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America: closing her door to freedom

Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science & History at Gainesville State College in Gainesville, GA, has some well expressed views on the wrong turn the USA has taken

At 47, I lament how today’s America is far less free than the country of my youth. Replacing it is not a 1984ish totalitarian dictatorship, but what Alexis de Tocqueville called the ‘soft tyranny’ of what Mark Levin sees as a 21st century ‘nanny state’. We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence. What makes Americans’ surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in direct contravention of our founding principles.

Nowhere have we seen such an accelerating atrophy of our freedom as in K-12 public schools where recent decades have witnessed far more books banned, and not some print version of Debbie Does Dallas. No, literary classics like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn are verboten – required reading in those decadent days of my 1970s high school. But educrats with the backbone of a large worm now avoid anything controversial.

Students have far less choice of classes in high school, and often teachers can not make their own lessons since they must teach the test so schools can make “adequate yearly progress”. Only about 40 percent of my college students say they ever discussed any controversial issues in high school. My high school classes revelled in such debate.

Similarly, so many high schools have become gated, closed campuses. Mine was wide open. ‘Zero tolerance’ for drugs and violence policies punish students carrying aspirin, cough drops, and Tweety-Bird key chains. Now diligent do-gooders want to ban school coke machines as well. And to think at my high school we could even smoke!

Today political correctness constipates free speech at many schools (as well as in much of the public and private sectors), and hysterical sexual harassment policies suspend children for hugging a classmate. If you had predicted all this to my 1980 senior high class, we would have laughed that you had smoked some mighty bad dope to conjure up such an Orwellian dystopia. Young folks’ freedom has been lost off campus as well. The drinking age has of course been raised, and now there is a host of teen driving restrictions I never had to obey. But we have all lost so much liberty. Look how government’s neurotic nannies have restricted us with a host of seatbelt, child seat, and helmet laws. Likewise, so many cities and states ban smoking even in private restaurants and bars. A WWII vet can not even light up in his own bar.

So many laws have eroded our Second Amendment gun rights that, as P.J. O’Rourke notes, if Massachusetts had the same gun laws in 1775 that it has now, we would all be Canadians.

Even political campaign speech is constricted. The Obama administration argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that the McCain-Feingold Act can ban books about ongoing election campaigns. Yet Justice Hugo Black warned that:

The freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.

Almost half of all U.S. income is taxed today which means we have lost about half our economic freedom. With record government spending and soaring debt, we are set to lose a lot more. And to think the Boston Tea Party was waged over a three-cent-a-pound tax on tea. Government regulations on business cost us well over $1 trillion a year in higher consumer prices, and there are exactly 26,911 government words policing the sale of a head of cabbage.

In recent years, obsessive-compulsive environmental regulations halted a Massachusetts town from using fireworks on Independence Day since an ‘endangered’ bird’s nest was found near it. News flash: on July 4 we celebrate independence from a tyrannical government. Yet George III never taxed, regulated, or policed us remotely as much as Washington, D.C. does today. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory”.

Everywhere rules and paperwork mushroom as nit-picking bureaucrats grow in numbers and power. As a buddy bemoaned, the increasingly shrill message of the establishment is “Sit down – and shut up”. No wonder so many Americans feel frustrated and impotent.

Why has our liberty eroded so badly? Statist public schools have long taught that equality (of results) and ‘social justice’ trump freedom since liberty is the handmaiden of ‘selfish’ individualists harming ‘the community’. As we have grown affluent, there is more desire to protect everyone from risk, and our burgeoning welfare state demands ever more of our economic liberty. Plus, as societies get more secular, they become more socialist (see Western Europe).

We also have endless media-savvy professional grievance groups contending that every erosion of freedom is imperative for our safety. But, as Justice Louis Brandeis warned:

Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

Meanwhile too many liberty-loving Americans are so ensconced in busy private lives that they neglect their public duties. But Jefferson warned that “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. Never forget that we are the heirs of the most libertarian, God-fearing revolutionaries in history. So let us pay attention, think critically, speak up, and vote in every election.

55 comments to America: closing her door to freedom

  • Jonathan

    Just read “Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg. He gives the history of the American left in the 20th century- quite an eye opener!

  • Robin Goodfellow

    I never felt that 1984 represented a very realistic depiction of dystopian totalitarianism. To a certain extent that’s beside the point of the book, although I think the fact still points to a weakening in the use of 1984 as a cautionary tale, it’s too unrealistic to fully apply in ordinary life.

    Rather, I think the more apt portrayals of dystopia of this variety are found in Huxley’s Brave New World and, the much less read, Paris in the 20th Century by Jules Verne. In both, dystopia lives amidst excess rather than the scarcity of 1984. This I find to be more realistic, as excessive scarcity tends to make populations less controllable rather than more, especially in the industrial age.

    We are most certainly at a fork in western civilization. On the one hand we have the fork of statism and infantilization of the individual, loss of personal freedoms and resting of resonsibility entirely in the hands of large corporations and the state. On the other hand we have the fork of liberty and individual freedom, growth of personal freedoms in society and business, and resting of responsibility in the individual. There are signs and trends toward both directions (the nanny state, political correctness, demonization of free-enterprise vs. the blossoming of the internet, self-employment, personal responsibility, embracing the free market). It’s too soon to tell which trend will win and which fork we’ll head down, which is disturbing in no small degree, but there is yet hope that we will make the choice for liberty.

  • I touched a little on this in my first post at Counting Cats, and yes I’m posting this comment just to show off about becoming a Cat Counter, really, I’m afraid.

    But I think Americans need to look into their own souls and recognise that a nation which nearly a century ago banned beer, which initiated and drives drug prohibition, which invented the White Slave Narrative, which voted multiple times for the New Deal, which has been awash for two centuries in activists fighting for all manner of statist social controls, and whose academic and research establishments churn out endless very well funded statist research and propaganda, has not just recently lurched into the nanny state and is not a bastion of personal liberty and responsibility and never has been, a liberal constitution which on occasion protects American citizens from their own statist compulsions notwithstanding.

  • “Catcher in the Rye” is a literary classic?

  • Laird

    Ouch, Ian B, that’s harsh.

  • Gary Schmitt

    “Catcher in the Rye” is a literary classic?

    Yup.

  • Ian B misses the rather important point that the USA is one of the few countries that pro liberty argument can even be made because their culture has at least retained a core of pro-liberty sentiment.

    I wish I could say the same about the UK, but such sentiments are buried far deeper :-(

  • Ian B hasn’t missed any such point. Libertarianism is as marginalised and reviled in the USA as in any other western nation, portrayed by both left and right as the idealistic fantasy of loons. There are a lot of people who like to yell liberty while waving flags, very few who truly desire it; it is always “Liberty for me, but not for you.”

  • That would be because most of them are loons (I have attended more than my fair share of libbo meeting to know before I ended up joining UKIP to at least try and do something practical for the long term, given the Tories are just as much the enemy as Labour or LibDems… the later of which are at least ok on a few issues).

    Fortunately libertarians are not the only people who argue for liberty.

    I am reminded about the joke about the wall in heaven so that the Catholics will not realise that they are not the only ones there.

  • Albion, my argument is that everybody wants some liberties, and are keen to use the word liberty. The rarity is people who want liberty for the other chap, not just for themself. Put the man who wants the liberty to carry a gun in the room with the man who wants the liberty to smoke a joint, and you’ll find two very different perceptions of what are allowable liberties and what are not.

  • Nuke Gray!

    The rot in america probably happened with the overlay of the Federal Government, because that was the seed of the Nation-State which is now flowering. When Americans had the liberty to grab more Amerindian lands, this kept the center weak, since it was easier to escape. Also, Washington gained some extra powers from the Civil War, and governments don’t like to give powers back. Canberra, here in Australia, only started to grow when WW2 gace it the excuse to impose income taxes.
    Infuriatingly, societies that can utilise more resources are more likely to win wars, so Centralists have a reason to like wars. the only Libertarian type of insurgency to succeed could be of allied guerilla groups, co-ordinated, but not commanded.

  • Andy H

    Put the man who wants the liberty to carry a gun in the room with the man who wants the liberty to smoke a joint, and you’ll find two very different perceptions of what are allowable liberties and what are not.

    It wouldn’t be so bad ‘cept mostly they both think restricting the other guy is more important than their own freedom.

  • John McVey

    I ran across this(Link) last week, regarding a discussion in the National Review about US notions of liberty, their origins in UK thought, and intellectual crimes being committed even today regarding the concept of liberty.

    JJM

  • Noah L.

    Great essay. It expresses the frustration I feel with the seemingly inexorable slide toward authoritarianism.

    I was saddened, however, to see that the only call to action in the conclusion was to vote. (Speaking up is an action too, I guess.) Is participating in the political process the only way to reverse the trend? I don’t have a lot of confidence that that will work.

    Not that I have any better ideas, other than abandoning America for some greener pasture somewhere.

    I’d like to be more hopeful, but I don’t see how it’s going to happen, at least in time for my children or me to enjoy it. Anybody got a better idea?

  • el windy

    Is “Politically Correct” a racist job creation exercise? I first thought this during a few visits to New York in the late 70′s when awareness of PC was still in its infancy (at least here in the UK). I couldn’t help noticing that in the streets of Manhattan the majority language spoken was Spanish. This obviously contrasted with the liberal elite in the universities and the media. Surely, I thought that it was only a matter of time before Spanish became the language of the urban poor and hence inevitably change the demographic of the elite. PC-speak soon came to the rescue – it further complicated the type of English which was acceptable in the relevant educational institutions and so automatically excluding anyone whose first language was Spanish. Furthermore, some of the distinctions which have become sadly accepted in the PC game (e.g. chairman/woman to chair, or the linguistically nonsensical history/herstory) just don’t make sense in other languages. The Anglo-elites jobs were safe and they were free to oversee and direct who got access to opportunities and on what terms. And if any Spanish-speaking person dared to complain they were met with accusations of “macho” Spanish culture. The huge armies of Equal Opportunities Advisers employed by public bodies on both sides of the Atlantic is a further testament of the success of this elitist scam.

  • Rich

    My idea, which I hope is better, has been to join the Free State Project (http://freestateproject.org), which aims to bring 20,000 Freedom Loving Activists to the Live Free or Die state.

    We’ve got 9k+ committed to move. We’ve got 700 in place. We’ve become the Liberty Activism capitol of the world!

    And we are, slowly but surely, turning the tide. This year, we defeated Mandatory Seat Belts, Mandatory Auto Insurance, and many other statist proposals.

    We gained the legal “right” (we already had the moral right) to record police officers in the course of their duties, audio and video.

    We gained medical marijuana

    We gained gay marriage

    And this with a Democratic legislature and governor.

    We will fight them on the beaches … you know the rest.

  • Paul Marks

    Rich:

    Since the Democrat Governor came in after the election of 2004 government spending has been growing fast in New Hampshire.

    Indeed the rot set in even before this – when the Courts declared that New Hampshire must have a State property tax to finance more spending on the government schools (the very schools that spread the brainwashing ideology of statism – although some of the private schools do also).

    And the resistance from the people, who in the old days would have dragged out the judges and covered them in tar and feathers.

    The people of New Hampshire did NOTHING – indeed they eventually did less than nothing as they stabbed Governor Benson (a real fiscal conservative) in the back in the election of 2004.

    Perhaps the majority of people in New Hampshire are more interested in “gay marriage” (as opposed to a marriage that is miserable?) than they are in the fact that their liberties are going down the tubes.

    Mark Stein is correct when a culture goes (when the “Progressives” take over) having low taxes is not enough. (And, no, I am not a “warmonger” – I did not agree with Mark S. on the war in Iraq).

    Indeed, in the end, even the low taxes turn into high taxes.

    And they will – you wait and see.

    By the way – not so long ago their were very few police officers in New Hampshire. And freedom is not about how you hold a camera or audio recorder, it is about the firearms of the citizens and how much practice they do.

    Clue – unlike even Maine, hunting is in decline in New Hampshire due to the permit policies of the State government. I trust that New Hampshire libertarians are fighting these policies.

  • MarkE

    Ian B

    I think Libertarianism is slightly less marginalised and reviled in the USA than elsewhere and therfore, inperfect though it is, the USA is the one place we can hope to see Libertarianism grow enough to be (re)exported.

    Noah L

    I too hope speaking up qualifies as action, but I’m not sure here is the place to do it. I periodically contribute to the BBC “Have your say” to try to present an alternative to the BBC’s statist views. Although there are many contributors who lean somewhat to liberty, the house standard is toward authoritarianism and they do attract a like minded audience. I like to think that enough contributions saying there is an alternative to state authoritarianism might just make some converts (I may be deluded, but I have less chance of winning many converts if I only post here). I even (if feeling brave) do the same on mainstream political party websites although winning converts there is unlikely.

  • yatalli

    “We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence.” Bravo! Well said.

  • Just read your interesting essay. Agree with many points you make. Just dont think we can vote ourselves out of this mess we have voted ourselves into.
    We live in the same N>E. Georgia area,I too write a blog, octogenarians,blog.com. and my post are directed towards the phylosophy of Freedom.

    Anne Cleveland

  • he USA is the one place we can hope to see Libertarianism grow enough to be (re)exported.

    I doubt it. The USA’s primary political export at the moment is leftist authoritarian statism. In a considerably trailing second place, there is religiously aligned conservatism. It is my contention that without the USA’s and her handmaiden the UK’s pushing of moral/social reform statism, things would not be so bad.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The problem with the “Vote!” meme is that when the electable candidates are statist-left and statist-right (and the established parties do have a lock on election rules), voting merely puts your stamp of approval on the process and legitimizes whoever wins.

    May it not be better to refuse the forced choice and subsequently emphasize that the government’s acting without your consent, which you could not give because no available candidate reflected your values? I think a better case can be made for “If you vote, you can’t complain” than for “If you don’t vote….”

  • Alisa

    We gained medical marijuana

    We gained gay marriage

    And this with a Democratic legislature and governor.

    Big deal, I’ve just made my dog eat a filet mignon.

  • Laird

    “It is my contention that without the USA’s and her handmaiden the UK’s pushing of moral/social reform statism, things would not be so bad.”

    Whoa, there, Ian B! You slipped over the edge on that one. I’ve been following happily along (here and elsewhere), basically nodding in agreement with your argument that the US has a long and deep streak of puritanism and faux moralism, but we do (or did, anyway) have a few redeeming virtues, too. There’s also the Jeffersonian libertarian streak, and the pioneering, risk-taking, go-it-alone streak, and neither is quite dead yet. I don’t know for sure what “things” it is that you think “would not be so bad” out there in the broad world, but I venture to say that if the US, with all its flaws, had never existed things out there would probably be a whole lot worse than they are now.

    Therewith do I smack down your hyperbole!

  • Nuke Gray!

    Laird, a point to consider- if America had not existed, or if the Amerindian societies had been so stimulated by trade and contact with Europeans that they kept pace, and stopped colonies forming, then those colonial types would have stayed at home, fermenting discontent there, and perhaps provoking change in Europe, instead of leaving statists in charge.
    Just a hypothetical point, but worth considering.

  • Laird, I quote myself-

    It is my contention that without the USA’s and her handmaiden the UK’s pushing of moral/social reform statism, things would not be so bad.

    If I’d said an unqualified “Without the USA things would not be so bad” your upset with me would be fair. I admire many things about the USA- I was specifically criticising a particular aspect of it (and the UK, similarly).

  • the other rob

    Nuke Gray! writes

    The rot in america probably happened with the overlay of the Federal Government, because that was the seed of the Nation-State which is now flowering.

    I’m as supportive of States’ Rights as any man, but simply blaming the Feds is too easy. One doesn’t have to look very hard, in any state, to find an army of home grown gauleiters, with their permits and their licences and their sinecures, all funded by restraint of trade.

  • Also Laird, what I’m trying to say isn’t that the enemy is “puritanism” per se. I’m not interested in other individuals’ moral values, nor in changing them– if people want to live a particularly life, I’m not interested in changing that. What I’m trying to get at is a particularly anglospheric perception of the state as a moral force. That moral statism comes in different guises- for instance envrionmentalism is a moralism. So my view is that anglosphere nations in particular tend to seek to impose moral values (save a tree, or save you from beer, or whatever) by statist force, and that is what holds the door open for statism an oppression in general.

    My argument easily seems to reduce to just a demand for licentiousness, but that’s not what I’m after. I’m just trying to define our own home-grown form of socialism as fundamentally morally reformist, whatever particular morals it may at any particular time be happening to try to impose, and that makes it distinctive enough to be worthy of seperate analysis from communism, or fascism.

  • John McVey

    Ian:

    The idea of the State as a moral force been around for as long as there have been centralised governments. Government from Ancient Egypt et al on up has included top-down imposition of religious and moral ideas on the people. The real issue, then, is why some governments have moved away from that, not why there are those who haven’t.

    JJM

  • John, I think historically if we look at, say, England, there was considerably less moral imposition prior to the rise of the new religionism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries which we see characterised by e.g. methodism. There was a considerable, immense push to moralise government during the 19th century. The 18th century had less moral hegemony than the 19th.

    This is all a matter of degree. There has never been a state of pure freedom, or pure capitalism, or pure theocracy, or any other pure thing, so it’s a matter of looking at the directionalities and degrees of change, and what agencies were involved, I think. The reason we call Victorian Values by that name is that they arose during that time period rather than having always existed.

  • John McVey

    Ian:

    I don’t dispute that. My question still remains – why was there that shift away (however incomplete) from moral imposition to begin with? Would it not be more enlightening to view the history as a dip that has been an abberation from the norm and which is being undone in a return to the old norm, and then try to see why? As you can imagine, I already have a semblance of an answer.

    Almost all moral codes in history have been mystic in origin, and as they frequently include contents inimical to personal success these codes tended to need the power of force and the power of the State to keep them in place. Then, after a long period of intellectual development behind the public scenes, along came a move towards use of reason, a belief in the power of men to be reasonable, and beginnings of a moral code formulated by use of reason that focussed on the worldly-well being of the individual on the premise that people could be reasonable with each other. The state was then limited itself to handling those who acted otherwise, because it was reasoned and found not to be necessary to use constant force to keep society nicely functional – that, after all, was what Wealth of Nations was partly about.

    That departure from the ancient norm started being undone when reason and the ability to be reasonable were undermined in critical ways. The old mystic codes (which never fully went away, and in whose name the attacks on reason were mounted in the first place) started coming back to popularity as responses to the violence and decadence usually attendent with irrationality. With that there is the return of the idea of the State as needing to impose righteousness by force, because people are increasingly seen as unable to be reasonable and unwilling to put their self-interest aside for some alleged higher good, be that society or the environment or the next world or whatever.

    If we want to halt the undoing of liberty, begin by re-establishing reason as the sole means of gaining knowledge and teaching people how to be properly reasonable.

    JJM

  • Nuke Gray!

    Alisa, vey commendable! However, I’ll only recommend you to the Guinness Book of records if the dog makes the meal itself! You can lay out the table and food stuffs, but the dog has to do all the rest!

  • Alisa

    One thing at a time Nuke: so far he has been only warming up to the knife-and-fork concept.

  • Paul Marks

    The Supreme Court has refused to uphold the Constitution of the United States and centuries of precedent concerning contact law.

    Anyone foolish (or unlucky) enough to still own bonds from an American company (or government bonds – any level of government including T. bills) should sell them at once.

    Even if you only make a few cents on the Dollar.

  • Santiago Valenzuela

    “Plus, as societies get more secular, they become more socialist (see Western Europe).”

    I see someoneone ever heard of Ayn Rand. Why define something by something as inessential as what its not? ie, non-religious. Far more important is what a society IS, and if that society is altruistic and statist in bent, then they will be socialist, regardless of whether or not they are religious – as Obama and the coming religous socialists/fascists are going to be ably demonstrating over the next few terms.

    The attempt to equate atheism with socialism or communism is one of the most ridiculous strawman’s out there.

  • JD

    The only answer is to start alternative schools all over the country, teaching the basics plus pro-American history, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, etc.

    It’s going to take an awful lot of philanthropy, but eventually I think someone with the clout to make it happen is going to make it happen.

  • tom

    “….since they must teach the test so schools can…..”

    I agree with 99% of your post, but ‘the test’ is english, math and science. I WANT my kids to learn these.

    Without the test we’ll get more kids learning ‘art apreesheashun’

  • Dana H.

    I agree with JD that alternative and home schools are part of the solution to reversing the statist indoctrination of decades. But we can also fight the statists on their home turf of the public schools, and we don’t need to wait for “someone with the clout to make it happen.”

    The Ayn Rand Institute has an ongoing free books program, which donates copies of Ayn Rand novels to any teacher who agrees to teach the book. If you want to help expose young minds to an alternative to the collectivist drivel they encounter on a daily basis, consider making a donation to support this program. See the ARI site for more: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_classroom_books

  • Kim du Toit

    A couple of comments.

    1.) “Never forget that we are the heirs of the most libertarian, God-fearing revolutionaries in history.” — Sorry, but if the Founding Fathers were to look at the libertarian manifesto — if such an animal could be created from this particular herd of cats — they’d burst out into peals of laughter. This tripe trope of the FFs being libertarians is one of the besetting falsehoods of our time, and is a typical mistake of libertarians. Just because someone’s philosophical circle has an occasional Venn intersect with yours, does not make them a libertarian. The expression “ordered liberty” best describes the weltanschauung of the FFs, but is anathema to most libertarians.

    But apart from this quibble with the post, I congratulate Mr. Terra on an excellent albeit gloomy argument.

    2.) The New Hampshire Free State Project — While I understand (and indeed sympathize with) the goals thereof, I should point out that the reality of the thing is that New Hampshire is being “invaded” by Massachusetts residents, as they flee the MA statism and taxes only to reproduce them in NH. Thousands of such worms resettle in NH each year, which negates the influx of Free Staters and makes the eventual 20,000 goal of the Free Staters somewhat pointless. Shoulda picked Wyoming, which is acting more and more like a Free State every day, without any assistance from libertarians.

    3.) “The only answer is to start alternative schools all over the country, teaching the basics plus pro-American history, Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, etc. It’s going to take an awful lot of philanthropy, but eventually I think someone with the clout to make it happen is going to make it happen.” — That’s actually a quasi-statist suggestion, and I’m surprised to see it here. And it won’t work, because setting up a parallel education system will be massively resisted. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that we don’t need schools, and this “counterrevolution” doesn’t require philanthropy at all. Millions of kids are being homeschooled by concerned parents every year, doing everything you’ve suggested. The homeschooling movement is actually one of the greatest examples of libertarianism in action, anywhere, and I’m surprised that it’s not being trumpeted as such. To see the loathing in which homeschooling is regarded, you only have to look at the hostile response from statist governments like Massachusetts and New York towards it.

  • Anyway, the fact of the matter is that we don’t need schools, and this “counterrevolution” doesn’t require philanthropy at all. Millions of kids are being homeschooled by concerned parents every year, doing everything y

    I entirely agree. The best thing libertarians/liberals/conservatives/fellow travellers can attempt to achieve is the debunking of the myth that factory-style mass schooling is the best, or even a good means of intellectual development for children. The basic problem isn’t that schooling has somehow gone wrong; it’s that it’s a fundamentally broken idea, and always was, and the basic cause of many of the “social problems” over which everyone wrings their hands.

  • Andy

    Rich: “We gained medical marijuana
    We gained gay marriage
    And this with a Democratic legislature and governor.”

    Alisa: “Big deal, I’ve just made my dog eat a filet mignon.”

    Hilarious! I was drinking soda when I read your line and went into such a laughing/coughing fit that I’m slightly offended my coworkers haven’t checked to see if I’m alright.

  • Andy

    Also, Kim du Toit is 100% correct.

  • The Slug of Texas: “Sorry, but if the Founding Fathers were to look at the libertarian manifesto — if such an animal could be created from this particular herd of cats — they’d burst out into peals of laughter.”

    Hey: everybody else can cherry-pick that, too. It depends on what you’re calling the “Founding Fathers”, import. Go read the Anti-Federalists and learn something of what you’re talking about.

    “Just because someone’s philosophical circle has an occasional Venn intersect with yours, does not make them a libertarian.”

    …nor does it make them a “Founding Father”.

  • Alisa

    I’m glad it wasn’t hot coffee Andy:-)

  • Looking at the march of statism and it’s manifest success as demonstrated by the voting people of this republic who really love their free lunches, I’m more inclined to believe that Boston’s Gun Bible is a more useful tool for libertarians who value their individual liberty than a million gay marriages or medical marijuana clinics. Who needs the government to sanction these activities anyway?

    These issues, besides sceding moral authority to the authoritarians, are nothing more than statist distractions that will eventually be used as a gift – after their value has played out – to make you sit down and shut up about liberty.

  • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Frankly, I’m still working thru _Liberal Fascism_, every few dozen pages I have to close it and take a bunch of deep breaths to clear my rage… Think I really may have to move to TX after all, when the US bits the shed I think that may be where we see a libertarian possibility (Colorado’s already too far gone off the hippy-dippy end, dunno bout WY or SD..)

  • Also read “The Road to Serfdom” by Hayek. He wrote that back in the early 50s. He was talking mainly about Britain, but they’re so far down that road today it’s a lost cause.

    We’ve still got a chance, but it’s going to take a lot of work on everybody’s part to take back the country our fathers fought and died for.

  • Bill Johnson

    Dear PoliSci Prof:

    Pray tell me how voting is going to help. Please discuss Venezualen and Russian examples. (and I have voted since 1973, in every election available to me, so let not that hinder your thoughts)

    Then discuss voter registration fraud, census frand and gerrymandering. Be sure to reference the practices and goals of the present administration.

    Just suppose that we all vote (OK, 50%). And are never again able to vote in anyone but Democrats.

    Please also discuss the prospects for the removal of the 14th Amendment. Illustrate, please, the New York congresscritter who annually introduces a bill for this purpose. Discuss the meaning of this with respect to the Adoration of the One, and one-party government.

    Then get back to me about the value of the vote.

  • IanB: The connection between “banning beer” and the “nanny state” is a bit extreme. After all, we did repeal Prohibition.

    The Nanny State came later, with FDR and his New Deal, which put into practice the notion of “entitlement”. Not “entitlement” after a lifetime of working and paying into the System (as it was originally set up (with a retirement age of 65 because the average life expectancy at the time was 63)), but an “entitlement” based on concepts like “I’m too weak or stupid to get a good job, so society owes me a ‘living wage’ “, which Democrats are happy to provide, just so long as they keep getting voted in and there are enough people willing and able to work and pay into that System.

    One problem with the Libertarian Party in the US is that they’ve been putting up totally unelectable candidates – like Badnarik and Gravel.

    tom: “teach the test” The problem seems to be, just what is that test, today? If it doesn’t measure the things you mention – “english, math and science. I WANT my kids to learn these” – to which I would add Critical Thinking – then what use is it? And why not?

    Kim: “… as they flee the MA statism and taxes only to reproduce them in NH.”

    That is eerily reminiscent of the first MA inhabitants, who fled religious persecution in Europe only to establish it in the New World. As long as I’m doing the persecution, it’s quite OK.

    “[homeschooling] … I’m surprised that it’s not being trumpeted as such. ”

    That may well be because they want to stay under the radar. In Germany, people have been arrested for having the gall to homeschool their kids.

    “…That’s actually a quasi-statist suggestion, …”

    I don’t think he meant a formal, organized, structured parallel system.

    Anyone wanting to learn about the sad sorry state of education in this country should read Diane Ravitch’s “Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform”. It’s been one failed experiment after another.

    We really need to look at what’s happening in Britain today to see where we’re headed. It’s not a pretty picture. And by its example, we have been warned.

  • Mike Mahoney

    Vote, sure. Also run for office. Participate in the campaign of your favorite pol. Then ride him like a borrowed mule. Buy those classics for your young’ns. Read them to the littlest ones. Teach them personal independence and responsible liberty. Become an informed juror. Stop thinking that yammerin’ at each other here on the net is activism. Exercise your rights. Get that gun. Write to a wider audience. Speak at townhall-like meetings. Attend school board, city council and county coucil meetings.
    There you go. A list of things to do besides bleat here.
    BTW, very good article by the OP.

  • Nuke Gray!

    Prohibition was passed, and repealed. It was not chucked out as being against the Constitution, or the Bill of rights, whatever. That was a warning.
    And Prohibition of another kind took its’ place- the War on Drugs!
    As for books to read- try that new one by Jacques Attali- “A Brief History Of The Future”. It concerns historical trends, and his main point is that the civilisations that maximize individual freedoms are more likely to survive and prosper than all others.

  • Laird

    No one ever pretended that Prohibition (of alcohol) wasn’t beyond the bounds of what the Constitution permitted – that’s why it was implemented by Constitutional amendment. At least our predecessors had the wit to recognize that that was necessary. Not so with the War on Drugs; there’s absolutely no Constitutional basis for it, but no one seems to care (or even notice). The Constitution has become a dead letter, followed only when it is convenient to do so and honored more in the breach than the observance.

  • It sure is time to think beyond wimpy measures like voting. I have some suggestions at http://me.stpeter.im/essays/storm.html — things like learning to shoot, blogging actively, networking outside the political process, bartering, buying and using gold and silver, encrypting your online communications, voting with your feet by moving to a lower-tax jurisdiction (easier in the States than the UK), and homeschooling. I’m sure there are many more practical steps that individuals can take to build a stronger and freer civil society…

  • Loki1

    “Now diligent do-gooders want to ban school coke machines as well. And to think at my high school we could even smoke! …”

    [I think perhaps you meant "Coke" machines. The capital letter is because it's their trademark.]

    “Today political correctness constipates free speech
    at many schools…”

    [Thank you! "Constipates" is an inspired verb here.]

    “Furthermore, some of the distinctions which have
    become sadly accepted in the PC game (e.g.,
    chairman/woman to chair, or the linguistically
    nonsensical history/herstory) just don’t make sense
    in other languages.”

    [Indeed! "Chair", as a title, is simply ludicrous. Still
    worse, I think, is "Chairperson". And once, I did my bit
    for the English language by refusing to accept one
    such piece of mail that began by addressing me in that fashion. The sender durn well took note in her next communique.]

  • Paul Marks

    I do not normally comment on typing mistakes (being one of the world’s worst keyboard users myself) – however the “Hayek wrote the Road to Serfdom in the early 50s” typo could mislead people.

    It was of course the early 1940′s – with the book comming out in 1944 (the same year as Mises’ “Omnipotent Government”).