Category Archives: Freedom

Martin Bashir Isn’t Even a Competent Leftist

Everybody on the right is talking about MSNBC Ranting Head Martin Bashir’s enraged Palin-bashing from the other day, but nobody seems to see the key point. ICYMI and don’t want to watch any Martin Bashir clips (smart choice!), here’s the teapot tempest: In a speech explaining the burden our enormous public debt places on future taxpayers, Sarah said that we in the here-and-now were, in a sense, imposing slavery on our children. Bashir went off on a self-righteous rant about how very awful it was (ignorant, too!) for her to trivialize true slavery by comparing it to a heavy tax burden. While righties focus on the nasty things he called for Sarah to be subjected to, and lefties focus on reassuring themselves that they’re so very much smarter than Caribou Barbie, nobody seems to be aware of the fact that this sort of “slavery” simile is practically a verbal tic among far leftists.

Let’s start with the First Lady of Socialism, Emma Goldman, who wrote: The only difference is that you [people who work for wages] are hired slaves instead of block slaves.

Too far in the past? OK, then, how about Noam Chomsky? What they call wage slavery … was not very different from chattel slavery.

Indeed, so great is the readiness of hard-core lefties to deploy the term “wage slavery” that Communpedia* posts this warning in big, bold font: Comrades: be careful with the use of this term because it can be dismissive of the actual experience of slaves. Sadly, polemics aren’t as easy as they used to be in these days of Dangerous Metaphors, not even the ritualistic bashing of greedy capitalists  exploiting their workers by offering them mere money in exchange for their sweaty-browed toil.

Now, the term “wage slavery” truly is dismissive of the actual experience of slaves, for the simple reason that voluntary labor contracts were precisely what slaves aspired to. It’s a hideous inversion of truth and a grotesque offense to the memory of the enslaved to assert an equivalence between the situation they sought to escape and the one they hoped to attain through emancipation. So if Martin Bashir were really as outraged by the use of stupid slavery analogies as he claims to be, he could find enough material from his fellow lefties to fill a week’s worth of air time with denunciations. I’ll be sure to tune in if he decides to do that.

But Sarah Palin deserves no such denunciation for comparing taxation without representation to slavery. Her point was that the people who’ll have to pay off the huge debt burden we keep incurring now are mostly not able to vote on this policy, either because they’re below the voting age or haven’t even been born yet. Palin’s simile forces us to see the common aspect of both actions, namely the taking of wealth from one group of people without their consent. This does not dismiss the evil of slavery; rather, it uses slavery’s universally recognized immorality to get us to recognize the moral aspect of massive public debt.

It turns out that Chomsky has used the “slavery” analogy in this sense, too:

Chomsky went on to add that some people in Germany, who want to have anything of value in Greece, are “imposing conditions of economic slavery and psychological pressure on the Greeks.”

Pretty clearly one of the rules of engagement the left insists on is, All slavery references belong to us. Equally clearly, Sarah Palin is once again using the lefties’ tactics against them, which reliably makes them howl in outrage. Funny stuff, really, when viewed in the proper light.

Of course, Martin Bashir’s rises to the bait so spectacularly that he reveals himself to be a standout idiot even among his fellow idiots on the left. But you probably knew that already, if in fact you’d ever heard of him before.

 

*I have no idea why there’s no “i” between “Commun” and “pedia”. Seriously comrades, is meter just too bourgeois a part of style for you?

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Filed under Freedom, People Who Lack Self-Awareness, Sarah Palin, TV

The Freedom to Say “I Do” and the Freedom to Say “I Won’t”

The recent decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court forcing photographer Elaine Huguenin to sell her services to Vanessa Willock wanting her to take pics of her wedding to another woman strikes me as an appalling intrusion on her liberty. The right to marry ought not include the right to force people to participate in your festivities. Whether Elaine wins or loses her appeal, the legal proceedings will cost a lot of expensive lawyer time and plenty of emotional distress.

It appears that a likely cornerstone of her case may be a claim to first-amendment protection of artistic expression. This is the sort of convoluted cleverness that delights lawyers and nauseates the rest of us, but obviously “any port in a storm” is a persuasive argument for an embattled defendant. Nevertheless, I’m not sure that anyone who’s ever been subjected to someone else’s wedding photos is going to buy into the argument that they represent artistic expression. The same doubtful artistic status applies to the providers of typical wedding-reception music. And if you’re a caterer, don’t even bother claiming first-amendment protection for your hideous cakes.

Fortunately for any provider of wedding-related services there is a simple and effective solution to the problem of being forced to offer  those services for ceremonies you disapprove of. That solution is to set a price that is high enough either to induce unwanted clients to find another provider or to induce you to put your objections aside for the extra cash. This is eminently fair to all parties. Of course, it may be viewed by some judge with limited cognitive skills as an illegal form of price discrimination. Which is a damn shame, because it would immediately solve the problem by allowing gay couples to find all the gay-friendly photographers, musicians, and caterers through the simple expedient of checking prices.

Whether or not it is legal, this solution ought to be legal because it’s far better for all concerned than the possible consequences of forcing people to provide their services in situations that offend them. After all, while the government can force Elaine Huguenin to take the pics at Vanessa Willock’s wedding, it can’t enforce the level of quality she provides. Suppose Elaine actually shows up and is so distressed by the proceedings that her usual artistic eye and steady hand abandon her. The happy couple’s photographic record of their special day might turn out to be full of unintentional photo bombs by servers, pics of people sitting amidst piles of soiled napkins and dirty champagne flutes, and slightly out-of-focus portraits of the newlyweds. Or maybe the saxophonist in the band will find the scene before him so off-putting that he simply loses his usual tone. And let’s not even consider the horror of a dropped wedding cake.

An old saying that Nana Silicon taught me when I was a tot was, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” That also holds for wedding photographers, which is something Vanessa Willock really ought to think about before asking the state to compel a resistant Elaine Huguenin to photograph what I am sure will be a lovely ceremony. Because that ceremony would be far lovelier if it were recorded by someone who was there voluntarily.

Freedom is a beautiful thing all on its own, after all.

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Filed under Freedom, Simple Solutions to Difficult Problems, Social Justice

Freedom, Capitalism, and Friedman

Milton Friedman, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th Century, was born 101 years ago today.

Friedman was a true public intellectual who influenced policy through his scholarly research and his writing for the general public. Written in collaboration with Anna Schwartz, his Monetary History of the United States didn’t just re-established monetarism as a respectable school of economic thought; it essentially destroyed the pure form of Keynesianism in which “money doesn’t matter”. It also provided the foundation for a new generation of scholars to re-evaluate macroeconomic policy in general and the New Deal in particular.

But as important as  the conduct of monetary and fiscal policy may be, Friedman’s influence extends well beyond it. Through two mass-market books (Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose) and a seemingly-unlikely PBS television series, he explained with patience and clarity to the general public the lesson first taught by Adam Smith in 1776:

[Without trade restrictions] the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man…is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way…. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty [for which] no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society.

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth Of Nations, Book IV, Chapter IX, p. 687, para. 51.

“Capitalism” is a poor name for an economic system that relies principally on free enterprise, because it’s not really a system at all. It is simply the consequence of people being free to choose what to do with their lives.

Trading things is what people are naturally inclined to do, and the ability to trade is what allows people to specialize in what they produce. Specialization, in turn, gives rise to prosperity through the application of particular skills and the incentive to discover new ways to produce things. It’s a simple but powerful point, and yet it was largely forgotten or dismissed because of the Great Depression. Friedman and Schwartz’s documentation of the ways in which the Federal Reserve not only didn’t prevent the Depression, but in fact made it worse, was the essential step in reviving an appreciation of the benefits of free enterprise. And that revival made possible the revival of the political movement for greater individual freedom in general.

Few, if any, individuals in history have done as much to advance the cause of individual liberty as much as did this son of Ukrainian emigres and dry-goods merchants. From his early and continued advocacy of school choice to his key role in ending the military draft to his emphasis on the link between economic freedom and political freedom, Milton Friedman’s work continues to influence people around the world.

For that I am profoundly grateful.

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Filed under Birthdays, Economics, Freedom, Mid-20th Century, People Worth Knowing

On Libertarianism

The big news for libertarians lately has been that their news profile is finally high enough to provide a target. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in particular are catching flak, particularly from fellow Republicans.  Sen. John McCain did his crazy old guy routine by calling them “wacko birds“, while NJ Governor and Number One Springsteen Fatboy Fanboy Chris Christie stooped so low as to play the 9/11 Widows and Orphans Card on them (and you know how hard it is for that guy to stoop at all). These National Security Statists–who’ve never seen a government intrusion on personal liberty that isn’t justifiable as long as somewhere on this planet there are people who hate the US and have access to telephony–have staked out a political position that is as fear-based and fact-free as an Obama speech. Try to debate them and they’ll tell you that the republic cannot survive if you keep asking questions about the scope of the activities of the National Security Agency or the National Reconnaissance Office or the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. And, by the way, stop bitching about the TSA, too, you wacky widowmaker.

That seems to be the main battle right now, but waiting in the wings is the social-justice critique of libertarianism. It’s already come up in the context of Rand Paul’s misgivings about public-accommodations laws for their restriction on the rights of property and voluntary association. It is a potentially devastating line of attack–more so, I think, than national security issues, because in this case libertarians appear to be siding with out-and-out racists.

A distinct, but closely related, critique of libertarianism comes from reasonable moralists like blogger Theo Boehm, who recoils from the freewheeling libertinism and strong egoism that he associates with the “pure drop of libertarianism“. This is the critique I’d like to address in what follows.

The basic problem, as I see it, is the term “libertarianism”, which seems to define an ideology in much the same way as “socialism”. This is a mistake. Libertarianism is not a program for remaking society; it is a predisposition to skepticism toward the expansion of the authority of the state. While it has its obvious appeal to those whose tastes run toward promiscuity of all types, it does not advocate promiscuity. In the moral sphere, what libertarianism calls for is simply personal responsibility.

I’m not a moral philosopher, so I hesitate to argue too strenuously in this domain. But a well-known argument is that humans cannot truly be moral unless they are able to choose to be moral. This, I believe, is the true foundation of libertarianism.

Impatience with mankind’s imperfection is perhaps the defining feature of contemporary liberalism. Do you think it’s wrong to judge people by their race or sex? Well then, it’s not enough that you yourself don’t do that; there oughta be a law. Don’t like the n-word? Don’t just rebuke people for using it; prosecute them for hate speech. Think that too many people are eating too much junk food? Don’t just eat sensibly yourself; put a tax on junk food. Libertarianism stands in opposition to this impulse. But that doesn’t mean that libertarianism requires that people use the n-word or eat pork rinds. 

The completely unsubtle message of contemporary liberalism is, “the state will tell you what’s right to do.” Resistance to this message may arise from totally disparate motives: religious conviction, self-indulgence, or simple stubborn independence. That’s why the coalition that opposes the liberal agenda is so fractious compared to liberalism itself. 

As the government’s domain over our personal choices grows, the need for enforcement mechanisms grows with it. Without penalties, there can be no Obamacare. And when we’ve socialized healthcare costs, we’ve justified the regulation of diet and lifestyle. A national-surveillance state isn’t just a handy way to thwart terrorists or to catch pederasts online; it’s also an essential tool for monitoring “hate” speech. And, really, what’s more hateful than speech directed against policies necessary for achieving “social justice”?

 

Both the NSA and the DEA justify shocking violations of privacy and liberty (what is liberty without privacy?) as necessary tools in the pursuit of their missions. At the everyday level, we see this same mentality on display whenever we observe the seemingly endless parade of ridiculous “zero-tolerance” policies in the public schools. While conservatives bash the “educrats”, and lefties bash the national intelligence apparatus, they seem to miss the common core of their complaints–the threats to freedom posed by an overarching state.

The common issue in national security, in health care, in education, in energy policy, and pretty much any policy you can think of is this: how much autonomy are you willing to cede to the government in the pursuit of safety or equality or any other Good Thing? How much moral responsibility do you want to relocate from the citizen to the state? How free do you want to be?

Libertarianism is simply the inclination to answer that last question like this: Freer than I am right now.

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Filed under Freedom, Politics, Social Justice

Obama Voter of the Day

Meet Lindsey Stone, a vulgar lardass from Plymouth, Massachusetts.

As an understandably unmarried female under 35 who lives in one of the bluest of blue states, she’s almost certainly one of the idiots who finds meaning in her sad little life by falling in line for Barack Obama.

Among the many concepts she’s clearly unclear on is “speaking truth to power.” Also “gratitude.”

In case you’re wondering how someone gets to be this completely fucked up, I think it may have something to do with having a moron for a father.

Stone’s father, Peter, told NewsCenter 5 Tuesday that she is upset and remorseful and that the photo does not reflect her values.”Lindsey called and told me how full of regret she was that this all went down, it was just a spur of the moment total lapse of judgment. She’s very sorry that she offended anybody,” said Peter Stone.

The only appropriate comment from him would be, “I’m ashamed to have unleashed a stupid bitch like Lindsey on America. I deeply apologize to the widows and orphans of those soldiers who gave their lives so that dipshits like me could marry fools like my wife and breed ungrateful cretins like Lindsey. I am reading up on seppuku and plan to take appropriate action.”

As for me, I will only add that this is one case in which I would be delighted to pay for a strange woman’s birth control.

UPDATE: The HuffPo crowd thinks the outrage at Ms. Stone’s brand of humor has gone too far. Why, people are calling her nasty names!

Here’s what I say to them: Remember how you reacted to that Chik-fil-A guy when he said he supported “traditional marriage”? You went ballistic, and organized boycotts of Chik-fil-A franchises owned by people who had never uttered a word about marriage. I wonder what the response would’ve been if that guy had posted a photo of himself flipping off this.

Remember when Rush Limbaugh made a “bad joke” about Sandra Fluke’s sexual mores? More calls for boycotts of his sponsors. You see, that’s exactly like demanding that Lindsey Stone be fired. The left, having politicized as much of everyday life as it can, now cries “foul” when the rest of the world behaves in exactly the same way.

Too bad.

Your beloved leader ran a campaign based on nothing but demonizing the opposition and whipping up fear and resentment. Now you’re getting the tiniest inkling of the type of society your politics are bringing on.

As far as whether Stone should be fired, that’s of course entirely up to her employer. But she works at a place that helps adults with disabilities live independently. I don’t know how many of them are veterans, but I can’t imagine any vets (or spouses of vets, or children of vets, or friends of vets) are going to be too happy about getting visits from her.

 

UPDATE: Lindsey and her pal who took the infamous pic now have lots of free time to experience the thrill of looking for work in the Obama economy. I hear that Applebee’s may have some 28-hour-a-week positions available. Think of the ironic possibilities!

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Filed under Barack Obama, Freedom, People Who Lack Self-Awareness

Bienvenidos a Peronismo

This story

The Romney campaign is reporting that 75 Republican poll watchers have been barred from precinct polling places in Philadelphia, in some cases by Democrats saying, “No Republicans will be allowed in the polling place.” The GOP has gone to court and obtained an order from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas requiring the Republicans to be admitted to the polls and seated per their legal authority.

is sickening, not only for the sheer criminality of it, but even more for the response it invites–indeed, demands:

Unconfirmed reports of former Navy SEALs heading to Ohio, Pa. to guard against voter intimidation

When I said Obama was like Peron, I was serious. This man has no regard for the importance of legitimacy in the functioning of democracy. He will do anything to win, no matter how deeply he drives a wedge between liberals and conservatives in the process.

He is not an orator. He is a demagogue.

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES (no, not blog archives):

I have a long-time friend who was a huge Obama supporter in 2008. She kept bombarding me with links to videos of his speeches and long disquisitions on “white privilege”. I let it all go unremarked, out of friendship, but by late September I’d had enough, and sent a long email that started out with this:

For most of this past year I had no particular enthusiasm for the Republican nominee and no particular antipathy toward the Democrat.  I was planning to sit this one out.  But the events of the campaign that have transpired since the Republican convention have changed all that….
Barack Obama … has made it very clear that he cannot abide criticism, and that he views those who challenge him as obstacles which must be destroyed by any means.
Four years later, I regret deeply that I stand uncorrected by events.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Freedom, Politics, Sarah Palin