Freedom Updates: September 21, 2002

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: September 21, 2002

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

Democracy Gets Ugly
The Allard-Strickland attack ads are the product of majority rule, or at least so implies a September 21 Rocky Mountain News article by Karen Abbott. The article claims "most people" shift "their views of candidates from evening to evening" based on television advertising.

Out of the minority of voters who do not base their votes on television ads, many vote based merely on party loyalty. That's hardly an improvement. The percentage of voters who carefully research the candidates and their issues and vote strategically is small indeed.

The Greens point to negative ads and call for tax funding of campaigns, in order to reduce the influence of "big money." But obviously the fundamental problem is not the money -- it is the gross political ignorance of most voters. This problem is not going to be fixed by socializing the election process. All that would accomplish is to let different special interests sway mass opinion.

Libertarians point out that central economic planning does not work, so the information simply isn't available to decide many of the issues facing voters. In addition, because of the "external benefits" of intelligent voting, we can never expect more than a small minority of voters to competently research the issues and the candidates. What is the solution, then? People generally do a good job of running their own lives, the arena where they have rich information and good incentives. People usually do a horrible job of running other people's lives. So let's limit politics to only a few essential functions, and leave the rest to individual action and voluntary social groups. The paradox, then, is how to use the political system to massively reduce the influence of politics in people's lives.

El Paso Hemp Fest
Lidia Seebeck, a member of the Outreach Committee of the Libertarian Party of El Paso County, sent out the following update on September 15.

Folks, there are times when you work a crowd and not that many of them show interest. There are other times when the crowd is small, but highly interested. This was one of those days.

LPEP, with help from Ralph Shnelvar, provided one of the booths at HempFest 2002, sponsored by Norm Abeyta. Ralph, Biff Baker, and Keith Hamburger spoke, and hyped the crowd. Ralph then managed to work his own special brand of charisma to shepherd a number of people into our booth to become newly registered with the state as Libertarians.

Thanks are due to all the people and candidates who helped man the booth: Steve Adams, Keith Hamburger, Scott Graves, Randy Grant, Biff Baker, Ralph Shnelvar, and John Berntson. We were able to hand out information on candidates (quite a bit of it too), the usual LP brochures (Rand, you're right, those glossies are amazing tools) and get 10 contacts and 29 registrations.

Hope all the efforts to help spread Liberty were successful today. We are definitely headed for the homestretch of campaign season, everything we do now will aid us in November.

'On We Go'
Rand Franshier sent the following message to the "lpco-chat" list on September 14:

Yay! Another fine day of outreach in the mountains! Bette Rose and Tony Ryan dropped by early on, bearing my very favorite gift: "A New Vision for America" FLYERS! The flyers all went, quickly... It was a very friendly and local event. Kids have a knack for homing in on our little candy basket, dragging their hapless parents right into the maws of the libertarian booth, with Rand the scourge waiting within! ...[One person] said he now plans to vote the libertarian ticket Nov 5 simply because we were out there discussing ideas instead of doing the Allard-Strickland thing... It was again a candidate package that we distributed, this time including a Stanley, a Shnelvar, a Katz, and an Aitken. Total distribution roughly 300 units... On we go!

To me, this is what the libertarian movement is all about. Find your niche, and go for it. You don't need a board, you don't need a vote -- all you need is conviction and motivation. Viva self-governance!

TABOR and Owens
Paul Jacob of Common Sense points out the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights is the "real reason Colorado's state government didn't spend like drunken sailors during the boom years." Thus, Owens doesn't deserve most of the credit for constraining the spending of Colorado government.

Support for the Second
A September 17 e-mail from the Advocates for Self Government cites a study from the First Amendment Center at

According to the survey, in 1997, 33% of people said the right to bear arms is "essential," and in 2002 48% said it was. The percent who said the right to bear arms is "important" remained steady at 31%. Combined, the positive response is 79% for 2002.

I'm encouraged. Even if the poll results are a high for some reason, still it's obvious views have shifted. Now is the time for the pro-rights community to go on the offensive and demand the repeal of unconstitutional and unjust disarmament laws.

Stanley Attends Debate
Mark Hunter wrote a September 15 story for the Denver Post reviewing a debate between Wayne Allard, Tom Strickland -- and Rick Stanley. The debate was sponsored by Action 22 and held in Alamosa. When the other candidates criticized each other about negative TV ads, Stanley said, "I can't afford the expensive television commercials anyway, so it's not an issue for me... If you vote for these two you will keep the status quo."

Hunter reported, "Stanley said he'd vote to 'abolish all unconstitutional laws,' the Internal Revenue Service, income taxes, the Federal Reserve and return to a gold and silver standard." He quoted Stanley: "Our Constitution has been buried under martial law and executive orders by the president... Patriotism is like Christmas, with people all caught up in the festivities. Our founders would think we've lost our way if they could see us now."

Free Speech and Free Association
Ron Bain, a Libertarian Party member who writes for the Boulder Weekly, for some reason opted to quote Tom Robbs in criticism of the LP. Robbs is the national director of Christian Concepts, formerly known as the Ku Klux Klan. Robbs says about Stanley's censure, "Libertarians claim to be on the forefront of free speech. It seems absurd that they would censure someone for expressing opinions, especially when they're not his opinions" (September 12, page 11). Gee, Ron, people other than the KKK leader have made similar comments: would it have killed you to select a more credible source?

Bain also cites Bruce DeBoskey of the ADL: "A person has the right to think and feel whatever they want." True, but what does this have to do with Stanley's censure? Stanley's censure has nothing to do with Stanley's right to say whatever the hell he wants. At issue is whether Stanley may do so as an official representative of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.

Would DeBoskey hire somebody -- or refrain from firing somebody -- who made explicitly anti-Semitic comments in public? Should the Libertarian Party run candidates who advocate the complete nationalization of the means of production? Of course not. The right to free speech does not impose obligations on voluntary organizations. The Libertarian Party exists to promote libertarian ideas and policies, and it doesn't have to promote candidates who advocate contrary views.

It is fundamentally a question of property rights. If Bain believes "free speech" imposes obligations on others, will he allow anybody to come into his house to speak to him about any issue, at any time of day? Does Bain have a positive obligation to so allow other people to speak freely on his own property? Of course not. Bain's property rights trump. Along with the freedom of speech, we have the freedom of association. And both rights make sense only in the context of property rights, an issue Bain wholly ignores. Fortunately, Bain does include some excellent quotes by David Kopel and others on different issues.

Media Notes

Terror Warnings-- Ken Guggenheim writes for the AP, "Thirteen days before the Sept. 11 attacks, a frustrated FBI agent warned headquarters that 'someday, someone will die.' The agent had just been denied permission to pursue a man who would become one of the hijackers, a congressional panel was told [September 20]." Of course, the FBI argued the problem resulted from too little power and funding. Libertarians point out that large state bureaucracies tend to be inherently clumsy and inefficient. Obviously, though, some agents were alert to trouble and they tried hard to prevent it. Part of the problem is that "reports were generally vague and uncorroborated," Guggenheim writes September 19. The FBI has complained about "the massive amount of intelligence they were receiving." Maybe if congress didn't ask the FBI to enforce so many unconstitutional laws, the agency could focus on actual criminals.

Drug War-- The September 20 Rocky Mountain News reports, "Most drug offenders in state prison are black males with no history of violence or high-level drug dealing," according to the Sentencing Project. The group "says that about 58 percent of these state inmates -- 124,885 people -- are nonviolent offenders" (AP).

Growth-- The September 18 Denver Post laments "the state's struggling economy [now] attracts fewer workers." We heard a lot of people whine about Colorado's growth in the good times. I don't hear as many people rejoice now that the economy has turned down and people are leaving.

Ski Denver-- The September 18 Denver Post praises Mayor Webb for resisting council pressure to micro-manage Intrawest, "the company selected by the city to manage and operate the Winter Park ski area." But the Post ignores the fundamental question: why in the hell does the City of Denver own a ski resort?

Grass No Longer Greener-- Ed Quillen wrote a fascinating history about grass for the August 27 Denver Post. His basic thesis is that, instead of adapting to the arid climate of Colorado, settlers imported lawns and trees that required a lot of water. I'm generally sympathetic with aligning architecture and landscaping with nature. But Quillen makes a rather large error. He claims settlers didn't grow local plants (yucca, prickly pear) or "domesticate the bison." That part is true. But Quillen implies such domestication was possible. Jared Diamond explains the traits that make some animals subject to domestication and some not in Guns, Germs, and Steel. Diamond points out that plants become domesticated only after hundreds of years of use.

Smoke Like an Egyptian-- Jason Kayser of the AP wrote an article about ancient drug use that was published August 8 by the Denver Post. "Based on Egyptian medical writings from the third millennium B.C., researchers believe opium and hashish... were used during surgery... Hashish was also used to ease menstrual cramps and was even offered to women during childbirth... [T]he ancients were far more advanced than most people realize..." We're WAY more advanced now. Today, we send in jack-booted storm troopers with military gear to raid those who take such drugs. Three cheers for modern civilization!

CU Libertarians-- Cato's Letter, Fall 2002, features artwork created by CU Campus Libertarians. The CU students created a poster to promote an April 24 event with Tom Palmer about globalization. The poster mimics a cereal box and reads, "Globalization of trade: It's Gr-r-reat! ...Tom G. Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. He worked for several years as a smuggler in Communist-ruled states, where he trafficked in illegal books, photocopiers, and fax machines. Since finishing his doctorate at Oxford University, he has worked to smuggle the ideas of free trade into American universities." Cato titled it's letter "Globalization is Grrrreat!" and reproduced the poster on page 2.

Selfishness-- The August 7 Rocky Mountain News editorial page describes the "looters of 9-11... [who] remind us that people often reveal their true character in a crisis. At such moments, humanity divides itself into the selfish and the selfless. The selfless of that day are mostly dead. But it's good to know that some of the selfish will end up inside a cell." Being a fan of Rand, this language made me cringe. In fact, the heroes of that day had a much better-developed sense of self than those who turned to looting. At best, the terminology selected by the News is misleading. The good guys were noble, heroic, and brave. The looters were ignoble, cowardly, lecherous, and evil. To say that one group is "selfless" whereas another is "selfish" is to muddle the appropriate distinctions. But of course we can all agree with the thrust of the News' case.

The Party of Big Government-- Ed Quillen summed up Homeland Security nicely for the August 4 Denver Post. "Why is it that the same Republicans who criticize inefficient government bureaucracies all the time are now trying to inflict a new one on us?" The answer: "It all depends on who controls the bureaucracy."

Islamic Reform-- Linda Seebach writes for the September 14 Rocky Mountain News, "A new generation of Islamic scholars... is beginning to ask how Islamic societies can remake themselves in ways that are true to the Quran but compatible with the modern world." Christianity, too, needed such reform.

Dial 911?-- "Dial 911 and die," goes the expression. But it's even worse than that. If you dial 911, the result could be the death of your neighbor. As a Denver Post editorial sums up on September 14, Aurora police responded to the wrong address on July 26, 2001, based on a 911 call. They shot and seriously wounded the man living there. The victim, Jerry Norris, is a competitive shooter, and he was practicing with his unloaded weapon when the police arrived. He claims he cooperated with police; the police claimed he pointed the gun at them. "But a trauma surgeon who treated Norris testified that the man was shot from behind..." So who was put on trial? Norris, of course. At least the jury acquitted him. When will the officers face trial?

Spit it Out-- The Libertarian Party of California removed its candidate for governor after he spat on a radio show host (September 16 Rocky Mountain News). For an organization with such sophisticated political theories, the LP seems to attract an unusually large number of people who are completely inept at public relations.

The Colorado Freedom