Posts Tagged ‘Why I’m a Libertarian’

David Brooks writes about the rise of “vehement libertarianism”. I’ll wear that badge with pride. It would also be a good blog name. As always, he’s grossly incoherent and totally divorced from facts. There’s so much idiocy crammed into so few words. Time to break out the machete of reason and cut this down. (Brooks in bold.)

The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class.

Two sentences and he’s already wrong; could be a new record. The implication is that respect for the political class is required for a working society. The only time that’s ever been true has been when arbitrary authority could kill you. Then you’d better show some friggin’ respect or go to jail, or worse.


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Ryan Sorba’s bigoted comments at CPAC have prompted some bloggers to again raise the question of whether homosexuality is a choice.  Is it something behavioral, or predetermined by genetics?

Bryan Caplan points to some evidence that sexual orientation is highly influenced by genes.  As I understand it, it’s not determined by genetic factors, but it’s not a choice, either.  Often these debates about homosexuality are framed as differences between self-aware willful behavior and genetic determinations.  With sexual orientation, it’s neither.

What does the science say?  It’s the prenatal environment.  Scientists now actually understand how hormonal mechanisms in the womb produce sexual orientation.  This pertains to sexual preference, not behavior.  There are heterosexuals who engage in sexual activity with persons of the same sex, and there are homosexuals who engage in sexual activity with persons of the opposite sex.  It’s quite tragic when homosexuals repress their sexuality because of societal pressures, because doing so is quite psychologically unhealthy.

Of course, that sexual preference is not a choice should be completely irrelevant anyway, politically.  It is completely illegitimate to attempt to use the force of the state to prohibit any kind of consensual sexual behavior between adults.

Sorba, and those who share his worldview, haven’t escaped the morality of our evolutionary ancestors.  Modern conservatives assess the morality of homosexuality on a dimension of purity, a value which is easily explained in an evolutionary context, but is foreign to us modern liberals.

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And it was fascinating. Here’s the story. Alexander McCobin, founder of Students for Liberty, spoke yesterday at CPAC about activism and liberty.

In the name of freedom, I would like to thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud [a coalition of gay republicans] as a co-sponsor of this event, not for any political reason but for the message it sends….Students today recognize that freedom does not come in pieces.  Freedom is a single thing that applies to the social as well as the economic realms and should be defended at all times.

Next, Ryan Sorba, author of The Born Gay Hoax took the podium, and blasted the crowd for so heartily endorsing Alexander’s sentiment.

What an asshole.

I’m heartened that the booing, while loud, was limited, as were the cheers to Sorba’s rant. Judging by the crowd wide-shots, the inverse is true for Alexander’s talk. For those who care, Jeff Frazee is the leader of Young Americans for Liberty, a campus group inspired by/centered around Ron Paul.

Alexander and his supporters in the crowd make me very proud.

Update: Scuttlebutt is that the loud booing you can heard during Alexander’s speech is coming from Ryan Sorba himself. What. A. Prick.

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Apologies for the light-to-non-existent posting during the holiday season.  Life gets in the way of all good things.

I was struck by this post from Prof. Bourdeaux, on the cost-free signaling aspects of polls and elections, and how this relates to an ongoing argument in our comments on the rationality or credibility of the electorate.  Cost-free signaling should be discounted heavily; as Prof. Hanson might say, it’s an argument for ‘ought’ divorced from ‘is’.

One of the biggest reasons to advocate for market-processes and individual responsibility is the knowledge problem.  We reference it in this blog’s subtitle, but it has deep epistemological implications that we glance over.  Since there’s often no clear consensus on ‘is’, principled consensus on ‘ought’ is much harder to form.  Instead we get political wrangling like health-care, where the argument is over who gets what, not either ‘is’ or ‘ought’.

The Austrians made the point that markets contain significant truth-determining mechanisms, and that the subjective value of a good or service was essentially a consensus, not intrinsic.  Otherwise, how could we explain radical price drops like this?

When I was a philosophy student, we talked endlessly and circularly about the nature of reality, about the limits of perception, and how that should shape a consensual view of existence.  Things like colors are social constructs, since we can never experience something through another set of eyes.  But it’s wrong to take the next step and say that all reality is consensual.

This goes towards my central objection to centralist/liberal/neocon ideology; that we can arbitrarily decree ‘is’ from some discreet principle or emotion, and dictate ‘ought’ in politics.  To put it differently, freedom and markets determine ‘ought’ through accurate and efficient signaling, and in turn tell us much about what ‘is’.

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Paul Hollander writes an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the momentous events of November 1989.  Hollander escaped the communist hegemony in 1956, and he writes about the oppression and murder committed by the statist regimes of the last century.

While greatly concerned with communism in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Americans — hostile or sympathetic — actually knew little about communism, and little is said here today about the unraveling of the Soviet empire. The media’s fleeting attention to the momentous events of the late 1980s and early 1990s matched their earlier indifference to communist systems. There is little public awareness of the large-scale atrocities, killings and human rights violations that occurred in communist states, especially compared with awareness of the Holocaust and Nazism (which led to to far fewer deaths). The number of documentaries, feature films or television programs about communist societies is minuscule compared with those on Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust, and few universities offer courses on the remaining or former communist states. For most Americans, communism and its various incarnations remained an abstraction.

The different moral responses to Nazism and communism in the West can be interpreted as a result of the perception of communist atrocities as byproducts of noble intentions that were hard to realize without resorting to harsh measures.

In the New York review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash breaks down the chronology of the mass liberation of Eastern Europe. (more…)

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Roles of the Judiciary

Reason‘s Damon Root reviews a new book by NYU Law Prof. Barry Friedman.

In other words, despite howls of “judicial supremacy” and “legislating from the bench” that have come from the left and the right, “the people” basically get their say in the end, either by tacitly endorsing a particular decision or by raising such a fuss that the Court changes course in the future.

It’s certainly a plausible thesis, and Friedman gathers a good deal of evidence to give it weight, including statements from past and present justices revealing just how closely the Court monitors political developments. But as Friedman acknowledges in his conclusion, it also suggests that the Supreme Court may be failing to uphold its core constitutional responsibility. After all, the whole point of having a written constitution is to offer a permanent check against the shifting and fleeting desires of the majority. So if it’s indeed true that the Court eventually just gives way to public opinion—as the legislative and executive branches typically do—how much independent meaning does the Constitution actually retain?

To put it another way, it’s the job of the courts to protect the constitutional rights of unpopular minorities. Sometimes that means progressives don’t get to interfere with capitalist acts between consenting adults, other times it means conservatives don’t get to tell those consenting adults what they can or cannot do with their bodies. And it always means that the courts should be ready to stand athwart the majority yelling “stop!”

I think if the Court actually supported these kinds of freedoms with a consistent, principled jurisprudence, I would fall down dead from shock.

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One of the joys of growing older (which like the Silversun Pickups say, is getting old) is hearing old songs, once loved and now forgotten.  Like running into an ex without any baggage or judgment.  I recently rediscovered Smashing Pumpkins and they took me back to a great time of overblown emotions and wildly inflated self-image.

(Aside:  Billy Corgan reminds me of Ezra Klein, in the sense that I doubt there’s ever been a time when they both didn’t automatically assume they were the smartest people in any room.  End snark.)

But somewhere in that wild rumpus of pomposity, Billy Corgan has some interesting philosophy.  On “Bullet With Butterfly Wings“, he sings

The world is a vampire, sent to drain

Corgan’s oeuvre is concerned with personal integrity or purity.  He’s a true believer in internal perfection, and everything external saps his protagonists of their unique, superior perfection.  He holds himself/his protagonists (I doubt there’s little substantive difference) naturally aloof from the toiling masses, from the dirty fecundity of reality.  Every major SP song betrays this kind of spiritual or physical difference from ‘reality’; Corgan is very much the romantic in that way.  Even in their catalog of videos, the visual metaphor for the world is always dirty (Bullet) or sterile (1979) or fantastical (Tonight, Tonight), Billy is always the startlingly clean, white, pure artistic dream.


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