Bundy Ranch Conservatism: All Hat, No Cattle Saturday, Apr 26 2014 

The standoff at the Bundy Ranch between Cliven Bundy and the US government over unpaid grazing fees has turned into a political disaster for the right. As I pointed out in my last post, Cliven Bundy has no case and he should not have been the recipient of conservative and libertarian support in the first place. However, many conservatives and libertarians decide to champion the man’s cause as somehow a glorious struggle against big government and the Muslim Kenyan Communist dictatorship of Barack Obama, although Bundy did not own the land in question in the first place. Many of these people cheered when an armed militia was able to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from carrying out their lawful duty to enforce a court judgement against Bundy.

The farcical nature of the Bundy Ranch standoff came to a head when the New York Times published a story on Wednesday where Bundy made some racist remarks about blacks and compared public housing to slavery:

But if the federal government has moved on, Mr. Bundy — a father of 14 and a registered Republican — has not.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Conservatives and libertarians should have seen this coming a mile away when they championed this cause which deserved no champion. The reason why we on the right continue to have to have people like Cliven Bundy, Todd Akin, and others continually embarrass us is because we have become an intellectually and morally bankrupt movement. As a movement, we care more about outrage seeking; throwing out cheap and meaningless slogans such as “we the people”, “cut spending”, “restore the Constitution”; and sprinkle in some Reagan quotes and quotes from the Founding Fathers and this is what has posed for modern conservatism in the age of Obama. Instead of doing the hard work required of a loyal opposition such as developing a credible alternative to the left, the right seeks out and turns into celebrities people such as Cliven Bundy, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Allen West, and many others and turns them into sound bite machines and fundraising products who continually spew goofy and kooky things for the benefit of the far-right base of the Republican Party. The best description for this kind of “conservatism” is Bundy Ranch conservatism because that ranch is where the American people got the full serving of this insanity. The worst part of Bundy Ranch conservatism is that its adherents, whether they call themselves conservatives, libertarians, and Tea Partiers, sincerely believe that they are a majority of the American people. Having these people in the driver’s seat will result in the ruin of the liberty movement.

The lesson to be learned here is just because someone says “we the people” a lot and talks about “restoring the constitution” does not mean that their cause or candidacy is one that should be embraced by the liberty movement. Case in point is Greg Brannon and his candidacy for the United States Senate in North Carolina. Greg Brannon has emerged as the “true conservative” challenger to the establishment candidacy of North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. In fact, FreedomWorks is holding a “grassroots rally” for him this weekend. To be blunt, Greg Brannon’s views on many issues are going to come off as utterly insane to most average Americans. Buzzfeed has highlighted 13 of the nuttiest things Brannon has said including comparing property taxes to the Holocaust and the Soviet Union, ran an organization that frequently posted blog posts advocating conspiracy theories, says democratic debate of issues is “socialism”, accuses President Obama of “instituting a socialist dictatorship”, has compared abortion to slavery and the Holocaust, has also called President Obama a fascist, thinks the American political system is comparable to Nazism, and believes the Second Amendment allows private ownership of nuclear weapons. In addition, Brannon has plagiarized Senator Rand Paul’s website (who has endorsed Brannon), claims Obamacare is part of a “global conspiracy to control life”, and Brannon was found guilty by a civil jury of misleading investors for a company he was a board member of (his co-defendant was acquitted of all counts). Clearly Greg Brannon is not someone we should associate ourselves with, no matter how good he may seem on the issues. It’s as if someone decided it was a good idea for the most nutty member of the local Tea Party or the Infowars Fan Club to run for office.

The reason why people embrace Brannon, despite the fact that he cannot be considered a credible candidate, no matter where or what he is running for, is because there are many media personalities, “grassroots activists”, and political organizations who are invested in failure. The worst thing that can happen for some “in the movement” is for the left to be defeated and for the size and scope of government to actually be rolled back. Once that happens, the outrage seeking will have to go away because there will be no more excuses and people will demand results. Then perhaps the hard work of developing a credible alternative to the left’s statism and making the ideas of liberty relevant to the real world would have to begin. It’s time to start moving away from Bundy Ranch Conservatism and start building a real world libertarian conservationism that can win elections and have mass appeal among the American people.

 

Bundy Ranch Is A Symptom of What’s Wrong With The Right Tuesday, Apr 15 2014 

I have never been more ashamed to be a part of the liberty movement than over the past week. Conservatives and libertarians have been rallying to the defense of Cliven Bundy, a rancher who refuses to pay grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management and grazes on public land he is not allowed to graze on nor does he own this property in question. Bundy refuses to accept the authority of the United States government and says he will only pay fees to the state of Nevada and the county. Federal judges have been ruling against the man’s absurd arguments for years. Cliven Bundy has no respect for the rule of law and he is certainly not someone worthy of defense. The fact that conservatives and libertarians have been defending this man is a disgrace and illustrates of the failures of the right as a movement and an ideology.

I remember when conservatives and libertarians believed in the rule of law. I remember when they believed every citizen, regardless of their background and privilege, had to obey the same set of laws and those laws were enforced fairly and equally. I remember when the right believed that the proper way to change a law was to use the legal and political process, not calling an armed militia. The rule of law is a necessary component of a free society. No person should be above the law, whether it be the government or an average citizen. If we encourage government to selectively enforce the law instead of trying to change it just because we disagree with it, that invites tyranny.

Even more disturbing than defending a man who has no regard for the laws of the United States is the refusal to condemn the presence of armed militias. The Bundy Ranch incident I fear has introduced the gun and the armed mob into American politics just as the Freikorps introduced the gun and the armed mob into the politics of Weimar Germany and we saw where that led. A private armed militia with no public accountability is as much of a danger to liberty as any police force or standing army, in fact probably more so for the simple fact that in our represenative Republic, we can fire the civilians who are in charge of the police in the military. There is no replacing a commander of a self-proclaimed militia through elections or appealing to his civilian supervisors.

Equally troubling are the frequent calls to revolution. We the people have representation through our House of Representatives and Senate. We elect a president every four years. Like it or not, Barack Obama is the legally and legitimately elected President of the United States. I’m sorry to disappoint the far right, but he didn’t steal either election instead he persuaded a majority of Americans to vote for him. The birth certificate is also real. If you want to change the laws and the system and have some legitimacy while doing it, go out and win some elections by persuading the American people to vote for you. To threaten to engage in armed revolution or mobilizing militias to threaten and intimate Federal law enforcement when there are peaceful ways to change policy is not just merely immoral, but is tyrannical as well. This demonstrates that they believe they should be exempt from the same laws that we should follow. Before you engage in revolutionary acts to change the law, you have the moral responsibility to use the political and legal process to achieve your goals peacefully.

I want a much smaller government on all levels. I want individuals and families making more decisions instead of bureaucrats and politicians. I want a lot fewer laws than we have now. I also want everyone accountable to the same laws whether they are a politician, policeman, or a rancher; regardless of their background. In America, no man is the law nor are they above the law, or at least that what it should be. There is no room in a free society for the politician or policeman who abuses the law nor is there room for the vigilante who sees themselves as above the law.

When we as conservatives and libertarians embrace mob rule, we are essentially turning our backs on liberty and freedom. While mob rule can be accomplished by the ballot box through an unrestrained democracy, in history it has more often than not been accomplished with the sword. One of the reasons we create governments is to keep the mob in check.

While we must remain eternally vigilant against tyranny, we must also reject the mob mentality like we saw on display at the Bundy Ranch. Instead, we need to rededicate ourselves to the first principles of individual liberty, the rule of law, constitutionally limited government, a strong civil society, and most importantly, a society where disputes, disagreements, and change are solved and accomplished peacefully. To be frank, this means rejecting the grievance chasing pundits and hatemongers who have characterized the right for 20+ years.

It’s time for the right to return to principle and abandon the hate and the perpetual outrage.

Want to start writing? Tuesday, Apr 8 2014 

I decided to sign up for something called HubPages which is apparently a network of sites providing useful information. Supposedly, you can make some money from it. On my “hub”, I think I’m going to dedicate it to encourage and advise people who want to start writing.

My first “hub” is some advice for those who are beginning writers.

Please check it out!

The Assualt On Tolerance By The Tolerant Friday, Apr 4 2014 

I strongly believe in a diverse, tolerant, and liberal society. I believe in not just tolerance when it comes to different races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations; I believe more strongly in the tolerance of ideas, especially those I strongly disagree with.

Unfortunately, the tolerant, liberal society I love and value so much is under attack, often by many of the same people who view themselves as “tolerant”. The latest case in point is the firing of Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla. Eich’s crime in the eyes of the tolerance police is the fact that he made a $1,000 contribution in support of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. Proposition 8 sought to deny state recognition of same-sex marriage in the State of California. It passed, but was overturned by the US Surpreme Court in 2013.

Now I disagree with Eich on Proposition 8 and I agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn it. I support same-sex marriage, however, I have nothing but contempt for those who went after Eich’s job. One of the most important things about a liberal, diverse, and tolerant society is the fact that people who have differing ideas, even those ideas that a majority of us would disagree with, could work and live together in peace. Such a diverse society and tolerant values allow us to be able engage in civil political discussions about anything without the threat to someone’s livlihood or the threat of a boycott designed to put a company out of business.

These tactics of trying to have a man fired or boycotting a business because you disagree with their owner’s or executive’s political beliefs is a sign of immaturity and frankly are the tactics of thugs and bullies. Boycotts are free speech and I support the right to free speech, however just because you have the right or are legally able to do something does not mean you should do that act. Cheating on your spouse or partner is legal in most jurisdictions, however, it is probably not a good idea to do it. Not only are you betraying that other person’s trust, but you are a scoundrel. You can legally boycott anything, however, if you’re doing it based on the political beliefs of the owners and executives, you are an immature bully who cannot handle an opposing point of view.

What boycotts and the lynch mob mentality in politics does is make even the slightest disagreements personal and it makes people afraid to express their viewpoints. In order to have a healthy, tolerant, and liberal society; people must have the assurance that they can express whatever political viewpoints they believe without having their livlihoods threatened. Using the tactics of bullies, even in the name of “tolerance”, is not very tolerant at all and it leads to self-censorship, which is just as dangerous to the American body politic as state censorship.

Private power and civil society can be just as coercive as the state and that is one of the reasons I am not an anarchist. I believe that the excesses of private power and even civil society must be kept in check by the state.

As a society, we benefit from being able to freely express our points of view; whether it be free from state coercion or the coercion of private parties. Whenever we allow ourselves to get into a lather over what a man’s political beliefs, especially to the point where we target his livlihood, we diminish this freedom. If we believe in tolerance, we must believe in tolerance for all political ideas, especially those which are unpopular. Anything less is an assualt on the liberal society and invites us on the road to totalitarianism.

New Brenner Brief: Lindsey Graham Cronyism Friday, Mar 21 2014 

My latest column at Brenner Brief details the latest cronyism from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. This time, he’s going to bat for casino magnate Sheldon Adelson after Adelson hosted a fundraiser for him in Las Vegas last year.

Read it here.

An Editor’s Thoughts Thursday, Mar 13 2014 

Note: I’m not talking any specific publications, this is not meant to be an expose

As an editor for someone else’s publication, you are called on to edit pieces you don’t agree with. Sometimes, you receive pieces that you strongly disagree with. As an editor, I have a tough call in front of me. Do I edit this piece to the best of my ability or do I spike it or do a terrible job editing it?

Since I edit for someone else, I usually cannot for content. Only the publisher/editor in chief can make the decision on content. Plus as a writer, I tend to only write for sites that allow me to write whatever I want. As an editor, I feel bound to give the same courtesy to my writers.

The best way for me to handle a piece I disagree is to first and foremost do the best job editing it. Secondly, once it’s published, if it’s a disagreement I feel strongly about, I will comment in the public comments section highlighting my disagreements.

I don’t like spiking pieces based on content or trying to take editorial control of a writer’s piece. I have written at publications with an overly hands on editor and I did not enjoy it. I felt hampered as a writer.

All in all as an editor, I must respect the free speech of my writers while at the same time, I still reserve the right to publicly disagree with them.

Some Thoughts on Belle Knox Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

For those of you living under a rock, Belle Knox is the porn name of a 18 year old woman who is an undergrad student at Duke University. She has generated some controversy after she was outed by a classmate for her job. In addition, the kind of porn she made is of a…hardcore nature and involves things like rape fantasies. I won’t link to the video or describe the exact acts that she performed.

Here are my thoughts on the situation:

1) The people who are attacking her for the type of porn she does and alleging that she and those who enjoy it are mentally ill need to stop. Studies show the exact opposite actually. To each their own.

2) Having said that, I do find it ironic and hypocritical that many of the radical feminists who complain about “rape culture” are rushing to defend this woman. Either “rape culture” is a real problem or it’s not, you can’t have it both ways.

3) The only thing more annoying than the people who are say those are into kinky sex are mentally ill are the self-righteous left-libertarians who are outraged that people disapprove of this woman. It is okay to not support banning something while morally disapproving of it. I do not smoke cigarettes and I would persuade anyone I know who does to quit smoking (they nearly killed my mom for starters), but I would not support a ban on tobacco. It is a consistent position.

We all need to live and let live. I’m not Belle Knox’s dad or older brother, but I admit, I would not like it if my daughter or sister did porn. But I don’t have either.

To each their own.

Big Announcements! Monday, Feb 17 2014 

I teased on Twitter that I had a major announcement coming for today. Here it is:

I have joined the team at Brenner Brief News as a contributor and an associate editor. This weekend, I wrote my first story for them and you will be seeing it sometime this week.

I look forward to working with someone as well respected as Sara Marie Brenner and her outstanding team as I embark upon my biggest step so far as a writer. I will be posting links to my stories here when they drop and probably a more in depth summary a week after the story and/or columns are published.

Also, I will be on the radio with Allan Bourdius and Anna Morris of Pocket Full of Liberty tonight at 9PM Central discussing my most controversial post ever Confessions of An Ex-Libertarian and various other issues. Please tune in!

Finally, some other changes are in store. This blog will probably become more erratic and random and based on more what’s on the mind of yours truly at the time. It will probably take a slightly less political focus. I will continue writing occasionally for Free Radical Network and United Liberty but probably by the middle of the year, I will be launching a new blog that will supersede (but not completely replace) this little site that will focus on building a big tent to promote the issues of liberty and limited government.

I look forward to your support and prayers in these endeavors.

Minimum Wage Increase? How About A Minimum Income Instead Monday, Feb 10 2014 

In the State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. President Obama and other Democrats believe that raising the minimum wage will lift American families out of poverty. Recent polling shows that Americans overwhelmingly support a minimum wage hike.

Meanwhile, Republicans are generally opposed to the proposal. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs. Research from economists David Neumark and William Wascher done over two decades does show a loss of jobs after a minimum wage increase. Economists Joseph J. Sabia and Richard V. Burkhauser found in a recent study that only 11.3% of all minimum wage earners are classified as poor. The minimum wage is a terrible weapon to combat poverty and is harmful to employment. It places the burdens on business, is poorly targeted, and makes it harder for young people and other low skilled workers to enter the workforce. There needs to be a better way to help people escape the clutches of extreme poverty.

One such idea is a guaranteed minimum income for those who cannot be claimed as dependents on someone else’s tax return. One of the ideas to implement such a program is a Negative Income Tax. For example, the government would set an income threshold per month and would pay the difference of the amount earned and that threshold. For example, if the threshold was $1600 per month and a person only makes $1000 per month, that person would receive a check for $600. There would be a form similar to a W-2 filed by employers every month that would show how much that person made. It would replace the minimum wage and most cash welfare benefits. It would streamline anti-poverty efforts and better target resources to those who need them. Finally, it would provide an incentive for employment because the amount is set low as not to let someone get rich, but provide just enough to meet their basic needs.

This is not an idea confined to the political left. The American Revolutionary Thomas Paine advocated a “Citizen’s Dividend” in his 1795 essay Agrarian Justice. The concept of the Negative Income Tax itself was proposed by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman as a way to eliminate the bureaucracy of the welfare state. Free market economist Friedrich Hayek also supported something similar to guaranteed minimum income. Recently, Matt Zwolinski wrote “The Libertarian Case For A Basic Income” on the Cato Institute hosted Libertarianism.org.

Combatting poverty has been a major focus of the American people and its government for 50 years. It’s time to try a new approach, while at the same time encouraging employment and giving all Americans a true safety net for the first time in history.

Confessions Of An Ex-Libertarian Friday, Feb 7 2014 

Today, I finally acknowledged publicly what I have been knowing for sometime that I am no longer a libertarian. For awhile, I was feeling like I did not fit in any longer and felt alienated.

My own libertarianism was of a more moderate strain. I have no desire to privatize the roads, completely abolish the welfare state, abolish the military, privatize the police, and other anarchist fantasies. I believe in a strong, but limited government to maintain order, protect against external threats, enforce the laws and settle disputes, and provide the basic infrastructure the free market cannot provide. I continue to believe that free markets are preferable to central planning and do provide for greater prosperity for most people, although I do believe in a safety net for those who are inevitably the losers in capitalism, which I do not believe the private sector can provide on its own. Finally, I believe in a “live and let live” approach from the state as to how people live their lives, as long as they do not harm others. These beliefs have not changed.

However, for a few reasons I no longer feel comfortable calling myself a libertarian.

1)Libertarianism leads inevitably to anarchism. I agree with Thoughts on Liberty’s Rachel Burger that libertarianism eventually leads to anarchy and anarchy is quickly becoming the predominant strain in libertarianism. Organizations such as the Mises Institute, the Center For A Stateless Society, Students for Liberty, and the Foundation For Economic Education are promoting anarchy. I believe that a limited government is necessary to protect individual liberty and property. An armed mob is as coercive as any government agency and there must be a coercive power to protect life, liberty, and property from those who do not accept the social contract.

2) The infighting and dogmatism. Left-libertarians call right-libertarians racists, sexists, and homophobes and right-libertarians call left-libertarians communists. Both agree the other has to go. The differences between the two are becoming irreconcilable. In addition there is the unwillingness to tolerate opposing views in the movement. Such petty arguments are not conducive to a big tent or to a reality based approach to politics.

3) Making libertarianism into a cultural and not just a political ideology. One of the appeals of libertarianism is that anyone can support liberty, regardless of their cultural and moral views. All that is to be agreed to is that they would agree to not use the state to impose their morality. Unfortunately, that is no longer good enough. I outgrew utopian nonsense in elementary school.

I am a classical liberal which is the tree both libertarianism and American conservatism are spawned from. It is because of this common ancestry that I promote the conservatarian viewpoint. I still believe in limited government, the rule of law, private property rights, individual liberties, and free markets and that has not changed. I still consider myself a part of the broader liberty movement and I will stand up for liberty with anyone else who loves liberty, regardless of the label they give themselves.

I will fight for liberty alongside libertarians, however I will not fight for liberty as a libertarian.

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