Letters to the Editor: November 3, 2004
Nolan Sees Bush as "Unmitigated Disaster"
I am amazed at how many good Libertarians are defecting from our ticket this year to vote for either Kerry or Bush. We've worked 32 years to become the "balance of power" in a national election, and now that we are, people are backing off because the wrong guy might win. They're BOTH "wrong guys" ... and the most powerful way you and others in Colorado can use your vote is to tell Kerrybush that you want less government and more liberty.
Attached is the text of the speech I gave at the LP National Convention Banquet. Please read it and take it to heart!
-- David Nolan, October 28, 2004
Speech to Banquet Libertarian Party National Convention Atlanta, GA -- May 30, 2004
As those of you who know me are aware, I am not a religious man. So it may at first seem strange that my remarks this evening draw their inspiration from a hymn, "Once To Every Man and Nation," written by James Russell Lowell. Lowell was an outspoken opponent of slavery here in the United States, and was also strongly anti-war. The hymn that I will quote from was in fact written as an expression of his opposition to the U.S. War with Mexico, and first appeared in the Boston Courier on December 11, 1845.
December 11, of course, is the day on which our Party was founded some 126 years later. And it is also the birthday of George Mason, and of ISIL founder Vince Miller. Maybe there's something special about that date!
In researching the background of "Once To Every Man and Nation" I was pleased to learn, from the lewrockwell.com website, that Lowell's hymn was much beloved by another great libertarian, the late Murray Rothbard.
Here are the words that Lowell wrote, 159 years ago:
Once to every man and nation,
Now, I suspect that Lowell did not really mean there is only one moment in history at which a man, or a nation, faces a transcendent choice between good and evil. But I do believe that occasionally there are such moments, and that this is one of them.
For many years now, I have been promulgating the idea that there is a real and discernible 72-year cycle in U.S. politics. The three great turning points in our nation's history to date have been 1788, 1860 and 1932 -- the years in which we elected George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt as Presidents. Whatever you may think of their policies and their actions, there is little doubt that these three Presidents shaped our nation's history more than any other men who have held the office.
Why there is a 72-year cycle, I cannot say with certainty. Most likely, it is because this is roughly the length of a healthy human's life span, and after that amount of time has passed, memories of past choices and their consequences fade from a society's memory and lessons that might have been learned are lost. There may also be reasons related to astrophysical cycles; the 12-year calendar used by the Chinese clearly corresponds to the orbital period of Jupiter, which affects solar tides and thus indirectly life on Earth.
But whatever the reason, or reasons, the 72-year cycle seems real. And as those of you who are quick at mental math have already figured out, 2004 is the next major "turning point" year... a "moment to decide" before the "choice goes by forever" ... or at least for another 72 years.
The choice that faces us now is painfully clear: Shall we, as a nation, re-elect a President who has taken us farther toward collectivism and a Police State than any other President in memory, or shall we repudiate him and all the evils that he represents: massive spending increases, the Patriot Act, and an unconstitutional, unjustified, tragically failed war?
If George W. Bush is re-elected, it will be taken as a ratification of his actions. The Republican party will have officially abandoned, once and for all, even the slightest pretense that it is a party of less government. After all, Federal spending has increased far more in the three-plus years of Bush's Presidency that it did under eight years of Clinton. His Attorney General, John Ashcroft, has shown a greater disregard for civil liberties than anyone to hold that post since A. Mitchell Palmer. Despite Bush's "states' rights" rhetoric during the last Presidential campaign, the Federal Drug Warriors have aggressively pursued crackdowns on medical marijuana patients in states where the voters passed referenda to legalize such use.
The Bush Administration's record in every area -- growth of government, curtailment of civil liberties and foreign interventionism -- is a complete and unmitigated disaster. Everything that Harry Browne predicted four years ago has happened, and then some! Clearly, if America is to triumph in the ongoing struggle between good and evil, truth and falsehood, George W. Bush must be defeated.
But a simple defeat for Bush is not sufficient. If he loses to John Kerry, with no significant vote cast on behalf of less government, it will be seen as just another hand-off in the relay race toward fascistic socialism.
For us to succeed, and for evil to be vanquished, Bush must lose because a large bloc of voters abandons the GOP and swings its support toward the Party of Liberty. A few astute members of the news media have already begun speculating that this may happen -- and their speculations are well-founded.
Many, many Republicans I have spoken to have expressed their dismay and disgust with George W. Bush. They cannot bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, but they will vote Libertarian if they can be convinced that it is not a futile gesture.
If the national polls show Michael Badnarik receiving a significant level of support, particularly in states where the margin is narrow, the media will start to cover us seriously, money will flow in, and more voters will abandon George W. Bush. And if the votes cast for Michael Badnarik cost Bush the election, we will get the same degree of attention that Ralph Nader received four years ago, when it was widely perceived that he cost Al Gore the Presidency.
But in order to achieve that critical mass, we're going to need a large amount of money, starting right now. The dollars we raise here tonight will enable us to move forward with vigor and credibility. It's up to us to take this first step, and then to go back home and motivate every Libertarian we know to get involved.
You may think that I am exaggerating the importance of this particular election. After all, partisans in every election always try to portray it as the most important ever. But my analysis of history and the gathering storm of horrors perpetrated and planned by the Bush Administration lead me to the inescapable conclusion that this is the "moment to decide."
If things go in the wrong direction this year, there may well be no chance to turn things around, ever. Under a Patriot II or Patriot III, Libertarians and others who stand up for individual rights and liberties may be rounded up and hauled off to detention camps. It happened to Japanese-Americans during World War II, and it can happen to us.
These are perilous times, my friends. The choice is ours: bloom or blight, good or evil. When you reach for your checkbook or credit card, keep this in mind. Give the most you can, before the choice goes by forever.
Ownership and Abortion
You get two things wrong in your "36Q&A" issue of the Colorado Freedom Report:
1. "By an 'ownership society,' as my friends remind me, Bush means a society in which the national government ('society') intervenes in the economy to increase home ownership."
That is not what I've taken from the "ownership society" talking points I've heard Bush speak of. Generally I've heard it with regards to Social Security (ability of my generation to retain some of the money stolen from us in the name of Social Security, by directing it into retirement accounts we own) and to a lesser regard health care (i.e. Health Savings Accounts). I think it's also been alluded to in his rhetoric on education regarding giving parents choice and other topics.
The difference between you and me and Bush is as follows.
* You and I, we outright call for the abolition of Social Security, abolition of income tax laws regulating employer/employee health care financing, and implementation of school vouchers or zero government financing of schooling (elimination of "public schools" none-the-less).
* Bush calls for increased privatization of government programs (more freedom than the status-quo, but not total freedom you and I desire).
It's likely that at this time someone spouting your or my rhetoric could not get elected to the US presidency. Bush is, at least, heading in the right direction -- away from socialism. We can only hope this trend opens the door for more and more liberty.
2. "The Senate Race and the Right to Choose." In your articles you continually treat the right to choose as absolute under libertarian thought. Unlike the right to bear arms, own property, etc. -- which cause no direct infringement of another person's rights, choosing an abortion is something that directly effects (ends) the life of a human -- a human that I and many other libertarians believe should be afforded the same rights as other humans.
The core questions behind the abortion debate rhetoric are, are unborn humans really any less human than born humans, and, what is required to be considered a "human?" Popular answers to the latter are mental capacity/brain function (development of brain waves in a fetus), age (1st, 2nd, 3rd trimesters or birth), health (viability/survivability). We've seen all of those before in history and refer to their results as holocausts. Are we too blind to see the errors of our own ways? Modern science should be able to help identify the clear an irrefutable demarcation by looking at DNA -- but our society ignores such science.
Seeking humor to help me ignore the horror of the American Holocaust, I Googled the definition of "human." Among common and simple definitions like "belonging to the group that includes all people." I also learned that humans are "an automatic door opener for cats." I guess it is all relative after all: Cats, at least, will consider me human -- as long as I'm capable of opening a door.
-- Craig Latzke, October 30
Ari Armstrong replies: First, I favor the gradual phasing out of Social Security, as I describe in the article. Bush's proposal for Social Security would send funds to politically controlled accounts, something that does not increase liberty at all, but instead diminishes liberty. Phasing out Social Security and implementing mandatory, regulated accounts are two distinct issues. There is not one element of Bush's so-called "ownership society" that doesn't involve a large element of central economic planning.
Second, while I grant libertarian theory is inadequate to handle the issue of abortion, I do not limit myself to libertarian theory. I deny that a fetus is a human being, and thus I deny that abortion constitutes a "holocaust." Your claim about the DNA of a fetus is irrelevant -- a hair I pull from my scalp has human DNA, but it is not a human. Moreover, outlawing abortion would necessarily involve substantial invasion of privacy.
The Religious Left
You've made one comment about Kerry I never thought of before -- that his socialist views have religious roots. Kerry is much more dangerous if his socialism is religiously based.
I am 55 and thus lived through the protests of the Vietnam War. Although I didn't really support the war, I agreed with Ronald Reagan that it was a noble cause that went wrong. I believe that if the protesters of my generation had not given encouragement to the North Vietnamese that Vietnam could have ended up as a stalemate like Korea and been a divided country. At least half would have been free...
I feel certain that the long term effect of the war in Iraq is going to spread liberty throughout the Arab world but maybe not in my lifetime or even yours. In the meantime the primitive barbarians are having their field day. Eventually they will be stopped and decent Arabs will find liberty appealing, but we can't jam it down their throats. I think eventually George Bush will be vindicated and historians will see him as a great president...
I was at FreedomFest 2004 in Las Vegas in May and I did hear John Hospers say that there is only one reason to support Bush -- because we were attacked and we have to fight back. I have never found or read his latest letter yet.
I was always a libertarian-leaning Republican since I went door-to-door for Barry Goldwater in 1964. I moved to Colorado in 2000 and became a Libertarian because Governor Owens wimped out regarding gun rights after Columbine and I had some friends in the "Tyranny Response Team." I changed back to Republican a year ago because I support Bush and the Iraq War and I didn't want anything to do with a madman like Rick Stanley who fired his own libertarian lawyer because he was "an officer of the Court." ...
I hope and pray that George Bush is re-elected and that he is given the opportunity to maybe appoint three or four pro-market judges...
I read Buchanan's recent magazine and they seem to feel that Ashcroft will not return in a second Bush administration... A good conservative replacement could be Bob Barr, who at least worked with the ACLU on a project to revise the Patriot Act in a way more palatable to libertarians.
Well, I'm going to be an Election Judge on Tuesday in Aurora. Nancy Doty told us to "turn no one away" and just give them Provisional Ballots if they are voting out of their precinct, to try to persuade them to go to the right place but to turn no one away if they insist. We are not to challenge voters or to count votes. We have to make sure they are Colorado residents, of course. People who vote with provisional ballots will not know if their vote has been counted until 12 days after the election because any questionable registrations will be vetted by Election officials later.
-- Randolph C. Allen, October 28
Kerry Lacks Integrity
I disagree with your assessment.
Like your father, I will never forgive Kerry for what he did to this country and its veterans. Bush, while mildly anti-RKBA, is nothing like Kerry for being anti-gun, and has the voting record to prove it. Kerry's obvious lack of integrity makes using him as a protest vote sound hollow. If you really want to utilize that track (a protest vote) then I suggest writing in yourself (or me) for President.
Have a good one! Thank God this is almost over...
-- Patrick Sperry, October 28
Bad Foreign-Policy Assumptions
Some thoughts about your thoughts on A Few Thoughts on Foreign Policy and Libertarianism.
I think your comments, assumptions, and analogies are a little off base.
I think the problem has more to do with "American Exceptionalism" run amuck. Americans are loathe to view their country in a negative fashion, which is understandable. However, this is aided and abetted by a government and media that do not objectively report on the actual behavior of our government overseas and in our relations to other nations. Even the things that do get reported tend to get white-washed. It seems for some reason that most people just dismiss things like US-initiated coups, buying of dictators, enormous arms-selling and strong-arm tactics as somehow necessary "in an ugly world."
Just ask how many Americans believe we somehow have an inherent right to Arab oil, or oil anywhere for that matter, and that we should be able to dictate price to the sellers simply because we need cheap gas. Or that we have "the right" to go around the globe constantly meddling in the affairs of others because we have the power to do and are protecting "our interests."
Over the last few decades it appears that many Americans have simply adopted the view that America (and by default, its leaders) can do no wrong. That no matter what, we are always doing the 'right' thing in the world and "the others" are doing wrong. I think this is compounded by the rise of religious conservatism here which also views our actions as "righteous" along with "right." The shrill nature of the righteous debate is being echoed louder and louder in the behavior of this administration. God is on our side not on the side of "the others." This is probably the most dangerous facet of the rising American Exceptionalism.
Perhaps a better analogy to be used would be one where we use the neighbors yard to grow our own garden, punched a well in his yard to irrigate ours, starting teaching his children the things we wanted them to learn, not what our neighbor wants, and took the wall off the side of his house so we could watch him and his wife had sex. All the while, we assure him that we have many more guns then him, we own the cops and control City Hall.
Now how would your neighbors react if one were doing those things amongst his neighbors. Do you think they might become desperately radicalized at some point and simply want to blow your brains out in some crazed reaction. My question is: Do you think there would be militant Islamic movement without overt projections of power and decades of support and manipulation of Middle Eastern and other governments around the world? You think these people just stimulated themselves to attack the west, or do colonialism, post-colonialism and neo-colonialism have something significant to do with it?
Sure action could be taken at a "verifiable threat." But at trial, if there really was such a thing in court between nations in dispute, I think that a lot of evidence could be introduced to show how the attack was provoked, weakening significantly the case that it was justifiable "pre-emptive self-defense." Poke, taunt, control and subjugate your neighbors long enough and you will get a reaction.
These academic arguments in lieu of the objective facts and situation always bother me. They leave out and assume so much about what has actually occurred to precipitate the situation that now exists. Thus, most of the time the arguments wind up arguing specious or irrelevant points. The fact is, militant Islam did not form and become an active force simply to counter the fact that America exists and is free (relatively) and wealthy. Militant Islamists do not hate us because we exist. That is simply the most absurd statement I've heard. I'm not saying you've used that one Ari. But that is the basis of what you hear most Americans saying.
However, your argument that we have a right to pre-emptive attack, while at this point may have some merit, tends to ignore the reality of the situation almost as much as the argument that the Islamists hate us just because we exist.
The bottom line is: There is no real justification for what they are doing and there is none for what we have done or are doing. Now where do we go from here? Both sides have to severely alter their behavior and soon. What are the odds of that happening?
Jeff Wright, October 22
More Criticism of Foreign Policy
Regarding your COFREE article, "A Few Thoughts on Foreign Policy and Libertarianism," I must disagree with your conclusions and with your "criminals" analogies. The fact that under the current government-run system of "justice," a potential victim can send the police to arrest a person for verbal threats does not mean that this is the way this problem would be handled in a free society. The threatening party could not be interdicted unless evidence was found that he actually was in the process of carrying out his threat (in a free society, you would most likely have dealt with the threat on the spot...). Similarly, the "criminal X vs. criminal Y" example is flawed. Again, you do not "hire" a criminal to deal with another criminal -- you deal directly with the original criminal, using force if need be. If you lack the wherewithal to deal with the situation, you organize the other victims and potential victims to achieve a sufficient level of force to rectify the problem.
Governments, if they are to exist at all, in an ethically-correct world, must not be permitted to do that which an individual person could not, by right, do. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like all the wars that preceded them, involve government agents doing things that would be considered crimes if done as individuals. Therefore, unless the government can somehow conduct an ethically-correct war, it must cease and desist from further military action in both these areas. You confuse "libertarians" with "Libertarians" (political) when you claim that libertarians reject philosophical arguments; some of us believe that one's philosophy drives all of one's actions. I maintain that "principles are practical," that only a carefully chosen, self-consistent philosophical framework can be trusted to guide one through life without piling up an intolerable burden of regrets. I submit that it is yourself who is not applying the non-aggression principle with sufficient rigor in this case, not the anti-war libertarians.
My solution to this problem would be vigilant withdrawal -- I would immediately cut off ALL foreign-aid programs and withdraw all troops to the USA. I would retain (and improve) intelligence-gathering capabilities and the option to 'surgically' remove real threats (and only verified real threats) as they develop. After a few years of following President Washington's advice on foreign relations, we would see a dramatic improvement in national security. I would also insist on full disclosure of the facts about the 11 September 2001 attacks -- there are many unanswered questions about what really happened and precisely who is responsible. The official line runs counter to the evidence, just as it did for the battleship Maine, the Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City, to name just a few incidents that show a pattern of lies and engineered pretexts for war (against the government's perceived enemies both within and without) over the last century (and then some).
Perhaps with all this war stuff safely behind us, we can get down to the real solution -- trimming government at all levels back to the minimum needed to protect the rights of the sovereign human beings who, according to our Declaration of Independence, choose to delegate certain powers to government to secure those rights...
-- Milt Borchert, October 22