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Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

A commenter named Sage McLaughlin in had the following sage words in a discussion thread based on an entry of mine over at Takimag.com:

Even a fully libertarian system, were it possible to implement one, would require force to maintain, since libertarianism itself isn’t what significantly large communities of people have ever wanted for themselves.  So the promise of giving each person whatever he can get for himself is a hollow one, since one of the things people want is to live in a community that reflects their own desires and hierarchy of values, and invests those things with some authority.  Libertarianism says people shouldn’t want that, or at least that they aren’t justified in insisting upon it, which is a normative claim that must be proved philosophically, not empirically.  Either Larry Flynt or I can have the kind of society that we want, but not both, and to concede to him everything he claims about the good of society, while claiming to be neutral on the question, is to decide the issue in the most dishonest possible way.

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Ace reports an extraordinary story that I’d like to hear the disciples of judicial process and civil liberties for terrorists in the Democratic Party respond to:

Last May, Iraqi terrorists kidnapped three American soldiers.

American intelligence officials searched for cyber-signals about the kidnapping… and actually found them. They found the kidnappers talking to each other on-line.

However, they had to stop listening because the signals were passing through an American-based server and under the law that meant there could be no eavesdropping without a warrant.

So they stopped listening in on foreign terrorists holding kidnapped American soldiers.

For ten hours, officials worked to get “emergency authorization” to resume eavesdropping.

His post, and the evidence in support, is worth reading in full. In an earlier post entitled Wishful Thinking and Terrorism and another here, I’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding this issue.  In short, my view is that combating terrorists located overseas during a time of war, when combined with emerging communications technologies, demands flexibility and less judicial process than the fight against peacetime, domestic criminality. It would be nice if the Democratic Party would grow up and quit acting like this war to protect America from terrorism (and also the exigencies of protecting our troops fighting it overseas) can be carried on effectively without some flexibility in the executive branch and its agencies. Process is not free. We accept this domestically because we, American citizens, might be caught in the law enforcement net. But for terrorists communicating overseas with one another or their agents in America, there are few valuable interests at stake. If any American is talking to Khalid Sheik Mohammad, I want someone in the CIA listening as a matter of course.

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Andrew Sullivan, as usual, is confused and lets himself get carried away when it comes to homosexuality. He notes, “In 1994, just 19 Fortune 500 brands advertised in the gay press. Last year, 183 did.”

He concludes solemnly, “The private sector has long led the government in recognizing the simple reality of gay America.”

Umm, no. The government has always recognized this just fine when it is relevant, and it certainly can’t be said to have ignored gays in the bygone age of criminal sodomy laws. No, the government treats us all the same, except when we’re different in a relevant way. It doesn’t need to recognize the “gay reality” more than any other. The government and its laws rightfully do not care if we have long or short hair, or if we spend our money on books or on CDs, or if we are stylish or dull. A gay person’s legal reality is no different than anyone’s else. A gay person can call 911, file a lawsuit, and apply for a student loan. And, of course, a gay person can marry a person of the opposite sex just like everyone else. What Sullivan really is saying by innuendo is the theme underlying so much of his writing: since esteemed big businesses don’t seem to get hung up on gays, and indeed make money marketing to them, why can’t I and every other gay person get my surrogate daddy’s approval through government-recognized gay marriage? I hate to be so harsh, but this theme runs through his and all other gay people’s appeals to acceptance rather than mere toleration.

Of course, the difference between the government and the market is profound. It is the differences between law and its attendant social approval on one side and voluntary, private arrangements on the other. The government does sometimes care if we’re a man or a woman, or a citizen or a foreigner, or any number of other distinctions. In these areas, the law’s otherwise one-size-fits-all rules recognize that people are not equal in all respects. But these exceptions are exactly that: exceptional. For the most part, the law treats all of us the same.

Businesses are quite different, since there is a great deal of money to be made by appealing to niche markets. Thus, instead of one movie or one book or one type of car or one type of music, there are many examples of each. Unlike the laws, the market and its participants gain a great deal by recognizing our differences in finer and finer detail. This doesn’t prove that the business world is more decent than the government, but rather that it functions differently. It appeals to our voluntary choices, does not use force against us, primarily seeks to make a profit, and does not purport to codify our moral sensibilities.

Indeed, the behavior of businessmen historically shows that they are prone to avarice and indifference to the common good and should, therefore, be appropriately regulated to prevent anti-social activity. Businesses, after all, have sold everything from radar detectors and unsafe cars to Olde English 800 and security systems for drug lords. Various businesses might appeal to gays–gay people do, after all, have money–but they also appeal to everyone else: good, bad, and indifferent. Government, with an entirely different set of tools and concerns must keep people and their businesses within certain boundaries. It must bestow its benefits parsimoniously. And this means, at times, it must operate far behind the curve of social change, lest faddishness be enshrined in law, e.g., urban renewal, prohibition.

Sullivan’s lazy, hair-brained, and easily refuted blog entries are a real disgrace to his own intellect and an insult to his numerous readers. His latest example of sophistry is, sadly, just one of many.

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