Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Skewed Perspective on Terrorism

When economists think about terrorism their thinking tends to be muddled. Glen Whitman, an associate professor of economics and co-proprietor of Agoraphilia, amply demonstrates muddleheadedness in "Perspective on Terrorism," where he says this:

At Cato Unbound, in response to a lead essay by John Mueller, Clark Kent Ervin rejects the comparison of the death rate from terrorism to the death rates from bee stings, lightning, drowning, etc. Ervin’s argument is so unpersuasive (to me) that I think it deserves a fisking.

It is undoubtedly true that Americans are far more likely to die from “bee stings, lightning, or accident-causing deer” than terrorism, but so what? ... This statistical argument implicitly equates deaths from bee stings, lightning or close encounters with marauding deer with deaths from terrorism.

They should be equated. It doesn’t make sense to spend a billion dollars to prevent one death by terrorism if the same billion dollars could prevent ten or a hundred deaths by other causes. Death is death. It can be sensible to give different treatment to deaths by different causes, but only if there’s some reason to think one cause of death is more easily deterred than another.

Ervin may have made his case badly, but he is right and Whitman is wrong. To see why, let's go back to Mueller's statement

Although polls continue to show Americans notably concerned that they or members of their families might die at the hands of terrorists, astronomer Alan Harris has calculated that, at present rates and including the disaster of 9/11 in the consideration, the chances any individual resident of the globe will be killed by an international terrorist over the course of an 80-year lifetime is about 1 in 80,000, about the same likelihood of being killed over the same interval from the impact on the Earth of an especially ill-directed asteroid or comet. At present, Americans are vastly more likely to die from bee stings, lightning, or accident-causing deer than by terrorism within the country. That seems pretty safe.

That seems "pretty safe" only because the United States (and many other countries) have taken affirmative steps to detect and thwart terrorist attacks before they occur. We have seen the enemy's successes. But we are unaware of many of his failures because it is stupid to give the enemy an inkling of how we have achieved all of our successes.

Comparing the ex post death rate from terrorism with such unpreventable and/or random events as asteroid strikes, bee stings, lightning strikes, or deer-caused accidents is a classic demonstration of academic cluelessness. Those unpreventable and/or random events will occur regardless of terrorism. Terrorism is an additional threat -- not an alternative one. The worst mistake we can make is to underestimate that threat.

Now, Whitman would say that we can spend less money on the war on terror and more to prevent asteroid strikes, for example, and that we ought to determine the right balance of spending between the two activities. That's fine, as far as it goes, but a correct determination of the balance of spending cannot be made by using probabilities of the type cited by Mueller.

Asteroids, bees, lightning, and deer -- unlike terrorists -- are not sentient enemies. Ignoring those "threats" will not enable them to increase their "attacks" on us; they will do what they will do, according to the "laws of nature." Ignoring terrorists, on the other hand, certainly would enable them -- and encourage them -- to increase their attacks on us. The apparently low probability of being killed by a terrorist is low precisely because we have spent a lot of money to make it low.

Moreover, we must continue to spend a lot of money to keep that probability low. If we fail to do so, we will then find out what it is like to be besieged -- to live lives that are markedly poorer, filled with anxiety, and isolated from that large part of the world in which Islamism will have triumphed.

Is it possible to eliminate that prospect and avoid a future of perpetual terrorism? I believe that it is, if we put enough money and effort into the war on terror. And if we never relent, even after terrorism is reduced to a "law enforcement" problem. Evil always lurks.

Because civilization depends on continually making the effort, of never giving in. It needs to be cared for by men of goodwill, protected from the dark. These people [the Romans] gave in. They stopped caring. And because they did, this land fell under the darkness of a barbarism which lasted for hundreds of years.

-- From Cicero's "The Dream of Scipio" (Thanks to Verity of Southern Appeal.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Best Defense . . .

. . . is a good offense. That's the lesson of World War I, when the entry of the United States into the war enabled the allies to go on the offensive. That's the lesson of World War II, when the United States mobilized so massively that

  • we put Japan on the defensive by winning the Battle of Midway in June 1942, only six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • we sealed Germany's doom in the spring of 1943 by turning the tide in the Second Battle of the Atlantic, thus ensuring that U.S. forces could mass for an invasion of Europe.

The lesson for World War IV (counting the Cold War as World War III) -- which I led up to but did not spell out in "Reaching the Limit?" -- is the same: The best defense is a good offense. But we have been mainly on the defensive since 9/11. We need not be on the defensive; we should not be on the defensive. Our ability to prosecute the war on terror should not be judged by what is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even though there are not enough boots on the ground in those theatres of operation, we nevertheless possess massive amounts of military power -- and potential military power -- which, if brought into play, would turn the tide of the war abroad and lead to renewed support for it at home and amongst most of our allies.

Yes, there would be vocal opposition to massive, decisive, military action, but the president has the authority for such action in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001. And the sooner he exerts that authority, the sooner the silent majority of Americans can rally behind the war effort, the sooner Congress can vote the necessary increases in defense spending, and the sooner the war can be prosecuted as it should be prosecuted.

The war on terror should be guided by three strategic objectives: searching out and destroying or capturing terrorists until they are truly a "law enforcement" problem, neutralizing the state sponsors of terrorism, and securing the oil reserves of the Middle East against terrorism and economic extortion. I believe that those objectives can be met within five to ten years by:

  • mobilizing on a scale at least equal to that of World War II (That level of mobilization would require a doubling of our present level of defense spending, which would consume GDP at a rate only one-sixth that of our defense spending in World War II. See the second figure, here.)
  • vigorous, uninhibited surveillance of electronic communications overseas, between the U.S. and foreign countries, and within the U.S. (Intercepts of the last type of communication should follow guidelines approved by Congress, but those guidelines must not restrict warrantless surveillance to a period following a terrorist attack.)
  • clandestine operations ranging from the infiltration of terrorist cells to close monitoring of financial transactions to small-scale search and destroy (or capture) missions (without geographic limit)
  • military operations against terrorists, their bases, and their sources of supply (Such operations may be encounters of opportunity or sustained campaigns, as circumstances warrant. A corollary is the abandonment of nation-building exercises that tie down significant numbers of military forces.)
  • aggressive interrogation of captured terrorists and enemy combatants, under rules that require approval from higher authority (Approval would be required only to ensure that a particular course of interrogation is commensurate with the information being sought and that the person being interrogated likely has that information.)
  • military retaliation and/or economic sanctions against regimes that overtly or covertly interfere with our surveillance, clandestine operations, and military operations
  • the swift and uncompromising prosecution of persons and organizations that divulge and publish information about war plans and covert programs or operations.

The alternative -- if we continue to allow the enemy to take the initiative -- is an endless and ultimately futile two-front war. On one front, of course, are terrorists and those who sponsor and support them. On the other front are those of the Left and Right whose counsel, if heeded, would enable terrorists and their state sponsors to slowly grind down our resolve and (even more likely) the resolve of other Western nations. Eventually, we would be held hostage within our own borders -- isolated, poorer, and living lives of anxiety.

World opinion might (and probably would) turn strongly against us initially. But as our resolve is met with success, we will capture the hearts and minds of those whose hearts and minds we ought to care about.

We cannot go on as we are. Perhaps the best time of our life as a nation was when we basked in the glow of total victory following World War II. We can bask in that same glow again, if we put our resolve and our resources to it.

Related links:
A Top-Ten List on Jihad That's Way Too Long and Quite Possibly Too Dour
Who's Going to Win?
World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare
An Antidote to the Western Way of War?
The New Juristocracy
You Have the Right to Remain Silent . . .
Americans Should Not Die for Article 3, Geneva Conventions
The Fallacy of Reciprocity
How the Geneva Convention Protects Western Troops
"For McCain It's Personal" (in Best of the Web)
Suicidal Hand-Wringing
The Religion of Peace Firebombs & Fatwas
Ahmadinejad's Apologists
Our Covert Enemies
Know Your Enemy
The Pope and Kissinger Warn the World

Related posts:
9/11 and Pearl Harbor
A Colloquy on War and Terrorism
Vietnam and Iraq as Metaphors
Getting It Wrong: Civil Libertarians and the War on Terror (A Case Study)
Libertarianism and Preemptive War: Part I
Why Sovereignty?
Shall We All Hang Separately?
Foxhole Rats
Treasonous Speech?
Foxhole Rats, Redux
Know Thine Enemy
The Faces of Appeasement
Libertarianism and Preemptive War: Part II
Torture and Morality
Whose Liberties Are We Fighting For?
The Constitution and Warrantless "Eavesdropping"
NSA "Eavesdropping": The Last Word (from Me)
Privacy, Security, and Electronic Surveillance
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
Words for the Unwise
Recommended Reading about NSA's Surveillance Program
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown
A Rant about Torture
More Foxhole Rats
Moussaoui and "White Guilt"
The New York Times: A Hot-Bed of Post-Americanism
Post-Americans and Their Progeny
American Royalty
"Peace for Our Time"
Anti-Bush or Pro-Treason?
Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts
Parsing Peace
The Problem of Good vs. Evil
A Message to Our Domestic Enemies
Taking on Torture
Conspiracy Theorists' Cousins
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service
I Have an Idea
The Price of Liberty
September 11: Five Years On
How to View Defense Spending
Losing Sight of the Objective
Reaching the Limit?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Median Household Income and Bad Government

Remember this map?

It appeared in the Detroit Free Press on August 30, and it was picked up quickly by the Left-blogosphere because it seems to discredit President Bush's economic policies. (For example, Kevin Drum (Political Animal) got the map from the Freep, John Campanelli at Daily Kos got it from Drum, and Benj Hellie at Leiter Reports linked to Campanelli's post.)

In case you missed it, Stuart Buck and Megan McArdle, in a September 14 piece at the DCExaminer, describe the map and discredit it -- as have other savvy observers. As Buck and McArdle explain,

the Detroit Free Press published a horrifying map showing huge losses in household income across America. Horrifying and totally wrong, that is.

According to the map, between 1999 and 2005 median household income had fallen in 46 states, sometimes by double digits, plunging by 6 percent in the U.S. as a whole.

We knew incomes had fallen slightly since the peak of the technology bubble. . . . But the declines shown on the map were shocking. The Free Press claimed that nine states, with a total of 75 million citizens, had seen median incomes plummet by roughly 10 percent.

More surprisingly, these figures didn’t match those in the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, or CPS, which showed that median household income in the US had fallen only 2.8 percent — and had risen in around 20 states, not four. Where, we wondered, had they gotten their figures?

An e-mail exchange with the journalists gave us the answer: They had taken their 2005 numbers not from the CPS, but from the American Community Survey, a new research product that is scheduled to replace the detailed “long form” census collected every decade. But they hadn’t taken the 1999 figures from the ACS — in fact, the ACS is so new that it didn’t even publish nationwide data for 1999. Instead, the journalists had taken the 1999 income figures from the official 2000 census.

Some statisticians already will be shaking their heads in dismay; different surveys, taken at different times and asking slightly different questions, often produce very different pictures of the economy. If the journalists had checked the helpful section of the Census Bureau Web site called “Using the Data”, they would have discovered this warning: “Users should exercise care when comparing income figures from the American Community Survey with those of Census 2000.”

They might also have found another Census Web page warning that “[E]stimates from any one survey will almost never exactly match the estimates from any other (unless explicitly controlled), because of differences such as in questionnaires, data collection methodology, reference period, and edit procedures.” Or had they Googled “Comparing the ACS and the Census,” they’d have discovered a helpful document on the comparison problems, available from multiple state governments. It calls the two income numbers “not comparable.”

With good reason. A 2003 report by census staff indicated that median incomes from the ACS were much lower than those from the 2000 census: 4.4 percent lower for the United States.

What does this mean? Simple: If you start with income from the 2000 census, and then compare it to income from the 2005 ACS, which we know tends to be much lower because of survey differences — you’ll find a much greater decline than really was the case. Much of the reported 6 percent drop — probably more than half — comes from comparing apples to oranges.

There's more to be said, however, and I said it on September 5 in a comment on a post at AnalPhilosopher. Here are the key points of my comment, which I have edited to focus on the issues at hand:

The use of the period 1999 to 2005 amounts to cherry-picking the data. (The use of incompatible data sets, of which I was unaware at the time of my comment, merely compounded the cherry-picking.) Specifically, real median household income in the U.S. declined from 1999 -- while Bill Clinton was president -- through 2004, then rose in 2005, though the 2005 level was below the 1999 level. (To see what I am talking about, open this Census Bureau report and go to Figure 1, which I have reproduced below.)

The 1999-2004 decline is typical of a long-standing pattern, one that the figure below depicts only as far back as 1967. Even in the relatively brief period since 1967 there have been dips in real median household income more severe than that of 1999-2004. There is nothing at all unusual about a temporary dip in real median household income; it is part of the natural cycle of long-term economic growth. (Leftists like to imagine that there's an alternative to such cycles, which involves the counter-productive fine-tuning of the economy by an omniscient Left-wing government or the even more destructive practice of income redistribution.)

The fact that some States (e.g., Michigan) fared worse than others during the recent downturn can be attributed to Michigan's particularly benighted economic policies (e.g., high taxation and unionization), which have been impoverishing Michiganders for decades.

"The Sick Man of the Midwest: Michigan -- a liberal failure," by Rich Lowry at NRO, confirms my point about Michigan. Lowry reports:

According to the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s analysis of United Van Lines data, Michigan is now the No. 1 state in the continental United States for outbound traffic. An estimated 65 percent of the moving company’s Michigan interstate traffic is families moving out of the state, headed to more economically open and vital destinations. As an official in Wyoming put it, “Michigan has been very good for us.” . . .

Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center calls Michigan “the France of North America.” Economically competitive states might have a personal income tax, or corporate income tax, or sales tax — Michigan has all three. It has long been the only state with a European-style, value-added tax — the Single Business Tax. A company can be in bankruptcy and still have a tax liability, making Michigan a bad state even to lose money in. In a 2002 filing for relief from the tax, General Motors explained that it would operate at a loss, but one of its projects would still create a $7 million-a-year tax liability. . . .

Meanwhile, unions make the state an inhospitable place to do business. A company can be bankrupt in Michigan and still face threats of a strike, as Northwest Airlines and the auto-parts maker Delphi have learned. Michigan’s unionization rate of 21.8 percent is much higher than the national average of 13.5 percent. This accounts for it having the second-highest unit-labor cost in the nation, according to the Mackinac Center. States with right-to-work laws, and consequently less unionization, experience more growth and create more jobs, at the expense of troglodytes like Michigan.

It used to be that unions could force unnaturally high wages and benefits on U.S. manufacturers, and the costs would be passed along to consumers. Those were the days prior to globalization when the U.S. auto industry had a lock on the domestic market and experienced little international competition. It was inevitable that Michigan would find the new competition disruptive, but not that it would react to it so poorly.

The way to thrive in a globalized environment is to create a low-tax economy without the rigidities that come with heavy unionization and regulation. For those who disagree, Michigan beckons.

Addendum: See also this post at The Club for Growth blog.

Here's the figure from the Census Bureau report:

See also:
Your Labor Day Reading
Status, Spite, Envy, and Income Redistribution

Who Are the Parties to the Constitutional Contract?

A recent post by Tom W. Bell of Agoraphilia and two recent posts by Timothy Sandefur of Positive Liberty sent me back to The Federalist Papers, specifically, to No. 39 by James Madison. There, Madison says that

the Constitution is to be founded on the assent and ratification of the people of America, given by deputies elected for the special purpose; but, on the other, that this assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and independent States to which they respectively belong. It is to be the assent and ratification of the several States, derived from the supreme authority in each State, the authority of the people themselves. The act, therefore, establishing the Constitution, will not be a NATIONAL, but a FEDERAL act.

That it will be a federal and not a national act, as these terms are understood by the objectors; the act of the people, as forming so many independent States, not as forming one aggregate nation, is obvious from this single consideration, that it is to result neither from the decision of a MAJORITY of the people of the Union, nor from that of a MAJORITY of the States. It must result from the UNANIMOUS assent of the several States that are parties to it, differing no otherwise from their ordinary assent than in its being expressed, not by the legislative authority, but by that of the people themselves. Were the people regarded in this transaction as forming one nation, the will of the majority of the whole people of the United States would bind the minority, in the same manner as the majority in each State must bind the minority; and the will of the majority must be determined either by a comparison of the individual votes, or by considering the will of the majority of the States as evidence of the will of a majority of the people of the United States. Neither of these rules have been adopted. Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution. . . .

[T]he proposed government cannot be deemed a NATIONAL one; since its jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.

The persons who signed the Constitution in 1787 signed it as representatives of the people of their respective States. The persons who then ratified the Constitution in special conventions did so as representatives of the people of their respective States. The Constitution is a contract among the States on behalf of the people of each State. The States retain sovereignty, on behalf of their people, except where the Constitution transfers it to the United States (e.g., the regulation of interstate commerce).

Related posts:
The Erosion of the Constitutional Contract
The Constitution in Exile
The Legitimacy of the Constitution
What Is the Living Constitution?
Liberty and Federalism
A New Constitution: Revised Again
Consent of the Governed
What Is the American Constitution?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Reaching the Limit?

Mark Steyn on 9/11:

In the New York Times, Thomas Friedman wrote: "The failure to prevent Sept. 11 was not a failure of intelligence or coordination. It was a failure of imagination." That's not really true. Islamist terrorists had indicated their interest in U.S. landmarks, and were known to have plans to hijack planes to fly into them. But men like John O'Neill could never quite get the full attention of a somnolent federal bureaucracy. The terrorists must have banked on that: After all, they took their pilot-training classes in America, apparently confident that, even if anyone noticed the uptick in Arab enrollments at U.S. flight schools, a squeamish culture of political correctness would ensure nothing was done about it.

Five years on, half America has retreated to the laziest old tropes, filtering the new struggle through the most drearily cobwebbed prisms: All dramatic national events are JFK-type conspiracies, all wars are Vietnam quagmires. Meanwhile, Ramzi Yousef's successors make their ambitions as plain as he did: They want to acquire nuclear technology in order to kill even more of us. And, given that free societies tend naturally toward a Katrina mentality of doing nothing until it happens, one morning we will wake up to another day like the "day that changed everything." Sept. 11 was less "a failure of imagination" than an ability to see that America's enemies were hiding in plain sight.

Michael Liccione picks up the theme:

Americans and Westerners generally do not, as a whole, seem yet to understand what all the conflict within and about the Middle East has in common. This is not a war about "terrorism," which is only the most obvious weapon wielded by our true enemy. Whether one looks at Iraq, Southern Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan, or any place where Islamist terrorism has spilled blood, the enemy is the same: radical Islamic jihadism, whether of the Sunni (Wahhabi) or the Shi'ite variety best represented by Hezbollah and sustained by Iran in Iraq too. The aim of all jihadists is the same: the destruction of Israel and ultimately of the West, making way for the worldwide rule of Islam. . . [T]he trends throughout the Middle East and Southern Asia . . . are toward increasing convergence of jihadist groups. Saddam paid off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers of Israelis and tolerated Iraq's homegrown jihadist group, Ansar al-Sunna. The hydra-headed monster had been, and has since been getting, more cohesive for quite some time. One might argue that the overthrow of Saddam and the subsequent Iraqi insurgency has only accelerated that process; but if it has, that is not such a bad thing. It helps prevent people from sleeping too long.

Wherever there is Islamist terrorism, one finds jihadists from many different countries joining together. We're seeing only the earliest stages of what will, in due course, evolve into a true "clash of civilizations."

At some point those Americans who are playing nicey-nicey -- when they are not imitating ostriches -- will embolden and enable the enemy to do something that not even a Democrat or a Buchananite will tolerate. Fair warning to the enemy. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Related links:
A Top-Ten List on Jihad That's Way Too Long and Quite Possibly Too Dour
Who's Going to Win?
World War IV As Fourth-Generation Warfare
The New Juristocracy
Americans Should Not Die for Article 3, Geneva Conventions
The Fallacy of Reciprocity
"For McCain It's Personal" (in Best of the Web)
The Religion of Peace Firebombs & Fatwas
Ahmadinejad's Apologists
Our Covert Enemies
Know Your Enemy

Related posts:
Why Sovereignty?
Shall We All Hang Separately?
Foxhole Rats
Treasonous Speech?
Foxhole Rats, Redux
Know Thine Enemy
The Faces of Appeasement
Whose Liberties Are We Fighting For?
Words for the Unwise
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown
More Foxhole Rats
Moussaoui and "White Guilt"
The New York Times: A Hot-Bed of Post-Americanism
Post-Americans and Their Progeny
American Royalty
"Peace for Our Time"
Anti-Bush or Pro-Treason?
Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts
Parsing Peace

The Problem of Good vs. Evil
A Message to Our Domestic Enemies
Taking on Torture
Conspiracy Theorists' Cousins
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service
I Have an Idea
The Price of Liberty
September 11: Five Years On
How to View Defense Spending
Losing Sight of the Objective

A Democrat House?

Many conservative/libertarian voices are saying that a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives would be a good thing. (See this and this, for example.) It's the gridlock theory, you see. With a divided Congress, the GOP's recently found big-spending ways will be stymied. Moreover, voters' rejection of the GOP will send a message to the GOP: stop your big-spending ways.

I believe none of it. First, if Democrats control the House the bills passed there will be even more profligate than the ones now being passed by a GOP-controlled chamber. Second, the Senate -- which is dominated by Democrats and RINOs -- will gladly move in the direction of greater profligacy. Third, I don't expect President Bush to start brandishing the veto pen that he has wielded only once in almost six years.

Losing Sight of the Objective

Those who are so keen to bestow constitutional rights on terrorists have lost sight of a key purpose -- perhaps the key purpose -- of the Constitution: to provide for the common defense. Of Americans. Against their enemies: foreign and domestic, overt and covert.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part I

Negative rights -- one's free enjoyment of life, liberty, and property as long as one does no harm to others -- are for all, in a regime that honors and protects such rights. With negative rights there is no involuntary taking from some to give to others, except to underwrite those state functions (justice and defense) that protect negative rights. (As for the necessity and inevitability of the state, read this, this, and the posts linked to therein.)

Postive rights, on the other hand, are assigned selectively by a regime that takes from some and gives to others, not just to provide for justice and defense but also to dispense "social justice" to those who are deemed "deserving" of it. How much the "donees" receive from the "donors" depends only on the dictates of those who are in charge of the regime.

Joe Miller (Bellum et Mores) supports positive rights:

. . . I still hold on to one core insight of liberalism: respect for autonomy means more than just non-interference. I can have all sorts of freedoms from various things, but those freedoms don't mean a damn thing if I'm too cold/sick/hungry/stupid/isolated to exercise them. And I remain convinced that, at least for right now, the only way to ensure that everyone has the shelter, medicine, food, education, and access needed to enjoy his/her freedom is through some form of redistribution. Insisting that you redistribute part of your wealth is no more a violation of your autonomy than is insisting that you refrain from hitting me in the nose. Both hitting me in the nose and refusing to help those too poor to exercise their freedoms are violations of autonomy.

Joe is far from alone in his views, of course. His co-believers are legion. Consider, for example, George Lakoff (about whom I have written here). Lakoff, too, is a proponent of positive rights, which he propounds in Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea. Anthony Dick, writing at NRO Online, reviews Lakoff's book:

“Freedom is being able to achieve purposes,” [Lakoff] writes, “either because nothing is stopping you or because you have the requisite capacities, or both.” He elaborates with a barrage of italics: “Freedom is the freedom to go as far as you can in life, to get what you want in life, or to achieve what you can in life.” This, he explains, means that freedom has a significant positive component: “Freedom requires not just the absence of impediments to motion but also the presence of access. . . . Freedom may thus require creating access, which may involve building.” What Lakoff is describing, in other words, is a type of “positive freedom,” in the sense that it requires the provision of certain goods and services to citizens to ensure that they have the capacity to achieve their goals. On this view, you aren’t “free” unless you have been provided with what you need in order to be successful. . . .

Lakoff’s conception of freedom is thus in direct conflict with that of the Founders. When government seeks to provide entitlements for some in the name of “positive freedom,” it must necessarily interfere in the lives of others. This is because all government action is predicated on taxation and coercion, which by definition entail infringements on liberty. The state can’t give a welfare check to one person without taking money from someone else; it can’t fund a Social Security system without forcing people to pay into it.

People who don’t have food or health care or education have not been deprived of freedom. What they lack is not freedom but material goods and services. This is a matter of vocabulary, not ideology. The court of common word usage simply rejects Lakoff’s claim that being free means having the capacity to achieve one’s aims.

Roger Scruton, in the "Philosophical Appendix" of his The Meaning of Conservatism, says this:

What, then, is meant by the 'freedom of the individual'? I shall distinguish two kinds of liberal answer to this question, which I shall call, respectively, 'desire based' and 'autonomy based' liberalism. The first argues that people are free to the extent that they can satisfy thier desires. The modality of ths 'can' is, of course, a major problem. More importantly, however, such an answer implies nothing about the value of freedom, and to take it as the basis for political theory is to risk the most absurd conclusions. By this criterion the citizens of Huxley's Brave New World offer a paradigm of freedom: for they live in a world designed expressly for the gratification of their every wish. A desire-based liberalism could justify the most abject slavery -- provided only that the slaves are induced, by whatever method, to desire their own condition.

Joe's formulation could be dismissed simply by noting -- as does Anthony Dick -- the contradiction inherent in the concept of positive rights. It is simply illogical to say that "Insisting that you redistribute part of your wealth is no . . . violation of your autonomy." Such insistence, at the behest of the state, can be nothing other than a violation of "your autonomy," that is, the autonomy of the person whose wealth (or income) is being redistributed. Joe's formulation also could be dismissed simply by noting -- as Roger Scruton suggests -- that an agenda of positive rights means that the state can enslave (or at least enthrall) its subjects by dictating the conditions of their existence.

But I will not simply dismiss Joe's formulation of positive rights with those two observations, acute as they may be. Joe's formulation demands a more thorough response because it challenges the emotions in its appeal to the "cold/sick/hungry/stupid/isolated." I will make that more thorough response in Part II, where I will make the connection between positive rights and "cosmic justice," upon which I have touched here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Further Note about "Libertarian" Paternalism

I last discussed "libertarian" (or "soft") paternalism here (and posted a related note here). Any single instance of government-sponsored (and therefore government-encouraged) paternalism may seem benign. But it is not.

Take the case of default enrollment in 401(k) plans, which the Pension Protection Act of 2006 further encourages. Default enrollment in 401(k) plans -- however benign its intention and however easily overcome by the enrollee who wants out -- is a small act of paternalism that opens the door to more intrusive ones. What comes after default enrollment? Mandatory enrollment? Mandatory enrollment in certain types of retirement fund (e.g., government bond funds for the feeble-minded)?

Analagous questions can be asked about any government-sponsored paternalistic scheme. And such questions should be asked, because government-sponsored schemes shift decison-making power from individuals to bureaucrats, with their one-size-fits-all rules.

Moreover, as Peter Van Doren, editor of Regulation,* observes in a post at Cato-at-liberty,

government actors appear to be no more rational than economic actors — and it is quite possible that soft paternalism could be more detrimental to public welfare than the private choices studied by behavioral economics. Harvard economics professor Ed Glaeser states this case (pdf) in the summer issue of Regulation.

In a subsequent (and too-optimistic) post, Mark Moller quotes from the conclusion of Stephen Choi and Adam Pritchard's 2003 article Behavioral Economics and the SEC (Stanford Law Review; working paper version available here):

Regulators are vulnerable to a wide range of behavioral contagion. Regulators may suffer from overconfidence and process information with only bounded rationality. . . .

And in groups the decisionmaking of regulators may decline rather than improve. On the one hand, groups and organizational structures may help alleviate some of the mistakes that derive from individually biased decisions. Studies of group decisionmaking provide evidence that the total can indeed be greater than the sum of individuals in enhancing the accuracy of decisions. But cognitive illusions may grip entire groups. Groupthink may also lead to an uncritical acceptance of regulatory decisions.

Will Wilkinson adds a post in which he observes that

[b]ehavioral economics done right is just good science. The real peril is in the transition over the gap from psychology to policy. Big philosophical and ideological assumptions lurk in the gap.

The biggest assumption is that government can and should steer the lawful behavior of individuals in certain directions, not knowing the specific circumstances that cause individuals to choose particular courses of action.**

We are mired in a tremendously costly regulatory-welfare state that arose from paternalistic concerns. Will we never learn? No, we will not. We will move further and further from realizing our economic potential by depleting individual freedom of choice. The road to dependency on the state is paved with the benign intentions of academics, politiicians, and bureaucrats.

Other related posts:
The Rationality Fallacy
Libertarian Paternalism
A Libertarian Paternalist's Dream World
The Short Answer to Libertarian Paternalism
Second-Guessing, Paternalism, Parentalism, and Choice
Another Thought about Libertarian Paternalism
Back-Door Paternalism
Another Voice Against the New Paternalism

* Full disclosure: I worked for Peter Van Doren in 1999-2000, when I was the managing editor of Regulation.

** A case in point: I did not enroll in my company's 403(b) plan (the nonprofit equivalent of a 401(k)) when I was 22, because I needed the money to accrue household capital. But by the time I was 24, I could afford to join, and I did.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Said It First

Well, I said it before George Will did, anyway. There's a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about Will's column of today, in which he defends Wal-Mart. What did I say on September 2? This (among other things):

Wal-Mart provides jobs for low-income families; Wal-Mart offers low prices to low-income families. When politicians hurt Wal-Mart, they hurt low-income families. Get it? Republicans do.

Read on.

Singer Said It

From an article at

In a question and answer article published in the UK's Independent today, controversial Princeton University Professor Peter Singer repeats his notorious stand on the killing of disabled newborns. Asked, "Would you kill a disabled baby?", Singer responded, "Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole." . . .

"Many people find this shocking," continued Singer, "yet they support a woman's right to have an abortion." Concluding his point, Singer said, "One point on which I agree with opponents of abortion is that, from the point of view of ethics rather than the law, there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby."

Let us be clear: Singer admits that it is the people who don't support a woman's "right" to have an abortion who insist that there is no distinction between the fetus and the newborn -- or the fetus and an old person whose death might be convenient to others. Given Singer's endorsement of involuntary infanticide -- abortion and the killing of "disabled" newborns ("disabled" as determined how and by whom?) -- Singer accepts, by implication, the rightness of involuntary euthanasia.

Related posts:
I've Changed My Mind
Next Stop, Legal Genocide?
Here's Something All Libertarians Can Agree On

It Can Happen Here: Eugenics, Abortion, Euthanasia, and Mental Screening
Creeping Euthanasia
PETA, NARAL, and Roe v. Wade
Flooding the Moral Low Ground
The Beginning of the End?
Taking Exception
Protecting Your Civil Liberties

Where Conservatism and (Sensible) Libertarianism Come Together
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and Public Morality
The Threat of the Anti-Theocracy
The Consequences of Roe v. Wade
The Old Eugenics in a New Guise
The Left, Abortion, and Adolescence
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Oh, *That* Slippery Slope
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
The Cynics Debate While Babies Die
The Slippery Slope in Holland
The Slippery Slope in England
The Slipperier Slope in England
The Slippery Slope in New Jersey
An Argument Against Abortion

How to View Defense Spending

Jeffrey Tucker, one of the inmates of the Mises Economics Blog, posts "Why Libertarians Should Care about Defense." The entire post consists of this chart:

Because Tucker doesn't state the point of the chart, I'll have to read his mind. He's probably trying to convey a message like this:

  • Defense spending was just "right" (i.e., close to zero) in the years immediately after World War II, which might or might not have been a justifiable war for the United States.
  • Look at what has happened since then: Defense spending (in inflated dollars) has risen to a very large number.
  • Inasmuch as the United States really needs little defense, we're obviously spending way too much on it.

Defense spending, unlike domestic spending is driven by the outside world, by what others could or would do to us, regardless of our delusions about their benignity. It is necessary to spend a lot on defense even when we are not at war, for two reasons: deterrence and preparedness. With that thought in mind, let's look at three indices of real (inflation-adjusted) government spending: defense, federal nondefense, and state and local -- the red, black, and blue lines, respectively:

Sources: Indices of government spending derived from Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts, Table 3.9.1: Percent Change From Preceding Period in Real Government Consumption Expenditures and Gross Investment. Real GDP from What Was GDP Then? (Louis D. Johnston and Samuel H. Williamson, "The Annual Real and Nominal GDP for the United States, 1790 - Present." Economic History Services, April 1, 2006, URL : Population statistics from U.S. Census Bureau, 2006 Statistical Abstract, Population: National Estimates and Projections, Population and Area: 1790 to 2000 and Resident Population Projections 2005 to 2050.

What does the chart suggest? Several things:

  • The benchmark for "necessary" defense spending is World War II. Real defense spending has yet to return to that level.
  • But, as a result of our foolish rush to demobilize after World War II, defense spending had to rise in response to Soviet- and Communist Chinese-backed aggression in Korea and the growing military power and aggressiveness of the Soviet Union.
  • The partial demobilizations following the Vietnam and Cold Wars necessitated remobilizations to deal with the continuing Soviet miltary buildup and the USSR's adoption of a forward naval strategy; the likelihood that second-rate powers (e.g., Russia) would strive to counterbalance U.S. power; and our belated understanding of the threat posed by terrorist organizations and their state sponsors.
  • Federal nondefense spending and state and local spending have risen generally in step with GDP (green line), and faster than population (purple points and purple regression line). (Note that the chart does not reflect the massively disproportionate growth in spending on transfer-payment programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.)

In sum, having becoming locked into the regulatory-welfare state via the New Deal and Great Society, nondefense spending at the federal, state, and local levels has kept pace with what we can "afford" to spend on programs that actually destroy income and wealth. By contrast, defense spending has fluctuated around a high but necessary level, a level that we are much better able to afford now than we were in the days of World War II.

It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditures on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.

-- Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor, in Strategy for the West

Related posts:
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service
I Have an Idea
The Price of Liberty

Pornography: A Definition and an Example

The proprietor of Imlac's Journal observes that

the candid news photograph of a person grieving over a tragedy is as pornographic as a blue movie. It is because the individual has become another object of lurid interest to the voyeur, stripped naked physically or emotionally.

Also pornographic, in my view, is the non-sexual movie that appeals to the "lurid interest" of the rabid partisan. A good example of such a movie is what James Pinkerton calls "that new Bush snuff movie," Death of a President. Pinkerton continues:

Some might say that "snuff movie" is too strong a term -- but how else to describe a movie that clearly revels in the prospect of George W. Bush's being assassinated?

How else, indeed, except to say that it is pornographic?

What I Said about Climate Change . . .

. . . here. Read it, if you haven't already, then go here (first two items).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Don't Get Your Hopes Up

The good news, via Captain's Quarters:

Senator Tom Coburn's office has announced that the Senate has just passed a new bill to replace the language of the original S.2590, which establishes an on-line searchable database for federal spending. This action will expedite the legislative process and may put the bill on President Bush's desk by tomorrow:

The Senate just passed an amended version of the Coburn-Obama database bill based on our agreement with the House. Following House passage of the bill the measure will go to the president for his signature. Tonight’s action in the Senate means the Senate will not need to revisit the measure as the House will vote on this identical measure tonight or tomorrow.

The Senate, under Bill Frist's guidance, simply took the modified language under consideration in the House and passed it themselves first, apparently by acclamation. This eliminates the need for a conference committee and avoids any delay after the adoption of the bill in the House. . . .

UPDATE: The bill passed the House tonight, and the bill is on its way to the White House for Bush's signature already.

The bad news: S. 2590 as I read it, extends only to contracts and not to the operations of the federal government, itself, which will remain shrouded in the arcana of government budgeting. Moreover, the database on contract awards "shall be updated not later than 30 days after the award of any Federal award requiring a posting [emphasis added]." Can you say "barn door closed after horse has left"?

The so-called Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 falls well short of accountability and "transparency." The only effective way to make the federal government accountable is to elect members of Congress who make themselves accountable to the Constitution and the limited powers that it bestows on Congress (see Article I, here).

While I'm being an old curmudgeon, I must add that I simply hate the buzz-word "transparency," which has come into wide use in the past 10-15 years. What is really meant by "transparency" isn't transparency. Something that is transparent cannot be seen because it can be seen through. What is really meant by "transparency" is visibility: the property of being able to be seen. We want to see what the government is up to (except where it would damage the war effort), and we want to see it before it becomes a fait accompli. I want a government whose operations and budgets are visible to me, not a government whose operations and budgets are invisible because they are transparent.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Tenth Dimension

Here is a Flash animation that explains the ten dimensions of string theory. (Thanks to Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution for the pointer.) Don't go away, it's really worth a few minutes of your time, as a mental exercise, even if you have no interest in physics. To help you through the rough spots, I've concocted this summary:

0. The zeroeth dimension is a point, an abstraction of the postion of an object in a system.

1. A line joining two points forms the first dimension. A line has length, but no width or depth.

2. A second line branching off the first adds a second dimension. We now have length and width, but not depth.

3. A third dimension results when the second line is "folded" back on first, enabling movement between the two branches (length and width). Thus we now have length, width, and depth. (Think of a flat piece of paper that is rolled into a tube, so that a point on one edge becomes adjacent to a point that had been on the opposite edge.)

4. As three-dimensional objects change they appear to move along a fourth dimension (time), which extends from, say, the Big Bang to the end of the Universe.

5. The multitude of paths that objects could follow through time (according to quantum mechanics) are branches from the time line. These possible paths constitute the fifth dimension.

6. A sixth dimension results from the folding of the multitude of paths, so that an object can jump from one possible future state (path) to another. The collection of all such possible moves is a point.

7. Each point in the sixth dimension represents all possible outcomes, through all of time, for a given set of initial conditions and physical laws (e.g., the speed of light). The seventh dimension is a line that joins all such possible points, representing all possible initial conditions and physical laws.

8. The eighth dimension is represented by branches from the the seventh-dimensional line. The eighth dimension is analagous to fifth dimension. That is, it represents all the possible "universes" that might result from each of the possible starting points as they move through time.

9. The ninth dimension is analagous to the sixth. That is, it represents the movement from one of the possible "worlds" to another because of the folding of the eighth dimension.

10. The tenth dimension is a single point that encompasses all the possibilities inherent in the ninth dimension. It is the ultimate dimension because, by definition, it encompasses all possible worlds and all of time.

Only the first three dimensions seem "real" to the typical person, who observes the world unaided by scientific instrumentation and theories. Einstein's special and general theories of relativity account for the interactions of space and time (the first four dimensions). (For an accessible explanation of the special theory, read Lewis Carroll Epstein's Relativity Visualized.)

Everything from the fifth dimension onward seems to hinge on the controversial "many worlds intepretation" of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics lays the foundation for a fifth dimension, but in a tacked-on way. Some 80 years have passed since quantum mechanics became the accepted view of physical behavior at the sub-atomic level, but there still is no generally accepted unifying theory for quantum mechanics and general relativity (see quantum gravity), let alone a "theory of everything," of which string theory is one example.

In sum, everything from the fifth dimension onward falls in the realm of scientific speculation. Science proceeds from speculation based on observation, but speculation should not be mistaken for scientific knowledge.

In any event, enjoy the animation.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Nexus of Conservatism and Libertarianism

I wrote about the theoretical and practical aspects of anarcho-capitalism, libertarianism, and conservatism in several recent posts:

What Is the American Constitution?
Utopian Schemes
Is Exit Unrealistic?
The Source of Rights
A Trichotomy of American Conservatism

In response to a reader's comment about the second of those posts, I said this about anarcho-capitalism:

How can a political philosophy that assumes peaceful cooperation also assume the possibility of violence and non-cooperation? Anarcho-capitalism assumes the possibility of violence and non-cooperation when it allows for private defense agencies. Given that possibility, it then follows that violence and non-cooperation may arise just as readily from within as from without. Not all members of a community can possibly agree about all issues all of the time. Sometimes those disagreements may turn violent. (To assume perfect agreement and non-violence is utopian.) In the end, a majority or super-majority must be prepared to impose peaceful cooperation within a community by empowering an agency for that purpose. That agency -- the state -- thereby acquires a status independent of the community because it exists to impose the will of the majority of the moment on the renegades of the moment. There is never a consensus, either at a given time or across time.

Anarcho-capitalists typically object to the Constitution of the United States as an imposition on subsequent generations. But how do they then create a stable, cooperative, enduring community? By revisiting the "contract" that binds every member at every moment? That is the only way to true consensus. And it is nonsense.

The real question that faces the friends of liberty is how to contain the power of the state. The Constitution offers the most realistic answer. Friends of liberty should abandon unrealistic schemes, such as anarcho-capitalism, and focus on the restoration of the Constitution.

I am certain to return to the topic of anarcho-capitalism in future posts, mainly because its adherents like to claim, wrongly, that it is "true" libertarianism. It is not even that, however. It is nothing but a pipe dream. Here is John Kekes in "What Is Conservatism?":

A common ground among conservatives is that the political arrangements that ought to be conserved are discovered by reflection on why, how, and for what reason they have come to hold. The conse~ative yjew is that history is the best guide to understanding the present and planning for the future because it indicates what political arrangements are likely to make lives good or bad.

The significance of this agreement among conservatives is not merely what it asserts, but also what it denies. It denies that the reasons for or against particular political arrangements are to be derived from a contract that fully rational people might make in a hypothetical situation; or from an imagined ideal society; or from what is supposed to be most beneficial for the whole of humanity; or from the prescriptions of some sacred or secular book. Conservatives, in preference to these alternatives, look then to history. Not, however, to history in general, but to their history, which is theirs because it is a repository of formative influences on how they live now and how it is reasonable for them to want to live in the future. Yet their attitude is not one of unexamined prejudice in favour of political arrangements that have become traditional in their society. They certainly aim to conserve some traditional political arrangements, but only those that reflection shows to be conducive to good lives.

In other words, conservatism is a reality-based political philosophy. But what does conservatism have to do with libertarianism? I have in various posts essayed an answer to that question (here, here, here, and here, for example), but now I turn the floor over to Kekes, who toward the end of "What Is Conservatism?" says this:

The traditionalism of conservatives excludes both the view that political arrangements that foster individual autonomy should take precedence over those that foster social authority and the reverse view that favours arrangements that promote social authority at the expense of individual autonomy. Traditionalists acknowledge the importance of both autonomy and authority, but they regard them as inseparable, interdependent, and equally necessary. The legitimate claims of both may be satisfied by the participation of individuals in the various traditions of their society. Good political arrangements protect these traditions and the freedom to participate in them by limiting the government's authority to interfere with either.

Therein lies true libertarianism -- true because it is attainable.

September 11: Five Years On

The time-date stamp of this post is 7:46 a.m. CDT (8:46 a.m. EDT), September 11, 2006 -- exactly five years after Mohammed Elamir Awad al-Sayed Atta flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Atta was an Egyptian-born Muslim who was recruited into al Qaeda in 1998.

Al Qaeda is led by Osama bin Laden and dominated by adherents of Wahabism, a fundamentalist sect of Islam. Al Qaeda is one of dozens of Islamic terrorist organizations, many of which are devoted to Islamism -- "a set of political ideologies that hold that Islam is not only a religion, but also a political system that governs the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state according to its interpretation of Islamic Law" -- and to jihad in pursuit of Islamism.

Those terrorist organizations that are not devoted to Islamism, as such, are nevertheless motivated by an intolerance for non-Islamic cultures in general, a jealous hatred of Western civilization in particular, and a zeal to eradicate Israel, which is an outpost of Western civilization in the midst of Muslim lands. The attacks of September 11, 2001, underscored what had been true for years -- and what remains true today -- which is that America and the West are chosen enemies of Islamist jihadists. Those who ignore that truth are doomed either to die at the hands of Islamists or to suffer under their rule.

* * *

When my wife and I turned on our TV set on the morning of September 11, 2001, we learned that a plane had, minutes earlier, struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. Minutes later we watched in horror as a second plane soared through the bright blue sky and struck the south tower. And with that horror came the understanding that America had been attacked. That understanding soon was confirmed when -- in the awful silence that had fallen over Arlington, Virginia -- we could hear the "whump" as a third plane slammed into the Pentagon.

Our shock and rage were accompanied by fear for our daughter, whom we knew was at work in the adjacent World Financial Center when the planes struck the World Trade Center. (See photos below.) Was her office struck by debris? Had she fled her building only to be struck by or trapped in debris? Had she smothered in the huge cloud of dust that enveloped lower Manhattan as the towers collapsed? Because telephone communications were badly disrupted, we didn't learn for several hours that she had made it home safely, before the towers collapsed.

Our good fortune was not shared by tens of thousands of other persons: the grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, lovers, and good friends of the 3,000 who died that day in Manhattan, the Pentagon, and western Pennsylvania.

I was enraged by the events of September 11, 2001, and I remain enraged. I am, of course, enraged at the perpetrators and those like them who remain at large. I am, if anything, even more enraged by those of my fellow citizens who seem unable to grasp the fact that terror is the fault of terrorists, and that the United States must defend itself against those terrorists, even if it means that we are at times inconvenienced and at other times deprived of a smattering of privacy. Those who lament inconvenience and conjure a police state where there is none are rank narcissists and untrustworthy companions in the fight to the finish in which we are engaged.

I have reserved a special place in hell for those politicians, pundits, journalists, celebrities, and bloggers (especially Leftists and anarcho-libertarians) who criticize the war effort simply for the sake of criticizing it, who exude schadenfreude when there is bad news from the front or when the administration suffers a political or judicial setback in its efforts to combat terrorists, and who are able to indulge themselves precisely because they live in a nation that affords them that luxury. It is not a luxury they would enjoy under Leftist or Islamist rule.

A time of war is a time for constructive criticism, for being on the same team and helping that team win by offering ideas about how to win the war. When your country loses a war, you do not win. In fact, you cannot win, unless you choose to join the other side -- and the other side chooses to accept you. But, as always, be careful what you wish for.

As for me, I repeat what I have said on every anniversary of September 11, 2001:

Never forgive, never forget, never relent.

* * *

The photos below include views of the building in the World Financial Center in which our daughter was working on the morning of September 11, 2001. (The building is at the right in the first photo, center in the second, and right in the third.) The second photo shows how close her building was to the twin towers of the World Trade Center -- the remains of which are partly visible in the foreground. The third photo hints at the substantial damage her building suffered as a result of the collapse of the towers. (The photos are three of many that were taken on September 13, 2001. The entire collection is available here. I am indebted to Keith Burgess-Jackson (AnalPhilosopher) for providing the link to the collection.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Trichotomy of American Conservatism

My reading of Roger Scruton's The Meaning of Conservatism (about which more at a later date) prompts me to dash off this trichotomization of American conservatism. Not all of the following types are truly conservative, by Scruton's lights, but all usually carry the label "conservative" in American discourse.

True-Blue Traditionalist: This type simply loves and revels in family, community, club, church, alma mater, and the idea of America -- which includes American government, with all its faults. If government enacts truly popular policies, those policies are (by and large) legitimate in the eyes of a true-blue. Thus a true-blue may be a Democrat or a Republican, though almost certainly not a libertarian. This type comes closest to Scruton's view of what constitutes conservatism, even though most Americans would not think of it as conservative.

Libertarian of the Classical Liberal School: This type may (or may not) love and revel in most of the institutions revered by a true-blue traditionalist, but takes a different line when it comes to government. Voluntary institutions are good, but government tends to undermine them. Government's proper role is to protect the citizenry and the citizenry's voluntary institutions, not to dictate the terms and conditions of their existence. The classical liberal favors government only when it observes its proper role, and not for its own sake.

Rightist: The rightist differs from the true-blue traditionalist and classical liberal in three key respects. First, he is hostile toward those persons and voluntary institutions that are not in the "American tradition" of white, northern Europeanism. Second, his disdain for things outside the "American tradition" is so great that he is likely to be either an "America firster" or a reincarnation of Curtis "bomb them back to the stone age" LeMay. (That is, he would call the troops home and leave the "heathen masses" to fight it out amongst themselves, or he would simply deal with "those ragheads" by "nuking" them.) Third, he is willing to use the power of government to enforce the observance of those values that he favors, and to do other things that he (arbitrarily) sees as necessary.

I have exaggerated the characteristics of the three types to make them recognizable. Certainly, there are blends of and variations on the three types. There is, for example, the rightist who is isolationist without being racist. And I must add that it is not racist or bigoted to believe with good reason that certain cultures and "movements" contain elements that are destructive of civil society, elements which should therefore be resisted and denied legitimacy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Profiles in Principle

Apropos the preceding post, here are the names of the U.S. Senators and Representatives who voted against McCain-Feingold (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002).

Senators against:*

Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Breaux (D-LA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Campbell (R-CO)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeWine (R-OH)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Frist (R-TN)
Gramm (R-TX)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Helms (R-NC)
Hutchinson (R-AR)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-NE)
Nickles (R-OK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-NH)
Smith (R-OR)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thurmond (R-SC)
Voinovich (R-OH)

Representatives against:**

Brown (SC)
Davis, Jo Ann
Davis, Tom
Green (WI)
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
Kennedy (MN)
King (NY)
Lewis (CA)
Lewis (KY)
Lucas (OK)
Miller, Dan
Miller, Gary
Miller, Jeff
Moran (KS)
Peterson (MN)
Peterson (PA)
Pryce (OH)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ryan (WI)
Ryun (KS)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (TX)
Taylor (NC)
Thompson (MS)
Watkins (OK)
Watts (OK)
Weldon (FL)
Wilson (NM)
Wilson (SC)
Young (AK)
Young (FL)

If I had no other information about a person listed above, I would vote for that person if he or she is standing for election to the U.S. House or Senate this fall.


* 38 of 49 Republicans and 2 of 50 Democrats. (Jeffords of VT, a nominal Independent, voted for BCRA.)

** 176 of 217 Republicans (with 5 others not voting), 12 of 210 Democrats (with 1 other not voting), and 1 of 2 Independents.

One Small Blow for Freedom of Speech

First, the bad news:

Andy Roth of The Club for Growth posts a roundup of reactions to McCain-Feingold Iron Curtain Day. As David Keating explains in a followup post,

our free speech rights disappeared at 12:00:01 AM this morning.

It is now illegal for virtually all nonprofit groups to run any radio or TV ad that merely mentions the name of a congressman. Even a 10 second spot that simply had a congressman's photo and no audio could land you in jail.

David goes on to quote "Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith [who] explains the 'reform' today and asks":

In exchange for surrendering our First Amendment rights, what have we gained? Do you feel Congress is more ethical than before? Less attuned to special interests? Do you feel more empowered, or less empowered, than you did four years ago, when the law passed? Can you name any tangible benefit from these prohibitions?

Absolutely none. Not a one. The only benefit accrues to McCain, Feingold, and the other hypocrites on Capitol Hill who have used their power to immunize themselves from criticism and to perpetuate their incumbency.

Well, I'm mad as hell about it, and I'm going to do something about it.

So, here's the good news:

This is an open invitation to the supporters of any U.S. House or Senate candidate who has opposed McCain-Feingold, and who is running against an incumbent who voted for it. Send me the links to your candidate's web site and to his or her statements about McCain-Feingold. If your candidate has indeed opposed McCain-Feingold and his or her opponent did indeed vote for it, I will publicize those facts right here on this blog.

UPDATE (12/09/06): No one has yet taken up my offer. Sad.