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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Antonin Scalia Misses the Days When It Was OK for Government Discriminate Against Gay People


Antonin Scalia Misses the Days When It Was OK for Government Discriminate Against Gay People

Supreme Court's arch-conservative says legalizing same-sex marriage discriminates against people who don't want it.


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia takes part in an interview with Chris Wallace on "FOX News Sunday" at the FOX News DC Bureau on July 27. Scalia, an outspoken conservative on the US Supreme Court, admitted Sunday that he likes to push people's buttons

Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the Supreme Court case that declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is, as expected, fun reading. It’s also quite representative of the current state of anti-gay marriage arguments in general: It is much more concerned with whining and raging than it is with actual argumentation.
Scalia’s main point is that the court has no right to strike down DOMA. In doing so, Scalia says, the Supreme Court has overstepped its authority.
It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.
The case could be made that this is sort of the only honest Originalist argument — there is nothing in the Constitution granting the Supreme Court the authority to determine the constitutionality of duly passed legislation, after all — but obviously this argument rather glaringly contradicts every single instance of Scalia voting to strike down a law. Indeed, it contradicts a decision the Supreme Court announced yesterday, in which the conservatives decided that a portion of the Voting Rights Act that they didn’t care for was unconstitutional because they didn’t care for it. But if Scalia wishes to recuse himself from all future cases involving constitutional questions, now that he has determined that Marbury v. Madison was improperly decided, I am not inclined to stop him.
Scalia is widely praised, even (perhaps especially) by liberals for his intelligence, his wit and his supposed intellectual consistency — he is thought to have a very specific interpretation of the Constitution and while it’s a dumb one he adheres to it — but this decision exposes him for the politician that he actually is. As Richard Posner has argued, Scalia will abandon both strict textual originalism and “judicial restraint” when it suits him. (Justice Thomas is actually better at coming up with legal and constitutional justifications for his social conservatism, consistent with his view that the Constitution may only be understood in terms of the political and social context in which it was written.)
In most cases involving homosexuality, Scalia is likely to argue purely from disgust, and to resort to strange justifications for his disgust-based decisions. He is repulsed by homosexuality and alarmed at America’s acceptance of it. Therefore homosexuality is Not Constitutional, or something. Just reread his Lawrence v. Texas dissent, in which he invokes the feared “so-called homosexual agenda” and calls the court’s majority decision “a massive disruption of the current social order.” This dissent avoids most of that sort of talk, but the entire thing is still based on alarm and dismay at changing social mores.
That’s because alarm and dismay are just about all that the social conservatives have left. The last legal argument gay marriage opponents have resorted to is a not particularly compelling claim that same-sex marriage might somehow be bad for children, because traditionally marriage was a tool used to force heterosexual couples to jointly raise their offspring. The “tradition” argument lacks any sort of legal justification: “We have always done it this way” is not really a good defense of an act’s constitutionality. The other problem with the tradition argument, as Ross Douthat could tell you, is that there is very little about modern straight marriage that resembles “traditional marriage.”
The most notable portion of Scalia’s dissent isn’t the point about the court’s lack of jurisdiction, but the portion where he engages in straight-up right-wing victim-complex self-pity of the sort that would not be out of place in a Maggie Gallagher column. (Indeed, Maggie approvingly quotes this very passage.) Scalia moans at length that Justice Kennedy’s decision is mean to anti-gay marriage people. It is so mean to them! People who oppose gay marriage are the Real Victims here, because Justice Kennedy has accused them of demeaning gay people simply by wishing to deny them the right to marry:
But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence — indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.
The Defense of Marriage Act sounds so harmless when you put it that way! All it did was “codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence.” The actual lives of gay people — the specific rights and benefits denied them by DOMA and related legislation — never enter into Scalia’s thinking, at all. What matters most is the hurt feelings of social conservatives, who have been accused of malice against homosexuals. (I never knew Scalia cared so deeply about what his political opponents thought of him. He seemed like a thick-skinned fellow before this.)
This is the gay-marriage version of the “calling something racist is worse than racism” argument currently so popular among aggrieved white conservatives. (Justice Roberts basically made this argument in the court’s horrible Shelby County v. Holder decision.Calling former Confederate states racist is racist against former Confederate states!) It is the lamest of last-resort arguments, and I’m not sure how same-sex marriage opponents expect same-sex marriage advocates to respond to it. Most people who support gay marriage — which is now most Americans — believe that gay marriage bans are discriminatory and unfair, and based more on fear and disgust than any sort of reason or logic. There seems to be plenty of evidence — including evidence in Scalia’s own history of opinions and statements — that most opposition to gay marriage is rooted in irrational dislike of gay people, with half-assed appeals to “tradition” laid on top. When people point that out, they are accused of accusing their opponents of being monsters. But I’d love to hear how one is supposed to say “I think you’re dead wrong on this moral question” without sounding too judgey.
It would’ve been much simpler, probably, for Scalia to have just said, like Kathryn Jena Lopez did today, he was “nostalgic” for the time when a Democratic president signed the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s basically the argument he’s making: Stuff is changing too much and I miss the days when everyone felt like discriminating against the gays was fine.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

At Their Core Flag Waving Republicans Oppose Democracy and a Free Society

more from Rmuse

religious_right threat

The danger inherent in fundamentalism is it demands an absolutist and strict obedience to a concrete standard, or set of standards, that its ideologue devotees cannot waiver from or comprehend non-compliance from non-adherents. Religion, in its purest form, is steeped in fundamentalism primarily because strict obedience to its particular tenets is required by its adherents who tend toward imposing their beliefs on the rest of society. America’s version of conservatism is a fixed belief system not unlike fundamentalist religion, and regardless the U.S. Constitution, or will of the people, conservatives are ill-inclined to waiver from imposing their ideology on the people. Like religion, conservatives demand strict obedience from all members of society making it incompatible with democracy or a free society. For the past four-and-a-half years, Americans have been besieged by an axis of fundamentalist groups who exemplify anti-democratic ideology and between corporatists, evangelical fundamentalists, and conservatives, the nation risks drifting toward fascism and if not thwarted spells the end of American democracy.

Although corporatists pose a clear and present danger to America’s representative democracy, it is religious and conservative fundamentalists who openly oppose the idea of a free society, and in their rush to impose their ideology on the entire nation belie their contention they love America or its founding document. Republicans in Congress have all but brought governance to a halt with their obstructionism and demand that the nation adheres to their fundamentalist agenda or they prevent government from operating, and in conjunction with forcing bible-based laws on the people demonstrate their hatred for democracy. As Americans await a pair of Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, religious fundamentalists preemptively warned that a decision contrary to their religion will leave them no choice but to defy the Court they claim is “acting beyond its constitutional role and contrary to the Natural Moral Law which transcends religions, culture, and time.” The evangelicals released a letter stating their intent to defy the High Court and ended with a threat; “Make no mistake about our resolve, this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” and it exemplifies the Christian-conservative mindset Republicans are pushing on the people at all levels of government.
At the beginning of the 113th Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner promised evangelical fundamentalists that “making abortion a relic of the past” was Republican’s primary goal for 2013, and following through on his word House Republicans passed an unconstitutional ban on abortions after 20 weeks in clear violation of the High Court’s ruling that abortion is a woman’s choice, and legal, until the fetus is viable outside the womb. Fundamentalists could not care less what the Supreme Court ruled and Republicans demonstrated their allegiance is not to the Constitutional authority of the High Court, but to the absolutist standards of fundamentalist Christians. In Virginia, the state’s attorney general and candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, is defending an unconstitutional law, “Crimes Against Nature,” because he feels it is his religious right to prohibit oral and anal sex between consenting adults because like opponents of same-sex marriage, he claims it is “contrary to natural moral law” spelled out in the Christian bible.

Cuccinelli has a history of demanding Virginia residents adhere to his religious fundamentalist agenda and is the poster-boy for the Christian right’s attempt to rule by biblical edict. In 2007, Cuccinelli cosponsored personhood legislation that defined a zygote is a human being and would abolish and criminalize all forms of birth control as tantamount to murder for preventing a zygote from implanting in the womb.  In 1982 the Senate rejected legislation defining human life at fertilization because it automatically defined contraception as an “abortifacient” which is a nice word for zygote killer. In 2010, Cuccinelli sent a memo to the state’s universities informing them they did not need to protect gays from discrimination, and that it would be illegal if they did. He said, “It is my advice that the law prohibits a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation’ as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy,” and it is based on his “view that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong. I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. They don’t comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents behavior that is not healthy to society.”

Cuccinelli, like same-sex marriage opponents and conservatives opposed to social programs, safety nets, taxes on the wealthy and corporations, represents the fundamentalist threat to democracy because they will go to any length to impose their ideology on the people regardless the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court rulings, or the will of the people. For example, Republicans blocked expanded background checks for gun purchases despite 90% of America, including Republicans and NRA members, supported a sensible means of keeping guns out of criminal’s hands. In a January 2013 poll, 70% of Americans supported abortion rights and yet Republicans, at the behest of evangelicals, passed an unconstitutional ban after 20 weeks despite the risk of losing more women voters in the next election.

Democracy is the antithesis of, and protection from, fundamentalism because the idea of one man, one religion, one political ideology, or one religious book being set up as the absolute standard to which all people of a nation are bound will always subject the majority to tyranny. It is true that is the end goal of Christian fundamentalists in America the same as it is the goal of conservatives in the tea party and Republicans pushing libertarianism on America, but it is not democracy and certainly not the Founding Fathers intent. Admittedly not all Christians seek to impose their will on all the people, but inherent in all religions is the belief that there is only one way, one law, and one absolute that rejects all others and it is why men like Cuccinelli, conservative Christians in Congress, and same-sex marriage opponents openly threaten to defy the Highest Court in the land because a ruling may be contrary to their “natural moral law” and state categorically that the Supreme Court has no “moral authority” to rule that all Americans are protected under the 14th Amendment.
Perhaps the religious leaders who threatened there is a “line we cannot and will not cross” are ignorant of the High Court’s duty to the Constitution and the nation because it is not a moral authority; it is a legal and Constitutional authority over the entire nation. Whether the religious fundamentalists like it or not, the Constitution, and not any religious book, is the legal authority in America and that is a line that the great majority of Americans will not tolerate any group crossing regardless of what kind of fundamentalist ideologue they are.
At Their Core Flag Waving Republicans Oppose Democracy and a Free Society was written by Rmuse for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Jun. 22nd, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 17, 2013

GOP plan to appeal to millennials: “Make abortion a joke”


GOP plan to appeal to millennials: “Make abortion funny”


Young Christian-right leaders think the answer to their problems with young voters lies in more snark

GOP plan to appeal to millennials: (Credit: HBO)

“How do you make abortion funny?” That was a key question mulled at a major conservative gathering Friday on how to make social conservatism appealing to young people, after an election where Republicans got trounced in the battle for millennial voters (who are are moving even further and further away from the Christian-right on marriage and other issues).

Abortion has to be made funny, the thinking goes, because funny sells on social media, and that’s where one goes to court young people. “You can engage with sarcasm, it’s hard with the abortion issue, but you have to,” said Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins at a breakout panel at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington today on how to win millennial voters. “Unfortunately we have to, because this is the generation that we’ve been dealt.”

As the Republican Party tries to remake itself after the 2012 election to better appeal to young people and minorities, there’s been a movement to jettison issues social conservatives hold dear, especially support for “traditional marriage.” But the activists at Ralph Reed’s confab said absolutely not. “You’ve got to be pro-life, you’ve got be pro-marriage, or else you’re not going to get our money,” Hawkins said firmly.

How, then, do you win over young voters when as many as 70 percent support marriage equality? The answers offered feel a bit like jamming a square peg in a round hole.

The young activists on the panel pointed to data from a poll conducted by the College Republican National Committee for the recent report it issued on how the GOP can win millennials. The poll, which showed that while young people support marriage equality (the GOP should not “crusade against same-sex marriage,” is one of the recommendations), the issue is not young people’s top priority. That finding, said Chris Malagasi, the president of the Young Conservatives Coalition, shows that politicians can still appeal to young people while opposing gay marriage, as long as they talk about the issue in a smart way.

That smart way includes snark, and it includes social media. In 2012, Malagasi said, Republicans did OK on the TV ad war, but never invested in digital, giving Obama a 3-1 advantage on Facebook likes, a 10-1 advantage on YouTube follows, and a 20-1 advantage on Twitter followers. “This is a battlefield that we’re losing on,” he said. He also lamented that none of the party’s official campaign organizations has a youth outreach entity.

Travis Korson, the grass-roots director of the Virginia chapter, suggested framing marriage as an economic issue. “Gay marriage undermines that basic family unit,” he said, and that, in turn, hurts the economy.

The big, obvious question for anyone who cares about winning more youth votes — and “without the next generation, you don’t have a movement,” Liberty University vice president Johnnie Moore said — is what went wrong in 2012 and what can be done to fix that in the future.

Liberty University senior class president Chelsea Patterson offered that “a lot of my peers see the GOP as kind of old school,” suggesting the party needed some rebranding and a better strategy of connecting with popular culture.
Hawkins said it was because the party was too moderate. “We keep nominating moderates and saying we need a big tent, but we keep losing.”

No one suggested changing any positions, only finding better packaging for the ones they already have. “I do not believe we should sacrifice our values to win elections,” Koroson said.

Alex Seitz-Wald Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013





A Libertarian in the American term, is an individual with right-wing economic beliefs and left-wing social belief. Some ultra-conservatives, such as talk radio host Neil Boortz, pretend they are libertarians so that they can trick liberals into listening to them for few minutes in hope of converting them to conservatism. Libertarians are kind of like liberals, except they think they're living in the 18th Century or in the first part of the 20th Century when Ayn Rand lived. [1]

General Overview of Beliefs

Stereotyping the libertarians would be unwise. Different people who see themselves as libertarians disagree with each other as to which freedoms they feel should be allowed and which should be restricted. Libertarians in a general sense agree with the following concepts.
  • Support for Civil Liberties
  • Opposition to Coercive Force (defined their way)18
  • Small Government
  • Low Taxes
  • Emphasis on Private Property
  • Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy 

Does Libertarianism give real freedom?

Libertarianism allows for freedom in consensual sex and relationships; it also provides freedom to use self-destructive drugs and the like. In fact, two famous libertarians, Penn and Teller have advocated legalizing prostitution, illegal drugs, gay marriage and polyamory, and they have advocated abolishing the FCC. Libertarianism gives freedom in areas that don’t challenge anyone's power, including the power of corporations.

Pitfalls of Libertarianism

Libertarians tend to be supporters of unchecked corporate power, depending on just how deep into it they are. That means businesses may force whatever they like onto their employees and those who buy their products. If workers are too weak to fight back against a bullying boss, that's just too bad.

The top 1% of the population has an overwhelming advantage in securing top-level jobs, because their mommy and daddy were rich and paid them through school while networking with their corporate friends. Think of it as a lose-win situation, where a few win and many lose out.

Libertarians are squeamish towards those in the lower class reaching their full potential. To them, it would be unethical to provide others in society with the same opportunities the wealthy elite receive. If you're born into poverty and your parents are unable to provide a decent upbringing, sad day for you. Libertarians want to restrict or abolish government protection for those who are struggling financially. Ironically, this restricts freedom for the majority.
  1. Workers can become totally dependent on employers who can be corrupted by power and become tyrants.
  2. Alternatively, family members become totally dependent on the economic provider/providers in the family. Those who are economically powerful in the family can become tyrants.
Note: People who genuinely believe in freedom sometimes get tricked into supporting libertarianism. In some cases, libertarians genuinely don't realise that they are aiding the wealthy elite in suppressing the majority such as themselves.

Libertarian Logic

Libertarianism is a logically consistent approach to politics based on the moral principle of self-ownership. Each individual has the right to control his or her own body, action, speach, and property. Government's only role is to help individuals defend themselves from force and fraud. Libertarians are open-minded people who want to end the Federal Reserve and legalize marijuana.

In order to understand how one gets from the "moral principles" above to the sort of fanatical proselytizing found in chat rooms and blogs everywhere, it is important understand how the ideology works from theory to practice. Libertarianism is axiomatic. Note how the above quote touts its “logically consistent approach.” There's a set of rules to be applied to evaluate what is proper, and the outcome given is the answer that is correct in terms of the “moral principle” of the theory. Are the religious thinking connections starting to become evident? The rules are simple and tight enough to produce surprisingly uniform positions compared to common political philosophies.

Libertarians are for "individual rights", and against "force" and "fraud" - just as THEY define it. Their use of these words, however, when examined in detail, is not likely to accord with the common meanings of these terms. What person would proclaim themselves in favor of "force and fraud"? One of the little tricks Libertarians use in debate is to confuse the ordinary sense of these words with the meaning as "terms of art" in Libertarian axioms. They try to set up a situation where if you say you're against "force and fraud", then obviously you must agree with Libertarian ideology, since those are the definitions. If you are in favor of "force and fraud", well, isn't that highly immoral? So you're either one of them, or some sort of degenerate (note the cultist aspect again), one who doesn't think "force and fraud must be banished from human relationships".

Example 1

no person should initiate the use of force against another person.
Taxation is undesirable since the coercive force of the state backs it. Do you agree, or do you disagree, that it is always wrong for one person to initiate force against another? If you disagree, then you disagree with the fundamental concept of libertarianism. On the other hand, if you agree with the proposition, yet you still don't like the conclusions that libertarians draw from it, then we can refocus our attention on the chain of logic that leads to those conclusions and find where you feel the weak link is. From looking at the example above you could say it's an "agree or disagree" where "initiate force" is implied to be the Libertarian definition. And it's justified by the axioms (chain of logic). The idea that Libertarians don't believe in the initiation of force is pure propaganda. They believe in using force as much as anyone else, if they think the application is “morally correct.” Most ordinary people who aren't libertarians understand when rich corporations force relatively weak employees to accept bad working conditions of face Unemployment this amounts to coercion and that's just one example of libertarian use of force. “Initiation of force" is Libertarian term meaning essentially "do something improper according to Libertarian ideology". It isn't even connected much to the actions we normally think of as "force". The question being asked above was really agree or disagree, that it is always wrong for one person to do something improper according to the libertarian ideology. Of course, we can only make you think this through our own insistence, because as you may notice we don't even support this claim. So a libertarian would not consider this an objection at all. This is the same reason libertarians often ignore other liberal ideas.

Liberals approve of some of the above but vehemently oppose other aspects.

Example 2

While you might be told Libertarianism is about individual rights and freedom, fundamentally, it's about business. The words "individual rights", in the context of the libertarian ideology means business.

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of "voluntary" and contractual relations among individuals. That gives powerful corporations the chance to force unfavorable contracts onto weaker parties and the weaker parties don't agree to those contracts voluntarily.

The whole idea of a contract is that government enforces relations among individuals. The sentence about governments no interfering in so-called voluntary contracts doesn’t make sense. It's conceptually that they oppose all interference by government in the areas of government enforcing relations among individuals.

The key to understanding this, and to understanding Libertarianism itself, is to realize that their concept of individual freedom is the right to have the state protect the business. Freedom is greatly reduced for ordinary people, the state should protect the business instead of the state protecting the person.

Personal liberty

Libertarians claim they are for freedom. In practice this means freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. For example labor protection legislation protects ordinary workers against exploitation and arbitrary dismissal. Ordinary people have more freedom when the government protects them against richer and stronger people. Real Liberals aim to give freedom to the majority, not just to a rich minority. Hypocritically libertarians pretend their philosophy is, "If I want to do something it's okay, as long as I don't harm you." In reality their philosophy is about rich people being free to exploit and harm ordinary people.

Libertarianism and Conservatism compared

Libertarians are radical in some ways and Conservative in other respects. Libertarianism is about protecting those who are already rich and powerful as is Conservatism.


  1. Libertarians and Conservatives support each other over trying to reduce taxation for rich people who can afford to pay.
  2. Libertarians and Conservatives try and deny protection to the poor, weak and powerless as this article has claimed.
  3. Libertarians and Conservatives want to prevent the state from handing medical care to sick people if they can't afford to pay for it.
  4. Libertarians and Conservatives both try to prevent the state protecting those who have been unfortunate for reasons like economic depression and unemployment.
There have been attempts to combine Libertarianism and Social Conservatism. Llewellyn H. Rockwell argued that Libertarians should drop their wish for freedoms that are conventionally restricted and join the conservatives. Notably he opposed artistic epression that is conventionally restricted. Basically he was saying, "Become like us and join us." See Paleolibertarianism.


Libertarians value freedom. All too often that means freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. Libertarians value some real freedoms as well. Many Liberatarians support the "freedom" of individuals to do some things which Christian Conservatives believe are contrary to God's law. Christian Conservatives can't easily accept that.
  1. Christian Conservatives want to restrict the sexual freedom individuals have. The only acceptable sexual outlet for them is heterosexual intercourse between married couples. Libertarians want to give individuals far more freedom to determine what they do to their own bodies or what they allow other people to do to their bodies. This applies to sex and other areas. Extreme Libertarians want people to have complete control over their own bodies even if they do silly or destructive things.
  2. Christian Conservatives want to restrict access to intoxicants like alcohol, cannabis etc. Libertarians want to give individuals far more freedom to do destructive things to themselves and may overlook the harm intoxicants do, for example to other people, the families of alcoholics and drug addicts can and generally do suffer terribly for example. Strict libertarian philosophy allows individual freedom to be restricted when individuals harm others.


Libertarians are cult members who worship business under the false pretence of loving freedom. Some who call themselves Libertarians are nothing but conservatives who are too embarrassed to say that they're conservative because it sounds old fashioned. Others support radical ideas which Conservatives oppose. The philosophy of libertarianism might be summarized by "If rich people want to do something it's okay, but if you want to oppose rich people, it's not."


  1. Liberals of the past" were against the inheritance of power; in one particular area at least: the absolute monarchies of kings. Libertarian Plutocrats ignore even that.  

See also

External links

The question libertarians just can’t answer


The question libertarians just can’t answer

If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?

The question libertarians just can't answer (Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel)

Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?

It’s not as though there were a shortage of countries to experiment with libertarianism. There are 193 sovereign state members of the United Nations—195, if you count the Vatican and Palestine, which have been granted observer status by the world organization. If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?

When you ask libertarians if they can point to a libertarian country, you are likely to get a baffled look, followed, in a few moments, by something like this reply: While there is no purely libertarian country, there are countries which have pursued policies of which libertarians would approve: Chile, with its experiment in privatized Social Security, for example, and Sweden, a big-government nation which, however, gives a role to vouchers in schooling.
But this isn’t an adequate response. Libertarian theorists have the luxury of mixing and matching policies to create an imaginary utopia. A real country must function simultaneously in different realms—defense and the economy, law enforcement and some kind of system of support for the poor. Being able to point to one truly libertarian country would provide at least some evidence that libertarianism can work in the real world.

Some political philosophies pass this test. For much of the global center-left, the ideal for several generations has been Nordic social democracy—what the late liberal economist Robert Heilbroner described as “a slightly idealized Sweden.” Other political philosophies pass the test, even if their exemplars flunk other tests. Until a few decades ago, supporters of communism in the West could point to the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist dictatorships as examples of “really-existing socialism.” They argued that, while communist regimes fell short in the areas of democracy and civil rights, they proved that socialism can succeed in a large-scale modern industrial society.

While the liberal welfare-state left, with its Scandinavian role models, remains a vital force in world politics, the pro-communist left has been discredited by the failure of the Marxist-Leninist countries it held up as imperfect but genuine models. Libertarians have often proclaimed that the economic failure of Marxism-Leninism discredits not only all forms of socialism but also moderate social-democratic liberalism.

But think about this for a moment. If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried on the scale of a modern nation-state, even a small one, anywhere in the world.

Lacking any really-existing libertarian countries to which they can point, the free-market right is reduced to ranking countries according to “economic freedom.” Somewhat different lists are provided by the Fraser Institute in Canada and the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

According to their similar global maps of economic freedom, the economically-free countries of the world are by and large the mature, well-established industrial democracies: the U.S. and Canada, the nations of western Europe and Japan. But none of these countries, including the U.S., is anywhere near a libertarian paradise. Indeed, the government share of GDP in these and similar OECD countries is around forty percent—nearly half the economy.

Even worse, the economic-freedom country rankings are biased toward city-states and small countries. For example, in the latest ranking of economic liberty by the Heritage Foundation, the top five nations are Hong Kong (a city, not a country), Singapore (a city-state), Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland (small-population countries).

With the exception of Switzerland, four out of the top five were small British overseas colonies which played interstitial roles in the larger British empire. Even though they are formally sovereign today, these places remain fragments of larger defense systems and larger markets. They are able to engage in free riding on the provision of public goods, like security and huge consumer populations, by other, bigger states.

Australia and New Zealand depended for protection first on the British empire and now on the United States. Its fabled militias to the contrary, Switzerland might not have maintained its independence for long if Nazi Germany had won World War II.

These countries play specialized roles in much larger regional and global markets, rather as cities or regions do in a large nation-state like the U.S. Hong Kong and Singapore remain essentially entrepots for international trade. Switzerland is an international banking and tax haven. What works for them would not work for a giant nation-state like the U.S. (number 10 on the Heritage list of economic freedom) or even medium-sized countries like Germany (number 19) or Japan (number 24).

And then there is Mauritius.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. has less economic freedom than Mauritius, another small island country, this one off the southeast coast of Africa. At number 8, Mauritius is two rungs above the U.S., at number 10 in the global index of economic liberty.

The Heritage Foundation is free to define economic freedom however it likes, by its own formula weighting government size, freedom of trade, absence of regulation and so on. What about factors other than economic freedom that shape the quality of life of citizens?

How about education? According to the CIA World Fact book, the U.S. spends more than Mauritius—5.4 percent of GDP in 2009 compared to only 3.7 percent in Mauritius in 2010. For the price of that extra expenditure, which is chiefly public, the U.S. has a literacy rate of 99 percent, compared to only 88.5 percent in economically-freer Mauritius.

Infant mortality? In economically-more-free Mauritius there are about 11 deaths per 1,000 live births—compared to 5.9 in the economically-less-free U.S. Maternal mortality in Mauritius is at 60 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 21 in the U.S. Economic liberty comes at a price in human survival, it would seem. Oh, well—at least Mauritius is economically free!

Even to admit such trade-offs—like higher infant mortality, in return for less government—would undermine the claim of libertarians that Americans and other citizens of advanced countries could enjoy the same quality of life, but at less cost, if most government agencies and programs were replaced by markets and for-profit firms. Libertarians seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality, among other things.

It’s a seductive vision—enjoying the same quality of life that today’s heavily-governed rich nations enjoy, with lower taxes and less regulation. The vision is so seductive, in fact, that we are forced to return to the question with which we began: if libertarianism is not only appealing but plausible, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?

Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Are Conservatives Easier to Manipulate?


Studies have repeatedly shown that conservatives are more susceptible to spin and lies. 


A Gallup Poll on May 29 strikingly titled “U.S. Support for Euthanasia Hinges on How It’s Described” contains unambiguous new evidence that Republicans are more manipulable than Democrats—at least when the question concerns the important issue of whether or not a terminal patient’s request for assistance to die should be carried out by the person’s doctor. It reported that, “A May 2-7 Gallup survey finds 70% of Americans in favor of allowing doctors to hasten a terminally ill patient’s death when the matter is described as allowing doctors to ‘end the patient’s life by some painless means.’ At the same time, far fewer – 51% – support it when the process is described as doctors helping a patient ‘commit suicide.’”

The precise question in the latter instance was “When a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain, do you think doctors should or should not be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?”

The remarkable finding was that 71% of Democrats, and 68% of Republicans, support a doctor’s ending a patient’s life by some painless means if the patient requests it and has a terminal illness, but only 60% of Democrats, and 41% of Republicans do when the question it phrased as “to assist the patient to commit suicide.”

That’s a fall-off from 71% down to 60% for Democrats – or a reduction of 15% – of Democrats, who can be manipulated by using different terminology; but it’s a fall-off from 68% down to 41% for Republicans – or a reduction of 40% – of Republicans, who can be manipulated by a mere synonymous rephrasing of the same question.

Or, to put that in the other way, based upon this poll, 85% of Democrats, versus only 60% of Republicans, were not manipulable on this issue – they responded to the issue itself, and not to the wording of it.

There is a vast amount of other empirical evidence showing that conservatives, and Republicans in particular, are more manipulable than non-conservatives.

A famous study by Jost, Glaser, Kruglansky and Sulloway, “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” in the May 2003 Psychological Bulletin, found that prejudices were even stronger among conservatives than among the general population.
An October 2003 survey, “Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War,” from worldpublicopinion.org (formerly “PIPA,” or Program on International Policy Attitudes) found that the audience of Fox News is highly Republican, but failed to provide any detailed breakdown. A more detailed study of this question, issued by rasmussenreports.com in June 2004, was headlined “Fox Fans Favor Bush 65% to 28%,” and noted, by way of contrast, that “CNN Fans Favor Kerry 63% to 26%.”

Furthermore, this survey found that, “In the race for Congress, Fox fans will vote for GOP candidates by a 56% to 25% margin. The CNN audience will vote Democratic by a 54% to 27% margin.” The PIPA study of “Misperceptions” and “the Iraq War” found: “The extent of Americans’ misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions. Those who receive most of their news from NPR or PBS are less likely to have misperceptions. These variations cannot simply be explained as a result of differences in the demographic characteristics of each audience, because these variations can also be found when comparing the demographic subgroups of each audience.”

On November 22, 2011, thinkprogress.org headlined “Fox News Viewers Are the Most Misinformed: A Seventh Study Arrives to Prove It,” and Chris Mooney linked to each of the seven different studies that had been done of this subject, all of which found the same thing. The latest study was titled “Climate on Cable: The Nature and Impact of Global Warming Coverage on Fox News [FNC], CNN, and MSNBC.” This latest study closed by saying: “In sum, the results overwhelmingly support Hypothesis 4 [that FNC viewers rejected the reality of global warming, whereas CNN/MSNBC viewers accepted its reality], demonstrating that Fox News viewing is associated with lower levels of global warming acceptance, with the reverse true for CNN/MSNBC viewing. ... [Moreover, a separate finding was:] The views of Republicans seem to reflect the cable news outlet they watch, regardless of whether it is Fox or CNN/MSNBC. Democrats, on the other hand, do not vary significantly in their global warming beliefs as a function of cable news.”

In other words: whereas Democrats sought information, Republicans sought simply confirmation of their beliefs.

On March 22, 2012, Forbes presented its misleadingly subtitled “Media Map: Who’s Reading What and Where,” telling which news channels and newspapers had the largest audience-share in which regions. Fox was strongest in MS, then in AL, AR, WY, and SC, all very conservative states. The most deceiving news-source was also the one most watched in extremely conservative, generally highly Republican states.

Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of Christ's Ventriloquists: The Event that Created Christianity.