Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Truth About NSA Spying

The great Jacob Hornberger has brilliantly exposed the real reason for the NSA spying on us in his commentary today. He reminds us that most citizens, who conform to the Establishment, show deference to State authority. However, "if you’re the type who has an independent mindset, one that might come to recognize that the warfare state is one great big racket by which power-lusters use federal power to plunder and loot your wealth and income, and if you’re the type of person who might begin objecting to this racket and calling for a restoration of American freedom, then it’s entirely possible that the files that the government is keeping on your private life might come back to haunt you." Some examples of this include Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers and revealed the lies put out by the State officials regarding the progress of the Vietnam War. Some modern examples include the heroes Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who are actively persecuted by the State for revealing the truth about the State, about the military-industrial complex, about the surveillance-state communism behind it all. 

Hornberger warns us that when something is said against the military state, the State can use your records and twist them and use them against you to humiliate, repress, and discredit you. "When the time comes that such information is necessary to use, all they have to do is just type in the person’s name into the search field. Voila! Telephone records, emails, telephone recordings, medical records, and lots more." This shows the terrible consequences of such horrendous power. As the great British libertarian historian Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Theses powers allow the State "to maintain their tax-and-control racket over the citizenry and to ensure that everyone continues behaving like a good little citizen, one who always defers to authority and never makes waves." The ultimate goal is to control people, not to defend the country.

I recommend you read his commentary and send it to everyone you know. This is vital, and you need it. Also, don't forget to read these shocking InfoWars reports on mass American compliance to the NSA's spying, the connection between surveillance and Obamacare, the effort to portray Edward Snowden as a Chinese intelligence operative underway, and the massive American opposition to the Fourth Amendment. These are valuable in a time of crisis.

UPDATE: A new Gallup poll shows that most American adults (53%) disapprove of the spying. This is encouraging news, considering that there was an InfoWars report on mass compliance to the spying. InfoWars has a report on this.

UPDATE (6/21/2013): Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian exposes the whole FISA process in a hard-hitting report. It details the secrecy, the disregard for the rule of law, and a host of other corrupt things. Also, he has another report that details the court orders that allow the NSA to collect data without warrants. 

UPDATE (6/24/2013): For a Christian viewpoint on this, Bethany Keeley-Jonker has a thought-provoking article at ThinkChristian on why the sinfulness of man should make us wary of NSA surveillance. Here is a thoughtful quote from that great article:

Despite these concerns, I’m still inclined to believe programs like PRISM should be discontinued or at least subject to greater checks and balances. Partly, I’m concerned that even if the program is meant for safety, some of the people working for NSA contractors might use them to target individuals for reasons of prejudice or vengeance. Alan Jacob’s recent post on the topic also reminds me that as Christians, we should be especially attentive to how programs like this might endanger those who are at the fringes of society or disadvantaged in some way. He highlights a traditionalist desire for tolerance of our own differences, but I think also concern for orphans, widows and aliens might extend to those the law tends to come down harder on. Some groups or individuals get increased scrutiny because of their ethnicity, or their (perfectly legal) jobs or interests. Even if my interests and habits won’t put me at risk, I want to take a position that protects minorities, journalists and non-violent political activists.

I recommend that you read it and learn from it. Also, read this two-year old article at The Chronicle of Higher Education to learn why privacy matters, even when you got "nothing to hide."

Ron Paul on Piers Morgan: The Government Hates Truth

Ron Paul appears on the Piers Morgan Show, along with CIA Director James Woolsey. Butler Shaffer at the Lew Rockwell blog comments that he has "all the demeanor of a statist villain from 1984, V For Vendettaor Fahrenheit 451." Ron Paul defends Edward Snowden brilliantly and forcefully argues for the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law, while Woolsey defends the spying. I agree with Ron Paul on this issue.

I would like to note that as much I dislike Piers Morgan, he rightly notices (at the 10:35 mark) that most Second Amendment advocates who brilliantly argue for gun rights fail in regards to supporting the Fourth Amendment. Lew Rockwell noted a similar problem among most gun rights people in a blog post three months ago. Rockwell said that "most of them endorse the empire and its mountain of skulls. This is especially true of the pro-gun organizations, who support a neocon foreign policy." 

Here is the interview. I hope you enjoy it.

Great Debate on Conservative-Libertarian "Fusionism" at Cato Unbound Blog

At the Cato Unbound Blog, there is a great debate between several libertarian and conservative writers on the issue of a "fusionism" between libertarianism and conservatism. The writers include Jacqueline Otto, Jordan Bailor, Clark Ruper, and Jeremy Kolassa.

I will review each writer and analyze whether their analyses succeeded or failed:

Jacqueline Otto of Values and Capitalism: In the opening article "The State of the Debate", Otto rightly argues that "the differences between libertarians and conservatives are already well defined" and that we should not redefine them. She also rightly argues that Christianity and libertarianism are compatible as both are based on voluntarism. She warns us that there should be social responsibility with freedom, in opposition to the world of Aldous Huxley, where government gives the people everything they want. However, in her article "A Strategy for the Brand Management of Libertarianism", she argues that "our goal should be to create as many drops as possible to make a brand for libertarianism that will permeate society so effectively that we see massive political change in the direction of freedom." Then she argues that libertarian purism will hinder this cause. However, I differ from her in this aspect. I will point out that "Mr. Libertarian" Murray Rothbard, one of the purest libertarians (he was an anarcho-capitalist) in the history of liberty, was willing to make alliances with certain political sects even when he disagreed with them. Later in his life, he planned his "outreach to the rednecks" and termed it "right wing populism." He did so because the right was on the opposition and was forming a "paleo" movement that harkened back to the old forms of conservatism and libertarianism. Purism doesn't necessarily distract from alliances, and it certainly didn't distract Rothbard from making alliances with the paleo right. However, despite these flaws, Jacqueline Otto argues her points brilliantly, and makes a convincing case for fusionism.

Clark Ruper, Vice President of Students for Liberty (SFL) International: Clark Ruper brilliantly argues in his opening article "The Death of Fusionism" that "fusionism is dead, and conservaties killed it" because of such neoconservatives as George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Rick Santorum. 
"Where once libertarians and conservatives could debate intelligently on the pages of National Review, now the traditionalists are all but forgotten, replaced by pandering to social conservatives who see heroes in the likes of Rick Santorum. Once we could unite behind Barry Goldwater, but for years now those on the right have taken their marching orders from the imperialist big government neoconservatives under George W. Bush and the puppet master Karl Rove. The fusionist stool is irreparably broken. Fusionism is dead, and conservatives killed it.
In his next article "Liberalism and the Individualist Worldview," Ruper argues that libertarianism is in a sense closer to liberalism than conservatism. He is right in that libertarianism was originally known as classical liberalism. The fine libertarian scholar Murray Rothbard argued in his classic essay "Left and Right" that "Liberalism had indeed brought to the Western world not only liberty, the prospect of peace, and the rising living standards of an industrial society, but above all, perhaps, it brought hope, a hope in ever-greater progress that lifted the mass of mankind out of its age-old sinkhole of stagnation and despair." However, liberalism shifted from the classical liberalism of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and other great liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries when it lost its original radicalism and began to compromise with statism, and because of this, it eventually birthed itself into socialism. Rothbard argued:
"Socialism, like liberalism and against conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc. Or rather, to be more precise, there were from the beginning two different strands within socialism: one was the right-wing, authoritarian strand, from Saint-Simon down, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism; but especially the smashing of the state apparatus to achieve the “withering away of the State” and the “end of the exploitation of man by man.” 
So today, in many ways do modern liberals agree with libertarians, in that they mostly stand for civil liberties, oppose slavery, support freedom of speech, religious toleration, and other things. However, they contradict themselves when they oppose states' rights and secession, support universal healthcare, support marriage licenses, support progressive taxation, support drivers'    licenses, support gun control and assault-weapons bans, support central planning, and humanitarian interventionism. Only libertarianism can be considered to be genuine liberalism, and while we may take advantage of certain agreements with modern liberals, ultimately we are the true liberals, not the progressives. Ruper also brilliantly argues, along with Rothbard in his 1956 letter to Frank Meyer, that conservatism was the original enemy of classical liberalism and libertarianism. It was originally against the laissez-faire capitalism that it now ostensibly supports. Clark Ruper also stands up in defense of Ron Paul as an example of libertarians transcending the bounds of fusionism. "He was not afraid to stand up to conservatives on social issues and foreign policy. He became famous for challenging Rudy Giuliani on the issue of Blowback during the 2008 presidential debates. He gained legions of young followers by consistently championing libertarian issues like the drug war, civil liberties, and privacy. He proved that libertarian issues beyond markets are popular, that we do not have to narrow our focus to markets or kowtow to conservatives.I agree with Ruper that Ron Paul is a shining example of a libertarian that is willing to work with both conservatives and liberals, and yet ultimately transcends these two groups. I would also like to note that in his article on Ron Paul, Ruper gives a fitting criticism of the Koch orbit: "Many affiliates under the Koch umbrella focused their attention narrowly on the area of economic freedom, such as their educational project of that name. While the project is valuable in its narrow scope, it is an example of libertarians avoiding social issues to work with conservatives on market issues." Read all his articles hereherehere, and here.

Jordan Bailor, research fellow at the Acton Institute and executive editor for Journal of Markets & Morality: Jordan Bailor brings the conservative viewpoint to all this. He is right in arguing, along with Otto, that religion, specifically Christianity, and liberty are compatible and connected. However, I take issue with his conservative view on several issues. For example, in his opening article "Avoiding Confusionism," he argues that "a core principle for many libertarians, the view that there is nothing between the individual and the state, has arguably done more to permit, if not promote, tyranny, and to undermine true liberty, than pragmatic reliance on state power in pursuit of a particular social agenda." While I would agree that many libertarians neglect to mention family, church and other mediating organizations in the context of libertarianism, libertarianism itself does not neglect family, church, or other institutions. Many libertarians are willing to accept them, even as they remain hardcore individualists. I doubt that this is a core principle in libertarianism per se. He seems to hold that atomistic or even "rugged" individualism and tyranny are two sides of the same coin. However, as Murray Rothbard argues, "what libertarians are opposed to is not voluntary persuasion, but the 
coercive imposition of values by the use of force and police power. Libertarians are in no way opposed to the voluntary cooperation and collaboration between individuals: only to the compulsory pseudo-”cooperation” imposed by the state." Bailor argues that the best way to limit government is not through individualism, but through cooperation with each other. However, individualism is fully compatible in my view with cooperation and voluntary organizations such as the family, the church, and other institutions; they form something like "cooperative individualism." Next, I would like to comment on his second article "In Search of Augustinian Fusionism," where Bailor argues for a fusion, however temporary, between the conservative and the libertarian. However, he goes on to critique the libertarian scholar Gerard Casey on the conclusion that liberty is most fundamental, a sine qua non of a human action’s being susceptible to moral evaluation at all.” I will come to Casey's defense. He did not say that liberty was the most fundamental of human values. Rather, he said that "liberty is the lowest of social values, lowest in the sense of being most fundamental, sine qua non of a human action's being susceptible to moral evaluation in any way at all." He merely claimed that the libertarian 
believes that human action is impossible unless there is freedom. In his article "Distinguishing Morality from Legality," Bailor rightfully argues, along with the great theologian Thomas Aquinas that government's duty is not to repress all human vice, and that there is indeed a distinction between the legal status of an action and its moral status. He excellently states that "to permit something legally is not the same as acknowledging it as morally permissible. Legal toleration is not the same as moral approbation." However, he seems to imply that libertarians fail to recognize that government has no warrant for actively promoting or subsidizing vice. I will answer this claim and argue that while indeed some libertarians might support some subsidization of vice (such as marriage equality for same-sex couples), I know of no libertarian who would actively support such things. This characteristic is more common in the progressive liberal circles. I will also answer his claim in his first article that "one views liberty as the freedom to do what we ought, while the other views liberty as the freedom to do what we want." I will answer this objection with the claim that while libertarianism does view freedom as doing what we want, it views liberty more specifically as freedom from coercion. This is the traditional libertarian understanding of freedom, as was accepted by John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Murray Rothbard, and the entire classical liberal and libertarian tradition. Freedom from coercion allows us to do both what we ought and what we wantHe slightly criticizes the opinion of those libertarians such as I who support the government getting out of marriage, referring to people such as Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson, who argue that privatizing marriage would be "a catastrophe for limited government." I will respond to this criticism from a libertarian viewpoint. Laurence Vance, a Christian libertarian columnist, says that "marriage predates the nation-state, the community, society, states and counties, cities and towns, governmental bodies of any kind, and even the church." It has survived throughout the ages. The conservative who worries that marriage will be redefined are overreacting. Marriage will still remain marriage; it will only be redefined in the eyes of society, but it will not be redefined in its original form. The libertarian Catholic political scientist Ryan McMaken, in his excellent article "Privatize Marriage" argues that "marriage was traditionally governed by religious law and was a religious matter. The Church recognized that with marriage being a sacrament, the state had no more right to regulate marriage than it had the right to regulate who could be baptized or who could be ordained a priest." He argues that the power to define marriage should not be entrusted to the state, as the State will devalue marriage. Daniel A. Crane, in his magnificent article "The 'Judeo-Christian' Case for Privatizing Marriage" at the Cardoza Law Reviewargues that "marriage is an inherently spiritual activity whose legitimacy depends on the sanction of the Church and whose regulation requires the involvement of a Christian magistracy." Thomas Woods, the Catholic libertarian historian and scholar, argues that privatizing marriage is truly conservative in his interview with Steve Deace where he makes the Christian case for Ron Paul (he mentions marriage at the 21:00 mark). Woods states that:
"until the French Revolution, which was the most anti-Christian event until Communism,...if you had asked a Christian that [to give up the role of the marriage to the state] in 1500 or 1200 or 300, they would have thought that this was crazy. This in area for civil society and churches, not for the state. The state shouldn't regulate everything, especially an institution as sacred as marriage."
Woods made a strong case from history against the government getting into marriage. I will write more on the issue of marriage in the future from both the libertarian and Christian perpsectives. However, one thing I would like to note; in his first article, Bailor seems to argue that libertarianism diminishes freedom when he argues that a certain aspect of libertarianism seems to lean more to tyranny than to liberty. However, I will close with this argument from Laurence Vance in his great article on libertarianism and freedom. "For the libertarian, freedom is not the absence of morality, the rule of law, or tradition; it is the absence of government paternalism. Libertarianism is the absence of the ability of puritanical busybodies, nanny-statists, and government bureaucrats to make it their business to mind everyone else’s business." Libertarianism embraces freedom, not tyranny. 

Jeremy Kolassa, freelance writer and communications specialist within the liberty movement: Jeremy Kolassa's "An Unequal Treaty" forcefully argues that "this fusion can best be described as an unequal treaty, with conservatives in control, while libertarians are told to sit down, be quiet, and just support whatever conservatives are pushing at the moment." This supposed alliance has wrought a watered-down version of libertarianism. Murray Rothbard, in his 1969 open letter to YAF , warned that "the only liberty they [the fusionists and conservatives] are willing to grant is a liberty within "tradition," within "order," in other words a weak and puny false imitation of liberty within a framework dictated by the State apparatus." The fusionists make a big mistake in mixing two incompatible worldviews, for "you [the libertarian] can see for yourselves that you have nothing in common with the frank theocrats, the worshippers of monarchy, the hawkers after a New Inquisition, the Bozells and the Wilhelmsens." Jeremy Kolassa is right in asserting that libertarianism is about liberty, while conservatism is about conserving as much as possible. However, he makes a fatal error when he states that libertarians love freedom and conservatives love tradition, nearly implying that a love for tradition is only a hallmark of conservatism. This is not exactly true, as Rothbard reminded us that "we libertarians have our traditions too, and they are glorious ones. It all depends on which traditions: the libertarian ones of Paine and Price, of Cobden and Thoreau, or the authoritarian ones of Torquemada and Burke and Metternich." We libertarians are not against all forms of tradition, as the conservative scholar Ernest van den Haag asserted long ago. We respect traditions that are in line with liberty, such as those of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Leonard E. Read, Murray Rothbard, the Austrian school of economics, the Scholastics, John Locke, Lord Acton, Henry David Thoreau, Richard Cobden, William Lloyd Garrison, the Jacksonians, the abolitionists, and a host of other classical-liberal/libertarian traditions of the past. As Murray Rothbard said in his classic 1974 Libertarian Forum article "How to Destatize," "Liberty is profoundly American; we come to fulfill the best of the American tradition, from Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams to the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Jeffersonian movement, and beyond. As Benjamin R. Tucker put it, we are 'unterrified Jeffersonian democrats', and we come not to destroy the American dream but to fulfill it." Kolassa reminds us that "because of this unequal treaty, the American people commonly don’t realize that libertarians were against the war in Iraq, against the USA-PATRIOT Act, against the Department of Homeland Security, against the bailouts, and against the big-government big-spending ways of the conservative administration of George W. Bush. Only lately, with the rise of libertarians such as Ron and Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jeff Flake, have we been able to reach out and actually talk to people." Only by forming an independent and consistent view of liberty can we reclaim the American heritage of freedom; while there may be a place for the occasional alliance between libertarians and liberals or between libertarians and conservatives, they are only temporary. In response to Jordan Bailor's assertion that freedom to do what we ought rather than what we want, Kolassa argues that we don't agree on what we ought to do. He reminds us that politics exists because of different conceptions of the good life. Kolassa also reminds Bailor and us that "most libertarians recognize the power of civil society and hope to strengthen it as a bulwark against government excess." Indeed, we are not atomists as some assume; rather we are individualists who believe in voluntary groups and organizations. Kolassa reminds us that the conflict isn't between liberty and civil society, but rather liberty and coercion.

In my opinion, this was a much needed debate on the issue of fusionism, and it has been enlightening for me. Clark Ruper was the best of the writers in my opinion. He clearly distinguished between libertarianism and conservatism and how ultimately they are two different ideologies. I hope it will be so for both libertarians and conservatives alike. I will be working on a post on libertarian and conservatism to explore the similarities and differences between them. For more information on fusionism from a libertarian perspective, see these wonderful resources: