Author Archives: Adam Selene

Fred Thompson Withdraws From Race

Fred Thompson, in a statement released by the candidate, withdrew his candidacy for President:

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.

Although not unforeseen, it is unfortunate. Thompson was one of the few candidates that was somewhere between neutral and moderately friendly towards more liberty when looking at the current set of issues. While I would not have endorsed him, or any other candidate, for President in this particular group of candidates, I would have liked to see him stay in to push the discussion more his direction and less to the Huckabee and Giuliani side of the house.

A Good Point in the Ron Paul Kerfluffle

This point at Classically Liberal is really quite a good one.

Paul’s final defense is to ask us to believe that he doesn’t pay attention to his own affairs or what is done in his name. He doesn’t read the publications he sends out. In fact, he doesn’t even write his own material. He doesn’t investigate it when problems are brought to his attention. In other words his defense is that he isn’t a bigot but that he is totally inept in such matters. And he wants us to put him the White House — well we had enough of that kind of presidency already.

That’s exactly right. Either Paul knows who wrote these things and won’t speak out against someone who is clearly doing his campaign and libertarianism a massive disservice. Or he doesn’t know.

In one case he is lying and using “I can’t recall” as a defense. That reminds me strongly of Bill and Hillary. I said, then, that I couldn’t support either of them because of that, it would be hypocritical of me to do differently with Paul.

In the other case he is incompetent and inept in managing his staff. That reminds me strongly of George W. and Rumsfeld. I said many times that I couldn’t support that either. Again, hypocrisy.

So, no matter which of the two alternatives it is, Paul is just one more politician. Either a liar or an incompetent.

All you “libertarians” screaming about those of us who don’t support Paul, take that into consideration. He is behaving just like all the other statist politicians that you despise in order to gain the presidency. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ……..

Update: I won’t answer anyone that “debates” using ad hominem techniques. You are trying to discredit the message by attacking the messenger. Anyone who wishes to give me an alternative that is not one of those two, in a rational fashion, I will be happy to discuss it with you.

Update 2: I am not saying, in any way, shape or form that I think Paul is a racist. I am not implying it in any way, shape or form. Anyone who says anything to the contrary in the comments is either making a personal attack or doesn’t read for comprehension. In either case, I won’t respond per update 1.

Update 3: To clarify a bit, I personally think that what we have is a mix of the points that Doug makes here, incompetence in managing people and publications he was responsible for, and refusing to “throw someone under the bus” (which means that Paul is not telling the entire truth about something fairly despicable that he has knowledge of). As Doug and Mark have pointed out, Paul is damaging the message he is attempting to spread. He can either clean house (which we know he won’t do) or he can withdraw. Either of those options would help to prevent damaging his message about individual liberty. The path he is on will not.

Update 4: So, I really have to thank all of you who came by to comment, even the folks who weren’t really intelligible. It would appear that I have had the single best post for number of comments in the history of The Liberty Papers. I think that 174 (and still going strong) comments on a Ron Paul post definitely qualifies for a drink in UC’s little game!

Fascism: It Couldn’t Happen Here, Part I

If all goes well, there will be more than just this post. I’m planning a series discussing Fascism, the origins of the modern American state, and the reality of whether a fascist, authoritarian government, similar to Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany, could happen here. There are a lot of reasons for this series, but the most recent catalyst is this a comment. There are several things in the comment that demonstrate the commenter’s misunderstanding of what fascism is and what happened in this country during the New Deal. For example:

smedley butler and fdr stood up to the facists in the 1930s and 1940s.

Technically our commenter is correct, FDR stood up to Adolf Hitler, the Nazi’s and Germany’s quest to dominate Europe during WWII. However, given the context of the post he is responding to, he is definitely offbase. Here is the specific point that it appears he is responding to:

Even if he [ed: Ron Paul] is unsuccessful at forcing a brokered convention, his candidacy has inoculated a significant part of the U.S. electorate against making the same mistake our grandparents made in the late 1920’s and 1930’s when they embraced the fascism of Hoover and FDR, plunging the U.S. into a depression that lasted well into 1947.

Tarran, the author, is not discussing whether FDR confronted the Nazi’s (and the Japanese militarists and Italian Fascists) directly during WWII. Instead, he is discussing the political underpinnings of the New Deal itself, and FDR’s political beliefs. This is a fairly common mistake. People believe that, because they fought the Fascists in WWII, FDR and Churchill were not Fascists. It does not logically follow that FDR and Churchill were not fascist simply because they fought Hitler and Mussolini. Prior to late 1938 Italy and Germany were opposed to each other and, at least to some degree, Mussolini had sided with France and England as recently as 1936. During the Anschluss of Austria there was a quite real likelihood of Italy intervening militarily against Germany. Yet no one would claim that Mussolini was not a fascist. We cannot determine if FDR and the New Deal were fascist from a military conflict. Instead, we will have to look at the actions and characteristics of the man and the policies.

Another key fallacy is brought out in our commenter’s post:

over the past 75 years the social safety net has saved lives whereas the free market—the playground of both the facists AND the libertarians—has dictated the destruction of anyone and any thing that stands in the way of material profit.

It is an incredibly common belief that Fascists (to include Nazi’s, generally) believe in the free market and capitalism and that they are part of the right wing of politics. A cursory examination of the writings, speeches and actions of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo reveals this to be completely untrue. Understanding where Fascism and National Socialism fits on the political spectrum requires a bit deeper digging, all the way back to the Second International, the Zimmerwald Conference and an understanding of what constitutes the revolutionary left and reformist right of socialism. When a Communist refers to a National Socialist as “right wing”, he actually is referring to his position within the socialist framework. It is (and has long been) a vast misunderstanding of socialism to conflate National Socialism and Fascism (both socialist movements) with right wing conservatives, descendants of England’s Burkean Whigs.

It has been necessary to create a new method of understanding political orientation in order to undo the damage that this confusion has caused. One such system was created by Jerry Pournelle, known as The Pournelle Political Axes. Another one is explained by Liberty Papers founder, Eric, in his post A Better Political Spectrum. In either of these logical and well structured approaches to understanding politics we can see that National Socialists and Fascists are clearly not in the same portion of the political spectrum as libertarians and conservatives.

So, with this ground work established, let’s start with a common understanding of what Fascism and National Socialism are and how they relate to free market capitalism. First, some reference material and excerpts from them:

1. Mussolini defines Fascism

The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State.

2. From Wikipedia’s entry on Fascism

Stanley Payne’s Fascism: Comparison and Definition (1980) uses a lengthy itemized list of characteristics to identify fascism, including the creation of an authoritarian state; a regulated, state-integrated economic sector; fascist symbolism; anti-liberalism; anti-communism; anti-conservatism. He argues that common aim of all fascist movements was elimination of the autonomy or, in same cases, the existence of large-scale capitalism.

3. Ludwig von Mises Socialism argues that Fascism is an inevitable evolution of Socialism. He says in the preface to the second edition:

Neither is there any substantial difference between the intentions of the self-styled ‘progressives’ and those of the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis. The Fascists and the Nazis were no less eager to establish all-round regimentation of all economic activities than those governments and parties which flamboyantly advertise their anti-Fascist tenets.

4. Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article which appeared in the Spring 2003 edition of Free Inquiry, page 20, and was called “Fascism Anyone?”. The article is reposted here. In that article he includes 14 defining characteristics of fascism, which I’m going to list here:

  1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
  2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
  4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
  5. Rampant sexism.
  6. A controlled mass media.
  7. Obsession with national security.
  8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
  9. Power of corporations protected. [note: this only applies to corporations that support the fascist government]
  10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
  11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
  14. Fraudulent elections.

While I do not fully agree with Britt, this list of characteristics is going to be interesting when we start digging into the New Deal and FDR as the series progresses. In any case, he is describing characteristics and behaviors of a fascist government rather than the ideals, principles and philosophies they espouse. Reading Hitler and Mussolini is quite enlightening. We quickly discover that they do not believe in the free market, economic freedom or the independence of corporations from government regulation. If we remove their anti-communist rhetoric and listen to how they want to organize society it becomes remarkably clear that they are socialists with a strong nationalist and militarist bent. What is truly interesting is that this is rarely, if ever, made clear in political science courses, the media or any other common forum for discussing politics.

Given this, how does National Socialism and Fascism relate to Capitalism? Capitalism is a method of organizing economic life that calls for the state to not be involved in regulating the economic marketplace (among other things). Fascism does not allow for individual choice independent of the State. Capitalism cannot work if the individual is not free to choose within the marketplace. Fascism and Capitalism cannot co-exist. In fact, Capitalism is only possible within a Liberal society (not liberal in the sense that the political parties in the USA currently use the word, however, where it is roughly equal to progressive or democratic socialism).

In Part II we’ll start tackling the foundations of FDR’s politics and the New Deal.

What Does a Veteran Want Today?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. My work has kept me very busy, to say the least. Still, I’ve been here reading and enjoying what my fellow contributors are posting.

But today seemed like a good time to contribute a post of my own. It’s Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day). It’s the one and only day set aside to remember the veterans of the wars that America has fought. For most of us this is a weekend of department store sales, war movies on A&E and a 3 day weekend if our employers observe the national holiday tomorrow. But for some of us, it is a day that brings back memories, some as recent as yesterday and some from decades long gone. And this post is for those men and women.

Why do we care about Veteran’s Day? Most of time we end up marching in the parades that celebrate our day, which seems somewhat backwards to us. I’ll try to tell you a bit about who we think we are and what we want. Bear in mind this isn’t some collective that I’m speaking for, just my thoughts, based on my experiences and the hundreds of other veterans I know.

We think that today should be a day that we set aside politics and remember the men and women that have served in the military in wartime. We are men and women who have gone in harm’s way, been at risk of death and injury, and lived in extreme, austere conditions. Most Americans will never understand what it means, in this day and age of an all volunteer military, to serve in the military, let alone in combat. And that’s good.

Today, we want you to set aside your politics. Stop using us as tools in your political battles, just for today.

Sadly, the extremes of the political landscape in our country have gotten worse, not better. On the one side we have a resurgence of soldier = baby killer and soldier = victim rhetoric. On the other, we have soldiers as martyrs to a glorious cause. I’m a former soldier and a veteran of both the Cold War and the first Gulf War, and we are none of those things. We are not victims, brutalized by war and turned into unthinking, callous killers. Nor are we martyrs in the holy war against whomever the current enemy is.

We veterans of America’s wars are men and women who have, for reasons we know, but often cannot clearly convey to anyone else, chosen to serve in the military during time of war. We put our lives on the line, dealt with sacrifices nearly incomprehensible to the average American living today, and managed to do so with honor intact. We are Americans, just like the rest of you. I am neither hero nor villain, nor are my comrades. We are humans, with all the complexities and frailties of any other person.

I don’t think what I did was special or somehow made me a hero, and so it embarrasses me when you say thank you for my military service. But it also touches me deeply when someone goes out of their way to do so. Regardless of what you think of the rightness or wrongness of the conflicts, it is good to know that my personal experiences and service are viewed with value and respect. I have had people from every political landscape in this country talk to me about Veterans on this day over the years without putting their political views on the line as well.

And that is all that we ask.

The Economics of the 2nd Amendment

I don’t think I could say it better, so I’ll just let David’s words stand on their own.

“Suppose one little old lady in ten carries a gun. Suppose that one in ten of those, if attacked by a mugger, succeeds in killing the mugger instead of being killed by him — or shooting herself in the foot. On average, the mugger is much more likely to win the encounter than the little old lady. But — also on average — every hundred muggings produces one dead mugger. At those odds, mugging is an unprofitable business — not many little old ladies carry enough money to justify one chance in a hundred of being killed getting it. The number of muggers declines drastically, not because they have all been killed but because they have, rationally, sought safer professions.”
— David Friedman
Source: Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life (New York: Harper, 1996), p. 299

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