’t want come across any spoilers then don’t read the review.

First, allow me to discuss criticism of the film. I have read several reviews and have often wondered if there are two versions of the film floating around: one version is apparently for the critics only and the other one for the fans.  The review that struck me as being most out of kilter with the facts was the one Roger Ebert published. I read his review a few times and came away with the distinct feeling that the purpose of his review was to persuade fans of the novel to avoid the film; that he wants the film to do badly. That he makes it clear he dislikes Ayn Rand is, perhaps, the reason.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Newest Huffington Post column on Power and Fear

The newest column on the Huffington Post site, by MSI president James Peron, is now available. This column reflects on a recent trip to Manzanar, one of the concentration camps set up by Franklin Roosevelt to incarcerate people for having Japanese blood. The conclusion: "Manzanar reminds us that fear, coupled with lies and expansive government power, is a potent threat to cherished Aerican freedoms. Sadly, it appears few heed that warning today."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Disaster of Me Libertarianism

Have you heard any of the following critiques of libertarianism?

Libertarians are just conservatives who like drugs!

Libertarians are only concerned about themselves!

Libertarians don’t care what happens to other people?

Libertarians are selfish!

This libertarian is dismayed by such comments, but I have to admit that they are often true, at least about many individual libertarians, though they are not true about the philosophy of libertarianism per se.

I just spent a couple days at a libertarian conference. It was an experience that I find increasingly dismaying and disappointing because there has been a clear rightward shift in the libertarian movement, toward some clearly anti-libertarian viewpoints, if not toward some pure nonsense from the fringe right. It is as if no libertarian today can critique the Federal Reserve without appealing to the pseudo-history conspiracy theories of G. Edward Griffin, of the John Birch Society.

But, what is interesting is listening to libertarians dismiss issues that are important to people who aren’t like them. Let us be truthful: the typical libertarian, and certainly the typical attendee at this conference, is a middle-aged, white, straight male. And, they seem utterly incapable of seeing freedom through the eyes of anyone who isn’t the same.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Classical Liberalism? It's Not That Simple!

Classical liberalism is too simplistic! No that’s not my view. But that is a critique I’ve heard from some.

"Liberals argue that all you have to do is privatize everything and life will be rosy."

"Property rights, property rights! Is that all you people talk about?"

“You people think that all the world’s problems can be solved by free markets!”

Notice that just those three remarks actually cover three different facets of liberalism.

That's important to remember. When one is accused of having a simplistic solitary answer to social problems it's useful to note that the "solutions" are neither simplistic nor solitary. Listing just three of them proves it's not solitary.