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Hot on the heels of President Obama’s 23 new executive orders upping gun control, famed and fearsome conservative commentator Ann Coulter has a new column entitled “Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do”. Under that straight to the point headline, Coulter points to the mass-murders at Virginia Tech, Tuscon, and now Sandy Hook and mentions that each of the killers there had a history of mental illness — Tuscon shooter Jared Loughner in particular was feared by several acquaintance and teachers.  And yes, there are rumors, still unconfirmed, that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza snapped because his mother wanted to commit him to a mental institution.

Writes Coulter, not bothering to source anything:

Innumerable studies have found a correlation between severe mental illness and violent behavior. Thirty-one to 61 percent of all homicides committed by disturbed individuals occur during their first psychotic episode — which is why mass murderers often have no criminal record. There’s no time to wait with the mentally ill.

Coulter, of course, doesn’t bother to address the confirmation bias when it comes to trusting “warning signs”. Yes, some people who end up being killers frightened other people beforehand. What about all the people, even seriously mentally ill people, who weirded out their neighbors and teachers and never shot up a schoolhouse? Do they have rights, or don’t they? Coulter suggests no. Because it’s just no longer easy enough to involuntarily commit crazy people.

Or rather, she says don’t take guns from the rational and the law-abiding, instead — well, what?

Coulter bemoans the American Civil Liberties Union who “have decided that being psychotic is a civil right”, thereby making involuntary commitment standards overly strict.  She implies that this is yet another lefty, PC outrage that will spell our demise, but that is all. What exactly to do, and how to do it, is lesft unsaid.

Lefties who cry for gun control, especially the stricter than is popular variety, never seem to answer the question of how it shall be done. Banning guns — even only those that became legal post-assault weapons ban expiration —  sounds great, okay. What’s the punishment for defying the ban? Who is going to make sure it happens? How will it be organized? Do we need another bureaucratic office to oversee the proceedings? Liberals have a habit of crying out for government intervention and ignoring the potential costs in money, time, and on occasion, life. Conservative queen Coulter is doing exactly the same thing here.

If she wants America to “try something new” and make it easier to involuntarily commit individuals, how shall we do it? Will it be up to cops? Professors? Teachers? How long will people be kept? By what standards shall the mentally ill be judged unable to be free? Actual threats of violence, strange behavior, unorthodox opinions, paranoia? When will they be fit to be released? Are there appeals?

There are 300 million guns in America, yes, but according to the National Institute on Mental Health, 1 in 4 Americans suffers from a mood disorder, 1 in 17 from a “serious one.” How many of those 57 million Americans should lose their Second Amendment rights, according to Coulter? Or do you just lock the mentally ill up, thereby ignoring messy gun rights questions altogether?

There’s not really any point to appealing to Coulter’s attachment to civil liberties, because judging by past history, she has none. She does, however, profess a theoretical objection to government excess by mocking liberals and embracing conservatism.

The murderers that Coulter describes should have perhaps been kicked out of their schools, and perhaps prosecuted in the case of the Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho who stalked three women. He also spent time refusing to talk. And Adam Lanza had trouble looking people in the eye! However, none of these young men, until they massacred scores of people, had done anything that would justify locking them up indefinitely at a psychiatrist or a judge’s pleasure. And, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum put it today “Stopping Mass Murderers Would Be Easy If Psychiatrists Were Psychics”.

Even law and order conservatives usually think that someone locked up should actually have committed a crime first.  But Coulter offers nothing concrete in policy suggestions, only a breezy disdain for the heroic work of the ACLU, and people like the late Thomas Szasz, who dared to object to easy involuntary commitment.

Coulter, it is worth noting, is also pro-Gitmo, so at least she is consistent in her approval of holding people without trial. But her suggestion that the government “try something new” because “there’s no time to wait” in regards to the mentally ill makes Coulter sound exactly like the big government liberals she so loathes.

  • “One would like nothing so much as a powerful legislative drone strike against the NRA and the industry it represents as the opening round in a long and relentless war against gun violence.”
  • “I don’t know what you talking about, I voted for Gary Johnson…I’m a libertarian” — Big Boi talks to Alyona Minkovski about, uh, certain assumptions people make about his politics.
  • One of my favorite things about Reason editors in chief is their ability to ruin everyone’s fun re political light heartedness. Seriously, it is one of their grand traditions. Check out Nick Gillespie’s heroically cranky response to the White House’s “cute” reaction to the can we build a Death Star petition.
  • I am starting to feel like I should be a bigger Tarantino fan.  Also, see, Hollywood people, you can do more than just cozy up to Chavez!
  • The Weekly Standard looks at Bill “my dad” Steigerwald’s Dogging Steinbeck book.
  • Gawker mocks libertarians/mostly just mocks Glenn Beck and confuses objectivists with libertarians. 
  • Go, Montana! Be the libertarian dream-state I so wish you were!
  • Every time I see a story about SWAT used for someone with mental health problems, I shudder. What’s the last thing that would make me feel better if I was in such distress? Jesus.
  • 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.

  • Obama is so cool, check out what his DOJ has done to people who try to provide medical marijuana in states where it is legal to do so.
  • David Frum is a comfort in this world, because he is wrong about everything.
  • Cato’s Trevor Burrus on guns.
  • What the Institute for Justice was made for.
  • Kennedy and Matt Welch are on Red Eye tonight (3 a.m. EST) which should make it well worth watching. 
  • “DNA testing from as early as 2000 excluded Starks as the perpetrator, former Lake County prosecutors repeatedly refused to acknowledge the results, coming up with improbable theories to deny Starks’ innocence.”
  • The Onion knows.
  • Good point, good issue, no context, no introduction, just snippiness and loaded language (accurate or not) — the continued inability of Lew Rockwell writers to blog well. 
  • Oh, hell no.
  • Since I spent New Year’s Eve with ’em, four of my photos are up at the Old Crow Medicine Show website in their fan gallery. I flatter myself by saying mine are the best.
  • Jeffrey Tucker is coming to Pittsburgh! Woo!

“…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.