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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ramos and Compean Should NOT be Pardoned

As the Bush era comes to a close, the list of last minute pardon requests are growing. Perhaps the loudest demand for pardon comes (mostly) from Conservatives who are angry that President Bush has not acted to pardon two Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Those who demand the pardon claim that the agents were railroaded by an “overzealous” U.S. Attorney for “just doing their jobs” when the agents fired 15 shots, one of which hit a fleeing “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. If you Google “Ramos and Compean” you will find an endless number of articles which make some variation of this argument.

If this were a case of two Border Patrol Agents “just doing their jobs” acting in self defense, then I too would be demanding a pardon for these men. Inconvenient facts which are left out of almost all of these articles point to exactly why Ramos and Compean should NOT be pardoned. A January 29, 2007 article written by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review (not what I would consider a left-leaning or open borders type publication) offers a compelling counterpoint challenging the heroic and mythical image being bandied about of the two Border Patrol Agents:

The preponderance of the evidence established that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed. Besides Compean and Ramos, there were several other agents on the scene. None of them believed Aldrete-Davila posed a threat to their safety; none, other than the two defendants drew their weapons; and Compean and Ramos neither took cover nor alerted their fellow agents to do so.

More to the point, Compean admitted to investigators early on that the smuggler had raised his hands, palms open, in an attempt to surrender. This jibed not only with Aldrete-Davila’s account but with that of another Border Patrol agent. Compean opted not to take surrender, not to place the smuggler under arrest so he could be prosecuted.

On that score, for those over-heatedly analogizing the border to a battlefield, it is worth noting that even under the law of war, quarter must be given when it is sought. Compean, to the contrary, tried to strike Aldrete-Davila with the butt of his shotgun. But it turns out the agent was as hapless as he was malevolent. In the assault, he succeeded only in losing his own balance. The smuggler, naturally, took off again, whereupon Compean unleashed an incompetent fuselage — missing Aldrete-Davila with all fourteen shots.

It was only after the surrender attempt that Ramos opened fire as the unarmed smuggler neared the border. Defending his decision to bring the case, U.S. attorney Sutton later explained: “Border Patrol training allows for the use of deadly force when an agent reasonably fears imminent bodily injury or death. An agent is not permitted to shoot an unarmed suspect who is running away.” The fact that Aldrete-Davila was a drug-dealer — something the agents may have suspected but had not yet confirmed at the time they were shooting at him — did not justify the responsive use of potentially deadly force under standard law-enforcement rules of engagement.

Even Ramos and Compean’s supporters acknowledge that the agents shot at a fleeing suspect rather than a suspect trying to cause injury or death. Do they really want to make every law enforcement officer in the country judge, jury, and executioner and grant the right to use lethal force against a fleeing supect*? After all, forcing law enforcement to obey the law makes their jobs “more difficult”!

McCarthy continues to perhaps the most damning part of Ramos and Compean’s actions – the cover-up:

Once Aldrete-Davila was down from Ramos’s shot to the backside, they decided, for a second time, not to grab him so he could face justice for his crimes. As they well knew, an arrest at that point — after 15 shots at a fleeing, unarmed man who had tried to surrender — would have shone a spotlight on their performance. So instead, they exacerbated the already shameful display.

Instead of arresting the wounded smuggler, they put their guns away and left him behind. But not before trying to conceal the improper discharge of their firearms. Compean picked up and hid his shell-casings rather than leaving the scene intact for investigators. Both agents filed false reports, failing to record the firing of their weapons though they were well aware of regulations requiring that they do so. Because the “heroes” put covering their tracks ahead of doing their duty, Aldrete-Davila was eventually able to limp off to a waiting car and escape into Mexico.

Whaaaat? But I thought this “drug smuggling illegal immigrant” was a threat to national security? If the agents’ actions were justified, why would they not arrest the suspect and why would they feel the need to cover-up their actions? Were they afraid that the “overzealous” Sutton had an axe to grind against the Border Patrol?

Toward the beginning of his article, McCarthy points out that Sutton had an impressive record of prosecuting coyotes and drug smugglers and supporting the efforts of the Border Patrol. There have even been other cases on Sutton’s watch where agents used lethal force which resulted in fatalities. Because these agents responded appropriately in these cases – using deadly force when there were legitimate threats to the lives of others on the part of the suspects, Sutton’s office did not pursue charges.

On January 17, 2007, Sutton published a press release on official U.S. Department of Justice Letterhead in an attempt to separate “Myth vs. Reality” regarding this case. Within this document contains perhaps the best argument for why the president should not pardon these men:

These agents were found guilty by a unanimous jury in a United States District Court after a trial that lasted more than two and a half weeks.

The two agents were represented by experienced and aggressive trial attorneys, both of whom vigorously challenged the Government’s evidence through cross examination.

Both agents told their stories from the witness stand and had full opportunities to explain their version of events and to offer their own evidence. The jury heard everything including the defendants’ claims of self defense. The problem for Agents Compean and Ramos is that the jury did not believe their stories because they were not true.

Being government agents, Ramos and Compean probably received a better legal defense than the average criminal defendant. They had their day in court and they lost. Their legal team appealed the convictions and they lost again. This is hardly the miscarriage of justice that the pro pardon people would have us believe; this is an example of the system actually working the way it’s supposed to!

Ramos and Compean’s supporters do have at least a couple of somewhat legitimate gripes though. One being the length of the sentences (11 and 12 years) and the other being use of testimony on the part of a criminal who has something to gain (in this case, Aldrete-Davila himself). But these complaints should not be directed at Sutton or the trial judge.

The blame for the length of the sentence belongs properly to the mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by congress which requires a ten year sentence for unlawful discharge of a firearm while committing a crime (this ten year sentence is in addition to whatever other crimes the defendant is convicted of). While I believe that the sentences are appropriate in this case, I am opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing laws on principle. Judges should have the discretion to decide the appropriate punishment not a one-size-fits-all penalty regardless of any unique circumstances in a unique event.

And allowing Aldrete-Dalvia to testify against Ramos and Compean with full immunity? This is standard operating procedure. Prosecutors use informants who have a motive to testify against defendants every day in this country. Why should we be surprised that Sutton would use Aldrete-Dalvia as his star witness? If this approach is appropriate for the average defendant then it is certainly appropriate when those sworn to serve and protect abuse the public’s trust.

But don’t expect Conservatives to start demanding a repeal of mandatory minimum sentencing laws nor expect them to consider criminal justice reform. To them this case is not about two rogue law enforcement agents but about immigration and drug policy. The facts do not matter because the guys with the badges are always the good guys and their judgment is better than due process of law.

Certainly there are many miscarriages of justice which could be rectified with a presidential pardon but the case of Ramos and Compean is not such a case…no matter where one stands on immigration and drug policy. Hopefully neither President Bush nor President-Elect Barack Obama will give in to the mindless demands of this misguided and vocal mob.

* Think about it: if you surrendered to law enforcement and one of the officers try to hit you with the butt of a shotgun, do you think you might try to run away?
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and "gays" have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

*The Mormon Church among the strongest supporters; it seems ironic that a group which once promoted plural marriage is now advocating for marriage consisting of “one man and one woman.”

**Don’t even try to give me that tired slippery slope argument that “If we allow the gays to marry, what’s next? Will we then allow a man to marry his dog/cat/goat or an inanimate object?” Only an adult of sound mind can enter a contract; an animal or an inanimate object cannot.

***I’m not quite clear on what they mean on this point. Are they saying that people who disagree with them should not be allowed to criticize them or call them names? Does this mean that since Prop 8 passed they won’t have to deal with being called intolerant or subject to social ridicule? It seems the anti-gay marriage folks are trying to have it both ways on free speech.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Technical Problems @ The Liberty Papers

If you have tried to visit The Liberty Papers today, you undoubtedly saw the error which reads: “This Domain ( Has Been Disabled.” The blog’s administrator, Brad Warbiany, informed me and the other contributors that the blog’s host (Bluehost) has been hacked; most if not all other sites which are hosted by Bluehost are having the same technical problems.

Those of you who enjoy The Liberty Papers will be happy to know that this is only a temporary setback. We are in the process of finding another host which will hopefully have better customer and technical service.

We don’t know how long the site will be down but in the meantime, I will be posting more posts here @ Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds and you can be sure the other contributors will also be busy posting on their blogs as well. If you are not as familiar with their blogs and their writing, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to them and their blogs.

Brad Warbiany @ The Unrepentant Individual : All things’ regarding individual liberty, home brewing, college football, fatherhood, and now Krispy Dips! If you enjoy snark and humor even regarding serious (and not so serious) issues, you’ll love this blog.

Doug Mataconis @ Below the Beltway : A lawyer by trade (but we don’t hold that against him J ) just outside the beltway provides special insight in the current state of liberty in America. If you haven’t read his work, you are truly missing out.

Jason Pye @ : Libertarian activist in Georgia, Jason volunteered for the Bob Barr campaign was a delegate to the 2008 Libertarian Convention in Denver, involved with Pork Busters and numerous other pro-liberty causes. Jason has been featured on his local TV news for Georgia Pork Busters and has been a guest on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “The Blog Bunker.”

Chris Byrne The Anarchangel : Not to be confused with the street magician, this gun toting Miniarchist from Phoenix, AZ doesn’t mince words and doesn’t back down from a fight. With the Anarchangel, be sure to check your political correctness at the door.

Quincy @ Pith ‘n Vinegar : Quincy posts very infrequently @ The Liberty Papers but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to say! You’ll find most of his writing in the comments sections of other contributors and his blog. Intelligent, witty, and always plenty of pith ‘n vinegar.

UPDATE: The Liberty Papers is up and running again.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Libertarian’s Advice for Republicans and Republican Leaders

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism [...] The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
-Ronald Reagan (1975)

For the second election in a row, you find yourselves on the losing end. A significant majority of Americans have lost confidence in you and your lack of vision.

As you debate amongst yourselves the reasons why you lost the White House as well as numerous seats in both houses of Congress, perhaps this former Republican who has flirted with the Libertarian Party* over the last decade can offer you some helpful advice and constructive criticism. While I do not presume to speak on behalf of the many thousands of disillusioned former libertarian- leaning small government Republicans who were once a valued voting bloc in Ronald Reagan's "conservative coalition," I am quite certain that there are many others who would agree with my appraisal of why you find yourselves in the position you are in.

President-Elect Barack Obama is wrong about a great many things but one thing he (and his party) has which you do not is clearly defined principles and the ability to communicate these principles effectively. I know what the Democratic Party stands for, what does the Republican Party stand for?

I know what the modern meanings of the terms "liberal" and "progressive" mean, but I have no idea what the modern meaning of the term "conservative" means. I have recently seen polls which ask the following question:

The Republicans lost the election because
a. The Republican Party is too conservative
b. The Republican Party is not conservative enough

I find this question to be impossible to answer!

If by "conservative" one means a party which appeals almost exclusively to white Christian male culture warriors whose primary agenda is using the police power of government to accomplish desired political goals, then my answer would be "a."

If by "conservative" one means promoting the rights of life, liberty, and property then clearly, my answer would be "b."

I do not believe the ambiguity of the term "conservative" is by accident. "Conservative" is every bit the nebulous term as we have heard ad nauseam from the Obama campaign (i.e. "hope" and "change"). Because these terms are so under defined, each person who hears these buzzwords assigns his or her own meaning to them. I seem to recall every candidate in the Republican primary refer to himself as a "conservative" or even a "Reagan conservative" at one time or another. How is it possible that candidates with philosophical differences as stark as that of Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani both claim to be conservative?

Now that I have pointed out your apparent error of asking the wrong question (garbage in, garbage out right?) to try to regain the trust of a majority of voters, I believe it is time for you to explain what exactly a conservative is. My understanding of the term is more in line with what Barry Goldwater described in Conscience of a Conservative** as opposed to what the Republican Party has offered in the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 campaigns.

I realize that a political party cannot be all things to all people but all of your constituents deserve to have a clear understanding of where your party is going. Does this mean that moving forward that you will have to choose between two very large voting blocs - small government conservatives and social conservatives?

This depends completely on how you choose to frame the issues. Where the Republican Party seems to stand now is that government can and should be used to force individuals to behave a certain way***. This approach is completely at odds with the small government conservative approach that undesirable behavior can be changed with the power of persuasion**** rather than force. Is it possible that the Libertarian Party has an approach that a majority of social conservatives could live with? Perhaps you could learn something from The 2008 Libertarian Party Platform:

(From the Preamble)

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

This approach to governance that the Libertarian Party offers is why I have left the Republican Party and voted accordingly. Thus far, I have not seen any evidence that your party will become the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and more freedom. Some of the names I have heard bandied about as the "new face" of the Republican Party such as Mitt "Romney Care" Romney, Sarah "I can see Russia from my house" Palin, and "Tax Hike Mike" Huckabee suggests that you are yet to learn why small government conservatives are leaving in droves.

This is not to say that you will continue to lose every election until you return Goldwater/Reagan conservatism. There is a good chance that you will regain one or both houses of Congress in 2010 and perhaps the presidency in 2012*****. But if you wish to win elections and stay elected, you will need to return to these philosophical roots.

Until that day comes, I will continue to support the Libertarian Party and only support Republicans who demonstrate in word and deed their wishes to shrink the size, scope, and power of government. *And has recently joined the Libertarian Party and voted for another Republican turned Libertarian (Bob Barr) for president in this election.

**I would recommend everyone in a leadership capacity of the G.O.P. to read this book. I am certain that all of you have it on a shelf collecting dust and cobwebs. I would also recommend Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (read John Galt's speech if nothing else) to learn why lovers of liberty such as myself were very turned off by the McCain campaign's collectivist references to "a cause greater than self," "sacrifice," and "the common good."

***Abortion, end of life issues (right to die with dignity), gay marriage, gambling, drug use, prostitution, blue laws, etc. are all examples of personal choices that social conservatives believe should be regulated or abolished.

****Persuasion as in convincing individuals to make a different choice with a compelling argument. No matter how much one tries whether using persuasion or force, not everyone will make the "right" decision. This is a fact of life we need to learn to deal with.

***** Due to the unrealistically high expectations Obama set for himself, many of his supporters will be sorely disappointed when they learn he is a mere mortal. I also believe the Democrats will overreach and try to take the country further to the Left than a majority of Americans are prepared for.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Imagine a World Free From Religion

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Inconvenient Convention Facts and Fictions Exposed

Now that the conventions are over, it’s time to separate the facts from the fiction. With so much misinformation being peddled by the political campaigns (not to mention rumors spread through e-mail, the internet and the MSM), this is very often a difficult task. My approach is to be skeptical until I am satisfied that I have looked at a variety of sources which I believe to be objective. Snopes and are among the sources I use as a starting point.

The video below comes from I generally trust this site because, in my judgment at least, they seem to be very even handed in their analysis,* they cite their sources, and go into detail as to how they arrive at their conclusions. This video provides an overview of the misleading statements made in Denver and in St. Paul; the website goes into more detail about these statements complete with sources.

(If the video fails to play, click here to watch)

A few observations:

This b.s. about “giving tax breaks to Big Oil companies” is maddening. Businesses, whether large or small, should neither pay taxes nor be subsidized. Businesses only pay taxes on paper; taxes are passed down to employees in the form of lower wages and higher prices for consumers. Why do we assume that the money that companies or individuals make belong to the government in the first place? If McBama was truly interested in creating jobs, reducing the price of groceries and gas, and improving the overall economy,** he would eliminate taxes and subsidies for all businesses. This would encourage businesses to bring jobs back to America rather than leaving America to escape the tax code. If the practice of subsidizing failing businesses ended, companies would have to survive by producing goods and services people actually want. Now that’s the “change” that I believe in!

Mike Huckabee. What can I say? As bad of a choice as John McCain is for the Republican ticket, the Republicans would have done much worse with Huckabee. Either Gov. Huckabee is insanely bad at math or he deliberately lied to the G.O.P. delegates and the country about Sarah Palin receiving more votes as Mayor than Joe Biden did in the Democrat primaries. Did he really think that no one would check? Did he really think that he was helping the McCain campaign?

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Want to Serve Your Country? Well, What’s Stopping You!

Time has an ongoing series which advocates the need for “voluntary” national service. In the magazine’s latest article by Managing Editor Richard Stengel, the author praises both John McCain and Barack Obama for their urging of Americans to “serve interests greater than self.”

It is a unique moment for the idea of national service. You have two presidential candidates who believe deeply in service and who have made it part of their core message to voters. You have millions of Americans who are yearning to be more involved in the world and in their communities. You have corporations and businesses that are making civic engagement a key part of their mission.

If “millions of Americans” wish to be “more involved” in service to others and “their communities” what’s stopping them? Do we really need a President McCain or President Obama to force “inspire” these Americans to serve their fellow Americans? Is their really a “volunteer” deficit?

In Stengel’s original article on this subject A Time to Serve he seems to suggest the opposite:

Polls show that while confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low, volunteerism and civic participation since the '70s are near all-time highs. Political scientists are perplexed about this. If confidence is so low, why would people bother volunteering? The explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young people, think the government and the public sphere are broken, but they feel they can personally make a difference through community service.

I fail to see the problem here. If people do not have confidence in the government, this is a very good thing*! Ordinary Americans are helping others on their own volition, not because some politician told them to do so.

Despite this seemingly positive news, this isn’t enough for Stengel:

[T]he way to keep the Republic — is universal national service. No, not mandatory or compulsory service but service that is in our enlightened self-interest as a nation. We are at a historic junction; with the first open presidential election in more than a half-century, it is time for the next President to mine the desire that is out there for serving and create a program for universal national service that will be his — or her — legacy for decades to come. It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.

Am I missing something here? How does a president “persuade” people who otherwise would not be inclined to national service without using some form of coercion? Toward the end of the article, Stengel offers a 10-point plan on how the next president should implement a national service agenda:

1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution)

2. Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department (a.k.a. taking money from citizens to pay for another Bureaucracy)

3. Expand Existing National-Service Programs Like AmeriCorps and the National Senior Volunteer Corps

4. Create an Education Corps

5. Institute a Summer of Service (a.k.a. teenagers serving the government to learn that all great things come from government)

6. Build a Health Corps (a.k.a. “volunteers” helping low income people access government healthcare programs which they are not already taking advantage of such as SCHIP)

7. Launch a Green Corps (similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps but would improve infrastructure and combat climate change).

8. Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps (a.k.a. volunteers doing the job the National Guard traditionally does in the wake of natural disasters).

9. Start a National-Service Academy (a.k.a. a school to train government workers)

10. Create a Baby-Boomer Education Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution).

In one way or another, every one of these proposals requires government to use force**. While this form of coercion is not as visible as directly “drafting” people into government service, make no mistake, coercion is still very much part of the equation.

To Time’s credit, the magazine did offer a counterpoint to Stengel’s article. Michael Kinsley calls B.S. on this whole notion of national service (particularly on the part of young people):

One of the comforts of middle age — a stage that the editor of TIME and I have both reached — is that you can start making demands on young people, safe in the knowledge that they won't apply to you. Having safely escaped the Vietnam era draft ourselves, we are overcome by the feeling that the next generation should not be so lucky. Many of these young folks are volunteering for socially beneficial work, and that's good. But it's not good enough. "Volunteerism" is so wonderful that every young person should have to do it.


I'm perfectly prepared to believe that today's young people are deplorable specimens, ignorant and ungrateful and in desperate need of discipline. Or I am also prepared to believe that they are about to burst with idealism like a piñata and only await somebody with a giant pin. But they aren't the only ones who could use a lesson about social obligation. What about grownups? Grownups, who still have some hope of collecting Social Security and Medicare before they go broke, who have enjoyed the explosion in house prices that make the prospect of home ownership so dim for the next generation; who allowed the government to run up a gargantuan national debt, were miraculously bailed out of that, and immediately allowed it to be run up a second time; who may well have gone to college when tuition was cheap and you didn't automatically graduate burdened by student loans. We are not in much of a position to start dreaming up lessons in social obligation for the kids.

As I pointed out in my last post, many people are in favor of “service” and “sacrifice” if it is being done by someone else. Kinsley also points out that the answer to serving the needs of others is good old fashioned Capitalism!***

Let’s be honest. If you really want to “serve your country/community/world,” again I ask you: What’s stopping you? Your level of service has not one thing to do with who occupies the White House at any given time.

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