Saturday, February 18, 2012

Myths, Lies and True Believers: Why Libertarians Should Be Cautious.

Perhaps you never heard of David Shaw Alexander, and it may be with good reason. Anti-gay Christians circulated the story of Alexander as a counter-example to the Matthew Shepherd murder in Wyoming. You may remember that Shepherd was the young college student beaten and left to die in the cold because he was gay.
According to an email allegedly sent out by David’s mother, poor “Davey” was in a restaurant near his college when “these homosexual men came in” and hit on him. They supposedly refused to take “no” for an answer and became belligerent. Then on New Year’s Eve Davey went to a party and “these same homosexuals were there” and  groped him in public and then followed him when he left. They allegedly attacked him, beat him and raped him in the parking lot. He supposedly died a few days later. The “mother” said, “This is what happens because our society doesn’t treat these homosexuals for the sick and perverse people they are.”
According to the emails circulated by Christians this took place in Edmonton, Canada. The problem was that the Edmonton police say there was no rape or murder reported to them. The university says no student by this name was enrolled, campus security says they never heard a word about such an incident. And, given that the temperature that night was -25 Celsius, pulling one’s privates out in public, a necessity for rape, would be a risky venture. In other words, it never happened.
When fundamentalists and conservatives claimed the Federal Communications Commission was being petitioned to make religious broadcasting illegal the FCC started getting 100,000 letters a month in protest. No such petition was circulated or submitted. It was a hoax.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Libertarianism and the Dilemma of Bigotry

If you want to destroy the movement toward greater human liberty, there is no better method than to poison it. And the poison I refer to is bigotry. Now, bigotry takes many forms. Some people only hate gays. Others only hate Jews, immigrants, women, or black people. But, in my experience bigotry, like other forms of human ignorance, tends to come in clusters. Someone who tends toward bigoted thinking toward one group, tends to hold similar positions toward other groups.
What Ayn Rand said about racism applies to all forms of bigotry. She said racism means, “that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions.” She said it “negates two aspects of man’s life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.” She called it the “lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”
All bigotry, regardless of the objects of its hatred, treats the individual based on some collective trait, not their individuality. It denies the groups so targeted the same rights that are granted to others. It singles them out as somehow, inferior based on who they are, not on what they’ve done, or more particularly, not on what they’ve done to others.
That last part is important. Libertarianism holds that individuals are free to make their own choices and act provided they do not violate the equal rights of others.  This is what Herbert Spencer called the “liberty of each, limited by the like liberty of all.” This, he said, was the primary rule on “which society must be organized.”  Practicing Jews act Jewish. Judaism is not just a set of beliefs, but of actions centered around this faith and culture. But, acting Jewish does not inherently violate the equal rights of others. It doesn’t infringe on the life, liberty or property of other people.

Similarly, being black, or Mexican, or gay, does not violate the “like liberty of all.” There is nothing inherent in any of these collective identities that violates the rights of others. As such, none of these groups should be treated unequally before the law.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Proposition 8 Invalid Says Appellate Court: A Synopsis

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision to overturn Proposition 8, which stripped gay couples of their right to marry.  The Court said, “We consider whether that amendment (Prop 8) violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We conclude that it does.”

The Justice noted that Prop 8 had only one intention: “It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right—the right to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in childbearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples raise children on the procreative practices of other couples. Nor did Proposition have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard these liberties.”
In essence, they found that Proposition 8 was intended to harm one class of people. They said it served no purposes except “to less the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow ‘for laws of this sort.’”

Saturday, February 4, 2012

There's nothing to crow about, Mr. President.

Given the state of the economy, after the dual disasters of Bush and Obama, I’ll take good news if I can find it. But does that mean we should believe the White House regarding a recent small decline in the unemployment rate?

Alan Krueger, of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers crowed on a White House website that the recent decline in unemployment is “further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal.”

The unemployment rate, however, is a strange bird. The government doesn’t actually know how many people, who want to work, can’t find a job. Government statistics come from a survey of 60,000 households on a monthly basis. The same households get interviewed several times, on a monthly basis, until they are dropped after their 4th interview. Then, after eight months, they are back in the survey for another four months until they are dropped for good.

The government says: “Respondents are never asked specifically if they are unemployed, nor are they given an opportunity to decide their own labor force status. Unless they already know how the Government defines unemployment, many of them may not be sure of their actual classification when the interview is completed.”

If individuals were asked if they were unemployed they would use the common sense definition. Those without jobs would say “yes” while those with jobs would say “no.” The government doesn’t want to define unemployed that way—the numbers would really make them look bad.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

The following article, by James Padilioni, Jr., originally appeared on the site for Students for Liberty.

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! - Frederic Bastiat, The Law

Since 1976, the month of February has been promoted as Black History Month in the United States as an attempt to highlight the contributions and experiences of black Americans, long oppressed and exploited in American history.   With the development of the “new school” of history in the 1960s, scholars began to explore the different perspectives of minority and subaltern groups in the retelling of the American narrative; the national month-long focus in February is one outgrowth of this new approach.   While much work has been done in this field to reconstruct a forgotten history, libertarians by and large have not lent their voices to the dialogue.  The libertarian focus on the primacy of the individual tends to obscure our view to collectivist constructions like race, but I would contend that in the discourse on black history this has been a shortfall of libertarianism historically and represents a fruitful area for the development and further refinement of libertarian ideas.  Writing at his blog Austro-Athenian Empire, Roderick Long notes that black studies:

 “…much like libertarian studies, tend[s] to be enormously insightful in some areas and vastly ignorant in others. (Indeed, much of the knowledge generated by libertarian studies tends to lie in…black studies’ zone of ignorance, just as much of the knowledge generated by…black studies tends to lie in libertarianism’s zone of ignorance.)”

Both black studies and libertarian studies have complementary areas that would be better served by an integrated approach, and I have written this article to take up the implicit challenge in Dr. Long’s words.  For libertarians, Black History Month represents an exciting opportunity to bring the liberty message to a wider audience, and show the universal application of our ideas.  One such area of integration is critical race theory.