Glenn Beck Likes Santorum by David Boaz

Jim Geraghty of National Review reports:
A few moments ago in the car, I heard Glenn Beck, talking about the 2012 prospects, declare, "I really like Rick Santorum . . . This guy gets it 110 percent."
That would be Rick Santorum, the former senator who explicitly rejects “this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea that people should be left alone" and "the pursuit of happiness." A few more statements like this, and people will begin to wonder if Glenn Beck is really a libertarian.

Posted on April 9, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

No Authoritarians, Please, We’re Marxists by David Boaz

[caption id="attachment_12723" align="alignright" width="355" caption="Corin Redgrave excelled as authoritarian figures, despite being a committed Marxist
Photo Credit: Moving Theatre Company Photo"][/caption] Corin Redgrave, a great actor in a family of great actors, has died at 70. The Washington Post obituary includes a striking photo caption: "Corin Redgrave excelled as authoritarian figures, despite being a committed Marxist." Say what? As Rick Sincere said in a Facebook post: Surely the copy editor meant to say "because of" and not "despite." After all, Redgrave was an advocate of abolishing private property and market relations and installing a dictatorship of the proletariat. And indeed, we've seen plenty of authoritarians in actual Marxist countries. Perhaps Marxist actors would indeed have an advantage in playing authoritarians. Now, to be fair, I should note that this might be a misfire by the photo editor. The text reads, "Corin Redgrave . . . despite excelling as authority figures, was a committed Marxist." "Authority figures" is a bit different from "authoritarians." But still, plenty of authority figures in a Marxist country. Let's look at his roles. He played a corrupt police inspector, a sadistic prison warden, a snobbish aristocrat, the traitorous Benedict Arnold, and most recently the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo and the aging, angry tyrant King Lear. Let's review: Are there corrupt and sadistic police officers, snobbish elites, traitors to freedom, blacklisted communist writers, and aging, angry tyrants in Marxist countries? Indeed it does seem that Redgrave's dedication to Marxism might help him play such roles. May he find peace and enlightenment in the next world. RIP. HT: Ed Crane

Posted on April 8, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

John Stossel on Libertarianism by David Boaz

Don't miss "Stossel" tonight on the Fox Business Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. He'll be discussing "What's a Libertarian?" with P. J. O'Rourke, Andrew Napolitano, and a panel including Cato senior fellow Jeff Miron and me. Here's a column Stossel wrote after taping the show about his own evolution from "Kennedy-style liberal" to libertarian. When I did talk shows after the publication of Libertarianism: A Primer, I was always asked, "What is libertarianism?" I said then, "Libertarianism is the idea that adult individuals have the right and the responsibility to make the important decisions about their lives. And of course today government claims the power to make many of those decisions for us, from where to send our kids to school to what we can smoke to how we must save for retirement." Here's another way to put it, which I believe I first saw in a high-school libertarian newsletter from Minnesota: Smokey the Bear's rules for fire safety also apply to government: Keep it small, keep it in a confined area, and keep an eye on it. For more on libertarianism, check out Libertarianism: A Primer and The Libertarian Reader. For deeper thoughts, take a look at Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. Find an 80-minute interview on libertarianism here and a short talk here. And for a week-long seminar on libertarianism and our current crisis, come to Cato University this July at the beautiful Rancho Bernardo Inn outside San Diego.

Posted on April 8, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Can We Be Both Up from Slavery and on the Road to Serfdom? by David Boaz

At I argue that libertarians are wrong to look back at some point in the past for a golden age of liberty, and especially wrong to write paeans to the gloriously free 19th century without mentioning the little matter of 19 percent of Americans being held in chains.
For many libertarians, "the road to serfdom" is not just the title of a great book but also the window through which they see the world. We’re losing our freedom, year after year, they think.... Has there ever been a golden age of liberty? No, and there never will be. There will always be people who want to live their lives in peace, and there will always be people who want to exploit them or impose their own ideas on others. If we look at the long term—from a past that includes despotism, feudalism, absolutism, fascism, and communism—we’re clearly better off. When we look at our own country's history—contrasting 2010 with 1776 or 1910 or 1950 or whatever—the story is less clear. We suffer under a lot of regulations and restrictions that our ancestors didn’t face. But in 1776 black Americans were held in chattel slavery, and married women had no legal existence except as agents of their husbands. In 1910 and even 1950, blacks still suffered under the legal bonds of Jim Crow—and we all faced confiscatory tax rates throughout the postwar period.
I note that "I am particularly struck by libertarians and conservatives who celebrate the freedom of early America, and deplore our decline from those halcyon days, without bothering to mention the existence of slavery," and I name a couple of examples. When we talk about how free Americans were in the 19th century, we should remember that many millions of Americans look back on those years and say
"My ancestors didn't have the right to worship in their own way. My ancestors didn't have the right to keep and bear arms. My ancestors didn't have the protection of centuries-old legal procedures. My ancestors sure as heck didn't have the right to keep what they produced, or to pursue an occupation of their choice, or to enter into mutually beneficial trades. In fact, my ancestors didn't even have the minimal right of 'the absence of physical constraint.'"
Read the whole thing. Postscript: In late-breaking news after the Reason article was written, Gov. Robert McDonnell (R-VA) has issued a proclamation declaring April "Confederate History Month." As politicians often do with news they're not really publicizing, McDonnell posted the proclamation on his website Friday, but no one noticed until Tuesday. The proclamation urges Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War" but does not mention slavery. Virginia's last Republican governor, in issuing a proclamation remembering the Civil War, had at least acknowledged reality:  "The practice of slavery was an affront to man's natural dignity, deprived African-Americans of their God given inalienable rights, degraded the human spirit and is abhorred and condemned by Virginians . . . Had there been no slavery, there would have been no war." Amazingly, he was criticized for that simple and obvious statement, as was I when I quoted it a few years back.

Posted on April 7, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

What’s a Libertarian? by David Boaz

That's the question that John Stossel will be asking Thursday night to a motley collection of guests, including P. J. O'Rourke, Andrew Napolitano, Jeffrey Miron, and me. Tune in the Fox Business Network at 8:00 p.m. ET. It repeats many times, as noted here, but you know, it's like the NCAA championship: you don't want to watch the repeat on ESPN Classic, you want to watch it live with everyone else for the collective experience. So be there at 8:00 Thursday. Or of course you could just read Libertarianism: A Primer and The Libertarian Reader.

Posted on April 6, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Bush, Rove, and Limited Government by David Boaz

Conservatives Craig Shirley and Don Devine write in the Sunday Washington Post that Karl Rove's memoir wrongly depicts Rove and President George W. Bush as conservatives. "Big-government conservatives," maybe, Shirley and Devine say. But not actual conservatives. After all,
From William F. Buckley Jr. to Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, the creators of the modern conservative movement always taught that excessive concentration of power in government leads inevitably to corruption and the diminution of personal freedoms.... Modern American conservatism has roots in the ideas of philosopher John Locke, the founding fathers and the notion that humans' natural state is freedom.
But Bush? He imposed strict new federal regulations on local schools and massive new costs through his prescription drug entitlement. Not to mention
steel tariffs, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, a massive agricultural subsidy bill, and other spending and regulatory moves by the Bush administration that tilted power toward Washington and away from individuals and states.
All too true. And a point made many times by Cato Institute analysts. But Shirley and Devine could have gone further. Policies that "tilted power toward Washington"? How about the attempt to nationalize marriage law, for 200 years a matter reserved to the states? Or the Republican legislation to move the Schiavo family's tragedy out of Florida courts and into federal court? Or they could have mentioned an administration with a vision of the Constitution that included "a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror; [and] who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as 'enemy combatants,' strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever." The Post gave Shirley and Devine only half a page -- far too little to enumerate all of the Bush administration's assaults on limited, constitutional government. But they've done a service in reminding conservatives that this was no conservative administration.

Posted on April 5, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Regulation and the Knowledge Problem by David Boaz

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee but better known as Instapundit, writes in the Washington Examiner that the controversy over big corporations' reporting the impact of the new health care legislation on their tax bills illustrates the "Knowledge Problem" identified by Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek in "The Use of Knowledge in Society" and other writings. Hayek pointed out that the information needed to run an economy doesn’t exist in any one database or agency. It is scattered among millions of people and made available to others by means of the price system. Planning and regulation do away with the information embodied in prices and try to improve on market outcomes by making use of far less information. Reynolds writes, "Recent events suggest that it's not just the economy that regulators don't understand well enough -- it's also their own regulations."

Posted on April 4, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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