Looking on the bright side at year’s end 4

We are to a large extent libertarian conservatives.

We agree with Libertarians on many issues.

Where we part company with them is chiefly over foreign policy. A realistic understanding of what is happening in the world cannot but be pessimistic. War is raging in the Middle East as a horrifying army of Islamic savages – ISIS – spreads its tyranny and commits atrocities. The war sends millions of Muslim “refugees” into Europe, which will before long become a continent dominated by Muslims and subjected to the cruelties of Islamic law.

The evil tentacles of ISIS stretch far and reach America. The worst terrorist attack in America since 9/11 was carried out by ISIS affiliates late this year at San Bernardino in California. Islam is a growing menace to the Western world, to America, to liberty.

Deliberately to ignore this reality is obviously and astonishingly foolish.

Yet Libertarians do ignore it. Or, if they have to notice it, they play it down and brush it aside. They prefer to look on the bright side of current events.

John Stossel, a cheerful Libertarian, writes at Townhall:

Terrorism! Crime! Deadly storms! Hillary Clinton!

We like the inclusion of Hillary Clinton among the horrors.

We reporters focus on bad news, but at year’s end, let’s remember what went right. 2015 was a better time to be alive than most any prior point in history.

He means, of course, to be alive in America.

The rich got richer. Some people think that’s a problem, but why? Do rich people sit on their piles of money and cackle about how rich they are? Do they build giant houses that damage the environment? Well, they sometimes do.

But mostly they invest, hoping to get richer still. Those investments create jobs and better products and make most everyone else richer. Even if the rich leave money in banks, banks lend it to people who put it to productive use.

Sure, income inequality has grown – but so what? The rich don’t get richer at the expense of the poor. Poor people’s income grew 48 percent over the past 35 years. Bernie Sanders says that “the middle class is disappearing”. But that’s mainly because many middle-class people moved into the upper class. Middle class incomes grew 40 percent over the past 30 years.

We receive all that with nods and smiles.

This year we heard more horror stories about bad schools and students who don’t learn. But take heart: Seven more states passed education choice legislation.

That means more students can opt out of bad schools and pick better ones, and over the long haul competing schools will have to get better at what they do. That will lead to a brighter future for all students – and for society, which will benefit from their improved skills.

That too is good news.

In 2015, two more states and Washington, D.C., legalized marijuana. Authorities are always reluctant to give up control, but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.

We have no quarrel with him there.

Meanwhile, real crime – violence and thefts – continue to fall. We cover horrible mass shootings and spikes in crime in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but overall, crime is down – over the past 20 years, down by about half.

And that is very good news.

He comes back to terrorism:

Unfortunately, terrorism has increased – mainly because of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there are far fewer deaths from war and terror than there were 30 years ago, and in America, the odds of you or your family being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to disease, accidents and a thousand more-ordinary threats.

And that is where our nodding stops and our smiles vanish.

In our experience – not inconsiderable  – of dealing with terrorism, we have all too often heard glib apologists, mainly spokesmen of the Left but also Libertarians, bring up the statistics of deaths in accidents outnumbering deaths in terrorist attacks. To do so is not just stupid, not just irrelevant, but bad. Accidents are by definition events that nobody is responsible for. To compare the danger of accidents with the danger of terrorism – to treat terrorism as just another hazard in contemporary living – is to remove the moral dimension from the frightful business of deliberately terrifying, killing, maiming, and shattering lives which is what terrorists do.

To disregard the immorality of terrorism is tantamount to condoning it.

Nothing ensures the triumph of evil as effectively as the abandonment of moral judgment.

Of course John Stossel does not mean to abandon moral judgment. He, like most Libertarians, has simply not given enough thought to the matter.

So on that point his optimism lapses into sheer insouciance.

But he moves on to other topics:

Marriage is good for civilization. This year the Supreme Court declared that gay people may get married. Government shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all, since marriage is a contract between individuals, but if it’s going to wade into that issue, it’s better to have one clear rule instead of ugly ongoing fights about it.

Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business and worrying about our own marriages.

We won’t quarrel with him over that either, although we think the word “marriage”, with its age-long connotations, is unsuitable to describe a contractual union between two people of the same sex.

In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia got to vote.

But a woman in Saudi Arabia still may not drive. Or walk abroad without a male relative escorting her. Or inherit as much her brothers. Or be fully believed in court unless a second woman backs up her testimony.

More countries elected leaders, rather than inheriting them.

But some may not be able to replace them in another election.

With what he says next, we heartily agree:

The picture isn’t all rosy. As I mentioned, terrorism is up. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on track to lead America into bankruptcy. We have eternal problems like hunger and disease.

But even those “eternal” problems are closer to being solved than they used to be.

Thanks to better vaccines, 6 million fewer children under the age of 5 die each year compared to 30 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty – that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. “Experts” predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.

Ten percent of the world’s people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off.

But then again, he makes a recommendation we cannot like:

As Marian Tupy of HumanProgress.org puts it, “Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last.”

So enjoy it.

Away from the sources of news about what’s going on in the world? There again is the misguided aspect of the Libertarian outlook. See, hear, speak no evil and it will be just as if there is none? Dangerous nonsense!

But with his last words we cordially join in:

Happy New Year!

Pacifism, libertarianism, and the future of the Republican Party 15

Daniel Greenfield – one of the writers we most respect, and on most issues agree with – argues against Rand Paul’s position on drones and the government’s possible threat to lives on American soil. (See our post Death or due process? March 7, two days ago.)

Rand Paul is anti-war, like his libertarian father Ron Paul. His views on America’s conduct of foreign affairs are like his father’s.

It is chiefly on the issues of foreign policy and war that we part company with most libertarians.

So on these issues we are as critical of both father and son as Daniel Greenfield is. But we do not agree with all he says.

There are Conservative sites that are positively giddy about Rand Paul getting positive mentions from John Cusack [Hollywood leftist critic of the use of drones] and [Maoist Communist] Van Jones. [Feminist pacifist] Code Pink’s endorsement is being treated like some kind of victory.

Are we really getting worked up about getting a pat on the head from the left? …

Even saner heads are calling Rand Paul’s filibuster a political victory. The only place that it’s a victory is in the echo chambers of a victory-starved party. And to Code Pink and Van Jones who are happy to see the Republican Party adopting their views.

The “brilliant victory” was that some Republicans tried to go further on the left than Obama on National Defense. Maybe next they can try to go further left than him on Immigration, Gay Marriage and Abortion. 

And if that doesn’t work, Rand Paul and Jon Huntsman can get together on ending the War on Drugs.

On the issues of gay marriage and the war on drugs we too take a libertarian view. We don’t think that what people do in their private lives is the state’s business. (We notice that marriage is a fading institution, and so anticipate that all unions, whether heterosexual or homosexual, will become civil contracts of the same kind – leaving the religions to decide for themselves who may be married by their rites.)

On abortion our position is not conventionally conservative or libertarian. We think it should be rare and early. The law should speak on the matter only to set a time limit.

We cannot be for uncontrolled immigration as long as the host country is a welfare state.

Daniel Greenfield continues on the subject of drones, which, he says, was a smokescreen obscuring Rand Paul’s real cause:

Most Americans support using drones to kill Al Qaeda terrorists. Most Americans don’t know about the filibuster or care. Most Americans want political and economic reforms, not conspiracy theories.

The Paul filibuster was about drone strikes on American soil, the way that Obama ‘only’ wants to ban assault rifles.

This isn’t about using drones to kill Americans on American soil. That’s a fake claim being used by Rand Paul as a wedge issue to dismantle the War on Terror. Now that he’s manipulated conservative support for that, he can begin moving forward with his real agenda.

Rand Paul is on record as opposing Guantanamo Bay and supports releasing the terrorists. He’s on record opposing drone strikes against Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, saying, “A perpetual drone war in Pakistan makes those people more angry and not less angry.”

This position is no different than that of his father. The only difference is that Rand Paul is better at sticking statements like these into the middle of some conservative rhetoric.

To which we say, endorsing Greenfield’s view: the belief, held by the far left and the libertarian movement, that countries hostile to the United States have been provoked to spiteful bellicose fury by American policies and actions, is wrong. It is ill-informed. America is resented for what it is – free, prosperous, successful, and above all powerful – not (unless in particular temporary instances) for anything it has done or is doing. Obama sympathizes with the resentment, and is doing his best to make the country he presides over less free, less prosperous, less successful, and much less powerful.

That the “war on terror” (ridiculous phrase but referring to something real) is not America’s fault, is the point on which we are in entire agreement with Daniel Greenfield. It is al-Qaeda, he says, which has turned the whole world into a battlefield, not America. And he is right.

Here, in the middle of Rand Paul’s drone rant is what he really stands for and against.

“It’s one thing to say yeah, these people are going to probably come and attack us, which to tell you the truth is probably not always true. There are people fighting a civil war in Yemen who probably have no conception of ever coming to America.”

The people fighting that “civil war” are tied in with Al Qaeda, including the Al-Awlaki clan, whose scion, Anwar Al-Awlaki helped organize terrorist attacks against America and was linked to 9/11.

“… We do know the U.S. drones are targeting people who have never pledged to carry out attacks in the United States, so we’re talking about noncombatants who have never pledged to carry out attacks are being attacked overseas. Think about it, if that’s going to be the standard at home, people who have never really truly been involved with combat against us. Take Pakistan where the CIA kills some people without even knowing their identities. … Think about it. If it were your family member and they have been killed and they were innocent or you believe them to be innocent, it’s going to – is it going to make you more or less likely to become involved with attacking the United States?”

This isn’t about stopping Obama from killing Americans. This is straight-line anti-war garbage.

“You know, or how much – if there’s an al-Qaida presence there trying to organize and come and attack us. Maybe there is. But maybe there’s also people who are just fighting their local government. How about Mali? I’m not sure in Mali they’re probably worried more about trying to get the next day’s food than coming over here to attack us.”

And a politician reciting Michael Mooreisms like these is supposed to stand for a “Conservative Victory”?

“I think that’s a good way of putting it, because when you think about it, obviously they’re killing some bad people. This is war. There’s been some short-term good. The question is, does the short-term good outweigh the long term cost, not only just in dollars but the long-term cost of whether or not we’re encouraging a next generation of terrorists?”

Is this the new conservative position now? That killing Al Qaeda terrorists only encourages more terrorism?

Are we all Paultards now? …

“Ultimately we as a country need to figure out how to end war. We’ve had the war in Afghanistan for 12 years now. The war basically has authorized a worldwide war.”

Not just to end the Afghan war (which should have been ended eleven or so years ago), but to end war as such. Absurd. And Rand Paul thinks that if America does not go to war, there will be no (international) wars.  That belief is naive to an extreme.

And Paul’s statement that America’s going to war in Afghanistan “authorized a worldwide war” is totally false. Islam is at war with the rest of the world doctrinally. The attack by al-Qaeda on America on 9/11/2001 was an act of aggressive, not defensive war, and it was in pursuit of religous ends.

We will quote a little more from the Greenfield article, because his argument is about more than Rand Paul’s position on foreign policy, war, and drones; it is about Conservatism and the Republican Party.

This is Rand Paul’s position. It’s the position of anti-war protesters in 2002. It’s Barack Obama’s original position before he discovered that war wasn’t so easy to end.

If you stand with Rand, this is what you stand with.

Everyone can do what they please, but if you’re going to stand with Rand, then let’s be clear about his positions and agenda. And be clear about whether you share them or not.

No more dressing this up in “Rand Paul is standing up for the Constitution.” That’s the same dishonest claim his father made for years. And none of the even more dishonest, “Drone strikes on Americans in cafes” nonsense.

That’s not what this is about.

1. Do you think that the United States is murdering innocent Muslims and inspiring terrorist attacks?

2. Do you think that if we just leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone?

3. If you think all those things, then wasn’t the left, which has been saying all these things since before September 11, right all along?

Is Van Jones agreeing with you… or are you agreeing with Van Jones? …

The Left believes those things because they are on the side of America’s enemies and want them to win. Rand Paul believes them because he knows nothing about the world beyond the borders of his own country and mentalities beyond the limits of his own imagination.  

The lesson that the Republican Party refuses to learn is that you don’t win by abandoning conservative values.

• You don’t win by going liberal on immigration.

• You don’t win by going liberal on government spending.

• You don’t win by going liberal on social values.

• And you don’t win by going liberal on national defense.

You either have a conservative agenda or a mixed bag. And Rand Paul is the most mixed bag of all, because the only area that he is conservative on is limited government.

If the new Republican position is open borders, pro-terror and anti-values, then what makes the Republican Party conservative?

Reducing conservatism to cutting the size of government eliminates it and replaces it with libertarianism. It transforms the Republican Party into the party of drugs, abortion, illegal immigration, terrorism… and spending cuts. And the latter is never going to coexist with a society based on the former. …

If Rand Paul is the future of the Republican Party… then the party has no future.

I don’t believe that we can win through political expediency that destroys principles.

We tried that in two elections and we lost. Watering down what we stand for until we stand for nothing at all except the distant promise of budget cuts is how we walked into the disaster of 2012.

John McCain in 2008. Mitt Romney in 2012. Rand Paul in 2016. And what will be left?

To be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left. It doesn’t need to stumble briefly to the right on a few issues that it doesn’t really believe in. It needs to be of the right. It needs to be comprehensively conservative in the way that our opposition now is comprehensively of the left.

If we can’t do that then we will lose. America will be over. It’ll be a name that has as much in common with this country, as modern Egypt does with ancient Egypt or as Rome of today does with the Rome of the imperial days.

We agree that “to be reborn, the Republican Party does not need to go to the left.” And we agree that Rand Paul is wrong about foreign policy and the world-wide war.

But we do not agree that libertarianism is a creed of the Left. How can it be? The Left stands essentially for state control and collectivism – viewing human beings sociologically, as units of a herd.

The American conservative Right stands for freedom of the individual above all. The Republican Party stands for freedom of the individual, therefore small government, low taxes and the free market; for property rights, therefore low taxes and the free market; for the protection of freedom, therefore the rule of law and strong defense. That is the logic of freedom. Those are the values of conservatism and the Republican Party. They are our values.

We certainly do not want illegal immigration and terrorism. Nor to “go liberal on government spending”.

But we do think the Republican Party should bend further toward libertarianism. Not leftwards, but rightwards. Individual freedom must mean that individuals make their own choices, even if those choices are harmful to themselves. What they smoke and whom they bed with are obviously matters of personal choice – while government spending, immigration, and terrorism are matters for the state.

There is a new generation of young Republicans who are conservative in their thinking about freedom under the rule of law, but frustrated by stale authoritarian attitudes towards drugs and homosexuality. They are conservative in their loyalty to the Constitution, but impatient with the religiosity of most conservatives.

Some of them are forming themselves into a new caucus. They name themselves the Republican Reason Caucus. Read about them here.

We think they may, and hope they will, restore vitality to the thoroughly demoralized Republican Party.