And then you turn on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night and see Steve Moore, a libertarian-conservative
, expressing his support for the 2006 Military Commissions Act
, which allows the President to define torture however he wants and to be able to strip people of their habeus corpus rights. But hey, they didn't raise our taxes!
When Kos wrote his case for the Libertarian Democrat in CATO Unbound, he dove right into the middle of this expanding mess of trying to understand what it actually means to be a libertarian. He was criticized by those who still believe that libertarianism and liberalism represent opposite ends of a spectrum, but also found some agreement with those who also see this trend. In the end, this debate is partially about semantics and partially about scope. Concerns over personal liberty, privacy, and the influence of the religious right are most definitely moving a lot of voters into the Democratic camp. The question is whether or not these values are the core values of libertarianism? And will they actually change the Democratic Party in any way?
As far as the first question is concerned, these values are the core values of libertarianism to me. I believe that there's one absolute in libertarianism, that human beings have a right to free will and that society progresses most when no entity has the ability to impose a particular morality on others. Each person should be free to dictate their own choices in life, and those entrusted with law and order can only get involved if those choices interfere with someone else's freedom. This principle was valued at the time this country was founded, and the framers of the Constitution weighed it heavily in crafting a system of government that would provide safeguards against unrestrained power. This is the core of libertarianism to me, and it's values are expressed more eloquently by Glenn Greenwald than by anyone else I know of. And this line of thinking is unquestionably considered to be more familiar with the left today.
When it comes to matters that involve all of us collectively, however, libertarians believe that the absolute regarding human free will applies not just to individuals, but to the mechanisms and markets that develop to serve the public. This has led to a belief that there's no real difference between government criminalizing a personal belief or behavior and government telling a chemical factory what it can and can't dump into a river. This just doesn't make any sense. And the key part of Kos's argument is that people are starting to understand that their freedom, their privacy, and most importantly, their opportunities in life can be threatened by those who wield power over the mechanisms and markets as much as it can by progressives who want to impose rules and regulations in those mechanisms and markets. When it comes to dealing with the extraordinary complexity in our world, from health care to the environment to the internet, to schools and to all the other things that sustain it, true liberty comes from balance. There are some people whose moral compass leads them to the conclusion that less government interference in these essential markets yields greater opportunity, and there are other people whose moral compass leads to the opposite conclusion. This is what roughly constitutes the traditional left-right divide in America, and I believe that the notion that only one path is the valid one towards greater liberty is simply wrong, in that it seeks to impose a particular morality on how an individual perceives his or her own world. Greater liberty, as a function of opportunity, comes when this debate is settled through transparent analysis and a balance of powers and different perspectives.
There is still reason to be skeptical that libertarianism will never be fully adopted by the left. As Radley Balko said last week:
We can't even get the left to be libertarian on the issues where they're supposed to be libertarian.He's right, but that's only part of the point. The bigger point is that a few Democrats are starting to find some surprising success when speaking to more libertarian viewpoints like repealing the Patriot Act. Jon Tester in Montana has found more success in a red state by taking up that issue and speaking out strongly against the war than Maria Cantwell has in a blue state trying to defend her more "centrist" voting record. The support base for the Democratic Party has shifted greatly in the past few years - probably best exemplified by how anti-libertarian Joe Lieberman went from being the party's Vice Presidential nominee for President in 2000 to losing in a Democratic primary just 6 years later.
Barry Goldwater's 1964 speech endorsing extremism in defense of liberty spawned the next wave of conservatism in America, and 40 years later, it has left many of Goldwater's real libertarian principles in the trash heap. But the problem is not that libertarian-inspired governance won't work, it's that extremism in defense of liberty is truly a recipe for disaster. In matters of economics, an extreme view of corporate property rights has led to a government where corporate leaders wield enormous power over the government. In matters of national defense, the belief that 'moderation in pursuit of justice is a vice' has led to the dismantling of much of the safeguards previous generations wisely created to protect us from unchecked power. And when it came to the religious right, the group that even the other Republicans think are anti-libertarian, their extremism transformed freedom of religion into insisting that our entire government try to impose a moral decision on a man in Florida whose wife was brain dead and would never recover.
That man, Michael Schiavo, a former Republican, campaigned for Ned Lamont against Joe Lieberman. This is the shift that's happening in America, and it's affecting both parties and changing a lot of longstanding alliances and beliefs.
Whether or not the left uses its newfound support from libertarians and actually governs with a libertarian perspective is a big question mark. But a good start is understanding that extremism in defense of liberty is hardly ever a virtue, and moderation in pursuit of justice is hardly ever a vice. It's also about understanding that liberty rarely has clear absolutes. And as our world grows smaller, more complex, and more fast-paced, it's only becoming more and more true. I write about the drug war because, as Balko says, the left isn't even libertarian on the issues they're supposed to be libertarian about. The government should not have a right to impose a particular morality on its citizens, and that's exactly what the war on drugs is about. But the answer to the war on drugs is not an unfettered free market of drug sales without government interference, it's a pro-active government that deals with the realities of drug use, doesn't dictate morality, and doesn't fall victim to extremist methods of protecting public health. Only the Democrats seem capable of doing this right now, but it's still far from clear if they will.
In the news over the past two weeks...
The National Journal writes that Drug Czar John Walters knowingly hid the results of a survey that showed the ineffectiveness of anti-drug advertising while receiving increases in the funding. Scott Morgan breaks down more of the Drug Czar's crap. So does Pete Guither.
Jacob Sullum writes in Town Hall in strong support of the marijuana initiatives in both Nevada and Colorado. For those who still think the Town Hall crowd automatically rejects such 'liberal' ideas, take a read through the comments.
More and more people are able to get prescription drugs over the internet without a prescription.
The Drug War Chronicle writes about some of the drug reformers running for major political offices this year. And they have a full roundup of police corruption stories this week.
Vermont Senator James Jeffords (I) is demanding to know why it's taking so long for Mike Leavitt and the Department of Health and Human Services to re-evaluate the scheduling of marijuana due to recent discoveries about it's a valid medicine.
Dr. William Hurwitz, the pain management specialist who was convicted in 2004 on drug trafficking charges, was denied bail as he awaits his retrial.
The Drug War Chronicle discusses pain management contracts and the difficulty that a veteran in Virginia has had in receiving adequate medical care.
Pete Guither reminds us that corruption is not a cultural trait, it's a basic human failing. He also discusses the problem of scholarly drug policy research that is light on the scholarly part, and points to a rarely-discussed reason for why student surveys on drug use are not reliable. The SSDP has more on that last item.
The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that the prevalence of drug use among those sent to prison stayed fairly constant, but also played up a minor increase in meth use.
Drug war expert Radley Balko will be joining the staff of Reason Magazine as a senior editor.
Firefighters in New Hampshire discovered a large marijuana grow operation in a house after putting out an electrical fire.
A former New York City cop was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing $740,000 from drug dealers.
New Jersey is closer to allowing needle-exchange programs.
Philip Smith finds a news reporter in Pennsylvania who actually does a good job explaining how drug busts never stop the flow of drugs through a community.
Three Durham, NC police officers were fired after cocaine was found in a bar owned by one of the officers.
Georgia's Republican Governor Sonny Perdue is making meth an issue in his re-election campaign.
An impounded truck in suburban Atlanta was found to have $3.5 million worth of cocaine in it.
Levy County, Florida is having trouble finding volunteers to work in the libraries because they're required to take mandatory drug tests.
University of Florida researchers claim that cocaine use is on the rise again among wealthy young people in the United States.
Pinellas County, Florida passed a new ordinance making it easier to crack down on people who sell drug paraphernalia.
Luke Brown interviews the producer of the documentary "Cocaine Cowboys", about the drug trade in Miami in the 1980s.
An editorial in the Anniston (AL) Star criticizes Republican leadership for fighting a war on drugs that increases drug use and a war on terror that increases terrorism.
Loretta Nall visited Montgomery, Alabama and spoke to the largely African-American crowd about how the drug war combined with disenfranchisement has allowed for the community to be silenced. Later, she spoke to a crowd of pro-business Republicans. She has also officially received her first vote.
The University of Mississippi was awarded $11 million in research grant money related to discovering the medicinal value of THC.
Louisiana continues to review the cases of the 90 people sentenced to life without parole for selling heroin under an old law.
A judge in Michigan threw out the arrests of 94 people who were arrested in Flint for solely being at a party where drug use was occurring.
Indiana is the latest state to have the very bad idea to build an online registry of people convicted of crimes involving meth.
Marijuana was found in a car registered to Indiana Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal claims to not know the person driving it.
An Indianapolis coroner determined that a man who died after being tasered by police in June actually died from cocaine.
The attempts to legitimize the propaganda campaign linking drugs and terrorism at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has gotten completely ridiculous.
The Carthage, MO school district has received $5,000 worth of vouchers that can be used for parents who want to buy drug-testing kits.
A police officer in Tulsa is caught up in an ugly mess involving sex and drugs.
Drug-related violence is rising in Houston as the city is now home to many former New Orleans drug dealers trying to re-establish territory.
A Texas law public safety official said that there's an increase in the amount of illegal drugs entering the United States via small aircraft.
A ton of marijuana was found in a dump truck in south Texas.
Two border agents who shot an unarmed Mexican smuggler in the back in El Paso each received long prison sentences.
The Yankton Press and Dakotan endorses Measure 4, the initiative to legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota. The initiative's first ad is out.
The organizers of Amendment 44 in Colorado are putting up billboards illustrating the fact that even the new anti-marijuana ads concede that marijuana use is "the safest thing in the world". The Boulder Weekly makes that point very well in their editorial supporting the initiative.
Deputy Drug Czar Scott Burns was in Mesa County, Colorado last week to discuss funding for meth task forces and to campaign against Amendment 44. Dave Border writes more about electioneering in the state.
A lawmaker in New Mexico is the latest person to propose the unbelievably stupid idea of creating a public drug dealer registry.
The fast food workers in New Mexico were arrested after they fed marijuana-filled hamburgers to two police officers.
The CRCM released it's first commercial in support of Nevada's Question 7. Some documentary film-makers following the CRCM's efforts have created a sneak preview webisode. Initiative leader Neil Levine was invited to a debate at the UNLV campus, but the moderator attempted to stack the deck against Levine.
Carri Geer Thevenot in the Las Vegas Review-Journal has more on the Drug Czar's visit.
Steve Sebelius in the Las Vegas City Life writes a blistering smackdown on the illogic of the arguments against Question 7.
Andrew Sullivan has the clip of Drug Czar John Walters boasting about how federal money is being used to fight Question 7.
Supporters of medical marijuana in San Diego have released some commercials in support of their cause to reopen the closed dispensaries in the city.
Covina, California revoked the license of an existing medical marijuana dispensary.
The city of Palm Desert, California renewed the license for a local medical marijuana dispensary, despite opposition from the county district attorney.
Police discovered two houses in Modesto, California that were being used solely to grow marijuana.
The Federal Government has indicted marijuana icon Ed Rosenthal on 14 charges related to growing and distributing marijuana in the Bay Area. Rosenthal has plead not guilty. Bond hearings for Rosenthal and co-defendant Rick Watts were held on Thursday and Friday.
Rick Anderson writes about a north-central Washington state couple who found half a million dollars of drug money in a backpack, reported it to police, only to have the police claim it due to forfeiture laws. A judge finally ruled that, according to Washington state law, the finder keeps the money.
In the Seattle suburbs, drug policy expert Roger Goodman is running for a State House heat.
The Canadians have stolen our Supreme Court. More here. I want it back.
Health Canada has decided to increase the amount of medical marijuana produced at the facility in Flin Flon, Manitoba.
Canadian authorities are cracking down on a man who claims that hemp oil is able to cure his cancer.
The mayor of Tijuana, Mexico vows to crack down on the city's police force, which is suspected of being under the sway of the drug cartels.
Women in Pereira, Colombia are withholding sex from their husbands in order to convince them to abandon the drug trafficking business.
Police in Northern Ireland have seized several tons of cannabis in Newtownards and arrested three men.
Jim at Vice Squad notes how the British tend to be a lot more realistic when it comes to their celebrities and drug use.
The British Navy seized an unregistered ship with £60 million worth of cocaine off of West Africa.
Officials in Britain are claiming that an Iraq War veteran who killed his friend's father did so because of a psychotic episode brought on by cannabis.
A UK study on cannabis-based medication Sativex found that it was useful for treating spasticity and bladder problems.
Anti-drug officials in England continue to insist that the answer to the rise of cocaine use in the country is to revisit the classification of cannabis.
A report in Scotland showed that heroin is abundant in the country's jails.
The Scotsman reports on an Scottish-born doctor with a long history of drug problems.
Pot use in Europe has been declining, even though the entire continent has been moving towards decriminalization.
Dara Colwell at Alternet writes about how the more conservative Dutch government of the past few years has started to exploit some of the long-standing loopholes in Dutch drug laws to crack down on the famous coffeeshops. A Dutch court this week ruled that a medical marijuana patient could grow his own supply.
An Italian TV show secretly drug tested 50 members of the Italian Parliament and found 4 who tested positive for cocaine and 12 who tested positive for cannabis. I'd love to see that done with the hypocrites in our Congress. The current Parliament just introduced a bill that would remove cannabis from the list of substances with no therapeutic value.
South Africa is seeing an increase in heroin use.
Libby Spencer wonders what it takes for Orrin Hatch to use his position to get people out of trouble in Dubai.
Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are hiding out in fully grown forests of marijuana plants that are very difficult for coalition forces to penetrate. The Hindustan Times half-jokingly ponders the significance of this.
Afghani officials have threatened to shut down the offices of the Senlis Council, a group trying to promote alternatives to opium eradication. The Senlis Council says it's not going anywhere, and this appears to be another case where the U.S. and Iran have almost identical agendas as we head for war with each other.
In Mumbai, two men involved in a drugs case were killed execution-style in broad daylight near the court building.
A Melbourne, Australia police officer faces 80 charges of drug trafficking.
Schapelle Corby's half-brother is soon to be released from an Australian for something much worse than what Corby will be in jail for in Indonesia for the next 20 years.
New Zealand's attempts at finding athletes using performance-enhancing drugs are instead finding a small number of marijuana users.
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