On Atheist Criticisms of Libertarian Christianity

As a libertarian Christian, I believe that a Christian worldview is not only congruent with, but necessitates, libertarian policy positions. I’m at regular odds, then, with people who charge that Christianity is incongruous or incompatible with political liberty.

Conservative Christians, who I find to be widely and increasingly amenable to my arguments, are less and less among this group. Rather, it now seems to be made up largely of Christian socialists and libertarian anti-Christians. I’ll here discuss the arguments I most regularly hear from the latter.

Involving Religion in Politics

bibleflagWhen writing about the relationship between libertarianism and Christianity, I sometimes encounter a vague demand that I “just keep religion out of politics.” Yet this objection is incoherent.

My religious views include an account of the human condition that, if true, should be the foundation of my policy positions. On the other hand, if “keep religion out of politics” is really only an insistence that my religious views are not true, then it should be presented as such.

Granted, what most people mean by “keep religion out of politics” is simply “don’t force your religious values on me.” Yet this cannot be the meaning of a libertarian atheist who knowingly makes the demand of a libertarian Christian. In this case, the demand either asserts merely that Christianity is false, or it is senseless gibberish.

A better strategy for the libertarian atheist would be to concern oneself, first and foremost, with whether a religious person’s beliefs will expand or reduce the scope of government. My Christian belief in humanity’s fallenness and propensity to sin, for instance, disinclines me to entrust government agents with all-seeing omniscience. I would be more open to the prospect of sweeping data collection if I did not subscribe to Christian principles. If one’s goal is to limit government power, then it should be at least a relative good if I consult my religious text when picking up a legal pen.snake

In fact, this is true even if you don’t agree that Christianity predisposes its adherents to libertarianism. Even someone who thinks little of Christians should recognize that we will act with some measure of rational self-interest in the political arena. Note, then, that government power over social issues is increasingly being used against Christian values rather than for them. It will therefore be more and more in the interests of believers to limit government power, even putting other factors aside.

Suppose libertarian atheists could choose to live in only one of two societies: the first entirely secular but cripplingly authoritarian, and the second politically free but religiously mixed. Which would libertarian atheists prefer? If the latter, then working with libertarian Christians in order to promote liberty should be an easy choice.

The Doctrine of Hell

A common complaint of libertarian anti-Christians is that it is authoritarian to teach the Christian doctrine of hell. When Christians warn others about hell, after all, they are telling people that they will suffer unless they take a specific action. This warning, the argument goes, amounts to a kind of coercive threat.

If this is the case, however, it must likewise be authoritarian to warn someone that he’s about to be hit by a truck. If you call out to a man who is standing in front of a truck, then you are no less coercive than the Christian who warns others about hell. You are warning him that a horrible fate awaits him unless he take a specific action. We all understand, however, that “Look out!” is not coercive; the shouter is giving vital information to the person about to be hit.

lewisSome libertarian anti-Christians retort that, if there existed a God who allowed nonbelievers to go to hell, they would have a moral duty to oppose Him. Yet what is the source of this moral duty? If the morally good decision is the one which maximizes one’s happiness, as I believe it is, then some sort of divine command theory is true – as God has structured our reality and arbitrated the conditions that will lead to our happiness or unhappiness. If the atheist asserts that an invisible platonic “form” is the source of his moral duties, then it is actually this form that is demanding his suffering – all the while offering no reward in return.

An atheist might contend that my truck metaphor is invalid because it does not depict me as wishing the man to be hit by the truck. Yet neither do Christians want others to go to hell. If believers did not wish others to be saved, then they would keep quiet about eternity and anti-Christians would have no alleged threat to point to in the first place. This is a fact recognized by atheist Penn Jillette.

Granted, while I do not endorse your standing in front of the truck, I certainly do endorse the free will that allows you to do so. I also endorse the things that allow the truck to hit you, like the human ability to innovate and the physical possibility of speed. I endorse the existence of cliffs, of tools, and of many other things you might freely use to harm yourself. I would certainly not end free will or make the whole universe a padded cell in order to abolish the reality of conditional consequence – and I thank God for not having done so.

“Free will,” said C.S. Lewis, “though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

Lack of Free Will

steamIn an effort to exclude theists entirely, some more determined libertarian atheists will attempt to redefine libertarianism as an essentially metaphysical, rather than political, concept. “Libertarianism means that nothing – not just the government, but nothing – holds power over me,” the assertion goes. “Therefore theism is opposed to libertarianism.” I don’t accept this definition of libertarianism, but let us do so for the sake of argument.

If naturalism is true – as atheists typically hold – then everything you do and think is predetermined by an inevitable chain of material causation. Your body is a machine and your consciousness, to borrow a metaphor from Thomas Huxley, is a wisp of vapor. You are an effect but never a cause – a ghostly observer that has power over nothing and is wholly under the power of everything.

In contrast, the fact that I freely choose appears to me to be a properly basic belief, requiring no supporting argument. If proper basicality justifies my belief that the external world exists, my belief in free will is likewise justified. This seems to me to be a good argument – though there are others – for affirming the transcendence and causal power of the human mind. Someone who agrees with this argument should find naturalism false, and theism at least more probably true.

Given the definition of libertarianism that some libertarian atheists propose, theists can be libertarians while naturalist atheists cannot. Moreover, while there are some atheists who are not naturalists, they are few and far between – and hardly respected by their compatriots.

A History of Oppression

carolusIt’s difficult to deny that Christians have historically made a disproportionately large contribution to the sciences. Descartes, Pascal, Newton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Marconi, Lemaître and Collins come to mind. Point this out to most atheists, however, and their reaction is a predictable one: Christendom doesn’t deserve any particular credit for its scientists because it is old.

Ask militant atheists about the history of war, however, and this reasoning is suddenly inverted. It seems that the old age of Christianity is no reason not to credit it with the hostilities perpetrated by some professing Christians. It’s a striking paradox that Christianity – and religion in general – is given no credit for its great minds but full credit for its bad ones.

Yet religion – and especially Christianity – has not been the disproportionately oppressive force depicted in online atheist caricatures. As Matt Rogers has pointed out, about 7% of the wars in recorded history have involved a religious cause. These wars account for about 2% of people killed by warfare.

Conversely, the twentieth century was the bloodiest hundred years in human history – whether measured in sheer killings or in killings as a share of the world’s population. From 1900 to 1987, nearly two thirds of those killed by governments died at the hands of Marxists.jacobins

The thousands of murders committed at Verden, and later by the Inquisition, are without a doubt terrible blots on Christianity’s history. Yet it took Christendom centuries of power to muster up each atrocity. In contrast, practically the moment that the atheist Cult of Reason prevailed in France, thousands of Christians were sadistically drowned as part of Jacobin de-Christianization. In G.K. Chesterton’s words, “Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God.”

The actions of atheist governments, of course, do not mean that no atheist can be a libertarian. I hope that I’ve here helped to equip Christians and to sway atheists precisely because I wish for libertarians on both sides to work together. Collaboration is the best way to ensure that neither of us is ever again oppressed by the other.

This column was originally published in 2014.

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A Luddite Without a Hammer

“John Henry said to the steam drill ‘how is you?’
He said ‘Pardon me, Mr. Steam Drill, I suppose you didn’t hear me.
I said how are you, huh?’”

The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer

johnhenrystatue

The John Henry statue.

Last year, the National Park Service spent $221,000 putting on a private fireworks show just for me. I’m not kidding. I was really the only person who watched the show.

Let me tell you, the park service might make its money by blackmailing Congress, but it sure put it to good use. Standing in the middle of the National Mall, I watched in amazement as explosions blossomed against a dilapidated, scaffold-clad Washington Monument. It was a sight easily worth every ill-gotten tax dollar.

Yet, though the mall was congested with a teeming mass of human beings, none but I seemed at all interested in the fireworks show. Instead, the people around me were – overwhelmingly – watching pixilated imitations of the display on their smartphones.

At first, the behavior seemed like an amusing trend. As I studied the crowd, though, I began to realize that the madness was near-universal. Everyone and his mother seemed to be brandishing a giant iPad in as obnoxious a manner as possible, shielding their faces like a defending phalanx of IT professionals.

The national mall holds an estimated thirty thousand people. As far as I could tell, virtually all of them except me wished to capture the fireworks display with a camera’s lens rather than their own God-given retinas.

I wanted to tell these people that they could just look up someone else’s recording on YouTube later, if they really wanted, but the fireworks were loud. I felt, as I sometimes do, like I’d stepped into a scene from Idiocracy.

In retrospect, Spike Jonze’s new movie Her is a better cinematic metaphor. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with an artificial intelligence, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. I can’t recall the last time I saw a movie that managed to be at once so disturbing and moving. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.

I suspect that Spike Jonze has concerns similar to mine. The moment Her begins, we learn that Phoenix’s character works for an internet business called BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, which customers hire to compose and send messages to friends and loved ones on their behalf. Jonze imagines a future where people have outsourced intimate moments to a website. Particularly given the recent release of Facebook’s “A Look Back” video, that doesn’t seem like a stretch.

You're recording the same video as everyone else.

You’re recording the same video as everyone else.

Before I saw Her, I’d resolved to oppose the protagonist’s relationship as being emblematic of what I think is an increasingly anti-social society. At some point, however, I found myself vocally rebuking Phoenix’s character for being tactless with Johansson’s. I realized I wanted their relationship to succeed.

Likewise, I make the Facebook comparison not because I didn’t enjoy the personalized video, but because I did. There might not really be any computer programs that sound like Scarlett Johansson, but Facebook’s “A Look Back,” at least, is proof that I can be fooled, so to speak. I found touching something that was produced by the digital equivalent of an assembly line, collecting and uniformly organizing the data of millions of people.

I imagine that this is why that crowd on the Mall thought it more important to show a fireworks display to their social networks than to watch it themselves; they are in a relationship with the assembly line.

My libertarian friends will have by now have accused me of being an irrational Luddite. “The internet hasn’t destroyed community,” the response typically goes. “It’s created it.”

Granted, the internet affords advantages to a writer that print does not. It offers educational discovery and stimulating conversation not so easily found in a library or a classroom. It allows me to correspond regularly with people I have never met in person. All of these are wonderful opportunities that I gratefully take advantage of.

The original Luddites were disgruntled artisans who smashed labor-saving machinery with hammers.

The original Luddites were disgruntled artisans who smashed labor-saving machinery with hammers.

Yet they are also not substitutes for the flesh-and-blood relationships for which human beings were designed. Insofar as we try to use them as such, we’ll find them an increasingly shallow – and therefore dependence-creating – substitute.

The argument that the internet has not harmed community, but simply moved it online, seems to presume that human interaction occurs between floating, disembodied souls. It does not. Although we’re sometimes tempted to forget it, human beings are organisms. We experience the world using an instrument forged by two hundred thousand years of evolutionary history. We’ve had the internet for thirty of them.

To say that a digital community can be just as fulfilling as a physical one is to deny any biological influence whatsoever on the requirements for human health and happiness.

Pointing out that people were alienated from one another before the technological advent is no answer either. It is an empirical certainty that alienation has steadily increased over the last decades. I don’t think that technology is the only, or even the primary, reason for our Bowling Alone. But I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Japanese millennials – who have stopped dating and having sex – “spend far more time communicating with their friends via online social networks than seeing them in the flesh.”

Libertarians are, as a rule, wary of anyone who criticizes some technological innovation. This fear is understandable: criticisms of some technology are often followed by calls to ban it.

You can dissuade people from abusing drugs without advocating for their prohibition.

You can dissuade people from abusing drugs without advocating for their prohibition.

In reaction to this trend, many libertarians have developed a conviction that we should not merely politically allow, but morally support, the widespread use of any apparent innovation the market produces. They do not only oppose prohibitions on the market, but are marketists.
The marketist argument is similar to the libertine one: a libertine is persuaded that, in order to meaningfully oppose drug prohibition, libertarians must morally support drug use. Yet the relationship between opposing drug use and supporting drug prohibition is not a necessary one. The connection is incidental and easily broken. Likewise, I don’t see that criticizing my generation’s excessive use of social media need lead to a ban on social media.

Ironically, although many marketists are libertines, a great many are also cultural conservatives. They criticize the social market for having wrongly chosen to devalue sex, for instance, but recognize that this position need not lend itself to government imposition.

Neither, then, does persuading others to prioritize authentic experience and community over technological insulation. In fact, I think the most effective way to do so would be to decentralize political power: a community will not come together to manage its internal affairs if it had no power to do so. If I’m a Luddite, I’m a libertarian one.

Yet I don’t think I am one at all. When Google recently acquired DeepMind, I was far more intrigued than concerned. There are incoming technological advancements that I relish. I simply don’t think libertarians should shut ourselves off from conversations about how to apply these advancements wisely.

This column was originally published in 2014.

Why the Left Favors Death

reapers

A conservative friend recently pointed me to a video of satirist Evan Sayet detailing his “Unified Field Theory of Modern Liberalism.”

“They [liberals] were raised to believe that indiscriminateness is a moral imperative because its opposite is discrimination,” says Sayet. “Indiscriminateness of thought leads invariably… to siding with evil over good, wrong over right, evil over good, ugly over beautiful, and so on… if nothing is better than anything else, then success is unjust.”

Though I’m hardly reserved in my own criticism of the modern left, as I watched Sayet’s stump speech I actually groaned out loud. What a bunch of goofy hyperbole, I thought. This is no way to advance the debate.

After reflecting on two recent events, however, I’ve realized that – at least for the most part – Sayet was right and I was wrong.

The first is the case of brain dead woman Marlise Munoz. Jezebel, a website that is a readymade Onion parody of itself, ran an article on Munoz titled “Texas Will Keep a Dead Woman on Life Support Just to Incubate Her Fetus.”

Munoz, “a pregnant woman from Tarrant County, Texas who suffered a pulmonary embolism the week after Thanksgiving has been kept on life support against her and her family’s wishes so she can essentially serve as an incubator for her fetus.”

Of course, the question of what to do with brain dead people is relevant in and of itself. My position on the issue is analogous to my take on criminal justice: just as convicted persons sometimes turn out to be innocent, “brain dead” people sometimes turn out to be alive. I say that, to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s better to keep a dead person on life support than to kill a living one.Brain-Death-Image

When brain death is disputed, however, the same people who gave us progressivism and the estate tax suddenly become austere fiscal conservatives obsessed with honoring the wishes of family members. This discrepancy alone might give one the impression that progressives simply think there’s something super cool about people dying.

The Munoz case, of course, has an additional layer of thanatophilia. Progressives are not only working tirelessly to see that Munoz’s corpse decays in a timely manner, but to kill her still-living fetus. The Munoz case transcends the typical abortion debate because Munoz’s offspring cannot be said to be imposing on an unwilling mother. It has to die simply because its existence is undignified.

The second is the dispute between Lisa Adams, a cancer patient and blogger, and The New York Times’ Bill Keller. In his column “Heroic Measures,” Keller advised Adams to shut up and die. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will quote him here at length. Brace your stomach.

Among doctors here, there is a growing appreciation of palliative care that favors the quality of the remaining life rather than endless “heroic measures” that may or may not prolong life but assure the final days are clamorous, tense and painful. (And they often leave survivors bankrupt.) What Britain and other countries know, and my country is learning, is that every cancer need not be Verdun, a war of attrition waged regardless of the cost or the casualties. It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently…

When my wife, who had her own brush with cancer and who has written about Lisa Adams’s case for The Guardian, introduced me to the cancer blog, my first thought was of my father-in-law’s calm death. Lisa Adams’s choice is in a sense the opposite. Her aim was to buy as much time as possible to watch her three children grow up. So she is all about heroic measures…

Keller, like Jezebel, is not merely saying that one should make peace with death when it is inevitable. In both cases, progressives acknowledge some chance of survival, then advise embracing death as more dignified than fighting for life. This advice is redundant: progressives have made death and dignity synonymous.

It is significant that Keller identifies heroism as the essential target of his criticism. Left-wing philosopher Bertrand Russell, in his eloquently nihilistic “A Free Man’s Worship,” likewise affirmed that “no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave.”

I propose that the inverse of heroism – an embrace of emptiness, predictability and sameness – sits at the heart of progressive attacks on life. Below are three reasons why, given a progressive worldview, one might favor extinction over existence.

Suffering is Pointless

DGGFeWUIn 2010, a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics compared the methods of atheist physicians to religious ones. Using a survey of 4,000 doctors, it found that atheist doctors are twice as likely to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients.

When I point others to this study, I find that many are surprised. “Shouldn’t religious people be less afraid of death than atheists?” they ask. According to a 2009 study, they certainly are.

Yet the source of the terminal illness divide is not hard to identify. To a Christian, life is a divine gift to be embraced. To an atheist, life is – in Bertrand Russell’s words – “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.”

A Christian’s life is part of a cosmic drama – one in which a deathbed chat might have eternal consequences for either the dying or the surviving. To an atheist, there are no eternal consequences: “all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction” in the inevitable heat death of the universe.

Months ago, I idly picked up a stray copy of New York magazine and read its cover story, “The Cancer Racket.” The “racket” in question turned out to be Zaltrap, a cancer drug that extends median overall survival by 42 days. I was shocked and disgusted at the magazine’s dismissal of the drug as a waste of money. Who wouldn’t pay any price for the chance to spend even another week with a loved one?

In the context of the Medical Ethics study, however, I shouldn’t have been surprised. 42 days is nothing compared to the total and inevitable nothingness to which secularism says we are all destined.

Secularism is part and parcel of the modern left – and secular physicians hasten the deaths of their patients out of a demented sense of compassion. They see suffering – even that which might save a patient – as cosmically pointless.

Life is Unsafe

red-tapeIn April 2012, 7-year-old Emily Whitehead was on the brink of death. In April 2013, Emily spoke at an American Association for Cancer Research conference – cancer-free and with a full head of hair.

Emily suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than a year before her parents enrolled her in a gene therapy trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In less than a month, Emily’s cancer was gone.

Emily was the first child in the U.S. to receive this sort of treatment. To be sure, this triumph over cancer is an American success story. Its timing, however, should be a national disgrace: oncologists in China had already been successfully using gene therapy for several years.

Consider the case of Arthur Winiarski, another American cancer patient. Suffering from a tumor “the size of a fist,” Winiarski was given months to live. The businessman was interested in gene therapy and had nothing to lose – but the treatment he needed was inaccessible in the United States. So Winiarski traveled to China, where, at Beijing’s elite Tongren hospital, a Harvard-trained doctor sent his cancer into complete remission.

This was nearly a decade before Emily Whitehead.

Gendicine, the drug that cured Winiarski, has been found to be three times more effective than radiotherapy in a clinical trial of 120 patients. The only recorded side effect was mild fever. Yet, while China’s FDA approved the drug for commercial production years ago, our own FDA still has yet to approve a single gene therapy product.

The Chinese have not left us in the dust because of their technological superiority. They have surpassed us because they are, apparently, less inclined to let life-saving technology language in a regulatory abyss while their own people die.

If Arthur Winiarski had not left the United States, he would be dead. Presumably, in the years between Winiarski’s victory and Whitehead’s, many Americans who could have benefited from drugs like Gendicine did not leave the United States and are consequently dead.

To a sane person, it might seem ironic that the FDA denies experimental treatments to people that they could only help.  But FDA regulations were not written by sane people. They were written by people like Bill Keller.

Like Keller, the progressive authors of regulation are ultimately unconcerned with extending a patient’s life. Theirs is an ideology of control – the only thing that FDA regulations really maintain. Terminal illnesses are par for the course: their success are predictable. Life, and the innumerable possibilities that come with extending it, is risky.

The left is risk-averse. It extolls innovation, but its innovation is really only done alone a linear path prescribed centuries ago. Its is a rigid history, and one is either on the right or the wrong side of it.

This brings me to my third and final point.

Life is Inegalitarian

XSiGHT_Sydney_Pregnancy_3When reading phrasing like that chosen by Jezebel – “serve as an incubator for her fetus,” for example – one comes to a striking realization: something about the fact that women get pregnant really pisses off the left. Its anger then becomes understandable. Here is an ideology that defies all biology by taking as its starting point an expectation of sameness. Yet it must be confronted daily with the gigantic fact of female, but not male, pregnancy. And as if this sheer physiological difference was not maddening enough, one might wonder whether sexes that evolved such different abilities managed to evolve identical brains. They did not. Pregnancy is a ghastly reminder that we are not the same. It is an undignified state for a brain dead woman to be in because it is an undignified state for a woman to be in.

My suggestion is not a radical one. Consider the opinion of leftists known to you on having children early, or on having many children. It is virtually self-evident that it is most progressive never to be pregnant at all, and that if one must be pregnant, then it is a necessary condescension to backwardness, and should be done as little and as late as possible. Pregnancy is contemptible because it is patriarchal – it is the submission of a woman’s other aspirations to service as a mere “incubator for a fetus.”

As it happens, of course, female pregnancy is also the mainspring all mammalian life. Contempt for female pregnancy, then, is a contempt for life and of the whole untamable tumult of our biological existence. Biological death has the final benefit of being the closest thing to uniformity that the human experience offers.

Of course, what a progressive who disdains pregnancy fails to realize is that, in Murray Rothbard’s words, “the concept of life and perfection is incompatible. But so is death and perfection.”

This column was originally published in 2014.

I Support “Fortress America”

Omar bin Laden says his father manipulated America like “a bull that runs after the red scarf.”

Omar bin Laden has likened America to “a bull that runs after the red scarf.”

Islamists, say Lindsey Graham, “want to drive the West out of the Mideast … and if we ever take the bait and try to come home and create fortress America, there will be another 9/11.”

An Obama Republican, Senator Graham is not normally one to make thought-provoking statements. Yet I find the two metaphors he used here to be genuinely fascinating.

The first, “take the bait,” reminds me of a remark made by Osama bin Laden’s estranged son Omar. During a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Omar was asked if his father would conduct more terrorist attacks in the United States.

“I don’t think so,” said Omar. “He doesn’t need to. As soon as America went to Afghanistan, his plan worked. He has already won.”

After 9/11, Omar – who expected the United States to respond by raining down cruise missiles – “was surprised the Americans took the bait” by invading Afghanistan like “a bull that runs after the red scarf.” Emphasis added.

Omar explained: “My father’s dream was to bring the Americans to Afghanistan. He would do the same thing he did to the Russians.”

The young bin Laden is referring, of course, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The late USSR imploded after it overextended its power, exhausted its military, and drained its treasury in a futile land war against Afghan guerrillas, of whom Osama bin Laden was a chief financier.

Graham, apparently, thinks this is a coincidence; we’re to believe that the man who orchestrated “the worst international terrorist attack ever” had a poorer grasp of international politics than Joe Biden.

Lindsey Graham's favorite board game?

Lindsey Graham’s favorite board game?

In Graham’s mind, bin Laden did not anticipate any parallels between the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and our own; instead, he thought America would react to 9/11 by “coming home” and was dismayed when we did the opposite.

Graham must imagine that bin Laden was the stupidest man ever to lead a global terror network or a construction company.

Secondly, I’m intrigued by Graham’s use of the phrase “fortress America.” After poking around a bit, I’ve concluded that this is either a phrase of Graham’s own coinage or the name of a 1986 Milton Bradley board game. Since the 58-year-old Senator has never married or had children, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the former.

While Graham likely intended the term as a derogatory jab at “isolationists,” I find it oddly agreeable. A fortress, after all, is:

— n
2. a place or source of refuge or support …
2. any place of exceptional security; stronghold.

— vb 3.
( tr ) to protect with or as if with a fortress

Moreover, consider the most famous of Martin Luther’s hymns:

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing.

To turn such a glowing metaphor into a term of derision is truly a remarkable feat. A fortress possesses strength, vigor and power over mortal ills: all qualities that – with one third of the U.S. population now on welfare – even Lindsey Graham ought to agree we could use more of.

Yet it’s easy to see why Graham would rather America not become one. A fortress is effective rather than wasteful and stalwart rather than crumbling to the ground. Its stones are stacked high rather than scattered. Becoming a fortress would take us away from the Soviet footsteps in which Graham would have us follow. The Senator’s liberal internationalism is reflected in his language as well as his positions.

I support a fortress America. Here are some ways in which such an America might differ from today’s.

  • It would not station contingents of 10,000 troops in Italy and the United Kingdom.
  • It would not provide for economic powerhouses like Germany and Japan with 45,000 troops apiece.
  • It would not have 6,000 more soldiers in South Korea than agents employed by its own border patrol.
  • It would not spend more on “overseas contingency operations” alone than the entire military budget of Russia.

A fortress America might also be the preferred model of our own soldiers, who are rightly “suspicious of grand proposals for creating world peace,” unlike, say, Samantha Power.

Carcassonne, France

Carcassonne, France

To Graham’s credit, his motives are perhaps measurably less immoral than Power’s (though his policies are irredeemably horrible). Graham does not want the US to be a heavily armed global charity organization so much as he imagines that policing the world leaves the taxpayers who foot the bill with a grander country.

Graham may really think he wants a greater America – but he is certainly confused about what greatness is. The sheer landmass controlled by a nation cannot be equated with its greatness. Anyone who says otherwise has never compared Kazakhstan to the United Arab Emirates or Greenland to Vatican City.

While an empire may be larger than a fortress, the former inevitably crumbles. And through empire after fallen empire, a fortress can remain standing. Americans should take Lindsey Graham’s inadvertent advice: gather together the nation’s scattered stones, and build one.

Oh, the Monarchy!

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” –Che Guevara

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” –Che Guevara

Why did the internet left get so excited about the Duchess of Cambridge’s new baby? I have an answer.

As readers of this website are likely well aware, being a rebel is fun. And if I can think of one way in which leftists are at a disadvantage in modern political discourse, it’s that they don’t often get to be rebels. Today, after all, most powerful government institutions in the Western world have a decidedly left-wing character.

In the United States, only a minority of Democratic voters say it’s particularly important that we continue to have a Fourth Amendment. Where Republicans abandoned Bush en masse, most Democrats remain feverishly devoted to President Obama as he willfully expands Bush-era warrantless surveillance.

Likewise, more Americans now believe that “the First Amendment goes too far” than at any point since the months following 9/11. Who are these new opponents of free speech? They are predominantly left-wing, non-religious and young. To these nascent stormtroopers, your right to dissent is an impediment to social justice. 70% of liberals, for example, think that wedding musicians who personally object to same-sex marriage should be legally forced to go and perform at the weddings of same-sex couples who wish to hire them.

Presumably, the end goal is something like Europe. In Denmark, all churches, regardless of their beliefs, are required to host same-sex weddings.  The UK’s imperious left now jails its citizens for crimes like “revving [one’s] car in a racist manner.” Another way to be locked in a cell “for racism” is to complain to your middle school teacher that the other students assigned to your group project speak only Urdu.

Liberty is not being smothered in the flag – as was once predicted – but trampled beneath the Converse jackboots of tolerance.  Can police who jail schoolgirls for speech crimes be said to be in rebellion against a system of power? Not with a straight face.  The leftists-as-rebels narrative is just not believable: a dismal picture for any left-wingers who long for the rush of defying the powers that be.

Hard at work oppressing the proletariat.

Hard at work oppressing the proletariat.

But wait – here comes Kate Middleton’s baby to remind us all that the British monarchy still exists. To a leftist, the royals’ sins are a virtual compendium of all the evil in the world. The monarchy is traditional and, if history is linear, is committing a terrible crime merely by being so old. It’s also religious: Elizabeth II is the ceremonial head of the Church of England. It’s even a bit complementarian: the words “king” and “queen” sound nothing alike.  Perhaps worst of all: it’s relatively inexpensive and profitable. To the delight of nostalgic leftists, hungry for some tangible institution to oppose, the monarchy fits the bill.

Queue the fermenting bowels of the internet left. Having surveyed its reaction I’ll say, without getting into gruesome detail, that I saw that lovely Diderot epigram about the entrails of priests more times than I’d have liked. Perhaps the most widely circulated outburst was Gawker’s “Imprison the Royal Family and Abolish the Monarchy.”  The author of this column squeezes the royals for every drop of rebellion he can, stopping just short of saying we should euthanize the Queen’s corgis.

The piece revealed its underlying authoritarianism, however, when it called upon the UK to “burn the queen’s home to ground during a grand national celebration of the birth of a new society.”  The screed is emblazoned with an image glorifying the Jacobins, one of the most violently authoritarian regimes in the history of man. The Jacobin government drowned nuns for praying and beheaded people for using the word “monsieur.” As a libertarian, I will always work to decentralize power to whatever extent I can – but I would much rather live under British ceremony than whatever bloody utopia Gawker would install in its place.

The column’s strongest argument is that the royal family receives a great deal of money from taxpayers. Although Gawker grossly misrepresents the way this occurs, it is nonetheless true and objectionable. The Obama family, however, costs 20 times more than the royal family. The Daily Mail has noticed the irony:

Moreover, much of the money spent on Mr Obama’s family goes to perks such as entertainment and household expenses.

For example, the White House contains a movie theatre which is manned by projectionists 24 hours a day in case one of the family feels like a trip to the cinema.

And even the Obamas’ dog Bo costs the taxpayer thousands of dollars – his handler is reportedly paid over $100,000 a year…

226 members of Mr Obama’s staff are apparently paid over $100,000 – and the President can increase their salaries at any time.

I find it unlikely that Gawker has produced 20 times as much odium towards the Obama family as it has towards the British royals. For that matter, I find it unlikely that Gawker, in all its history, has directed against the Obamas even a comparable fraction of the hatred contained within this single column.

As long as he doesn’t take any corgis.

As long as he doesn’t take any corgis.

“But,” I hear you protest, “a majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama – and, by extension, his family. Isn’t that different?” Well, although Britain still locks people in jail for expressing opinions, republicanism has not been one of those opinions for some time. A famous political pressure group, Republic, has been calling for the abolition of the monarchy since 1983.

Britons have had plenty of opportunity to elect these republicans and then abolish the Crown by referendum. Yet modern polls consistently find that around 80% of Britons want to continue having a monarchy, with only 13% committed to abolishing it. I fail to see, then, how Britain’s opulence is any less democratic than ours.

On the other hand, Britain’s government has led our own in intrusive and sweeping surveillance. Britons are monitored by millions of CCTV cameras; the nation was already “the most surveilled country” in 2006. With an army deployed in more than 80 countries around the world, it is also one of the most interventionist nations on earth.

I am suspicious of anyone who weighs in on British politics to condemn the indignities of the nation’s symbolic monarchy but ignores ascending assaults on liberty and life. This selective moral outrage confirms the left’s prioritization of equality above liberty. Moreover, it reflects the left’s desire to reclaim something it’s rightly lost: its image of defiance.

Liberty at War

rand1.1.13Last week, military lawyer David French wrote that “I’m noticing military libertarianism increasing, not decreasing, among the more politically aware and engaged officers and enlisted.” French’s column affirms a hunch I’ve had for some time: that libertarianism is a military ideology.

I don’t mean that libertarianism is militaristic, in the sense that it subordinates society’s other concerns to those of the military. I mean it’s a military ideology in the sense that Mithraism was a military religion; it’s a system of thought well-suited to people in the military.

I’ll illustrate my point. Suppose the United States was attacked, or faced the credible and immanent threat of an attack, during a Rand Paul presidency. How might President Paul respond?

Firstly, I think we can expect that Paul would use the U.S. military to thoroughly destroy both the enemy’s offensive capabilities – as a matter of simple practicality – and the enemy – as a matter of long-term deterrence.

Paul has said that, when we must fight, “we fight to win.” Antiwar’s Steve Breyman – who I presume is some sort of pacifist – has called this statement “code for the application of massive, unrestrained levels of violence.” If by this Breyman means destroying all those responsible for and complicit in an attack or near-attack on Americans, even at the inevitable cost of civilian casualties, I essentially agree.

Secondly, Paul would begin withdrawing U.S. forces as soon as these tasks had been accomplished to a reasonable degree. Libertarians recognize that soldiers are not police; it is both unnecessary and counterproductive to, for any prolonged period, put soldiers in the role of alien interlopers patrolling streets that are not their own.

The late CBS journalist George Cirle III, who wrote the book that inspired Charlie Wilson’s War, once said that America helped grow Al Qaeda by “washing its hands” of Afghanistan in 1993. In other words, by not doing enough nation-building in the Middle East.

Cirle, apparently, never looked at any Al Qaeda propaganda. That American forces did not stick around long enough to install plumbing in Afghanistan has never been one of its primary talking points.

Appropriately, Paul recognizes that it is neither feasible, nor the job of American soldiers, to forge new republics by affixing American-style governments to cultures vastly different from our own. In Paul’s own words:

Instead of large, limitless land wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy; strike with lethal force.

We would not presume that we build nations nor would we presume that we have the resources to build nations.  Many of the countries formed after WWI are collections of tribal regions that have never been governed by a central government and may, in fact, be ungovernable.

In other words, Paul’s foreign policy would permit soldiers, when necessary, to wage war. It would not consign them to the futile chores of policing streets and installing plumbing, with which they’ve been burdened by liberal internationalism. It’s not that there should be no role for constructive, rather than destructive, personnel in a military – there should. But they should be in the National Guard. French agrees:

That’s why I wonder if a libertarian military might be more lethal, even on smaller budgets. A trimmed-down bureaucracy, an increased emphasis on the destructive rather than nation-building capabilities of the force under arms, and doctrines designed to inflict maximum (non-nuclear) destruction on enemy forces rather than transforming and democratizing communities — all of this could add up to a more lethal (yet smaller) military.

After 9/11, the U.S. military experienced a spike in recruitment. Barring a staggering coincidence, I don’t imagine that many of these recruits expected to be sent to Italy or the United Kingdom, which each host 10,000 U.S. troops. Nor do I suspect they wished to go Germany or Japan, each home to contingents of 45,000 American soldiers. As the U.S. continues to plummet into debt, these latter countries are becoming economic powerhouses at our expense.

Defense analyst Adam B. Lowther has written a fascinating paper for the National Defense University titled “The Post-9/11 American Serviceman.” On the worldview of servicemen, Lowther writes “Believing that man is a fallen creature and wicked by nature, the military is suspicious of grand proposals for creating world peace.” That’s a “very strong libertarian streak” if there ever was one.

French is right to say that a libertarian military would be more formidable: libertarians would let the military do its job.

What Conservatism Offers Liberty

“The conjunction of ruling and dreaming generates tyranny.”
Michael Oakeshott

Fictional libertarian Ron Swanson has become a TV icon.

The fictional Swanson has become a TV icon.

Recently, I had the great pleasure of attending a lecture by political scientist Donald J. Devine. Though the talk was my introduction to Devine’s work, the “Rasputin of reduction” has quickly become one of my personal heroes.

As Reagan’s civil service director, Devine was the original Ron Swanson: a stalwart libertarian placed at the head of a bloated bureaucracy. During his tenure as director, Devine slashed his office’s spending by 58% and fired one hundred thousand public employees. Taking an axe to government earned Devine several colorful monikers, including “Reagan’s terrible swift sword.”

In light of Devine’s actions, it’s a wonder why any libertarians say that Reagan’s administration was no better than Obama’s. Under the latter, IRS agents have spent some tens of thousands of dollars building a mockup starship Enterprise, violated government rules by booking top-dollar presidential suites, and hired costly speakers to lecture on subjects like “leadership through art.” This is precisely the sort of frivolity that Reagan’s sword would have razed.

Moreover, Devine’s latest book, “America’s Way Back,” has earned some revealing praise from Rand Paul. The senator has said that “Devine spells out the solution for the modern GOP – a fusion of the best of conservative ideas with those of the liberty movement.”

Rand Paul has been called “the effective leader of the Republican Party” by a prominent Democratic strategist.

Rand Paul has been called “the effective leader of the Republican Party” by a prominent Democratic strategist.

It’s not a coincidence that Senator Paul both identifies with Devine and has been recognized as “the effective leader of the Republican Party.” It’s thinking like Devine’s that enabled liberty-minded Republicans to surf into the House and Senate in a Tea Party tsunami in 2010. Conversely, the liberty movement’s alternative strategy – described as the “cosmotarian” approach by Justin Raimondo – has won no equivalent victories.

The futile overtures of the cosmotarians often involve abandoning libertarian positions in favor of leftist ones. Months ago, for instance, the chairman of the Cato Institute went so far as to offer a “libertarian case” for reintroducing an already defeated piece of gun control legislation.

Yet the strategy espoused by Dr. Devine and championed by Senator Paul requires nothing of the kind.* On the contrary, a brief survey of conservative thought reveals that it ultimately serves to strengthen and underpin the positions that libertarians already hold.

Cynicism

It’s no secret that the left perceives its every political victory as part of mankind’s linear and inexorable march into the light. Nor is it any mystery why. The left must disdain the past because most every serious thinker in human history to date would, today, be called a conservative.

In the words of Jonah Goldberg, “modern conservatism was born as a reaction to various utopian ideologies” that emerged in the 18th century. In the grand sweep of history, leftism is a particularly nasty rash that, only last week, cropped up on the body of human thought.

Russell Kirk wrote “To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things.”

Russell Kirk wrote “To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things.”

Thomas Sowell has suggested that the left originated when Rousseau first denied “the plain fact of evil.” That is, Rousseau advanced the biologically absurd position that humans have no innate behavioral traits: all of our differences and failings are the result of outside circumstance. From Rousseau’s premise, France’s Jacobin government inferred – quite reasonably – that it could perfect humanity by amassing enough sheer power to properly manipulate social conditions.

Yet, as Murray Rothbard would later note, this premise ignored the “ontological structure of reality.” The resulting Reign of Terror killed tens of thousands of people.

By denying the very “structure of reality,” leftism provides a bottomless justification for government violence. If everyone is the same by default, then any inequality is proof that someone has committed fraud or theft. To a leftist, government force is not initiatory violence, but the defensive appropriation of stolen property. Thus, “scratch an egalitarian, and you will inevitably find a statist.”

A leftist never quite runs out of people to kill.

A leftist never quite runs out of people to kill.

In the 20th century, this statism was borne out in full as communism blossomed across Europe and Asia. According to University of Hawaii professor R.J. Rummel, communists murdered nearly two thirds of all those killed by governments from 1900 to 1987.

This makes leftism the bloodiest and most authoritarian doctrine in the history of mankind. In the words of Russell Kirk, “the ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.”

The conservative, by contrast, recognizes that humanity is fallen. Because people have intrinsic limitations, Kirk wrote, “all that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk.” Pretending otherwise causes even more problems than we had to begin with.

The Parable of the Trees warns against political power.

The Parable of the Trees warns against political power.

If mankind is perfectible, the war on drugs has not gone far enough until there are no drug addicts. The war on prostitution has not gone far enough until no women choose to be prostitutes. “Humanitarian wars” have not been waged enough until there are no more Joseph Konys.

In other words, a state that abandons the principle of imperfectability will continue to grow either until it is stopped or no humans are left alive on Earth. To borrow from C.S. Lewis – who said that “it may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies” – the very worst right-wingers are robber barons.

While Friedrich Hayek had rhetorical problems with the term “conservative,” he called himself a “Burkean” – i.e. a conservative – and shared Burke’s objections to egalitarianism. Hayek wrote:

From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Moreover, even if some sort of perfection were attainable, a conservative would not trust government to implement it. While a leftist may expect moral people to spring forth from democratic institutions, a conservative sees that politicians are as limited as the rest of us.

Kirk wrote that “knowing human nature for a mixture of good and evil, the conservative does not put his trust in mere benevolence.” Likewise, the biblical Parable of the Trees (Judges 9:8-15) warns against offering human beings power – arguing that the most evil humans will be most attracted to it. By contrast, the righteous leader Gideon rejects government in Judges 8:22-23, saying “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.”

Cicero said “freedom is a man’s natural power of doing what he pleases, so far as he is not prevented by force or law.”

Cicero said “freedom is a man’s natural power of doing what he pleases, so far as he is not prevented by force or law.”

Continuity

Kirk’s conservative principles also included the sense that “modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time.” He wrote that conservatives adhere to “a long social experience, the result of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice.”

This principle is certainly helpful to political decentralism, which has deep and ancient roots. Humans lived in tribes of roughly 200 people for the overwhelming majority of a timeline on which centralized states are a mere blip. Conservatism counsels us to stand “on the shoulders of giants” rather than pretend that we can create a wholly artificial pattern from scratch.

A human thinks in terms of his immediate community and is not wired to conceptualize strangers in other regions as if they, somehow, were members of it. There is little reason, then, to place disparate communities under the uniform rule of an overarching government. Kirk agrees: “In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.”

Iceland had a libertarian legal system for almost 300 years.

Iceland had a libertarian legal system for almost 300 years.

Likewise, Yale historian Donald Kagan has said of ancient Greek polities that “the idea of taxation being normal would have gotten a Greek foaming at the mouth. When there’s no tyranny, there’s no taxation.” University of London historian Tom Asbridge has said that, during the Carolingian renaissance, Europeans were allowed “to follow quite different sets of laws depending on their local region, their traditions. And to have a loose umbrella of power that held it all together. That actually worked.” In Iceland, the nation was formally divided into a market of several dozen chieftaincies for nearly 300 years.

As Roderick Long has said of this final example, “We should be cautious in labeling as a failure a political experiment that flourished longer than the United States has even existed.”

Community

One of Australia’s top Aboriginal leaders is also its fiercest conservative thinker.

One of Australia’s top Aboriginal leaders is also its fiercest conservative thinker.

Look back to the Jacobins, and it’s not difficult to see today’s tolerant left foreshadowed. Under Jacobin rule, religious people were seen as backwards “fanatics” and drowned en masse. The government replaced the Christian calendar with a secular one, removed the word “saint” from street names, and adopted a 10-day week so that Christians would not know which day was Sunday.

Likewise, it became a capital crime to use the words “monsieur” and “madame” – which the Jacobins replaced with the gender-neutral and egalitarian “citoyen.” Even the guillotine itself was designed to be egalitarian.**

Inspired by the Jacobins, Karl Marx would later seek to bring about “the disappearance of all culture” and promote the “abolition of the family”, a unit that “will vanish as a matter of course when its complement [capitalism] vanishes.”

In response to leftist calls for human sameness, conservatives like Edmund Burke began to argue that plurality, in and of itself, is desirable.

Localizing government not only increases accountability, but promotes differences between communities that – like those between cultures, the sexes and individuals – are complimentary and competitive.

In his essay “The Relevance of Conservatism,” Noel Pearson argues that conservatism offers the best way forward for his people – Australian Aborigines – and the continued existence of their unique culture. Writes Pearson:

Conservatism is the insight into the imperfection and mystery of human nature. This imperfection and mystery will ultimately make liberal and social-democratic structures inadequate and unfulfilling.

Conservatism is the idea that distinct groups of people should continue to exist because deep difference (not just multicultural diversity) is an end in itself. We don’t know what the purpose of existence is, if any. The homogenization inherent in liberalism and social democracy is risky because it robs us of many possibly attempts to answer the unsolvable existential enigmas.


* FAQ on this point: See here for immigration and here for foreign policy and social issues.

** This was poetically fitting. As the Reign of Terror illustrated, there is death in equality as surely as there is equality in death.

The Left-Libertarian Pot of Gold

For the past three years, an ardent faction of libertarian Democrats has wreaked havoc on the D.C. establishment.

By grounding their libertarianism in progressive principles, these “Wacko Birds” have successfully shifted the Democratic mainstream towards liberty.

Their rebellion even seems to have influenced Joe Biden, who recently lamented that “our government spied on every one of your phone calls” and decried the notion that we should be “taking on more new interventions” in places like Syria.

Sorry: there is no pot of libertarians at the end of the liberal rainbow.

Sorry: there is no pot of libertarians at the end of the liberal rainbow.

This is, needless to say, mind-bogglingly wrong. This story is not only false, but the mirror opposite of what is actually occurring.

Some elements of the liberty movement, however, continue to regard the reversal I’ve just presented as more attainable than the actual trend unfolding in front of our faces. This vision is the sort of surreal inversion that can only be produced in the comfort of an internet echo-chamber.

In reality, it takes minutes to convince most conservatives that we should not raise taxes to protect drug users from their private mistakes. Convincing most liberals to let you own an automatic weapon, on the other hand, is a fool’s errand. The disparity is so obvious that I suspect people who don’t recognize it are not really having these conversations in their daily lives.

If the thought of “Wacko Birds” taking flight in today’s Democratic party strikes you as less than ludicrous, it’s time to take a break from blogging and start having more face-to-face conversations about libertarianism.

Unlike Bush, Obama’s approval rating has weathered scandal after scandal.

Unlike Bush, Obama’s approval rating has weathered scandal after scandal.

George Bush spent less on the military and spied on fewer Americans than President Obama. Yet, during Bush’s second term, Republicans responded to his big government policies with mass disillusionment – leaving him with an approval rating of 22% and making him the most unpopular president on record. Conversely, amidst an almost cinematic barrage of ridiculous scandals, the left continues to cling feverishly to the pillars of power.

Glenn Greenwald recently called the fact that liberals have stuck with Obama “a testament to their intellectual dexterity.” At the heart of this dexterity is an ideological addiction to force. Leftism casts aggression as defense: that’s why it has been the predominant ideology of authoritarian despots for a hundred years.

Libertarians, nonetheless, have been making overtures to the left since the early 90s. Curiously, this approach often seems to involve stabbing other libertarians in the back. In 1994, the San Francisco Libertarian Party criticized Justin Raimondo for campaigning against welfare. During Ron Paul’s first GOP presidential run, the Cato Institute eagerly disparaged him on the grounds that he appealed to flyover state retrogrades. More recently, of course, Cato came out in favor of gun background checks – compromising the one liberty upon which all others are ultimately dependent.

Where, I ask, are the fruits of this strategy? It has not produced a Rand Paul or a Mike Lee in the Senate, nor a Thomas Massie or a Justin Amash in the House.  Ron Wyden – the only Democrat to aid Rand Paul’s filibuster (albeit in a very brief and noncommittal way) – will never be called “the effective leader of the [Democratic] party.” The liberty movement’s recent victories have been won not because of the leftist strategy, but in spite of it.

There are, of course, potential libertarians to be found everywhere. But if the liberty movement wishes to become a viable political force, we must embrace a strategy that yields real results in the generality – even if it doesn’t necessarily mirror our own individual experiences as post-9/11 teenagers.

The Feinstein Abyss

“If you gaze long enough into the abyss,
[Dianne Feinstein] will gaze back into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

dianne_feinstein_shadows_AP

I suspect that, until Monday, I still harbored a naive vestige of belief in “the Free World.”

Some part of me, I think, continued to imagine that an impassable moral wall separated the United States from, say, Henry VII’s England.

As I stumbled across the following snippet on Breitbart, however, I was overcome with a sudden gloom. In that gloom, I felt my last spark of authoritarian optimism die.

On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called Edward Snowden, the man who leaked secrets about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans to the press, a traitor. She told the press, “I don’t look at this as being a whistleblower. I think it’s an act of treason.”

… “He violated the oath, he violated the law. That’s treason.”

Treason can carry the death penalty.

Let’s quickly review the facts of this case.

  • The NSA’s court order was issued by FISC, a kangaroo court that rubber-stamps 99.97% of surveillance requests.
  • The sweeping order requires Verizon to give all of its phone records to the NSA on “an ongoing, daily basis.”*
  • Either one of the above facts tells us that asking for court approval at all was little more than a farcical formality.
  • The order is an obnoxious violation of the Fourth Amendment, which requires probable cause for a seizure.
  • The order was classified – preventing the rest of us from knowing that it was unconstitutional.

Democratic Lawmakers Introduce Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 LegislationThe facts of this case are so outrageous that even John McCain has criticized FISA, saying that “the burden of proof should be on the government.” Yet Feinstein’s worldview is different: she does not think that there is a burden of proof at all. Leaking FISA’s decision was the only way to make it accountable to anyone – and Snowden committed “an act of treason” by doing so.

Suppose that a president issued a classified executive order calling for the arrest of his political opponents. Applied with any consistency, Feinstein’s legal thinking would bring us to the same conclusion: secrecy should take undisputed precedence over constitutionality. In order for there to be any debate about the order anywhere, a sacrificial goat would first have to commit treason and risk death.

Feinstein’s disgusting premises proscribe even the vaguest semblance of republicanism. She believes in obscurity for the sake of law and law for the sake of itself.

The Senator is not the only leader of the hang-the-traitor crowd. She is joined by, among others, the quintessentially RINO John Boehner and the viscerally repellant Lindsay Graham.

Yet Feinstein differs from her autocratic colleagues in one critical way: both Boehner and Graham have – believe it or not – reasonable records on the Second Amendment. While all three would allow a future dictator to hijack our government with maximum ease, Boehner and Graham would at least permit us to defend ourselves against him. The Senator from California, conversely, would have us all stand helplessly before an infinitely unaccountable oblivion.

Dianne Feinstein has been a Senator since 1992. That our government is a place where so evil a creature can flourish ought to speak forebodingly about how endemically and hopelessly foul we’ve allowed it to become.


*Months ago, the NSA assured us that it was not collecting any data at all on millions of Americans. This lie leaves us with little reason to trust whatever reassurances the agency might give us moving forward.