Freedom Updates: January 31, 2001

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Freedom Updates: January 31, 2001

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Bush to Subsidize Religion

Private charity groups, including religious organizations, are a lot better at providing charity than the government is. So Bush's plan is to convert private charities into government charities. Brilliant. (See the Associated Press article published January 30 in the Rocky Mountain News.)

The welfare state has created a dependent class. Corporate welfare has benefited some at the expense of others. Now we have to contend with religious welfare, too. If religious groups don't fight this new alliance with the state, they will find they've made a deal with the devil.


High School Drug Use

A 16-year-old girl from Boulder's Monarch High School is in a comma after taking a tainted pill of the drug "Ecstasy." In a January 31 story for the News, James Meadow and Julie Poppen quote a number of students from the school indicating that drug use (including alcohol consumption) is common. One student said, "It's all over the place now. It's unbelievable how common it is."

Libertarians can take a number of lessons from this case. Several traditions within the libertarian movement, such as Objectivism, point to the nihilistic tendencies in our culture. Life is lived superficially. A crass materialism has overtaken a more fulfilling style of life. The late Roman Empire fell into moral decline, and America seems to be following a similar path. People are increasingly dependent upon the state to make their decisions, and decreasingly self-motivating. If children aren't drugged up by their school officials, they find their own drugs, just like in Brave New World. In Russia, vodka seems to have been the favored way to escape the dreariness of living with Big Brother.

But perhaps that's too dark an interpretation. People have taken mind-altering drugs since they had minds to alter. Partying with drugs is commonplace. I find it humorous that many conservatives rail against drug use, even as they get buzzed off their caffeine. Even America's founders evolved their political beliefs in the taverns with strong doses of alcohol. Now, I fully believe that children should be restricted from purchasing dangerous items like drugs. I'm also realistic enough to know that no law is going to prevent teenagers from taking drugs. This is primarily an issue of self-responsibility and parental involvement.

One thing is clear: if it weren't for drug prohibition, the girl would not be in a comma today. The sole reason drugs can be deadly in single doses is that the black market is completely controlled by criminals. Yes, if prohibition were repealed there would still be a black market for teenagers, but that market would be filled by relatively safe drugs. Today, some teens go to the hospital and even die from drinking too much alcohol. But nobody dies from taking one drink. During alcohol prohibition, things were different. You literally could die or go blind from taking a single drink. That's the inevitable danger of prohibition.


Norton Confirmed

Gale Norton won confirmation for her position as Secretary of the Interior. She even won the Democratic vote 25-24 (with one abstention). The usual list of suspects voted against her: Biden, Boxer, Kennedy, and Schumer. Of course, Hillary also voted against Norton. Interestingly, both women are reported to have read Ayn Rand. Perhaps that's appropriate. If Norton approaches a Randian heroine, Hillary is the archetype villain.


Stay Out of My Marriage!

Senator Bruce Cairns wants the government to recognize couples who have been married for 25 and 50 years by sending them a certificate. The notion of the state taking an interest in how long I've been married is morally repugnant. I may have to get divorced and remarried just to avoid the indignity. Sheesh -- don't these yahoos have anything better to do with their time? O-well. At least if politicians are engaged in pointless, stupid things, they aren't actively making our lives worse.


Crime Pays in Denver

I don't always agree with Bill Johnson of the News, but he nailed it today (January 31). A young punk was shot by a Denver police officer while burglarizing a home. He didn't die, he's in a wheelchair. And he's a millionaire. Denver agreed to pay the boy $1.2 million as settlement. Why is this, asks Johnson? Perhaps it's because Denver hires some cops with spotty backgrounds who have trouble telling the truth. Such officers are not credible in court, which means if the department is sued it'll lose. The taxpayers lose either way.


Owens Promotes More Dumb Growth

Colorado taxpayers have sent Bill Owens to Switzerland to drum up new business for the state. Owens reports his trip will make a "dramatic impact on Colorado's economy" (News, January 30, page 7A). I guess Owens isn't paying attention. A lot of Coloradans are tired of such "dramatic impacts." So government officials draw more people to Colorado, so that they can turn around and pass anti-growth laws. You gotta love the way politicians think.


Silicon Valley Blames Government

Techies and libertarians have a lot in common. Both groups value free enterprise and progress. For enterprise to be free, government must be in shackles, limited to its proper role of protecting property. A recent article in Wired is heartening.

Instead of embracing additional government regulation, Silicon Valley's manufacturing leaders blame the legislature's 1996 price controls for causing the [electricity] crisis... "There's a strong consensus that market forces can help solve this crisis," says John Greenagel, a spokesman for AMD. Greenagel says partial deregulation led to an unfortunate state that he dubs "this extremely stupid, so-called deregulation." (http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,41488,00.html)

Making New Friends

Libertarians and market-leaning Republicans: guess who made the following comment in a recent debate. "They [America's founders] had a natural-rights philosophy. We did not need the government to give us rights."

It was Nadine Strossen, head of the ACLU. Yes, there is plenty to complain about with the ACLU, just as there is plenty to complain about with other civil rights organizations like the NRA. But Strossen's heart is definitely in the right place. Strossen "said the framers of the Constitution never intended for speech and religious rights to be subject to majority rule" (http://www.freedomforum.org/news/2001/01/2001-01-29-04.htm).

Civil libertarians on the left and right have a lot to learn from each other. If we can forge a unified movement that fights for all civil rights, we will be unstoppable.


Even Losers Have First Amendment Rights

Our rights are always whittled away starting at the edges. We must defend the rights even of the stupidest, most pathetic members of our society in order to preserve our own rights. Case in point: a Littleton woman wastes her weekends and holidays picketing an abortion clinic. She could spend her time actually addressing the problem. She could help counsel women about alternatives. She could help ease the adoption process. But she chooses to picket endlessly. That's her right, subject to the physical property rights of the abortion clinic. As Marlys Duran of the News reports today, the woman was convicted of violating an Arapahoe County ordinance that regulates the size of protest signs. The ordinance is obviously enforced to punish the politically incorrect. The First Amendment says "Congress shall make NO LAW... abridging the freedom of speech." The Fourteenth Amendment extends the principle to all citizens. What part of "no law" do these politicians not understand?


Tuccille Notes Civil Disobedience

J.D. Tuccille has written a nice article reviewing the massive civil disobedience movement against oppressive disarmament laws. He focuses on California and Canada and touches on laws elsewhere. See http://civilliberty.about.com/newsissues/civilliberty/library/weekly/aa012901a.htm.

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