Thoughts on a Libertarian Schism

Tribalism, whether based on nationality, religion, race, gender, or any other divisive categorization one can imagine, is among the most serious threats facing our nation and our world.

It is the primary reason for Trumpism, fascism, fear of immigrants, and bigotry of all kinds, including calls to class warfare and mistrust of any and all “others”.

Irrationally and inexplicably, tribalism has also reared its ugly head within the libertarian movement in general and the Libertarian Party in particular, replacing concepts like liberty and individual responsibility with long-discredited catch phrases such as “blood and soil”. The center of this movement appears to be the mysteriously misnamed Mises Caucus, with any number of ancillary satellite groups supporting and sometimes tugging it to an even more extreme form.

That tribalism is morally bankrupt as well as corrupting is relatively evident to even casual observers of modern politics. As far as the Libertarian Party is concerned it is also a guaranteed losing strategy.

While the LP has grown modestly in conjunction with the shriveling of the two old parties, by far the greatest increase has been seen among those who describe themselves as “Independents”, or non-partisans. It is therefore with these voters, not the bigoted populists of the right nor the creeping Communists of the left, that we have the most in common and to whom we should be appealing.

These voters are neither religious conservatives nor anti-immigrant. They are not anti-science nor misogynous. For them the Civil War is a chapter in history books, not a cause to be fought over and over. Their concerns are decent jobs, safe streets, schools that work, fair taxes and competent yet unobtrusive government. They are neither anarchists nor alt-right Dixiecrats. They are looking for unitors, not further dividers.

As Libertarians, to be successful we must be offering constructive solutions rather than appealing to our fellow citizens’ worst angels. We must be shining light on free markets and individual liberties, not pandering to people’s worst instincts. And we and our moral precepts must become a shining beacon to and for all.

America’s future is decidedly not tribalism, and we must not fall prey to its temporary though beguiling call.

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Moving On Out…

United Van Lines has tracked migration patterns annually on a state-by-state basis since 1977. For 2017, the study is based on household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. This study ranks states based off the inbound and outbound percentages of total moves in each state. United classifies states as “high inbound” if 55 percent or more of the moves are going into a state, “high outbound” if 55 percent or more moves were coming out of a state or “balanced” if the difference between inbound and outbound is negligible.

Moving In
The top inbound states of 2017 were:
1. Vermont
2. Oregon
3. Idaho
4. Nevada
5. South Dakota
6. Washington
7. South Carolina
8. North Carolina
9. Colorado
10. Alabama

New to the 2017 top inbound list are Colorado at No. 9 and Alabama at No. 10 with 56 and 55 percent inbound moves, respectively.

Moving Out
The top outbound states for 2017 were:
1. Illinois
2. New Jersey
3. New York
4. Connecticut
5. Kansas
6. Massachusetts
7. Ohio
8. Kentucky
9. Utah
10. Wisconsin

Illinois (63 percent) moved up one spot on the outbound list to No. 1, ranking in the top five for the past nine years. New Jersey previously held the top spot for 5 consecutive years. New additions to the 2017 top outbound list include Massachusetts (56 percent) and Wisconsin (55 percent).

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I Get Around…

Yesterday I was wasting time, a regular pursuit of mine, perusing a list of unusual, bizarre and humorous names of towns in the United States. ( Among other things, it brought me to the realization that I have traveled too damned much.

I haven’t been to too many different countries (only 10 or so really), that kind of thing is good for you so long as you can avoid getting shot, blown up, trampled, eaten, arrested, or contracting some weird, barely curable malady. No, I have ended up in too many places with bizarre, sometimes disturbing, names.

I grew up within a handful of miles of Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, and Blue Ball (PA), and have either visited or lived near such clearly desirable spots as Scaggsville, MD, Cut and Shoot, TX, Truth or Consequences, NM, Hooker, OK, French Lick, IN, Licking County and Climax, OH, and Toad Suck, AR.

Internationally, I have even been to Hell, which among other places can be found in the Cayman Islands. I even sent my first wife a postcard from there. Seeing how she had told me to go there so many times, I thought it would amuse her to discover I had finally found my way. It didn’t.

In studying the aforementioned list I did come across a few places I will be doing my best to avoid for various and sundry reasons, chief among them being Dickshooter, ID. ‘Nuf said.

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The Libertarian Party is Breaking My Heart

damn-socialist_nolan-chartLiberty movements in the United States have enjoyed a remarkable degree of success, from the freeing of slaves to women’s rights, and from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 70s to the recent successes of the LGBT rights drive. The War on Drugs is grinding to a halt, and prison/sentencing reform is in the headlines.

Yet the Libertarian Party flounders. Big time. Why?

To be sure, some of the causes mentioned above were supported by the LP, and have consistently appeared in its platform. To what extent the Party can claim credit for any of the said successes is open to debate however.
For one thing, the LP has never been able to clearly define its brand. Even among those who have heard of it there is a good deal of confusion as to what it stands for.

Part of the problem is that too many Libertarians are content to spend their time debating the political equivalent of the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin. They seldom pick fights where the side of liberty is clear and easily explained. Rather, they fill their major campaign document with phrases such as “As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others…Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.” A bit shallow by “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” standards.

Not to forget the poetic and inspiring “We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state…” Sure to get the blood flowing in the teacher in Biloxi, the steam fitter in Chicago, and the barber in Phoenix.

Nor can Libertarians agree on its meaning and limits, if any. While Liberty and personal responsibility over our own lives sound great, what do they mean? How can they be translated into a government and society that both recognizes and respects personal boundaries and at the same time establishes limits that protect the lives, liberties, and justly acquired property of all concerned?

Calls for no government at all, and/or abolishing the income tax and replacing it with nothing, sound great, even desirable. But what would such a society look like (other than weed for all and private police and roads), and where is the picture explaining how it would work and what benefits would flow to all members of society from such schemes. I am not saying this Libertarian Utopia is undesirable, but the inability to sell it to the public at large makes arguing for those incremental changes we could do now far more difficult.

Libertarians have stretched the meaning of Liberty to unrecognizable and undesirable ends. Parents should be allowed to turn their children into disease carrying missiles aimed at the public health because, well, it a matter of choice. Ten year olds should enjoy the freedom to engage in sex with 40 year old men. We should pay for our national defense with voluntary contributions. Bush was behind 9/11, and GMOs are a plot to kill everyone. There is no end to the silliness, and some of it is vile. All, of course, in the name of Liberty.

Why not throw up my hands and find a new political home? Where? For all the illogical and irresponsible silliness, the Classical Liberalism at the heart of Libertarianism is non-existent in every other party in the U.S. Indeed, the major parties consider it subversive.

And so it is.


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The Worst Election Choices in My Lifetime – An Analysis

Trump vs Clinton.

Racist, sexist narcissist vs proven liar, opportunistic, war-waging neocon.

Some choices. #neverTrump vs #neverHillary.

Just shoot me.

Unlike most Americans, my default position on politics is one of fear and loathing, so I get #neverthesetwo. In spades!

But let’s think on this for a bit, let’s analyze our deep dissatisfaction, parse the situation, and see if there is not a rational alternative.

Say you’re voting for Trump because #neverHillary. The problem is, Trump is not going to win, period. The hole he has dug for himself with wide swaths of the electorate cannot/will not be overcome, so no matter how much you hate Hillary and do not want her to be President, your vote for Trump is simply, logically, and unalterably, a wasted vote. No amount of huffing and puffing can nor will change that fact.

What of the obverse? What if you are voting for Hillary for no other reason than #neverTrump? No one can really blame you, but go back and reread the previous paragraph for a moment. If you are only voting for Hillary because #neverTrump, and Trump has no chance of winning, then voting for someone you do not really believe in, in this case Hillary, is likewise a wasted vote. You are ratifying a personage and platform you truly deep-down do not care for, and doing it unnecessarily. How dumb is that?

But what if…

All the #neverTrump voters and all the #neverHillary voters refused to vote for either and instead cast their votes for someone else, say a successful and lauded two term governor, who was also a successful entrepreneur, who had never been tarnished by scandal, was against nation-building and America being the world’s policeman, had a reasonable plan to kick-start economic growth, and has pledged to bring our nation, political parties, and people together to address our problems of debt, economic stagnation, violence, and crony capitalism?

What if… Gary Johnson?

Yeah, I know, he can’t win, so a vote for him is a wasted vote. I’ll forgo lecturing on how a vote cast in good conscience is never wasted and simply refer you to the above. Trump cannot win, so a vote either for him or against him is an even greater waste.

Except, if all those wasted votes were instead wasted on the most qualified candidate in the race, he would be elected President, we would be without either of the most horrible choices in memory, and we could begin the process of healing our nation and restoring the Republic.

And, as Governor Johnson has said more than once, if after four years of peace, freedom, and prosperity we decided we really don’t like those things, but preferred war, debt, unemployment, crony capitalism, and being spied on, we could always vote the two old parties and their self-serving, destructive policies back into power. What do we have to lose?


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Dear friends…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve made time to write, but the present Presidential campaign makes me feel the need to reach out to my Democratic friends, whom I genuinely like and respect:

I get your disdain for Trump. Really. You cannot possibly dislike him any more than I do.

What I do not get is your infatuation with Clinton. Before you scream, allow me to explain:

Hillary is a neocon, as big a neocon as anyone in the Bush Administration ever was. As a Senator she voted for every incursion, intervention, and invasion that came before her. Every one. As Secretary of State she was a principle architect of our obviously failed policies in Libya and Syria, to name two. Her decision to arm Islamist militias in Libya led directly to American weapons falling into the hands of ISIS. She is a neocon.

She is deeply involved in Crony Capitalism. Check the source of the bulk of her funds in her Senate and Presidential campaigns. Check her votes for bailouts in the Financial Crisis. Check her (and Bill’s) speaking fees from just about every major money-center and Wall Street bank. She is part of the system, and will not do a thing to reform, much less end, it. She is a Crony Capitalist.

Finally, consider how she has skirted ethical issues her entire adult life. Her attacks on the women Bill raped. The Chinese funds during Bill’s campaign run that had to be returned when they were discovered. The curious correlation between contributions from foreign governments and persons to the Clinton Foundation, immediately preceded by or following her signing off on aid to those same nations. Did she violate any laws? No, not that anyone will ever prove. Are her actions time and time again indicative of being ethically challenged? I don’t see how anyone can say no.

On the other hand, there is a candidate who has never been tarnished by scandal, who does not try to be everything to every one, and who even tells the truth when it is inconvenient. One who supports a woman’s right to choose, LGBT rights, an end to the War on Drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing, an end to the Security State spying on American citizens without warrants or cause, who has proposed reasonable immigration reform, and lastly, an end to foreign intervention and endless war.   Check it out.

Really? Clinton?

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God’s Problem

I write on the 385th anniversary of Galileo’s appearance before the Pope’s Inquisition in Rome to answer for his audacious heresy in claiming the Earth orbited the Sun. As silly as such an event might seem to us now, in truth little has changed. Science and reason remain challenged, and often thwarted, by religious zealots and their enablers today much as in 1633.

Stem cell technology, climate science, and medicinal marijuana are easy examples of the ongoing religious pogrom against progress, there are of course others. All of which begs the question, in the twenty-first century, how can such primitive superstitions and myths still wield the influence they do, why have they not long been cast aside?

The defenders of the inane of course won’t be dissuaded by such questions, much less bother thinking about them. Truth and right are on their side, their god has told them so. Science and skepticism are as much faith-based as any religion, even more so. Prove they are wrong.

In any rational discussion the shoe belongs on the other foot, it is the maker of the existential claim who bears the burden of proof, not the skeptic. I could make any wild-ass claim I wished, and no matter how nonsensical, you could not prove me wrong. That’s just the way logic works.

Many religious apologists of course avoid such a discussion and instead rely on carefully designed arguments to defend their claims. The four pillars of this approach are the Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Design (or, as Richard Dawkins has called it, the Argument from Personal Incredulity), and the Moral Argument.

All are weak and easily countered, but more importantly “prove” nothing and thus are useless, because – and here I repeat myself – empirical claims require evidence, not arguments. Christopher Hitchens perhaps expressed it most eloquently: “That which can be asserted without evidence can be rejected without evidence.” The fact is there is no evidence for the existence of any god, ever.

Simply put, and herein may well be the reason religion fears and attacks science as it does, every discovery ever made about the natural world has reduced the need for god(s) as an explanation, and often demonstrated that claims made for and about god(s) are simply wrong. Look no further than the first two chapters of Genesis for several prime examples of that.

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