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Archive for the ‘libertarianism’ Category

I recently heard it said that liberals base their arguments on emotion while conservatives rely on reason. While I think it is true that modern liberals often appeal to emotion in order to advance their agenda (welfare, radical environmentalism, and such), they by no means hold a monopoly on the played-up emotional appeal. As with almost all examples of the liberal/conservative dichotomy, the two philosophies are remarkably similar in their use of this technique; they are the two sides of the same coin. A glaring use of emotion over reason is currently on display in the curious case of the Ground Zero Mosque.

It seems that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, has purchased the Burlington Coat Factory building near the 9/11 Ground Zero site for $4.85 million, and intends to turn the property into a new 13 story mosque and Islamic center. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the project.

Outrage over the Ground Zero Mosque has poured forth from the conservative movement. The main points of their argument can be summed up in the online petition located at stopthemosquenow.com. The petition originated with the editors of the conservative organizations Human Events and Redstate.com. As you read the petition, notice the strong negative emotional language:

…the building, with its towering design, “triumphantly” peering down on the hallowed ground…

…constructed with questionable funding on a deliberately insensitive location…

…not an issue of religious tolerance but of common decency…

…to build a mosque at Ground Zero is to stab at the hearts of those who lost loved ones…

…we sincerely request that you do everything in your power to put a halt to this outrage…

Notably missing from this petition and almost all conversations about the Ground Zero Mosque is the fundamental issue of property rights. A secure system of property rights is what has allowed the United States to become the most wealthy and prosperous nation on Earth. The simple fact that American citizens are allowed to earn, possess, and improve their personal property is the cornerstone of our economic prosperity. Conservatives currently claim to champion the cause of liberty, specifically economic liberty, yet, in this case, they allow their strong emotions of hatred and fear for Muslims to handcuff their reason.

There may be other factors involved, including where Imam Rauf obtained the funding to purchase and build his project, but the fundamental issue in the case of the Ground Zero Mosque is simple: the owner of the property, operating within the law, can build what he pleases, be it mosque, mall, or monument. That’s property rights; that’s liberty; that’s America.

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As the House of Representatives and the Senate debate how to governmentalize our health care system, voices of private experts are arguing for a move in the opposite direction. The following 4 videos were put together by the Campaign for Liberty and feature Peter Schiff, Dr. Rand Paul, and Judge Andrew Napolitano.

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obama-at-law-schoolToday President Obama delivered his much anticipated first-day-of-school speech to America’s public school children. If you believe the mainstream media (depending on your network of choice), everyone who lauded the speech is a wacko socialist while those who opposed it are crazy glue-sniffers. But what about those who don’t place themselves on the far right or left? From a limited government, independent standpoint, was the speech good or bad for America’s children?

In order to answer this question, let’s look at the major talking points from both left and right.

Left:
1. We won the election, so shut it you crazy conservative right-wing psychopaths. This is pretty much the left’s current battle cry. They feel that the President has a voter-bestowed mandate to do most anything he wants. There is some truth to this. The voters did elect the Democratic Party pretty much across the board. However, as has been seen during the Congressional recess, there is still a vocal-if-not-large portion of the public that doesn’t care for this argument.
2. The speech was so benign, uplifting, and conservative, it sounded like a Republican speech anyway. True to an extent, but, as shall be demonstrated, the President wove some subtle statist mumbo jumbo into his “don’t give up, stay in school” message.
3. The right will oppose anything Obama does, no matter what it is. I have to say that this is probably true. He has become the anti-right, even if some of his anti-rightness is purely imaginary.

Right:
1. Obama is indoctrinating the children. He’s trying to turn my kid into a socialist. OK people, I read and watched the speech. There were a few little things, but for the most part the speech was apolitical. Most of the kids weren’t paying attention anyway. In fact, if you ask them tomorrow morning what the message of the speech was, most likely they would reply, “Study hard, stay in school.” That is, those who remembered that they watched a speech at all would say that. I doubt any of them were convicted to mark “D” on their first ballot in 2-10 years purely on the merits of this talk.
2. Obama is trying to teach my kid values I don’t agree with. Really? Like what? Work hard, do your best, finish school? Those are pretty darn good suggestions regardless of where they come from. Again, the speech was not controversial in this respect. There was nothing about abortion, gun control, or homosexuality, although the President did encourage students to stand up for kids who are different and are being bullied. I don’t think a million newly minted school age liberal socialists spilled out of America’s schools today at 3 pm. The speech was just not that value laden.
3. I just don’t like the guy and he shouldn’t be talking to my kids. Fair enough. Many school districts didn’t show the speech, and many more parents kept their kids home today. When it came right down to it, parents who felt strongly that their children should not hear what the President had to say found a way to keep them from hearing it. Was it a big loss? Probably not.

Sadly, the above points are about as deeply as most liberals and conservatives are looking at the issue. From my standpoint, though, there are a few other things to consider, some pro-speech and some con. For instance:

1. Why are we so afraid that our children hear a speech from THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? Haven’t we taught our kids to think critically about an argument before they accept it wholesale? Don’t we have any confidence at all that we have bestowed our cherished values in them? We send them off to public school every day to be molded by state employed teachers and other kids, yet we are afraid for them to hear the President, the holder of an office we should teach them to respect?
2. On the other hand, the federal government is not supposed to interfere in public school curriculum. That realm is reserved for the States. The White House provided a much edited study guide to go along with the Obama speech. This should not have been done. Speech OK. Assignments related to the speech, not OK.
3. Get a load of the ego on this guy. One of the things that amazed me about the speech was how Barack Obama turned the first day of school into Obama Appreciation Day. I mean, shouldn’t the first day of school be about students, teachers, and the excitement of a new school year? Instead the day was completely disrupted all for the sake of a 15 minute story about how young Barry became a success against all odds. I hope the kids loved him because he sure loves himself.
4. Perhaps most disturbingly, the theme of the speech, while hiding behind a mask of determination and perseverance, was really about dependence and malleability. Consider the following quote:
“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country? Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.”
Do our kids need the government in order to learn, make discoveries, solve problems, or make a contribution? It seems to me that these great things most often occur when government influence is absent. We all know that actions speak louder than words. What will our kids think when their President tells them:
“You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.”
“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.”

and then they see the same President’s government taking the fruit of their talent and hard work and handing it to dropouts and quitters? That doesn’t sound like writing your own destiny. That sounds like signing your own indenture.

So will President Obama’s speech make that much of a difference? Probably not. Like most speeches, it will likely be thrown into the dustbin of history. Was it good or bad for the kids? Probably neither. Most of the kids won’t remember it anyway. On the other hand, I was a public school student in October 1991 when George H.W. Bush delivered his (much maligned by the left) public school speech, and I still remember that. Yes indeed. I explicitly remember thinking, “Man…that dude is old.”

Read the speech here.

Watch the speech here.

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ArrowsHello, dear readers. Sorry for the long hiatus, but it has been a very busy summer here in my Sleepy household. Time has been so short and things have been changing so quickly in our republic that it seems to write in depth about any one event would be to do injustice to all of the others. Instead I have been watching events unfold, as I am sure you have, and intend to speak to some of the larger issues in the near future.

Today I had a brief online conversation with a young aspiring politician whose acquaintance I have made. Our topic was the legitimacy of the laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. Early in the conversation he made the following statement:

Fortunately we still have a government that (somewhat) believes in the rule of law, protecting its citizens, and upholding morality–which is, after all, the purpose of government.

I was passingly disturbed by his claim that “upholding morality…is…the purpose of government”, not to mention the absurd claim that “our government believes in the rule of law”, but I let it pass at the time, as the debate was headed in a different direction. However, I feel that this sentiment is shared by many who have not spent a lot of time carefully thinking about the shape of American morality and the government’s role in promoting it.

Let’s go back in time for a moment. It is indeed true that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It is also true that many (but not all) of our founding fathers were practicing Christians or Deists, although in some cases I am playing it a bit fast and loose with the term “practicing”. For the sake of brevity I will not go into details, but do a little research on the personal lives of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin and you will get the gist. The point is that the United States was founded by men who believed, though didn’t always practice, the Christian concepts of morality. In this sense the United States has been, from its birth, a Christian nation.

As time passed, Americans tried several times to unsuccessfully legislate “Christian morality” from the seat of government. The most obvious example was the 18th amendment to the Constitution (repealed by Amendment 21) which outlawed intoxicating liquors. Other issues held dear and vehemently defended by early Americans on moral grounds such as slavery and exclusive male suffrage were overturned as well. In our own time the prohibition of recreational drugs (though not tobacco, which is responsible for over 400,000 deaths per year) has been hailed as a victory of national morality.

There is a clear line where issues of morality and government should meet. Laws prohibiting murder, assault, rape, and theft come to mind. These laws are clearly in line with Christian moral principles and they also prohibit one citizen from forcibly abusing the rights of another. As such, these laws are legitimate methods for the government to legislate morality. On the other hand, there are areas where the government should steer clear of enforcing morality through law. This is where I think things may get a little sticky for my friend, the young politician.

If we believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold morality, then it becomes clear that we must establish a solid and workable definition of the term “morality”. For many this is easy; they automatically jump to their Christian faith for this definition. They believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold, under established law and threat of force, the Christian values on which their faith is based. This would be perfectly agreeable if all Americans were Christians, or if all Americans were extremely easy going, or if the United States was a dictatorship, but none of these is the case. We are a land of many races, creeds, religions, and philosophies. Many have similar moral codes; some have very different moral beliefs or none at all. Fortunately for each of us, we are all still at liberty to believe what our families have believed for generations, or to head in a completely different direction. As thoroughly diverse Americans sharing and subject to the same laws we can not all possibly be forced to hold the same government mandated Judeo-Christian moral standard. We have declared ourselves to be the land of the free, not the land of the same, and, shockingly, not the land of the good.

By way of example, let’s look briefly at the issue of drug abuse. I hesitate to broach this subject because so many people I know will immediately jump to the wrong conclusions. Based on my Christian worldview, I do not believe that using recreational drugs is morally right. I believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect. I know from the experiences of family members and close friends how devastating drug abuse can be. However, I also am able to see that the way drug law has been implemented in the United States has been an absolute disaster. Billions of dollars have been wasted in the futile attempt to stamp out drug trafficking and distribution. Billions more have been spent feeding and clothing incarcerated non-violent drug abusers in America’s prisons. Still the situation is as bad if not worse today than the day Ronald Reagan declared the “war on drugs”. The facts are clear, his war has failed. On the other hand, hundreds of private treatment centers exist across this country that are making a difference in the lives of those affected by drug addiction. These centers often do not receive any public funds, yet somehow they are phenomenally successful. How on earth do they turn drug abusers around without tossing them in jail? The answer, of course, is morality.

That’s where my young friend, the politician, gets it so wrong. He still sees government as the enforcer of morality, the warrior of goodness, the savior of souls at gunpoint. He does not yet realize a key fact: government = force. You can not force morality on people. Christian morality is shared and taught through one on one communication of kindness, compassion, and love. That is why faith based drug rehabilitation programs are so successful. They teach abusers to respect themselves as servants of God. Private secular programs like AA and NA are also overwhelmingly successful because of personal transmission of clear moral principles. While they do not focus on Christ, they still impart to their members the importance of respect for the body, mind, and soul. Our morality is personal, not political. It should never be forced, by governments or individuals, on anyone who is not freely willing. The function of government is not to uphold morality through force of law. The function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens and give them the freedom to choose their own road. I happen to believe that those who freely choose a moral path will have a better life. I also believe that the more Americans turn to God to establish a moral heading, the stronger our nation will become. But Christian morality should be forced on no one; each should have a choice.

So don’t make the same mistake that my friend did. The next time you find yourself thinking “There should be a law against…” what you think is someone else’s moral shortcoming, remember that the government has not been established to enforce your moral standard. Each of us is free to choose; not even God forces us to follow Him.

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seatbeltI now officially live in a nanny state. I was proud that I lived in one of the 24 states that did not have mandatory seat belt legislation, but that all changed on June 30 when Arkansas residents became subject to a new primary seat belt law. Police officers are now allowed to stop drivers and issue citations for no other reason than failure to buckle a seat belt.

This is wrong. Anyone who knows a little physics knows what happens when an object the size of an automobile stops suddenly: the passengers inside will continue traveling at the same speed until they too are stopped by something, be it a seat belt or the windshield. This is called inertia. Anyone with any intelligence will choose to have their inertia curtailed by a seat belt rather than the windshield. However, your state government does not believe you have the capacity for this simple practice of self-preservation in your stupid little head. Therefore they saw fit to pass a law that forces you into compliance, wasting your state tax dollars in the process. It is not the government’s place to forcibly legislate intelligent decisions. It is not a public safety issue; those who choose not to buckle up endanger no one but themselves. It is an issue of your government wanting and getting more control over your life.

I wonder why our state government didn’t legislate that my hands must be at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel while they were at it. This would make me much safer, and I don’t really have any business deciding the position of my own hands anyway. Maybe I’ll call Representative Betts and suggest a 10 and 2 law. After all, none of you stupid Arkansans would have thought to keep your hands on the wheel yourselves.

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Heh, heh. These guys remind me of two actual people I know (you know who you are).

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protestThere have been continued demonstrations in Iran today protesting the recent “presidential election”. Back in April, hundreds of thousands of Americans peacefully protested federal government spending in what came to be known as “Tea Parties”. Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the historical student protests in Tiananmen Square, China. It seems that all over the globe, wherever freedom strains against tyranny, there are protests and protesters. Most freedom loving Americans would applaud these acts. The United States government does not.

It seems that, on a written examination given to train federal Department of Defense employees, the following question appears:

“Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism?”

— Attacking the Pentagon

— IEDs

— Hate crimes against racial groups

— Protests

The correct answer, according to the exam, is “Protests.”

Get that? Protests are an example of “low-level terrorism” according to our government. Honestly, how long is it going to take before the American people wake up and see what is happening in this country? How more blatant an attack on the human rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution can there possibly be?

Of course, the DOD will feign shock and surprise over this obvious mistake, meaningless apologies will spill forth, and the offending question will be immediately stricken from this and all future examinations for government lackeys. But what does that prove? It proves that the government wasn’t quite careful enough this time in hiding its true intentions and it got caught. That’s all. The post 9/11 government of the Untied States only allows you to keep your rights that are currently convenient. The moment, yes the very instant that something untoward happens, our human rights, guaranteed by the Constitution, will evaporate. Mark my words. It could be the next terrorist attack on US soil, the collapse of the dollar, or even the next round of ugly protests. The truth is that we are no longer free.

Of course most Americans don’t care about this. As long as they can have the Wii on their big screen TV and glut their daily cheeseburger they are happy. They will wake up one day soon and find that even these “simple pleasures” will be denied them in the name of national security or environmental protection.

The time to be counted is now. If you have any courage, honor, or faith that our nation can again be free, then get off your butt and take a stand. We may not have another chance.

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