Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Conservatives Know Best?

How would you like a little condescending pat on the head? That is what we are seeing more and more out of the “mature” Conservatives out there, reassuring Libertarians that their ideas are important and relevant, and they will be addressed in the order they were received. The Libertarian, according to these wise sages, is correct in their love of freedom and liberty and the notion of limited government, it is just that they are too naïve to realize how unworkable that is in the real world. It is just plain super that these things are being talked about, and you should continue to talk about them, over there in the corner away from everyone, after you vote for a proper Conservative Republican candidate who will pay lip service to your beliefs every once and again.

Today’s super screed comes from The American Thinker, which is really quite oxymoronic in this case. It is of course in reference to how crazy Ron Paul is, and why he and his followers are just too naive and their ideas unworkable in the “real” world. It would not matter if it was Ron Paul or anyone else though, because it is the same old crap from conservatives. There are three central arguments to this article, all of them classics about how inappropriate Libertarian thought is for the real world. My favorite would be this little gem about “isolationism”:

I think this is an exceptionally invalid argument, because it works backwards through history and all the interventionist consequences we have endured, and comes to a “what if” point in order to discredit a school of thought. Mr. Yoshida is taking the tack that if Libertarians had been in charge in 1917 that we would have never gotten involved in any world conflict and therefore the Nazis/Commies/Hippies/Moonies would be dominating the planet and America would be no more. It is very interesting that he decides to go all the way back to World War I and faults Libertarian style disengagement for keeping America out of the war and allowing the slaughter to continue unabated for years. Well, where to begin with this one? How about who is to say which side we join before 1917? The First World War, despite what anyone might think had nothing to do with principles of freedom. Grand Empires were engaged in a death struggle over who would get to enslave more people across the globe, that is the long and the short of it right there. The reason America stayed out of this war is that there was no side to take. The fact that the English and the French did not like a challenge to their dominance of the globe bore no real consequence to this nation. The plurality of the country at that point was of German ancestry and certainly held no real animosity towards their progenitors. One of the other major, and very influential, ethnic groups in this country were those of Irish ancestry, and they had no issue with Britain’s suffering a defeat in the war. America’s entry into the war was due to the military and geopolitical decision of all of the powers involved, leading to acts of desperation by one towards the United States. America had to be sold on this war, and it took quite a long time for the people to buy. The results were nothing to write home about in terms of our nation and its history, and they still haunt us today. The Espionage Act of 1917 allowed the government to lock away people for simple political dissent, something we should not be looking back fondly on. The Treaty of Versailles and the efforts of our Imperial allies to cement their hegemony over their colonies, was in part a reason for the later war. The shaby treatment we recieved from our Allies in those negotiations is what led America to resist entry into the Second World War. Allowing World War I to play out without our direct intervention could have had a very different affect on history, possibly avoiding the mass slaughter that was World War II. Maybe the Europeans continue to slaughter each other into a draw, then what happens? They lose control of their colonies, allowing self determination for millions of people around the world? Maybe places like French Indo-China and sub-Saharan Africa never turn to Communism to throw off the yoke of an extra 40 years of European domination? In turn the millions of people and trillions of dollars that are wasted in that struggle never get expended, wouldn’t that be a better outcome overall for America and world history? Without the intervention of America maybe the Allies never intervene in the Russian Revolution on the side of the Whites, creating a different outcome, or at least less suspicion and hostility towards the west from the Reds? With complete and total devastation and no hope of victory by either side, maybe we see an actual peace, and no opportunity for the Nazis to come to power. It is impossible of course to say what would have happened, and to reach all the way back to that event with a “what if” scenario in order to discredit a philosophy is intellectually dishonest and the worst kind of “straw man” argument: You don’t like American intervention overseas and the military industrial complex, therefore you would have let the Nazis win the war and rule the world. An actual discussion about American priorities and what is necessary for National Defense is what is needed, not the hyperbole that is being delivered here.

One of the other gems in this article of course deals with drugs. Those crazy Libertarians of course have a point that when it comes to freedom, you should be allowed to do as you please, but what about reality?
From the horse’s mouth:

Most libertarians believe that individuals have a right to put whatever they want into their own bodies provided that they do not harm others in the process. Therefore, they would favor the legalization of most (or all) presently illegal drugs. This would be a perfectly defensible position except for the obvious fact that one of the primary reasons why many drugs are illegal is because their prolonged usage places people into a state of desiccated decrepitude that renders them utterly unfit to support themselves. Without first seeing to it that the mechanisms by which money would then be extracted from the general public to pay for such individuals are abolished, the libertarian position could, in practice, result in an increase in the size of government.

To be clear, I am not one of those “stoner Republicans” upset because they can’t get high. I have no use for drugs, but I can not justify the notion that I should be able to enjoy my Single Malt all I want while someone else can’t get inebriated in whatever manner they see fit. The “No Harm Principle” is of course at the heart of this, do as you please so long as you harm no one else, liberty defined. For this author that is of course crazy, because drugs are dangerous, and illegal for a reason, and we have to deal with the societal cost and repercussions of the poor decisions that people may make. A perfect, paternalistic notion of government. You, the individual are free to do as you please only so long as you do not drag down the whole, for you are a cog in the machine, and you need to keep turning. This line of reasoning that a larger, more intrusive government apparatus would be needed to deal with the fallout of legalization over the present prohibition model strikes me as even more inane than the World War I argument. Has he not been paying attention? We treat addiction already, for those who want treatment, at a pretty substantial cost. We then spend billions upon billions, year after year, on interdiction and incarceration, and all to no avail. Drugs are here, everywhere you turn. He says that drugs are illegal because they are bad for you, of course leaving out what is often the capricious and haphazard way our government approaches what should be legal and illegal. And? Lots of things are bad for you, one of the biggest being the afore mentioned alcohol. Does Mr. Yoshida think that Prohibition was a good policy decision? Did it have the desired affect of cleaning up peoples lives, making them productive members of society after the evil drink as removed from their lives? No, it did the opposite, driving it underground, making criminals out of everyday citizens, adding intrigue and luster to the act of drinking and making millionaires out of violent gangsters bent on delivering a product people wanted. Unless a case can be made that the ONLY thing that keeps a majority of Americans from trying heroin is the threat of prison, then the argument makes no sense. If you add up all the cost, seen and unseen, including interdiction, corruption, murder, lost productivity, the overworked criminal justice system plus a hundred or more other things and weigh that against the idea that some percentage of the population (which may be no larger then the present percentage of people in prison for drug possession whom we are already expending capital on, drugs after all do not appeal to everybody) should be allowed to throw their lives away on addiction if they so chose, how could it possibly cost our society more or grow a more intrusive government?

The article continues on in that vein, essentially saying, sure you Libertarians have a point, but be reasonable, vote for the Conservative Republican and we will have a discussion later about how your crazy and naïve ideas won’t work. Condescending tones usually don’t win many converts, and it won’t in this case either. Ron Paul and his supporters may have some quirks, I will not deny that, but he is certainly a breath of fresh air over whatever cardboard cutout the Conservatives want to forward as a candidate. The Conservatives should be the ones to explain how it is we continue to afford $600 billion a year on keeping the world safe for American interest. The Conservatives should have to justify how continuing the drug war enhances anyone’s life or the health of our economy and country. The Conservatives Republicans should be the one who have to explain how it is after they drove the whole system into a ditch with the PATRIOT ACT, the Iraq War, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, and a dozen other stupid policies why exactly their overbearing presence in the discussion should be tolerated or even given a hearing. Absolute power did not do them any favors last time, so maybe it is time that people with actual principles and the courage of their convictions get a fair shake. Otherwise many of those people who might otherwise support a Republican candidate who acknowledges a need for a change of course, could start to look elsewhere, which also would not bother me overmuch. The statist hegemony of thought in both parties and their supporters is staring to get a little old, and a little chaos and upheaval may do us a little good in the long run.


Similarly, on foreign policy, the position that Congressman Paul holds is actually a very old one. While his lengthy paeans to the virtues of non-engagement have largely found an audience among those weary after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Paul is less the heir of the 1960s peace protesters and more the inheritor of an older and more disreputable strain of antiwar activism akin to that of those in the "America First" movement. These are the people who opposed the entry of the United States into the Second World War and who, before that, kept the United States out of the Great War for two and a half years as much of Western civilization engaged in an act of collective murder-suicide upon the battlefields of Europe.

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