Hillsdale’s Wenzel vs. Schlueter on Conservatism: My 2 Cents

Whenever two Hillsdale College professors get into an argument, everybody wins. At the Public Discourse, economics professor Nikolai Wenzel makes the case that “conservatism is misguided, arbitrary, inconsistent, and ultimately inimical to liberty and human flourishing; in response, philosophy professor Nathan Schlueter argues that Wenzel mischaracterizes conservatism and misunderstands its conception of liberty.

I didn’t have much interaction with Dr. Schlueter during my time at Hillsdale, but by all accounts he’s a marvelous professor. I did take Dr. Wenzel’s introductory course on Political Economy, and can personally attest that it was equal parts informative and intellectually challenging. Were I to undertake the difficult task of ranking Hillsdale’s professors, Dr. Wenzel would unquestionably make my top five.

I say this to make clear that the libertarian-conservative debate couldn’t ask for more formidable combatants, and there is precious little I could possibly add to the philosophical side of the exchange. However, in defending conservative philosophy, Dr. Schlueter’s response didn’t cover my main objection to Dr. Wenzel’s argument: whether his characterization of conservatism matches what we see in practice.

His chief objection seems to be that, rather than being truly committed to liberty, conservatism is all too comfortable with the “enlightened few” using government to impose “private preferences” on the individual. But Dr. Wenzel doesn’t elaborate on how that translates to anti-liberty policies. I’d like to explore just how illiberal conservatism’s non-libertarian causes actually are.

Abortion—It never ceases to amaze me that libertarians and pro-lifers quarrel as much as they do. The rationale for legally protecting unborn life is exactly the same as the rationale for protecting adult life: that life is one of the individual rights that justice demands government protect. Both groups have the exact same conception of liberty; it is a separate question—are the unborn people?—which leads conservatives to look at the evidence and conclude that fetuses deserve to be grouped with the individuals government already protects. Libertarians should either concede that abortion is a liberty issue and join forces with us, or explain why the unborn don’t have the same individual rights as everyone else.

Marriage—As Jennifer Roback Morse argues, civil marriage is “society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.” Through incentives and obligations, it binds couples together to give their offspring a stable home with a mother and a father. The rationale for limiting this union to man-woman couples is that men and women bring unique sets of characteristics to parenthood, and children need both sets for an ideal upbringing.  Further, there’s nothing coercive about it—obligations are only placed on those who voluntarily agree to them by marrying, and no gay Americans are denied their rights to form relationships, live together, have sex, hold marriage ceremonies, consider themselves married, share property, visit one another in hospitals, make medical decisions for one another, or receive domestic partner benefits from employers who wish to offer them. Current law could easily be revised to extend the incidents of marriage (hospital visitation, bereavement leave, etc.) to gay couples without redefining marriage.

Religion—In controversies over religion in public, conservatives are almost exclusively on defense, warding off legal assaults on benign religious expression in public schools and benign religious monuments on public property. They are pushing against coercion, not trying to impose it. Granted, conservatives also take pains to remind people of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, but they do so out of Washington’s belief that liberty cannot survive without the “indispensable support” of religion. Further, this doesn’t translate into coercive policies, either; merely affirmation of America’s religious roots through symbolism, ceremony, and discussion.

Drugs—While some conservatives may base their opposition to drug legalization in health concerns or antipathy for drug culture, the more overriding rationale is that drugs warp one’s mind and dull one’s senses to the point where he becomes a threat to the rights of others. If government is essentially the collective exercise of the individual right to self-defense, then people are well within their rights to protect themselves from drug-related crimes and accidents via drug prohibition. It’s worth remembering that John Locke himself believed man’s power over his own body was not absolute, that liberty didn’t cover the right to enslave or destroy one’s self:
[…] a man, not having the power of his own life, cannot, by compact, or his own consent, enslave himself to any one, nor put himself under the absolute, arbitrary power of another, to take away his life, when he pleases […] though man in that state have an uncontroulable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself […]
Other—Dr. Schlueter’s reply notes that there are individual-harm components to pornography and prostitution, as well. Here, though, let’s ask a different question: how many conservatives—even devout social conservatives—rank these among their chief concerns? How many are really politically active because of porn or prostitution? To judge conservatism based on a few conservatives’ fixation on these issues is just as silly as judging libertarianism based on a few libertarians’ fixation on copyright laws.

Surely there are some conservatives out there to whom Dr. Wenzel’s critique applies, but are they really numerous enough to warrant the attention he’s given them? There’s no conservative push to turn the reins of government and society over to an “enlightened few” dispensing virtue edicts.

By and large, conservatives are every bit as live-and-let-live as libertarians, their understanding of the cutoff between private preference and public concern every bit as healthy. In standing for life, marriage, and traditional culture, conservatives can be trusted to leave liberty every bit as secure—indeed, even more so—than they found it.

The Tucson Shooting and the True State of American Political Discourse (Updated)

Bill Clinton. Keith Olbermann. Chris Matthews. Dick Durbin. Scott Feldstein. Jay Bullock. David Frum. Paul Krugman. The New York Times. Jonathan Alter. Bob Kerrey. James Clyburn. Joan Walsh. Robert Brady. Jon Justice, Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, Patton Oswald, Elizabeth Banks, Roger Ebert, John Legend, Josh Groban. Markos Moulitsas. Stuart Shapiro. Patrick Kennedy. Chris Liebenthal. John Kerry. Ed Schultz and Bill Press. Clarence Dupnik. Aaron Mehta.

This is but a partial list of politicians, journalists, bloggers, and celebrities who have chosen to use the horrific shooting in Tucson – which left six people dead, including a little girl, and a Congresswoman fighting for her life – as an opportunity to condemn conservatives and Republicans for allegedly inflammatory rhetoric. Some explicitly claim figures such as Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin are culpable for Jared Loughner’s actions, while others insinuate they are dangerously cultivating the sort of hatred and fear that could trigger similar acts in the future. *

Never mind that the perpetrator’s mentally-disturbed, violent tendencies are unrelated to politics. Never mind that the political indicators in his record, if anything, suggest hostility to God and an affinity for radical leftism.  Never mind that his hatred of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had nothing to do with her or her party’s policies.

Jared Loughner thinks in gibberish, processes what he sees and hears in gibberish, and acts on gibberish. Yet we’re asked to hang our heads in shame about an alleged cause-effect relationship that leads from Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin straight to Loughner’s trigger finger?

Bull. I get the intent behind respectfully critiquing this line of attack as Allahpundit does, but doing so misses the point. The point is: this record has already been played time and time again. It’s broken. The people using this to smear conservatives know better. Some of the more shameless ones, like Frum and Feldstein, admit as much—they acknowledge Loughner’s real motives yet proceed to say we should use the opportunity to bash the Right’s “dangerous, irresponsible rhetoric” anyway.

None of this is sincere. We know because these leftist lies about conservatives are nothing new. When a Communist circulated Obama-as-Hitler posters, conservatives were blamed. MSNBC ran selective footage of a black man with a gun, to characterize him as a potentially trigger-happy white supremacist. Leftists have publicly advocated impersonating Tea Partiers. The media misrepresents polls to defame Tea Partiers. Phony quotes attributed to prominent conservatives are disseminated without hesitation.

We know because we have a decade’s worth of hatred, terrorism, anger, bigotry, dishonesty, and violence-inciting from scores of left-wing activists, celebrities, journalists, and public officials on the record. We have violence committed by leftists against conservatives, and violence committed by radical Islamists, for which leftists have a different standard. The online savagery of leftist commenters is the stuff of legend.

If any of these lying, two-faced, murder-exploiting bastards were even remotely concerned about the “tone” of American politics, they would have piped up when it was their side—their fellow travelers, their elected leaders, their favored media personalities—doing the “coarsening.” But with rare exception, they either ignore it outright, make excuses for it, or tell bald-faced lies about their side’s filth coming from “marginalized, unimportant people whose voices don’t carry too far.”

Sure. “Marginalized, unimportant people” like prominent MSNBC commentators Schultz and Olbermann. Like Rep. Alan Grayson, who Obama has showered with praise. Like the current Senate Majority Leader. Like Sen. Dick Durbin. Like Sen. Robert Byrd. Like Rep. Keith Ellison. Like the late Ted Kennedy. Like former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe and numerous other Democrat officeholders. Like former President Jimmy Carter. Like current President Barack Obama. Nah, those “voices don’t carry too far” at all…

You want to know why America’s got problems? Why our political discourse seems so degraded, so futile? Re-read the names comprising the first paragraph, and you’ll have one of the biggest answers. The answer isn’t that we don’t scrupulously follow arbitrary rules of decorum. The answer is that the conduct of bad people in government, in the media, and in the blogosphere has gone unchallenged for far too long. We criticize their misconduct one day, yet we smile at them and act as if it never happened the next. We’re so eager to demonstrate our reasonableness, our maturity that we keep reaching out to the other side, no matter what they do. It never seems to occur to us that they might be giving us a glimpse at their souls.

But these cretins—so consumed by hatred and bias, so devoid of morality, that they’ll exploit murder to hurt their political enemies—bring shame upon their professions and upon our country. Treating these smears like they’re sincere concerns legitimizes them, and guarantees that we’ll see more of this defamation in the future.

Enough. It’s time to stop pretending the participants of this smear campaign are decent people who’re simply misguided. It’s time to stop extending olive branches. To stop pretending it’s respectable to cast votes for them.  To stop giving their blogs and publications our attention and business.

And given the topic, let me be perfectly clear, to preempt anyone who would consider twisting my words against me: this is not a call to violence. The only just response to even evil speech is to exercise your own freedoms of speech and free association. To respond with physical force would be a failure of our human capacity for self-control, a violation of our foes’ God-given, unalienable rights, a betrayal of our respect for the rule of law as citizens in a free society, and a vote of no confidence in our ability to solve our problems through the public discourse and the democratic process.

This much is true: American political discourse is sick. How we react to the murder-exploiters among us will reveal whether or not we’re finally serious about healing it.

* UPDATE: The second paragraph has been modified from its original version to more accurately reflect the caveats made by some of those named. In the comments, Scott Feldstein requests that I remove his name entirely. That’s not going to happen, but his complaint did convince me that this change was in order, because I value truth and accuracy regardless of which political agendas they advance or hinder.

Rave Reviews 6!

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Colorful complaints, lousy aims, illiterate corrections, nasty insinuations, blind rage, character assassination, toxic blends of arrogance and stupidity…you’ll find it all in the latest installment of Rave Reviews!
I’m not too impressed with Calvin Cheeseburger’s ability to analyze this situation. If this is what passes for a Hillsdale College intellect I am doubly disappointed. Please Horowitz, I know you are trying to help reform our crappy universities but why do you have a lot of these Jr. Jim Bobs writing this juvenile crap on your website?iopscusa
All your response has done is prove that you are nothing more than an angry and horribly brainwashed blogger who makes false accusations and assumptions of anyone who would dare to question your indoctrination.Aaron
You’re full of crap Calvin.  Newsman
The people I wish to sway will not be convinced by prim chiding from doe-eyed innocents like Calvin Freiburger — however well-mannered they may be. If I am to be credible and effective, I must have something far more substantive to give them.  Lori Heine
What astounds me is your ignorance, Really, really ignorant. But maybe I am wrong, perhaps you are one of the 821 people in america that have a passport, and quite worthy of opinion.Anonymous
That’s just stupid. I would think that Mr. Freiburger would know better than to make such a silly statement.LucasMcCain  
And behold a person who is willing to give up liberty for safety and deserves neither.Joseph Veca
I read the exchange you had with him and you didn’t lay a glove on him. You obsession with Ron Paul and trying to prove he’s a bigot is laughable. This entire episode is about endless war for Israel. Israel Israel Israel. Our great ally Israel.WilliamRD
All you’re references do is force me to go through pages of biased writing to click on links that lead to another bias website for ‘proof’. I understand if you’re opinions aren’t swayed but how can you not admit that you are wrong on his opinions. If you don’t like his policy that’s youre choice but you basically walk around spreading lies/half truths about Paul.AlwaysTurning
…young Mr. Freiburger has become unhinged…what else would you expect from somebody who proudly displays Dr. Laura on his blogroll?  conimbricenses
Did you actually write a smear article against a 75-year-old grandfather who’s done nothing more than stick to his principles for 30 years in Congress? …Have you ever met the guy? You’d be embarrassed by your words. You’ve never met less of a “demagoge” in your life. Ron Paul never asked to be a leader. For 28 years of his career (after being an OB/GYN for most of his life) he’s preached and practiced with humility and humbleness the same philosophy of liberty in a sea of corrupt statists… all without a fan club, all without the Tea Party. Calvin, where will YOU be when you’re 75? Fighting tooth and nail to restore liberty to Americans? Or will you just be sniping from your wheelchair on a war glorifying blog?pimpfresh
By telling such blatant lies over and over again (and expanding them in some cases), you are actually smearing yourself.deleted4026005
You’re just a Big-Government Republican; the level of taxation doesn’t seem to be an issue with you: rather, who gets to divvy up the stolen dough.efffrem
I am just commenting on your in ability to understand his clear comments about issues previously discussed, which appears from some of your past comments to be a common theme. kwg1
More excuses for you personal attacks is another sign of a immature person.aspacia
This is becoming too heartbreaking to read.Jenn Q. Public
I don’t think you yourself was being level-headed and rational – but rather immune to sound argument. You never got it. Sorry.Skandinav
You know you’re not allowed near any of my female friends or relatives now, right?  Rob Taylor
Stop pretending that you are anything but a Christian Talibanist. Liberty offends you…You may think that you have me dead (I’m quite sure that the words “to rights” was an after thought) but all you have done is shown yourself repeatedly to despise liberty.Reason_For_Life
So… why are you afraid of a group whose conservative street cred has been proven time and again, participating in a conservative event? Why do you fixate on the “gay” part of the phrase “gay conservatives”?Jesse Hathaway
…a college kid in desperate search for a sinecure at some think tank in an attempt to prove his bonafides…bvw
…totally deranged, neoconservative moonbattery…Calvin Freiburger and people like him are very confused, and very misinformed.Wesley Messamore
People like Calvin are hacks and very far from anything intellectual. The most in depth literature he has probably ever read was probably something by Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulture.David Hazi  
The author is a complete fool.  I’m not just saying that because I disagree with him.  It’s because that’s what people who know Calvin on a personal level have told me.Mike Phillips
…mean-spirited bozo…Hec Jervae
Calvin – you’re a hack! Get a fuckin’ real job – join the Marines and head to Afgahnistan’s Kandahar Province for an 18 month tour. Calvin – are you buying gold/silver yet? Calvin – are you learning Chinese?wailtd
You can feel his intensity and anger just reading his words. He’s pathetic. A waste of time.  theCL
Hey Calvin why dont you go pop your mouth back on dick cheneys tit, stop pretending people read your crummy blog and get over it. not all of us get a raging hard on when thinking about pre-emptive nuking 3rd world countries.calvin=idiot
You would do well to mind your own hypocrisy before you begin to critique others’…Mr. Freiburger, to state this gently, you come across as a bully.Dustin
In short, he reads like a liberal troll with a conservative ideology. I cannot imagine a worse combination of intellectual bankruptcy.Lloyd
…overall it’s hopeless to try an make any type of point to this man…  Kyle
Calvin Freiburger Online: Shouldn’t you be reading?

What Is Marriage?

Scholars Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan Anderson have a lengthy new paper on the question, to which NYU’s Kenji Yoshino responds here, proclaiming that the “best argument against gay marriage” has failed. I haven’t had time to sit down with the original piece, but I have read Yoshino’s response, as well as the trio’s counter-response. Judging from them, “What Is Marriage?” and its follow-ups seem like required reading, no matter where you stand on gay marriage. (Hat tip: American Power)

NewsReal Debate to Watch – UPDATED: "Swelled-Headed Narcissists"?

Yesterday I objected to my NRB colleague Lori Heine’s criticism of social conservatives as “statist control freaks.” At her blog, she has some more remarks on the subject. She mention’s she’s got a NRB rebuttal to my piece waiting in the wings, so I’ll hold off responding for now. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here’s Lori’s NRB reply. I’ve penned an upcoming response which entails some of the themes she touches on at her blog, so I’ll use this space to comment on something else she said yesterday:

First of all, I will again explain my take on social conservatism in general. According to my understanding, it can really only be said to mean one of two things. Either it concerns itself with politics — which is to say, with the workings of government — or it is the self-definition of swelled-headed narcissists who fancy themselves more moral, or more pious than anybody else (usually without any substantial evidence to back it up). NRB’s editors take issue with lumping all social conservatives together as big-government meddlers, and perhaps they are right. But I have not yet heard a better definition than the two that I have given.

Er, what? I’m not sure just what the first option’s supposed to be referring to, and the second – “the self-definition of swelled-headed narcissists who fancy themselves more moral, or more pious than anybody else (usually without any substantial evidence to back it up)” – is an egregiously insulting mischaracterization that’s hard to take seriously. Speaking of a definition “without any substantial evidence to back it up”…

Social conservatism actually isn’t all that hard to define. I’d argue that it’s simply the recognition that a self-governing society cannot be sustained without certain moral principles and institutions, and that while, to use Vindicating the Founders author Thomas West’s phraseology, government can’t “by itself produce the passions and convictions” America needs, it can “weigh in on the side of them” in certain ways, within the confines of the Constitution and consistent with natural liberty.

America’s Founding Fathers certainly didn’t believe that protecting natural rights and maintaining basic infrastructure were government’s only proper functions: George Washington tells us that morality, one of the “firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens,” is an “indispensable support” to political prosperity. John Adams writes that policy should “regulate” human passions, because it is “of the highest importance” that they be “arranged on the side of virtue.” Charles Rowley of George Mason University writes that for James Madison, “a republican order must have a moral content, a cluster of values, without which it would lose its meaning.” Even the Founders we consider relatively secular agree—Thomas Jefferson fears what might become of nations which fail to admit “a chapter of morality in their political code,” while Benjamin Franklin hopes the nation’s “virtues public and private grow with us, and be durable,” because “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.”

Also, It’s a little surprising to see myself referred to as a “doe-eyed innocent”; that’s certainly not what a lot of other people would call me

UPDATE 2: Here’s my NRB response.

Civility Is Overrated

At Politico, PR guy Mark DeMoss laments the lousy reception to the Civility Pledge he and Clinton hack Lanny Davis have been circulating:

It’s only 32 words. Yet, only two sitting members of Congress or governors have signed the civility pledge.

So what was it about civility that all the other 537 elected officials couldn’t agree to? Read it and decide for yourself.

  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. 
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it.

In May, Lanny Davis, my friend and co-founder of the Civility Project, and I sent a letter to all 535 members of Congress and 50 sitting governors inviting them to sign a civility pledge.

We made it easy, enclosing a response form, return envelope and fax number. I’m sorry to report, six months later, that only two responded: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

This is a shame, DeMoss says, because the American people are sick of how nasty the political discourse has become, and because incivility is just plain wrong:
We share a conviction about the importance of at least trying to change a polarizing, uncivil political culture that now appears to be the norm.

Call it old-fashioned, but we believe debates should be won on the strength of ideas and words — not on the volume of our voices or the outrageousness of our ads. Yet some emails I’ve received on our website are so filled with obscenities that they could not be printed in a newspaper.

Incivility is not just a political problem, according to Yale law professor Stephen Carter. “Rules of civility are thus rules of morality,” Carter said, “it is morally proper to treat our fellow citizens with respect, and morally improper not to. Our crisis of incivility is part of a larger crisis of morality.” 

I hate to fit someone’s definition of “morally improper,” but the fact is, there’s way too much hand-wringing over civility in politics these days. For one thing, sleazy invective, while lamentable, has been around since the beginning, so not only is this not some new development, but if it was going to destroy the country, it would have done so by now.

That’s not to say politicians should be given a pass for trafficking in lies and rumors, far from it. But that brings us to the second, and far more important, reason these guys are barking up the wrong tree: we currently define negativity and incivility so broadly that they’re not only virtually meaningless, but they actually serve to stifle a lot of things that need to be said.

Simply put, there are a lot of bad people active, and bad things done, in politics today, things that deserve not just disagreement, but demand moral condemnation. Advocating the murder of unborn babies, lying about an issue, defaming someone, trying to violate the Constitution, controlling free speech…all these things run deeper than mere disagreements between equally-decent people. These are things that should shock and disgust men and women of goodwill, and compel them to drive them out of the sphere of public respectability – along with their practitioners.

Instead, our “civility” obsession all too often leads to pitiful spectacles like playing dumb about the integrity of backstabbers, and meekly wondering why opponents believe vicious lies about us (here’s a hint: they don’t). Such rhetorical cowardice and incompetence enables the dishonest and the hateful to go about their business without serious challenge, all but ensuring a culture that’s less civil, not more.

Real civility is a fine value, but a healthy political culture needs to understand it’s not the highest value. Every American must hold truth and justice as more important than decorum.

Why Shameless Ron Paul Apologist Wesley Messamore Isn’t Worth My Time

Last month, I wrote a NewsRealBlog post summarizing the case against Ron Paul. A Paul disciple named Wesley Messamore attempted to refute it at the Young Americans for Liberty blog. I responded in another NRB post, demonstrating that Wesley’s screed consisted almost entirely of dishonesty, misdirection, and simply ignoring information that was too inconvenient.

Curious to see how our apologist friend’s reaction, I gave him the link a couple weeks ago. No reply. Several days later, I wondered aloud if Wes was unwilling or unable to defend his conduct, to which he politely responded:
I’m a little jammed up presently with the election (timed perfectly to coincide with some other heavy lifting I’m doing for my non-political, commercial enterprises)… give me some time and I’ll respond. Or if you’re up for it, I propose we set up a debate to stream live.
Fair enough; we all have real lives beyond the blogosphere. I’d be happy to give him some time, but I wasn’t terribly interested in a live debate, given a) that my schedule is fairly “jammed up” as well, and b) the caliber of his arguments thus far made me doubt such a debate would be worth the time and effort. For politeness’s sake, I replied with the former explanation, and told him to take his time on a blog response. Simple, right?
Wrong. Wes turned around and decided that there was only one option after all, and that it had to be a video debate, because with columns, “it’s too easy to wiggle around, equivocate, ignore key arguments, misinterpret (deliberately or not) assertions, and just generally waste time.” For good measure, Wes also whined: “It’s just more time consuming for me to correct your evasions, obfuscations, and equivocations than it is for you to make them.”
At this point, my suspicion of what a waste of time this “debate” would be was confirmed. Wes wanted to change the subject from his ineffectual propagandizing to my supposed unwillingness to accept his challenge (which didn’t start out as a challenge). Unsurprisingly, today he declared victory on YAL using that very spin.
But as I told him, my rebuttal’s currently the last word in the debate—the record shows that I’m the one who confronted my opponent’s challenge head-on, not him. My original claims remain intact, while his attempted rebuttal has been discredited. Anyone can read it, and he has done nothing to change the situation. Unless he comes up with a substantive defense of his words or a substantive criticism of mine, I have no need, reason, or obligation to pursue this further.
And anybody halfway familiar with the average cable news “debate” ought to recognize that there isn’t a huge difference between the two formats in the ease with which people can get away with rhetorical trickery. I don’t deny the value of direct real-time discussion, but it’s actually just as arguable that blogging provides the most accountability to audiences.
For one thing, spoken arguments are not fundamentally different from written ones—people make claims and state opinions, and audiences digest them and compare them to one another. For another, blogging offers the convenience of being able to directly link to sources, which audiences can evaluate for themselves with a single click.
Indeed, if you want to know whether or not this medium facilitates sufficient accountability—and, I suspect, the real reason Wes has a problem with it—look no further than the fact that I’ve already been quite able to expose Wes’s use of the very tactics he pretends to oppose (and shamefully attributes to me):
  • I pointed out that he repeatedly made wild, false accusations about what I and other Paul critics think about other issues, apparently without having made any effort to ascertain my actual views first, and without even trying to present evidence that Paul critics are driven by a broader lack of conservatism.
  • I pointed out that he completely ignored the supporting evidence for my claims about Paul’s fringe tendencies and his dishonesty about Israel and other national security & foreign policy issues. His most transparent attempts to change the subject were an astoundingly stupid analogy to David Horowitz and pretending that I criticized Paul for merely being against “Washington running our lives.”
These are specific examples not of Wes being mistaken (although I trounced him for that, too), but of Wes being dishonest. Examples of, to use his words, “evasion, obfuscation, equivocation, dropped context, (etc.).” That dishonesty comes so easily to him, and that he keeps it up even after he knows he’s been called out on it, makes it all the more pitiful when he pretends not to know why I call him dishonest: “Apparently in his eyes, if I say anything in disagreement with him, I’m not merely wrong, I’m lying.”
Wes, you know exactly what I’m referring to when I talk about dishonesty. And your conduct only proves I’m right not to expect a live debate with you to be worth the opportunity cost.
Lastly, a few words about the time aspect. In one of his trademark lame gotcha attempts, Wes claims the “lengthy” comments I’ve left on his blog take more time than his dream debate would, which is absurd—the small handful of comments I left there each took a minute or two at most. Granted, this post took considerably longer (and is arguably an exercise in futility), but I figured that if Wes can devote another blog post to spinning what went down, I can devote one to setting the record straight.
As I said, my daily life is “jammed up” with plenty of responsibilities, such as my senior-year academic duties at Hillsdale College, several extracurricular organizations, holding down an on-campus job, blogging daily for NewsRealBlog, and my own (admittedly-neglected lately) personal blog. Could I make time for a live debate with Wes in the near future? Probably. But again, it wouldn’t be worth the opportunity cost to me, given that I won the blog debate, and that Wes’s conduct has overwhelmingly demonstrated that he’s just not worth the effort.
(And please, spare me the absurdity of suggesting that a single live debate would “settle” anything. If you were a genuine seeker of truth, willing to change your opinion when presented with a better argument or contrary information, you would have done so already, and you certainly wouldn’t have engaged in as much blatant dishonesty. I highly doubt you’d concede much of anything, either about Ron Paul’s integrity or your own.)
But y’know what? When the holiday season rolls around, and I’ve got more time to kill, maybe I’ll take Wes up on his offer. It would be fun to see his smug propagandizing on full display, challenge him on his dubious idea of character, and watch him try to justify his blind devotion to the personality cult surrounding a single deranged politician.
We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m content with the fact that he badly lost this fight, and that he’s demonstrated that Young Americans for Liberty doesn’t deserve the support of serious conservatives.

The Stupidest Thing I Have Ever Read (UPDATED)

On September 23, I wrote a NewsReal post about abortion and the Tea Party movement, in which I pointed out that supporting the right to life is a moral and philosophical imperative for those who claim to call themselves libertarians. Among the opposing comments was a series of remarks by one Joseph Veca, which may have been the stupidest thing I have ever read. It so perfectly encapsulates why I have so little respect for the libertarian movement – the idiocy, the insanity, the paranoia, and the arrogance – that it demands to be reproduced here for future reference, that the madness might be saved for posterity, for entertainment value, and just maybe, that it might shame a few sane libertarians into reconsidering what their movement has become.


I did some research on the reasons given for abortion, based on what I found, between 1%-3% of abortions reasons fall under the Rape, Incest, Medical Necessity categories.

What should be of note, at the time Roe v. Wade started, those were legal reasons to get an abortion in all 50 states.

As a Catholic and a libertarian, I am totally against abortion and don’t have any real objection moral or ethical to laws against it. However, I am also cognizant of the worry many libertarians have about banning abortions, goes under the heading of “The government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.” Whether or not you agree with it, it will remain with a valid concern. You would do well to remember abortion is mandated in Communist China and way to many member of the Obama administration are big fans of Chairman Mao.


I have no idea what point you just tried to make. 


Calvin, have you ever thought about what it would take to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Believe it or not, it is going to require a Constitutional Amendment. It took the 14th to overturn Dred Scoot. Congress did try a couple of times, but none of them could past muster of Roe v. Wade.

The point that I was making was the fact if we were talking only about the three reasons that I mentioned above, many would make exceptions for allowing an abortion on those grounds. The fact of the matter, was up until Roe v. Wade, that was the case in all 50 states. So the left’s implication those three special cases were illegal back before before Roe. v. Wade is unfounded and untrue in light of the facts.

As I stated before, ‘”I am totally against abortion and don’t have any real objection moral or ethical to laws against it. However, I am also cognizant of the worry many libertarians have about banning abortions, goes under the heading of “The government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.”‘

As a political science student Calvin you should know as well as I, that when you involve government, you give the complete control of both sides, pro and con. So think about this, let’s say congress passes a law that bans abortions, that can pass Roe v. Wade muster, there would be nothing stopping congress from mandating abortions if it got such a wild hair up its nether regions.

As I stated before, I believe it will take a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would make mandating abortions a pain, but considering the disdain many politicians (left or right) have for Constitutional protections, they just might not care. 


Of course I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to end abortion, or to reverse Roe (but while the former would require an amendment, the latter obviously wouldn’t). Nobody in the pro-life movement I’ve ever met has any misconceptions about that. We just understand that you don’t abandon worthy causes, just because the road ahead will be difficult (and contrary to the implications of some socially-left-leaning people I’ve encountered on the Right, true lasting reform to the size and scope of government will be no easier). Conservative reform is the work of generations.

“Let’s say congress passes a law that bans abortions, that can pass Roe v. Wade muster, there would be nothing stopping congress from mandating abortions if it got such a wild hair up its nether regions.”

That’s…that’s…wow. I originally said I didn’t know what point you were trying to make, because I couldn’t bring myself to believe that you were insane enough to say what it sounded like. There had to be something I was missing.

But no, you really said that we can’t ban abortion, because then Congress could FORCE PEOPLE TO HAVE ABORTIONS. Congrats, Joe, you’ve written what has to be the single most mind-blowingly stupid comment I’ve EVER read on NewsRea! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So explain this to me: because murder is illegal, can government now force people to murder? Does government currently have the power to mandate theft? Insurance fraud? Tampering with the mail? Under your logic, there’s nothing to keep the government from forcing the American people to do any of this, because “the government that has the power to ban, has the power to mandate.”

Clearly, this is absurd (and it shows what happens when you take a superficially-appealing, bumper-sticker quip and try to make an actual governing philosophy out of it). The protection of all human beings’ “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are why “governments are instituted among men.” Protecting Americans from injustices like abortion is a clear imperative for anyone who understands the principles of the Founding – and is honest about them. All we’d be “involving government” in is what’s already their basic duty under conservative/libertarian (http://www.l4l.org/)/classically liberal natural law & social compact principles.

As a violation both of the abortion ban itself and of basic human liberty, forcing people to have abortions would neither be authorized by the law nor follow from any semi-sane reading of any legal or constitutional principles. You could say that government might do it anyway (for…some reason). News flash, genius: GOVERNMENT ALREADY HAS THE ABILITY TO DO THINGS IT’S NOT AUTHORIZED TO DO. The Founders understood that no amount of constitutional mechanics would be able to completely prevent every single theoretical offense – and they also understood that that was no argument against protecting natural rights and human liberty.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of what precedent pro- and anti-life policies supposedly set, let me repeat something else I said above: Once society has accepted the proposition, I may take an innocent life if it benefits me to do so, why should we think twice about taking from our countrymen anything less vital—income, personal freedom, you name it—for the sake of interest? The rights to go without health insurance or allow smoking in your restaurant is nothing compared to the right not to be deliberately killed. Surrender the right to life, and you’ve already as good as surrendered the others. 


You state:

“But no, you really said that we can’t ban abortion, because then Congress could FORCE PEOPLE TO HAVE ABORTIONS. Congrats, Joe, you’ve written what has to be the single most mind-blowingly stupid comment I’ve EVER read on NewsRea! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. ”

I don’t care what you do.

Calvin, you are in college, which makes you roughly half my age (I am just shy of 45). In the last 20 years I have watched the US government do things I thought and was taught impossible for it to do. In short I have had the “It Can’t Happen Here” mentality knocked out of me long ago.

Personally, I like the way John Barlow (co-founder of the EFF) put it:

“The men who drafted the [U.S.] Constitution and its first ten amendments knew something that we have largely forgotten: Government exists to limit freedom. That’s their job. And to the extent that utterly unbridled liberty seems to favor the reptile in us, a little government is not such a bad thing. But it never knows when to quit. As there is no limit to either human imagination or creativity in the wicked service of the Self, so it is always easy for our official protectors to envision new atrocities to prevent.”
[Bill O’ Rights, The Impact of Technology on Civil Rights by John Barlow]

You don’t believe it can’t happen here. Currently there is a 14 year old boy, who is a US Citizen in sitting in a Federal holding cell in Illinois because someone hacked his IP address and sent terrorist threats to the government. He is being held without bail, without legal counsel, and damn near incommunicado with his mother. His 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendment rights are being violated courtesy of the Patriot Act.

You might also want to take a look at the story of Steve Jackson Games and the US Secrete Service (you can read about it in Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling the .pdf can be found here http://pdf.textfiles.com/books/hackcrac.pdf [it is a legal free download])

You might want to take a look at the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 (struck down by the US Supreme Court as unconstitutional); every provision in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 can be found in one form or another in the Patriot Act and then some. How the Patriot Act constitutional but the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 isn’t?

Would you believe that of the Bill of Rights all but one of the amendments have been violated by the government.

If you take a look at case law for the last fifteen years or so, you will find that the Fourth Amendment has become more or less a dead Amendment. A lot of what remained of it was flushed down the toilet when the Rehnquist Court declared that in the presence of “probable cause”, a phrase of inviting openness, law enforcement officials could search first and obtain warrants later.

This has been stretched even further with the passing of the Patriot Act which gave federal law enforcement agencies the ability to tap our phones, read our email, without getting a warrant and use anything the government had collect against us.

With sweeping prosecutorial enablements as RICO and Zero Tolerance, the authorities could enact their own unadjudicated administrative “fines” by keeping much of what they seized for their own uses. This incentive often leads to disproportionalities between “punishment” and “crime” which even Kafka might have found a bit over the top. There is one case in which the DEA acquired a $14 million Gulfstream Bizjet from a charter operator because one of his clients left half a gram of cocaine in its washroom.

The government abolishes bail for many federal crimes, and creates huge fines and draconian punishments for minor tax, drug, and regulatory offenses. The “War on Drugs” has resulted in various mandatory punishments and fines so Draconian in nature that would make the former Soviet Union’s Communist government look downright lenient.

Our inalienable natural rights to privacy, voluntary association, free exchange of goods and services, and self-ownership are being lost to those who oppose or ignore constitutional limits to government.

This is where the Patriot Act really comes into play, the prosecutorial enablement’s of the Patriot Act, your right to privacy, who you associate with, who you trade services or goods with can all come under scrutiny if “ANY” law enforcement agency “suspects” you, or you are accused of being in league with terrorists.

Currently we are seeing an increasingly centralized federal power undermine the sovereignty of the States and their citizens through federal aid and the attendant regulation of all aspects of society and commerce.

It should be noted most of this has happened since the 1970’s. Some of the silliness is older and dates back to the Great Depression, but most of it has happened in my life time.

It isn’t the here and now we have to really worry about, it is what may happen down the road, China already has mandatory abortions, to say it can’t happen here is to be like a kitten with its head under the couch thinking it is hidden but it rump is exposed. 

So there you have it. Because the government has committed violations of the Constitution and civil liberties in the past (temporarily assuming for the sake of argument that everything Veca describes is accurate, or even happened at all, for that matter), the only thing keeping the government from being able to force you to have an abortion is…keeping abortion legal.

I wonder why I didn’t see it before…oh, that’s right: because I’m not a lunatic. (I highlighted part of my response above, since it still stands as an unrefuted refutation of Veca’s delusions.) Skepticism and vigilance of government power, and defensiveness toward individual liberty are essential, but all too often with libertarians they devolve into wild-eyed paranoia that sees virtually any exercise of government power as a harbinger of totalitarianism. If taken to its logical conclusion, such paranoia can only lead to anarchy.

(Of course, there could be a different excuse entirely: that Veca simply wants to keep abortion legal, but doesn’t want to take responsibility for defending such a heinous practice on the merits…)

UPDATE: In the comments section here, we have another contender for the title, courtesy of Bob Madden:

I am both pro-life, and pro-choice. I abhor the whole idea of abortion, but in the final analysis I put more trust in the prospective mother to make the right decision than I do the government. To me that means I respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions, and at a point where the unborn has no ability to make that choice for themselves I will trust the individual mother.

My situation is kind of unique in this regard. My mother was given a 50-50 chance of living through her pregnancy. Everyone (clergy included) recommended that she abort me. It was her choice to make, and had that decision been left up to anyone else I would NOT be here today. 

I went at it with this moron for a few comments after that gem. It just went downhill form there.

Bad Argument of the Day

Whenever somebody wants to argue for keeping or making something legal, but doesn’t want to be seen as liking that something (like abortion or drugs), you can be sure he’ll deploy the argument that, well, that might be all well and good theoretically, but it just wouldn’t work in the real world, because people would still find ways to do it anyway.

Of course, laws are rarely enacted with the expectation that they’ll reduce something’s occurrence to zero or near-zero. Legal prohibitions are meant to identify what society finds intolerable, prevent as much of it as can reasonably be expected in a free, imperfect society, and punish those who do it anyway. The argument against prohibiting abortion or drugs because people will still obtain abortions and drugs is no more logical than it would be to argue that it’s pointless to prohibit murder, rape or robbery because in 2008 we had 16,272 murders, 89,000 rapes, and 441,855 robberies, despite long-standing laws firmly punishing all three.

Just Once

Just once in life, I’d like to see a liberal admit he’s wrong when he loses an argument—especially on an issue on which the truth and the humane position are not ambiguous.

Although, I suppose it’s not as atrocious as
ignoring the issue altogether.
UPDATE: Yup, if you’re looking for integrity from Scott, you’ve come to the wrong place. He’ll preen all day long demanding others distance themselves from their candidate’s lies. His guy? Not so much. Just another day in the life of a cheap shill, I guess.