A few weeks ago I was contemplating the reality of the upcoming fall and how involved I would have to be Colorado YAL. Thought's of endless busyness and unpreparedness overwhelmed me. I had a moment when I asked myself why I wanted to get involved -- what did it matter -- what could I do that would make any sort of difference?
In my repose I remembered Henry David Thoreau's call to the intelligent of the US during the Mexican American War. He wrote of the consciences and principles of the people who claimed to adhere to the American constitution and yet paid taxes to continue an unjust war, and sustain a "tyrant." He wrote his essay "Civil Disobedience" from a jail cell, because he believed so fervently in liberty, that he refused to pay those taxes. I recalled the thousands of others, known and unknown, writers, protesters, activists, and normal citizens who have done whatever they could to protect my freedom, and I felt ashamed for begrudging the fact that I would be busy.
However cliche it may sound, beginnings always start at the beginning -- with little to no recognition and lots of hard labor which makes us wonder what in world we are doing.
Hopefully in the least sanctimonious way possible, I wanted to encourage anybody who would have the time to read this, that the beginning is only a moment. Soon with the spread of the ideas of liberty and continuing of our principles, the busyness and effort will seem like a minor detail in comparison to the movement forward.
Norman Singleton is Rep. Ron Paul’s Legislative Director. He has worked for Dr. Paul since 1997. Once a month, Norm and I meet at Bailey’s Pub & Grill in Arlington, Virginia to discuss two subjects—pro wrestling and libertarian politics.
The first is the primary reason for our meetings. Bailey’s offers monthly WWE pay-per-views which we enjoy thoroughly over cold beer and chicken wings. It is by far the most serious subject we discuss.
Our discussions of libertarianism, or the Ron Paul-inspired “liberty movement,” to which Norm and I both belong, are always interesting. Norm is a diehard libertarian. I am more traditionally conservative. How radical we are in our politics sometimes differs. How practical we are in advancing what some might consider “radical” politics does not.
Austrian economist Murray Rothbard was one of the most brilliant libertarian minds of all time. Rothbard was also considered one of the most radical libertarians of his time. Today, Rothbard’s pure, unadulterated anti-statist philosophy is celebrated by libertarians as heroic and unequaled.
But Rothbard was also very practical about politics. Based on a recent discussion we’d had about the inevitable tensions that come with moving the liberty movement into the mainstream, Norm brought to my attention some old Rothbard columns from his personal collection.
While some radical libertarians eschew politics altogether, believing it compromises their philosophical purity, or that education alone will eventually bring a majority of people to the philosophy of liberty, Rothbard disagreed. He wrote in 1981:
I see no other conceivable strategy for the achievement of liberty than political action. Religious or philosophical conversion of each man and woman is simply not going to work; that strategy ignores the problem of power, the fact that millions of people have a vested interest in statism and are not likely to give it up… Education in liberty is of course vital, but it is not enough; action must also be taken to roll back the State...
The above quote should be of no surprise to anyone remotely familiar with Rothbard. My favorite aspect of Rothbard is that for his entire life, it was never enough to simply be more radical than his fellow libertarian—Rothbard wanted to take political action.
While strolling through news sources today I couldn't help but notice the New York Times column calling for people in my age bracket to be conscripted. Author Thomas Riggs puts forth his case as to why we need to re-institute the draft and some methods for doing so. Like many who have called for a draft in recent years, he uses that same concept of "building citizenship" and "shared sacrifice" ideas advocated by those who see the military as a sacrosanct institution. Taking some pointers from some of the "anti-war" draft promoters he even mentions that this would be a good driving force against war (because that obviously worked really well last time [eye roll]).
Too libertarian for being shackled into either military or "civil service" jobs? Don't worry -- you can opt out. Riggs writes:
...libertarians who object to a draft could opt out. Those who declined to help Uncle Sam would in return pledge to ask nothing from him — no Medicare, no subsidized college loans and no mortgage guarantees. Those who want minimal government can have it.
That part actually sounds good -- but only if that means I get to keep my taxes that pay for these services as well. It only seems fair that if I ask nothing from Uncle Sam, then Uncle Same should ask nothing of me, but of course Riggs doesn't even hint at this compromise.
With all this talk the a new draft hitting the New York Times it raises a question that I've had ever since my Constitutional Law classes in college. What about the Thirteenth Amendment? Just so we're clear on what it says, the full text of the amendment is:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
You see, it's that whole "involuntary servitude" language that tells me that the draft is, besides being immoral, simply unconstitutional. The draft is nothing more than forcing through legal statute individuals into service. As we all know, the draft is not optional once instituted -- just ask Muhammad Ali, who lost the heavyweight championship because he refused to be drafted.
Angela Keaton, who is director of operations at Antiwar.com, recently gave a great interview in which she said, among other things, this:
Daily Bell: What is your sense of the world today? Who is primarily behind most major wars today? Is it NATO and the West?
What is going in the Middle East? Please give us your reactions to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.
Angela Keaton: Here’s where you ask variations on all the same questions, which is the key to the answers.
1. When we discuss power, we are discussing people who behave badly. These people sometimes find their interests aligned. No dark conspiracies needed. People should watch old t.v. soap operas, read classic novels or observe children. That would be far more helpful in understanding the hows and whys.
2. People are pack animals besotted with hierarchy. We adore status, class and categories, the last of which allows us to stick things in boxes without having to think critically or use the most basic discernment. It also allows for the one true and real conspiracy: language. “Women,” “The Gays,” “The Arabs,” “The Jews” don’t exist. Only individuals exist. Mock Ayn Rand all you wish but the concept of the individual as something real and vital is not only morally righteous but would be a consequentialist step toward peace. Recognizing individual human dignity makes bombing and torturing people more difficult.
3. Treat someone poorly long enough and he or she will eventually react either with passive-aggressive resentments or with direct action.
"We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions." This has been the primary function of the Supreme Court since Chief Justice John Marshall recognized the court’s check on legislative authority in Marbury v. Madison (1803). This much our current Chief Justice understands. But as so often happens, it is not the power of constitutional review itself but the philosophy of those who wield it that failed the United States last week.
But before lambasting Chief Justice Roberts any more than he has already been – him moreso than those he joined, as he was held to a higher standard to begin with – let us examine his ruling. Though there is certainly discussion to be had about other portions of the opinion – some of them valuable – the primary concern here is the Court’s decision to uphold the individual mandate, and so too Obamacare.
With regards to the government’s argument that the individual mandate could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause (Article I, §8, cl. 3), Roberts deserves credit for rejecting this argument.
Throughout our lives, we are told many things about how to live our lives. "You should live for your country!" say some. Others say, "Your goal in live is to serve the 'common good'!" And the examples merely continue from there.
But these things fly in the face of all rationality. They man that his life is not really his own, but instead he is born indebted to some other entity. The individuals supporting such doctrines treat man's life as a blank check for anyone and everyone else to fill except himself.
This is not how man should live. Man should live for himself.
Does this mean that by living for oneself that compassion or good will towards others is prohibited? By no means! In fact, it is only by living for oneself that there can be any true compassion at all.
Richard Pipes’ eighty-four page bookThree "Whys" of the Russian Revolution -- based on a series of lectures delivered at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna in 1995 -- is a controversial work that reveals much about the early years of the Soviet Union, disproving a number of popular statist notions of Soviet history.
The book seeks to answer three often-asked questions regarding the 1917 revolution in Russia: (1) Why did tsarism fall? (2) Why did the Bolsheviks triumph over other revolutionary parties? and (3) Why did Stalin succeeded Lenin? Though the book takes on a tone quite biased against the Bolsheviks (and seemingly against Marxism in general), other histories told of the USSR, as well as previously classified documents, confirm Pipes’ suspicions and validate his theories on the Russian revolution, its causes, and its outcome.
Pipes’ bias against the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik Party (later the Communist Party of the USSR) stems from his Polish background, having lived in a post-First World War Poland in which the effects of Poland’s war against Red Russia (Russian Civil War) were still widely felt in his motherland. Though biased against the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union in general, Pipes’ theories, statements, and generalizations (summaries of points from his books The Russian Revolution and Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime) are substantiated by his research of formerly top-secret documents from Russia’s Presidential Archive and the Centre for the Preservation of the Study of Documents of Recent History.
Written exclusively for Young Americans for Liberty. Visit this page for more details on the author’s insider point of view and candidate recommendations.
With many states already having had their primary elections—in which many liberty candidates were defeated—some liberty activists are returning to their quiet lives in seeming defeat. But failure be damned! Though a short break from politics and activism is certainly well-deserved after all these long days and nights, anything lengthier than a week or two is ill advised—we activists, after all, are the life blood of the greater liberty movement.
I don’t wish to say that many of us have given up after certain favorite constitutional conservatives weren’t elected, but some of us certainly have left the fight. I fully share in the disappointment, having taken an active role in the liberty movement since April of 2011. Nonetheless, we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated simply because our preferred candidates didn’t receive a party nomination for the November ballot. Now is not the time to renounce all political involvement. After all, this whole endeavor was never about any single election, but rather about creating fundamental change for the better—for liberty itself.
It would be great if a constitutional conservative won the Presidency of the United States tomorrow and rapidly implemented libertarian-style changes in government. But this is not our only, or most realistic, option. Rather, we who do more than pay lip service to the Constitution must engage in tireless activism, campaigning at all levels of government and civil society for a decade or more, constantly agitating, educating, organizing, and politicking until government is more localized, more limited, and in compliance with the Constitution.
Recently I heard some critics of liberty dismiss the idea of libertarianism as idealistic and unreal. My fellow classmates said how the idea of maximizing liberty looks good on paper, but can not be done in everyday real life. This is the argument commonly given to communism when it says everyone is equal. (Of course, communism explicitly states the abolition of private property and ownership -- I have no idea how that looks good on paper.)
The idea of libertarianism, by contrast, maximizes freedom both personally and economically. It stresses the non-agression principle, which is to not initiate force against an individual or property of others. Indeed, this does look good on paper -- and it looks even better when applied to real world solutions.
Often times many people ask where are the real life examples of this theory being put into practice. Well, there are plenty of them, you just have to think critically.
1) Concealed carry of handguns
Real life example: New Hampshire, Texas, and Vermont
These states allow concealed carry in varying degrees. Texas achieved concealed carry status in 1995 and crime has remained low ever since. New Hampshire even allows open carry in all places except courthouse and government buildings. New Hampshire is probably the safest place to live in the country with the lowest crime rate overall and by far the most lax gun laws. Vermont is not far behind in low crime rates as well.
2) Allow consumers to choose their electric company
Real life example: Lubbock, Texas
In Lubbock, Texas there are multiple, competing electric companies. These networks drive down utility prices and increase consumer satisfaction without noticable additional environmental impact. This system offers a clear choice for the consumers instead of forcing them to pay for one large electric company owned by the city. Choice is a key tenant in liberty. You are free to choose what you want to do with your body and money. In this case, the residents of Lubbock are just fine with choosing their energy source.