Gifts of liberty
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on December 15, 2005.
Still have some gifts to buy? Here are some great liberty-minded gifts to stuff the stockings of both the naughty and the nice:
* Dec. 15 is Bill of Rights Day. So why not give the gift of liberty? Posters are available of the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership also sells a Bill of Rights Day poster (jpfo.org). For some real fun, order the "Bill of Rights -- Security Edition" (securityedition.com), "printed on sturdy, pocket-sized, pieces of metal" especially for airline "security."
* In celebration of the 21st Amendment, which repealed alcohol prohibition, buy a delightfully functional Steel Cork (steelcork.com), made right in Longmont. Once you open a bottle of wine, you can pop in the Cork and give it a twist. Or, pick up a bottle of fine Palisade wine or mead, or perhaps a gift certificate to a brewpub. * While your taxes have been granted to a dildo artist and a film about the Big Blue Bear, the most vibrant art in Colorado -- rock 'n' roll -- survives and thrives almost entirely free of government purse-strings, on the free market. Buy the latest CD from one of Colorado's top bands, such as Dressy Bessy, DeVotchka, or Matson Jones. Or pick up tickets for Boulder's hot a cappella band Face.
* For that special socialist on your list, give the gift that keeps giving: the gift of capitalism. Try a membership to Costco or a Wal-Mart gift card. For the egghead leftie, try Chris Matthew Sciabarra's book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, or Andrew Bernstein's new book, The Capitalist Manifesto.
* Don't forget the Christian right-wingers! George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, a perennial favorite, might stretch the bounds of irony. I understand Dave Kopel is working on a book about religious support for the right to bear arms; perhaps that'll be ready for next year. (You can read related articles at davekopel.com.)
* Kopel already has books out about guns, antitrust and federal law enforcement. Any of his books would make a nice gift with a local connection.
* Any gift from a Boulder bookstore would be appropriate. And remember that, last year, Joyce Meskis of Tattered Cover stood up to Ted Harvey, a state legislator who wanted to regulate the display of sexually explicit material.
* Firefly is my favorite television series of all time. It's science-fiction with strong liberty-related themes. One of the characters, Shepherd Book, says at one point, "A government is a body of people, usually, notably, ungoverned." Also, I have it on good authority that the captain of the ship is sexy. And on Dec. 20 the movie Serenity, which continues the story of Firefly, comes out on DVD! Another favorite movie of mine is Equilibrium, which features the pre-Bat Christian Bale.
* Sheriff Bill Masters of Telluride edited The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War. (I helped with the editing and contributed a short chapter.) University of Colorado Professor Michael Huemer contributed a chapter about the injustice of the drug war that will also be printed in a book about ethics. Huemer also has two books out, Ethical Intuitionism and Skepticism and the Veil of Perception.
* For anyone who has praised Dalton Trumbo -- you may be familiar with the Trumbo Fountain on campus -- get a copy of Ayn Rand and Song of Russia, by Robert Mayhew. The dedication of the book will give you the flavor: "In memory of the Lubyanka Thousand -- the over one thousand writers murdered in the Soviet Union during the period the Hollywood Ten supported Stalin -- and to Ayn Rand, who made it out." Mayhew also edited a collection of essays about Rand's We the Living, her novel set in the hell that was Russia under the Communists.
* You can order a used copy of John V. Van Sickle's Freedom in Jeopardy from Amazon. Van Sickle, who studied under economist Ludwig von Mises in Austria between the wars, retired in Boulder, where his son Jerry lives now. Mises was chased out of Austria by the Nazis, so he came to America and taught at New York University. One of Mises's books, such as Human Action, would make an excellent gift. Another of Mises's students, George Reisman, wrote Capitalism. If thick volumes don't suit your gift-giving purposes, try the winter '98 Batman Chronicles by Paul Pope, which features Mises.
* After reading in Freakonomics that some parents actually named their children things like Loser, Shithead (pronounced ShiTEED), OrangeJello and LemonJello (pronounced LeMONjelo), I mentioned this to a doctor friend of mine. She replied, "Oh, I treated OrangeJello and LemonJello in a hospital in St. Lewis."
Perhaps this is the answer for the Christian conservative on your list, for Freakonomics is the source of the argument that the legalization of abortion in 1973 led to the drop in crime in the '90s. You may recall that Bill Bennett got into a bit of trouble for his response to that argument.
* Dec. 25 is also Isaac Newton's birthday. Neal Stephenson's novel Quicksilver features the path-breaking natural philosopher. Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto also pays tribute to Newton.
This holiday season, may visions of liberty dance in your head.