Freedom Updates: March 26, 2003

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Freedom Updates: March 26, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Conservatives Split Over War
Regardless of one's position on the war, the stories of dead U.S. soldiers and pictures of killed Iraqi children bring home the very real consequences of ideas.

Still, I can't help but wonder whether some put too great an emphasis on the causal force of various intellectual debates. There is always a tendency to inflate the historical significance of one's own project.

I've been reading quite a lot about the conservative schism between paleoconservatives and neoconservatives (old right and new right). Because libertarians have closer historical ties to the old right, I've paid more attention to the perspectives of writers for lewrockwell.com and antiwar.com.

Certainly the neocons have a penchant for military interventionism. Many of them wanted to attack Iraq long before 9/11, and many of them want to send the U.S. military elsewhere after that. As Justin Raimondo reminds us, some neocons speak favorably of "benevolent global hegemony." We've come a long way from the doctrine of Washington and Jefferson of free trade without foreign political entanglements!

Yet I sincerely doubt Bush's only motivation for going to war was the intellectual arguments of the neocons. The neocon drive for "hegemony" may have been necessary for war (though even that's debatable), but it certainly wasn't sufficient.

While Bush sycophants like Mike Rosen point to the coalition of convenience between lefties and libertarians in opposition to war, the more interesting convergence is between libertarians and the old right. Libertarians generally have more in common with old right Republicans than with Marx-oriented leftists.

What's clear is that an intellectual war is being waged for the soul of the conservative movement. That's a surprise, because I was previously unaware the conservative movement still had a soul.

Meanwhile, conservatives would do well to remember not all arguments spring from paleocon or neocon sentiments. The Objectivists are pretty hawkish (ARI moreso than TOC), but they can hardly be deemed neocons (though some of their arguments parallel the neocon line). A recent analysis by TOC's William Thomas discusses the conditions he thinks should be met before war is waged. While I think a bit more Hayekian humility is in order with respect to foreign policy, Thomas makes a fairly subtle case.


Honor the Troops, Question the Leaders, Seebeck Says
The following commentary by Mike Seebeck was printed in the Colorado Springs Independent. Seebeck currently serves on the board of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.

Ever since 9-11 there has been ridiculous rhetoric claiming that if the people don't support the nation going to war then we are un-American, un-patriotic, should leave, etc...

The issue with many of us that oppose these wars, be it with whoever the political enemy du jour may be is not a lack of support for our troops. These honorable people are our friends and families who are going into harm's way for us, and we applaud them for making that hard choice and sacrifice. They are worthy of our honor and respect, and we should (and do) give them that. We want them to do the job correctly if they have to. We love them and want them to come back safe and sound. We want our government to honor them and respect them as well by taking care of them in return for that sacrifice.

The issue is in fact with the political leaders who send them there. History has shown that wars are fought over resources and ideologies. Every side thinks they are right, and the measurement of what's right and what is not is counted by casualties. These so-called "leaders" send our family and friends into harm's way to fulfill a political purpose. When their agenda is exposed, the exposers are labeled conspiracy theorists and crackpots. Truth is foreign to these "leaders."

...Honor the troops. Question the leadership. Think about it instead of swallowing what is spoon-fed us.

Patriotism without skepticism is nationalism. Nationalism destroys nations and destroys civilizations...


Bruce Defends TABOR
Peter Blake's column in the March 22 Rocky Mountain News, and Al Knight's column in the March 23 Denver Post, give Douglas Bruce, author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, a platform to defend the measure.

Blake notes, "What legislators like to call 'cuts' are almost always in projected budgets that assume the traditional growth in spending that state law allows. 'But if you don't get a 6 percent increase, it's not a cut,' [Bruce] points out."

Bruce says the current budget "crisis" was partly caused by "Enron-style accounting." In Blake's words, "Instead of setting aside in trust the more than $900 million it was obliged to refund to taxpayers after one fiscal year, it decided to spend the money and pay the refunds out of the surplus expected the following year."

Bruce also thinks legislators are acting illegally by not keeping the required 3 percent of spending in an emergency cash reserve fund. Also, while employment has declined in other sectors, the government keeps hiring more people at higher wages.

Finally, there is no need to tamper with TABOR: "Bruce reasonably asks: Why go to the trouble of amending TABOR when the process for spending more than the usual amount is an option already build into the amendment," by simply asking the voters to approve specific expenditures?


Self-Defense at CU, Boulder
Michael Huemer, a professor of philosophy at CU, Boulder, wrote a letter published March 12 in Colorado Daily in which he defended the right of students to carry concealed handguns on campus:

The data indicate that anti-concealed weapons laws have caused increased violent crime. The explanation for this is simple: people who are willing to commit murder, rape, and other violent crimes don't obey the gun control laws -- but their would-be victims do. The laws therefore simply have the effect of making life easier for criminals... Individuals have a right to be free from violence... I believe that this right also entails the right to defend oneself from violence. The most effective means of self-defense in this society is a concealed handgun. To prevent a person from defending himself or herself from violence is to become complicit in that violence...

Another CU professor, Timothy Morton, replied March 18:

[W]ay to get tenure, Mike. First you break a rule, then you insult the chair of the BFA [Boulder Faculty Assembly], all in the name of some bogus research... I didn't realize criminals were motivated by a desire to break the law. In that case, if we allowed concealed weapons, they'd be refusing to carry them just to spite us...

And Huemer replied March 21-23:

First, I did not argue that criminals will violate gun control laws because "criminals [are] motivated by a desire to break the law." The point is not that gun control laws cause muggers, rapists, and murderers to carry guns; the point is that gun control laws fail to prevent them from carrying guns...

To illustrate the point, suppose someone proposed a law requiring all bank robbers to drive less than 35 miles per hour during their getaways. Proponents argue that the law will make it easier to catch bank robbers. Opponents point out that if a person has just robbed a bank, he is unlikely to hesitate at speeding...

Second, Morton labeled the gun control studies I cited (see Kleck, Targeting Guns, and Lott, More Guns Less Crime) "bogus." It would be desirable if he were to indicate some reason for this assessment...

Lastly, I categorically reject Professor Morton's apparent implication that I should be afraid to publicly criticize another professor's political views on the grounds that I might be denied tenure for doing so. One would expect to hear this in a police state, rather than a country with our tradition of academic freedom.

Brian Schwartz, a graduate student at CU, previously wrote an article titled Guns on Campus: Irrational Fears Limit Concealed Carry.


Media Watch

West Slams 1142-- In a March 26 letter to the Denver Post, Patrick West writes, "This bill [1142] forces minor parties to adopt the internal process of nominating candidates that the major parties use and forces the taxpayers of the state of Colorado and the counties to pay for it and implement it. State Sen. Ken Chlouber, the Senate sponsor, said in the committee hearing that 1142 is a wonderful bill that creates fairness and equality in elections. If this were so, you would think that everyone would be jumping on board to support it -- that people would be thanking the sponsors for finally creating fairness and equality. But this isn't the case. Most are opposed: the Democrats, the county clerks' association, the American Constitution Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Natural Law Party, the Reform Party and the League of Women Voters not to mention The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News editorial boards also came out opposed. Nope, the only group that thinks HB 1142 is wonderful is the Republicans."

Policy Sprawl-- In a March 25 Denver Post article, George Merrit describes a "new study" from the Colorado Public Interest Group about sprawl. Libertarians agree development should never be subsidized with tax money. Libertarians are also fine with voluntary educational efforts to change the way people build. Unlike CoPIRG, though, Libertarians oppose zoning laws that distorted development in the first place.

Democrats Support Mail Ballots-- A March 24 AP article notes Colorado Democrats opposed a plan to do away with mail ballots. However, Green Alison Maynard argues mail ballots invite fraud.

Snow Day-- In addition to giving us extra moisture, the snow storm offered another benefit: it caused the state capitol to shut down for a day. If libertarians are successful, the legislative session can eventually be shortened to a few relaxing afternoons. An editorial from the March 21 Rocky Mountain News states, "[T]he state legislature... missed only one day for snow... while local governments (except for plow drivers) and school districts took two or even three days off. Yet which is more essential: teaching and providing government services or adding to the already overburdened statute books? Do the wrong people have the most dedication?" I'm not sure any of those activities is essential.

JBC Cuts Corporate Welfare-- John Sanko and Peggy Lowe of the Rocky report March 21, "In a surprise move Thursday, state budget writers voted unanimously to take back the $12 million that Gov. Bill Owens signed into law only last week to help promote tourism and agriculture." Owens is fighting to reinstate the forced wealth-redistribution scheme. Fortunately, an editorial from the Rocky argues the tourism industry is "a collection of private businesses -- everything from huge ski resorts to tiny craft shops -- that ought to fend for themselves without government doing their heavy lifting. If there is going to be a fee to support tourism, let it be on the order of a self-assessment by industry members... [A] government subsidy is, when all is said and done, still a subsidy, meaning it distorts resource allocation, produces unintended consequences and spreads benefits unevenly, and so should be avoided except as a last resort." That's pretty good, except corporate welfare should be avoided, period.

Hudgins on Mars-- Edward Hudgins, editor of Free Space, also wrote two papers about law and economics on Mars. I recently reviewed Zubrin's Plan to Settle Mars.

Hamblin Praises Gun Liberalization Laws-- In his March 23 column for the Denver Post, Ken Hamblin, praising the passage of SB 25 and 25, wrote, "According to Mayor Webb: 'I am disappointed the governor ignored police chiefs and others who understand that what works in rural Colorado doesn't cut it in urban centers.' That sure sounds like he thinks blacks can't be trusted with guns."

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com