Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Open Letter to Anti-Feminist "Libertarians"

Stefan Molyneux’s recent video, a defense of his statement that “feminism is socialism with panties” (from which he takes his title) is not so much an enlightening philosophical speech as an ill-informed rant. The title of the video is intellectually dishonest, dismissing generations of women and men struggling for equality as panty-wearing socialists. The title panders to vulgar misogynists and is insulting to all women, feminists or not, and to anyone else who believes in equality between the sexes. The ideas expressed in this video and other videos of his that discuss feminism in a negative way are not only inaccurate but also dangerous, negatively influencing society’s perception of what feminism really is.

Because Molyneux’s anti-feminist views are unfortunately shared by many libertarian men and some libertarian women, we think it is important to take a stand and point out what is wrong and misguided about these views. Each one of the individuals signing this document has seen libertarian and conservative men attacking feminism without knowing what it means; men who have read nothing more than a few newspapers articles or anti-feminist rants by others and have no idea of feminism’s rich and varied history. Their views, founded on little more than opinion, are merely knee-jerk “politically incorrect” responses that lack critical thinking and thoughtful analysis.

Anti-feminist libertarian and conservative comments abound on Facebook and other social media. These include the usual clich├ęs such as “man-hater,” and “feminazis” as well as such claims as, for example, “feminists are so trapped in their victimhood thinking that they see potential male oppressors everywhere and blame everything that is wrong with their lives on ‘sexism’ and ‘patriarchy.’” Men who are supportive of feminist concerns are attacked as “little wussy boys” and “worse” than the feminists themselves. One man even called the Association of Libertarian Feminists an “oxymoron.” These childish and uninformed remarks by anti-feminist men not only show how little they know about feminism, but how little regard they have for women and women’s rights.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Libertarians Need to Talk With the Left and How to Do It.

Libertarians should talk with the Left and need to learn how.
First, allow me to define what I mean by libertarian. I use a broad definition to define libertarian. I’m an “old fashioned” libertarian, as I still hold the same basic principles of libertarianism that were present when I got involved with it back in the 1970s.
For me, someone who supports depoliticized markets is part way there, but only part of the way. Depoliticized, or free markets, also mean private property rights—including the right to collectively own property—voluntary exchange between consenting individuals, and the right to keep the fruits of one’s labor.
Someone who believes in a peaceful foreign policy is also part of the way there. They would oppose interventionist wars, support international trade and the free movement of goods, capital and labor.
The third leg of the libertarian stool, so to speak, is civil liberties. By civil liberties, I don’t mean just those civil liberties that conservatives could embrace, such as the right to bear arms, nor do I just mean opposition to the PATRIOT Act. I also mean things such as ending the war on drugs, opposition to censorship, supporting separation of church and state—even at the state level. I mean opposition to sodomy laws and opposition to restrictions on birth control and abortion, I am talking about opposing things such as e-verify as well. I mean the whole plethora of infringements on civil liberties, including regulations restricting the right of people to enter into marriage contracts.
By libertarian I mean someone who is good on economic policy, foreign policy and civil liberties. This is not a 2-out-of-3 game, where you are a libertarian if you are bad in one of these areas.  I would accept someone as libertarian if they miss the boat here or there; but not if they are broadly bad in one category. They may be a progressive, a conservative, a paleoconservative, etc., but they are not libertarian.
Libertarianism is not a variant of conservatism. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Having a Civil Conversation: Talking to Others About Ideas

Prof. Mark Osler discusses how to have a civil conversation about controversial issues.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Booze, Sex and Ayn Rand

Last November the voters in Washington state wisely decided to abandon state liquor stores and allow the private sale of alcohol. Support for the measure was highest in those areas that routinely vote Democrat and lower in areas that are traditional Republican. Yet, the measure itself was to abandon state run agencies in favor private enterprise.

The general perception is that Democrats tend to like government running businesses and Republicans tend to support private enterprise. Yet, in this case the opposite was true.

Conservatives, in general, and Republicans in particular, claim they support deregulation and small government, with local control. Yet they are working to strip the states of the right to set their own marriage laws, oppose deregulation of marriage to allow same-sex couples to enter marriage contracts, and generally support government control of the love life of grown adults. The current debate in the Republican Party seems to be about which candidate supports the most state control of people’s private affairs.

On the other side the aisle, Democrats routinely oppose capitalist acts between consenting adults. They eloquently argue that a woman has the ability to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, or not, and then turn around and claim she is incapable of deciding whether a labor contract is acceptable or not and needs government help in determining the content of the contract. Gay men and lesbians are competent to decide whom they will marry, but incompetent when it comes to making decisions about medical insurance. The GOP argues the exact opposite. Women who ought to be free to make decisions about labor are not competent to decide whether they wish to go into labor. Individuals who are competent to make decisions regarding medical insurance are not capable in deciding whom they wish to marry.

This apparent paradox was noticed by Ayn Rand back in 1973 when she gave a Ford Hall Forum lecture, Censorship: Local and Express. Miss Rand was unhappy with recent Supreme Court decisions allowing the censorship of erotic material. She dissected the Court’s ruling and noted that in this particular case: “It is Justice Douglas, the arch-liberal, who defends individual rights.” On the other hand, “It is the conservatives who speak of as if the individual did not exist, as if the unit of social concern were the collective—the community.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Value for Value: A Short Story on Why Libertarians Fail to Communicate

Joe Libertarian was having dinner with some friends and, as usual, turned the conversation into a lecture on the morality of free markets. Politely the friends listened as he argued that markets are the only fair means of distribution of goods because each individual trades value for value. Exchanges mean that each participant benefits, he told them, otherwise they wouldn’t make the exchange. “Remember,” he said, “value for value. No free lunches, each side brings value to the table otherwise the exchange doesn’t happen and probably shouldn’t happen,” he said as he sipped his beer, feeling superior to these less-enlightened individuals.

His friends nodded while waiting for him to finish. That sip of beer gave Marie a chance to speak up. Marie worked with Joe for years and had grown tolerant of his continual sermons.

“Well, some of us mothers are raising funds for the kids in Little League to cover the cost of uniforms. We’re doing a yard sale so anyone who things to contribute please let me know and I’ll arrange to pick them up.” Several of the others around the table gave Marie their phone number and encouraged her to call them to arrange a pick up. Fred, a neighbor of Joe’s mentioned it would give him a chance to clear out things from storage that he simply doesn’t use anymore. And then everyone turned to look at Joe, who seemed to be paying no attention whatsoever.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So Close You Can Taste It: Marriage Equality in Washington

The state of Washington is literally on the verge of passing marriage equality. Governor Christine Gregoire has said she would sign such legislation if it passes. The state House has sufficiently strong support that it is expected to pass there. The real question has been the state Senate. The Senate needs 25 votes to pass the measure. The current legislature has 31 Democrats and 18 Republicans, but some conservative Democrats are reluctant.

The last few days two Republicans have announced their support for equality. Sen. Steve Litzow, who represents Mercer Island, was the first Republican to announce his support for a marriage equality bill. He says, "It's the right thing to do and it's very consistent with the tenets of being a Republican—such as individual freedom and personal responsibility." The Seattle Times suggested this "should prompt other Republicans to make the same decision. It is time to legalize same-sex marriage in this state."

A couple of days later Republican Sen. Cheryl Pflug, of Maple Valley, said she would support the bill as well. She said, "I have been a longtime supporter of human equality. I do not feel diminished by having another human being experience the same freedom I am entitled to exercise. I would feel diminished by denying another human the ability to exercise those same rights and freedoms."

Associated Press has surveyed the members of the senate and says that 22 senators have confirmed strong support for the measure and 18 are opposed. Two other Republicans are saying they are discussing the measure with constituents and are open to supporting the measure. Five Democrats are saying they are considering the measure. Two of them, Karen Fraser of Olympia and Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell, said they were likely to vote for the measure.

The measure is expected to be introduced this week. Given that only three votes are needed and that two uncommitted senators are likely votes it really means that one additional senator has to support the measure for it to pass. There would still be five senators open to supporting the measure who are not officially committed but only one of them would be needed to pass the measure. It would appear that there is a very high chance of the measure passing by at least the minimum necessary, if not by a few votes extra.

1/14/2012 UPDATE: Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe has announced her official support of the marriage equality measure. There are now 23 of the 25 votes necessary that have been confirmed. Three Democrats who previously opposed such measures—Sens. Brian Hatfield, Jim Kastam and Paull Shin—are considering the measure and haven't announced one way or the other. Another Democrat, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, says she is listening to her constituents and has not made up her mind. She is from the greater Seattle area where support tends to be highest. There are six senators seriously considering supporting the measure. Only two more are needed to assure passage.

Christian Right groups are promising to bus their people in from across the state to protest as they believe gay couples should have no legal rights to a civil marriage contract.