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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: January 2006

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How Far is Too Far?

Matt Welch over at ReasonOnline has a rather thought-provoking quiz asking pro-war Libertarians the question: “How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror?” Being a pro-war Libertarian, I thought these questions deserved some thoughtful answers. Although I whole heartily support the war on terrorism (which includes the war in Iraq), I do have my own concerns about the future of our civil liberties. I do not believe that every action the government takes in the name of ‘the war on terror’ is automatically legitimate. The Anti-war folks actually have legitimate arguments against some of the Bush Administration’s policies on occasion. The problem is the Left cries wolf about the Bush Administration so often it is difficult to determine when they are actually telling the truth about civil liberties violations; my first instinct is to simply not believe them.

By contrast, many pro-war and those on the political Right seem all too eager to give the Bush Administration a pass when many of these same people would otherwise be outraged at the expansion of government and erosion of liberties in other circumstances. If Bill or Hillary Clinton were president, how many of us would shrug our shoulders at the same policies and merely write them off as ‘part of the war on terror’? If we are intellectually honest, many of us would have problems. The question should not be ‘is my team in charge?’ but rather ‘is it the right thing to do’?

Many of Welch’s questions are very difficult; there are many grey areas. Some of my answers I am not 100% committed to; some of my intelligent readers could persuade me to reconsider some of my answers with a strong enough argument. I hope some of you will think about your own answers, respond to this post, and further this discussion.

(1) Should the National Security Agency or CIA have the ability to monitor domestic phone calls or e-mails without obtaining judicial approval?
My answer to this question is an unequivocal ‘no’. The key word in this question in my mind is ‘domestic.’ I have no problem with the NSA or the CIA collecting intelligence from foreigners. The government’s primary function is to protect us from foreign threats. Non-citizens do not enjoy the same rights as American citizens. Foreigners do not have the same interest in keeping America safe; in fact many would like to see the terrorists succeed. Obviously, I hope the CIA and NSA targets only individuals who seem to be a legitimate threat (like those on the terrorist watch list and those who have contact with those on said list). If one of the parties being monitored is of a foreign origin and another happens to be an American, I would still consider this to be a proper use of government power even if the American is implicated.

(2) Should the government have the ability to hold an American citizen without charge, indefinitely, without access to a lawyer, if he is believed to be part of a terrorist cell?
Absolutely not! We cannot throw away due process, one of the foundations of the U.S. Constitution, when it is convenient.

(3) Can you imagine a situation in which the government would be justified in waterboarding an American citizen?

I must confess that I did not know what the term ‘waterboarding’ meant when I first read the question (it has nothing to do with surfing). According to it means “dripping water into a wet cloth over a suspect's face, which can feel like drowning; and threatening to bring in more-brutal interrogators from other nations.”

I don’t think this tactic should be one frequently used but I could think of at least a situation where expediency might require such tactics. If a suspected American terrorist was believed to have information that could prevent another 9/11 or was believed to know the location of a dirty or nuclear bomb in an American city or against coalition troops, such tactics should be used (provided these tactics are even effective to begin with). The threat would have to be eminent and all other options would have to be exhausted.

(4) Are there American journalists who should be investigated for possible treason? Should Sedition laws be re-introduced?

I cannot think of any journalist in-particular that should be investigated. If a journalist knowingly reported something classified that would threaten national security, that journalist should be investigated and subject to any criminal laws that apply. Treason is a very difficult standard to prove. Article III Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution has a very specific definition for treason:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Sedition laws should not be re-introduced. has the following definitions for ‘sedition’.

1. Conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state.
2. Insurrection; rebellion.

Could some of my ‘language’ on this blog be considered seditious by the first definition? Quite possibly. I write about fighting against tyranny; sometimes our own government acts as a tyrant. The Declaration of Independence could also be considered seditious! Take this passage for example:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...

As to the second definition, I do not think there is a need to enact an anti-sedition laws to protect against ‘insurrection’ or ‘rebellion.’

To summarize: the first part of the question as a hypothetical yes, to the second part of the question not just 'no' but 'hell no'.

(5) Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?
If Bin Laden were to be found hiding in France should our guys be able to take him out? Are you kidding me? Absolutely! If Welch’s problem is with littering in a foreign country then our guys can pick up the trash after the job is done.

(6) Should anti-terrorism cops be given every single law-enforcement tool available in non-terrorist cases?
No. If any new tools are needed to fight the war on terror, the tools used should be only used for that purpose. Those who would like to use these tools in other areas can go through the normal legislative process.

(7) Should law enforcement be able to seize the property of a suspected (though not charged) American terrorist, and then sell it?
No. Even suspected terrorists should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I could understand law enforcement having the ability to confiscate property until an individual has had his or her day in court but I know of no reason that government would be justified in selling the property until the suspect is found guilty. I’m not certain that government should sell the property even if the suspect is proven guilty. Why not allow the property to be given to the suspect’s next of kin or divided among family members?

(8) Should the U.S. military be tasked with enforcing domestic crime?
No. An argument could be made that the military could serve a law enforcement role in the event that martial law is declared but not in normal circumstances. The idea of martial law is something that also concerns me.

(9) Should there be a national I.D. card, and should it be made available to law enforcement on demand?
No, but I’m afraid that we already have such a card: the Social Security Card.

(10) Should a higher percentage of national security-related activities and documents be made classified, and kept from the eyes of the Congress, the courts, and the public?”
Certain activities should not be known to the public but I think that Congress and the courts should have oversight. I would also say that anyone who holds national security clearances should be prosecuted if he or she leaks the information. I agree that the government should be as transparent as possible, but in matters of national security, the people’s right to know does not mean that the people have to know ‘right now.’ Once the threat no longer exists then I would say that the activities should be declassified. I don’t want to know every strategy my government is using to protect me. If I know, then the enemy probably knows too.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fisking Fitch’s “Just Say No” Post

Scanning over a variety of posts in the latest Carnival of Vanities (where I submitted my previous post supporting John Shadegg for Majority Leader), I ran across a variety of posts of a variety of interests and political/philosophical viewpoints. One post in-particular titled Just Say No from a blog called Fitch is Always Right caught my attention. The author who identifies himself as FIAR attempts to argue that if drugs were legalized, all hell would break loose. Toward the end of the post, the FIAR gives his readers this challenge: “You may now attempt to persuade me that I'm not always right.” Well FIAR, I’ll give it my best shot. May the fisking begin!

I first should deal with the Libertarian perspective on [drug] legalization. They say that it is not the role of the government to intrude on our lives in that way. We have the freedom to be stupid and harm ourselves, and that is our own responsibility for being stupid, to deal with the consequences.
As someone who believes much of the Libertarian philosophy, I’ll do my best to illuminate my views on the war on drugs. FIAR, I agree with your portrayal of the ‘Libertarian’ view for the most part. The government should only ‘intrude’ when an individual or group threatens the life, liberty, or property of another individual or group. Outside of that, the government has no authority.

I disagree. We don't have the freedom to be as stupid as we want to be, under the guise that we are only harming ourselves, or that the consequences are our own. If that were the case, the Constitution would say, "just do whatever you want, so long as it doesn't harm others. The consequences of your actions are your own responsibility."
FIAR, this is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the U.S. Constitution that you as well as many others have. The Constitution does not give anyone rights, it recognizes them. If the Constitution spelled out every right the individual should have, it would be thousands of pages long. The Constitution puts its limits on the government. Whatever powers are not spelled out in Article II Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution or its amendments are reserved for the states and the people. Without explicitly saying "just do whatever you want, so long as it doesn't harm others. The consequences of your actions are your own responsibility" the Constitution, in my view, implicitly says just that.

I know that some Libertarians THINK that's what the Constitution does say, but it doesn't provide for a fend for yourself anarchy. It sets up a system of government, under the realization that there need to be some rules sometimes.
Libertarianism and anarchism are not the same thing. Libertarians recognize that government does have a role- a limited role. Of course a minimum set of rules are required for a society to prosper. I think the Constitution has done an adequate job of setting the rules. I’m glad that you have noticed the ‘personal responsibility’ part of the Libertarian philosophy. That is a part of the message that many critics do not get. If government left the citizen to ‘fend for yourself’ as you put it, perhaps more citizens would make more responsible choices. If and when an individual does happen to make a poor choice (such as abusing drugs), rather than asking the taxpayers to bail him or her out, he or she would have to seek help from elsewhere. How is this a bad thing?

There is the argument that marijuana is not a dangerous drug. I personally beg to differ, but if we accept that premise, then it would certainly rule out other drugs, which are decidedly more harmful…

… legalizing heroin and cocaine is on the agenda. It just needs to wait until people are desensitized to the idea.

For my part, I have expressed nothing less than an end to the war on all illegal drugs. The reasons I am opposed to the war on drugs is because prohibition is ineffective, puts an unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system, is dangerous, and breeds crime. I wrote an essay awhile back which explains these points in greater detail. Maybe an incremental approach is the best way to reach that goal and perhaps your assessment of the strategy is a correct one.

Hey, let's just legalize everything. Marx called religion "the opiate of the masses." Who needs religion as an opiate, when you can have actual opiates. Nothing like a mindless, strung out, drugged up electorate to follow orders from the government. It's called dope for a reason, stupid.
I say let’s legalize all activities which do not threaten the life, liberty, and property of non-consenting others (i.e. drugs, prostitution, gambling etc.). Marx replaced the opiate of religion with the opiate of communism. These religions of mysticism and religions of statism are institutionalized into the culture; people are compelled to take these opiates through force or fraud. Actual opiates, if legalized, would be taken by choice (unless the government forced citizens to take the drugs of course). I wouldn’t take opiates or any other illicit drugs if they were legalized tomorrow. I’m certain that you and most other Americans would choose not to take the drugs either. Like you said “It’s called dope for a reason.” I can’t argue with that.

Some would argue that by legalizing drugs, it takes the black market, and crime elements out of the drug trade. Then why don't we legalize child pornography? It will take the criminal element out it, and government regulations could ensure that the exploited children are exploited and abused in a safe manner and in full compliance with government regulations.

How can one compare the drug trade and the child pornography trade? With the drug trade we are talking about a market of people who harm others mostly because of its illegal status. If child pornography became legal, an innocent third party (the children) would still be harmed. An adult does not have the right to harm a child no matter what the laws happen to be. How can a child be “exploited and abused in a safe manner,” that’s a contradiction of terms. Child pornography certainly violates the liberty (what if the child says no?), the property (the child’s body) and potentially endangers the life of a child (STDs); a perfect trifecta of an individual’s rights being violated. It is very interesting that you chose child pornography as a comparison. Ironically, thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, non-violent drug offenders often do more time in prison than child molesters! Where are our priorities?

How long, if legalized, will it be before the same anti-capitalist losers are suing "Big Marijuana" for it's adverse effects on people? You just know these litigious cretins will be out there, "Scooby Doobie Doggy" is targeting young children. "Heroin Horse" is designed to market heroin to underprivileged minorities. Those eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevillll Marijuana corporations, how dare they. That's tantamount to genocide, or at least slave ownership.

I agree with your point on how litigious our society is and its ill effects. People who choose to use drugs (legal or otherwise) should do so at their own risk. As long as “Scooby Doobie Doggy” and “Heroin Horse” are not lying about the harmful effects of their products, those who use these products should have no legal standing to bring a suit. It is true that the tobacco companies once lied to the public that tobacco was a perfectly safe product but no body under 40 years old can say that they ‘didn’t know’ that tobacco is harmful. In fact smoking tobacco kills more people every year than all illicit drugs combined! Having said that, you are probably right that there would be such people trying to make those claims. There will always be people who want to put the blame on anyone but themselves.

Legalize it. Go ahead. But all this WILL happen. Every penny raised from taxing it will be eaten up by the next generation of slobbering, brain damaged, illiterate, unskilled drug addicts. It won't pay for social programs. It will be the reason they are needed. And that is the reason behind the agenda. To create a dependency class, and further entrench the victimization of the nation.
You have a valid point here. If personal responsibility is not stressed should drugs be legalized, all these problems will still be present. I say these problems will still be present because we already have a dependency class that is rewarded by the government despite the illegality of drugs. Also, consider that the taxpayer is already paying to house and feed drug offenders who fill our prisons. Once a person is released from a 15 year prison term, what kind of marketable skills does he or she have when trying to re-enter the workforce? Turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals contributes to this very dependency class you speak of.

As to the ‘agenda’ you are referring to: my agenda is to restore the character of this country to one self responsibility and individual liberty. Maybe there are others who have an agenda as you describe it; I am not one of them and it certainly is not the agenda of the Libertarian Party or those who truly believe the Libertarian/Classical Liberal philosophy.

On balance, you make some great points. Your challenge was to prove that you are not ‘always right’ but I’ll be charitable and say your post wasn’t entirely wrong.

Related Posts:
Anyone Who Believes America is Winning the Drug War Must Be High
Personal Responsibility
More Mandatory Minimums Madness

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Shadegg to Run for House Majority Leader

Whether or not the charges against Tom DeLay are valid or not, with DeLay stepping down the Republican majority in the House have an opportunity to select a new leader to hopefully move the country back in the right direction. According to The Washington Post Arizona Congressman John Shadegg has decided to make a run for House Majority Leader. I don’t know how good his chances are but if Shadegg should ascend to this post, this would be very good news for those of us who want a limited, and more accountable government.

For reasons of full disclosure, Shadegg was my Congressman in the last election who I enthusiastically supported (I think he was redistricted out of my district but I am not sure). Why am I so enthusiastic about this particular congressman? It isn’t because he happened to be ‘my congressman,’ if I didn’t think he was the best person for the job, I would not endorse him. My support for John Shadegg is based mostly on four issues: he is a co-sponsor of The Fair Tax, is one of the most fiscally responsible lawmakers in Washington (Citizens Against Government Waste gives Shadegg a 97% score (Taxpayer Hero) for the 108th Congress with lifetime score of 95%.), introduced a bill which would deny pensions to politicians convicted of bribery (H.R. 4546) and perhaps his best proposal, The Enumerated Powers Act, H.R. 2458, would require all new bills before congress to “include a statement setting forth the specific constitutional authority under which the law is being enacted.” Perhaps the Enumerated Powers Act would be a pipe dream even if Shadegg won the post of House Majority Leader but imagine how much better the federal government would operate if an attempt was made to keep the government within its constitutional limits?

John Shadegg is a man of ideas. Surely with him at the helm, some of these ideas would have a chance of making real, positive, reforms. While most of the House Republicans favored greater spending and greater growth of government John Shadegg voted his principles. Isn’t that what we want in a leader? Are these not the ideals the Republican Party is supposed to stand for? On February 2, 2006 we will find out for sure what the G.O.P. really stands for.

Related FPFM posts:
We Can Make April 15th Just Another Day
Letter to Congressman Shadegg
End Success-Based Taxation

Related posts by others:
John Shadegg For Majority Leader ? by Doug Mataconis
An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers by N.Z. Bear (Sign his petition today!)
Time for a Fresh Face at the GOP by Brad Warbiany
Blunt claims he has the votes to win, Shadegg responds by Save the G.O.P.
Shadegg for Leader by The National Review Editorial Page
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Culture of Corruption

I find it very amusing all this talk from the American Left about this so-called “culture of corruption” in the current Republican-led government. I agree that there is a culture of corruption in all levels of government but these people would have us believe that this corruption started when the Republicans took control of congress and climaxed when George W. Bush became president. When the Democrats held power, there was no corruption in government. Are we really as stupid as they think we are? I know that the attention span for the average American citizen when it comes to politics is slightly below that of a common housefly but I cannot believe the average American believes that the U.S. government was scandal-free prior to the Republican Revolution of the 1990’s. How many jokes does the Average American know about crooked politicians? Here’s one:

Father: “Now son, you know where all liars go?”

Son: “Hell?”

Father: “No, Washington D.C.”

I heard that joke when I was a child—back when the Democrats controlled both houses of congress. There were many more jokes just like it. Politicians generally are not spoken of in a positive manner. Politicians are held with about the same regard as used car salesmen, lawyers, and television evangelists (though politicians seem to possess the traits of all three). This is nothing new. Corruption in government is as old (if not older) as government and civilization itself. This is why we Libertarians and Classical Liberals want a smaller and more accountable government; neither party can be trusted with the type of power we, the American people have allowed the government to take over the last century.

Democrats seem to be counting on the Jack Abramoff scandal to swing public opinion back in their favor. The mantra at this point is that this is a “Republican scandal.” Is it? Does anyone honestly believe that Democrat politicians are not corrupted by many of the same corrupting influences; that Democrat politicians are above corruption? Recent history suggests otherwise. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane shall we?

Where to begin? There was Al Gore’s fundraising scandal involving a Buddhist temple, Bill Clinton used the Lincoln Bedroom as a way to reward campaign contributors, Clinton received illegal campaign support from foreign governments (including Red China), the Clinton pardon scandal and very many other well documented Clinton administration scandals which involved convictions, resignations, or removal. Not recent enough? Ohio Representative James Traficant (D) was convicted of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. The House unanimously voted to remove him in July of 2002. A mere three months later New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli (D) was forced to drop out of his Senate race because of poor polling numbers stemming from his own campaign ethics problems.

Returning to the current corruption scandal, according to NewsMax (for what it is worth, it is an admittedly conservative source) nearly 90% of Senate Democrats took money from Abramoff. It will be extremely interesting when Abramoff starts naming names. I will not be at all surprised if a number of Democrats are implicated along with their Republican counterparts. Let the chips fall where they may. Whoever is being bought off should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Maybe by then we will all have some idea of the true scope of this culture of corruption in Washington and be reminded why we should watch our government officials (Left, Right, or Center) even more closely.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month (December 2005)

Now that the holidays are over and a new year has begun, I am glad to say that I am refreshed and ready to take on some additional issues which interest me (and hopefully you, the reader as well). Before I do that, however, I need to recognize the three stand-out posts of December 2005.

Third Place goes to Kay Harrison (A.K.A Left Brain Female) writing for The Liberty Papers in a post titled: Is Tolerance the same as Acceptance? Kay insists that there is a difference; properly understood, most of us are tolerant of those things we do not agree with. I wrote a post on this topic awhile back and reached many of the same conclusions as Kay. I think that Kay does a better job of explaining the distinction between the two unequal terms, however.

Kay writes:

I personally find in the day to day world many things about which I am not and would not be accepting of - however, realizing that not everyone has had the same experiences to shape them as have I, I am tolerant of things in others that I would not accept of myself. So from that standpoint, I absolutely do not believe that acceptance and tolerance are the same thing. I tend to go more along with the older word definitions, because, frankly, I think our language has been bastardized and weakened considerably by poor education, political correctness, and just general laziness.


Social liberalism would lead one to believe that tolerance and acceptance are the same, that I must accept the religions and beliefs of others. Once again, acceptance means to receive with satisfaction or give a favorable reception. Tolerance, however, means that while I must *endure* (put up with) the beliefs of others, I do not have to give them a favorable reception - I simply have to let them BE.
Second Place goes to a post I ran across in Carnival of Liberty XXVI from a blog called OK, so I’m really not a cowboy. The post titled On Freedom explains the concept of freedom in a way I have not really thought about before: posititve liberty vs. negative liberty. Have you ever thought of Locke’s, Paine’s, or Madison’s explaination of liberty as being constructed of negative philosophy while FDR and his intellectual heirs construct their views of liberty from a positive construct? I certainly haven’t! After you read and consider the way the author explains this concept, you might be persuaded to think of competing philosophies on liberty in these terms.

The faux cowboy explains:

Jefferson espoused a government that acted in the negative, preventing the removal/erosion of liberty. The left, on the other hand, pushes for a government that acts in the positive, actively conferring ‘liberty’ upon you.


Liberty, then, has enjoyed a long tradition of being thought of in a rigorously defined ‘negative’ sense. Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you. Government will make sure of that…


A much younger conception of ‘liberty’. One that seems to be pulled out of thin air and isn’t readily connected to the earlier conception. The important phrase here is ‘freedom from the ills of wants and fear.’ This changes liberty from a default state to one that must be actively maintained. On one hand, government just sits around in case liberty is impinged upon. On the other, government has to work its butt off to give you ‘positive liberty’…and in order to do so must restrict and manage the lives of all…kind of contradictory.

Contradictory? I’ll say! I think I’ll continue to promote the ‘negative liberty.’ The post also has some great illustrations to help the reader more easily visualize these ideas. A great touch!

And the winner is…

The Fearless Philosophy Blogpost of the Month for December 2005 goes to Dan Melson of Searchlight Crusade with his post: The Basis of War. Don’t be fooled by the title, the post is not so much about war as it is about valuing what mankind has achieved—particularly over the past 200 or so years in the areas of personal liberty, philosophy, science, technology, and health.

Melson explains:

It's only been a couple hundred years since the notion of democracy really took root… The idea that perhaps the sum of everybody's wisdom was greater than any one person's is a profound conceptual change. The idea of patent and copyright, that someone who invented something that potentially made everyone's life easier was entitled to some of the good of their invention…


It's been less than a century since people first really began to practice the idea that perhaps we ought to give everyone those same chances, not merely those who happened to be of the ruling sex, race, class, or ethnicity. It's only been a few decades even here in the United States where it has really been practiced. It's only been a few decades that sciences from medicine to physics to chemistry started advancing rapidly.

These triumphs of Western Civilization are worth fighting, and even dying for to keep. This must be what Melson meant when he chose to title his post The Basis of War.

Melson continues:

[T]he point I'm trying to make is that the ideals and elements of western civilization, and the United States in particular…are worth defending. Hell, they are worth circling the wagons and retreating into the mountains and fighting guerilla style [for]…


[T]he entire idea of America, and western civilization in general, is supremely dangerous to those who are powerful in many areas of the world…The idea that anyone can become wealthy, important, one of our leaders if they only have good ideas, work hard, and stick to it, mocks and undercuts those who are wealthy and powerful because their family has owned the port concession for the past seven generations…


These people we threaten by spreading our ideas are not blind or stupid. If they were, they would have lost their positions of power and wealth and privelege [sic] in favor of a new leader who really is as inspired as grandpa was…
Congratulations to the December 2005 winners; excellent posts all around.
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