What You Need to Know About the Sequester

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by Legatus Libertatis

Cold Hard Fact:

If the Sequester goes through, not a single program or department in the Federal Government will have its funding cut.

This is true.  Every affected department will spend more money this year than it did last year, and more money next year than it will this year.  The “cut” is only a cut in the projected rate of increase in spending.

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Our government employs baseline budgeting, which assumes an automatic increase in spending every  year, based on projected growth of the GDP and inflation.  Any increase in spending less than the assumed automatic increase is considered a “cut”.

Many of our elected officials and the bureaucrats they have appointed are making wild and outrageous claims about the dire consequences of the dread Sequester.  The elderly and the children will starve.  The sick will be untreated.  Our borders will be left undefended.  National parks and forests will be closed to the public.   A shortage of TSA agents will increase wait times by many hours on all flights, while many other flights are cancelled outright due to closed runways and Air Traffic Controller losses.  We’ll lose teachers, police and firefighters and our children will be left illiterate, our streets in chaos and our homes and businesses in flames.   Those of us who aren’t starving will be eating diseased meats and rotten produce because we’ll have no one to inspect food.  Prosecutors will have to drop cases and release dangerous criminals.  Our military will rendered sorely deficient in manpower and technology, and we’ll become vulnerable on all sides from innumerable hostile threats.  Some of these apocalyptic consequences are already occurring; hundred of illegal immigrants have been released from jail because the Sequester will leave us unable to pay for their cells, and an aircraft carrier has had its deployment to the Persian Gulf cancelled.  All this because the Sequester threatens the Draconian step of decreasing the planned increase in future government spending by around 2%.  That is beyond ridiculous.  These threats are absurd now.

At some point, the threats and warnings about the dire consequences begin to speak more to the administrative and managerial ineptitude of our “leaders” than it does about any budget issues.  What business in America, large or small, would be so utterly incapable of even contemplating spending 18% more money next year instead of the 20% they planned on?  They would make a minor adjustment and move on.  The fact that our government officials are throwing such a tantrum over even being forced to think about increasing their spending by slightly less than they intended to, tells me that they are not up to the jobs we have given them.

The tactic being employed is a classic one used by bureaucrats and department heads throughout the private and public sectors.  When a budget cut is threatened for your department or program, you immediately put your most vital and important project on the chopping block.  It’s not even an  underhanded and unwritten tactic amongst bureaucrats – it is taught in political science textbooks.

This is tactic is known as the “Washington Monument Syndrome.”  When the National Park Service is threatened with a cut in its budget of a few cents, the director would claim the need to close down the Washington Monument; he doesn’t threaten to cut cupcakes from the department cafeteria or cancel the second band hired to perform at the office President’s Day party.  But our officials today are taking this tactic far and beyond.

The Right and the Left are using the tactic shamefully, and telling us that they are incapable of protecting us and serving us without spending as much more money every consecutive year as they see fit.  And approximately 2% less the increase they have in mind is going to ruin the nation.  The Neo-cons and Republican warhawks make these claims about proposed Defense Department cuts leaving our country vulnerable, and the Democrats make the same claims about everything else.  It is ridiculous to think that we need to spend more on defense this year and next to stave off calamity when we are already spending so much more than we need to.  The top 15 nations in the world, ranked by total defense spending, see the United States unsurprisingly at the top of the list.  But add the next 14 countries on the list together, and we still spend more than they do combined, and more than 10 times the second highest spender.  President Obama, when he took office, promised his initial defense cuts were aimed at developing a leaner more flexible military, but now our defense department is so inflexible that a minor decrease in the rate of increase in spending could bring about our nation’s downfall.

I’ll illustrate with hypothetical but analogous figures the dire consequences in terms of lost jobs.  A given department is planning to hire 100 new workers next year, and if the Sequester goes through they will have to hire only 98 new workers.  Those 2 workers not hired are today being counted as lost jobs, and added together with all the other “lost jobs” across other programs and departments, allowing officials to claim that thousands of people will not have employment.  Some departments are counting their losses from furlough days, where various government employees may have to work a 4 day week instead of a 5 day week.  There was once a time long ago when our government was run by people who had “real” jobs on the side, and only came together to do the public’s business when there was business that needed doing.  Now we have impossibly massive bureaucracies who spend their time writing laws and regulations to keep themselves relevant and employed full time.

There are a number of reports out right now identifying literally billions of dollars in government waste, redundancies and duplicate programs.  All of this can be addressed before the dire cuts which being threatened need to take affect.  There are countless – and I mean countless – programs throughout the government which cost millions and billions of dollars and are laughably unessential.  I could easily quadruple the length of this post listing wasteful programs; for example, our military spend millions to study fish behavior and learn about possible diplomatic applications and then saying the tours of soldiers will need to be extended because of the Sequester.

for examples of billions in waste see http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public//index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=b7b23f66-2d60-4d5a-8bc5-8522c7e1a40e

President Obama seems unwilling to accept any deal from Republicans which does not allow for tax increases.  The Republicans say they have already given tax increases, and the deal needs to focus on “cuts”.  The entire dialogue is deceptive because what both parties refer to as cuts are merely smaller increases in spending than planned.  Republicans continue to gloatingly point out that the Sequester was the President’s idea.  It was his idea, but it was an idea proposed as a bluff to force a different outcome.

I support the Republicans taking a stand and refusing to approve more tax increases, but even if the Sequester is allowed to take effect the Liberty cause will be hurt.  The American people will be left with the impression that a major blow was struck to our national deficit, when the reality is that we’ll still be spending more next year than we are this year.  People will think we have turned a corner and are moving towards a balanced budget.

In truth we are driving towards the edge of a cliff at 100 mph.  The most drastic painful step we can even force ourselves to consider (the Sequester) is barely lifting our foot on the accelerator to slow to 95 mph.  We are still speeding towards disaster.  The debate today is not even including options like turning the steering wheel or moving our foot to the brake.

Slowing the rate of growth in government spending is not even remotely close to being a solution.  Spending more money every year but not as much more as you’d like is not drastic and Draconian.

Spending the same amount of money for two years in a row is not even remotely close to a solution, yet is too ridiculous an option to even reach the floor of either House of Congress.  Actually reducing the amount of spending – which means spending less money in the future than the present – is the only solution, but it is a line trillions of dollars away in the opposite direction from what is being discussed right now in Washington D.C..

A Libertarian’s Response to Glenn Beck

Posted in Politics with tags , , on February 24, 2013 by Legatus Libertatis

On Friday, Glenn Beck addressed the conflicts and possible collaborations in the offing between himself and Libertarians.  I would like to take Mr. Beck up on his request for an open-minded dialogue to explore common ground.  I do have some reservations about him, though.

Glenn-beck

Dear Glenn,

On Friday’s program you apologized for coming around so slowly on some critical liberty issues, and begged Libertarians to open their minds and give cooperation with you a chance.  Of course, you stopped several times to mock us, sarcastically call us perfect, yell at us for being hypocrites, and call us Nazis and fascists during the course of apologizing and asking for a chance, but I am looking passed the insults and condescension and responding to the genuine request you were making.  I am open to the possibility of coming together on key issues to build a coalition that has more winning power than the Libertarians alone but that champions liberty and freedom more than the current Republican Party.  Keeping in mind that my goal is a civil discussion to explore the possibility of coming together, I still have criticisms of you I intend to voice.

It took me more than two days to get through the seventeen minute video from Friday’s show (http://www.video.theblaze.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=25608397&topic_id=&tcid=vpp_copy_25608397&v=3).

I kept feeling my frustration and blood-pressure rise, and would pause it to return to later.  More than once, I found myself flipping my middle finger at the monitor when I paused.  But, like a side of undercooked vegetables, I forced it all down and eventually cleaned my plate, reaching the end of the video.

I have never been an avid follower, but I have been following you to an extent for years now.  I occasionally watched your program on Headline News.  I occasionally watched your program on Fox News.  I occasionally listen to your radio program.  I see your occasional appearances on O’Reilly.  So the opinion I have of you is formed from my own experiences watching and listening to you, and I am not speaking for anyone other than myself.  I am not echoing criticisms I have read elsewhere.

While I have often agreed with you on various issues, I have been turned off by your delivery.  More than anything else, I find you terribly condescending and insulting.  Perhaps it is because I am a student of history, and consider myself well informed on new and politics, both current and past.  You would often promote or begin one of your TV shows with the promise of teaching your audience something new about our country or one of the Founding Fathers.  “Tonight, you’re going to learn something you never learned in school or knew before.  I’m going to show you (insert historical figure) in an entirely new light.  I am going to teach you something you could not possibly know or be aware of if not for me.”  I would watch your show and realize that I already knew everything you were “revealing”.  I got very tired of constantly being told I was going to have my tiny mind blown by your charitable wisdom.  If you would speak to your audience like intellectual equals instead of lost souls you are shepherding into the light, I would probably watch and listen to you more than occasionally.  But this is a personality conflict between us, and it doesn’t necessarily need to stand in the way of political cooperation.

My politics and ideology have evolved over the years from conservative Republican to fully Libertarian.  It was not an overnight change, but a slow process that took years as I became better educated about our nation and the principles it was founded upon.  I probably turned the corner to Libertarianism about seven years ago, but 2012 was the first time I did not vote for the Republican candidate for President; I voted for Gary Johnson.  During the Republican primaries, I caucused for Ron Paul in my state.  I listened to your radio program during the Republican primaries as well.

I supported Ron Paul because he most closely represented my beliefs, plain and simple.  I respected his consistency and his deference to the Constitution when questioned during the debates.  I think Ron Paul did incredible things for the liberty movement, and has brought many young people into the fold.  I supported and still support Ron Paul, but I do not commit idolatry and worship him.  During the Republican primary season I listened to your radio program, and you did much more than disagree with Ron Paul.  You went out of your way to mock, deride, marginalize and insult him.  You extended your insults to “idiots” like me who supported him.  You included Ron Paul’s name in the list of contenders only as a punchline to a joke, followed by the sobering assertion that Ron Paul’s beliefs were dangerous for the country (mainly his foreign policy).  If you had simply disagreed respectfully with Ron Paul, that would be one thing, but you laughed with cruelty and ridicule and tried to paint him as a buffoon who should not be taken seriously, except as a threat.  That left a very sour taste in my mouth, but it is not the greatest reservation I have about you.

As the Republican primaries began to approach a finish, you put your support behind Rick Santorum.  You said that you believed Rick Santorum was the best candidate of those who available, and the one you thought would be best for the party and the country to run for President.  Rick Santorum was the one person in the GOP primaries who called for the Republican Party to “purge” itself of its Libertarian influences.  You supported the one candidate who wanted the Libertarians “purged” from the coalition, and now you complain that we Libertarians are intolerant towards you and are acting like members of the Spanish Inquisition.  This is the greatest reservation I have about you.

If we are to collaborate and work together, you must accept that some Libertarians could be dubious of you for reasons other than our own ignorance, arrogance and short-sightedness.  I have no problem with you sharing much of my political philosophy, considering yourself a Libertarian and voting for Libertarians in elections.  That does not mean I have to embrace you as my spokesman or poster-boy.  Many Libertarians are secularists and are uncomfortable with the prospect of having their party redefined as overtly Christian.  The “religious right” is a label that has been successfully turned into a pejorative, used to paint the Republican Party as intolerant and archaic.  There is a party out there which combines a respect for our founding principles with a heavy Christian influence, and that is the Constitution Party, not the Libertarian Party.  I am willing to accept you into the Libertarian Party, Glenn Beck, but I am not willing to accept you as a leader of the party or the person who represents me to the rest of the nation.  I think you need to be willing to accept that as well if anything will come of this collaboration.

Right now, you remind me of a wealthy boy who has moved to a new city, and has found a local sandlot where other boys from the neighborhood play baseball.  You claim that you merely wish to join our game and play with us.  At the same time, you say that you were the best player in your old town, that you own a fancy new glove and bat, and your dad owns a clothing store and can give us all new uniforms, so we should be thanking our lucky stars for the privilege of having you even walk over to look at our crappy field.  Not only should we be thanking you for wanting to play with us, but we should make you team captain and remind ourselves that we would be laughingstock losers forever if you weren’t willing to be our savior.

Just take your place on the bench, wait for your turn to bat, and play a couple of games with us before demanding we change the team name to the Fighting Becks and put your face on our caps and shirts.  Or continue to insult and mock us while professing a common cause, and drag out this conflict indefinitely.  We have common ground, and I think if you can stay on this message you ended your segment with about the Bill of Rights without calling Libertarians too many nasty names along the way, a winning strategy might even be found.

-Legatus Libertatis

 

P.S. (2/27/13)

Beck laments the Libertarians turning off conservatives with their desire to legalize drugs, but he turns off secular and progressive people with his heavy Christian themes, like End-of-Days rallies in the Holy Land, or re-writing American history to portray George Washington as a latter day Moses who only defeated the British because of divine intervention earned by his pious prayers and fasting.

The Blaze should just be what it is without declaring itself a Libertarian vessel.  There’s nothing wrong with bringing the liberty message to his audience along with the rest of his programing.

But labeling a network as a Libertarian messenger, and then delivering Faith-based programming as well, will turn off more of the greater electorate by creating the false impression that Libertarians would legislate morality – the same stigma that is crippling the Republican Party.

Hollywood, Entertainment and Politics

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on November 17, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

Where does conservatism fit in with celebrity pop culture?

Flipping through the channels today, I came upon the 1995 movie “Clueless” featuring the young actress Stacey Dash who made an appearance in the 2012 presidential election news cycle.  If you do not remember, Stacey Dash retweeted a Mitt Romney endorsement in early October, before the election, and incurred a backlash of criticisms from the African-American community and the liberal establishment in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

The Stacey Dash “controversy” was much ado about little, and she was defended by a diverse cross-section of the media and political spokespeople.  Her situation was unique in that it challenged two assumptions about the constituent demographics of the Democrat Party: blacks and Hollywood.  It’s the latter which I want to talk about today.

The leftist leanings of Hollywood have become something of a cliché, but not an inaccurate one.  The celebrity endorsements for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 often came in whole cavalcades, with music videos, commercials and comedy sketches bursting at the seams with attractive familiar faces from TV and film.  Mitt Romney’s highest-profile celebrity endorsement came courtesy of the angrily doddering Clint Eastwood.  The whole question of the effectiveness of endorsements in swaying voters will be forever unanswered, and the question of celebrity endorsements is even more difficult to measure.  Even if a celebrity endorsement does not move a person to the polls, the cumulative effect on informing the overall culture cannot be ignored, particularly now in an age when media and technology blend information and entertainment so thoroughly.  It will factor into decisions and opinions f the public is constantly inundated with left-leaning news when seeking information, and endorsements of Democrats and their policies from the stars of their music, film and television when seeking entertainment.  People look to pop-culture to gauge what is mainstream, and it will be a problem for the right so long as conservatives are seen as squares and puritans while liberals are savvy and compassionate.

Examples of actors and celebrities on the left side of the ideological spectrum are as innumerable as the stars in the sky.  From the stereotypical standbys like Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, to the extreme whackos like Rosie O’Donnell and the thoughtful moderates like Sam Waterston,  liberals reign supreme in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.  I don’t personally participate in boycotts against entertainers because of their political beliefs; I still love Steven Weber’s TV and movie appearances regardless of what he writes for the Huffington Post. And while liberal ideology is more prevalent in these circles, it is not a complete monopoly.  There are celebrity voices on the right, if one strains to hear them.

In the 2008 Republican Primaries, Chuck Norris emerged onto the political stage with an endorsement of Mike Huckabee.  In 2012, Vince Vaughn publically supported the candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul (a little more hip and relevant than Ron Silver and Dean Cameron).  Republicans include Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, John Voigt, Robert Duvall, Janine Turner, Victoria Jackson – the list of GOP celebrities does seem to be smaller, more dated and more obscure (though this list is by no means exhaustive).  In the wake of controversial movies like “Redacted” (Mark Cuban’s docudrama about the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers), I recall hearing that Bruce Willis was seeking a film studio to produce his own war movie with a pro-America rightwing slant, but cold find no backers.  I do not for one moment suggest there should be some sort of affirmative action law to force studio executives to be “fair and balanced”; they are free to invest their money in what they believe in or what they think will bring in the most revenue, though there are people on the left who would like to use The Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality to correct the imbalance they claim exists in favor of conservatives on the radio and interwebs.

Years ago, before The Colbert Report, Comedy Central had a reasonably well-balanced political hour:  the left-leaning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart followed by the right-leaning Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.  We often think that there are simply no comparable funny voices on the right who can connect with the public as well as the likes of Jon Stewart.  I’ve often heard lamenting that no similar voice exists on the right, and talk of finding one reminds me of talk before a safari aimed at finding an albino gorilla.  After embarrassing-to-watch failures like Fox News’ The 1/2 Hour News Hour, I can see why the prospect of finding a “Daily Show for the Right” seems hopeless to many people.  The truth is that there are conservative entertainers and comedians like Dennis Miller and the aforementioned Colin Quinn who would be capable of sustaining a right-leaning television comedy/news show, but they would first have to be given the opportunity by network executives who seem to have made the advancement or nurturing of liberal ideology a part of their agenda.

The current best hope for a conservative voice in pop-culture, someone to serve as a counterweight to Jon Stewart, would seem to be Greg Gutfeld of Fox News.  Where else but Fox News would such a new voice have even the chance to become established?  Gutfeld has been the longtime host of Fox News’ late night show Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld.  More recently, he has become a stable in the ensemble show The Five which fills the daytime slot on Fox News which used to belong to Glenn Beck.  Even more recently, Gutfeld and Imus producer Bernard McGuirk have been appearing in a new regular segment on The O’Reilly Factor, and last night (16 Nov.) I saw Greg Gutfeld filling in for the first time as a guest host on O’Reilly.  These are all steps in the right direction, moving Gutfeld farther into the mainstream and out of late night obscurity.

I have to say it took me a while to warm up to Red Eye; for the first year or two it was on the air, it was something I bypassed while channel surfacing, dismissed as noise and smarmy talking-heads, but once I began watching and paying attention it grew on me.  Now, whenever I can stay awake late enough, I watch Red Eye every night before bed, to get a final take on the day’s news with an irreverent edge and no politically correct filter.    The show’s titular ombudsman, Andy Levy, provides a regular libertarian voice, but even more heartening is the show’s service as a forum for other libertarians (like guests Gary Johnson and Penn Gillett) and sane conservatives (like regular guest Congressman Thaddeus McCotter).

The ideological battle waged in the pop-culture theater is perhaps the most difficult for conservatives.  Editorial control and decisions about content and programming give the left a decided home-court advantage.  Fox News seems to be the only viable market for conservative alternatives, but the network already has a stigma that prevents many key demographics (like young people and minorities) from ever tuning in.  The Fox broadcast network airs many programs which take jabs at conservatives and it seems reluctant to try entertainment programming which deviates from the liberal narratives commonplace in the industry.  New Media and the internet is the next frontier, and perhaps the best forum in the future to keep liberty and founding principles relevant in pop culture.  Maybe a Legatus Libertatis Youtube channel should be my next endeavor.

-Legatus Libertatis

*The Trouble with Government Solutions and Laws of Good Intention*

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on November 14, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

The Trouble with Government Solutions and Laws of Good Intention:  Why regulations and government programs are rarely the best options – and are often completely inappropriate options – for solving society’s problems.

Many people in this country follow a two-step process; they first identify a problem in society, and next ask the question, “How can government solve this problem? – or more specifically, “How can the federal government solve this problem?”  This process leaves out a very critical step that the Constitution and Federal system require.  Once a problem in society is identified and recognized by the public, the first question must necessarily be, “Does the Constitution authorize the federal government to address this problem?”  If the answer is “no”, then the issue should not be placed into the hands of the central government, no matter how good an argument can be made for an effective government solution.  If the answer to that critical question of Constitutional authority is “no”, the problem must be solved by other entities, be they state or local governments, volunteer organizations, non-profits, charities, Churches, corporations, clubs or any other group of people with a common cause.  Why can’t these groups address problems in society, as they have throughout human history?  I say they absolutely can.

Many Americans, particularly those on the left side of the political spectrum, will seldom directly explain why their ideas for a government solution to a problem warrant violation of the 10th Amendment, which delegates to the people and the states those powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the Constitution.  They will not explain why the law of the land should be ignored in favor of their government solution because they are never asked to – because the assumption is already made that problems, once identified, should be addressed by the government.  These statists and leftists will go on to argue against the merits of alternative solutions.  They will claim that only the Federal government has the resources to tackle a given issue (in some cases this might be true, because the government has enforced its own monopoly).  They will claim that businesses are too corrupt and greedy to act in the public’s interest.  They ascribe angelic altruistic qualities to agents of the government,  believing them to be paragons of virtue and efficiency, even when evidence to the contrary is blatant and overwhelming.  Why do people on the left believe that one group of humans (bureaucrats and elected officials) can accomplish things that no other group of humans can?

Questioning the effectiveness or authority of government to solve a problem is not the same thing as saying the problem shouldn’t be solved.

Who will keep poisons out of our food and prevent our automobiles from exploding on the road?  I point you towards organizations like Consumers Reports.  More importantly, I ask if it is in any company’s interest to sell products or services which injure or kill its customers?  Of course it isn’t; businesses want repeat customers, not corpses and litigation.  In the last year alone we have examples of voluntary recalls in the agricultural produce and automobile industries which precede orders from the overseeing federal agencies.  The free market drives quality and many industries can effectively regulate themselves.  Additionally, the vacuum created by a reduction in government oversight would invigorate a whole private sector industry focused on quality control and consumer protection.  Only the government can test substances or warn consumers about hazards and defects?  It is not as though scaling back the FDA would return us overnight to the dystopian jungle of Upton Sinclair.

Piles and piles of regulation are not the only thing standing between us and sausage made of human fingers.  This is an example of a problem which government DID step in and solve once upon a time, but the government is never willing to step back and say that its job has been done and the agency can be dissolved.  The unelected bureaucrats in these federal agencies will continue to write new regulations to keep themselves relevant and expand the scope of their power beyond their original mandates.  The FCC was born out of the Interstate Commerce Commission created to regulate railroad rates, and today they have reinvented themselves into the police agency of the internet rather than admit their own irrelevancy and go gracefully into the night.  When there is a place or need for government oversight, the government will never contain itself to that limited scope or voluntarily surrender power when it’s job is done.

Ultimately, whether it is a federal agency, a charity or a business, we are still merely talking about a group of people coming together with a common objective in mind and pooling resources to accomplish the objective.  I do not believe that people who join the payroll of the federal government are suddenly imbued with magic powers which allow them to see and predict more clearly or to operate more efficiently and magnanimously than any other man or woman.  Even when there is clear demonstrable evidence of government waste and inefficiency, programs are not scrapped and losses are not cut.  We continue to pour millions, billions, and in some cases trillions of dollars into bloated programs which long ago utterly failed in their mandates (which in many instances were unconstitutional to begin with).  There are numerous examples.

Amtrak and the United States Postal Service are excellent examples of failed government programs.  Only in the federal government could a department continually operate in the red, losing money every quarter, defaulting on payments and not be shut down.  If the USPS were a private business, it would have declared bankruptcy ages ago.  Today it even outsources deliveries to more efficient private enterprises like UPS and Federal Express, yet statists insist it must be preserved to provide services to Americans than no one else could or would.  Better examples still are our government’s Wars on Poverty and Drugs.  Trillions of dollars, decades of work, immense manpower, and libraries full of new regulations have failed in every measurable way to solve the problems they were launched to address.  To suggest ending such failed programs, however, is to invite accusations of heartlessness.  This brings us to the most dangerous and detrimental phenomena at play: Laws of Good Intention.

While both major political parties in the country fall into the trap of justifying government programs by their good intentions, rather than their results, it is an affliction most acutely associate with the Democrats and the left.  Having completely bypassed the critical question of whether or not the government is constitutionally authorized to address a problem, they design a solution with all of the best intentions in the world.  I do not doubt that the proponents of such government solutions genuinely believe their plan will alleviate suffering, elevate the downtrodden, rectify injustice or otherwise improve society.  The trouble is that this good intention is expected to then shield and insulate them from any criticism or challenge.  To oppose the government solution is seen as opposition to the very idea of solving the problem at hand.  Too often, I have been accused of cruelty or a lack of compassion merely because I suggest that a government program is failing, and that the private sector should be allowed to attempt its own solution.  These programs are never judged on the merits of their effectiveness, only the good intentions behind them.  If the intention is good enough, the program must continue.

That we continue failed programs which the nation cannot afford is as much a display of our values as a society as it is a meaningful step towards solving the problem, or so those on the left will say.   Following the recent presidential debate in which Mitt Romney said he would end funding to Public Television, LeVar Burton appeared with a counterpoint on the O’Reilly Factor.  Burton acknowledged that PBS and Sesame Street were financially successful, and would be able to survive on their own in the marketplace like any other network or show, and he acknowledged that the country was massively in debt, yet he asserted that we should continue to fund Sesame Street because it “sends the message” that we, as a people, value education.  Americans are unable to express their values without using the taxing and spending policy of the central government as their messenger?  When I ask people why they think NPR should receive federal funding, they respond by touting the excellent programs and music and news that can be found on NPR.  They do not realize that they are making an argument for why NPR should be able to exist and compete on its own in a marketplace that – with the introduction of satellite radio – is diverse enough that stations can exist dedicated to golf, horrorcore or chamber music.  And what does it do to the charitable nature of Americans when tax deductions for donations are reduced and government tax-collectors take your money with the threat of guns and jail, to give it to charities that the central planners have deemed worthy?

So many of these arguments and debates going on in America’s political discourse, about the effectiveness of a given government program, the efficiency of a given government agency, the good intentions or societal values reflected, or the exclusive ability of government to do what no other entity can, are predicated on willfully ignoring the question of Constitutional authority, and should be moot.  Even in those rare instances when it can be shown that a federal program can effectively address a problem, that program should not see the light of day if it falls outside the scope of Constitutional authority.  We should have faith in ourselves to group together and solve problems on our own, as individuals, groups of neighbors, corporations, charities, city councils, and every other variety of organization that is not the federal government.  At the end of the day, the problems will be solved by people sharing ideas and working together.  In some cases, those people will be part of a government agency, but they absolutely do not HAVE TO BE part of a government agency to be capable of improving society.

I do not believe that the federal government knows how to spend your money more wisely than you do; it is plagued by waste and excess.  I do not believe that people should be forced to spend money on programs they find morally objectionable; the left would have us believe that without federal funding, the alternative is for stem-cell research to be outlawed, and they never talk about the billions of dollars invested into the research by the private sector.  I do not believe that the Constitutional restrictions on federal authority should be ignored and disregarded because someone has an idea that is “so good” or “so well-intentioned” that it deserves implementation regardless.  I do not believe that it means I do not care about children if I question the effectiveness of public schools and the Department of Education.  I do not believe that it means I want the elderly to suffer and die in the streets because I point out that Social Security is insolvent.  I do not believe that people in the government are inherently better at doing things than any other people in the country.

We the People are responsible for creating society’s ill and for solving them.  We created the federal government to address specific issues, enumerated in the Constitution, and we retained for ourselves the powers and rights to solve all other problems by different means.  I have faith in those other means, and more importantly, the Constitution REQUIRES us to rely on them, regardless of how certain the statists in Washington are that they know better than we do.

-Legatus Libertatis

Obama’s victory is better for the Liberty Movement than a Romney victory would have been

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

There is a silver lining to the 2012 election for libertarian-minded Americans.

On this day chock-full of post-election analysis and “Monday morning quarterbacking” I am sure I am not the only one making the argument that the libertarian movement is better off with a Romney loss than we would have been had he won.  I’ll attempt to explain the reasons behind this conclusion.  And no, this is not simply a case of someone trying to make lemonade out of lemons; I had decided before the election that an Obama victory would be slightly more preferable than a Romney victory (of course a Gary Johnson victory would have been ideal).

It was an odd experience for me watching the election results come in on the evening of 6 November.  If you read my last blog post, you know that while I have always subscribed to the libertarian philosophy, this was the first presidential election in which I did not vote for the Republican candidate.  Watching the election results was odd because I had to fight against my natural instinct to root for Mitt Romney, particularly in the battle-ground states.  On the one hand, a part of me still wanted to see Romney win, because that would have been evidence that more of the American public was rejecting the left’s Big Government agenda.  However, on the other hand I knew that a Romney administration would also have advanced a Big Government agenda, and – most damningly – would have done so in the name of conservatism.

With Romney’s defeat, the Libertarian movement can continue the fight to reform the Republican party from within.  It is true that Romney was slightly better than Obama on issues of economic and commercial freedoms, but he remained atrocious on issues of personal liberty and military interventionism.   Slightly better was not good enough for Libertarians in this election, but that is precisely the message that the Republican establishment would have taken away from a Romney victory.  The Republican establishment would have received the signal that, at most, they need only pay lip-service to issues important to the libertarian wing; they would have concluded that the libertarian vote was something they could afford to take for granted or dismiss entirely.  If a Republican candidate had won the presidency this year against the opposition of the libertarian right, the Ron Paul types in the party would have been further marginalized and ostracized; instead, they now have a chance and voice in reshaping the party moving forward.

During the primary season, the idea was floated that a Rick Santorum nomination (and subsequent loss in the general election) would have been the best outcome for the libertarian movement.  If the GOP had fully embraced social conservatism, the religious right, and supported a candidate who was blatantly opposed to liberty and in favor of using the power of the federal government to enforce morality, the impact of Obama’s re-election would have carved even greater inroads for the libertarian movement in the Republican party.  It would have served as proof that the antiquated intolerance and rigidity of social conservatism was not a recipe for electoral success.  The message sent by the defeat of a more moderate flip-flopper like Mitt Romney is not quite as potent, but it does still provide a silver lining.

Our case would be even stronger if the margin by which Mitt Romney lost the election was the same as the number of votes received by Gary Johnson.  I could drill down to a wonky degree into the numbers in individual states and precincts to try to make the argument that Johnson did indeed sway the election, but I’ve never been a fan of manipulating statistics like that (it’s like some of the stats in major league baseball which seem designed to give make any player a leader in one category or another.  Coming to the plate next is Eugene Crenshaw, who leads the national league in earning walks from left handed pitchers when runners are in scoring position during late innings in games which are the second part of a double-header).  The fact is that Gary Johnson garnered about 1% of the vote.  Libertarians in Congressional, state and local elections performed better.

A Romney victory in the 2012 election would have left the Libertarians fighting an ideological war from the outside against both the Republican and Democrat parties.  A President Romney would have continued to usurp power from Congress by use of executive orders and the powers of Commander-in-Chief to circumvent the legislative process and conduct unauthorized military action overseas.  Under his administration, the national deficits and debt would continue to increase (albeit at a negligibly slower pace).  The Democrats and the mainstream media would have made token gestures of protest, but the obvious hypocrisy of their arguments in the face of Obama’s record would have hamstrung the opposition.  By contrast, we can now use the rabid partisan atmosphere to our advantage.  It will be much easier to rally a wider coalition of Republicans against the statist agenda that is sure to define Barack Obama’s second term.  Republicans love to criticize and oppose Democrats.

Today the Republican Party and Democrat Party are far more alike than they are different.  The public is not being given a true choice between Big Government and freedom.

If we are shackled to a two-party system in this country then we should have only one party which champions increased federal spending, tax policy and regulations which are prohibitive to business, an ever-expanding bureaucracy that encroaches on the rights of states and individuals, unconstitutional military action abroad and police action at home, and another party which opposes it.

Whether the strangle-hold by the two parties is broken by a third, or one party is drastically reformed, our challenge is provide this alternative vision.

The history of American politics shows us that such sea changes are not impossible.  The Progressive Party of the early 20th century was eventually absorbed into the Democrat party, which to this day remains true to the progressive movement .  Perhaps the Libertarian Party and movement will accomplish a similar reform of the Republican Party, or perhaps the GOP will simply have to go the way of the Whigs and be replaced.

The mainstream media continues to propagate the myth that the two choices we had in yesterday’s election were the only two and were fundamentally different; clearly, we cannot count on the media to fight this battle for us.  Luckily there are voices inside the Republican party and out which now have a chance to be heard.  We must work to strengthen the Libertarian Party as well as support those freedom fighters in Congress and the Senate attempting to reform Republican Party from the inside.

If you haven’t seen the interview from ReasonTV with Jim Demint on why the Republicans need to embrace the libertarian movement, I highly recommend it (http://youtu.be/89kx4hBrBrE/).

I do not regret my vote for Gary Johnson, even though a Johnson presidency was something of a pipe dream this year.  I voted my conscience, and I voted for dialogue.  Many Americans have good instincts and are opposed to the use of drones to police our skies at home and assassinate Americans around the world, understand the basic principle of not spending more than you take in, see the Constitution as a limit on federal power to be respected, believe that free people should be able to make their own decisions about their lives, and that a bloated, corrupt and inefficient central government doesn’t know how to spend your money better than you do.  (Here is another great video of man-on-the-street interviews showing that Obama supporters oppose his policies when they think they were proposed by the right -http://youtu.be/Skw-0jv9kts).  The problem is that many Americans do not realize that their government is conducting itself in this manner, and others do not realize that they have a choice in the matter.  We have four years to gain inroads, build momentum, spread the message and educate the public before the next presidential election.

Check back regularly for new posts, and subscribe to my Facebook feed for updates and links.

-Legatus Libertatis

A Lifelong Republican’s Path to the Libertarian Party

Posted in Politics on November 4, 2012 by Legatus Libertatis

A Lifelong Republican’s Path to the Libertarian Party:  Why this is the year I vote third party for the first time in a presidential election and also end my registration with the GOP.

This Tuesday I shall be casting a vote for Gary Johnson on my ballot.  I live in what has been labeled a crucial swing state this year, and so some might say my vote for a third party has more weight than it would under different circumstances or in another state.

I have considered voting Libertarian in the past, but I always ultimately decided that would be “throwing my vote away” and I would be wiser to vote strategically for the proverbial lesser of two evils.  It is a persuasive argument but one I have finally decided to reject.  For the first time since I was old enough to vote, the Republican candidate for President will not have my vote in 2012.

I grew up in the 1980s.  My earliest memories of a president are of Ronald Reagan, and Bush the Elder was Commander-in-Chief during formative years.  From a young age I was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican.  In the mold of Alex P. Keaton I wore a tie to middle-school, and ardently defended Dan Quayle’s misspelling of potatoe.    The election of 2000 was the first I was old enough to cast a vote in.  I proudly registered as a Republican and have been one ever since (though that is about to change).

During the 2000 Republican primaries  I supported John McCain.  When George W. Bush won the party’s nomination I dutifully fell into line and cast my vote accordingly.  When the freshly inaugurated president rolled out his new cabinet, it was obvious to me that a Gulf War redux was in the offing.  By the end of President Bush’s first term  I was very disenchanted with my party.  I suppose my latent Libertarian hackles were raised one too many times by the apparent emergence of a police state, the passage of the PATRIOT Act (and its changes to FISA and the Right to Financial Privacy Act) and the climate of fear being exploited by my leaders.  As Rahm Emanuel would say, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”  Unfortunately Republicans subscribe to that same philosophy as well.  I saw how easily people would surrender their freedoms and liberty in the name of security, and how unscrupulous even my own party could be in seizing such an advantage.  The polish had certainly begun to come off the Republican Party for me by the election of 2004, but I wouldn’t be ready to jump ship just yet.

In 2004 I had none of the enthusiasm for the GOP ticket that I did in 2000.  I knew little about the Libertarian party; it was the answer to a trivia question about Ron Silver or Dean Cameron, but not a serious contender for my vote I am sorry to say.  So I watched the Democratic primaries with wary open-mindedness.  I remember the General Wesley Clark with his heavy makeup and Madonna endorsement, and Howard Dean’s infamous screech.  I was sincerely considering casting my vote for John Kerry when he won his party’s nomination, but all that open-mindedness clenched when John Edwards was selected for the VP slot.  Even before his more recent scandals, Edwards embodied all that was wrong with politics in my eyes – the antithesis of a good statesman.  He spouted Democratic talking points like a doll with a pull-string, speaking only words and phrases which had been poll-tested for the highest rhetorical value.  His true motives and beliefs were masked behind a gossamer façade, and the only thing I knew for certain  John Edwards cared about was more power for John Edwards.  The idea of such a man one heartbeat away from the Presidency appalled and frightened me, and so my ballot in 2004 was less a vote for George W. Bush than it was a vote against John Edwards.  Even though I do not share a similar fear of Sarah Palin, I can understand and empathize with those who used their votes strategically against a would-be Vice President.

The years following the election of 2004 were something  of an Age of Enlightenment for me.  I had always been a news junkie and interested in history, but I began to learn and study much more intensely.  The more I read and learned about the origins of our nation, the men we know as our founding fathers, the humanist and revolutionary movements of the 18th century, the writings of political philosophers like Locke, Hobbes, Voltaire and Rousseau (not to mention contemporaries like Judge Napolitano), the tribulations and experiments of societies throughout human history, and the true meanings of liberty, freedom and Natural Law, the more apparent it became to me that I was more of a Libertarian than I was a Republican.  I believed in limited government and personal freedom, yet always felt a little uneasy with the rigid intolerance of the “religious right”, the legislating of morality, and the hawkish warmongering of the Neocons in the Republican party.   Still, I bought into the argument that a vote for a third party was a vote wasted, or worse, the same as a vote for the liberal.  By 2008, I identified myself as “a registered Republican, but more a Libertarian,” and I would have one vote left to cast for a GOP candidate.

During the Republican primaries of 2008 I was heavily engaged in the process and steeped in political news.  I was impressed by Rudy Giuliani’s natural leadership during the primary debates.  I was more impressed by Ron Paul and his well-articulated case for a government that truly adhered to the guidelines and spirit of the Constitution.  I had also admired John McCain for his ability to compromise and – more importantly – his ability and willingness to make an independent decision.  Regular citizens have the luxury of judging each issue separately and deciding how they feel about it.  Members of the major political parties have their positions on each issue decided for them by the party leadership, and breaking ranks to vote one’s conscience is Congress can have serious consequences such as loss of party support in future elections.  I had supported John McCain in 2000, and the stigma of a maverick was a quality to appreciate in my eyes (the same can certainly be said of Ron Paul).  I cast my vote in 2008 for John McCain, believing that he was the far lesser of two evils and that a vote for Bob Barr would be a vote wasted.

It is now 2012.  I supported Ron Paul wholeheartedly in the primary season.  I maintained my Republican registration so that I could support Ron Paul in my state caucus.  I feel that our country is at a point where half-measures and platitudes are not going to be enough to reverse course.  The fiscal crisis we face is dire enough, to say nothing of our ever-eroding freedoms in the name of safety.   Whether freedom and liberty have never been more under threat than they are now, or whether I am only now able to finally see and understand the magnitude of the threat which has been growing steadily for years, one thing is certain: I can no longer give my vote in good conscience to a party that scorns my values and takes me for granted.  Over this last year as the election has drawn ever closer, I have debated whether it is better to attempt to reform the Republican party from outside or within.  I have heard Rick Santorum say he wishes to purge the party of people like me, and Bill Kristol say the party would be better off without me.  I have seen Ron Paul maltreated and dismissed by the GOP establishment.

I see the Republicans and Democrats now as little more than two wings of the same Big Government party.  All of the very worst things about the recent Bush Administration and its increases in federal power and erosions of privacy and freedom have been continued by President Obama (and many have been strengthened).  On so many of the issues that truly matter to me, Romney and Obama are in total agreement.  I am truly sick and disgusted by this puppet theater which presents us with two choices that are alleged to be fundamentally and diametrically opposed.  In reality, the only difference is that the Republicans wish to balloon the deficit only slightly less rapidly than the Democrats, and to impose a slightly different flavor of Big Brother and mandated morality on the nation (and the world).  The mainstream media purports to be impartial messengers of fact, but that sort of journalism is an endangered species now to say the least.  When the Commission on Presidential Debates allows the two major parties to strongarm a change in the rules that raises the bar for third party participation, it is violating its mandate.  When those in the media conduct their own polls which include only two options and deny a third party candidate a chance to qualify, and then represent to the country that there are only two options to choose between, they are making the news rather than reporting it.

This year, I am not going to use my vote to attempt to block someone else’s vote.  I am not going to give my vote to a proverbial lesser evil because I am told it has the best chance of defeating a greater evil.  The Republican party is not entitled to my vote, though I believe they have already taken for granted that they will receive the votes of many others like me who supported Ron Paul.  On Tuesday, I shall be voting for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, because he is the only candidate who even remotely shares my values.  Thanks to our confounding electoral college system, this notion that my vote really matters might all be a delusion.  If, on the other hand, my vote can make a difference and I am joined by others who will vote their conscience with me, perhaps the Republican party will feel the sting of this loss and be forced to reconsider the rightful place and voice of their Libertarian wing in the future.  The Republican party will certainly have to win me back into the ranks.  The vote and member they lose this year is a gain for the Libertarian party.

Regardless of this election’s outcome, the fight for freedom has gained a new crusader.  I am jumping into the fray with both feet, and this is only the first of many posts to come covering my thoughts on a variety of issues: gun control, abortion, Jihadism, liberal and conservative ideology, American history and much more.

Legatus Libertatis

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