Robin Koerner's blog
The politics of our nation since 9/11 have been the politics of fear.
Because of fear that one of us is a terrorist, we've allowed our intelligence services to listen into our private conversations; because of fear of terrorists from abroad, we have killed innocent people in foreign nations (supposedly to protect ourselves here); because of fear that our planes will get blown up, we let government agents put their hands on our children's crotches and look at our naked bodies, and because of fear that the economy will implode, we've given trillions of dollars to organizations that have brought us to that point.
None of it feels very brave or free. None of it feels very American.
Nations confident of their strength don't seek fights. The most powerful nations win without firing a shot. Nations confident of their security and the ability of their agents to maintain it don't compromise the dignity or legal rights of its citizens. Nations confident that the innovativeness and entrepreneurism of its people can provide prosperity don't reward bad custodians of financial resources to "save the system."
Rape may represent the greatest possible violation against a human being except, perhaps, for murder.
Any decent person sympathizes with the intent of those who would seek to prevent it by any reasonable means. Moreover, there are plenty of statistics regarding the prevalence of rape in our society – mostly, but not exclusively against women – that indicate a moral and cultural epidemic that must be addressed. I, like far too many people, am close to more than one victim of this evil and so nothing I write here is written lightly.
But I am genuinely concerned about what has recently occurred in California with a view to tackling the crime of rape on college campuses. As is so often the case when the details of behavior are legislated in reaction to the actions of the worst people among us, the results are likely to be much less noble than the intention, because the legislation eliminates the most general rights that should be enjoyed by everyone at all times, to protect a few people some of the time.
Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously.
I don't know anyone of any political stripe in the United States who doesn't believe that for exactly the same job, a woman should be paid the same as a man, or that a woman should have the same standing as a man in law; that she should have the same political representation and equal social influence. If these more-or-less ubiquitous truisms are the fruits of feminism, then we all - men and women alike - have much to thank it for.
But I am sensing a tectonic shift away from feminism as an assertive philosophy.
Everyone knows the old saw, attributed to George Bernard Shaw, "Britain and America are two countries, divided by a common language."
Fortunately, there is a simple formula for translating between them: the British understate, while the Americans overstate. (The word, "Everyone" in the preceding paragraph is a nice example of the latter.)
If a Briton finds something to be good, he will declare it "not bad". An American will declare it to be "awesome". A translation table between the two cultures could therefore include,
"Good (Actual) = Not Bad (Brit.) = Awesome (Amer.)"
Last month, I did something I’d done only once before: I went to a range and shot some guns. Lots of guns. All shapes, ages and sizes.
This is a very strange thing to do for a guy born British. Guns feature nowhere in British culture.
Accordingly, I was unsurprised by the reaction of my mother when I called home and told her that I’d had a great time learning about firearms and discovering I wasn’t a bad shot, even with a second-world-war Enfield. “That’s the last thing I’d ever imagine you’d enjoy doing,” she said to me. She wasn’t being judgmental: it was an expression of genuine surprise.
“That’s because you just can’t imagine why nice or normal people would enjoy guns … because you don’t know any… no Brits know any,” I replied.
Mom thoughtfully agreed.
To a first approximation, American political history before the 18th century is British political history. As most American schoolchildren know, in the 17th century, John Locke crystallized the idea that human law should reflect Natural Law, but the idea that Law must serve the well-being of the people on whom it is imposed goes back at least to the Anglo-Saxons.
Since tyranny must shape to itself both the law and the political institutions of its day, it stands to reason that when a governing elite has gone too far in abusing its power, the fight back for liberty by the people at large does not start directly in the political realm or in legislation, itself.
Throughout history, changing a country's politics and statutes has been the final goal of forceful popular attempts to contain power, but mass-refusal to accept political abuses has always begun in the culture. "Culture" is a vague term so let us define it as the sum of actions of the citizens of a country, the attitudes that drive their responses to events, their expectations of what they may do and the memories of what they, and perhaps their ancestors, have always done.
When people hear "UKIP", they usually think of Nigel Farage.
But the Chairman of the party is Stephen Crowther, and eloquent Brit who is referenced in this article.
Blue Republican Radio has an exclusive interview with Crowther, in which I press him on the question, "In what sense is UKIP libertarian?"
The answer is extremely interesting, and shows the importance of culture and history in politics.
I was a boring kid, more concerned with topping out in my next exam than with any sports team or rock band.
I think that was an early manifestation of a tendency I retain in my adult life and will likely take to my grave: a slight disdain for what everyone else thinks is great and, by implication, thinks that I should think is great. In other words, my precociousness as a child was an assertion of my individuality. Maturity as soft rebellion, if you will. In any youth culture, behaving like an adult is good a way to train as a future libertarian.
Although, as a kid, I mostly avoided pop music and sports (and still do), for some years, the music that I could guarantee to hear every day from my friends' desks at school was Nirvana and Guns 'N' Roses. Those bands provided the sonic backdrop of my geography revision and math homework.
Whatever grunge was, I wasn't. The school I went to was an old English manor house (check out the final scene of "If" -- that was our dining hall) and I was being educated among many who would in a few years be wearing academic gowns in the hallowed halls of Cambridge and Oxford Universities. I ended up being one of them. I certainly couldn't even imagine "dropping out" as a psychological possibility, let alone as something that could inform a culture. I mean, I wouldn't even know how to drop out or hate myself, to borrow from one of Nirvana's titles.
Many people regard Magna Carta as the first Constitutional guarantee of the basic liberties of the English-speaking world.
Fewer people know that Magna Carta wasn’t imposed on King John just because he abused his power (which after all has been true of most kings and governments throughout history), but because he had handed away the sovereignty of England to a foreign governing institution in Europe. That institution was The Holy Roman Empire.
Of all of their political parties that most Brits have heard of, only UKIP – the United Kingdom Independence Party – calls itself “libertarian”.
Being only two decades old, UKIP - now polling 38% for the European elections this year and about 15% for the general election next year – has achieved a success on paper that the American Libertarian Party can only dream of.
Indeed, in my work of helping the US liberty movement achieve more success in changing the minds of the people and the politicians and policies that they support, I often point out that American activists can learn much from what UKIP has been doing right.
Both UKIP and the US libertarians form insurgent, anti-establishment movements in an early stage of development: they are both influencing and drawing strength from public dissatisfaction with the current political settlement, but have not yet made significant changes to national electoral outcomes. For example, UKIP has not a single seat in the British parliament, and only a handful of representatives in the American House or Senate self-identify as aligned with the liberty movement’s goals.
So it was with some curiosity that I attended my first UKIP meeting on a visit back to England last month.
If much of the economic commentary in the mainstream media is to be believed, the rising inequality of wealth in Anglo societies and the crashing of our economy by the big banks and financial class make the problems of capitalism not just evident but self-evident.
Such claims are made, of course, against a background of hundreds of years of capitalist growth that has, for the overwhelming bulk of our population, made affordable the books that these claimants have presumably read, the computers on which they type, the Internet on which they do their research, the air-conditioning or central heating in the room where they do it, and even the food in their bellies – food of a variety and quality unparalleled in history.
But this background of utter success is taken so much for granted that it is almost entirely invisible.
The American Liberty movement is no longer nascent. Its mainstreaming is under way, as evidenced by this article in the New York Times - the paper that (almost) defines the American mainstream - about the impact of liberty-focused activists on the ("mainstream") Republican party, as reflected at CPAC last week.
Both culturally and politically, libertarianism is on the rise.
At its simplest, it is a philosophy that asserts the simple principle that we are all free to live our lives as we please inasmuch as we do not limit the freedom of others to do the same. It recognizes that we all have different backgrounds, desires and ambitions, and different metrics and systems for judging the behaviors and choices of ourselves and others.
Since it rests on the notion that one human being cannot know what is best for another - or at least cannot know it better than the other person, himself - it is an essentially humble philosophy in disposition and an essentially tolerant philosophy in prescription. Indeed, tolerance, manifest as lack of aggression, is just about its only hard-and-fast prescription.
This year marks the 1,000th anniversary of political liberty. When the United States began, the tradition in which it was founded was already 762 years old.
As I wrote recently in celebration of this magnificent anniversary, those who would protect freedom in our country badly scupper themselves by their ignorance of history, and there is perhaps no greater obstacle to our understanding of the history that matters than our founding myth.
America was born as a liberty-protecting Republic in opposition to a tyrannical monarchy, so the story goes. While more and more Americans are (thankfully) beginning to see the myriad travesties against our liberty that are being performed by our governing elite as threatening our very identity as a nation that exists to defend natural, unalienable and individual rights, we are all doing very much less well at seeing quite how deeply the founding purpose of our country has been subverted.
Because we "know" that not only are we not a monarchy Constitutionally, but also that our very existence is owed to its denial as a morally decadent institution, we cannot possibly admit the truth about what we have let our country become: America is now a monarchy.
Monarchy has a simple meaning - the "rule of one". As Alexander Hamilton correctly said, "'monarch' is an indefinite term. It marks not either the degree or duration of power". The fact that our king is elected for four years, then, does not change his status as a monarch.
In America today, the President can sign executive orders such as E.O. 13603, on "National Defense Resources Preparedness", in which he claims the right to revoke all contracts and nationalize all aspects of American life even outside a state of emergency. (Bill Clinton had signed a similar order, but with applicability limited to a state of emergency only, however that may be defined. Power only ever drives in one direction.) The Executive has also claimed the authority to strike militarily countries that do not threaten our own, without a supporting vote in the House, and even to kill American citizens without any independent legal process. It also works with its agents, again without the express approval of the people's representatives or, certainly, the knowledge of the people themselves, to receive by covert means the most private details of our lives.