Ken Cuccinelli could have won in Virginia had the Libertarian candidate not siphoned off votes. Libertarianism is a healthy, if extreme, counterbalance to the the hard leftism that controls the Democrat Party, and the soft leftism of the RINOs. But the Libertarian Party is not only unnecessary, but destructive. Libertarians should follow the lead of Ron and Rand Paul, join the Republican Party, and push it in a libertarian direction, at least with respect to economic and political issues.
Libertarian ideas are many of them good; the Libertarian Party, however, is a disaster.
I have had my say on this topic in previous posts wherein you will find my reasons:
Specifically referring to the mileage taxes that Sarvis indicated he may support and which may require GPS systems to be installed in everyone's cars, Paul said "anybody who would conceivably vote for someone who would endorse a mileage tax" is "insane" because a mileage tax would be an "invasion of privacy" and would just give the government more money it could waste. In an interview on MSNBC, Sarvis indicated that he could support "vehicle-miles-driven taxes."
Why write an article on a subject you know nothing about? This is a question that Amia Srinivasan might usefully have asked herself. She is a Prize Fellow in philosophy at All Souls College, Oxford, one of the most prestigious academic positions in the academic world; and her webpage at Oxford includes several papers of outstanding merit. You would never guess that she is a serious philosopher, though, from her article “Questions for Free-Market Moralists” in The New York Times, October 2013. The “free-market moralist” she has principally in mind is Robert Nozick, the author of Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974). If Srinivasan has read this book at all, the experience appears to have passed her by.
This is an entry from the old blog, first posted 28 December 2005. It makes an important point worth repeating, especially in light of such recent scandals as the harassing by the Internal Revenue Service of individuals and groups whole political views differ from those of the current administration.
In an age of terrorism, enhanced security measures are reasonable (see Liberty and Security). But in response to increased government surveillance and the civil-libertarian objections thereto, far too many people are repeating the stock phrase, "I have nothing to hide."
What they mean is that, since they are innocent of any crime, they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, and so there cannot be any reasonable objection to removing standard protections. But these people are making a false assumption. They are assuming that the agents of the state will always behave properly, an assumption that is spectacularly false.
Most of the state's agents will behave properly most of the time, but there are plenty of rogue agents who will abuse their authority for all sorts of reasons. The O'Reilly Factor has been following a case in which an elderly black gentleman sauntering down a street in New Orlean's French Quarter was set upon by cops who proceeded to use his head as a punching bag. The video clip showed the poor guy's head bouncing off a brick wall from the blows. It looked as if the thuggish cops had found an opportunity to brutalize a fellow human being under cover of law, and were taking it. And that is just one minor incident.
We conservatives are law-and-order types. One of the reasons we loathe contemporary liberals is because of their casual attitude toward criminal behavior. (We loathe them qua liberals: the cynosure of our disapprobation is the sin, not the sinner.) But our support for law and order is tempered by a healthy skepticism about the state and its agents. This is one of the reasons why we advocate limited government and Second Amendment rights.
As conservatives know, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have no illusions about human nature such as are cherished by liberals in their Rousseauean innocence. Give a man a badge and a gun and the power will go to his head. And mutatis mutandis for anyone with any kind of authority over anyone. This is the main reason why checks on government power are essential.
The trick is to avoid the absurdities of the ACLU-extremists while also avoiding the extremism of the "I have nothing to hide" types who are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of secure pottage.
In the nearly nine years I have been posting my thoughts on this weblog I don't believe I have said anything about so-called same-sex marriage, except for a non-substantive swipe at Matt Salmon a few days ago. There are some entries in my Marriage category, but nothing about same-sex marriage. It is high time for me to get clear about this issue. (The elite readers I attract will have noticed the pun in the preceding sentence: 'marriage' in German is Hochzeit, high time.)
Being a conservative, I advocate limited government. Big government leads to big trouble as we fight endlessly, acrimoniously, and fruitlessly over all sorts of issues that we really ought not be fighting over. As one of my slogans has it, "The bigger the government, the more to fight over." The final clause of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution enshrines the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So the more the government does things that grieve us, by intruding into our lives and limiting our liberties, the more we will petition, lobby, and generally raise hell with the government and with our political opponents. If you try to tell me how much soda I can buy at a pop, or how capacious my ammo mags must be, or how I must speak to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Pee Cee, or if you try to stop me from home-schooling my kids, or force me to buy health insurance, then you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it. Think of how much time, energy, and money we waste battling our political enemies, working to undo what we take to be their damage, the damage of ObamaCare being a prime example.
So if you want less contention, work for smaller government. The smaller the government, the less to fight over.
Along these lines, one might think it wise to sidestep the acrimony of the marriage debate by simply privatizing marriage. But this would be a mistake. There are certain legitimate functions of government, and regulating marriage is one of them. Here is an argument from an important paper entitled "What is Marriage?" by Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson. (I thank Peter Lupu for bringing this article to my attention.)
Although some libertarians propose to “privatize” marriage, treating marriages the way we treat baptisms and bar mitzvahs, supporters of limited government should recognize that marriage privatization would be a catastrophe for limited government. In the absence of a flourishing marriage culture, families often fail to form, or to achieve and maintain stability. As absentee fathers and out-of‐wedlock births become common, a train of social pathologies follows. Naturally, the demand for governmental policing and social services grows. According to a Brookings Institute study, $229 billion in welfare expenditures between 1970 and 1996 can be attributed to the breakdown of the marriage culture and the resulting exacerbation of social ills: teen pregnancy, poverty, crime, drug abuse, and health problems. Sociologists David Popenoe and Alan Wolfe have conducted research on Scandinavian countries that supports the conclusion that as marriage culture declines, state spending rises.
(270, footnotes omitted.)
A very interesting argument the gist of which is that the cause of limited government is best served by keeping in place government regulation of marriage. A libertarian hard-ass might say, well, just let the victims and perpetrators of the social pathologies perish. But of course we won't let that happen. The pressure will be on for more and more government programs to deal with the drug-addicted, the criminally incorrigible, and the terminally unemployable. So, somewhat paradoxically, if you want a government limited to essential functions, there is one function that the government ought to perform, namely, the regulation of marriage.
Support for Obama among 18-29 year olds exceeds that of any other age cohort. Reason Magazine's Nick Gillespie argues that Obama is in the process of "screwing them big time." Gillespie is right. What caught my eye, however, was Gillespie's explanation of why conservatives fail to get the youth vote:
I'd argue that what makes "the conservative message" resonate less among younger people is its, well, conservatism on things such as war, alternative lifestlyes, [sic] drug legalization, and immigration. Younger people are less hung up on the sorts of things that really twist conservatives' knickers. And young people then assume that many of the other things that conservatives espouse - such as generally free markets and open trade - are similarly warped. That conservatives are so inconsistent with their basic message - We want smaller government...except when we're talking about immigrants, the gays, and the ability to kill people overseas! - doesn't help matters, either. Most people surely don't prize consistency as much as libertarians do, but the obvious contradictions at the heart of conservative philosophy are off-putting to anyone with the smallest taste for consistency.
As a philosopher, logical consistency looms large for me. And so you will get my attention 'big time' if you can lay out for me "the obvious contradictions at the heart of conservative philosophy." But if they are obvious, then presumably all you need to do is draw my attention to them.
Unfortunately, public intellectuals, not being logically trained as most philosophers are, have an egregiously spongy notion of what a contradiction is. This is true of even very good public intellectuals such as Nat Hentoff and Nick Gillespie. (Hentoff, for whom I have a very high degree of respect, thinks one is being inconsistent if one is pro-life and yet supports capital punishment. He is demonstrably wrong.)
Ignoring Gillespie's invective and hyperbole, his point seems to be that the following propositions are logically inconsistent:
1. The legitimate functions of government are limited.
2. Among the the legitimate functions of government are national defense, securing of the borders, and preservation of traditional marriage's privileged position.
Now it should be obvious that these propositions are logically consistent: they can both be true. They are not logical contradictories of each other.
It is therefore foolish for Gillespie to accuse conservatives of inconsistency. And to speak of obvious inconsistency is doubly foolish. What he needs to do is argue that the governmental functions that conservatives deem necessary and legitimate are neither. This will require a good deal of substantive argumentation and not a cheap accusation of 'inconsistency.' For example, he can mount an economic argument for open borders. I wish him the best of luck with that. He will need it.
Curiously, Gillespie's own reasoning can be used against him. Suppose an anarchist comes along. Using Gillespie's own form of reasoning, he could argue that Gillespie the libertarian is being inconsistent. For he wants smaller government . . . except when it comes to the protection of life, liberty, and property (the Lockean triad, I call it). Then he wants coercive government to do its thing and come down hard on the malefactors. He's inconsistent! If he were consistent in his desire for limited government, he would favor no government. His libertarianism would then collapse into anarchism.
So by his own understanding of consistency, Gillespie is not being consistent. The same reasoning that he uses against conservatives can be used against him. The reasoning is of course invalid in both applications. It is invalid against the libertarian and equally so against the conservative.
But I like his black leather jacket schtick. It is always a pleasure to see him on the O'Reilly Factor.
This article, by Anthony Gregory, is well worth reading although it gets off to a somewhat rocky start:
I think the most conspicuous problem is the glorification not of guns or fictional violence, but of actual violence. America is a militarized society, seat of the world’s empire. The U.S. government is always at war with a handful of countries.
First of all, we need to distinguish between the glorification of fictional violence and the fictional glorification of violence. What contemporary film makers glorify is violence, actual violence of the most brutal and sadistic sort, not fictional violence. A movie such as Hostel II (cannibal scene) that depicts a man being eaten alive by a man is not depicting a fictional representation of a man being eaten alive, but a man being eaten alive. Of course, a violent and sadistic movie is fiction, but if it is good fiction, it draws the reader in and involves him in the action, degrading, desensitizing, and dehumanizing him. That people find this evil stuff entertaining shows how how morally corrupt they have become. This is the ultimate circenses for the depraved masses. (See Alypius and the Gladiators) [Correction 16 January: Not the ultimate circenses, for that would be the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome or something similar. We haven't slipped that far, not yet.]
I say this because it is important not to downplay the role played by too many film makers and other cultural polluters in contributing to a culture or unculture in which sensitive, highly alienated kids like Adam Lanza, who are products of broken homes, and brought up without moral guidance in politicaslly correct schools in which our Judeo-Christian heritage has been expunged, can be pushed over the edge.
That being said, Gregory makes some very important points, despite his being a bit too libertarian for my conservative taste. Excerpts (emphasis added):
At least as alarming as the finger pointing have been the particular solutions most commentators have immediately gravitated toward. Progressives immediately began accusing conservatives of cutting mental health funding, and conservatives immediately fired back that civil libertarians have eroded the capacity of government to involuntarily commit those suspected of mental illness. This is, I think, perhaps the most disturbing reaction in the long run. Great strides have been made in the last half century to roll back the totalitarianism of mandatory psychiatric commitment. For much of modern history, hundreds of thousands were denied basic human rights due to their unusual behavior, most of it peaceful in itself. Lobotomies and sterilization were common, as were locking people into hellish psychiatric gulags where they were repeatedly medicated against their will, stripped of any sanity they previously had. The most heroic libertarian in recent years may have been the recently departed Thomas Szasz, who stood against mainstream psychiatry’s unholy alliance with the state, correctly pointing out that the system of mandatory treatment was as evil and authoritarian as anything we might find in the prison system or welfare state.
[. . .]
Meanwhile, statists on both the left and right called for the national security state to put armed guards in every school in America. More militarized policing is not the answer. Barbara Boxer, California’s hyper-statist Democrat, called for National Guard troops in the schools. Yet the spokesman of the NRA, instead of doing what it could to diffuse the hysteria and defend the right to bear arms, added his voice to this completely terrible idea, demanding utopian solutions and scapegoating when he should have been a voice of reason. The main difference between his proposal and Boxer’s would be the uniforms worn by the armed guards.
I agree. Turning schools into armed camps is an awful idea, though not as stupid as making them 'gun-free' zones.
Government armed guards will not necessarily make the schools safer, though. Central planning doesn’t work. The Fort Hood shooter managed to kill twelve people in 2009, despite the military base epitomizing the very pinnacle of government security. And now we see President Obama toying with the exact proposal aggressively pushed by the NRA—more surveillance and police, funded by the federal government, to turn America’s schools into Orwellian nightmares.
Although both conservatives and progressives have responded to this tragedy in generally bad ways, and there seems to be wide agreement on a host of downright terrifying police state proposals, I don’t want to imply that both sides have been equally bad. As awful as the law-and-order conservatives have been, the progressives have been far worse, agreeing with most of the bad conservative proposals but then adding their own pet issue to the agenda: disarming the general population.
The right to bear arms is a human rights issue, a property rights issue, a personal safety issue. The way that one mass murderer has been turned into a poster boy for the agenda of depriving millions of Americans of the right to own weapons that virtually none of them will ever use to commit a crime is disgusting, and seems to be rooted in some sort of cultural bigotry. Nothing else would easily explain the invincible resistance to logical arguments such as: rifles are rarely used in crimes, gun control empowers the police state over the weak, and such laws simply do not work against criminals, full stop. Rifles are easier to manufacture than methamphetamine, and we know how well the drug war has stopped its proliferation, and 3D printing will soon make it impossible to stop people from getting the weapons they want.
I will be doing some more writing about gun rights in the next few weeks, as it appears that not for the first time in my life, I was totally wrong about something. I had suspected that the left had given up on this issue, more or less, and Obama—whose first term was overall half-decent on gun rights—would not want to touch it. We shall see what happens, but it appears that the progressives have been lying in wait for an excuse to disarm Americans and have happily jumped on the chance.
Many left-liberals will claim they don’t want to ban all guns, and I think most are honest when they say so. Polls indicate that 75% or so of Americans oppose a handgun ban. Maybe there has been some genuine improvement on this issue, although I do have my doubts about the honesty of those who claim they would stop at rifles and high capacity mags, which are implicated in a handful of crimes compared to the thousands killed by people using handguns.
In any event, the core mentality of the gun controllers is as dangerous as ever. In response to a horrific mass murder of around 30 people, they are calling for liberties to be sacrificed in the name of security, apparently impervious to the logical problems with their proposals. When terrorists murdered a hundred times as many people in September 2001, many of these same progressives sensibly pointed out that those who would sacrifice liberty for security will wind up with neither, a line from Franklin. Yet the same logic should apply here. If 9/11 should have taught us anything, it’s that you cannot have total security, certainly with the state in charge of everyone’s safety. Nineteen men with boxcutters murdered 3,000 people. In a world with cars, gasoline, fertilizer, gunpowder, and steel, it is simply impossible to eliminate every threat, rifles being one of the smallest ones out there. Since 9/11 we have lost so many freedoms, have seen our police forces turn into nationalized standing armies with tanks and battle rifles, have undergone mass molestation and irradiation at our airports, have seen the national character twisted to officially sanction torture, indefinite detention, and aggressive wars. What will we see happen in the name of stopping troubled young people from engaging in smaller acts of mass murder? Much the way that conservatives led the charge toward fascism after 9/11, with liberals protesting a little at first only to seemingly accept the bulk of the surveillance state and anti-terror national security apparatus, I fear that today’s progressives are leading the stampede toward an even more totalitarian future, with the conservatives playing defense but caving, first on militarized schools, then on mental health despotism, then on victim disarmament.
Perhaps if after 9/11 the conservatives had focused on allowing airlines to manage their own security, even permitting passengers with guns on planes, instead of doubling the intrusiveness of the police state, we’d be in better shape today. But now the progressives are running the show, the SWAT teams have become more ruthless, the domestic drones have been unleashed, the wars abroad have escalated, and the same federal institutions whose gun control measures left American civilians dead at Ruby Ridge and Waco can expect new targets throughout the land. The bipartisan police state commences, now that the left has gotten its own 9/11.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
1.5 Crime and Justice
Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. [. . .]
The contradiction fairly jumps off the page. Government should be kept out of the abortion matter, we are told, and yet we are also told that government exists to protect the rights of every individual, including the right to life. This is contradictory. Consider a third-trimester healthy human fetus. If it is an individual, then government exists to protect its right to life by (1.5). But by (1.4) government has no role to play. Contradiction.
Will you reply that the fetus is not an individual? What is it then, a universal? Will you say it is not a human individual? What is then, a canine or bovine or lupine individual? Will you say that the fetus is not alive? What is it then, dead? Or neither alive nor dead? Will you say that it is not a biological individual, but a clump of cells or mere human genetic material? Then the same is true of you, in which case either you have no right to life, or both you and the fetus have a right to life. Will you say that the fetus is guilty of some crime and deserves to die? What crime is that, pray tell?
Will you say that a woman has a right to do anything she wants with her body? But the fetus is not her body. It is a separate body. Will you say it is a part of her body? But it is not a part like a bone or a muscle or an organ is a part. Nor is it a part like hair or mucus or the contents of the GI tract. Is it a part like a benign or pre-cancerous or cancerous growth? No. Granted, the fetus is spatially inside the mother, but that does not suffice to make it a part of her. I am spatially inside my house, but I am not a part of my house.
A fetus is a separate biological individual with its own life and its own right to life. The general prohibition against the killing of innocent human beings cannot be arbitrarily restricted so as to exclude the unborn. I could go on but I have said enough about this topic in other posts in the Abortion category.
Now consider this:
The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
This is basically on the right track and vastly superior to what your typical knee-jerk liberal gun-grabber would spout. Second Amendment rights are very important. And of course they are individual rights, not collective rights, as even SCOTUS came to appreciate. But the formulation is objectionable on the ground of extremism. Look at the last sentence: "We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
This is just ridiculous. It implies that felons should be able to purchase guns. Felons should no more be allowed to buy guns than they should be allowed to vote. It implies that the sale of guns and ammo to children is permissible. It implies that there should be no safety laws regulating the manufacture of guns and ammo. It implies that citizens should be permitted to enter post offices with grenade launchers and machine guns.
I just heard Dennis Prager say that on his radio show. Exactly right. The point is to do good, not feel good about yourself by making some meaningless, ineffectual, narcissistic, self-congratulatory, adolescent 'statement.' It is a futile gesture to 'stand on principle' and 'vote your conscience' when the candidate representing your principles is unelectable. Politics is not about theoretical purity but about practical efficacy.
I would add to Prager's thought that, even if libertarian ideas were better than conservative ideas -- and they are not inasmuch as what is good in libertarianism is already included in conservatism -- it would remain foolish to vote for libertarians. It would be a case of letting the better and the best become the enemy of the good. If you vote for the unelectable candidate with better ideas over the electable candidate with good ideas, then you have done something manifestly foolish.
There is another side to this argument, however. The following is from Andrew P. Napolitano, a man I respect:
Can one morally vote for the lesser of two evils? In a word, no. A basic principle of Judeo-Christian teaching and of the natural law to which the country was married by the Declaration of Independence is that one may not knowingly do evil that good may come of it. So, what should a libertarian do?
If you recognize as I do that the Bush and Obama years have been horrendous for personal freedom, for the soundness of money and for fidelity to the Constitution, you can vote for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He is on the ballot in 48 states. He is a principled libertarian on civil liberties, on money, on war and on fidelity to the Constitution. But he is not going to be elected.
So, is a vote for Johnson or no vote at all wasted? I reject the idea that a principled vote is wasted. Your vote is yours, and so long as your vote is consistent with your conscience, it is impossible to waste your vote.
On the other hand, even a small step toward the free market and away from the Obama years of central economic planning would be at least a small improvement for every American’s freedom. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That is Romney’s best argument. I suspect it will carry the day next Tuesday.
I am afraid the good judge does not understand the phrase 'lesser of two evils' in this context. It does not imply that the candidates are evil, but that, while both are imperfect, the one is better than the other. Both Romney and Obama are highly imperfect. In an ideal world, the choice would not be between them. (Indeed, in an ideal world there would be no need for government at all, and no need to choose any candidates for any offices.) But one candidate (Romney) is less imperfect than the other. In this sense, Romney is the lesser of two evils, i.e., the least imperfect of two imperfect candidates.
But this sense is consistent with the principle that one may not knowingly do evil that good come of it.
Napolitano claims that it is impossible to waste one's vote as long as one votes one's conscience. But this ignores the point I have repeatedly made, namely, that voting and politics generally is a practical business: it is about accomplishing something concrete in the world as it actually is. It is about doing good, not feeling good about yourself. Once that is understood, it is crystal clear that to vote for an unelectable candidate is to waste one's vote.
This is especially obvious when Republicans lose to Democrats because Libertarians voted for unelectable Libertarians instead of electable Republicans. There were a couple of cases like that in yesterday's election. Such Libertarians not only wasted their votes, they positively made things worse.
Did you perchance vote for Gary Johnson for president? Then you wasted your vote on an unelectable candidate and helped Barack Obama's re-election.
The truth of a view does not depend on its popularity. But the political implementation of a view does depend on the electability of the candidate or candidates who represent it. If politics were merely theoretical, merely an exercise in determining how a well-ordered state should be structured, then implementation would not matter at all. But politics is practical, not theoretical: it aims at action that implements the view deemed best. Someone who votes for an unelectable candidate demonstrates by so doing that he does not understand the nature of politics.
Even if Johnson is electable in the sense of (i) satisfying the formal requirements for being president, and (ii) being worthy of the office, he is not electable in the specific sense here in play, namely, possessing a practical chance of winning.
When one votes for any unelectable candidate one merely squanders one's vote. If you are a libertarian, then your views are closer to those of Romney than to those of Obama. By voting for the unelectable Johnson, you help someone win whose views are diametrically opposed to your own instead of helping one whose views are partially consonant with your own. Now that is stupid, is it not? It shows a lack of practical sense.
If you won't vote for an candidate that does not perfectly represent your views, then either
A. you are a utopian who fails to understand that politics is about action, not theory, in the world as it is, as opposed to some merely imagined world; or
B. you falsely think there is no difference between the major party candidates.
The same reasoning applies to those who vote for Jill Stein. You are wasting your vote on an unelectable candidate. You are making a statement all right, but nobody cares and it won't matter. But I hope you lefties do vote for her: you will be helping Obama lose.
Ron Paul made a strong showing in Iowa last night despite his coming in third behind Santorum (second) and Romney (first). But there is no way that Paul will receive the Republican nomination. His irresponsible foreign policy positions alone disqualify him. You may disagree with that, but most agree with me, and that includes the better pundits such as Krauthammer. So Paul's electability is zero. It is too bad because Paul and libertarians generally have many good ideas which serve as correctives to the socialist drift of the country and can help us move back in the right direction towards limited government, self-reliance, and individual responsibility. But libertarians cannot seem to control their tendency towards extremism. This is why the Libertarian Party will always be a losertarian party. Paul had the good sense to join the GOP, but he hasn't had the good sense to rein in the extremism that seems bred-in-the-bone with libertarians.
Paul is right that the the U.S. is overextended abroad, but he can't seem to make the point in a moderate and nuanced way. He has to say, foolishly and irresponsibly, that Iran is no threat. And so he comes across as a crazy old man who cannot be trusted with the power of the presidency. His 19th century isolationism was already outmoded in the 19th century.
The extremism of libertarians is connected with their being doctrinaire. It is good to be principled but bad to be doctrinaire. It requires the subtlety of the conservative mind to understand the difference and the dialectic between the two, a subtlety that is often lost on the adolescent mind of the libertarian who wants nice clear exceptionless principles to cling to.
I'll give an example of how libertarians, most if not all, are extreme and doctrinaire. Individual liberty is a very high value. One of the pillars of this liberty is the right to private property. The defense of private property against collectivists is essential to both libertarian and conservative positions. So far, so good. The tendency of the libertarian, however, is to absolutize the right to private property. He has a hard time grasping that principles and values often butt up against competing principles and values that also have a serious claim on our respect. So he cannot see that well-crafted eminent domain laws are right and reasonable. He cannot see that there is something we can call the common good which is in tension with the right to private property.
A second example is how libertarians typically absolutize the value of liberty while ignoring the claims of such opposing values as security and equality. For more see my post, Liberty and Security.
Libertarians and conservatives share common ground, unlike conservatives and contemporary liberals (i.e., leftists); but on some issues libertarians are as loony as the looniest liberal. One such issue is open borders. Deogolwulf at The Joy of Curmudgeonry supplies the requisite refutation of one open border argument:
One sometimes hears the following enthymeme: most of nature does not have borders, therefore, mankind should not have borders. The enthymematic form leaves unspoken a premise which the argument must have in the logical form, to which a man who makes the argument is rationally committed, and which in this case stands as follows: mankind should not have that which most of nature does not have, wherefrom it follows that mankind should not have reason, thought, or speech, nor of course the fruits thereof: no philosophy, religion, science, mathematics, good books, half-witted arguments, clothing, tea-kettles, bank-holidays, and so on, given that most of nature does not have these things. Maybe here is the unspoken urge of those who appeal to the “freedom” of non-human nature as the model for human nature: to be lifted of the burden of rational nature and to live without thought or underpants; yet maybe still further, for most of nature is also without life.
Libertarians sometimes speak as if government could and ought to be value-free. But value-free government is as impossible as value-free education.
Education cannot be value-free for the simple reason that all education, assuming it is not confused with indoctrination, presupposes that knowledge is a value and ignorance a disvalue. If knowledge is a value then so is the pursuit of truth. And if the pursuit of truth is a value, then the habits of mind and character the cultivation of which are conducive to the pursuit of truth are values as well. Among these are truthfulness and intellectual honesty. But truthfulness and intellectual honesty cannot be brought to bear in the quest for truth without diligence and self-control and respect for those who know better. We could continue with this reflection but we have gone far enough to see that the notion of value-free education is nonsense.
Equally nonsensical is the notion of value-free government. One would not be much of a libertarian if one did not hold liberty to be a value and (material) equality to be, if not a disvalue, then at least subordinate in the axiological hierarchy to liberty. So libertarians have at least one value, liberty. They advocate a government that allows its richest expression. Anarchists, conservatives, liberals, fascists -- they too have their characteristic values which they hope to promote when and if they gain power.
What I have said suffices to show that the notion of value-free government is nonsense. The question is not whether values but which values.
Libertarians often argue that drug legalization would not lead to increased drug use. I find that preposterous, and you should too. There are at least three groups of people who are dissuaded from drug use by its being illegal.
1. There are those who respect the law because it is the law. 'It's against the law' carries weight with them; it has 'dissuasive force.' For these people the mere fact that X is illegal suffices for them to refrain from doing X. It doesn't matter for the purposes of my argument how many of these people there are or whether they are justified in respecting the law just because it is the law. The point is that there are such people and that the mere illegality of doing X supplies a motive for their not doing X.
Now suppose the legal prohibition on doing X is removed. Will every one in this first class begin doing X? Of course not. The point is that some will. So it should already be clear to anyone with common sense and no ideological axe to grind that drug legalization will lead to increased use.
2. There are those who may or may not respect the law because it is the law, but fear the consequences of getting caught breaking it. These people don't like rude encounters with cops, jail time, fines, loss of reputation, etc. Among these people are libertarians who favor legalization and have no respect for current drug laws but obey the current laws out of fear of the consequences of breaking them.
3. There are also those who are quite confident that they can avoid the consequences of breaking the drug laws, but fear the consequences of contact with drug dealers. They fear being cheated out of their money, being given diluted or poisoned product, etc.
Now take the logical sum, or union, of the three classes just menioned. The membership of that union is significant. Legalize drugs and some of those people will begin using drugs. And of those who begin, some will end up abusing them, becoming addicted, etc.
Therefore, it is utterly preposterous to claim as libertarians typically do that drug legalization will not lead to increased use. So why do people like Ron Paul make this claim? It is hard to figure. Why say something stupid that makes your case weaker than it is? Is it just knee-jerk oppositionalism? (I can't find my old post on knee-jerk oppositionalism, but I'll keep looking.)
Why did Paul say, "How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would."? That's just a dumbass thing to say. Paul is assuming that whether one does X or not has nothing to do with whether X is legally permissible or legally impermissible. He is assuming that people who use drugs will use them no matter the law says, and that people who do not use drugs will refrain from using them no matter what the law says. That is a bit of silliness which lies beneath refutation. So again I ask: why do libertarians maintain extremist stupidities when there are intelligent things they can say?
After all, libertarians do have a case. So my advice to them would be to concede the obvious -- that legalization will result in greater use -- and then argue that the benefits of legalization outweigh the costs. They will then come across, not as fanatical deniers of the obvious, but as reasonable people who understand the complexity of the issue.
As for Ron Paul, I'm afraid he has already blown his 2012 chances with his remarks on heroin. It's too bad. The country needs to move in the libertarian direction after decades and decades of socialist drift. But the American people do not cotton to fanatics and the doctrinaire.
Liberties should be as unlimited as possible -- unless and until there arises a real threat to the open society. Neo-Nazis are pathetic losers. Why curtail civil liberties to stop them? But when a real threat -- such as jihadism -- arises, a liberal democratic society must deploy every resource, including the repressive powers of the state, to deter and defeat those who would abolish liberal democracy.
Civil libertarians go crazy when you make this argument. Beware the slippery slope, they warn. You start with a snoop in a library, and you end up with Big Brother in your living room.
The problem with this argument is that it is refuted by American history. There is no slippery slope, only a shifting line between liberty and security that responds to existential threats.
Krauthammer mentions Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War and FDR's internment of Japanese during World War II, and points out that after the crises were resolved, liberties were restored.
It is worth noting that there is no logical necessity that one slide down any slippery slope. One can always dig in one's heels. Slippery slope arguments are one and all invalid. But there is more to argument than deduction, and so the topic is a large and hairy one. See Eugene Volokh, The Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope.
Victor Reppert thinks that a conservative case can be made against immigration restriction but cites a libertarian article in support of his contention. But as I see it, it is important to distinguish carefully between conservative and libertarian positions on this and other issues, despite several important points of agreement. Pace Reppert, no conservative who understands his position can support open borders or tolerate the elision of the distinction between legal and illegal immigration. There are no conservative arguments for open borders. But let's turn now to the article in question. Here are some excerpts:
. . . the false dichotomy between civil and economic liberties. Both incorrectly bifurcated forms of freedom are rooted in the same set of property rights, first and foremost in one’s own person and, by extension, in the tangible property one acquires justly through homesteading, gifts and honest market transactions. If Big Brother tries to comprehensively regulate immigration, he can smash economic freedom of association. And if the state has the power to oversee our economic lives, our personal freedom will always suffer in the process.
This is the type of excessive rhetoric that libertarians are known for. Immigration laws obviously limit economic freedom of association, but to write that they "smash" it is to suggest that the limitation is some pure power move on the part of "Big Brother" without reason or justification. But there are a number of solid reasons for border control none of which is so much as mentioned in the article. I sketch some of them in Immigration Legal and Illegal. And what exactly is wrong with the distinction between civil and economic liberties? The word 'civil' derives from the Latin civis, civis, citizen and civitas, civitatis, state, citizenship. So I hope I will be forgiven for asking how a person could have civil liberties apart from his membership in some state or other, and how a person who has civil liberties in a state of which he is a citizen can have any civil liberties in a state of which he is not a citizen. As an American citizen I have the civil right to the presumption of innocence. But I don't have that right when I head south of the border. I can see how economic liberties are grounded in the universal right to life, a right that does not derive from membership in any polis, civitas, Staat, state. But civil rights and liberties are state-specific. The right to vote is a civil right, but Mexicans don't have the right to vote in American elections any more than Americans have the right to vote in Mexican elections. There is no universal right to vote wherever one happens to be.
This also is a good time to question the entire idea of the national government trying to “seal the borders,” pick winners and losers among immigrants, decide who gets all the welfare benefits of being a legal immigrant and who is not even allowed into our golden door. Invariably, when the federal government imposes its way on immigration, we get some immigrants who come in with legal sanction and quickly become dependents of the U.S. government—whereas illegals are probably not net beneficiaries of the welfare state, legal immigrants might very well be.
I'm sorry, but this is hopelessly wrongheaded. Since the USA is a welfare state and under ObamaCare about to become even more of one, it is obviously suicidal for purely fiscal reasons alone to open the borders. Who would not want to come to this great prosperous nation of ours? Do I really need to spell this out? Only if the libertarians got their way and succeeded in shrinking the government down to 'night watchman' functions (the Lockean triad: protection of life, liberty, and property), would this fiscal objection to open borders be removed. But obviously this shrink-down is not going to happen. Given that the USA is a welfare state and will remain one -- the only real question being how much of one -- it is all the more necessary to control entry into the country.
Since conservatives often say our rights come not from the government but from God and the nature of man, it is not for the government to decide whether someone should have the right to live here or not—it is up to individuals and communities, which obviously are able to sustain a fair number of illegals.
This is very shoddy reasoning. Conservatives maintain that there are certain natural unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness (which is not the right to be or be made happy). These natural rights are not granted by governments but secured by legitimate governments. They are rights that one has irrespective of one's being a citizen of a state. But it does not follow that every right that one has one one has irrespective of citizenship. My right to vote is not a right to vote anywhere. When I lived in Germany, Austria, and Turkey, I did not have the right to vote in those countries, nor should I have had that right. Just as I don't have the right to vote anywhere, I don't have the right to live anywhere or travel anywhere. When I lived in Turkey I could not stand on my natural right to live in Turkey: there is no such right. I had to apply for a visa and be granted permission to live there for a stated period of time after I had paid a fee for the privilege. Now you might not want to call living in Turkey a 'privilege,' but it is surely not a natural right that everyone has just in virtue of being a human being.
The author says that communities have a right to decide who shall live in them. But a community is a political entity, a state writ small, and what goes for states writ small goes for states writ large.
. . . constitutionalists in particular should question the very notion that the feds have legal authority to crack down on the border, since immigration is not an Article I, Section 8 authority of Congress. Conservatives especially should follow Reagan’s example and embrace immigration amnesty.
This is just false. "Congress shall have the power to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization . . . ." (Article I, Section 8) As for Reagan's example, is this guy suggesting that conservatives should follow Reagan's example even in matters on which he acted foolishly or not like a conservative? Come on! Amnesty for those illegals already here and established may well be unavoidable. But this is separate form the question whether the border should be sealed to keep out additional illegal aliens.