Why Roberts is Right

It is tempting for libertarians to join the echo chamber of conservatives by deriding the majority opinion in the recent Obamacare case. It would be emotionally satisfying, I suspect, to focus one’s outrage at Justice Roberts, and brand him a traitor to liberty; the one responsible for dropping his rifle and running in the face of liberty’s enemies. He capitulated to the statists and sold us all out. Feels good, doesn’t it? We do love our boogie men.

But if you think that, you do the cause of liberty a great disservice. To be sure, my first reaction was probably quite similar to that. The supreme court of the land had just sided with the people’s representatives in saying that, in what is marketed as the land of liberty– the beacon of freedom in the world–I, as a free man, can be compelled to buy things. Not just things, mind you. But things pleasing to the ruling party. I felt as if someone had just kicked me in the stomach.

So the first reaction is to blame Kagan. Any fair-minded person concludes she should have recused herself. Had she done the right thing…

Then, we blame Roberts. He’s no conservative. He sold us out. Etc.

And let’s not forget how we got here. The legislative shenanigans and outright fraud that stuck a thumb in the eye of legitimacy and walked over the Constitution to produce a 2400 (!!) page document so opaque and convoluted that it cannot be called a law. It’s similarity to law stops at the fact that my failure to comply with it ends me up in jail.

It should never have happened. Our system is designed to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Through checks, balances, federalism and elections (hello, Scott Brown?) somewhere along the circuitous path and Constitutional minefield that ultimately allows our system to produce a state powerful enough to compel me to surrender my life’s choices to a commissar, someone will do the right thing, won’t they? The truth is, we shouldn’t even be here. But here we are.

So, surely the Court will save us. If no one else will do the right thing, surely the Court will. The final backstop of liberty and Constitutionalism will make it right. But it didn’t. The system had failed.

And then I read the majority opinion. As I read, slowly, sadly I came to the unhappy–no, the infuriating–conclusion that Chief Justice Roberts is correct. And we should be ashamed.

Hopefully, you too have read the case, but if you have not, understand first that the so-called individual mandate was indeed struck down. The majority of the court held the obvious opinion that the commerce clause cannot be used to compel commercial activity. Roberts joined the majority in one very narrow thing– that, although the commerce clause cannot be used to compel activity, the Congress has a taxing authority which allows it to tax anything, and thereby arrive at pretty much the same place as a mandate. He reasoned that although Congress does not have the power to compel you to buy health insurance, it can tax you if you don’t. So, the government can’t make you eat your vegetables, but it can tax you if you don’t. It’s outrageous, that’s true. But Judge Roberts is not inventing a power. He is not making us serfs. He is merely explaining to us that we already are.

Consider. In the last century, we developed an enduring comfort with using the tax code to effect behavior. We do it all the time. We tax cigarettes because they are bad–so-called sin taxes. And no one bats an eye. We give mortgage deductions to people who buy homes, but not to renters. And we accept that. We give tax deductions to people with kids. We have a “gas guzzler tax” a “luxury tax” a progressive income tax, inheritance tax, Capitol gains tax…. In all these cases, we impose taxes to effect behavior, reward the groups and activities we like and penalize the ones we don’t. We have a volumunous tax code that employs a lucrative industry that has, as its stated purpose, the goal of shaping behavior to make it pleasing to the authorities. Oh, right…and we also use taxes to raise money to run the government. But that has become almost secondary.

We have allowed this to happen because at each step of the process both major political parties agree with the fundamental idea that the government is an appropriate vehicle for supplanting personal choice. The left and right only disagree over how to use it, not whether it should be used that way. To the conservative reader drawing breath to proclaim your love for freedom–you accepted the premise that the tax code is a good vehicle for social engineering when you accepted the child tax credit, the progressive income tax, the sin taxes (I could go on). Please spare us your lame protestations now. The right will never overcome the left’s march toward collectivism as long as it accepts the fundamental premise upon which it rests. And to the leftist reader–(if you are even still reading) you have long ago abandoned any pretense to the idea of personal liberty, so I won’t bore the reader with recounting your transgressions against the concepts of liberty and limited government. The Founding Fathers understood that the power of the state is the single most dangerous threat to the liberty of the individual. And yet both major political powers are willing to cede more and more power to the state to achieve their narrow political ends, all the while oblivious to the larger danger ahead. This case exposes the myth of the right/left dichotomy.

There is some evidence that Judge Roberts was in a slim majority that was ready to strike down the entire law. Whether or not that’s true, Roberts’ was presented the question “am I a serf” and he replied, “yes, and don’t look to me to remedy it, for this was your political choice.” Tough love. Hating him for that is akin to a child hating a parent who won’t pay his credit card bill. This is not Roberts’ doing. At the end of it all, this is not even Obama’s doing. This is our doing. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have allowed the political discussion in this country to slip so far that explaining the concept of limited government and personal freedom to fellow citizens is like explaining it to someone from the 12th century. Even now the response from those professing to love freedom ignores firsts principles and frames the whole affair as a political struggle against “the left”. “Obama lied and the economy died” might feel good and will undoubted raise money for the political classes, but such cliches are vacuous…and largely beside the point.

And while Romney might help for a while, he won’t change that. He’s fighting a political brush fire; this is an epochal, planetary war.

The truth is, a country as great as the United States should never have found itself here. We have accepted the premise of collectivism and allowed our legal and political systems to view the individual as a means to the ends of the politically powerful. We have given dictatorial powers to our government through the tax code, and made the IRS the President’s internal army. The only thing Judge Roberts did is make us own up to it. The question is not “how could Roberts have defected to the left and allowed the government to have such power ?”. The question is “how could we have allowed the government to have such power?”.

Justice Roberts may well go down in history as the dad who refused to be our enabler and allow us to escape the consequences of our bad decisions. He forced us to confront the enemy. And the enemy is us.

We have a lot of work to do.

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Stopping the alternative behavior madness

20120517-095110.jpgSo then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Mark 16:19
American Standard Version Bible

Today I want to talk about evil – an evil that we have tolerated for far too long in this society. I’m talking about a sickness that we permit to be paraded around us, and it’s a deviant behavior must be stopped.

You know what I’m talking about, but speaking out isn’t enough. It’s time for action – time to start enforcing, with wrath and vigor, the purity of body that the our most holy books mandate. We must rise up and take these willfully, woeful souls who choose to ignore historical tradition and spiritual truth and smite them.

Their argument that they cannot control their natural inclinations is absurd. The devil tests us all with desires and temptations that take us down the road to eternal torment. For us to let these freaks of nature walk among us is an abomination.

But there’s hope! We can rise out of this dark time and return to the world as it should be. We can have a world where those who choose to communicate, gesture and state their identity with this grotesque defect are dispatched from our very shores.

So let us raise our righteous hand. We will change the laws. We will take to the streets. We will pull these demons from their homes and show them that waving their natural inclinations in the face of our children will no longer go unpunished.

For these reasons, I encourage you join me, brother and sister. Salute your beliefs and take them to their logical conclusion. Let us all write to our legislators today and join our fight.

Together we can make sure that people who are left-handed will not be allowed to be married in America. Because, after all, Jesus sat at the right hand of God, not his left.

And lefties don’t deserve rights.

What evangelicals forget about Lady Justice

20120512-123835.jpg Should government be secular? Or should government reflect the traditions, and religions, of the people from whom it derives its authority?

Those on both sides of this issue seem to be in a stalemate. Each can selectively introduce historical evidence to support or refute the positions of the other. And while the courts may declare winners, I fear that the evangelical movement has been led astray by allowing itself to be distracted from a simple, glaring truth.

They already support secularism under a different name.

Advocates for secular government are simply asking for fairness in the law. This is not a particularly controversial point of view. Consider our notion of justice, for example. We believe that all people should be equal before the law (we even have the 14th amendment to help protect that belief.) We believe that justice, or the equal application of law, should be blind.

Great controversies arise when some of us feel that Lady Justice peaks from beneath her blindfold and treats one person differently before the law than another. If we feel we are being treated unfairly – or judged disproportionately – in relationship to others, our Golden Rule alert system kicks in. This is an old friction point, worn thin by a long history of perceived contrast in treatment under the law in relation to wealth, race or religion.

Someone who advocates for secular government is simply asking for this same fairness in the creation of law that we already hold dear in both the interpretation (courts) and enforcement (police) of the law.

If we are ever to fully realize that ideal which we have personified into marble statues, we all must accept that – when it comes to the governmental institutions that create law – race, wealth or religion should be checked at the door.

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Comedy: the new tool for collectivists?

John Stewart. Bill Maher. Stephen Colbert.

It would be useless to attempt to deny the comedic prowess of these entertainers. They’re smart, quick and razor sharp in their satire. But could there be an ugly utility behind the beauty of their wit?

This occurred to me as I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher last week on HBO. Maher moved so effortlessly, it seemed, from one insult to the next – never giving me (or his audience, not that they would have wanted it) a moment to consider the complex reality behind his jokes.

Depth of observation is not a new topic, and one that I’m not here to discuss. My real fear here is that comedians like Stewart, Maher and Colbert have become powerful tools for the new collectivists in this country.

Their comedy has become a weapon for the war on individual liberty.

When I was growing up in the ’80s, the comedy seemed a little more supportive to the idea of individual liberty. Soviet Russia was both a punchline and a strong supporter of firing squads. The evils of collectivist ideology, and its consequences, were very real to us. And if I had to guess, I imagine that the US State Department was pretty happy to have Smirnoff (stage name) generate some pretty good Yankee Doodle propaganda.

But John Stewart, and his ilk, are something quite different. To these performers, liberty seems to be a punchline in a tea bagger joke – a flexible idea that extends to their right to lampoon and light up, but one that dissipates quickly when considered in the context of a free market. Their view of the role of society, and of individual’s submissiveness to it, is something that would have been rejected wholesale just 30 years ago.

Sure, there were plenty of social critics. Richard Pryor on racism. George Carlin on religion. But their routines never seemed to marginalize the entire Enlightenment-thought foundation of America. If anything, they seemed to extend the ideas of liberties to brave new places, natural consequences of a foundational belief in freedom.

Now, the very voices that used to call for the reform of government are calling for its growth, and largely distracted from the fact that their own messiah has lied to them about every liberty-oriented promise he made, from drug policy to war mongering (his affinity for such being the only reason he moved to allow gays in the military). The iconoclasts have joined the Washington crowd, declaring that the only way to fight oppression is to build taller government buildings and deeper government bureaucracies. And the young folks, people who are now the same age that I was in the 80s, are lapping up every word, nestled inside late night’s stand-up routines.

We went from satire being a tool for extending liberty to it being co-opted by those hellbent on subverting it for their own, collectivist agenda.

What a country.

Why things are looking up thanks to Ron Paul

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.

— Dandamis, sage (4c BCE)

Kairos is an aspect of argument. It means “time,” but not as in time on a clock. It means time as in perfect timing, or an idea that’s time has come.

In America, it feels as if the time has come (again) for an old idea: classical liberalism, or as we know it today, Libertarianism. Love it or hate it, people can’t ignore it, appealing to the fiery idealist and weathered pragmatist alike.

As memes go, Libertarian principles are straightforward, clearly formed and easily conveyed from one mind to the next. The premises are based on simple truths we learned as children. Don’t start fights. Don’t tell other people what to do. Might doesn’t mean right. And don’t take what doesn’t belong to you (especially the rights of others).

Standard bearer Ron Paul is the most visible libertarian-leaning voice. But what distinguishes this “3rd way” from both Republicans and Democrats is that the ideas are bigger than the bringers of the ideas. Ask most any libertarian candidate about their ambitions and they’ll tell you, “I’m just a messenger. It’s all about the message.”

Perhaps glimmers of hope shine brightest in the dark. It certainly got dark in America for a moment. Post 9/11 brought out the best and worst in us. For a time it seemed that dems and GOPers were going to successfully replace America with a darker version of itself. But the legacy of Ron Paul may signal a new dawn.

The Paullites have pierced the veil of the two-party system. They’ve shown us that, as Dandimas may have spoken to Alexander, when we considered only Democrats and Republicans, we were stuck with both sides being wrong.

However it turns out for Dr. Paul, America will eternally be in his debt for giving us – dare I say it – real hope. Perhaps not everyone has bought into the victim mentality of the Left and the police state mentality of the Right.

Now, in addition to left or right, we have up.