There’s an objection to freedom that we often hear, but rarely hear countered. It’s the “if we are all free to do that, then everyone will do that” argument, often encountered regarding drug policy.

“If dope becomes legal,” the argument runs, “then pretty soon nearly everyone would be hooked on dope.”

The assumption behind the objection is that the only thing dissuading people from vice is the  force of law. The law of force. But that’s simply not the case. Vice may seem attractive, but vice possesses its own built-in disincentives. People can and do see the bad effects, and choose accordingly.

Further, illicit drugs are generally cheaper now than in the past, thanks to the huge profits to be made in the black market, and the industry and ruthlessness of its producers. But still, despite their cheapness, drug use is not really all that rampant. The recent cries of “heroin epidemic” are almost all hysteria and no fact.

It turns out that only a fraction of the population really wants to dramatically alter their psychological states using recreational drugs. Making them all legal might (or might not) increase usage somewhat, but not in a grand stampede to a general freak out.

The objection also applies to the “crazy policy” of free immigration, as pointed out by Bryan Caplan on EconLog. “Under open borders, over six billion people would be free to move to the United States. The population could increase by more than a factor of twenty,” Caplan writes. When Americans contemplate free immigration — something that was corked by Progressive  policymakers  in the early 20th century — they envision chaos: “six billion people migrating in unison!”

But Caplan is for open immigration. Why? Well, he doesn’t buy the “everybody will do it” scenario, for one. After all, “analogous policies are already on the books, and the system works so well few complain about it.”

We have free migration, now, within the U.S. Over three hundred million people are free to move to your hometown.

But they don’t. A number of factors, including housing prices, limits that kind of thing.

There may be good reasons to regulate migration, but fear of mass waves of migrants is overblown.

The hysterical argument that freedom-to entails universal exercise and chaos has little merit.

Sometimes, you just have to switch from Fox News to some other channel.

Not too many months ago, much was made on Fox about a particular surfer dude who collects “food stamps” (that is, uses an EBT card). Bill O’Reilly sent Jesse Watters to report on the previously reported-on (by John Stossel) California surfer who doesn’t have a paying job, but is, instead, working on his rock band Ratt something-or-other, all the while being fed by American taxpayers.

The rock-n-rollin’ surfer dude appeared unrepentant. “Am I supposed to apologize for how the system is set up?” No. Does he have a moral responsibility to grow up and get off the government teat? Not asked, but the answer is Yes.

Jesse Watters did ask him about the size of the federal debt, and did imply he wasn’t a very good American.

On The Five, Bob Beckel was incredulous that his conservative co-hosts were making a big deal about the Fox devil-of-the-day. “Why don’t you report on the families who get necessary food from the program?” Oddly? No good answer. The Five’s conservatives avoided directly dealing with liberal Bob Beckel’s challenge, other than by being dismissive.

That’s no way to carry on a debate.

The answer could have been: “The food stamp program has ballooned under Obama. Moochers gaming the system should be booted off. That would save the system for those who really need it.”

Or, if you believe, as Andrea Tantaros does, that “welfare” (state aid) should be wholly a matter for the state governments and not the federal government, you could say that “The abuse of the system is the corruption of the American people. To better help people who really need help, we need local oversight, local control, not a federal program. The surfer dude’s gleeful corruption isn’t merely laughable, it’s immoral.”

But no rational arguments were made.

Another day I switched off Fox out of frustration.

square-tao-13

The denominational disagreements about what qualifies as a commandment in the famous “Ten Sayings” (known today as “The Ten Commandments”), strike me as peculiar, to say the least. As a public service, I here break down Exodus 20, from the King James Version, trying to come up with a count.

Only three of the commandments give us counting problems: the Graven Image prohibition, the Sabbath set, and the final commandment, on Covetousness. Compare traditional breakdowns (see “The Ten Commandments List“) with mine, below.

As I read it, there are 14 separate words or  phrases of command. (I have bolded those commands.) One of them strikes me (but not Catholics) as an obvious rhetorical repetition. The others strike me as distinct commands, worthy of separate attention. I have placed the Lord’s explanatory passages in red type: these are not commands, but statements that give more weight to the commands. The sub-heads are my interpolations into the text.

 

DECLARATION:

And God spake all these words, saying, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

COMMANDMENTS:

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee
    1. any graven image, or
    2. any likeness of any thing that is
      1. in heaven above, or
      2. that is in the earth beneath, or
      3. that is in the water under the earth:
  3. thou shalt not
    1. bow down thyself to them, nor
    2. serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  4. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  5. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  6. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
  7. but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work,
    1. thou, nor
    2. thy son, nor
    3. thy daughter, nor
    4. thy manservant, nor
    5. thy maidservant, nor
    6. thy cattle, nor
    7. thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  8. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
  9. Thou shalt not kill.
  10. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  11. Thou shalt not steal.
  12. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  13. Thou shalt not covet
    1. thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet
    2. thy neighbour’s wife, nor
    3. his manservant, nor
    4. his maidservant, nor
    5. his ox, nor
    6. his ass, nor
    7. any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

REVELATORY CONTEXT:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

Lustration

I just placed a new word into my vocabulary.

TheIndependents

The Independents, a new libertarian show on Fox Business, is fun and infuriating. Fun, because hostess Kennedy is a saucy minx, co-host Matt Welch is always prepared, and co-host Kmele Foster is often extremely articulate and wise. Infuriating, because they cannot quite manage to have rational debate with those with whom they disagree (Kennedy, especially, too often interrupts others in the course of argument), and the format of the show often trivializes subjects by skimming over them once, hastily, as if with spatula on cream.

I mostly blame the medium. In-depth anything on TV is almost impossible. John Stossel, on his show (Stossel) tries, but most fail. I guess they lack the courage of our attentions, afraid of PBS Involuntary Yawning Syndrome.

Tonight, it was an episode focused on one issue: are libertarians nuts? This self-abuse could’ve been fun, if carried out relentlessly. But the need for witless guests (the Fox talking hair extension whose opinions on drug legalization were almost incoherent is a great, sad example) spoiled the affair. Not enough Jonathan Haidt, no need for the “Party panel.”

The on-the-street interviews were good, though, as far as they went, and I think this is where Kennedy excels as a journalist. And comedian.

And, give credit: the night’s “On the Couch” skit was hilarious, perhaps the funniest thing they’ve yet done. (Fox has not released official video clips from the episode, yet, which is why I include none here.)

But the biggest lost opportunity was regarding the Somalia Gambit, the persistent statist meme that accuses libertarians of not owning up to something they have no responsibility for: the state of the non-state society of Somalia. They laughed at the video, give them that:

Payoff? None. No discussion. Nothing substantive. Nothing, say, like this:

But what gripes me is this “anti-government” meme. Libertarians are not against government. Not even self-designated “anarcho-capitalists” are. Constitutionalists are for limited government by separation of powers. Minarchists are for limited government — by contract within a territory. “Anarchists” are for limited government, also by contract, but without established borderlines, with competition between providers of governmental services lacking any franchise territory. What libertarians are against is unlimited government, government in excess of dose, of unlimited scope and purview.

Somalia, sans a state, works remarkably well by customary law. It is far more prosperous than people think, and many of the problems in the land are caused by periodic attempts by outsiders to establish a state. Major corporations have moved in and seem to be reasonably well-behaved.

But I’m unaware of contractual government in Somalia. There are many contractual relationships. But how contractual are the relationships among folk and those who provide security, legal services, etc? As I understand it, the market is underdeveloped.

Maybe, if First World nations and the United Effing Nations can keep their blood-stained mitts off of Somalia, something a like a libertarian paradise would emerge. For now, though, the beleaguered territory lacks a number of government institutions that every libertarian I know wants.

The problem behind the charge? It’s twofold.

First, libertarians do not consistently distinguish between institutions of government (which they like, if properly formed) and The State, a “monopolistic” institution that bullies its way to establish sovereignty in a region, and invariably engages in mass expropriation as modus operandi. Too infrequently libertarians marshal the hormesis idea, that government is a good drug in small doses and dangerous poison in larger doses. So people think we are “against government.” They are misled by sloppy thinking and ill-conceived rhetoric amongst libertarians.

Second, statists of the liberals-progressive variety so hysterically lust for ever-increasing dollops of government on their social sundae that they themselves often miss the most important elements of libertarian reasoning. And thus they misinterpret libertarian fear and anger at poisonous doses of intrusive government as hatred of any and all government.

Of course, the existence of putative “anarchists” in the movement — people who oppose The State but not institutional governmental services — lends justification for statist error.

And there is nothing we can do about this, since the “anarchy” meme is deep in the libertarian tradition. Many deny that the term is misleading. (Most of my friends, for example.) For these folks, treating the State as Enemy justifies the term. Not a few get their jollies by the coolness factor they think the term bequeaths them. It makes them seem more “lefty” than they are.

In my opinion, however, what libertarian have to offer is more interesting than anarchy. But such nomenclature disputes rarely move anyone to change a habit.

So, we will have to live with repeated barrages of the  Somalia Gambit, and we will have to blame some of our own.

The recent “Ban ‘Bossy’” campaign is a fine example of clueless modern uplift and feminist-influenced do-goodism. That is, it is idiotic.

Jesse Walker, writing at Reason, makes a case for common sense:

You might be able to convince me that the term “bossy” gets applied to girls more than boys. But it’ll be hard to make me believe that people across the country are telling bossy boys they’re budding leaders. Teachers and other school staff tend to find that sort of behavior disruptive, and as for the kids — well, they’re certainly capable of following the lead of other children, both male and female, but in my experience they’re not prone to throwing around the l-word. In any event, bossiness and leadership are not the same thing.

Beyond that: Of all the things kids call each other, is bossy really one we want to discourage? Call me a crazy anarchist, but social pressure against bossing people around strikes me as a good thing.

The eloquent Mr. Walker is so sensible that I almost hate to expand on his points. But I think the witlessness of the bossy-obsessed ninnies is in danger of getting lost here. As near as I can make out, they are not a little bit wrong, they are wholly off-point.

“Bossy” is a cute word, and thus appropriate for girls. When boys behave similarly, they are called “pushy” or, more directly, “asshole.”

I wasn’t very bossy growing up, but adults and other kids often tried to make a “leader” out of me because I wasn’t bossy, but was instead usually polite, smart, articulate, and even empathic. Bossy people make terrible leaders.

The anti-bossy meme proves idiotic: these alleged adults have forgotten the difference between a competent bellwether or organizer or avant-gardist and the pushy little a-holes who get called “bossy.”

But then, the campaign seems to be little more than a typically smug Made for Upworthy meme, a way for “liberal” celebrities to feel better about themselves while they look down from on high at the hoi polloi . . . who don’t know how to raise children. Par for that course.

20140313-032446.jpg
The great thing about being an independent — about not belonging to a party — is that when a politician commits a crime, tells a lie, or stumbles around like a buffoon (in short, when a politician behaves like a politician) one need feel no defensiveness, not any sort of embarrassment. One can chortle and carry on.

Or, to appropriate last year’s meme:

Keep calm and chortle on!

It is the privilege of non-partisans. It is achievable by all. It takes only enough independence of mind, of spirit, to slough off party allegiance.

Resist the herd, the pack, the school of flounders. Be a person, not a party hack.

There is more than one kind of libertarian, and several uses of the term “libertarianism.”

There is, first, the distinction between metaphysical libertarianism (the doctrine of free will)  and political libertarianism (the doctrine of individual rights and limited government). I will concentrate on the political philosophy.

Then there is that curiosity of modernity, the “civil libertarian” — which stands for a person who supports a limited set of individual rights . . .  to free expression, religion, etc. These creatures are great folks, in the context of our statist age, but they usually allow all sorts of tyrannies to over-ride individual freedom. That is, most so-called civil libertarians have no trouble with the government tromping all over the right of freedom of contract. Unless, I guess, it’s about gay marriage. But hiring a worker? Forming a partnership? A business? These activities remain heavily regulated by modern states, and are a huge burden upon the peaceful and the industrious. But civil libertarians don’t even pretend to be interested. Civil libertarians are apparently lulled into the narrow purview of their dogmatic slumber by the mere existence of the first few entries into the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

It is also a point of fact that the word “libertarian” began to be used as a euphemism for “anarchist” in the early 20th century. The anarchists back then had every reason to euphemize. Some amongst them were murderous revolutionaries, and there was a major government crackdown on anarchist writing, speaking, and organizing, especially after the assassination of President McKinley. “Anarchist” became a dangerous word; “libertarian” a safe one.

But by the time the New Deal rolled around, and progressives had cleverly stolen the word “liberal” from what we now call “classical liberals,” those remaining liberals of individualist bent needed  a new moniker. And they adopted the word “libertarian.” A stroke of genius?

So, today, there are “left libertarians” of the old anarchist type, basically communists pretending to be anti-authoritarians, and there are “right libertarians” of the classical liberal type — “right” because they believe in private property. The “left” as defined by socialists were thoroughly anti-private-property, so, on that one criterion, the classical liberals can be legitimately considered “of the right.”

Of course, when it comes to authoritarianism (another possible criterion for distinguishing left and right) the classical liberals are arguably far more “left” than any practicing socialist. And on the grounds of warfare, classical liberals and some socialists often find themselves “left” outside of mainstream discussion, trying to avoid mass murder and easy justifications for warfare.

These terms “left libertarian” and “right  libertarian” are further compromised by two currents within the American libertarian movement, and can be sourced to none other than the ostensible “Mr. Libertarian,” Murray N. Rothbard. In the 1960s, Rothbard tried to make inroads on the left, and his anti-war stance contrasted sharply with the anti-communist interventionism of many libertarians hailing from America’s hopelessly confused conservative upsurge. So Rothbard was thought of, along with Karl Hess and others, to be a “left libertarian.”

During the years of his early Libertarian Party involvement, Rothbard tried to maintain a “plumb line” approach, but this did not last for long. Rothbard was captured by political entrepreneur Lew Rockwell, a former Ron Paul staffer who formed the Mises Institute, ostensibly in honor of Mises, but really promoting Rothbard. (Perhaps it would be nicer to say they captured each other.) And, seemingly under Rockwell’s influence, Rothbard lurched into what he called “paleolibertarianism,” an attempt to gain political trendiness and relevance by latching onto the paleo-conservative “groundswell,” with its inherent social conservative biases. Even after Rothbard’s death, Lew Rockwell continued, for a number of years, to excoriate against “left libertarians” within the movement who, he said, were hopelessly bohemian, egalitarian, and libertine. You know, the kind of people who could “ruin” the movement. Taint it. Give it bad press.

Amusingly, and as if in revenge upon the shade of Rothbard, a number of libertarian stalwarts obviously in Rothbard’s leaned left again. Some of them, including Roderick Long (often speaking at Rockwell’s Mises Institute events) and the brilliant writer Sheldon Richman, argued a number of points that made “the left”  somehow better than “the right.” These writers explicitly defend a “left libertarianism,” though as far as I can tell their nomenclature revisionism has all the intellectual traction of Sinead O’Connor’s shiny dome rotating on oil-covered ice.

I do find a few of their allegedly heretical positions attractive, such as Long’s case for a certain type of public property (rather than the narrow and relentless private propertarianism that Rothbard had always pushed) and their more standard, plumb-line criticisms of “vulgar libertarianism” (the too-common eliding of the difference between support for free markets and the defense of current big business). But mostly I find the new “left libertarianism” to be just more sucking up to the allegedly “cool” culture of college and media bullies. There is nothing really cool about any of the left. It’s all pretense and bluster. Further, most current distinctions between “left and right” within the libertarian movement seem silly at best and tyrannical foolishness at worst. (In the latter category I lump discussions of “privilege” and “microaggression” that burble up from collegiate progressive left.)

As I see it, “libertarianism” is a great name for a political position that some people do hold. They should have the term to themselves. Everybody else who disagrees in whole or part should let those folks have it.

What is that position? It’s the “simple system of natural liberty” (Adam Smith), and nothing but. It’s Liberty conceived as “the Law of Equal Freedom” (Herbert Spencer)  or “freedom from interference” (Henry Sidgwick) and “non-aggression” (Rothbard). It is the right to liberty construed as the only basic right, with all other rights flowing from it, grounding on it, and with this one right and the resultant rights structure determining the proper scope of government.

That’s it. I find the position mightily attractive. I judge it the most interesting political idea ever stumbled upon by Distracted Man. But I am not certain that it is workable, and believe that we are so far from it now, in political and legal practice, that I do not believe we can actually know whether it will “work” — that is, will engender a sustainable social order to the benefit of the overwhelming run of humanity.

I am, in fine, an agnarchist, as Jesse Walker once dubbed me — an agnostic about the ultimate size, scope and shape of government as delimited by individual liberty.

By my narrow definition, Herbert Spencer would likely qualify as a libertarian, but F. A. Hayek would not. French liberal Frédéric Bastiat was something very close to a libertarian, but American economists and Nobel Laureates James Buchanan and Milton Friedman were not.

Hayek and Buchanan and Friedman contributed mightily to the development of modern libertarianism, but were liberals of a very old sort. Hayek, at least, got more libertarian with age, as the Leviathan State betrayed more and more of the principles of a free society. And he saw the libertarianism’s attraction. But he was no laissez-faire liberal, much less a pure libertarian. Friedman was much closer, but more than willing to compromise with the existing order, concocting some remarkably illiberal half-measures as a way of securing a little more freedom.

Of course, classical liberals close to the libertarian position have every reason to want to be considered as part of the tradition. They are. After all, liberty is valued highly by both groups. But liberty is more integral and dominant to those who deserve the moniker. And the purer position  deserves a name.

When I was first introduced to libertarian ideas, the big split in the libertarian intellectual movement was between “anarchists” and “minarchists.” The former notion, the anarcho-capitalist idea, was ably defended in a variety of ways, particularly by Murray Rothbard and David Friedman. The nightwatchman state of the minarchists was defended by Ayn Rand (in a dogmatic and mostly unhelpful way) and Robert Nozick (in a brilliant if puzzling and problematic way). Most of my friends came away from the discussion favoring anarchy; I came away from such discussions mostly in the agnarchist position.

But in one way I was vexing to both groups. I annoyed putative anarchists by denying that their idea was well-described as anarchist at all. The anarchists I had read before reading Nozick hated the state, no doubt, but they opposed a lot more than monopoly political governance. There was a reason the first deviser of the idea of “competitive government,” Gustave de Molinari, avoided the term “anarchy.” He knew anarchists, and both he and those anarchists knew he was no anarchist. They hated private property; he supported it. They hated trade, period; he was a free trader. They hated the cops; he wanted them hired for fee, or by insurance, like the Pinkertons so loathed on the anti-property left.

And yet he had cooked up, out of the radical individualistic liberalism of his day (especially out of the ideology of such forebears as Say, Comte, Dunoyer, and Bastiat) what we now call anarcho-capitalism. A better term than “anarcho-”anything is in order. (“Voluntaryism,” perhaps? “Panarchism”?)

More vexing, I insisted that both putative anarchists and “minarchists” (a term coined by an alleged anarchist —an “agorist,” no less) promoted the same thing: government by contract. They were, together, aiming for something new and novel in political philosophy: contractual government.

The difference between the libertarian anarchists manqué and the minarchists-in-theory was that the minarchists thought they could derive a concept of obligatory political territory — borderlines — directly from the right to liberty. The attractiveness of the competitive government position is that it forsakes the mental gymnastics and (seemingly) tortured logic that would make that derivation.

From what I can tell, this argument is not over. The “anarchists” seem to have the best arguments, but the minarchists have tradition on their side. And the idea of eradicating “monopoly” political territory in a world where private property (individual territory) remains, does rub up against an evolutionary mindset, and conjures up doubts about the confidence of the anti-territorial, competitive government position.

Next to the minarchists reside the advocates of constitutional government. Whereas pure libertarian approach of liberty-alone amounts to an attack on the idea of government sovereignty (replacing it with the extremely limited-government notion of government-by-contract), constitutional government defends the idea of sovereignty as well as territory, admits of taxation, and is quite familiar to most Americans.

Constitutionalism is thus, often, the political stance — the exoteric stance — of many even radical libertarians.

The key concepts on the spectrum of politics, from a libertarian perspective, are, thus,

  1. Contract
  2. Territory
  3. Sovereignty
  4. Taxation, public “takings”  and the whole panoply beyond laissez-faire, of government-as-we-know it, including warfare and
  5. Protectionism
  6. Redistributionism
  7. Regulatory mechanisms leading to Dirigisme
  8. Socialism and totalitarianism.

How can one look at this set of concepts and not see a “slippery slope”? In jeopardy of sliding, we try to stick to some principle that might prevent the descent downwards, towards total statism.

For Molinari men, it’s an insistence that all institutions be established and maintained by explicit contract, with government territory not drawn by borderlines, and in which peaceful, law-abiding independents (those lacking institutional  backup) should be tolerated (at worst) and defended (at  best). For Nightwatchmen it may be the denial of sovereignty to any institution, including “government,” that is not derived from an individual’s sovereignty. For Constitutionalists, explicit formulated limits on the use of taxing and takings power — and the simultaneous promotion of a package of rights — is enough.

History knows few examples of contractual government. Those that start out in this fashion often export their illiberal tendencies in warfare (some pirates set up contractual governments, but engaged in criminal activity to  out-groups), and wind up accepting sovereignty notions and corrupting any actual contract with notions of territory and majority rules, etc. Or else being destroyed.

This continuum of ideas is muddied by questions of adaptation to current conditions — by preference falsification and ideological caginess. Those libertarians who aim to influence current events and political arrangements often pretend to positions they do not hold with candor or confidence: competitive government advocates pretending to be constitutionalists; minarchists pretending to be Hayekians. The reason for these compromises are clear. First, the State exists, and its current power is nearly unlimited. Even a self-proclaimed anarchist would have prudential reasons to use, say, the concept of rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights in defense of some liberties — no matter how confused by terms of art and politic perversion those rights may be.

Further, libertarians are so out of the mainstream of political discourse that it is almost impossible to get anywhere by starting with the most radical notions and demanding acceptance from others . . . who see little advantage in caving in on their confidence game of unlimited government.

So almost every libertarian I’ve talked to floats a dual system: ideal ethics and practical ethics, or, as Herbert Spencer put it, Absolute and Relative ethics. There may be no way of getting around this, even if it sets up a distinction often encountered in cults: exoteric vs. esoteric doctrine.

The real and most recalcitrant differences among libertarians-as-such are probably these questions of “radicalism vs. gradualism” (an old term from my early days in the movement). Alas, they are not well explored, in part because of the variety and vaguenesses of the philosophies libertarians bring to ground their philosophy.

Most discussions of radicalism and gradualism are horribly simplistic. And are likely to remain so for the near future.

Which is why I consider libertarianism still a doctrine in its adolescence, and why my own position remains, vexingly, that of “agnarchism.”

The advantages of a Catholic education are pretty obvious: a long tradition of thinking about philosophy, religion, history, etc. The obvious disadvantage is that a few bad philosophical habits creep in: the habit of setting up a definition and dragooning it to cast its meaning over other areas, of making definition do more work for you than logic allows.

The classic case is “man is a rational animal.” From this, neo-Thomists and Catholic neo-Aristotelians wring all sorts of putative truths, many of which strike me as spurious. Often, all that they really achieve are farragoes, curious spillovers from the initial definition — certainly not a neat-and-tidy argument.

Bill O’Reilly, of Fox News, is a proud Catholic. And his habit of “reasoning” based on definitions that don’t stay put is pretty glaring. My favorite of his goofy arguments is his attack on all psychoactive drug use as “trying to escape reality,” and then arguing from there that all such drug use is morally wrong. The incrementalist idea, the notion of marginal differences, one dosage at a time, doesn’t ever really cross his mind. The fact that not all users are addicts is mostly lost on him. The more controversial notion, that not all addicts ruin their lives, is anathema to O’Reilly. He defends the War on Drugs because he thinks that all illegal drugs are wholly dangerous, their use entirely immoral, thus allowing his sympathy for those whom the war persecutes to drop to near zero.

All nonsense, of course.

Most every drug can serve a variety of purposes other than “escaping reality,” which, by the way, is not a block concept. Reality itself is quite malleable. I can adjust my attention (an old Stoic and Epicurean trick), I can adjust my actions, I can change my emotional reactions.

I can even stop watching Fox.

At what point am I “avoiding reality”?

Last night, O’Reilly restated his case for the importance of the White House’s mishandling of the Ben Ghazi attack. I agree with Bill O’Reilly on this matter. I think it is indicative of concerted prevarication and responsibility-avoidance on the part of folks at the very highest levels of American office.

Where I disagree with O’Reilly is in his insistence that the attack that killed American diplomatic personnel, and other government functionaries, amounted to “terrorism.”

O’Reilly makes much of this being “terrorism.” If Leon Panetta immediately told the president it was an act of terrorism, then this means something. Actually, it means several somethings. It means that the subsequent White House publicity that the event was a spontaneous uprising in protest of a goofy anti-Islamic video on YouTube was a concerted cover-up, just as O’Reilly says.

But it doesn’t mean that it was terrorism. Panetta can be wrong.

I believe he was wrong. Panetta saying something doesn’t make it any more so than O’Reilly repeating it, as if a mantra.

Terrorism is the use of violence against random innocents or in some similar way  in order to instill terror in a population, for political ends.

What happened in Ben Ghazi was insurrection — insurrection by people associated with terrorism, perhaps, but not engaging in terrorism as such. Attacking an imperial outpost — or the outpost of any enemy — is not terrorism. It’s old-fashioned warfare, in this case insurrection by non-state combatants against a state enterprise.

Not every bit of violence committed by a person designated as a terrorist is terroristic.

O’Reilly wants to make the “terrorism” label stick because he is, as he likes to say, a “simple man.” The complexities of reality are things he wishes to avoid. He treats definitions like addicts treat drugs. Evasions of responsibility. Escape.

According to a recent report, Mary Matalin believes that, at crunch time closer to 2016, Hillary Clinton won’t even throw her hat in the ring.

That’s my bet, too. Who will take her place, fill in the void? Al Franken?

I hope not. (Though it would be funny to see him run. Funny in a not-plotted-for-primetime kind of way.)

But what of the Republicans? Grover Norquist thinks that “six candidates have the names, staff and ability to raise money to run: Christie, Walker, Bobby Jindal, Perry, Bush, and Paul.” Note the problems of each:

  • Chris Christie: corrupt (or, “sure looks corrupt” — won’t pick up independent votes)
  • Scott Walker: hated by Democrats more than any other candidate (will have to endure horrible push-back from union folks, teachers)
  • Bobby Jindal: lackluster spokesman (yawn)
  • Rick Perry: nincompoop (Bush III, minus the dynasty)
  • Jeb Bush: Dynastic centrist (won’t pick up many independent votes)
  • Rand Paul: Sub rosa libertarian? (may scare off centrists and even independents-not-leaning libertarian)

At present (and to come full circle), Rand Paul seems to be obsessed with the Clintons. And, though that bizarre power couple may be a worthy subject for censure, worry or derision, it probably won’t play very well in modern society. Americans have forgiven Bill his philandering, and Hillary her wifely defensiveness.

Should that be the case? I am not sure. But it does seem to be the case. I don’t see Rand pushing ahead with the Clinton-bashing.

I suspect that the way ahead for a libertarian-conservative candidate is simple: bash progressives for being arrogant meddlers, puffed up with pride and pseudo-knowledge, and heedless of the common sense of the people. Destroy Obamacare. Cut down the NSA.

Would that a more straightforward libertarian candidate could become viable, but this is America, a deeply polarized country. Baby steps or none at all, it seems.

Pages: 1 2

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.