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In This Issue
* To the Death
* New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?
* Polls Show Growing Support for Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy
THEY SAID IT: Shut down the Drug War Gulag, says former U.S. Treasury Secretary.... The FDA kills far more people than it saves, says Cato's Doug Bandow.... Thousands investigated by police for comments made online.... Judge Napolitano blasts torture and torturers.... Mark Thornton on the unhappy 100th birthday of the War on Drugs....
ASK DR. RUWART
* Kids and Dangerous Houses
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by Sharon Harris
To the Death
"Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai pour que vous ayez le droit de le dire."
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
This magnificent declaration of free speech, tolerance, and liberty, attributed to the great 17th century French champion of liberty Voltaire, is now whirling around the globe in French and English, in print and online, in tweets, memes, newsfeeds and editorials.
The outcry over the murder of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo â€” killed for exercising their right to speak freely, killed for creating satire, killed for drawing cartoons â€” has thrust those words and the principle behind them into the minds of millions.
It is heartening to see such an overwhelming response in favor of freedom of speech, one of the most important and sacred of rights.
Freedom of speech has not always been tolerated well even here in America. Right up through the 1960s many novels, including books now considered masterpieces by authors like Henry Miller and William Burroughs, were illegal to sell. For most of America's history, some words were unprintable, and writing about some ideas â€” birth control, for example â€” was forbidden. In the 1960s, Lenny Bruce, one of America's greatest and most incisive comedians, was constantly harassed and arrested merely for using four-letter words in nightclubs; in despair, he died of a heroin overdose. Theater owners were arrested for showing sexually explicit films, convenience store clerks arrested for selling adult magazines.
Those who stood for freedom of expression in the past, even here in tolerant America, often fought a lonely and difficult struggle. All of us have benefited tremendously from their courage and passion.
Even today, even in America, those on the cutting edge of speech face threats. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders, Joe Randazzo, former editor of the satirical publication The Onion, wrote at MSNBC: "I've personally spoken on the phone with at least two individuals who threatened to rape me and kill my family" because of his writing.
Randazzo continues: "Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it's grown."
Around the world, crowds numbering in the thousands have gathered in defense of this most fundamental of freedoms, some waving pencils and pens, some holding signs reading "Je Suis Charlie" â€” "I Am Charlie." Cartoonists worldwide have rallied to honor their fallen brothers-in-ink with an outpouring of creative and defiant tributes.
How glorious, how thrilling to see such passionate defense of free speech in response to those who would use violence to shut out views they disagree with.
Free speech is a value millions hold dearly. But that wasn't always true. We believe so strongly in free speech today because of the centuries of political activism that won that freedom, defined it, argued for its value, and made it a central part of our lives.
As we libertarians build a consensus on other fundamental freedoms â€” peace, the right to control our bodies, the right to own and keep the fruits of our labors â€” we will see these ideas, too, embraced by the people of the world, and vigorously defended when attacked.
I'll end with another quote from Voltaire, with a message I hope will be taken up one day soon with the same passion as the one at the beginning of this column:
"It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."
* * *
NEXT ISSUE: Michael Cloud's Persuasion Power Point column, Sharon Harris' Liberty Minute, and much more!
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by James W. Harris
New York Times: Should We Abolish the CIA?
It's exciting news when a bold libertarian idea moves into the mainstream. We've seen this again and again in recent years.
Now the New York Times â€” the very definition of mainstream, Establishment opinion â€” has asked
a critical and timely question in the "Room for Debate" section of its Opinion Pages:
"Do We Need the C.I.A.? Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the agency were dismantled?"
Writes the Times:
"Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency's competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee's report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency's controversies. ...
"Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?"
That such a question is being asked and debated is great news, says
Jacob Hornberger, president of the libertarian Future of Freedom Foundation:
"That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn't we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: 'Is It Time to Reform the CIA?' ...
"Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA... The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, 'Why not abolish the CIA?'"
Hornberger gives his own answer to the New York Times' question.
"The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. ... It's not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of 'patriots' who were protecting 'national security' from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the 'terrorists,' and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA's steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.
"The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.
"The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.
"The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done. ...
"The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world...
"The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s... At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world...
"From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world's biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.
"Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers. ...
"So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It's a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it."
Polls Show Growing Support for Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy
David Boaz of the Cato Institute points out
at the Huffington Post that support for a non-
interventionist, or at least far less interventionist, foreign policy is growing rapidly in America.
Refuting pundits who charge that such ideas have little popular support, Boaz cites some recent major polls.
"Perhaps most broadly," writes Boaz, "a massive Pew Research Center survey in December 2013 found
that 52% of respondents said the United States 'should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.' That was the most lopsided balance in favor of the U.S. 'minding its own business' in the nearly 50-year history of the measure."
Boaz also cites a CBS News/New York Times poll from June 2014 showing
that fully 75% of Americans believe the result of the war in Iraq was not worth the loss of American lives and other costs of the invasion. Only 18% thought it worthwhile. The percentages were about the same whether those surveyed were Republicans, Democrats and independents. It's hard to imagine a more thorough repudiation.
A YouGov poll in March found
, Boaz writes, that "the American public has little appetite for any involvement in Ukraine... Only 18% say that the U.S. has any responsibility to protect Ukraine." Boaz further notes that "Republicans were barely more supportive: 28 percent yes, 46 percent no."
In April, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found
strong and deep support for less intervention, and almost no desire for further involvement in the internal affairs of foreign nations.
The Wall Street Journal summarized its poll's findings: "Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs... In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement â€”
an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines. ...
"The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.
"Americans, including Republicans, are getting tired of policing the world with endless wars. Support for the Iraq war is almost as low as approval of Congress. Interventionist sentiment ticked up in the summer of 2014 as Americans saw ISIS beheading journalists and aid workers on video. But even then most voters wanted air strikes, not more troops.
"Here's a prediction: 13 months from now, when the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire begin voting for presidential candidates, Americans will be even more weary of nearly 15 years of war, and U.S. intervention will be even less popular than it is now."
Boaz notes that only one potential major party presidential candidate thus far has rejected interventionism in favor of a far less interventionist policy: libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul (R-KY).
* * *
Activist Ammunition is written by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris. His articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, and he has been a Finalist for the Mencken Awards, given by the Free Press Association for "Outstanding Journalism in Support of Liberty."
THEY SAID IT...
THE DRUG WAR GULAG:
"The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly one of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is five to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies... America puts people in prison for crimes that other nations don't, mostly minor drug offenses, and keeps them in prison much longer. Yet these long sentences have had at best a marginal impact on crime reduction." â€” former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Nicholas Turner
, "The Steep Cost of America's High Incarceration Rate," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 25, 2014.
DEATH BY FDA:
"The paternalist FDA long has delayed the approval of life-saving drugs, thereby killing thousands of people, far more than the number likely saved by preventing the sale of dangerous medicines." â€” Doug Bandow
, Cato Institute, "Close the Government to Close Bad Government Programs," Cato Blog, December 31, 2014.
POLICE WATCHING YOU ONLINE:
"Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated." â€” tweet by the Scottish police
, Dec. 30. Such monitoring is on the rise in the UK, according to
the UK Independent; about 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, and some have been arrested and imprisoned.
NAPOLITANO ON TORTURE:
"All torture is criminal under all circumstances â€” under treaties to
which the U.S. is a party, under the Constitution that governs the government wherever it goes, and under federal law. Torture degrades the victim and the perpetrator. It undermines the moral authority of a country whose government condones it. It destroys the rule of law. It exposes our own folks to the awful retaliatory beheadings we have all seen. It is slow, inefficient, morbid, and ineffective. It is a recruiting tool for those who have come to cause us harm. All human beings possess basic inalienable rights derived from the natural law and protected by the Constitution the CIA has sworn to uphold. Torture violates all of those rights." â€” Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
, "The CIA and Its Torturers," syndicated column, Dec. 11, 2014.
100 YEARS OF THE WAR ON DRUGS:
"The War on Drugs ... kills thousands of people, destroys untold number of lives, and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars every year. ... What has the War on Drugs accomplished? It has not reduced access to illegal drugs. It has not reduced illegal drug use or abuse. It has not reduced the rate of addiction. If anything, the rates of use, abuse, and addiction have increased over the past century. Prison population statistics clearly indicate that it has been used to suppress minorities.
"It has also greatly increased the powers of law enforcement and the legal system and reduced the legal rights and protections of citizens under the tradition of the rule of law. It has greatly increased the militarization of the police and the use of the military in police work. It has also led to a significant increase in U.S. political and military intervention in foreign nations, particularly in the drug supply nations of Central and South America. ... it is the number one cause of crime, corruption, and violence in the United States, as well as many of the countries of Central and South America." â€” economist Mark Thornton
, "The War on Drugs Was Born 100 Years Ago," Mises Daily, December 17, 2014.
* * * * * * * * * *
"They Said It..." is compiled by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris.
Ask Dr. Ruwart
Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.
Kids and Dangerous Houses
QUESTION: I favor liberty and minimal government intrusion. But I'm wrestling with the issue of protection of children within the home. I'm struggling a little to find a happy medium between a total "hands off" approach that would balance my rights, as homeowner, to leave big nasty kitchen knives lying around, electrical sockets exposed with metal objects stuck in them, big holes in the ground, staircases with boards missing, etc. (I know some of those are silly/extreme examples but legislation typically makes no distinction between the sensible and the surreal), with the rights of children in the house.
Obviously an adult could see that such a place was a deathtrap and make an informed decision to visit or not. But what about children? What about my own children, who wouldn't be able to make an informed decision whether to continue to live in the house because they wouldn't know any different and wouldn't have the freedom to leave anyway. And what about my children inviting their friends back to my house? Their friends wouldn't necessarily understand the dangers or be able to make an informed decision whether to accept the risks.
MY SHORT ANSWER: You're right: regulators can't possibly know what a homeowner should do to child-proof a home. Nor would they have enough resources to inspect every place that houses children even if they did.
Keeping a child safe is part of parenting; some parents will do a better job of it than others. No parent can anticipate every safety hazard, but on average, they'll do better than bureaucrats. Children of parents who are chronically drunk, high, or just plain neglectful will almost always have more accidents than children of attentive, sober ones. Neglectful parents will ignore regulations; attentive parents won't need them, as they'll be constantly trying to anticipate potential problems. As hard as it is to accept, we will never have a society where every child lives in an accident-free home; perfection just isn't an option in human relations.
From a libertarian perspective, we might ask how we can have a society where fewer parents are neglectful, since regulations aren't going to help much, if at all. In a society with less government interference in the marketplace, jobs would be more plentiful, the average paycheck would buy more, and people wouldn't be kept from the work they prefer by regulations that shut them out. People would be less frustrated and have more free time, so "drowning one's sorrows" in booze or mind-altering drugs would be less attractive. (For details, see my book, Healing Our World; the 1992 edition can be read for free at ruwart.com).
Most of us can get a sense of this by asking our grandparents and great-grandparents how they were raised. Wealth creation was slower back then, times were harder, and children were expected to do dangerous jobs, like working on the farm with animals and machines. Spanking and even frank beating were thought to build character. On average, harsh conditions produce harsh childhoods, although there are exceptions. Long hours in the fields or factories left our elders too tired to be as attentive as they might have otherwise been.
Must we wait for government to subside before children can be protected in their homes? Not at all! If you feel moved to teach others how to child-proof a home, it's easy to share such information on a personal blog, Facebook, etc. First-time parents are especially eager to learn such things.
Although government is seldom, if ever, the answer, individual initiative almost always is.
LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading on this topic:
* "Wage War on Poverty with Libertarianism" by Jacob Hornberger. Poverty is not the only reason for unsafe housing. But higher incomes generally mean safer homes, better education, higher standards of living, and so forth. In this article the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation tells how libertarian policies could achieve that.
EXCERPT: "There are five libertarian keys to ending or greatly alleviating poverty. These keys apply not only to the United States but to every other nation in the world. If any nation wants to end poverty or at least to drastically reduce it, what follows is what it should do. Any nation that adopts the following five principles will, in both the short term and long term, achieve rising standards of living, especially for the poor."
* "The Nanny State" by Adam Young, Mises Daily, August 6, 2001. This short article explores how markets can provide better, more innovative safety for families than regulation.
EXCERPT: "Many calamities are preventable â€” not by bureaucratic means, but by simple attentive parenting and common sense â€” but nothing can take away the inherent risk of calamity that exists every day of our lives. An irrefutable fact of reality is the unpredictability of the future and all the accidents that result. The problem here is to balance risk of harm with the prospects of success, and that is something only the private sector does well. ...
"If government regulations did not crowd out private testing and rating services, then rating guides, reports, and private-sector safety consultants would be more available, comprehensive, and affordable than they are now. State regulation breeds irresponsibility and blame shifting. Tangles of regulations impose costs that price competitors out of the market and prevent the invention of new designs and superior and cheaper products which, under the existing regulations, would become technically illegal.
"The free market would encourage entrepreneurs to create rating and safety systems that would perform the dual role so claimed, but never actually delivered on, by the government â€” namely, providing consumer safety and respecting consumer choice. Only products tested by the market can find the right balance. Anyone who has looked through baby-product catalogs knows that safety is extremely important in this market.
"If safety, as arbitrarily and remotely defined by bureaucrats in Washington, is to be imposed regardless of the cost, then why not take the next step? Parents themselves should be trained and licensed by the government, all in pursuit of the ideal of 'safety.' Forget the Nanny State; we need a full-time Parental State. It may sound absurd and dangerous to liberty, but one wonders how many politicians and bureaucrats today could marshal arguments against the idea."
* * *
Got questions? Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you'd like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart
Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can't personally acknowledge all emails. But we'll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.
Dr. Ruwart's previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.
Dr. Ruwart's latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.
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