Monday, November 19, 2007

Let the Constitution speak according to the promises of the Declaration

Charles Sumner

The modern founder of political science, Machiavelli, writer as well as statesman, in his most instructive work, the Discourses on Livy, has a chapter entitled, "For a Republic to have long life, it is necessary to bring it back often to its origin": where he shows how the native virtue in which a Republic was founded becomes so far corrupted that in process of time the body-politic is destroyed,—as in the case of the natural body, where, according to the doctors of medicine, something is daily added, from time to time requiring cure. The remarkable publicist teaches under this head that Republics are brought back to their origin, and to the principles in which they were founded, by pressure from without, where prudence fails within; and he affirms that the destruction of Rome by the Gauls was necessary, in order that the Republic might have a new birth, with new life and new virtue,—all of which ensued, when the barbarians were driven back. If the illustration is fanciful, there is wisdom in the counsel; and now the time has come for its application. The Gauls are upon us, not from a distance, but domestic Gauls, flinging their swords, like Brennus, into the scales; and we, too, may profit by the occasion to secure for the Republic a new birth, with new life and new virtue. Happily, the way is easy; for there is no doubt of its baptismal vows, or the declared sentiments of its origin. There is the Declaration of Independence: let its solemn promises be redeemed. There is the Constitution: let it speak according to the promises of the Declaration. Let it speak...
Charles Sumner (1811-1874)
Universal Emancipation, pp 213-214
His Complete Works, XI

Doesn't prudence sound easier?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Plain and few

William Ellery Channing

[T]he administration of our government should be marked by the greatest possible simplicity. We hold this to be no unimportant means of perpetuating our Union. Laws and measures should be intelligible, founded on plain principles, and such as common minds may comprehend.

This, indeed, is a maxim to be applied to republican governments universally. The essential idea of a republic is that the sovereignty is in the people. In choosing representatives they do not devolve the supreme power on others. By the frequency of elections, they are called to pass judgment on the representatives. It is essential to this mode of government that, through a free press, all public measures should be brought before the tribunal of the people. Of course, a refined and subtile policy, or a complicated legislation, which cannot be understood but by laborious research and reasoning, is hostile to the genius of republican institutions. Laws should be plain and few, intended to meet obvious wants, and such as are clearly required by the great interests of the community.

For ourselves, we are satisfied that all governments, without exception, can adopt no safer rule than the simplicity which we have now recommended. The crying sin of all governments is, that they intermeddle injuriously with human affairs, and obstruct the processes of nature by excessive regulation. To us, society is such a complicated concern, its interests are affected by so many and subtile causes, there are so many secret springs at work in its bosom, and such uncertainty hangs over the distant issues of human arrangements, that we are astonished and shocked at the temerity of legislators in interposing their contrivances and control, except where events and experience shed a clear light.

Above all, in a country like our own, where public measures are to be judged by millions of people scattered over a vast territory, and most of whom are engaged in laborious occupations, we know not a plainer principle that that the domestic and foreign policy of government should be perspicuous and founded on obvious reasons, so that plain cases may in the main, if not always, be offered to popular decision. Measures which demand profound thought for their justification, about which intelligent and honest men differ, and the usefulness of which cannot be made out to the common mind, are unfit for a republic.

If in this way important national advantages should be sometimes lost, we ought to submit to the evil as inseparable from our institutions, and should comfort ourselves with thinking that Providence never bestows an unmixed good, that the best form of government has its inconveniences, and that a people, possessing freedom, can afford to part with many means of immediate wealth.

We have no fear, however, that a people will ever suffer by a rigid application of our rule. Legislators cannot feel too deeply the delicacy of their work, and their great ignorance of the complicated structure and of the multiplied and secret relations of the social state; and they ought not to hasten, nay, more, they ought to distrust, a policy, to the justice and wisdom of which the suffrage of public opinion cannot be decidedly and intelligently secured. In our republic, the aim of Congress should be to stamp its legislation with all possible simplicity, and to abstain from measures which, by their complication, obscurity, and uncertainty, must distract the public mind, and throw it into agitation and angry controversy. Let it be their aim to cast among the people as few brands of discord as possible; and for this end let the spirit of adventurous theory be dismissed, and the spirit of modesty, caution, and prudent simplicity preside over legislation.
William Ellery Channing - The Union
In: The Works of William E. Channing with an Introduction. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1903, pp. 633-634

[originally in one paragraph]

Last week Michael Kinsley wrote for Time Magazine the essay Libertarians Rising, in which he states, "Libertarians are against government in all its manifestations." Surely there are sufficient anarchists to poison the name of libertarianism, even for me. Just as there are socialists, collectivists, dirigistes, communitarians, what have you, who drag the word liberalism through the mud, prettifying the trumping of human rights with a muddling of words. Yet, to return to the example of competing medical associations discussed earlier, light-yoke government can stick to the basics of contract and the prevention of fraud, leveraging its power where it counts and where it is legitimate, letting society itself take effect.

As is common, Kinsley confuses society and government. Moreover, he goes further, so much further, to paint a picture of liberty-minded types "convinced that they don't need society." Upon reading this, I immediately wrote a letter to the editor.
A polite, brash society

Michael Kinsley repeats the mantra that libertarians oppose society in his essay "Libertarians Rising". Libertarians and classical liberals believe in human rights first and foremost. If people don't respect one another's rights, then society itself breaks down. What we Americans have fought for since our revolution is society, not big government. Paine made this important difference clear in his pamphlet "Common Sense", which sparked the American revolution. What we want is society, a polite society where there is mutual respect between people in their mutual dealings, a brash society where people are not held back from their dreams, however unrealistic they may seem. We don't believe that a hit-them-over-the-head-with-arbitrary-rules-and-privileges society is society at all. Indeed we believe the future lies with competing associations trying out different approaches.

For example in health care
, we see the imposition of the rules of the AMA from the latter half of the 19th century on have limited competition in the coining of doctors. In effect, we suffer from a cartel that keeps prices artificially high. Our ideal is to return to the American revolution. After our revolution, "[b]etween 1830 and 1850, many of the medical licensing laws left over from the colonial period were repealed." [John Goodman and Gerald Musgrave, Patient Power Cato Institute, 1992]. Instead it was up to a variety of associations to set standards and determine which schools and tests would serve to guarantee the quality standards they set for their clients. Then in the mid-1800s the AMA came barreling in foisting its own rules on everyone through the imposition of laws that not only fixed which tests doctors had to pass, but also which schools they had to go to. You couldn't practice if you went to the wrong school even if you could pass the test everyone else took. Such barriers support a cartel, a cartel few see. Instead we need freedom. We need competition among medical associations that establish and experiment with standards and best practices under the watchful eyes of consumer groups and ethicists.

Freedom doesn't mean that you are free alone. You are free in society with others. Nobel laureate economist James M. Buchanan, in his recent book Why I, Too, am Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism, writes of "the ethics of liberalism", how we must preach the ethics of reciprocation. Without such ethics, law is futile.

What we want is to continue our American revolution.

See also the related article, For Law Plain and Simple.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Declaration

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. 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. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Thomas Jefferson (1776)
perhaps with some help from Thomas Paine

These words mean something right now. Brilliant video. Though the video's tone be partialist[1], the message is universalist. Liberty can bring us together.

Hat tip: Daily Paul

  1. Where, for example, were the remonstrances when President Clinton invaded and occupied Haiti in a kingly and neocon manner without a declaration of war? Where are they when a man's right to pursue health care is violated? Where are they when a woman's equal right to pursue health care as she wishes is disparaged? Where are they when the natural rights of the Declaration, enshrined in the Ninth Amendment, need defending? What wakes up a partisan, who doesn't see his own brand of faction?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

HillaryCare and an offense taken without being given

John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon

Idiots and lunatics indeed, who cannot take care of themselves, must be taken care of by others; but while men have their five senses, I cannot see what the Magistrate has to do with actions by which the society cannot be affected; and where he meddles with such, he meddles impertinently or tyranically. Must the magistrate tie up every man's legs, because some men fall into ditches? Or, must he put out their eyes, because with them they see lying vanities? Or, would it2 become the wisdom and care of Governors to establish a traveling society, to prevent people, by a proper confinement, from throwing themselves into wells, or over precipices; or to endow a fraternity of physicians and surgeons all over the nation, to take care of their subjects' health, without their being consulted; and to vomit, bleed, purge, and scarify them at pleasure, whether they would or no, just as these established judges of health should think fit? If this were the case, what a stir and hubbub should we soon see kept about the established potions and lancets? Every man, woman, or child, though ever so healthy, must be a patient, or woe be to them! The best diet and medicines would soon grow pernicious from any other hand; and their pills alone, however ridiculous, insufficient, or distasteful, would be attended with a blessing.

Let people alone, and they will take care of themselves, and do it best; and if they do not, a sufficient punishment will follow their neglect, without the Magistrate's interposition and penalties. It is plain, that such busy care and officious intrusion into the personal affairs, or private actions, thoughts, and imaginations of men, has in it more craft than kindness; and is only a device to mislead people, and pick their pockets, under the false pretense of the public and their private good. To quarrel with any man for his opinions, humors, or the fashion of his clothes, is an offense taken without being given. What is it to a Magistrate how I wash my hands, or cut my corns; what fashion or colors I wear, or what notions I entertain, or what gestures I use, or what words I pronounce, when they please me, and do him and my neighbor no hurt? As well may he determine the color of my hair, and control my shape and features.

     John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (1721)
     Cato Letter Number 62

In October 1993, I wrote,
Pacifists who strive to avoid the use of force in their day-to-day affairs ought not be coerced into coverage by force. Likewise constitutional libertarians, who advocate non-aggression and who accede to the use of civil government in the equal defense of natural rights, ought not be coerced into what they see as coverage through aggression. There are some who do not want to be covered if it will involve any or certain uses of force by government....

Ours is a government rooted in the awareness of that peace-minded sphere called society. Thomas Paine began his pamphlet Common Sense, which sparked the American Revolution, with a clarification of the difference between "society" and "government." We may preserve the health of our society (and government) by the respect we have this difference....

The American Declaration of 1776 was a call to Independence. "Universal coverage" is a call to Dependence. What ought our country's touchstone be? "Universal coverage" is nothing but "universal control" to be enforced by that long train of abuses that so characteristically goes with unlimited government and limited society. Let's leave alone those who, in their peaceful pursuit of happiness, wish not to be corrupted by power, however minimal or monstrous, so that each generation may understand the compatibility of limited government and unlimited society.

     Back to First Principles in Health Care
     Minnesota Libertarian 24(2) - April 1994, p. 7

What roused me?
In December [1993], a member of the Clinton Health Care Task Force, Dr. Steven Miles, came to present the Clinton Plan at a Sunday forum hosted by First Universalist Church in Minneapolis. Apart from his overall effort to convince his audience that the plan did not ential socialism, he made the shocking statement that "no one has a constitutional right to be a cardiologist." This statement has stuck in my mind. Contrary to his intention, he convinced me then that we do indeed have a crisis now—a crisis in government. This is why I for one am beginning to become active in the libertarian effort to elect to office persons dedicated to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in deed, not simply in creed. Government officials and quasi-officials are now attacking our rights, not securing them as their office demands. [Five and a half years later Miles would make a run for the U.S. Senate.]

Have we not learned from the experiences of the rest of the world how precious our American principles are? In his Inaugural Address, Clinton said, "We must provide for our nation the way a family provides for its children." One famous Czech dissident Milan Kundera, the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, described another presidential address made by Gustav Husak, the president of Czechoslovakia in 1969, just after the Soviet invasion:
The ghosts of statues long torn down wandered around the podium where the president of forgetting was standing with a red scarf around his neck. The children clapped and called out his name.

Eight years have gone by since then, but I can still hear his words sailing through the blossoming apple trees.

"Children, you are the future," he said, and today I realize he did not mean it the way it sounded. The reason children are the future is not that they will one day be grownups. No, the reason is that mankind is moving more and more in the direction of infancy, and childhood is the image of the future.(The Book of Laughter and Forgetting)
In an interview with Philip Roth, Kundera is more specific: "The basic event of the book is the story of totalitarianism, which deprives people of memory and thus retools them into a nation of children. All totalitarian regimes do this." Eight days after Clinton's Inaugural Address, I reread these words.

On February 22, I along with other Minnesota LP members, attended the Minnesota Summit on Health Care Reform, featuring Governor Pete du Pont, Senator Paul Wellstone, Congressman Tim Penny, Dr. John Goodman, and many other prominent speakers. Dr. Steven Miles was there, too, again presenting the Clinton Health Care Plan. In a question and answer period, I reminded Dr. Miles of his statement at First Universalist Church, outlined what I have written above, and asked him one question: "Do we have a constitutional right to be an adult?" In a confused manner, he responded and actually answered "to the latter question... no." Given his befuddledness, I am not sure whether he really meant to answer no to my rhetorical question, but he did.


If we are to go back to first principles in this debate, we must re-amplify the spirit of 1776, and the wisdom of 1787. As Kundera wrote: "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

Back to First Principles in Health Care
Minnesota Libertarian 24(2) - April 1994, pp. 3, 7

I was not alone in my skepticism.
On April 8 [1994], KSTP hosted a town hall meeting in the Twin Cities at which President Clinton presented his plan and answered questions from the audience. If the first two questions are indicative of how the debate is changing, even here in Minnesota, then we libertarians should find hope that people are indeed coming around, however slowly, to see what we see.

The first questioner asked: "Is your plan really a health plan or is it a power grab?"

The second remarked: "I'm wondering if your program is about controlling rather than better service."

President Clinton became extremely flustered and was unable to give a coherent response to either person.
Minnesota Libertarian - June 1994, p. 4

Hillary Clinton has come around full circle. In the day, MinnesotaCare, a Clintonesque program at the state level, bestowed upon health maintenance organizations a privileged position of dominance over indemnity insurers. (See In Bed with the Devil by Brigid McMenamin, Forbes, Sep. 12, 1994) Insurers were in government disfavor. Now she is putting into place the requisites for an insurance cartel dominated by the whims of government officials. She extends them a qualified favoritism now.

In February 1995, as a Director for Citizens for Choice in Health Care, I wrote,
Health care ought to be controlled by individual choice and individual responsibility with equity towards all, including insurers.
To be clear, by equity I mean equal, full, inalienable natural rights. Let's get off this yo-yo of privilege and disfavor, and return to America.

What are we to do when politicians display, showing how tough they are by breaking the law, by breaking the Constitution, by breaking the Declaration, running through the forest breaking branches?

Let us rebuild liberalism.

For now, let's support Ron Paul 2008. His position on getting us out of the health-care mess (see video below) is largely on target.

Please reread the 1721 quote from Cato's Letters. This struggle has been going on for centuries from continent to continent. Cato's wisdom is timeless.

Liberda, da, da...

In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example ... of charters of power granted by liberty.
James Madison
"Charters", The National Gazette, January 19, 1792

Update (Sep 19, 2007): Check out this video, the last part of a Bill Moyers Special on impeachment with Bruce Fein and John Nichols. At the end (7:40), Nichols makes the point about the dangers of treating citizens as children, though in a different context. Liberty and adulthood can bring us together.

Update (Sep 19, 2007):
I don't support Fred Thompson 2008, but I do think this video commentary of his on HillaryCare is spot on.

Version 1.2

Update (Oct 5, 2007): Dr. Steven Miles has commented thoughtfully on this article. I verified his comments by emailing him directly. Today I ordered a book he published last year Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, on an issue about which my guess is we're in strong agreement.

Update (Oct 6, 2007): In short, government has been granted neither the power to coin doctors nor the power to coin health insurance. By right can it never have such powers to the exclusion of competing, freely-formed professional associations. Government power must be distinguished from social power.

As David Boaz of the Cato Institute wrote,
The right term for the advocates of civil society and free markets is arguably socialist. Thomas Paine distinguished between society and government, and the libertarian writer Albert Jay Nock summed up all the things that people do voluntarily--for love or charity or profit--as "social power," which is always being threatened by the encroachment of State power. So we might say that those who advocate social power are socialists, while those who support State power are statists. But alas, the word socialist, like the word liberal, has been claimed by those who advocate neither civil society nor liberty.

Update (Oct 7, 2007): On the various types of dictates government office-holders have strewn across our path to happiness, John Seiler has written an excellent article, Mandated Health-Care Socialism, which I just received in the mail, cataloguing these beasts.

First there are those at the state level who dare mandate that free citizens buy health insurance. Such is mandated coverage. Seiler writes, "So far only Hawaii and Massachusetts have mandated coverage supposedly for every state resident," Hawaii since 1974, Massachusetts since 2006. Where is the 14th Amendment when you need it?

Next Seiler writes, "A less obvious path to socialized medicine is mandatory benefits, which require insurance providers to cover everything from athletic trainers in Arkansas to breast reduction in Maine."

Third, there are provider mandates, mandating the inclusion of various types of providers, from marriage therapists (13 states) to massage therapists (5 states).

Finally, there are covered-person mandates, such as the requirement that noncustodial children be covered (10 states).

If we are to make progress in making health more affordable, it must not be beyond criticism. Each of us must be able to shout out that something is absurd, and with effect. What good is it to exclaim, when we cannot claim. We have the right to make our own choices based on our own judgment as adults, as parents, facing real consequences, natural consequences. Learning what's best takes time, takes generations even, and it takes choice and diversity. What we have is dying "the death of a thousand scalpel cuts" thanks to the advocates of socialized medicine, who, like economical predators of the wild, wound first and feast later. Let's not punish health care apostasy. We have a right to say no, just plain no.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Will Rogers Plan

Will Rogers

It kinda looks like a bad day for plans... I'm not going to get discouraged though. In fact, these other failures -- well, they've really given me confidence, you know -- more hope that my plan will be a success... My plan is a plan to end all plans. It's to do away with all plans. That's what it is. This country has been planned to death... There ain't but one place that a plan is any good and that it'll really work, and that's on paper. But the minute you get it off a sheet of paper and get it out in the air... it blows away. ... Plans just don't work. If they're milk and honey to you, they're poison ivy to somebody else... My plan is when a senator or congressman -- or even a man of great ability (we must quit joking about those boys, because they're good guys) ... comes to Washington with a plan, you send 'em to Russia. Yes, sir, send 'em to Russia with the plan. That's the home of all plans, you know. That's the home. Russia, they eat and sleep and drink plans in Russia. That's why there's starvation there, because you just can't digest a plan. It don't eat right. Everything in Russia is run by plans; everything here is run by accident... [The Rogers Plan] is: 'Don't Plan' ... Live haphazard... There's nothing in the world as common as an idea, and there's nothing in the world as hard to carry out as an idea. If the Republicans would forget their main plan which is to get into the White House and the Democrats would forget their main plan which is to stay in there, and the others, all these various third parties, would just look at their history which shows that none of them ever did get in there, why, we'd all recover overnight, you see.

Will Rogers - Rogers' Plan to End All Plans
Cassette tape available here.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Will Rogers (1879-1935), here's his bio. I came across this when visiting his ranch in Pacific Palisades, California.

Update (Mar 14, 2008): Here's some of the audio. And a bit more.

There's also a DVD documentary The Will Rogers Story, available via Netflix, which recounts his life. Rogers was an American phenomenon... and a quick study, while others were oblivious. When he visited the Soviet Union in the mid 1920's, he had this to say as he sized up what he saw -
It seems the whole idea of communism or whatever they want to call it, is based on propaganda and blood. Russia is starving her own people to feed propaganda to the world. (29:43-29:52)
You can ask a Russian any question in the world, and if you give him long enough he'll explain their angle and it will sound plausible. Communism to me is one-third practice and two-thirds explanation. (30:01-30:14)

If you want to get away from communism, as we know communism in America, why you go to Russia. You know, a communist, he can't get far in Russia. There isn't a single agitator in the whole country, not a soul trying to plot a strike or tell somebody what to do with their job. The soviet government, it may be wrong, but no man is going to stand up on a soapbox either publicly or privately and announce the fact about it. Over there your criticism is you epitaph. (30:32-30:59)

Those people are going somewhere, and we better watch out while they're on their way. (31:14-31:19)
Will Rogers was a master satyagrahi. He explained,
I use only one set method in my little gags, and that is to try to keep to the truth. Of course, you can exaggerate, but what you say must be based on truth (26:55-27:03)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Calling your tongue your own

John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon

Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech: Which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it he does not hurt and controul the Right of another; and this is the only Check which it ought to suffer, the only Bounds which it ought to know.

This sacred Privilege is so essential to free Government, that the Security of Property; and the Freedom of Speech, always go together; and in those wretched Countries where a Man cannot call his Tongue his own, he can scarce call any Thing else his own. Whoever would overthrow the Liberty of the Nation, must begin by subduing the Freedom of Speech; a Thing terrible to publick Traytors...

Freedom of Speech is the great Bulwark of Liberty; they prosper and die together: And it is the Terror of Traytors and Oppressors, and a Barrier against them. It produces excellent Writers, and encourages Men of fine Genius. Tacitus tells us, that the Roman Commonwealth bred great and numerous Authors, who writ with equal Boldness and Eloquence: But when it was enslaved, those great Wits were no more... Tyranny had usurped the Place of Equality, which is the Soul of liberty, and destroyed publick Courage. The Minds of Men, terrified by unjust Power, degenerated into all the Vilenes[s] and Methods of Servitude: Abject Sycophancy and blind Submission grew the only means of Preferment, and indeed of Safety; Men durst not open their Mouths, but to flatter...

All Ministers, therefore, who were Oppressors, or intended to be Oppressors, have been loud in their Complaints against Freedom of Speech, and the Licence of the Press; and always restrained, or endeavoured to restrain, both. In consequence of this, they have brow-beaten Writers, punished them violently, and against Law, and burnt their Works. By all which they shewed how much truth alarmed them, and how much they were at Enmity with Truth.

     John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon
     Cato Letter Number 15
Reprinted in: Jacobson - The English Libertarian Heritage, pp 38-42

Two thoughts come to mind reading this passage again.

First, I hope the reader appreciates the value of the 14th Amendment. Before the American civil war, free speech was not protected by the laws of some southern states. The 14th Amendment extended the federal prohibition on laws violating natural rights to the states, including the right to free speech. Before, there was little hope that slavery would be outlawed by the states through the political process since people could be prosecuted for distributing literature that argued for emancipation, as I understand it. See Michael Kent Curtis's excellent book, Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege".

Second, I believe we need to reconsider libel law. In my experience, it is the weak who dare not speak out against the strong, and the strong who speak out against the weak with impunity. The poor are already used to hearing character assassination and girding themselves with integrity. Best let the marketplace of integrity to sort out spoken and written accusations. Sometimes the most effective non-violent weapon a weak person has is mere witness shared. Recently cases of libel tourism bring this issue to the fore, making this an issue of federal security. How is one to wage a civilized campaign of truth-seeking if libel law exists? Perhaps we could live with laws against fraud, say by prohibiting people from accusing others by falsely dragging in non-existent public records or non-existent accusations of others and leave it at that. What do you think?

Update (Nov 20, 2007):
More on libel tourism in this video and article about Rachel Ehrenfeld at Reason's Rough Cut video blog. I have a copy of her book Funding Evil despite the United Kingdom and Khalid bin Mahfouz. Thankfully we had a revolution in 1776.

According to an added screen at the end of the documentary,
On November 15th, 2007, a New York court heard oral argument on whether it has jurisdiction over Mahfouz in Dr. Ehrenfeld's case.
Back in the day, Great Britain had valiant juries that judged the law when it conflicted with basic human rights, as in the case of William Penn. We too had our own decent juries in the time of John Peter Zenger and his famous libel trial in 1735. May the spirit of these struggles for free speech return.

Another valuable book which fireman Mahfouz has thrown on the Fahrenheit 451 burning pile is Alms for Jihad, a copy of which I have seen, but don't tell anyone.

Update (May 5, 2008):
Foreign Law and the First Amendment by Floyd Abrams - The Wall St. Journal provides the big picture on libel tourism and what makes the United States of America different, increasingly so I hope. New York remembers Lady Liberty and how liberty strengthens security. There is now a federal effort - HR 5814.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thomas Jefferson and the Barbarian Invasions

Thomas Jefferson

I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers. Our land-holders, too, like theirs, retaining in deed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation. This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
      Thomas Jefferson - Letter to Samuel Kercheval, 12 July 1816
In: Lipscomb [1905, ed.] - Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. XVI, pp. 39-40. Image from frontispiece.
See also: Peterson [1984, ed.] - Thomas Jefferson: Writings, pp 1400-1401

David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, speaks alarmingly in this recent video.

Hat tip: Daily Paul

Here's an interview of Walker on BBC last year. Walker states,
Here's the key. The fact is that today we do not face a crisis. We do not face an imminent crisis. At the same point in time, the longer we wait, the larger the gap will be, the more dramatic the change will have to be, and the less time we will have to transition. (3:15-3:33)

In my 20s, I felt angry and disappointed in the older generation. Their great economist John Maynard Keynes had said, "in the long run we're all dead." I felt quite alive, thank you very much, along with most of my cohort. We were still alive and faced with the untoward consequences of the older generation's dalliances with socialism. My feelings of generational estrangement are best captured in the 2003 quebec film Les Invasions Barbares. You can't help loving the codgers, but their ideas proved so pernicious, as exemplified in the film by the chaos abounding in the government-dominated hospital. If I felt that in my 20s, 20 years ago, how much more might young people feel it now?

20 years ago... in the summer of 1987, I was in Paris and read Friedrich Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom. Hayek argues that the mild socialists, quite unintentionally initially, pave the way for the more horrific totalitarians by centralizing a vast array of improper powers, over which the squabbling becomes more intense and confused.

As Jefferson wrote, "We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude."

In 1988 I voted for Ron Paul.

In 2008 I plan to again.

This time I have more company.

To the older generation, we must seem like invading barbarians. Whereas we see ourselves as the civilized ones; representing free-market liberalism; defending the Declaration of Independence, natural rights, and the Constitution; and enlightening the world.

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