Currently viewing the category: "Libertarian"
  • I wish you would drink a 20-oz Vicodin soda, sir. Apropos of my post from yesterday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to restrict the use of prescription painkillers in New York City hospital emergency rooms. He’s a doctor…of entire cities…right?
  • David Frum is so scary-retro-hypocritical in his objection to drug legalization. His live chat with Daily Beast readers makes me want to burn my keyboard. 
  • “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” is one of my dad’s favorite mottoes  but dammit, Andrew Kirell rants so beautifully against Glenn Beck’s new “libertarianism.”
  • On the other hand, Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, welcome to (moderate) libertarianism. Yes, please. We want you. Conor Friedersdorf can teach you the ways. 
  • Yes, I am about to link to an article that is technically about Lindsay Lohan, but this, (ahem, Esquire), is how you write about entertainment and actresses. Show, be restrained, don’t get all pretentious about the meaning of actress x, just tell the story. Make them a human, as Lohan actually is, turns out.
  • Also: Girls is moderarately entertaining and sometimes funny, this Slate television critic writing about it makes me want to pull my own teeth out.
  • Peter Suderman really liked Zero Dark Thirty and dammit, I still feel conflicted (albeit not Glenn Greenwald level conflicted) about it. I guess, if the CIA is going to give you way too much access, why wouldn’t you take it?
  • Guns don’t protect people.  
  • Thaddeus Russell mourns the current lack of leftists like Howard Zinn. Yeah, I’ll take Code Pink over Obamatrons,  but hmm… Well, read it.
  • Smoking children as art. Awesome.

2012 saw two states legalize (and regulate) recreational marijuana.These victories — this amazing feeling that something is really shifting on the drug war, albeit far too slowly — are heady for the anti-drug war advocate. But they should not make anyone soft on the other horrors of the drug war. Especially those that stem from crackdowns on stronger, more dangerous and controversial drugs, in particular prescription drugs — especially painkillers.

Advocates for Amendment 64 in Colorado did heroic work all last year and they took an unprecedented step towards ending the drug war. I don’t mean to bash anyone who has done better work than most pure libertarians up in their think tank towers have in 70 years, but I confess to cringing a little at the Marijuana Majority‘s  “regulation works” signs [Edit: Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell says he was “proud to hold” those signs, but the Amendment 64 campaign people were the ones who made them.] Good for the getting the moderates on your side, but — does it work? What about painkillers?

Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has done a great job shedding light on those who get caught in the machinery of restrictions on painkillers. So has Huffington Post’s Radley Balko, who noted that fear of prescription drug abuse is not dissimilar to any other drug moral panic. From crack babies to bath salts, the thing about drug panics is that they tend to be overblown and they tend to ignore either the people in jail or the people who actually need the drug.

In fall of 2011, the LA Times breathlessly reported that drug overdoses killed more people than car wrecks (37,485 vs. 36,284) in 2009. Indeed, mixing of depressants is dangerous. Informing people of this is important. (Also, yay, fewer car wrecks!) But the answer to that danger, in state fashion, is to punish people in pain and frighten doctors into violating their oaths to help. Freaking out and demanding that people just do something, dammit, doesn’t hurt. (Nor does reporting that completely ignores the issue of people in pain who are not getting the help they need. As Sullum wrote in 2011:

There is an unavoidable tradeoff here between relieving the suffering of innocents and saving people from their own stupidity, and the morally correct choice should be obvious.

It isn’t.)

The Obama administration suggested that every state have computerized prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently 42 do. This sort of legislating is par for the course for Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske’s faux-benevolent “third way” when it comes to drug policy. That is, we keep the drug war right on going, but don’t use such unseemly (accurate) terms as “war.”

As Reason‘s Mike Riggs has previously reported, Kerlikowske’s “nicer” policies still mean a life can be wrecked by possession of a single unprescribed painkiller, even when that individual escapes jail.

These monitoring programs don’t even appear to do much good in reducing overdoses, either. Though “a 2010 survey found that 73 percent of Kentucky law enforcement officers who used the prescription database called the tool ‘excellent’ for obtaining evidence.”

Pain is not quantifiable, and people build up a tolerance to opiates. So the very legitimate fear of Drug Enforcement Administration eyes on these databases makes doctors more afraid to give pain-relief seekers all that they want. This isn’t fair to doctors, since it forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their oaths to help people.  And it sure as hell isn’t fair to people who are suffering. (Today Riggs blogged this story, the headline: “Moments After Utah Man’s Wife Dies of Cancer, Cops Show Up to Confiscate Her Pain Pills“. It’s as bad as it sounds.)

The paraplegic Richard Paey is well-known case of near-life-ruin thanks to these restrictions. Paey, thankfully spent three years in prison for his “crime” of acquiring enough painkillers, instead of his original sentence of 25 years. But it doesn’t take a lot of pills, sometimes it takes two. @lakeline pointed me towards a story from last week the the death of the pregnant Jamie Lynn Russell. She died in jail after initially seeking help at a hospital due to severe abdominal pain:

Hospital staff reported Jamie wouldn’t cooperate, in too much pain to even lie down, so employees asked a Pauls Valley police officer to assist.

Unfortunately, when police found two prescription pills that didn’t belong to Jamie, police took her to jail for drug possession.

That’s where Jamie sat for less than two hours before being found unresponsive.

Oklahoma City KFOR reports that it was the hospital who released Russell and said she was medically fit to go to jail. Initial reports have already found that the jail staff were not negligent. The hospital staff have more blood on their hands, perhaps, since their purpose is to heal, not to follow every law.

Opiates are more dangerous than marijuana simply because you can overdose on them and die. When you mix them with alcohol you are risking a lot more than the spins. So when arguing for reduced restrictions on opiates, you don’t have the luxury of pointing to marijuana’s zero death toll. But this fight is just as essential as continued fighting for marijuana legalization, even apart from a moral objection to government deciding what substances an adult may ingest.

Fundamentally, when you give the government the power to control drug distribution  even in the kinder-sounding prescription-only way, you will always have stories like the ones above. And many, many more. Prohibition causes pain and suffering — it crushes freedom and it kills — but sometimes so does regulation.

  • The U.S. has already killed 35 people in drone strikes this year.
  • New York City’s vile “Stop and Frisk” policy takes a Constitutional hit. 
  • Dad raised me on “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” (Lew Rockwell weeps) but Glenn Beck relaunching The Blaze as some global libertarian news network? I want this to be good, but I have some huge doubts.
  • By comparing libertarian men to toddlers, David Frum insulted some of the best men I know, as well as a hell of a lot of generally cool dudes. Megan McArdle, being married to a sweet libertarian guy, has some words to say about that.
  • Because. David. Frum. Is. Wrong. About. Everything.
  • Yep. “It may be that some women don’t stamp themselves libertarian because they worry it’ll make them a social outcast or they don’t want to enter a political leaning that can resemble a frat house. But for many of us, the problems are philosophical to begin with. We just don’t agree.”
  • Re totalitarianism and guns: I feel like the truth lies somewhere between Drudge and Moynihan.
  • The age of consent is certainly debatable, but Rush Limbaugh is being his usual asshole self by comparing normalization of gay marriage to the current, supposed normalization of pedophilia. 
  • Alex Jones is bad for libertarianism and I still like him. 
  • Yo hablo espanol un poco…

Recently Julie “Token Libertarian Girl” Borowski caused a stir, at least in internet Libertopia, with her “Addressing the Lack of Female Libertarians” video. In the video, Borowski buries some good points under generalizations and arguable slut-shaming of women who are less personally conservative than is Burowski. Borowski argues that women are more susceptible to peer pressure and outside opinion than are men, meaning that a fringe political idea like libertarianism is even less appealing to them. This is debatable and invites long and tedious conversation about nature versus nurture, gender roles, and other topics.

Borowski then moves into mourning the lack of libertarian ideas in popular culture. Her rant against general interest lady-mag Cosmopolitan is appealing to me, the female magazine-nerd who hates Cosmo as much as that opposing pillar of monthly bullshit Adbusters, and indeed, when publications like Cosmo address politics at all, they do operate from certain liberal assumptions…. (Cosmo, so archaic in its inability admit that women may have a wider range of interests than sex, was once downright brazen in its acceptance that women do indeed have sex outside of marriage.)

Borowski’s rant about the absurd cost of the aspirational products touted for sale in Cosmo versus the magazine’s implicit assumption that government should cover birth control and other goods is enjoyable, but to come down so harshly in a public forum against shallow, supposedly feminine interests muddies her earlier argument that libertarianism should be part of the fabric of popular culture. She’s funny, but she’s shooting her own argument in the foot here when she scorns the admittedly mockable high-heel and pricy handbag culture. I don’t like it much either, but she’s doing the cause of more libertarian ladies, please! No favors.

(To me, a more useful place to look at libertarianism, women, and pop culture might be the success of the Twilight series and The Hunger Games series. Both are young adult novels starring young women protagonists. Both are staggeringly successful and are adored by mostly young women.  Both even have a love triangle. Both are bad-to-mediocre in their writing quality, but demand that you keep turning pages anyway.

The difference between them is that Twilight is a soppy, mushy, purple-prosed tale of a girl getting everything she wants out of life (sexy vampire husband, immortality,  a child that takes care of itself) and The Hunger Games is the story of a girl who has to grow up much too fast and who is nearly completely destroyed by life in a dystopian society and the hell of war — even one of liberation. It may not be perfectly libertarian, but The Hunger Games series is pro breaking bad laws, pro fighting for freedom (but with serious questions about war and its worthiness and not being as bad as your enemy). It even explores whether political assassination is just and whether a new leader can be just as bad as the old tyrant. Heavy stuff, and yet those books have sold more than 25 million copies and teenage girls are obsessed. You want your accessible fun, libertarian messages? Give girls (and boys) more Hunger Games.)

Now, the back and forth Borowski hath wrought — Thomas Woods says yay! The Bleeding-Heart Libertarian says ugh — may be nothing more than a sign of the same libertarian squabbles of the past 50 or so years, the paleos versus the cosmos; the socially conservative versus the supposed “libertines” or hippies or what have you. But to me, the lack of women in libertarianism makes this a more interesting debate than it might be.

Cathy Reisenwitz of Reason offered her own response to Borowski’s video, and it’s, shall we say, cosmo-friendly in two ways. It’s opposed to slut-shaming and is pro-expensive handbag and I don’t really have an issue with it, only that she has continued what Borowski started when it comes to dancing around a point, but not getting to the heart of the question of where are the libertarian ladies.

Borowski and Woods and other’s basic premise that one can be a libertarian and a personal social conservative is one with which I strongly agree. It should be obvious. Other the other hand, the more paleo types have a habit of using words like “libertine” to describe anything outside of their conservative comfort zone. That is lazy and insulting, and is utterly lacking in nuance. It turns off those of us in the gray middle.

On the other, other hand, Reisenwitz may be overstating the joys of casual sex for all ladies in her video, but the libertarian answer to this should simply be a free market in all goods (handbags, etc.) and birth control available over the counter. Simple, the liberals would be happy, and the amount of sex anyone has would be their business, period. Reisenwitz ends with “Libertarians love sex and expensive handbags.” Libertarians are pro sexual freedom and pro free markets, so in a sense that’s true, but it’s also an imprecise summary that mirrors the same problem that Borowski’s video has. My problem with both these videos is that they are talking about bite-sized issues and they are both alienating to their fellow potentially middle-road libertarian women  (to say nothing of those still unconvinced by libertarianism).

Aesthetic issues are important to people, if not to libertarianism. I had paleo-libertarian friends who were annoyed when my former boss Nick Gillespie wrote about a transsexual woman in a beauty pageant. Is that relevant to libertarianism? No. Is Gillespie obligated to pretend that he is not pro gay rights, or pro transsexuals  or pro beat poets? No. The highest issue is whether the state should be involved in something or not, but individuals are not obligated to keep their personal opinions secret. This is a small, yet frustrating chunk of the great paleo vs. cosmo debate, but it seems to provoke the same conversations again and again. If the two camps are going to argue, let them argue about whether just wars exist or something substantial. Once and for all, the social conservatives are alienated by the “libertine” cosmos, and the cosmos are annoyed and turned-off by Christian shaming or a lack of love for rock and roll. We should be able to move on from that and agree with the basics of libertarianism, but Borowski and Reisenwitz’s videos show once again that we just can’t seem to.

I am glad to debate Cosmo and high heels and sexual libertarian or lack thereof, but it’s frustrating that both these ladies, who I admire and respect, have missed the bigger picture. (Besides more Hunger Games), what we need is to counter the idea that liberal ideas of legislated “fairness” and “equality” are the only ways to be emotional and caring. Women are supposedly more about emotions, even when it comes to the political realm. Furthermore, they are thought to be turned off by the stereotypical libertarian male who is awkward, creepy, or worse still, downright cold and callous about the poor and disadvantaged. Free markets themselves are of course thought to be the domain of the monocle-wearing fat cat. There’s a lot of reputation-changing that needs to happen.

An understanding of the basic benefits of free markets is essential to be a strongly-committed libertarian. And the right for any individual to be a selfish, uncharitable asshole is a right that is rarely defended and is also essential. Still, what libertarians need to do more than debate handbags is to counter the liberal propaganda that to care about other people is to legislate benefits “for” them.

GMU professor Bryan Caplan argues that it’s “inherently difficult to sell libertarianism to a Feeling” person (which women are much more likely to be). Why? Maybe a Feeling person is less likely to be a committed economist, but libertarianism doesn’t need everyone to be as smart as Caplan, Woods, or Borowski or Reisenwitz in order to catch on. Freedom just needs to be seen in a different, more positive light.

Why can’t freedom be fuzzy and emotional? Why can’t it appeal to all these soft, caring females? The drug war, crony capitalism, two million people in jail in the U.S., war itself, small businesses being crushed by bigger or more favored ones who have government help; taxi cartels, laws against treehouses and gardens in your homes, the racism of the justice system, the death penalty, etc. There are scores upon scores of libertarian issues that are more accessible to the average person than the quantitative scribblings of the dismal science or “letting the poor starve.” All of them could get right to the heart of people who, bless them, often do care about fellow humans and about injustices. Libertarian women (and men) should simply work on countering this idea that government-mandated fairness is kinder or gentler than freedom.

“…Quite simply, advocates for the state can have it both ways. Private charity can never feed all the hungry or mend the sick, they say, so we simply must have government. What’s that? You don’t have the proper papers for giving out that food? Sorry.

The New Deal arguably began the demise of mutual aid societies and other voluntary charities and social securities and the Great Society mostly finished the job. The current common attitude about charity  is beautifully summed up by the late, great Harry Browne who said, “Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”

And the Green Bay story is not unique. How about New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s restriction on food donations to the homeless (at government-run shelters) because calorie and salt counts could not be ascertained? How about the anarchist group Food, Not Bombs blocked from feeding the homeless in Orlando, with their members even jailed? How about Philadelphia’s ban on feeding the homeless in public? How about the loophole for the Green Bay Mayor’s legitimized pushiness, the very existence of zoning laws?…”

Rest over here.