All posts by Robin Koerner

Robin Koerner is a political and economic commentator for the Huffington Post, Truth In Miedia, (Ben Swann), the Independent Voter Network (IVN), and other sites. He is best known for coining the term “Blue Republican” to refer to liberals and independents who joined the GOP to support Ron Paul’s bid for the presidency in 2012. His article launched the biggest coalition for Ron Paul and a movement that outlived his candidacy, which now focuses on winning supporters for liberty (rather than just arguments), by finding common ground among Americans of various political persuasions. He is also the founder of WatchingAmerica.com, where 200 volunteers translate opinion about the US from all over the world.

Is Trump’s Campaign Chairman Hurting His Fund-Raising Efforts?

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By hiring Paul Manafort, first as his convention manager and now as his campaign chairman, Donald Trump may have hoped to install a seasoned and respected political hand to round his youthful, unorthodox campaign team into place. But Manafort, a veteran of the Ford, Reagan, Bush and Dole campaigns, appears to be raising more and more questions as the campaign searches for answers, particularly about how it will raise the needed funds to take on the vaunted Clinton finance machine.

Manafort, a long-time lobbyist and international deal-maker, has been scrutinized for his connections to foreign dictators and the so-called “torturers’ lobby.” He has been questioned by authorities conducting an investigation into an international money laundering ring.

But perhaps most disturbing for supporters of Donald Trump may be allegations that Manafort is deliberately sandbagging pro-Trump fundraising efforts in an effort to expand his control and personal profits.

According to sources who claim direct knowledge of the situation, Manafort has been working through back channels to push donors away from existing fundraising vehicles, hampering their efforts. The goal, these sources say, is to ensure failure of the current finance operations in support of Trump, enabling Manafort to steer money to an as-yet unnamed PAC or committee that is controlled by his allies, who could then funnel big backdoor money to him after the election.

A former colleague of Manafort from the Reagan and Bush campaigns said such tactics are consistent with Manafort’s modus operandi. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, the source was unequivocal, saying, “Paul Manafort cares about one thing: Paul Manafort, He will do whatever it takes to ensure his power and make a buck. Even if it undermines and damages his clients.”

I am not placed to assess these claims – and invite Manafort to exercise his right to reply – but it is clear that the allegations are themselves newsworthy, coming as they do at a very sensitive time for Trump.

After largely self-funding his primary campaign, Trump’s fundraising operation appears to be far behind that of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps Trump has an opportunity now to close ground on Hillary while she is engaged in her intra-party fight till the DNC in early August, but that it not very far into the future.

“Every day squandered by these games is a major setback in electing Donald G Trump president,” continued the source. “They need to stop.”

Liberalism, Liberty, Life and Love

The first interview I ever did on my radio show with Jeffrey Tucker was so compelling and, for want of a better word, important, that he and I immediately decided we would have to do a second, to expand on the themes discussed. I couldn’t have expected that the second interview could have been better than the first – but I think it was. The evidence is below, in the transcript of my second interview with Jeffrey Tucker.

ROBIN KOERNER: … The largest audience figures that Blue Republican Radio has had so far … was when I interviewed the awesome Jeffrey Tucker. We finished that interview excited about the possibility of continuing on some of the themes that we discussed. I think it’s fair to say—and I will invite Jeffrey to disagree with me if I’m wrong there—that he and I see much of what we need to do in the Liberty Movement in the same way, so I’m delighted to say he is back to carry on where we left off last time, a month ago. Jeffrey, welcome back and thank you.

JEFFREY: It’s a pleasure, Robin, thank you so much. You know what? It’s interesting that you say that we see things in a similar way because—I’m not sure if I’m right about this but—I tend to think of you as more of a more traditional-classical liberal and I’m an anarchist. However, I don’t really see these views—and I hope you agree with me—as antagonistic. I think the difference is a matter of application and probably you’re not entirely convinced of the viability of a stateless society where I am. That probably sort of defines the differences, but the spirit of the views I represent, which the core order of society sort of grows out of our associations with each other, that perspective is rooted in the history of liberalism itself. I don’t see it as a radical departure, but a kind of organic and gradual outgrowth of that tradition. I don’t think it should be severed, if you know what I mean.

ROBIN: Absolutely. Well, I agree obviously with everything you said there. The reason I said I think that we see what we need to be doing in the Liberty Movement in the same way is because underlying, perhaps, our different political positions—my classical liberalism versus your anarchism—we have the same concerns about how to approach our philosophy, how to come to a good philosophy, and what indeed a good and effective philosophy is. Epistemologically then, I think perhaps we’re cut from the same cloth.

JEFFREY: Yeah, I think so. It’s interesting for me to read in the history of classical liberalism and see the themes that animate my perspective on the world. What was the key insight of liberalism as it grew up in the late middle ages, renaissance, and enlightenment? To me the theme is that there is a sort of self-ordering dynamic to society. That order is not something imposed by a leviathan but rather sort of extends out of our associations and trade—that’s the expression “laissez-faire,” right? If you let it alone, then everything will work itself out for the common good. I think that is a good way of summarizing the essential liberal insight.

ROBIN: Absolutely. Now, you ended the show last time, raising a question that sounded a little over-dramatic, but then you pointed out that it certainly wasn’t: that it was actually a question that, as a practical matter, we need to answer, which is: “Do we in the Liberty Movement want to improve society or destroy it?”

JEFFREY: [LAUGHS]

ROBIN: And this came out of an hour of discussing the self-falsifying brutalist approach to Libertarianism that you so eloquently conveyed in both the interview that we did and that article that prompted these interviews. Let’s just go from there.

JEFFREY: I’m trying to think of a kind of a good way to approach this topic from a fresh perspective, and I keep going back to a beautiful book—I wonder if you’ve read it. It’s 1927 by Ludwig von Mises called Liberalism.

ROBIN: I’m glad you raised it because you mentioned it last time, and I wanted to talk about that again.

JEFFREY: He has this really—and I probably mentioned this last time too—but this last chapter. It’s really interesting. He’s looking at ways in which the sort of modern leviathan state has distorted society and distorted our outlook on life: how leviathan has created social divisions and made us all annoyed with each other. He actually has a phrase for it; he says that the leviathan has encouraged warfare sociology—I’m going somewhere with this. Here’s the deal: because there is so much at stake like imploding outcomes, there’s despotism—it lives parasitically off the rest of the social order, turning against each other in a Hunger Games sort of way. What effect does this have on liberalism? Mises answers it this way in the last chapter, he says there’s a tendency on the part of public communion in general and even in liberalism to regard itself as a particular party, as a kind of an interest group that favors its interests over somebody else’s interests. And he says that this is very wrong. This is a wrong turn for liberalism. In other words, classical liberalism or my more radical Libertarianism shouldn’t regard itself as a special interest with a particular slate of demands that come at the expense of somebody else’s demands. He says that liberalism has no party; it has no songs or uniforms, no sort of list of demands that it wants for itself, that liberalism is the only political outlook that actually seeks the general good of everyone. It seeks the common wellbeing of all peoples and all places.

ROBIN: Now surely though, my friends on the left would say that they’re trying to do that, but they’re trying to use the state as a tool in so doing, were they not?

JEFFREY: Yeah, so this is the problem with the left, right? It’s not so much that their ideals are wrong—although they often are—what’s really wrong about the left is the means that they use to achieve their ideals, and their means are violent. They always have to resort to the state, meaning aggression on people’s lives and property. They never really want to talk about this, or recognize it, or even admit it. But if you’re going to the state to ask them—the state apparatus—to achieve your ideals, you’re essentially favoring rapping up the use of violence in society and coercion and regimentation. I was just reading this recently – some late nineteenth century classical liberal was talking about the socialists at the time—not the radical Marxists but sort of the more civilized socialists of the U.S. and England—that the problem wasn’t especially with the ideals but the means by which they sought to achieve them. I would say that this is the core problem with the left more than anything else. There is a tremendous confusion that bled into the left space at some point in the nineteenth century – I’m not sure entirely when this happened—it came full flower in the progressive era and the New Deal. But just a kind of nonchalant willingness to resort to that political machinery in order to sort of make society conform.

ROBIN: Now, we’re going in to a break in just about, I don’t know, 20 seconds, so I want to just throw out this question that we can answer in the next segment: Are we in some way not forced to form ourselves into things like parties, a kind of broad interest group, just by virtue of the fact that those who oppose our approach are so formed, and they are so in a democracy?

JEFFERY: That is a brilliant question, Robin – thank you.

ROBIN: We’ll go into the break and we’ll discuss when we come back.

[BREAK]

ROBIN: Welcome back to Blue Republican Radio. When we went into the break, I was asking Jeffrey a question. Even though liberalism—classical liberalism—doesn’t seek to operate through a party or to form an interest group that fights against other interest groups, are we not—just as a practical matter—in some way forced to do so? Because we operate in a context where such groups do move the political dial and we need to move the political dial, so there’s a kind of tension between the fact—and I actually talk about this when I introduce classical liberalism to some of my student groups. For me, what’s compelling about classical liberalism is that it actually isn’t a political philosophy. It’s almost an apolitical philosophy, or a meta-political philosophy. You kind of don’t actually have to believe in anything except your immediate experience of liberty – and that can inform your approach to politics in a completely general sense. It doesn’t in any way cause you to want to hold tight to an institutionalized party with a certain name, but here we are – pragmatically. There’s obviously some benefit to identifying oneself into political groupings and operating with the benefits of so doing in a democracy – when it is a democracy we’re trying to influence. What do you think about that, Jeffrey?

JEFFREY: I think that it is inevitable. Of course, it’s never going to go away. I would say that there are two big problems with political activism. One is that tends to not be as practical as advertised. Quite often it just doesn’t work; it hasn’t really worked for a better part of a hundred years. We saw how it worked in the eighteenth century and nineteenth century to some extent, but it’s been a long while since it truly worked well for the liberal cause. There are some exceptions that I can name—maybe the repeal of prohibition, some other issues that have led to the liberalization from the top-down through politics, but it’s pretty rare. The other problem I really have with it—and this worries me very much—is it quite often leads to despair. People get really, really excited about politics; back their man; throw themselves into it; give money; become passionate about it, almost with a level of religious fervor. And then they find that their man loses, or their man gets elected and betrays them or something happens to demoralize them and then they think, “This whole political thing is just a complete waste of my life;” and they go away through despair. That worries me more than anything. I would say that if you’re going to get in to politics, then do so with your eyes wide open to the realities you’re confronting—without naivety, really. I think it is actually extremely important, with a real wisdom, that you certainly aren’t going to win the whole thing—you might not win anything at all. In fact, the most you might be able to hope from political activity is to prevent the system from becoming worse than it is as fast as it might otherwise have, which is pretty slim pickings as far as victories go.

ROBIN: Okay, but that’s not to deny that historically we have seen—going back a thousand years—a trend in the right direction, let’s say, in the Anglo tradition.

JEFFREY: Yeah, I know. There was a gigantic liberal revolution at some point that sort of swept the world, and as many books as I’ve read about this topic, it’s still the cause-and-effect that is unclear. If we could repeat that experience, it’d be a lovely thing. I don’t think it’s repeatable though; I think we have to find new and creative ways. To me, the most freeing thing that we can do for the world right now is be creative and innovative from a technological point of view. That doesn’t mean reforming the system from the top, but rather sort of building it from within and out, making new institutions. I just reread Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and I think everyone should just reread this every few years. If you haven’t read it, it’s just absolutely brilliant, but he talks about how the Americans claimed their liberty. It wasn’t through revolution, it wasn’t as if there was despotism, then there was a violent revolution and then we got liberty. That wasn’t it at all. He talks about the building of liberty all throughout the colonial period. That it sort of already existed. Very robustly, it was embedded in the culture, embedded in the institutions. It was everywhere! It was part of the practical reality of people’s lives. Then, the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Revolution of the United States comes about because of an intolerance towards impositions. So people were claiming and securing what they already believed that they had and that they had a right to. That’s a different kind of conception of how liberty is obtained.

ROBIN: Jeffrey, this is music to my ears! This is what I go around saying to my American friends! I come from Britain. I come from where the history comes from: I come from where the liberty comes from! It’s really important to understand, I think, that the so-called American Revolution as you’ve just said—you’ve explicitly said—they didn’t think that they were being revolutionaries. In a sense they were conservative – they were conserving their birthright. It was already in the culture.

JEFFREY: That’s it!

ROBIN: Which goes back to your earlier point, I think. You said that political activism can be so very disappointing, but I think that’s because if that’s where you—as it were—exert your force, you’re exerting your force on the tail rather than the dog. The dog is in the culture, and that wags the political tail. The politics always follows what is mainstreamed, normalized in the culture.

JEFFREY: That’s a very important insight. That’s gigantic! If we think that politics is the first front that we should face—the thing that we should primarily and even exclusively dedicated to through some sort of ramped up hysteria—I think we’re going to fail.

ROBIN: Absolutely. I think history shows that quite clearly.

JEFFREY: It does. Again, if we go back to Tocqueville here – he describes in such detail the way liberty was embedded in institutions and in peoples. It’s very interesting. He talks even about—because I guess in his nineteenth century world there was an impression that the American Puritans were an intolerant, sort of Taliban-ish force (in modern terms)—but he actually marshals a tremendous amount of evidence from the sermons that you hear, even from the most severe Puritan ministers that were basically Lockean in their outlook. It was a beautiful thing that the love of liberty was so pervasive that it took many different forms all throughout American society, and there’s a beautiful quote he has somewhere in Democracy in America where he says something like, “I would completely oppose the imposition of only one form of liberty all over the world.”

ROBIN: There you go, and that’s what the brutalists…

JEFFREY: There should be many, many different expressions of liberty based on time, culture, and people. He’s a very interesting guy because he’s sort of an aristocratic libertarian in a way, and not an anarchist in any sense, but we have so much to learn from him. There’s not an imperialistic liberalism about him at all, or an imperialistic libertarianism, or a top-down central plan—a “we know what’s right for society” kind of approach. He really believes that liberty grows out of the embedded experience and belief structure of a people and a particular time and place. Anyway, I think all of this matters for us now. This is not just a history lesson. It really matters for what we’re doing today.

ROBIN: Yes. You talked about these ideas, pre-revolution for example, being pervasive in the culture. We can cause these ideas to become pervasive in an incremental way, such that when tyranny strikes (as it kind of is now in this moment of American history), what is in the culture will inform the reaction. It can make the reaction against tyranny one from liberty. I think that is how liberty has stepped up throughout history: political overreach into the culture occurs; there’s something good already in the culture; people sense that something they already have is being taken away by tyranny, and then they react.

JEFFREY: That’s right. The culture builds real institutions, real relationships and communities.

ROBIN: We’ll talk about that when we come back from the break, Jeffrey.

[BREAK]

ROBIN: So when we went into the break there, Jeffrey, you made the point—a very important point—that culture builds real institutions and communities, things that—if I can use your word [from our earlier interview] again—brutalist Libertarians don’t spend any time talking about. I think that may indeed make us, as a group of Libertarians, appear alien to those who are just living in mainstream culture.

JEFFREY: It is certainly right. Here’s the thing: what I described as “brutalistic Libertarianism” is a form of Libertarianism, and I don’t want to take that away from them. My real hope is not so much to condemn but to elevate, you know? And to draw attention that it really is about more than just your rights to do what you want. It’s about more than just the freedom to have no social graces—which I certainly would argue for. That’s okay.

ROBIN: Do you actually mean that literally, Jeffrey? Do actual mean that Libertarianism is about more than those things, or do you mean that life is about more than those things?

JEFFREY: Here’s the thing—and I don’t want to get caught up in definitions like “what is Libertarianism?”—I mean liberty and life. Libertarianism is not much good to us unless it can point to a larger, more beautiful result of a flourishing human life under conditions of liberty. I think we need to broaden our minds and look at that possibility. One reason I think that brutalism exists is because don’t believe that liberty can exist anymore. People are despairing as a result of the leviathan state: they think, “I’m never going to be able to exercise my rights really; we’re never going to get a free society, so I might as well just take what I can get right now.” I think that is a kind of unidealistic way to look at it. It’s inconsistent with the dreams and the longings of the old liberal tradition, which really sought the best not just for oneself, but for one’s community and for the whole world.

ROBIN: Here’s a question, then, that this raises for me: does the liberal tradition itself—or indeed Libertarianism as we currently understand it— provide the means, the metrics, the paradigm to actually determine what is the good life, what is more beautiful, what is better? Or is that a completely different project that falls outside whatever it is that we do as liberals politically—classical liberals politically? That we’re going to do not because our philosophy necessitates it, but if we don’t, we’re just not going to get anybody else to like us? Which of those is it?

JEFFREY: I like to go back to Hayek on this. Hayek thought the most important agenda was to create to a space of choice, human volition, and freedom for institutions to develop, and develop the tolerance for a wide diversity of those institutions. That was the essence of the liberal project more than anything else. It wasn’t to achieve certain designed and rationalistic ends; it was to create a space and a template—a sort of civilizational template—to allow the full, multifarious flourishing of the best of human life in every way you can imagine that. In Law, Legislation, and Liberty, he actually uses the words, “the good society,” which was an interesting phrase for him to use because he’s writing—probably at this point—8 to 10 years after Lyndon Johnson imposed what he called the good society, which was just a bunch of welfare programs actually. Hayek sought to take back that term for the liberal cause. A good society is not something you impose through legislation, transfer programs, and redistributions. It is something that emerges out of the decentralized choices of individuals where they are in their time and in their place, doing what is in the best interest of themselves and others in a cooperative way. That’s what builds a good society. I just think that is a beautiful image.

ROBIN: Definitely. Some pure Libertarians would say, though, that our responsibility as Libertarians is just to make sure that politically that’s allowed, and that we don’t have to care too much about what society then does with that freedom. But I think you would say—and correct me again if I’m wrong—that some institutions, some choices taken with freedom are better than others, and make for better lives. Is it important that we, as classical liberals or Libertarians—even anarchists—have anything to say about that even as a political matter?

JEFFREY: I would say that there is a really interesting give-and-take relationship between freedom and the longing for the higher angels of our nature. There’s an inter-relationship between these two things: the larger the state grows, the worse we become as people; and then the worse we become as people, the larger the state grows. I think the reverse relationship works there too. It’s like, if we can get busy building our own forms of freedom that are based in benevolence, cooperation, creativity, and love, we will become less dependent on centralized forms of impositions and leviathan state control.

ROBIN: Thank you for using the word, “love.” I’ve been trying to introduce the word, “love,” into politics since I started on this. One of the ways I understand liberty is that it is the political realization of love because love says “as you wish.” To your loved one you say, “As you wish;” you want for him or her what he or she wants for him or herself. A liberal politics does the same thing politically.

JEFFREY: I think that’s right. Robin, all beautiful things in the world extend from love. For me, love is the great creative force; it is the thing that gives birth to new life. It’s a creative force in the sense that it takes the existing substance that’s around us, merges it and mixes it together and creates something new, surprising, beautiful, exhilarating – and it is the reason we wake up. It is the reason we have hope. It’s the reason we look forward to tomorrow, so we can discover new, wonderful things—all of which extend out of love. Without love, all of history is just data: it’s boring; it’s not creative. A civilization of love is a prosperous, flourishing place. I think it’s a beautiful word. I agree that there’s a political economy of love.

ROBIN: “Political economy of love.” Yeah, wow! Here’s a thought then, which speaks to your brutalism idea and my purism or orthodoxy idea. I don’t think anybody would ever make, or has made—I might be wrong—a serious attempt to systematize love. To actually write it down what it entails—whatever the axioms of love are and then consequences. Love is necessarily more fluid, more amorphous. I can’t remember who said it, but I am reminded of that line: “If the soul speaks, then alas, it is not the soul that speaks.” It can’t be what’s ultimate. Ultimate reality can’t be spoken. If that’s true—if love is the bottom line—then isn’t that the denial of all attempts to dogmatize, or even, frankly, at the bottom line, systematize liberty? Define it even?

JEFFREY: I think that once you feel like you’ve understood the whole of it, you probably haven’t understood its most important thing. It’s a mystery. Why do we say the word, “love,” with such tenderness? Why do we always have a sense of awe when we just say that word? I think the reason is that—there are several reasons—it’s ultimately mysterious, we really can’t take it apart, we can’t fully understand it. Another reason, too, is that it’s very fragile. When it appears before us, when we possess it, when we hold it, when we feel it – we should treasure it, guard it, and protect it because it can shatter so quickly, and in so many ways, I would say that the state (in the 20th century in particular) has shattered our capacity to love. The death, the violence, the imposition, the regimentation, marching around in lockstep to the dictators and the plan…

ROBIN: And by, indeed, taking over most of those human transactions that come out of love – that we, out of love, perform for and on each other. The state has taken them over and eliminated our space to actually realize our love – to be loving towards each other.

JEFFREY: That’s true and really gets us back to the core reason that we wanted to speak, that has to do with this issue of brutalism versus humanitarianism as I conceive it. I really think that it’s extremely important for classical liberals, libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, left libertarians—I don’t care what you call us—people who favor the cause of human liberty—to not just hate. There’s a just hate that we have for terrible things in the world, but that doesn’t get us all the way. I would like to find ways for us to fall in love with the idea of human liberty, and for that to be our animating driving force. That’s not to say that we have a particular agenda that “I know the answers,” and, “Here’s what we should do;” but I do think that if you’re driven by a love for liberty—really—then you start to get creative. Then you can have a benevolent spirit; then we can have civil discussions; then we can have lively, robust, lasting institutions that can build the kind of society that we all long for.

ROBIN: Perhaps we can even go one step further—it’s not just about falling in love with liberty, it’s about using liberty to fall in love with each other, isn’t it?

JEFFREY: That is such a lovely way to put it. I agree with that. In any case, it’s a pre-condition. It’s something that we shouldn’t forget about. We’re not just about fists up in the air—that’s not enough. Sometimes that’s necessary, right? These days there are so many horrors in the world, but you can’t go to bed every day with hate in your heart. That’s just not going to get us from here to there.

ROBIN: Even for the statists.

JEFFREY: Even for the state.

ROBIN: For those who would use force.

JEFFREY: It’s fine to have a passion for justice—I think we all feel that. But the question is: what’s the next step? What are the ideals that we’re seeking? What are we being called to achieve—not just to oppose but to build? I think it’s good for everyone who is liberty-minded to do an examination of conscience in that sense. Like in my case—gosh, Robin, it’s a little bit autobiographical but—I fell in love with the idea of innovation, creativity, cooperation, and exchange. Just the magic that’s associated with the capacity of human beings to get along and work out their problems for themselves. When this started happening to me, it gave me a really different outlook on life. It is very fun now for me to enter into social spaces and observe what’s going on. I’m thrilled; I’m thrilled by so many things that I’m part of. Just the other day—I was getting off the plane—I kind of watched very carefully at the process of deplaning, how people get out and get their luggage from the luggage racks, move in front of each other, defer to those who are disabled, let those who have connecting flights get ahead of them, look down upon those who cut in line. It lasted only 10-15 minutes, and I’m sitting there in my chair, watching this extremely complicated social structure emerge out of this microcosm in just a matter of minutes. I found it just magical and marvelous to observe the capacity of human beings to organize themselves imperfectly but beautifully—even in the absence of stated rules or statutory rules. The rules emerged out of etiquette and manners, and there was like a court in operation at the same time out of a complete diversity of people from everywhere, who had never met each other before. It all happened in the course of minutes, it took place over 10-15 minutes, and then it was over. If you can look at a scene like that and say, “This is beautiful. This is magic. This is lovely. This is how liberty can work.” I think that’s a great way to look at our project, really. We want a world which that level of spontaneity and informal organization of humanity takes place with compassion, love, and mutual understanding.

ROBIN: Liberty as a means to allow people and to encourage people to express their higher selves. Higher selves that, by the way, they can access without having any political ideas at all— just by virtue of their humanity.

JEFFREY: That’s exactly it, Robin. Don’t you think…? I’ve begun to realize recently that we have a slightly exaggerated attachment to this idea that there should be some sort of universal political ideology held by everybody that which so happens to be ours. I don’t actually believe that really. If we have the right kind of institutions, it shouldn’t be necessary to “convert” everyone to every aspect of our belief system.

ROBIN: What we’re arguing for here, I think, is essentially a very optimistic—and I would say, true and spiritually accurate— understanding of what a human being is. In a way, if you’re Christian, you might say we’re made in God’s image. I would probably prefer to say that we all participate in the divine, we all manifest the divine—whatever way you want to put it. It is a very positive view of humanity that has been borne out by what people do when they are given the kind of liberty we’re talking about. I see now, Jeffrey, that we’re going in to another break, so we will carry on when we come back.

[BREAK]

ROBIN: This has been a very moving hour for me in discussion with Jeffrey Tucker. Jeffrey, in the interview we did before—the first one we did—you said the “purpose of liberty is to serve real people in their real lives.” The brutalist paradigm had a very different purpose—if any at all—right?

JEFFREY: I didn’t understand when I wrote my first article; I just assumed that brutalism was made up like any other theory, like, “Oh, to hell with beauty, to hell with accoutrements, to hell with loveliness.” Brutalists go, “Here’s your damn building.” That’s not actually true. What happened to the brutalist school of architecture grew out immediately of the World War II experience, which was shocking to all of the artists and creators in the world. So you’ve got the bombing of Dresden; London’s being aerial bombed; you’ve got Nagasaki and Hiroshima; you’ve got governments’ destroying major monuments of civilization all over the world, so one school of architecture said, “You know what? To hell with it.” If you think that civilization and beauty are that dispensable that you just push a button from the air to smash it up to smithereens, we’re not going to build it—as kind of a protest. “Here’s your damn building. It’s not beautiful; it’s ghastly. It’s just purely functional – destroy it if you want. No great loss.” Do you see? In other words, the brutalist architecture school represented a kind of nihilism or absence of hope completely. It was a despairing worldview that they adopted, and I think the ideological brutalism is in the same sort of cap. It’s a tendency to look around the world and say, “There’s no hope; there’s no chance for beauty; there’s no chance we’re doing anything good at all, so let’s just grab the minimum-most that we can, run with it, assert it, and shove it down the world’s throat.” There’s an analogy there. What this story, to me, about the origin of brutalism does: it makes you slightly, a little more sympathetic. This grows out of world experience, grows out of a historical experience that was ghastly. The brutalist architectural school was in a way the victims; this is what emerged.

ROBIN: Jeffrey, this is the end of the show. We’re going to have to carry on in a third, I think.

JEFFREY: I’d like to do that very much.

[END]

Lesson from Paris: “Live and Let Live” Has Two Parts

Credit: Jean Jullien

Here we are again, watching a tragedy in Paris.

Again, innocent citizens of a broadly liberal, secular West, die at the hands of those who self-identify as Islamic purists, but are rejected by most of the rest of their faith.

Meanwhile, innocent citizens of other parts of the world – including the Muslim Middle East – die at the hands of those same “purists” – but also under the bombs dropped by that liberal, secular West… bombs dropped so incessantly that Pakistani children, for example, now prefer cloudy skies to blue ones – because America’s drones, or flying death robots, drop their lethal payloads only from clear skies.

How many Westerners who changed updated their Facebook profiles with a Tricolore on Friday updated them with the Lebanese flag the day before, when dozens of Lebanese were killed in Beirut in another Islamo-extremist attack?

If you did the one and not the other, don’t feel bad. You – like they – are victims of the Western media, just as much as of Western foreign policy.

With all the usual (but nevertheless important and true) qualifiers that those who bear all the moral responsibility for the recent deaths in Paris are those who pulled the triggers and detonated their suicide vests, it must be said that we, the West, are collectively doing nothing to help ourselves.

On the contrary, we continue to make it worse – in two main ways. And importantly, the reason we cannot stop doing making it worse, it seems, is that across the West, the political Left are committed to making things worse in one way, and the political Right are committed to making things worse in the other.

What are these two things we are doing to exacerbate the actions of extremists against us?

The first is the one already mentioned – favored by the standard neo-con sensibility (Bush, Hillary Clinton et al.) – to go pound the hell out of (or into) cultures and countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. ) that we don’t control, to affect the dynamics of long-standing conflicts that we don’t understand, in ways that do damage that we cannot contain.

Ron Paul for years was warning us about blowback. It’s a real thing – and, it always has been, throughout history – because human nature is largely constant.

Don’t take my (or Dr Paul’s) word for it: take the word of the United States’ own Department of Defense, which commissioned a study, headed by Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, that collected and analyzed huge amounts of data on suicide terrorism — which is 12 times more dangerous than other forms of terrorism when measured by the number of people killed per act. In this U.S. government study, speakers of the local languages of the families of suicide bombers were sent to speak with family members of the terrorists to gain as much information as possible about the context and the people involved. The database thus obtained on suicide terrorism is, as far as we know, the most comprehensive in the world.

The most astonishing conclusion of this work was as follows; 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks — going back to the 1980s — are against countries that the terrorist deems to be occupying (in the sense of a military presence) physical territory that that the terrorist regards as a homeland. The reason this is astonishing is that this 95 percent figure includes all those radical Islamic groups who have attacked Israel and the USA, but it explains why the U.S., for example, has only experienced such attacks (such as 9/11 itself), from citizens of countries in which it has a military presence: that’s why, says the DOD study, we were hit by Saudis on 9-11, but not Iranians, Sudanese or representatives of other countries with a large radical Islamist contingent.

So one way of helping to protect ourselves from extremists might be just to stop with all those self-righteous “Freedom bombs” that kill children in places whose names we cannot even spell.

Of course, one might object that France is hardly intervening globally on the scale that America does, so isn’t the fact that Paris is getting hit more than, say, New York or D.C., evidence against the thesis?

No – because not imposing one’s will on others in their homes is only half the story: it’s only the “Let Live” part of “Live and Let Live”.

In the West, we have also forgotten that “Live and Let Live” has a first part, which is usually overlooked: that is simply “Live”.

The same Western polities that feel perfectly (and illiberally) righteous in intervening with physical force in other countries are paradoxically caught up in a faux progressivism at home that prevents them from defending their own.

It’s an absolute contradiction that goes like this: “we must attack them over there because they are dangerous and evil – but we don’t need to monitor and control those who flow across our borders because to do so would be intolerant, prejudicial and even racist”. In other words, “they” are dangerous enough that we need to kill them where they cannot hurt us, but not so dangerous that we need to stop them coming to hurt us.

Only ideological (or power-driven) politicians could maintain that kind of contradictory nonsense without painful cognitive dissonance.

The first responsibility and primary justification of government is the security of its own citizens – to whom it is accountable. And the first line of the security of a nation is its borders, which must be controlled to prevent the entry of those who wish to do harm. That is a moral good. In contrast, hurting innocents who are nowhere near one’s borders is a moral evil.

Making a real assessment of the risk associated with largely or partially unmonitored immigration – and in particular, making a proper distinction between genuine refugees (from messes that we helped to create) and economic migrants to whom our moral responsibility is clearly different – is not intolerant, prejudiced, or racist. It is reasonable, sensible, and just.

Here’s a thought experiment that doesn’t take much imagination at all.

If you were an ISIS fighter and you wanted to attack the West – and there were thousands of folks who looked like you pouring through the borders of that part of the world you wanted to be in, unseen and undocumented, why would you not enter among them? You’d frankly be stupid not to.

And since I write for an American audience, if you were an ISIS fighter, how would you get in to the US to launch an attack? Of course you’d walk over the Mexican border because you can.

Mark Steyn insightfully observed that

“… multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon”.

He might have overstated there, but if we add one word, he is painfully accurate: pathological multiculturalism is a unicultural phenomenon.

So what makes multiculturism pathological? I’ll offer a very precise definition: pathological multiculturalism is the over-accommodation by one culture of others by denigrating or hiding its own values, its own history, its own identity, and its own self-celebration.

Why is it that we in the West are so bad at overtly celebrating our history, our values, and our culture. We don’t even teach any of these in our schools in any serious way in the developed West. I hate to give a cliché as an answer, but it just fits so well – especially in Europe. Our white Liberal guilt has gotten the better of us. Because we did bad things in our history, we don’t celebrate the good things we did. Because we have oppressed people, we don’t point to the thousand-year long march of history that has freed millions. Because cultural minorities in our countries find it harder to get mainstream exposure (inevitable by virtue of their numbers), we stay quiet about our own culture, lest we cause offence.

Live and Let Live is – as it has always been and forever will be – the right motto for our times. But the West, in a kind of vicious cycle of fear, has (at least since 2001) been doing the opposite: “Kill and Let Be Killed”.

For those who prefer concrete political concepts to four-word idioms, the problem and its solution can be framed it in terms of self-determination – a concept right there in Article 1 of Chapter 1 of the United Nations charter.

Self-determination demands that we respect the sovereignty of other self-identified communities, nations and cultures. But it’s the very same self-determination that leaves us with the responsibility of respecting and protecting our own from those who would infiltrate to disrupt our own communities, nations and cultures.

In short, the fundamental question for the West at this time in history seems to be: must our open societies tolerate the intolerance that seeks to destroy our tolerance?

The answer is No – because that is what self-determination means.

When we understand that, we might be able to make two existential changes: the first will be to stop hurting others where they live – which requires us to recognize and end our self-righteousness and arrogance. The second will be to start protecting ourselves where we live– which requires us to recognize our cultural guilt and be able to talk about Western values as something worth proactively, even preemptively, protecting and asserting – but not exporting.

If we in the West must feel so guilty, let’s feel guilty about the children we’ve killed in Muslim lands – rather than about protecting ourselves from “Muslims” – and others – who would kill us in our own.

Threatening Libertarianism

As the host of my own radio show, I have the privilege of discussing important matters with some of the most wonderful minds – and people – in the country.

One of my favorite interviews – and certainly one of the most important for the future of our country – is my first with Jeffrey Tucker.

If you are of a pro-liberty persuasion, in particular, I invite you to make a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy this very incisive discussion…

(In case you’re wondering, the double-meaning in the title is entirely intentional.)

-Interview audio is below.-

ROBIN KOERNER: Welcome to one of the most exciting editions of Blue Republican Radio for the liberty-curious. This is me, Robin Koerner, the original Blue Republican, and today I have an extremely special guest. I don’t want to offend anybody else that I’ve spoken to, but maybe the most special guest so far. Some of you may know him as a publisher for the liberty movement. Some of you may know him as a fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education. Some may know him as a scholar at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Others, as a faculty member at Acton University; and certainly some of you may know him for his days as VP at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Others may just know him as the Libertarian who looks better than any of us in a bow tie. Jeffrey Tucker, welcome to Blue Republican Radio! How are you?

JEFFREY TUCKER: I am just great, and I’m just thrilled that you gave me a call and suggested I come on the show. I’m super excited about this interview! You seem like you’re asking the right questions, and I hope we can sort of dig into these topics.

ROBIN: Excellent. Just for my listeners—I should tell them that you and I spoke for about just 10 minutes yesterday, and the one reason I wanted to get you on this show now was because of an article that you wrote that came out last month that I would like to talk about at length. As you just said, I’m asking the right questions, and I think you’re giving some of the right answers in this article. The title of the article that was posted at The Freeman (Foundation for Economic Education) was simply, “Against Libertarian Brutalism.” You and I don’t know each other—save for our 10-minute conversation yesterday—but I think, in some ways, our approach to Libertarianism might be cut from the same cloth, even though you suggested that maybe your politics are somewhat more radical than mine. That’s not really what matters here. What’s the thesis, Jeffrey, of this fantastic article that you wrote, “Against Libertarian Brutalism”?

JEFFREY: To explain the piece, I’ll have to give a just a bit of background. There has been a brand of Libertarian rhetoric that had been bothering me for several years, and I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was. It seemed excessively reductionist. I don’t mind a hard edge but it seemed to be exclusively interested in a narrow range of issues that sort of artificially truncate the sole vision of liberty. The idea of liberty [encompasses] the whole of civilization and the whole of human life in all of its complexity, its beauty, its spontaneity, and its magnificence. There’s a brand of Libertarianism that has sort of a certainty about a narrow range of issues that are emphasized to the exclusion of everything else. I knew it sort of bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

Then I ran across this architectural school that was sort of alive in the 1950s and the 1970s called “brutalism,” and it’s a very interesting view that comes out as an aggressive stance against making buildings beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, or marketable, or appealing—curbside appeal is out. Instead, buildings should be purely functional and it’s wrong and sinful in some way to add anything to a building other than its pure function. All accoutrements are gone; all history is robbed from it. There’s kind of a strange primitivism associated with brutalist architecture. When I read about brutalism and architecture, I thought: “Hey, there are some brands of ideological brutalism out there, and they may come from the left and the right.” But I began to notice that there is a kind of Libertarian brutalism that does exactly this. It just focuses on, for example—like a truth pencil—like the non-aggression principle, the idea that you should not aggress against person or property. It reduces that to a very narrow range of considerations and then expands from that narrow range out to a series of issues to the exclusion of every other consideration. So you get kind of a strange being, a kind of a weird-looking ideology that is actually unappealing, unbeautiful, and doesn’t allow room, for example, for experimentation, for error, for spontaneity, for play, for wider theoretical investigation because it’s so sure of itself. If you look at the brutalist school of architecture, one thing you will find is that is catechetically dogmatic.

ROBIN: That was the first word that I wanted to throw at you: “dogmatic.” There’s a sense in which brutalism seems maybe to depend on dogmatism? It certainly corresponds to an epistemic dogmatism.

JEFFREY: It’s a narrow dogma, right? It’s a sort of sure-footedness on one or two principles, and it’s not curious about anything else. It’s not curious about any other inundations, elaborations, special considerations—considerations of aesthetics, of history, of peculiarities of time and place. It’s uninterested in letting systems sort of evolve since all answers are already known. This kind of brutalist dogmatism is not interested in research; it’s not interested in letting things flower and grow in any kind of spontaneous way. This is a problem for Libertarianism because the essence of human liberty is precisely that it permits the widest possible range within the sphere of human action for play, experimentation, spontaneity, circumstances, time and place, and the organic growth of institutions – precisely because we don’t know all the answers. [That] is why we need human liberty – because liberty allows us to discover and gradually evolve.

But a brutalist form of Libertarianism would presume that we know already exactly how the world is going to work, and we’re going to shove it down everybody’s throat and make it that way. Now this is a threat to people. Why should anybody be threatened by Libertarianism, right? It’s not a threatening ideology. It just basically says that you should be free as long as you don’t hurt other people: just do what you want. That is not threatening ideology. So why does Libertarianism threaten so many people? I think a lot of it has to do with this sort of brutalistic approach that you see popping up here and there.

People would demand to know really who are the brutalists, “give me one example.” Well, the point was not to point to any particular thinkers but to point to a style of thought, a sort of an archetype that variously appears in the course of rhetoric over politics. I want to identify that mental – that intellectual – tendency, and warn against it and essentially say that brutalism is un-Libertarian really precisely because it doesn’t allow for the free experimentation – intellectually, ideologically, or in the real world.

ROBIN: It’s as if there are some people who believe in, or purport to believe in, a philosophy that celebrates the freedom to behave and to think as one wants, but you’re not allowed to apply that freedom to your thoughts about liberty itself or how to achieve liberty. It’s kind of self-falsifying.

JEFFREY: It’s very interesting. There are really many tendencies within the Libertarian world. I mean, you have some people that just want to let, for example, the legal order play itself out and let juridical history sort of inform the way we deal with issues like restitution, punishment in the cases of crimes. That’s just one example of many. There’s another form of Libertarianism that already presumes that it knows the answers to all questions, and all we really need to do is sort of sit in armchair with an armful of postulates and spin out all truths from there – regardless of what happens to be going on outside the window. I think that this is one reason why people find Libertarianism strange and alien to the human experience, and – we have to face it – people do find. People are sometimes alarmed when they hear Libertarians talk. I think that this is very reason; it’s this sort of brutalistic non-interest in the facilities of human life. This is why I warned against it. The article just exploded. I wrote this, by the way, Robin, as not so much a public article; I wrote it as a private study to myself. I wanted to figure it out. That’s why the article has the tone that it has – this is sort of careful, step-by-step approach. I wrote it as a memo to myself because I wanted to figure it out.

ROBIN: I get it. Some of the best articles are written that way.

JEFFREY: I sent to a few friends, and they said, “My god, this is extremely revealing. You can’t go another day without publishing it.” So reckless and dangerous as I tend to be, I just pushed “submit” and that was it.

ROBIN: I’m so glad you did because I think it’s one of the best and most important articles that have been written in a while for the Liberty Movement vis-à-vis actually having some success making our views mainstream. We’re going into the break, Jeffrey, we’re gonna just carry straight on when we come back.

[Break]

ROBIN: Welcome back to Blue Republican Radio where I am speaking with Jeffrey Tucker. Jeffrey; we were talking about this wonderful article that you put out recently, “Against Libertarian Brutalism.” And we were talking about dogmatism: this sense of there is nothing left for us to learn because as these pure Libertarians, we have found the answers, so we don’t really need to look for circumstances in the world where our dogma may not easily fit. We don’t have to worry about it because our principles give us everything we know. It strikes me that it’s a very unscientific approach to knowledge. Science advances, for example, by having the humility to know that it never has arrived at absolute truth. It gets closer and closer to it by being aware that its approach to it is always asymptotic, right? I think maybe we need a bit of that in our politics as Libertarians.

JEFFREY: This is absolutely true. This is again characteristic of the brutalist architectural movement – they already knew exactly what a building should look like. There’s never any question in their minds about experimentation or anything.

ROBIN: Most of the brutalist buildings would be associated with the Soviet era – the 50s, 60s, 70s, right?

JEFFREY: Well, sure, but you can find them everywhere. It was very interesting — I was just in Atlanta, and there were two buildings next door each other. One was kind of an AT&T building, built in the time when AT&T was kind of a government monopoly and it’s an absolutely brutalist structure. The building right next to it was kind of an investment bank and some other things. Most of them were very, very tall. The AT&T building was brutalist, hard to look at, very ugly, and uneventful. The one next to it was absolutely elegant, aspirational, and it just absolutely inspired you to look at it. I think there is an ideological component here: we have to aspire as thinkers about politics, economics and the rest of it to have that sort of aspirational tone and approach. We have to look to building things within our minds that are actually vast, marketable, and more in touch with the human experience than just a narrow range of principles that we forever spin out and apply to all things and all times.

ROBIN: You contrast this ideological brutalism with humanitarianism, or, rather, brutalist Libertarianism vs. humanitarian Libertarianism.

JEFFREY: Yes.

ROBIN: Talk a little about that and just unpack whether you’re trying to talk up a certain flavor of the Libertarian ideology or whether you’re focused on the way one holds whatever flavor of Libertarian ideology one may maintain.

JEFFERY: I don’t think it’s just merely a matter of rhetoric or even marketing. There is so much confusion. It’s interesting how much commentary this article has generated. So many people were accusing me of saying things that I didn’t actually say. I’m not just talking about a matter of marketing here, you know, how we present our message – although that is part of it. Brutalism doesn’t care in the slightest bit what people think. You get this with Libertarians all the time: they’ll just sort of assert things in internet memes and their own rhetoric—no matter how implausible it may be—and they’re self-satisfied [because] they were able to come to this dogmatically true position, assert it, and reward themselves for their bravery in that respect. This goes on all the time. Anyway, it’s not just merely a matter of marketing; it’s a matter of the style of thought. This is why I wanted to talk about humanitarian Libertarianism. We have to remember that ultimately the purpose of liberty is to serve life itself and to serve real people in their real lives. If we can’t come up with an intellectual apparatus that seems to actually encourage this idea of human flourishing and make humanity better off than it would otherwise be, we’ve got a serious problem. That’s where we’re going to come off as threatening. It would just be a terrible thing if Libertarianism became an alternative central plan, you know? “We’ve got better plans than your plans.” That’s not the idea.

ROBIN: Right. Absolutely! There’s a sense in which it has to be like that if it is not a paradigm that is responsive to the environment in which it is applied, right? If something is not being responsive to where it’s being applied, then it is just being imposed – by definition.

JEFFREY: That’s right. The fact is that the vast majority of human life consists of various contingencies on time and place, on technologies, and things that cannot be known or understood with a purely abstract option. That’s sort of timeless and takes no account of situations. So, if we have a sort of Libertarianism that is just really uninterested in the exigencies of technology, time and place, human choice, culture, and all of these kinds of things…. [then] it is essentially something that’s very primitive, artificial, and might be actually fundamentally threatening.

ROBIN: Are you making an argument for consequentialist politics, consequentialist Libertarianism as opposed to “deontological”? It kind of sounds that way, right? If we’re talking about being responsive, again, to the environment in which we’re applying our principles… everything you’re saying is essentially consequentialist.

JEFFREY: I’ve had people ask me this; I don’t like to say that. I must tell you that I’ve never really seen much contradiction between, for example, believing in fundamental human rights and believing that the consequences of your intellectual endeavors and of social order matter just as much as individual human rights. They don’t seem apart for me. I do think that a rights-based paradigm that does not pay have any regard whatsoever to the results is a problem. I really do. I would not want to embrace either the consequentialist view or its alternative exclusively, but as a holistic understanding – yeah.

ROBIN: I think it makes sense that the correctness of liberty, Libertarianism as a philosophical position, can be tested on an ongoing basis, empirically – i.e. by looking to its consequences. If Libertarianism works— if it is right deontologically— then we should be able to test it as being effective consequentially.

JEFFREY: I think that that is exactly right. I think you’re right too that I tend to use consequentialist language because I think that this is the way our minds work. None of us would like to live in a world of massive conflict, violence, contention, and hate. We want to live where there is human cooperation, where there are opportunities to creatively serve others; where violence is kept at bay in some way; where capital can be formed so prosperity can flourish; where human associations of all sorts can take place. That’s what I would call a good society. We want to live in a good society. If you can call that consequentialism, okay. I don’t find that necessarily contradictory to human rights and that sort of thing. But I do think we can get sort of carried away, asserting that Libertarianism is only about your right and my right to be jerks and to be left unimpeded in our malevolent desires. I bring up, for example, racism. Racism is a very hot topic and maybe one of the reasons why the article kind of went viral in a way. One thing you can always count on a brutalist to do is to come to the defense of racism, sexism, and other kind of socially destructive impulses insofar as they express themselves in non-violent terms. They get very passionate about this issue, but I think what you don’t get from the brutalist-style argument here is that these are after all regrettable things.

ROBIN: Hold on to that thought, Jeffrey, because we’re going in to the break. We’ll carry on when we get back. Thank you.

[Break]

ROBIN: Welcome back to Blue Republican Radio with me, Robin Koerner, speaking to the awesome Jeffrey Tucker. Jeffrey, when we went into break you were starting to talk about these kinds of defenses— at least of people’s rights to be sexist or racist as long as they don’t express that right in a physically aggressive or threatening way. As you were kind of going there, I was recalling something that I read in your article that almost gave me a Gestalt Switch. I don’t know if you actually said it, but you began to indicate it. I might call it “extremist” or “epistemically extremist,” “purist,” or “dogmatic” – you’re calling it “brutalist” Libertarianism: it’s not so much an extreme or distilled version of Libertarianism or the classical liberal tradition: it’s actually decidedly illiberal. In other words, it represents a denial of the classical liberal tradition that has brought us our Libertarianism. Can you talk a little bit about that? I think you were anyway, but I just wanted to pull that out of your article because it’s very interesting.

JEFFREY: That’s exactly right. The reason liberalism has triumphed in the world has nothing to do with the right of people to hate, or because it’s some sort of closed system of thought in which we already know everything. Actually, Liberalism’s great gift to the world was precisely that it observed that society is better of when it’s not managed from the center. That permits people’s highest individual motivations and drives to express themselves associationally in the graduation of society to evermore prosperity and human dignity–universal human dignity. So, for example, Liberalism is what I think rightly considered to be responsible for the liberation of women from all forms of despotisms that have been around from the beginning of time, for the end of slavery, and for the opening up of a more tolerant society. This is what Liberalism granted us. It’s very strange to see that Libertarianism has been dragged out as a kind of apparatus in the defence of exactly the opposite impulses—illiberal impulses, intolerance, and so on.

ROBIN: All violent ideologies—I think it is true to say—become violent inasmuch as they are dogmas or purported as dogmas, right? I think a lot of Libertarians think that they can be dogmatic Libertarians because the content of their dogma is Libertarian—and so makes them completely not dangerous. But actually, your dogma is no less dangerous just because it says “Libertarian” on the tin.

JEFFREY: You’ve really put your finger on it, and this is why it took me so long to write this article. The brutalist voice made me uncomfortable, but rarely do they say things that I can specifically disagree with. It’s just a kind of creepy sense of something is going wrong. One thing I’ve been playing around with in my mind that I didn’t actually put in the article is that brutalism and statism have a lot in common with each other. This sense of already knowing how the world should work, believing that there is one model for the whole of society, this sort of denial of people’s right to experiment, to learn, and to express their diversity and a range of styles through a gradual organic evolution of life. The state is against that. That’s the problem with the state—it’s sort of regimented, frozen, and bureaucratic…

ROBIN: Yes, and one size fits all.

JEFFREY: One size fits all. It’s got a catechetical teaching about it. The only response is to simply obey. In a strange way, brutalistic libertarianism mirrors that same kind of mentality; it’s just that it attaches that word, “liberty,” to it. This is one of the reasons why my vision of society is essentially that which functions completely and wholly in the absence of the state: because of the errors and failures of the brutalistic mindset. It creates eyesores all over the world. The state has created eyesores all over the world. It’s kind of a dreadful prospect to imagine that Libertarianism in its brutalistic form if on the loose would create similar problems as the state itself has created. Already knowing the answers in advance, already imposing a plan on society that’s derived not from experience but rather from just our own wishes and imaginings about how life should work from one or two simple postulates.

ROBIN: It’s interesting that you talk about the eyesores that were built on the back of architectural brutalism and were obviously just an analogy to the ideological eyesores, you might say, of Libertarian brutalism. They matter because if you go through history, it has never been the case that more liberties have been won by a purist, dogmatic minority educating enough people in their vision such that all those people decide to make some big change to their political system or the political class. It’s always been a much more organic process, in which people, maybe in response to the tyrannical abuse of power that gets into the culture, which then reacts—not because they’re trying to establish some dogma that they’ve all signed up to—but because they’re trying to defend something they already take for granted—some freedoms they take for granted—that they think are being threatened. They push back. For us to be able to affect the mainstream action against tyranny, we need those kinds of mass movements that have brought us a thousand years of constitutional liberty in the Anglo tradition. We have to be approachable. We have to be the kind of people whom other people want to be like, whom people want to listen to. So dogmatism is surely going to be self-defeating for the mainstreaming of Libertarian ideas.

JEFFREY: I think that’s right. There is another thing too. I really like what you said when you said that people’s assertions of liberty – when we achieve more liberty – are often about defending associations and institutions that have already been built that seem to be under attack by an overreach of power. What that implies, I think, for liberty-minded people is that we need to get busy building institutions – whether they’re businesses, or technologies, or educational institutions, or just about anything. That’s probably more important than writing 5000 op-eds just repeating a very wrong assertion of our rights. It’s probably more effective to get out and build liberty rather than just continue to assert this narrow brand of a rights-based, truncated, and reduced form of Libertarianism. By the way, I don’t find evidence anywhere in history before the last several decades of a brutalistic form of Libertarianism or liberty-mindedness. If you look back at people like Lord Acton, Frédéric Bastiat, the work of Hayek, Mises, William Graham Sumner, or you could go back to Adam Smith, go back to the list of greats. You don’t find this evidence of this brutalism; you find very broad argumentation, very specific argumentation that covers a huge and vast range of human experience that’s very compelling. It’s about beauty, complexity, service to others, the organic community, and the gradual emergence of cultural norms, “spontaneous order” (as Hayek always called it), about the multifarious private relationships and how graceful they can be in this world. These are the types of arguments that you’re going to see throughout the whole of history of liberty. Then in the last several decades, this has begun to change and you begin to see all these considerations dismissed as sort of wimpy, stupid and irrelevant compared to my right to be an asshole.

ROBIN: All of those authors that you mentioned there…certainly I get the sense that they were writing to help us move in a better direction. They weren’t presenting some utopian destination, and I think a lot of this kind of brutalist mindset again corresponds to the arrogance of “I already have the answers.” It’s like: “I already know exactly what the destination is to be” whereas none of those writers were writing in that spirit.

JEFFREY: That’s right. Can I just give one very specific example that illustrates your point here? It’s been common knowledge in the liberty-minded world for a hundred years, maybe two hundred years, that money needs to be reformed radically, you know, made more sound or fixed-up. Libertarians have had, over the decades, developed these plans for top-down reform. One day, in the blink of an eye, we see something emerge on the internet in the form of cryptographically-based currency. It’s run out on a free forum. We’re seeing this new money emerge with evermore rigor all over the world as a global institution—in fairly surprising ways. This is not something that would have been predicted by anyone’s catechisms, if you know what I mean. This is a surprise, and as a result it was very interesting for me to watch how many Libertarians have sort of been radically resistant to even facing the reality outside their windows about this because it sort of contradicts the theory. This is a problem when your theory gets overly invested in a single reform plan, or a single perspective of how the world should work. You become blind actually to other possibilities.

ROBIN: Yes. One thing we also discussed in the break was that we need to bring these ideas to the mainstream – to not keep them in the purist corner of the Libertarian room. Is there a point where the Liberty movement, broadly, may have to decide, or realize perhaps, that those dogmatic brutalists who call themselves “Libertarians” are actually not our extreme wing, but they’re our ideological opponents?! Are we looking at, potentially, a schism here? Would it actually help for there to be one?

JEFFREY: Robin, I would not have said so before my article appeared because I was dealing with archetypes. I argued that there are many ways in which brutalism is compelling. We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days and have these sorts of brutalistic impulses. My article is actually more sympathetic with this perspective than I turned out to be 2-3 weeks after the article appeared because a very tiny minority was just darn near violent towards this piece.

ROBIN: I should say, Jeffrey, that was exactly my experience with the piece that I wrote, “Libertarian Purists: Libertarian on Everything – Except Liberty,” which covers a lot of this ground. There were a lot of people who really, really saw the importance of the point, but there was this hardcore that basically took it personally and the vitriol that came back was insane.

JEFFREY: Yeah, I couldn’t believe the stuff that people were attributing to me. It was just an incredible thing. What was very nice about the reaction in some ways was that some people read my article, Robin, and said, “Well, I don’t really see what you mean here,” but then over the next couple of weeks, they began to see exactly what I was talking about.

ROBIN: Yeah, just by looking at the comments on the article?

JEFFREY: Yeah, looking at the comments of the article and seeing the things appearing on social media, and they’re like: “Oh my god! I guess brutalism is more of a problem than I thought. It does exist and it’s a problem.”

ROBIN: The way I put this is that Libertarianism as a philosophy really has broadly three dispositions. It has a disposition toward humility, especially toward intellectual humility—“I don’t know what’s best for you.” It has a disposition toward – you might say its only requirement is – tolerance—“you can do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt me even if what you’re doing isn’t something that I would choose to do.” And then, because we want not to have a state but we want to help our fellow man through non-statist means, we talk about civil society, so it also has a disposition toward civility. So you have civility, humility, and tolerance. It turns out that those three things—which to me just drop out of the political philosophy itself—are exactly the things the brutalists don’t display towards everybody else, but they are the things that we need to sell our message in a way that can really infect the psyche and change the zeitgeist.

JEFFREY: You exactly said it. Not only do they not emphasize these various virtues, but the brutalist mindset regards them as just outrageous distractions.

ROBIN: And compromises. They’re all regarded as compromises of principle, right?

JEFFREY: That’s right. Because [the brutalists believe that] they’re the only true believers in liberty, but actually I don’t think that they are. I think you’re right; I think that this brutalistic view is actually reductionist and unthoughtful, uncolored, and uncorrected by human experience. This has no regard for the larger context from which liberty came to triumph over despotism. I don’t know that it really is very helpful going forward either. I think that is exactly right. I’m particularly intrigued by the term, “tolerance,” because I think I used this term, “tolerance,” in my article as kind of being a liberal virtue. By the way, I took this directly from Mises. Mises’ book—I think it’s from 1927 called Liberalism—is a very, very good starting point for anybody who wants to test whether we’re going off the rails or not. It was one of the final statements in his very closing period of the Classical Era.

ROBIN: Jeffrey, hold on. I’m sorry to interrupt. We’ve got the last break in.

[Break]

ROBIN: What a great discussion this has been with Jeffrey Tucker. Jeffrey, we’re in the last 2 ½ minutes of the show now, but you just raised at the end of the last segment, Liberalism—the book. Mises’ Liberalism. What were you going to say?

JEFFREY: I was just going to say that if you forget what liberalism is, go back and visit it and test your current beliefs against what you find in that book because it’s in the true liberal spirit. Mises highlights tolerance as a very high virtue within the liberal world. Brutalism is the opposite of tolerance; it is completely intolerant. Robin, let me say something here – I’ve thought a lot about those questions like “Where does brutalism come from?” The original brutalistic architects—they didn’t believe in beauty; they didn’t believe in building anything really worth anything, because they assumed that it was all going to be blown up by government anyway because they had just gone through World War II, for example. In other words, they were despairing, and their architectural styles did not express anything like a hope for humanity—quite the opposite.

I think we have to ask ourselves whether or not, perhaps, that is the fundamental problem behind the brutalistic spirit that you find popping up in the Libertarian world. It’s an expression of despair. A belief that the world cannot be made better so we might as well blow it up, or at least have fun offending people in the meantime before it blows itself up. This is what I think might actually be behind the whole thing. There’s a kind of nihilism really. But once you realize: “No, no – this is wrong. There is hope, the world can be improved, the world can be made more beautiful, made more free—through our own actions and through the social movements that we’re involved in, you can get a little more connected to reality; you get a little more connected to the human experience and you begin to understand that liberty is not really—as I’ve said— just some sort of catechetical exercise. It really is about the highest wishes for the flourishing of humanity and the social order in a very real way that connects directly with people’s lives. People are not our enemies. They’re our friends in the cause for liberty, and we need to be looking for friends and recruiting people from all walks of life into this world. I don’t think the brutalist experience is going to do that. I think what’s going to do it is a broad-based humanitarian form of liberalism. I myself consider myself an anarchist—a humanitarian anarchist, I think. A world without the state is a beautiful place. We’re going to get better at expressing that.

ROBIN: Jeffrey, thank you! That is the last word. I have loved talking to you. Thank for you being with me on Blue Republican Radio.

JEFFREY: Thank you very much for having me, Robin.

As Sanders and Trump Push the Right Buttons, the Liberty Movement Must Wake Up

Four years ago, Ron Paul filled stadiums with tens of thousands people. His natural heir to those numbers – and in fact, his natural heir – is Rand Paul.

But in this presidential cycle, the huge excited audiences that are filling stadiums for an insurgent, anti-establishment presidential candidate are mostly coming to see Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

As an activist for liberty, I am pained by the failure of the similarly anti-establishment and still-largely-insurgent liberty movement to replicate either Ron Paul’s successes of four years ago, or the successes of its present political opponents – a democratic socialist, Sanders, and an I’m-not-sure-what-to-call-him, Trump. This failure arises from the movement’s consistent blind spot for strategic political communication.

There are many fundamental truths about human psychology and political strategy that the liberty movement has to learn before it can truly succeed. I discuss them at length in my seminars on political persuasion. This article is about only one – the one laid bare by Sanders and Trump – which is broadly captured by a rather nice quote:

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” Jose Ortega y Gasset

Recently, Bernie posted a nicely produced, animated video about economic injustice.

The first 5.5 mins of this video simply present facts about some of the more shocking truths about wealth and income distribution – truths that disaffected Americans hear only from the Left. They are facts like…

  • Today, real median family income is $5000 less than in 1999;
  • In the last two years, the wealthiest 15 people (that’s not a typo) in this country have seen their wealth increase by more than the total wealth of the bottom 40% of the population;
  • In the last decade, the typical middle class family has seen its wealth decline by 31%;
  • In the last three decades, the share of the nation’s wealth owned by the bottom 90% of Americans has fallen from 36% to 23%.

These are statements that both resonate with people’s experiences and are, at first pass at least, outrageous; so they are very powerful and they cause those who hear them and care about them to gravitate to those who share them. But these statements are as true for a libertarian or a conservative as they are for a socialist, and they are felt every bit as much by the voters that libertarians and conservatives need to court as those needed by progressives – because, obviously, we are all fighting for the same voters.

Until people start identifying these facts, which signal concern, about economic justice with the liberty movement, the movement will not gain the popular traction it seeks. Until we start clearly expounding the injustices that are actually felt by millions of people, including the economic ones, those people will simply not believe we are the people with the solutions.

Put another way, if we are not regarded as the people who really understand the problem, then no one will care enough to listen to our solutions. They will not care to listen when we try to explain that most of this injustice arises from cronyism, corporate welfare, the treating of non-persons as persons, and the making of markets less free; they will not listen when we complain that true capitalism – which is voluntary exchanges among individuals for mutual benefit at the expense of no one else – is being used as a cover for state-sponsored financial corporatism.

The essential error exhibited by most liberty activists is the idea that the most important thing in changing people’s political minds is what you say about various issues. It isn’t. More important is what you choose to talk about – the facts and issues you choose to lead with. That’s Ortega y Gasset’s quote above, applied to politics.

To a first approximation, most politics are the politics of identity, which means that either I can broadly imagine what it feels like to be you and to see the world as you see it (I identify with you), or I cannot. If I can, then when I listen to you, I will be subconsciously asking, “can I believe you?”… and if I can, you may persuade me. If, on the other hand, I cannot broadly imagine what it feels like to be you and to see the world as you see it (I do not identify with you), then when I listen to you, I will be subconsciously asking, “must I believe you?”… and I will only be persuaded if I cannot find any fault with your position at all – which is never the case if I didn’t already start by agreeing with you.

This is important because we get people to identify with us – and so open them to persuasion – when we reflect back to them what they are already thinking or feeling.

And the most effective feelings to reflect back in politics – and especially non-mainstream politics – are feelings of injustice that are not being adequately addressed by the political establishment.

Accordingly, Donald Trump speaks bluntly about immigration and immediately connects with a very large minority of voters who have been feeling that there is something essentially both unjust and important about what is happening to the country in this area. Similarly, Bernie Sanders speaks bluntly about economic injustice and immediately connects with a very large minority of voters who have been feeling that there is something essentially both unjust and important about what is happening to the country in this area.

At times of great political disaffection, such as these (with the membership of the Republican and Democratic parties in secular decline and the number of those registering Independent/unaffiliated increasing), speaking stridently about issues that are seemingly impossible for the mainstream to deal with elicits “identification” on another level too: it reflects back to the average voter his disaffection with the political process, itself.

This combined response to injustice and feeling understood is extremely powerful – immediate and visceral. Consider the speed with which both Sanders and Trump have gone from being obscure or entirely absent as politicians, respectively, to near political celebrities. (Obviously, one orders of magnitude more than the other because of the huge difference in media attention that is being paid to both.)

This constant of human nature works across cultures, languages and times.

Look at the rapid rise of the anti-austerity party in Syriza in Greece, or even more interestingly, of the anti-E.U. UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) in the U.K. Both went rapidly from non-existence to a major force in their country’s politics by owning a large issue that offended the human sense of justice of a large minority of people who felt completely unmet on that issue by all of the mainstream parties.

I tested this a year ago on a trip to England, when I asked recent converts to, or sympathizers of UKIP (some from a completely different part of the political spectrum), why they favored UKIP. They usually did not respond that they firmly agreed with UKIP on various issues, or even one. Rather, they said, “they are the only people who are talking about …” In other words, UKIP spoke to these voters because it spoke about a concern they already had but was unacknowledged by the political mainstream. In many cases, UKIP’s voters – like voters of all parties – couldn’t even tell what their party’s policies or solutions were. They knew only what the party cared about, based on the topics that the party chose to talk about. And in the cases of both Syriza and UKIP, the parties were talking about something that didn’t offend any political ideology, but rather, offended a basic human sense of fairness. In Greece, that was the ability of German policy makers to set economic policy in Greece for the benefit of non-Greek financial institutions, and in the UK, it was the ability of foreigners to makes laws for British citizens, on the one hand, and to come to the UK to receive welfare to which they’d never contributed – all exacerbated by the seeming inability of the British people themselves to change either of those things at the ballot box.

This point about “injustice” is especially for the liberty movement. A feeling of injustice that can be effectively tapped into by insurgent or anti-establishment political movements never depends on a political ideology: rather, it precedes ideology. It is, to repeat myself, visceral. Interestingly, experiments show that people will actually pay – i.e. hurt themselves – to rectify clear injustices in their close community, even among strangers, and their tendency to do so is unmediated by any particular belief.

Civil rights is an issue that should be owned by the liberty movement. We should be banging on about the abuse of rights that is endemic in our nation – not because we need to prove ourselves right but because it is outrageous, and we must connect with people’s outrage. And to that point, we need to talk about the problem more than our solution because, still, thanks to our derelict media, most Americans don’t have a clue about the depth of the problem. But when they do find out – hopefully from us – they will be outraged, and they will seek the solution firstly from the people who informed them of the problem.

Economic justice similarly is an issue that should be owned by the liberty movement – and the movement shouldn’t be scared to use that pair of words, either. We should be banging on – like Sanders – about economic injustice – not because we consent to the Left’s definition of the term, but because, when it is caused by state-corporate cronyism, favoritism, corporate welfare, and an unjust monetary system, it is indeed outrageous.

We are fools to allow the average American to hear about the economic unfairnesses in our society only from the Left. If that is from where America hears about those problems, then that is where America will go for their solutions. Similarly, we are fools to allow the average American hear about the problems of unmonitored immigration only from Trump. If he is from whom America hears about the problems, then he is to whom America will go for their solutions.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we accept Sanders’ or Trump’s solutions to either of these problems. It means only that our solution becomes credible to people because we have shown ourselves to be as driven as them by the underlying injustice.

Consider these two statements.

  • I am a capitalist because I am for freedom, and capitalism is best way of reducing poverty.
  • I am for reducing poverty and so support the freedom of people to trade for mutual benefit. That, to me, is what capitalism means

Their factual contents are essentially identical. A libertarian could say both of them truthfully.

Yet one is about capitalism; the other is about poverty.

That is a critical point to understand.

Read them again if you have to.

The first statement doesn’t start with the perceived injustice: it only connects with people who are already interested in capitalism – or at least care enough to know what that word even means. In other words, it connects only with those who agree with us. It has no political power.

The second statement starts with the perceived injustice. It connects with anyone who cares about poverty, which includes every progressive you’ll ever meet.

And frankly, good for them.

Because we should be concerned first with poverty and only then with capitalism. Why? Because poverty describes the experience of real people. And capitalism, like the liberty that it both serves and manifests, is ultimately valuable, precisely because of the good it does for people – who are the only true and moral ends of political activity.

With that in mind, here’s a sobering thought.

The liberty movement could do much worse than make a video about economic injustice – whose first five and a half minutes is exactly the same as the video made by Sanders. But ours might be voiced by Rand, who would then go into the real causes of this situation, and an explanation of solutions that don’t just treat the symptoms of the disease, but eliminate those causes at root. We’d be changing nothing in our position or our principles – but we’d be talking about people and fairness, rather than philosophy and, say, regulations.

The choice is always the same: to win supporters or to win arguments.

The liberty movement, rather ironically considering what it stands for, is getting exactly what it is choosing.

What Do You Love? Politics Is Spirituality Demonstrated

I have had the honor of speaking to many extraordinary guests on my radio show.

Perhaps none has touched as many lives as Neale Donald Walsch.

My work as a political commentator draws significantly on his, and in many respects, I trace my belief that Love can and must be put at the center of our politics to his ideas, with which I first engaged while at college.

With that said, this extraordinary, elevating and thought-provoking interview speaks for itself.

Neale Donald Walsch

ROBIN KOERNER: Welcome to Blue Republican Radio. My guest today is a certain Neale Donald Walsch, who is probably one of the best-selling authors of our time. He is the author of Conversations with God series of books, which I discovered about twenty years ago, and he’s been prolific: ten million copies of his books have been sold. He’s been translated into thirty-seven different languages and – this may surprise some of my listeners – but this gentleman has probably had more of an intellectual impact on me, and even my political work and writing, than perhaps anyone else. Certainly more so than anyone else I have spoken to on this show.

First of all, I would like to start by thanking you, Neale, on air, for the impact you’ve had on me, many of the people I know, and the millions of lives that you’ve touched through your writing.

NEALE DONALD WALSCH: Well, that’s very generous of you, Robin. Thank you very much for those kind words.

ROBIN: Well, thank you too. Let me just explain why I wanted to put you on a show where we normally talk about politics and economics. You wrote that, “your politics is your spirituality demonstrated, so too economics”. When it is said like that, I guess it’s obvious, but I think most of us don’t actually approach our politics – our trying to make our society better – with that in the front of our mind. Would you say that’s fair?

NEALE: Yes, I do think that’s fair. I think it’s more than fair – it is also the problem. The major problem facing the world today, in my observation and in my view, is that there appears to be a huge disconnect between people’s most basic fundamental beliefs about life, about themselves, and about this thing called “God”…if anyone even has a belief in this thing called “God.” Even those who don’t have a belief in God – those beliefs as well – impact their positionality with regard to economics, politics, and just about everything else in life. So when I say politics are your spirituality demonstrated, I mean exactly that. That politics is just a means by which we put into action, either by voting or in some even larger way in the democratic societies of the world, our most deeply held, most profound, most sacred-if you please- belief. If that’s not what politics is, if politics are not that, then politics are bankrupt.

ROBIN: Yes, that’s a good word and well used. You wrote, Neale, that all the following words are synonyms: “Think of them as the same thing: God, life, love, unlimited, eternal, and free. Anything which is not one of these things is not any of these things.” People who follow my work, listen to the show know that the slogan I work around in politics – specifically in politics – is, “liberty with Love.” … which, by the way, you might say almost doesn’t make sense: if love is freedom, liberty with love is almost a tautology – I suppose! I’m trying to put love into politics; love as maybe the bedrock. I think most of us get caught up in our own paradigms, in our own orthodoxies. We get a little righteous about what we believe, and it becomes a little more about being right than doing what is right.

NEALE: I think I’m going to disagree with you a tiny bit in terms of the semantical approach. I believe that all politics is love demonstrated as well. I think people do use politics to demonstrate their love, but it’s a question of what they’re loving. Every act is an act of love, I’ve been told and advised. Every single act, including every political act, is an act of love, so in fact I think people do use politics with full awareness that their political expression is an expression of what they love. So the issue is not that there is a disconnect between love and politics. The issue is: what are they loving? What does a person love? Do they love power; are they loving themselves more than the next person? Are they loving gold and diamonds, earrings, positions? Or are they loving other people? Are they loving the poor? Are they loving a particular philosophy? So your politics will demonstrate in fact exactly what you are loving. So politics in my experience, as I observe the world, in fact is the biggest demonstration of love. The question is not whether politics demonstrates what you love. The question is “what do you love?” Sometimes we think that if a person is not, let’s say, taking political actions, making political choices and decisions that affect the poor, the neglected, the undernourished and so forth of the world in a positive way, if they’re just looking out for themselves – then we say that they’re not acting in a loving way, but in fact they are! They’re acting in a very loving way: they’re simply loving themselves more than they are loving other people, or more than they are loving the poor and the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. But everybody is loving something. I think we need to really be clear about that. It’s an extraordinary point of view that has been given to me by some very high sources. Everybody loves something. Every act, therefore, is an act of love. Even the act of terrorism- even the act of cruelty- is an act of love. If people did not love something, they would not act cruel toward another person with regard to something else. If people didn’t love something, they would never act in a way that strikes terror in the hearts of other people. So it’s a question of not whether you’re loving enough, but what you’re loving and why. And that’s what people don’t understand. They think we need to teach people how to love. We don’t need to teach people how to love – all people know how to love. We need to teach people what to love, if they want to change their lives and change the world.

ROBIN: So that begs a great question: what would you have people love and how should we be teaching what to love?

NEALE: I would have people love first the highest source of energy in the universe, which I call “life” or “God” or – if you please – “freedom,” or “un-limitedness.” I would invite people to love that which has loved us so much that it has given us complete freedom to make the choices and decisions we wish to make in our lives, or at least the opportunity to express that freedom should we choose to do so. Or at least that’s the plan. A lot of people – millions of people – do not have that freedom. They live in societies and in situations where they don’t have the freedom to make the choices they want to make but the idea – the plan – was that they would. I would have people decide to chase their priorities in life. The fact is that 98% of the world’s people are spending 98% of their time on things that don’t matter. The fact is that we have our priorities wrong. There’s something that we do not fully understand here about life (the understanding of which would change everything). What we don’t understand is that we’ve got our priorities mixed up. We’re simply loving – if you please – and yearning for the wrong things. Wrong not in the sense of being morally wrong, wrong in the sense of being unworkable, dysfunctional, so we notice – with the most casual observation – that the way in which society operates (that is, the things that people prioritize) are simply creating a horrible, horrible mess in this world. We live in a world right now where 5% of the world’s people hold 95% of the world’s wealth and resources, and where 1% of the world holds 50% of the world’s wealth and resources and don’t seem to care very much, or show very much concern, for the fact that what I just said is true. We live on a planet, Robin, where as you and I are talking today, 2.6 billion people do not have indoor sanitation. 2.6 billion people don’t have toilets in their house! One and a half billion people do not have access to clean water, 637 children are dying every hour on this planet of starvation. We’ve all heard these statistics before from a variety of sources, and we all go, “tsk, tsk…that’s really a shame” and we mean it, we really mean it. It is really a shame, but we don’t think we can do anything about it. That’s where the disconnect is. Actually there is quite a bit we could do about it, and it’s just a matter of having the will to do so. What would create that will? Ahh, choosing to love something else other than ourselves, something else other than our priorities. I grew up, Robin, with the following priorities: get the girl, get the car, get the job, get the house, get the spouse, get the kids, get the grandkids, get the better car, get the better job, get the better house, get the better spouse, get more kids, get the grandkids, and finally at the end, get the office in the corner, get the sign on the door, get the retirement watch, get the cruise tickets, get the illness, and get out. That was basically my set of priorities. What’s been made clear to me in my conversations with God is: “wow, what a wrong set of priorities.” From start to finish, the wrong set of priorities.

ROBIN: Neale, you know what? We’re coming to the end of this first segment, and I think that’s a good place to end. We’ll be back in a few minutes. Thank you, thank you.

[Break]

ROBIN: I am Robin Koerner. I am speaking to the best-selling author of the Conversations with God series of books, Neale Donald Walsch. I have got this gentleman, who has been a big spiritual teacher in my life, talking a little bit about something that you all know that I am most interested in, which is making our world better – we hope – through politics. And we started a little bit by talking about love, and, Neale, your point is very well taken, but I would like to return to this word, “love.” I actually wrote an article recently where I did something that I quite often do, which is that I steal from you. I opened an article with the notion that made a profound impact on me when I read it in Conversations with God that the true three words – the three-worded sentiment of love – is not “I love you” but “as you wish.” “As you wish” seems to capture for me the idea of both what love is (inasmuch is it’s not about elevating yourself above the beloved but the opposite) and also encompasses this idea of freedom (what you love you want to be free or make free). Thinking of love in that way – is it possible to put that conception of love into our politics? Maybe on a national level or a global level. How do we do that and how do we deal with this balance, or tradeoff, or compromise between – which we often have in politics – compassion, and the use of force to deliver what we think is compassionate? There’s often this kind of tradeoff between helping and the reduction of freedom to be able to help, if that makes sense. Maybe through the state or some institution. How do we deal with that?

NEALE: If what we’re doing through the state is the reflection of the combined will or the highest thought of those people that the government serves, then it’s not really a reduction of freedom – it is an expression of freedom. That is, that is the basis upon which the United States government, and governments elsewhere in the world as well, are intended to operate. Where we get into a challenging situation and sometimes great difficulty is when the governance constructions of the state – the laws, the legislation, the rules, regulations, and so forth – do not serve us. For instance, to give you a simple if not a striking example, nobody argues with the red light at the corner. I don’t care what country you’re in, I don’t care where in the world you are – nobody has a problem with the fact that on street corners, the light turns red, then it turns green, then it turns red again. It’s the law, and we know that if we violate the law and somebody catches us, we’re going to be given a ticket and so on and so forth because we have broken the law. But nobody has a problem with that law because everybody in the world agrees. Why? Because we see that our survival is at stake. It’s very clear to us: we’re not going to violate the law. The red light is there for our own good. If it’s a question of governance taking place, if we’re pressured to follow the law, again, I announce, if we do not stop at the red light, we will be fined and we might even be put into jail if we do it consistently enough because we will be called a scofflaw. Guess what? We’re totally happy to have laws govern the human society so long as we agree with the laws themselves and the laws serve us, and many laws do. Let’s be fair, many laws do serve us, but there are some laws that do not. And increasing number, those are laws that take away our freedoms to the degree that what we intended (when we gave power to our government to assist us, to collectively move through our lives) has been ignored, or avoided, in fact – in some cases, violated.

You’re right; there is this extraordinary dichotomy right now where governments around the world, including the United States, now seem to be taking away freedoms as a means of guaranteeing our freedom. Striking that delicate balance is no small feat. It’s what creates political divisions, political differences between people. In the United States, the major difference is between the Democratic and Republican Parties, between Libertarians and others in the United States’ political structure who have enormous, not small but enormous, disagreements around this. I’m kind of a Libertarian at heart – I’ve gotta tell you I’m fairly conservative in my political views – surprisingly enough. Most people expect me to be liberal, but I’m socially liberal but fiscally, I’m fairly conservative in my political views. I’m most conservative when I believe that, if I had my way, there would be no government at all. No laws. No legislation. No governance whatsoever. Anyone would be totally free to do whatever they wanted to do, but I’m willing to acknowledge that our society as a culture, humanity as a cultural collective is not sufficiently evolved to live that way. Unless we see that our survival is directly at stake.

Let me make one little analogy here: I do a lot of visiting around the world. One of my favorite places is Paris, and one of my favorite places in Paris is the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a favorite place because it illustrates for me a dynamic that I observe throughout human life. If you’ve ever driven around the circle at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, you would understand why I call it “suicide circle.” That’s because thousands and thousands cars drive through that circle every hour from one side to the other. There are no lane markings, there are no traffic police, there are no signs, there are no lights, and a matter of fact, there is no control whatsoever. You literally take your life into your own hands—a “suicide circle” as I call it—around the Arc de Triomphe. Yet, there are fewer traffic accidents and far fewer traffic fatalities in that circle than there are 100 yards away at the Champs-Élysées. Well, they’ve all got traffic lanes, markings on the road, signs, lights, and even policeman in the busiest places, and there are far fewer accidents and fatalities around the circle. What does that tell us? It tells us that when there is no regulation whatsoever, people look out for themselves and for each other when they are clear that their combined best interest—in this case survival—are at stake; i.e., the fundamental instinct of humanity is to look out for the self and for the other when we all agree on what it is we’re trying to do. We all agree what we’re trying to do around the Arc de Triomphe is to get across the circle alive, or without killing ourselves or anybody else. I noticed then that lack of governance, lack of control can work famously and wondrously so long as everyone agrees on the desired outcome.

The problem is: in unevolved societies, we can’t even agree on where we’re trying to go collectively as humanity. We can’t even agree, for instance (to use another striking example), we can’t even agree on whether it’s okay for gays to marry each other. It’s taken us hundreds of years to come to even a semblance of agreement in certain states in the United States that it’s okay to spend your life with another person in a married situation regardless of what their gender is. What a huge deal that’s been because we have misunderstood what God wants. We’ve actually created legislation, in the years past, that we imagine reflect the desires of our maker. In many cases, we’ve said it’s against the law of God—“it’s right there in the Bible, Neale, read the Bible”—and so we allow ourselves to create laws that change what have determined and defined to be the collectively desired outcome of an entire society. History is about the long struggle of human beings to agree with each other on where we’re trying to go, how we can best survive, and how we can best express who we really are. That’s the social, economic, political, and spiritual struggle challenge that is facing humanity and never more profoundly than on this very day.

ROBIN: Yes, yes. This is interesting. We’re coming to the end of the segment, but I love listening to you, Neale. You talk about the state and the laws that we have, some of which serve us and some of which do not, and it occurs to me—and I think I’ve written as much—that we are seeing now an increasing number of laws that seem to come out of fear. In the next segment, I want to talk a little bit about this because—you might disagree with me here—but I have written (it’s kind of short-hand) that it’s almost as if we’re living through an age of the politics of fear right now, especially since 9/11. There’s this sense in which there’s this kind of contracting, almost kind of reactionary, protective use of the state and law. It seems in that sense to be the opposite of loving use of the state and law. I’m giving you that as we go into the break, and you can come back and agree or disagree in the next segment. Thank you, Neale Donald Walsch.

[Break]

ROBIN: Welcome back to Blue Republican Radio. This is Robin Koerner speaking to Neale Donald Walsch, which is a personal privilege to me because he’s had a huge influence on my life through his books for the last twenty years. I want to talk to him in this segment about this idea of being driven by fear as opposed to love, and whether that is what is going on in our politics right now. Now, I understand… I take your point of what you said earlier, Neale, that in a way, our politics demonstrates what we love; it’s always demonstrating our love. Maybe, then, what I mean by “fear” is a love of something that we are concerned is being lost, and that we have to bring to bear legislation, the state, and all kinds of things, to save. Are we in that age? Am I right about that?

NEALE: There’s no question about it. Fear is a demonstration of love. Of course, if you didn’t love something, you’d be afraid of nothing. If you didn’t love something, you’d be afraid of losing nothing or afraid of not having something. I would say it’s all motivated by love, but you’re perfectly right, of course. The fearful aspect of demonstration of love is exactly what’s being demonstrated now. Not only in politics in the United States, but for that matter around the world. We live in a fearful society right now, and how could we not given how love is being demonstrated so dysfunctionally and so violently and so cruelly around the world? When people walk into a magazine office in Paris, kill the editors, and execute them by name because of cartoons that they drew that were offensive in some way to another person. Offensiveness is probably not a good idea, but do we kill people as a result of it? I mean, do we actually murder people because we’ve been offended by a cartoon that they drew or a statement they made? For that matter, do we behead people because they belong to our religious persuasion or are not living their lives the way we think they should, and then put pictures of the beheading up on the internet so that everyone can see and become scared about that? Of course we live in a society that’s fear-driven. How could we not? The question is not whether we are living in a society that’s driven by fear, the question is: what, if anything, can turn it around? Or are we going to slowly, in fact, disassemble ourselves or disassemble everything we’ve put together? In some ways, we probably should but not violently and not cruelly. Here’s the nature of what’s going on the planet right now: the fact of the matter is, what we’re discovering, human beings are now observing—and by the way, the human race is rapidly losing patience with itself—we’re able to see that nothing is working. That is, nothing—NONE—of the systems we’ve put in place on the planet are working to produce the outcomes for which we designed them. The political system that we put into place on the earth among the very societies of the planet was designed to create, if nothing else, at least a minimum of safety, security, and stability between nations. It’s produced, in fact, exactly the opposite. The economic system that we designed on this planet, which was produced nominally, to create at least, if nothing else if not equality, equal opportunity for people to achieve and to experience a minimal level of financial abundance and financial security. It has produced, in fact, exactly the opposite. The social systems we put into place on the planet, which were designed to create harmony, joviality, joy, companionship between people, and closeness between people, frankly, have produced exactly the opposite. Saddest of all, the spiritual systems that we have put into place, which were designed to bring us closer to God, and therefore, closer to each other, have produced exactly the opposite. In fact, not a single system we put into place has produced the outcomes for which it was designed. In fact, it has produced exactly the opposite. Humanity’s construction has therefore resulted in abject failure for the largest number of people. In fact, for all but 1% of people on the planet. Our challenge right now is to civilize civilization. Are we living in a fearful society? Of course we are because we can see that –read my lips—nothing is working.

ROBIN: I just want to get the perspective right here. What about the fact that now, as a human being living in this century, you’re less likely than a human being in history to die a violent death? You’re going to have a longer life expectancy. On average, we have more material comforts and people around the world are being pulled out of abject poverty and have access to some of the basic comforts that we’ve had in the West for a couple of generations.

NEALE: People like to use those statistics to prove that we somehow improved. In the 21st century—in 2015— have we made sufficient progress to brag? No one is suggesting (and I’m the last one to suggest) that we haven’t made some improvement. My god – in 500 years, we ought to have at least created a society where fewer people are subject to death and the lifespans are a bit longer. Hello! Is our present situation something to brag about simply because it’s better than it was 500 years ago, or 300 years ago? Is this where an advanced civilization ought to be? Where one and a half billion people go to bed hungry tonight. Is that what we’re talking about? That 2 out of 10 people go to bed hungry tonight? That 2.6 billion people have to go to the bathroom outside? I don’t want to hear about bragging about how it’s better than it used to be. Excuse me, if we could put a man on the moon; if we can cure polio and bring an end to major diseases; if we can make the extraordinary advances we have made, when can we create a life of dignity and create a civilized civilization for all but 1% of the world or 5% in a stretch of the world’s people? Are we satisfied in saying that 80-85% of the world’s people are living in abject poverty and say, “well, you know it’s better than it was – the poverty isn’t as bad as the poverty used to be.” Excuse me, that’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to hear statistics that prove: “hey, more of us are living now than lived before; more of us have washing machines and vacuum cleaners.” Really? Really?

ROBIN: Thank you for clarifying. Absolutely. I get you, which really preempts another question that I want to ask you: how do you feel we can change our political discourse so that we can reorient to really address some of the general and fundamental issues? I am asking that holding in mind another quotation of yours which captures a thought I try and share in my work, which is the following: “No one gets righteousness,” you said, “not even those you’re trying to help.” And I think there are a lot of us who see what you’re now describing and we all have our pet solutions whether it’s the Democratic Party or the Libertarian or the Republican, whatever it may be. We take our righteousness out to the world, and we try to convince: “we have the answer, if only you follow my way.” A lot of us have been doing that quite well-intended, and yet still here we are in the world you’ve just described me. How do we change that?

NEALE: By altering our fundamental beliefs. The problem is then that we insist on trying to change the world at the level of behavior, rather than at the level of beliefs. So we pass laws, we write up legislations, we give sermons, we give speeches, we write articles. We do all that we can to try to convince the world to change its behaviors, but we abjectly refuse to say very much about changing the beliefs that sponsor those behaviors. We are loathed to question the prior assumption when it comes to our beliefs. Let me explain something to be real clear here. The one thing that we are loathed to do in the area of our behaviors that we are not loathed to do anywhere else. In science, we question the prior assumption immediately. As soon as we have a discovery we’ve made scientifically, we put it to the test: we question the prior assumption. Is there possibly more to know on this subject? This is something we do in technology. We do the same thing in medicine. For instance, if you’ve come up with a medical discovery or a cure, the first thing we do is put it to the test. We are skeptics – we question the prior assumption. But in our most fundamental beliefs, our beliefs about who we are, about our relationship to each other, about the purpose of all of life, and about the thing that some of us call “God,” “Allah,” “Brahman,” “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” or whatever word it pleases us to use to refer to that ineffable essence we call the divine – in that hat particular area of our life, which happens to be ironically the most important area of all, we refuse to question the prior assumption. As soon as anyone gets up and says, “Is it possible that this particular spiritual teaching might be wrong? This teaching about God, about us, about who we are, about our relationship to each other. Or at least, if not wrong, at least incomplete not fully accurate… Is it possible that there’s something we don’t know here, that we don’t fully understand, the understanding of which could change everything?” As soon as anybody gets up and even raises that question, they are accused of “blasphemy,” “apostasy,” “heresy.” We put them down because, in the area of our beliefs, we’re not supposed to question the prior assumption. And here’s the prior assumption (there are two that we are loathed to question): 1) the assumption that we are separate from God and from each other. We live in a world of separation that says that we are separate from deity, if there even is a God, and separate from each other whether there is or is not a God. This is what I call a separation theology. You know what, Robin, there is nothing wrong with that if that’s your belief system. Fair enough if it begins and ends there. But the problem is, it doesn’t end there because it’s a global separation theology, and that’s what we’re talking about here. All of the world’s religions – not a few of them— all—every one– of the world’s great religions insists that we are separate from God. That separation theology produces separation cosmology; i.e., a cosmological way of looking at life that says, “Everything is separate from everything else.” Which in turn produces a separation psychology; i.e., individual psychological profiles that allow us to feel alone in a crowd. That separation psychology produces separation sociology, that is entire societies that have understood themselves to be “other than” and “separate from” other societies. And ultimately, that separation sociology produces separation pathology, pathological behaviors of self-destruction, observable everywhere we turn on this planet today. That’s what we have to do today—to answer your question—change not our behaviors but beliefs that generate those behaviors and support them. The beliefs from which those behaviors emerge, chiefly among them – our belief in separation, that we are separate from each other, separate in a sense from all of life on the planet—in the sense that we are observing it but have no control over it, and separate from the thing that some of us call God, divinity, or whatever word we want to use to refer to that ineffable essence that is the divine.

Now, if we changed our mind about separation, we would then change our behavior automatically because we would not allow our right hand to slap our left. We would not do to others what we would not want done to us. But since we think there is such a thing called “another,” we can go ahead and do things to others that we would never do to ourselves. If the things that ISIS right now is doing to others were done to them, they would call it “abject cruelty,” and they’d become furious, but they’re now doing it to others in the name of righteousness. This is not true just of that particular phenomenon, but it is the truth throughout human history. It’s merely the latest example of the same. The second belief—there are two major beliefs that we have to change—the second belief is our belief, as I mentioned earlier, that we are even after the appropriate outcomes individually and collectively, when in fact it’s just the opposite. We’re spending 98% of our time on things that don’t matter. But don’t tell anybody that! Let them go out there to get the guy, get the girl, get the car, get the job, get the house, get the office on the corner, get the promotion, get the bigger car, get the bigger house, get the stuff, get the stuff, get the stuff. We live in an extraordinarily materialistic society, and you can’t talk humanity out of it. It feels that they have to somehow get these things in order to feel secure, ignoring completely the teaching of every great spiritual master that has walked the planet. ALL of them have said—each in their own way—“seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be added onto you.”

ROBIN: It’s interesting, Neale—I have so many thoughts here. You actually brought up the word, “libertarian,” earlier, saying you have libertarian instincts. Thinking about libertarians—I know many and I work with many: on the one hand, there’s a celebration of individualism, but there’s also a celebration of voluntarism, of acting freely. It occurs to me that—if we could celebrate individualism while understanding that we are all part of the whole, part of the One – celebrating the individual but not the separation of the individual – then perhaps then we would find that we would need less force of the state; we would need less force in our society.

NEALE: You’d need no force. There’s no force that comes into your home on Thanksgiving Day and makes sure that everybody gets a piece of the apple pie. There’s no force used there. It’s even more obvious. If Uncle Charlie shows up at the front door: “Hey, I just got back into town, I’ve been gone for a couple years. I heard that this is your Thanksgiving Day – mind if I come in?” “Come on in! There’s enough food for all of us!” We find a way to even invite people who weren’t originally invited to sit down at the table, and you know why? There’s no force used for heaven’s sake. The better angels of our nature make it very clear to us what the appropriate response is to family. However, when we think it’s not family, when it’s the person across the street who comes to the door, rings the doorbell, and says, “Would you have a little extra for me?” We say, “Sorry because you’re not part of our family. Take care of yourself” We have misunderstood what voluntarism will produce. I agree with voluntarism – we should have a society with no laws whatsoever, but if we change our beliefs about who we are, we would in fact voluntarily make sure that everybody gets enough. We would never allow, if we were a civilized society, 623 children to die every hour of starvation. We would simply not allow it.

ROBIN: Beautiful. Thank you, Neale. We’re coming up to the end of the third segment, the long segment. We will back for just 2 ½ minutes in a little bit to close the show. Thank you so much for being with me, Neale, and I look forward to just hearing from you about what you’re working on now.

[Break]

ROBIN: I’ve had a very exciting hour with Neale Donald Walsch. I don’t really go in for heroes, but Neale has been one of the biggest influences on my life as I’ve said. And those who know his work and know mine will perhaps now, if you listen to this show, see more of his thought in my work than perhaps you realized was there. I would like to just close the show by asking you to share with my listeners what you’re working on now. I believe you do have a new book coming out? Tell us a little bit about that.

NEALE: Well, I’m working on two things: first of all, the advancing of my latest book into the world. The book is called God’s Message to the World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong. It talks about seventeen statements that human beings routinely make about God that are in fact false. There’s a true and false quiz in the book and we invite people to answer “true” or “false”: “God is to be feared? True or false? “God demands obedience? True or False; “God’s love is vengeful and God’s love can turn to wrath? True or false? And other statements as well. The book explores those statements and explains why our thought—the thought of many people—that those statements are true is what has created the dysfunction in humanity’s experience of itself. The second project I’m involved in is called the “Evolution Revolution.” On March 12th, we are going to stage an evolution revolution on the earth in cities, towns, and villages across the planet in which we place on the church house doors all over the world, as Martin Luther did in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1570. We’re going to echo his action and place on the church house doors all over the world –on the doors of synagogues, mosques, temples, and houses of worship everywhere—one thousand words that would change the world. And 10,000 people are going to be doing that on March 12th. If anyone wants more information on how to become a spiritual activist in that regard, they just have to go to evolutionrevolution.net. The name of the book again – God’s Message to the World: You’ve Got Me All Wrong. Thank you very much, Robin, for the opportunity to share my latest projects with anyone who might have a modicum of interest.

ROBIN: Thank you, Neale. You mentioned spiritual activists. I just want to say to those who hold themselves to be political activists—many of whom listen to this show—that your politics is your spirituality demonstrated. So if you’re a political activist who is not a spiritual activist, you’re not a political activist. Thank you again, Neale. Thank you for taking this time, thank you for sharing your wisdom. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you. Please visit BlueRepublican.org, and please check out Neale Donald Walsch’s work.

(Many thanks to Hema Gorzinski for transcribing.)

NSA Whistle-blower, William Binney, Says Agency’s Methods Make Us Less Safe

In a very powerful exclusive interview, I recently had the privilege of speaking to an American hero, William Binney, NSA whistleblower.

We discussed how NSA mass data collection makes us LESS safe; how the intentions behind it are not misguided but positively nefarious; how the lies that have been told about it are snowballing, and how Rand Paul presidential candidacy may uniquely represent an opportunity for change.

Click below for the audio – or read the astonishing transcript that follows.

ROBIN KOERNER: Welcome to a very important edition of Blue Republican Radio with Robin Koerner. This is all a more appropriate edition considering we have just had the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. We are going to be talking today to a man who, to me, is a hero. I imagine he is a hero to many of my listeners. We’ve all heard of Edward Snowden; maybe not so many of us have heard of Bill Binney – we should have – but Bill Binney is the NSA whistleblower of 2002, whom I will be speaking to today, and who performed a great service to our nation when he saw that the NSA was implementing a bastardized version of the technology that he created to protect to security and liberty of Americans – and he saw that that bastardized version was to be used en masse to violate the liberties and privacy of Americans.

Bill Binney – welcome to the show. Thank you so much; this is a privilege. Have I fairly characterized the trigger of your leaving the NSA of which you were a veteran for between 30 and 40 years?

BILL BINNEY: Yes, you pretty much captured it. I mean, when they started spying basically on everybody, first in the United States and then around the world on the entire planet, I mean, that’s something that violated everybody’s privacy and that’s something I couldn’t be associated with, so … I had to get out of there as fast as I could when that happened.

ROBIN: Now, your most senior title – if I can put it that way – at the NSA, and correct me if I am wrong, was Director of World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Did I get that right?

BILL: Yes, that’s right. Yeah. About 6000 analysts doing all the reporting and analysis around the world.

ROBIN: And so that’s why when I say that it was really your technology, it was technology that you personally, directly managed the development of that is now being deployed – I would say – against United States’ citizens, would that be fair? As I say, a bastardized version with the protections removed.

BILL: Yes, that’s right.

ROBIN: Now, I know, Bill, that you have been asked in countless interviews (many of which can be found online and many of which are excellent) about the details, the factual details, of the violations; what it was that you saw; what you blew the whistle on; what’s happened to you since and I can urge all my listeners to go and check out those interviews and get those facts. It’s shocking and it’s important. As I say, this is important information that is out there in the public domain, thanks entirely in many instances to you. So I don’t want to cover the ground that I know you must’ve covered time and time again – with all these news stations. I am going to try and ask you something a little different. Maybe I’ll fail, maybe I’ll succeed, but I’d like to start off with this simple question because I am guessing you must have thought about this a lot. Why is it that agents…that the security agents on the one hand and our politicians on the other – so consistently want to violate our rights? What do they believe they’re doing? Are they badly informed good guys or are they just bad guys?

BILL: I don’t think it’s quite black and white like that, but if you stop and think about what they’re doing now: it’s like hiding what the government is doing. It’s like trying to keep what the federal government is doing secret from the people when, in fact, our founding principles were that people were supposed to know what the government’s doing not the reverse, and we’ve got exactly the opposite situation now.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: What it really boils down to, if you look down through history, this is nothing new. This is since Caesar Augustus. This kind of activity has gone on with central governments around the world with dictatorships and so on. Its whole objective is population control and also control of political enemies, who are people who are doing things that you don’t want to happen. So it’s a way of controlling the environment inside your country and also way of manipulating people. So, I mean, if you have information on everybody on the planet that means you might have material to blackmail them or influence them, one way or the other, to make a decision that you want them to make.

ROBIN: Do you actually think that kind of reasoning was going on in the heads of, let’s say, George W. Bush or Obama? Are they actually consciously thinking that?

BILL: Well, I think it started with Dick Cheney, yes.

ROBIN: Okay.

BILL: Yeah, I think it was because that’s exactly… I mean, Dick Cheney learned under Richard Nixon, and that was Richard Nixon’s policy and what Richard Nixon was doing with the programs, MINARETTE at NSA, COINTELPRO at FBI and CHAOS at CIA, is exactly what the three agencies are doing now under Bush and Obama. They’re doing exactly the same thing except orders of magnitude, more, more, more and in fact if you read the impeachment proceedings, or the articles of impeachment of Richard Nixon, you could apply them directly to what’s going on today.

ROBIN: Absolutely. Now, at least though on the surface, the likes of Cheney were telling us that he was doing it for our own good, obviously… Are you going so far as to say that you think that we are compromising liberty for security? We don’t agree with that, we don’t believe that is necessary, but is that even a cover? Was Cheney politically motivated for his own political ends rather than for a misguided notion of securing his country? Are you going that far?

BILL: I would. I mean, that’s the standard procedure that these dictatorships and despots down through history have always done. They’ve disguised everything in terms of “I’m protecting you, and I’m doing this in your interest” and when in fact they’re not, so, I mean, the Nazis used this. You know, down through history, lots of people have used this kind of attack.

ROBIN: So do you think…?

BILL: This is nothing new really.

ROBIN: Oh no, it’s absolutely not new. That’s clear. As you say, we see it throughout history. I was watching a clip of Obama on his podium a while ago saying different folks can make different decisions, and can argue about where we draw the line and how much we could compromise for liberty, for security. That’s very different from thinking that this guy is trying to collect something that he has a nefarious intention to use against political enemies. I mean, is it…? It just seems astonishing that there are so many evil people in one place, if indeed that’s true.

BILL: Well, I mean, look what the IRS did with the Tea Party or the Occupy group, what they did with them with the FBI and so on. All these organizations have direct access to this data in NSA databases. The IRS has direct access through the SOD and the DEA to get into the database of the NSA, showing the entire social network of everybody in the country, in fact, everybody in the world. Now, they’re supposed to be looking at it to find tax fraud or tax evasion or, you know, money laundering, things like that…but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re doing many other things with it… And the FBI is also doing things with it like they have direct access too, and none of this is being monitored or overseen by the congress or the courts or anybody. This is all done… You don’t hear anybody talking about what FBI is doing with the NSA collected data. That’s because they’re doing it in secret. I mean, they’re also using it to convict people of crimes, and that’s what they’re doing – they’re looking at it for criminal activity.

ROBIN: Okay.

BILL: But I also say that… It’s my personal opinion that they used this data to get rid of Elliot Spitzer when he was going after the bankers on Wall Street for defrauding people in the 2008 financial crisis. And so the probable cause to go after him was “he’s after the bankers, we have to stop him;” that’s the probable cause, so the FBI went into the NSA databases (emails, phone calls, you know, financial transactions – all of that) and found something to embarrass him and get rid of him.

ROBIN: Now, who…?

BILL: And that protected their bankers.

ROBIN: So what would be in it for the people who authorized that? Are you saying that they’re being paid off to abuse this information in this way? Is there financial gain?

BILL: Let’s put it this way: when Mueller of the FBI and Alexander of the NSA retired, they formed a cyber-security consulting group, and they were asking, if you remember, a million dollars a month for their consulting fees. After there was such a reaction to that kind of thing, they reduced it down to $600,000/month for their consulting fee. Well, I think I read somewhere in Washington Post – I believe – that their first customers were the bankers on Wall Street.

ROBIN: I see..

BILL: It does set a very bad image doing that. You see that gives the appearance of things. If you’re in government, that’s one of the one things you have to do is to always avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

ROBIN: Yes indeed. Now, that would be for personal financial gain. In what ways, if any that you know about, has this massive body of information about all Americans that the NSA has collected, how has that been deployed for political purposes? I mean, do you know of any examples? I mean, it’s a big claim we’re making here.

BILL: Yeah, well, I mean, the direct use of it is the IRS gets the Tea Party.

ROBIN: And so who would have authorized that?

BILL: Well, the connection, at least from what’s come out so far from the investigation in congress, is that woman in the IRS (I can’t remember her name) had communications back to the White House.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: Don’t know who in the White House but somebody.

ROBIN: Wow. We’re going into break. We’re going into the break. Bill, we’ll come back and discuss this after.

[MUSIC]

ROBIN: This is Robin Koerner with Blue Republican Radio talking to an American hero, William Binney. William, we’ve talked a little bit about the political and personal gain that seems to drive, perhaps, the collection and abuse of data by the NSA. What about you…? I mean, you are a veteran of the agency. You were a very senior employee of America’s secret service. What motivates the folks who turn up to work every day, who aren’t maybe in the White House or in the IRS with decision-making power? They’re doing their jobs. They’ve got to know that they are engaged en masse in a violation of the basic principles of our nation. Are they just “jobsworths”? Do they just think the ideas of the Constitution are quaint and just not something to be bothered with – that they just don’t apply? Is there a certain personality type, is there a cultural issue that is enabling this, by inertia, to continue?

BILL: Actually, they’ve done some studies over the years in NSA the type of employees they have … If you’re familiar with the Myers & Briggs personal character traits.

ROBIN: Indeed.

BILL: And the testing that goes into that.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: I believe it came out at one point when they ran the test across the entire agency, they had 85% of the people in NSA working there were characterized as ISTJ. That means introverted, sensing, technical and judgmental.

ROBIN: Yes. Thinking and judgmental.

BILL: Yeah, these are the kind of people who focus on a job right in front of them. They like to isolate themselves, they’re not interactive with others that much, and so these are the kind of people that are easily threatened, which is what’s going on. Internally in NSA, they’re threatening them. In fact, the government’s threatening them, you know, across the board; that’s why Obama’s prosecuting so many people for whistleblowing.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: Because he wants to keep a secret government, keep everything secret and no transparency whatsoever, so to speak. You only become transparent when you’re exposed by a whistleblower and that’s what he doesn’t like, so you have to stop that and so that’s what he’s doing. Internally in NSA, they’re also threatening by saying (this is a Stasi tactic) ‘see something, say something’ of your coworkers, and you’re also responsible now to report your coworkers to internal security for any potential…another potential Snowden is what they’re after. But by doing that, they they’re making it totally… they’re totally destroying the work environment internally.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: I mean, how can you work with somebody who’s going to be watching you for everything you’re doing, and if you do something that they don’t like, they report you for it. So, I mean, it’s like the Stasi all over again.

ROBIN: Does this give you any – I know this is going to sound like a strange question, Bill – but does that fact give you any cause for optimism? In the sense that this is not a tenable situation in the long run. It doesn’t seem like it can go on indefinitely. Something has to break. Or is that just a naïve thought?

BILL: No, no, no. I think it is fundamentally destroying the work environment, and … you know, we’re paying over a hundred billion dollars a year to the intelligence community inside this country alone. Just ask yourselves, how many times have they warned us in advance of any of these attacks that we’ve been having. The answer is they haven’t, right?

ROBIN: But, but would we know? I remember Clinton, when he left office, saying that the secret services between them stopped some large number of attacks during his presidency. (I can’t remember what the number was.) And he actually did put a number out and it was quite significant. So would folks within the NSA, the CIA, the FBI – I mean, the people who are using these data – would they agree with you or would they just say that Bill’s factually wrong; that we’ve stopped 15 attacks in the last 3 years because, you know, of this information? Would they say that?

BILL: I mean, if you recall Senator Leahy’s investigation into that. Originally, they started claiming there were 54 attacks they stopped, and when the judiciary committee looked into it a little further, they found out, well, the number dropped down to 30-something and then 13-something, and then down to 1.

ROBIN: Right.

BILL: And the 1 they gave was the guy from in the West Coast or somewhere over there in the West Coast who sent $8500 to Al-Shabaab. Well, look at it this way: when you transfer that money, one end is in Africa, so it is not a domestic issue. So zero attacks domestically have ever been prevented. That is the whole point of it. When they came under real scrutiny, they claim any number of things, but as long as you don’t put them under the sunlight and examine what they’re saying, they’re lying to you. I mean, they have a track record of lying to you. Clearly, look what Clapper said, look what Alexander said in front of congress. I mean, they lied to congress, don’t you think they lie to us?

ROBIN: Sure.

BILL: Then congress lies to themselves; that’s what’s going on. That’s why the Amash-Conyers group coalition – that wasn’t even a committee – of Democrats and Republicans got together to try to unfund the NSA activity a year ago. And the reason they did that was because they finally realized that they were being lied to by the committees and by the agencies and by the administration.

ROBIN: So, do we have to…?

BILL: Well, I mean, the whole point was all of this activity was done in secret with a secret court behind closed doors and they were trying to keep an uninformed public and an uninformed congress, so they could manipulate them and pull their strings and say “do this and do that and if you don’t,” you know, “thousands of people are gonna die and this….” And that’s the threat they generally throw out.

ROBIN: So what do you think is the end of all of this? I mean, are there any systemic or systematic ways that We The People or maybe good politicians – if there are such things – can undo this? Or do we actually have to wait for it to eat itself because some of our political class are using this abusively derived information against others in the political class, and they tear themselves apart such that, like you say, eventually the higher-ups even get hurt by this. Is that what happens or is there something that we can do to accelerate the end of this nefarious setup?

BILL: Yeah, well, I think there is. It requires that people stand up. I mean, most people think they are powerless, but they’re not, they have all the power. I mean, they have the power of the vote that fires everybody, and they also have the power of the purse of not giving money to them and also you can influence corporations by saying if you contribute to them, I’m not going to buy your products anymore. Or you can call up your candidates or people running for office and say: ‘if you don’t do this, I’m not going to contribute to you, in fact, I’m going to work against you and contribute to the other side and try to find somebody who’d actually try to terminate this activity.’ The only one so far in congress that seems really willing to stop it all is Rand Paul.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: The rest of them seem to be going along with it, and they’re being duped too because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re just misinformed or ill-informed about what going on. They don’t really realize that you don’t have to sacrifice any privacy to get security.

ROBIN: And that’s the point that you’ve been making. Soon after you blew the whistle, I know you went to quite some lengths to get people with decision-making power and even the judiciary to understand this fact: that it’s just a myth that we need to trade our liberty/privacy to get our security, right?

BILL: That’s right. The difference is that the path they’ve taken is, like Alexander said, ‘we’re gonna to collect it all.’ Well, that path means it’s an ever-increasing amount of data that you have to collect year after year. That means you’ve committed yourself and congress and the people of the United States to committing more and more money every year to keep up with that ever-increasing amount of data. And so, you have to invest more, the budget grows, you know, you get a bigger budget. And as that grows also, you have to find places to store it so you now have to build more storage facilities like on Fort Meade they’re planning a 2.8 million sq. ft. facility coming up here. We know this because they submitted an environmental impact statement talking about it. So we know they’re putting this huge facility that is 3 times the size of Bluffdale.

ROBIN: That’s the facility in Utah, right? The data storage facility in Utah?

BILL: Yes, the Bluffdale, UT, facility. Yeah, that’s a million sq. ft. facility – this one is 2.8, so that is close to 3 times the size and it’s going on in Fort Meade. Well, you figure it’s going to take 5 or maybe a little more than 5 years to build that and $4bn or $5bn so that’s more to the budget. So once you do that, then you have to capture all the data, needs more communications are transported into the storage and then you have to have more contractors to manage the data and to manipulate it for the analysts, and you need more analysts and so on. So you see this is how you build a big empire, but in the process you sacrifice the ability to do the mission.

BILL: When you lose the professional focus and discipline of finding the targets and finding the bad guys…

ROBIN: Bill, we’re going into the break, so we’ll carry on when we come back…

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

ROBIN: This is Robin Koerner with Blue Republican Radio, talking to William Binney, NSA whistleblower back in 2002, and he’s been working hard since to get the word out about just how horrendously the government through its secret agencies are violating the rights of Americans. And Bill, I’m sorry. At the end of the last segment, the bumper music there cut you off, and you were in the process of making a critical point about how the more we take in, the worse becomes our ability to actually use the information that we do take in for the benefit of our security.

BILL: Yes. See the point is: the more data you take in, the more you have to look at or sort through or have programs going through to find information. And they don’t have automated analysis programs, so what they do is they do sort routines or selection routines that will pull data out and will give it to much like a Google search, and then they will return that to the analyst to look at, to try to figure things out. Well, I mean, when you take in the entire world and all the contents and metadata of everybody on the planet, you end up with massive amounts of data like a standard Google query, except probably worse than that because they’ve got more data than Google does. See, they have all the transactional data, which Google doesn’t have, so… Google only has a limited amount. In the Google returns, you can get 100,000 to 1 million or 2 returns, and if you get that every day, your analysts could never get through it, so they never really find necessarily what is important to look at.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: And another way to look at it is: if you require your analysts to look at everybody in the planet, which is about 4 billion people using electronic devices. Then, assume if you had all these countries —the “Five Eyes,” and the other 8 countries that are participating with the NSA in this kind of data (acquisition and analysis) – then perhaps you could assemble 20,000 analysts among all of them. Once you have that, then you have to divide the 20,000 into 4 billion that means each analyst, if you could uniquely divide it up, would have to monitor 200,000 people. That’s like a, you know, fairly good-sized city.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: So it’s kind of hard to imagine how any analyst could possibly do that, so by taking this approach instead of using a disciplined, professional attack, they have made their analysts totally dysfunctional and they can’t succeed. Case in point: the shooting in Texas. Two days before those two gunmen tried to get in to kill people and that cartoon contest down in Texas, a member of Anonymous tipped off the local police that this attack was going to happen two days in advance of it. Now that’s what our intelligence community is supposed to do, but our intelligence community said absolutely nothing. Why? Because they’re looking at massive amounts of people. They don’t have the focused look that Anonymous did.

ROBIN: Yeah.

BILL: If they took that approach, they would succeed virtually every time. I don’t know how they could miss it.

ROBIN: Now, does this tie into what you were saying earlier then, Bill? I mean, you would think that the NSA, out of some form of self-interest, would want to improve their methods so that they could be more successful. Is the reason that they don’t do that – they would rather use this catchall that is failing – because the catchall-that’s-failing method is actually better for the political blackmail, etc., etc., and the self-interest of the higher parties that you mentioned earlier? Is it that they actually don’t really care about the success of their methods in terms of American security, but they have a different agenda altogether? Is that why they stick with it?

BILL: Yes, yes. That’s exactly what, from what I’ve seen, is what they’ve done.

ROBIN: Wow!

BILL: They traded the security of the people of the United States and the free world and our allies around the world for money… The whole idea is that to do a focused, disciplined approach doesn’t cost anywhere near the amount of money, nor would you need any of the storage. They wouldn’t have to build that facility; they wouldn’t have had to build that facility in Bluffdale. There is a money interest to get a bigger budget and a bigger operation so that you can manage more. That’s what their focus is, and they basically assume that if they collect it all, eventually down the road somebody’ll figure out how to get through it and work out things that are smart. And they’ll have algorithms go through it and figure it out for us. So eventually they’re planning somewhere down the road, but in the meantime we’re all vulnerable and much more vulnerable than we’ve ever been.

ROBIN: That makes a lot of sense, Bill. Would you say, again based on your experience with the internal culture of American secret services and of the people that you worked with, that the culture morally corrupts folks? I imagine a lot of people go in to, as I think you did, this work because they’re patriots: they care about their fellow Americans; they care about their country, their people; and they want to do the best they can – they want to apply their skills for the good of their nation. Now, they get in to that culture and they see that the driving intentions aren’t what they thought they were. That there are other interests being pursued. Do many folks get corrupted within the organization?

BILL: Yes. As a matter of fact, I refer to that process as the “cloning process.”

ROBIN: Okay.

BILL: Once you get into management, say it’s a GS-15 starting, maybe 14 – but 15 you really get into. Then at super grades, you’re really being cloned into corporate thinking. I refer to it as “corporate über alles.” It’s like when they had so many programs running that we call “legacy programs,” things that existed. Then, they need get any new ideas to be dependent on the things that they’ve got running already, so they could keep those things funded.

ROBIN: Right. Okay.

BILL: That’s the whole thinking, the whole process of how you build your empire and require more and more money to sustain it.

ROBIN: Yeah.

BILL: That’s really what they’ve been doing, and instead of taking new, fresh approaches, they’ve resorted to trying to sustain everything they’ve got and that they developed over time – even some of the analog systems. It’s just a, you know, a whole way of thinking from a corporate perspective…

ROBIN: That’s fascinating.

BILL: … that doesn’t necessarily have any influence on mission outcomes. In fact, it’s contrary to it. In fact, when I joined the agency, the values of the agency were mission first, then your people, then your organization, and then yourself. And when I left, they were exactly the reverse.

ROBIN: Hmm…okay. That makes sense.

BILL: The mission is last in line for values.

ROBIN: Yeah. Okay, I understand. Interestingly, earlier in the interview –you mentioned Rand Paul, and I want to just ask you a little bit about that because I know for a lot of folks who identify with the liberty movement, there’s a certain hopelessness about the electoral process. They believe that any application of people-power to the electoral process is basically hopeless because that process is hopelessly corrupt. Now, is it fair to say that – given that you offered the name of Rand Paul – that you believe, that you apply effort to supporting candidates like him, to shining the light on candidates like him, and that you think it is worth turning out to support folks like Rand Paul – and that it is possible, at least in theory, that a Rand Paul presidency would not become corrupted in the same way that a George W. or a Barack Obama presidency did? Do you believe that?

BILL: Yes, I do because…actually I’m trying to help as much as I can. I mean, if he gets the right advisors and doesn’t fall for the bamboozling of the intelligence community, then, he would have it right, and I believe that he will not fall for that. At least, so far, he’s evidenced the fact that he wouldn’t. He’s made it pretty clear that all the existing laws that we had would function well as long as we abided by the constitution.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: He’s advocating for more intrusive investigation of people who are suspect or in a zone of suspicion around bad guys.

ROBIN: Yeah.

BILL: That’s the disciplined, professional approach that really we need to succeed, and he’s got that focus and he said that on the floor of the Senate in his filibuster basically for 11 hours down there.

ROBIN: Yes.

BILL: He said that, and that’s really pretty clear. I mean, that’s really the way they have to do it. That’s the way Anonymous did it; that’s why they succeeded.

ROBIN: Yeah.

BILL: Our intelligence community is consistently failing on that. I mean, the FBI is really good at entrapping people, but, you know, those aren’t the real threats. I mean the real threats that were coming – fundamentally, most of them succeeded. The ones that failed failed because their devices failed, you know, or some local policeman saw them and stopped them.

ROBIN: Yeah, that makes sense.

BILL: So that should be clear evidence that they’re doing something wrong. I mean, after all, if you’re running an organization that’s not succeeding, you’re doing something wrong. You’ve got to change. That’s really pretty simple.

ROBIN: Now, the beginning of that answer, Bill, just to make sure that I was clear. Did I hear you say that you were advising Rand Paul or talking to him about these matters?

BILL: Yeah, we’re passing advice to people who are working with him…

ROBIN: Okay.

BILL: … so that we can try to contribute to him that way.

ROBIN: I see. That makes a lot of sense. And I should say — full disclosure — I’m the communications director for Ready for Rand PAC at www.readyforrand.com . So I’m actually delighted to hear that you, one of my heroes, is helping Rand. And, actually more importantly to me, I haven’t sat down across the table with Rand Paul and looked the man in the whites of his eyes, and I think it’s always important to do that. So I do feel a little better that you feel that he is a man of integrity and that you could even see him, in your mind’s eye in office, maintaining that integrity and his belief in the constitution. I certainly hope you’re right about that. Now, what about other political engagement? It amazes me and I’m British – as you can tell from my accent, Bill – but it kind of amazes me just how much we now know in the United States about the abuses of individual liberties and, yet, nobody seems to be marching in the street. Nobody is handcuffing themselves to the diggers in Utah building – this massive institution for violation of American rights. Are Americans apathetic? Are we antipathetic? Are we … should we be out in the streets, let’s say, exerting our Second Amendment rights at this point? What’s wrong with us, Bill. What’s wrong with us?

BILL: Okay, I think there are several things, and I said some of this in different meetings and talks and interviews.

ROBIN: Sure.

BILL: We are, we are… We’ve been for the last about 240 years very accustomed to having a country, a government that does the right thing. We wear the white hats; they try to do the right thing by us, and they try at least to be, for the most part, honest with us. And so, we have built up this internal trust in our central government to do the right thing or to try to do the right thing. That’s because we haven’t had a dictator here since George III, I might add. And so what we ended up doing, as I keep saying over and over again, what we ended up doing was trading George III for George the W. And so from there on, it went worse.

ROBIN: And you know I’ve said often, Bill, that George III never signed an executive order in his life. And to find the last English king that signed an executive order, you actually have to go back an entire century before the George III and to get to James, who was actually kicked out for his one executive order. So, I think I’ve got to say: I think our President is more of a monarch, and maybe even in the terms we’re discussing a dictator, than ever George III was.

BILL: I’m basically referring to it now as an imperial presidency.

ROBIN: Indeed.

BILL: For that reason, I mean, because everything is so secret and they don’t want it out in the open and they can’t, you know… they say the right words in public: ‘yes, we wanna have a… it’s not time to have an open discussion about this,’ but they’re not open at all about it. I mean the biggest thing they’ve not talked about is that all of the contents of the communications (emails and phone calls) that they’re doing now. Recently in The Intercept, they published some articles about using automated translations to do some rough translations of voice calls. Well, that means they’re doing it on the orders of millions of calls every day. They’re doing rough translations just to get words out to see if there is some word that might hit their list that they might want to look at that conversation a little more closely. Then they’ll use people to do a full transcription.

ROBIN: Yeah.

BILL: This is basically what I think Adrienne Kinne and David Murphy-Fawkes were doing at Fort Gordon, GA. They were transcribers doing transcriptions of US communications with other US people without a warrant, and according to FISA, those were federal felonies. That was also true when Tom Tamm — Thomas Tamm who was a DOJ lawyer — who was charged to write up request for warrants to the FISA court. And he saw all these warrantless wiretaps and warrantless reading of emails coming through as justification for probable cause. They should have gone through the FISA court, and here they were using the data that they already collected to go through as justification for probable cause to get a warrant from the FISA court. So you know, this is the collection of content that’s been going on all along – even the latest 5IG report came out at the bottom of page 8, the top of page, it says in there where Addington told General Hayden of NSA that (this was in the first 45 days of the authorization of 4 October, 2001, of the President).. he was telling Hayden that the President’s authorization authorized him to collect content of US citizens as well as metadata.

ROBIN: Wow.

BILL: So, I mean, this is the whole point that this has been going on all along and they keep claiming they’re not doing content and that’s just an outright lie.

ROBIN: Presumably, though, there’s also just a very simple motivation about this, which is nobody wants to be caught with their pants down, right? Nobody wants to have been caught in the lie, so we’re now in this kind of rut of having to build lies on lies on lies.

BILL: Right. And then everybody is involved so they all have to support it like McConnell in the Senate, all the leadership in the house and senate, the FISA Court, and the intelligence committees, and the Attorney General. They’re all a part of it, so they have to support it.

ROBIN: Now we’ve only got about a minute left in this segment, Bill, but do you think there is a change in zeitgeist now either among the People or the political class or both? Back towards individual rights? Rand Paul did do his filibuster. We got the USA Freedom Act –not ideal—but is it a step in the right direction? Or is it a whitewash? And again, we’ve only got about 45 seconds left, but what do you think about that?

BILL: It is basically a step in the right direction, but by no means anywhere near something that really, I mean… they’re only doing the surface stuff. They already have separate programs already acquiring most of that data any way. In the upstream acquisition of data, that’s where they’re tapping directly into the fiber lines and taking everything in bulk (content and metadata). For metadata, they probably get about 80% of it with the upstream program, and the Section 215 stuff was illegally acquired but it was the extra 20% that they were missing from the upstream, so it really doesn’t do that much. We need to do a lot more.

ROBIN: Thanks, Bill. We’re going into the final break. This is Robin Koerner with Bill Binney on Blue Republican Radio.

[BREAK]

ROBIN: In the final segment, I just want to ask you, Bill – and thanks again for being here with me on Blue Republican Radio — is it worse in America than everywhere else or is everywhere else catching up? Is this an American anti-civil liberties disease or is it a global one?

BILL: Well, it started all here within the US and it focused on US citizens. Then it spread around the world for the US to do it, but also at the same time the Five Eyes group (Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the US) went together on this and then other countries were joining it. So that you see that they’re all adopting the same procedures of bulk acquisition of data and information and using it to share…and they’re sharing it back and forth. Just recently the Bundesamt found out that the B&D, the equivalent of the NSA and CIA over in Germany, was also sharing data with NSA, and collecting data on their own citizens. So it’s really a worldwide process that started here but is infecting entire governments, democracies around the world as well. And so it’s really destroying the entire fabric of democracy everywhere on the planet. I mean, Ronald Reagan used to say that “we’re a country with a government,” well, now we’re a government with a country and we’re making everybody else that way too.

ROBIN: My god. That seems to be such a depressing note to end on. I would just say… I mentioned at the beginning of this show that we’ve just marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. In history, some things keep repeating themselves, and my little contribution to this was to set up at www.magnacarta.us — and I invite any of the listeners to go to magnacarta.us. I have rewritten the Magna Carta for our time in which I’ve listed to a set of grievances and made a set of demands, of those who would rule us, to undo some of the extreme violations of the basic individual liberties that we’ve been fighting for 800 years but are now undergoing in this country, and – if you have been listening to Bill, are affecting citizens around the world. Also, if you care about these issues, please go to www.bluerepublican.org , stick your name in the box, and join the mailing list. Check out the archives: we have some fantastic guests; we discuss issues like this a lot. We had Coleen Rowley, the 2002 Time Magazine Person of the Year, discussing similar issues recently – check that out in the archives. Bill, thank you very much for being with me on Blue Republican Radio.

(With thanks to Hema Gorzinnski for transcribing.)

150 Years After the Civil War, How That Flag Comes Down

Another racist tragedy reminds us that 150 years after the end of the civil war, America still has a minority that it has failed to integrate, with fatal consequences.

Although some of the members of this minority are unusually educated and privileged outliers, we rarely see them with their hands on the levers of power; we rarely see them in control of large companies or wherever else there is great wealth; their neighborhoods tend to be poorer than those of the rest of the nation; when its men walk down the street wearing fashions and symbols that reflect their sub-culture, others look down upon them; it is a minority that is even viewed as less intelligent than the rest of America, more prone to violence and simplistic politics.

I am referring, of course, to white Southerners.

That’s not what you were expecting, was it?…

… Which is a shame – because ending America’s deep racial wound that reopens and (literally) bleeds all too frequently even hundreds of years after it was inflicted, depends on our understanding the lack of integration of not only those who have been historically victimized – black Americans – but also of those who are accused of providing the cultural context for the ongoing victimization – white Southerners.

I was not born American, but I shall become one very soon, and when I do America’s history will become mine. Like the hearts of all other Americans, my heart is breaking at the recent event in Charleston – a deranged but utterly calculated attack on the values and the people of my nation.

In a recent episode of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart wryly expounded on the tragedy.

“We have to peer once again into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other in the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal but we pretend doesn’t exist… I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack sh*t.”

Jon rightly pointed out that if any attack could ever properly be called a racist attack, it was the murder on Thursday of nine church-goers in Charleston. As he explained, the church where the murders were committed is a symbol to the black community not least because of the attacks that have been perpetrated there before. And the murderer wears a coat on which are sewn flags of two of the worst white supremacist apartheid regimes that the world has ever seen.

But then Jon said something that jarred with me: “We are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it, and I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it. In South Carolina, the roads that black people drive on are named for confederate generals, who fought to keep black people from being able to drive freely on that road.” Jon called this state of affairs “insanity” and “racial wallpaper”, and he said of it, “you cannot allow that”.

He is right to draw attention to that wallpaper: if I were black, and my surname was the name of the man who enslaved one of my ancestors, I’d have a negative reaction to such cultural fabric and the insensitivity it implies. I’d be justified in feeling insulted by being told I do not understand what it really means. I’d be right in thinking that a little humility and grace should be enough to stop people insisting on flying it higher over the state I and my enslaved ancestors called home.

But “disallowing it” is very different from understanding why it is there – and unless we do that, nothing will ultimately change. Indeed, telling people they can’t have or mustn’t do something usually makes them want to have it or do it even more. The fundamental question is not how will the flag be removed from Southern flagpoles – but how it will be removed from Southern hearts.

I don’t believe that most Southerners who vote for the confederate flag to fly above their buildings or the roads to carry the names of Southern generals want to see the deaths of African Americans. Yet, it is surely easy enough to see how those things exacerbate a very troubled situation. Why, then, do so many basically-decent people insist that they remain?

In my native land of England, roads are named for people good and bad, and history is checkered – as is every nation’s history. England chopped off the head of a king, Charles I, for his utter tyranny, but now nevertheless recognizes that same king’s importance with a statue in the capital city. We revere, by popular poll, Winston Churchill, who saved our nation, as the greatest Briton, while admitting that he didn’t get everything right, was an imperialist and, especially early in his career, made catastrophic decisions that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people. We recognize the evil done by Brits who enslaved and the good done by Brits who ended slavery, but we don’t think that members of either group are defined just by their view on that issue. We acknowledge that in many places the British empire was about dominating other cultures and people – something we entirely reject today – and yet we appreciate the greatness of many of the achievements of the men who were involved in building it – a greatness which, if the names of places and monuments in India, for example, are anything to go by, even the “victims” of that dominance can still appreciate.

In short, a mature society realizes that the present identity of all of its members depends on every single bit of its history – the bits of which today we are ashamed as well as the bits of which we are proud. Publicly recognizing the importance of all of those actions, events and decisions, and even celebrating them as part of who we are, does not mean that we today agree with the values that justified them at the time. But if we ignore them or, worse, bury them, we can neither unite as one people nor truly learn from our mistakes.

It is human nature to seek an identity that connects us to our peers (tribe, nation) and our place. And such identity is always found in shared history. You can’t throw out history without atomizing and ultimately demeaning the individual.

American Southerners, like all people everywhere, have a deep yearning to own their history, in which their identity lies, and find ways to take pride in it. The South has a rich history that is so much more than slavery. But the rest of the United States, of which the South is politically a part, seems not to be able to integrate and celebrate that history. Rather, the history of the South is, to America as a whole, a kind of anti-history – a “foil” to the great and good path that America chose. In other words, America’s identity not only fails to include the South, but almost depends on historical rejection of it. One might say that Yankee America – the winners of the Civil War – has engaged the need to end the segregation of the historic racial “other” – African Americans – but not the need to end the segregation of a cultural and moral “other” – the formerly guilty South.

As someone who’s been welcomed to the United States as an immigrant (for now more than a decade), I’ve learned much more by osmosis about its civil rights history and black leaders than ever I’ve learned about the South. Indeed, almost all I’ve been exposed to about the South is what was wrong with it – all the bad it ever did. Where in the larger American story is the celebration of the South as more than slavery – as an American sub-culture that has its own beautiful stories of complexity, love, heroism and ambition, which all societies everywhere are built on?

I notice that in modern America, it’s not generally acceptable for well-meaning, educated (mostly white) Americans to generalize negatively about African Americans, but it is acceptable to jokingly put down Southerners as in some way morally, politically or culturally backward – often with the implication that their moral, political or cultural backwardness is a kind of watered-down version of whatever allowed slavery to happen in the first place.

Put another way, we appreciate that African Americans as a group were historically “otherized” by our nation, and we admit our national and moral responsibility to address the consequences of that fact; but when it comes to the white South, “otherization” is still acceptable. We can’t call it racism because the North and South are not racially different, but it is still chauvinism. And it is as old as the Civil War and therefore very, very deep. Moreover, it’s harder to shift because it is sustained by a moral judgment against the people who are “otherized”. Whereas an African American may suffer “otherization” today because of an injustice against his people in the past, the Southerner suffers it today but because of something supposedly still blameworthy about his culture.

We may not have fully accepted and integrated our African American communities, but most of us at least realize the need for it, and the essential justice of doing so. But in a way, 150 years after the civil war, the nation is even less able to integrate the white South – because its people are still seen as heirs to ancestors with blood on their hands, and so America-at-large demands the impossible of America-in-part: that today’s Southerners repudiate or bury a past that a) they had no part in making and b) will always be their past, and therefore part of their identity, whether they deny it or not.

If our nation ignores (at best) or simplistically rejects (at worst) the rich history of a part of itself, then how can those who identify with that part of the nation find an identity within that nation? Simply, they cannot. Rather, they will do what all conquered cultures do the world over: they will grab on to the symbols of what was taken from them when they became subjugated.

In 1861, the otherization of the South by the North was literal and obvious, coming in the form of bayonets and artillery. Most Americans regard that as timely and justified. But to the extent that Southerners are today held as backward, they are still being otherized. And like all minorities that are otherized for extended periods, they have come to own that otherization (just as many African Americans have come to own the derogatory labels that whites used to use against them but today may not), celebrating the symbols of their otherness as the only thing they have.

It is simply human nature.

So perhaps the flying of confederate flags does not cause racism or do harm per se. The naming of streets after men who fought for slavery is not racist or harmful per se. These things do not ultimately cause division. Rather, it is the prevailing, divided, cultural context that causes people to experience those symbols and names as still threatening. Jon Stewart is right that we will be better off when the racial wallpaper is taken down, but to tear it down and keep it down, we must recognize that it is more effect than cause.

The deep wound of racism in America will not be gone when the confederate flag can only be found in history books and roads are all named after post-Civil War figures, but when all Americans, black and white alike, northerners and southerners too, can appreciate all the old flags and dead generals as symbols and makers of a present identity, in the safe knowledge that we are united as Americans, beyond racism, against violence, and against condescension justified by skin color, the acts of our ancestors or the degree to which we hold those ancestors and their actions as formative of our identity.

Since I arrived in the United States 11 years ago, it’s been very obvious to me that Americans are acutely aware of the evils of racial segregation. Martin Luther King is one important historical figure that, fortunately, American kids do know about. And I don’t know any American who seriously thinks that King didn’t have a point, or that the civil rights movement was a lot of hot air about nothing. And while many of us disagree about the best way to respond to the historical inequities that play out economically and socially today in our minority communities, most Americans admit they are there.

Folks disagree about the morality of racially-based affirmative action, for example, but at least we all know why we’re discussing it. In fact we are so sensitive to our history of racial victimization, there are even certain words that may not be said by people of one color but may be said by people of another: in other words, we are so aware of the racial issue that we’ve almost changed the tacit rules of our language on its account. I can turn on CNN, MSNBC or even (yes, it’s true) Fox News, any day and hear about the disadvantages suffered by various African American communities. Our nation has even designated a month for official celebration of this ethnic and cultural thread of American history.

No; the discrimination that is responsible for the flying of confederate flags and the dangerous cultural context that can produce deluded people like Dylann Roof is a more subtle discrimination – a discrimination that dare not speak its name – a moral and cultural discrimination against a guilty white South.

As victors of the Civil War, perhaps the North has still not decided whether they want a peace like the one after World War I, when Germany was held (at Versailles) as entirely blameworthy and morally bankrupt, or like the one after World War II, when Germany was quickly invited into the community of nations, from which the whole world has benefited.

Likewise, America’s racial problem hinges on whether America insists on holding its Southern self as still blameworthy and “other” or whether it invites it in, without qualification, just as the world today recognizes Germany as so much more than the Kaiser and Nazism, and treats it as a member of the community of nations with equal moral and cultural standing as the rest.

Does the rest of America really see the South as its moral and cultural equal, and does it really admit that the history of the South is American history, to be celebrated as part of the American story? There is nothing to celebrate in slavery, but the South is more than its racial history. It is up to the rest of the nation to integrate the South by recognizing it as more than being on the wrong side of a historic issue – by talking about the South positively in relation to anything else at all.

All communities need a historical identity. If the rest of America can’t assimilate the South into the American identity by integrating Southern history into its own as completely and honestly as it integrates the Civil Rights movement, the Founders, the heroes of the North, the Patriots against the British, and so on, then it will share some responsibility for the confederate flags that fly over South Carolina.

While the flying of confederate flags may rightly be regarded as insensitive and indecent until such time as we sort out this mess, the ultimate goal is not that the flags come down and the roads in South Carolina are renamed in favor of the northern generals that defeated them: it’s the development of a shared cultural context in which the flags and names have lost their power to divide, and Southerners are not made to feel guilty for celebrating everything in their history that is not slavery. But of course, when we finally get there, this point will be moot – because the flags will come down anyway, since Southerners will feel, at last, that the Stars and Stripes really is their flag too.

And that’s the only ultimate, stable solution.

The integration of one minority depends on the integration of another.

Admit the South to a truly American identity and the need for confederate identity will disappear. And those who would object that Southerners can choose today whether to be Americans or confederates (who is stopping them, after all?) should respect the moral burden that comes from the historic choice to use force to subjugate the South – for whether that subjugation was justified does not change the fact that the method used to eliminate slavery was nevertheless one of violent imposition. And it is always the experience of violence – rather than the good intentions of those that used it – that determines the reaction of a defeated people through subsequent generations.

As the old saw goes, “the winners write the history”. The supposedly United States of America has already decided to write African Americans positively into its history, thank God. Now, healing our deep racial wounds depends on whether, with equal moral urgency, it writes the South positively into its history, too.

All the while we fail to do the latter, the South is being denied its American identity and will cling to the symbols of the only other identity it has.

And if, when they do so cling, the rest of us otherize them by calling them racists and burning their flag, we will make the problem worse: we will make them fly that confederate flag higher and so alienate our African American countrymen in those states even more. Or perhaps, if we’re too self-righteous, we will cause them to pin their flag up in dark rooms at home? Either way, we will have played our part in the continuation of the vicious cycle.

So yes, American desperately needs healing through integration.

But there’s more than one minority in this country that is made to feel that it is “in America but not of it”. Our nation, our shared nation, our beautiful nation, must come to terms not only with the burden on the innocent ancestors of our history’s victims, but also with the burden on the innocent ancestors of our history’s victimizers.

In short, we must try to understand those who are discriminated against culturally as deeply as we do those who have been discriminated against racially. Accordingly, it would do us well to remember that practically all of us – black and white, Northerners and Southerners – are related to both slavers and enslaved if only we trace our genealogy back far enough – and no one alive today gets to take the credit or the blame for any of it.

Given how far we still have to go as a nation, the moral and cultural acceptance of the white South, the taking down of the racial wallpaper, and the equal treatment of African Americans everywhere, might seem to require an impossible degree of acceptance and humility from the descendants of history’s victors, vanquished, and victims.

But we’d be wrong to be so pessimistic.

Not only should we expect to find such qualities in our nation: they are working their healing power right now through the almost incomprehensible grace and forgiveness of the kith and kin of nine Americans who lost their lives in a church in Charleston.

 

Koerner: On the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta, DEMAND Your Rights

June 15th 2015 marks exactly 800 years since the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John, in an English meadow called Runnymede.

The Magna Carta is widely regarded as the document that marked the beginning of the Anglo tradition of constitutional liberty that would eventually lead to the writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The writers of the U.S. Constitution wished to preserve the natural rights they already held, including those truly fundamental rights that were first provided by the Magna Carta.

As Hatton Sumners, a former Congressman from Texas, rightly said, “A straight road runs from Runnymede to Philadelphia. Our Constitution came up from a self-governing people.”

In true celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, and the liberty upon which the United States was founded, it seems appropriate to demand the return of our inherent rights as human beings, and remind the government that it works for The People, rather than the other way around.

Accordingly, I’m inviting “We The People” to support this non-partisan and non-ideological demand for the return of all our basic freedoms – a demand made in the spirit of our nation’s Declaration of Independence that both recalls and insists that the only justification for our government is to protect our Life, our Liberty and our Pursuit of Happiness. (I’m posting it at www.MagnaCarta.US where you can lend your weight to it.) Given the aim of keeping it focused only on what unites Americans – a basic desire for liberty and justice for all – what would you add?

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Whereas our Rights, enumerated in our Constitution, have been won with blood against tyrants for one thousand years;

Whereas that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

Whereas whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it;

Whereas, when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce those Rights, it is the Right, it is the duty, of the People to throw off such Government;

Whereas, under the Patriot Act and other legislation, even free speech has been criminalized and security of personal property is denied;

Whereas, under the National Defense Authorization Act and other legislation, the privacy of the People is violated daily;

Whereas, under the aforesaid legislation, the basic Rights of due process and habeas corpus have been abrogated, even to the extent that the government asserts an unnatural privilege to kill American citizens;

Whereas our police have been turned into a domestic paramilitary force, directed against those who pay them and whom they serve;

Whereas our sons and daughters have been sent to die in wars not fought to protect our nation from immediate threats, all in the name of the People, but often without our consent, or even the consent of those who represent us;

Whereas the People are criminalized by a tax code so complex that no one can possibly comply with complete accuracy and are therefore liable to punishment;

Whereas millions of Americans languish in prison cells for so-called “crimes” that did no harm to anyone in either person or property;

Whereas our political system has been corrupted by a political duopoly of Republican and Democratic parties that has legislated to deny fair access to the political process by those who do not promote the agendas of either of those two parties;

Whereas those same parties empower themselves at the expense of the People by gerrymandering to ensure that most elections are foregone conclusions without any possibility of unseating the incumbent;

Whereas institutions of the Federal government, such as the Central Bank, transfer the wealth of the People to selected entities without specific authorization by the People or their Representatives;

Whereas unelected executive agents make rules with the force of law without the approval of the People or their Representatives;

Whereas it has become the habit of our Presidents to collapse the necessary divide between the Legislature and the Executive by using executive orders not in support of legitimate executive duties but by directing the aforesaid executive agencies to enforce against the People rules that have not been established in law;

Whereas our politicians accept money from entities that, not being People, have no democratic standing, and create legislation in the interest of those entities despite harm done to the People;

Whereas our entire political system has become a means of imposing the world view of some of the People on others using the force of government, rather than a means of protecting our Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, which is the government’s only function and justification;

Whereas the final protection of our liberties – the right of jury nullification by which a jury may judge not only a defendant but also unjust legislation by which he is convicted – is hidden from the People;

Whereas each Representative has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and not the narrow interests of any organization – political, economic or cultural;

Whereas almost all Representatives are in violation of their oath and therefore wield delegated power without legitimacy;

Therefore, We the People, in whom all power resides, revoke that delegation of power, and demand, consistent with the duty of the People, made explicit in our Declaration of Independence, the following.

All laws that seek to limit those Rights of the People that are codified in the Bill of Rights shall be repealed. In particular, the Patriot Act, National Defense Authorization Act Sections 10.21 and 10.22, and the Federal Restricted Buildings and Ground Improvement Act shall be repealed.

Where it is necessary for covert operations to be conducted in defense of our nation, those operations shall be governed according to principles that are publicly known and set in Law. And those servants of the People who are tasked with covert operations shall be individually criminally liable for failing to act according to said principles. A body with the sole mandate of protecting the natural Rights of the People shall be established with access to all information held by the government about People on whom no warrant has been served and who have not been charged with a crime. That body shall have the power to investigate the procedures used by our covert agents and shall be given authority to publicize their findings and initiate terminations when violations are found.

The Federal government shall not require from State or local law enforcement agencies shared jurisdiction for any reasons whatsoever, including but not limited to, the receiving of resources, such as military equipment and manpower.

No government agent shall threaten lethal force against any U.S. citizen except in response to an imminent threat of the unlawful use of force against human life.

No American shall be held criminally responsible for any tax that cannot be calculated by an individual with a typical high school education. The individual tax return shall not exceed one page in length. Income tax shall not be garnered from salaries paid by employers except with the consent of the payer or when the payer has been found guilty of tax evasion. No American shall have to divulge the whereabouts of any of his assets, within or outside the country, unless he has been found criminally guilty of tax evasion or other property crime. All contrary legislation shall be repealed or amended.

No action without an identifiable victim shall be a Federal crime. Accordingly, no American shall be incarcerated for actions that do not violate the natural Rights of another. All contrary legislation shall be repealed.

To debates held between candidates or their representatives for public consumption shall be invited all candidates of any or no party who are on the ballot and have the theoretical (rather than statistical) possibility of winning the election in relation to which the debate is being held.

No person who has been voted to political office with the official or financial support of any party shall be allowed to directly participate in redistricting. Redistricting shall be conducted by a politically independent body in each state, according to a method that shall be published and opened for public consultation. No information about historical voting patterns may be used in the process of redistricting. Redistricting with the purpose of giving a political party an electoral advantage shall be a criminal offense.

The country’s central bank shall be audited. All transactions shall be publicized within one year of their being made.

The Constitutional authority of Congress to make legislation shall not be given in any form to any agency under executive control. Should any such agency seek to impose a rule that shall in any way limit the actions of any of the People, they must submit that rule to Congress for a vote. It shall become enforceable only when it becomes law.

The President shall sign no executive order for a purpose other than enabling him to conduct the affairs of his office. He shall claim no authority to abrogate or change any legislation passed by the People’s representatives. All powers and authorities possessed by the President, any other officer or employee of the Federal Government, or any executive agency, as a result of any declaration of National Emergency, of which more than 30 are concurrently in effect, shall be terminated within 90 days, unless each House of Congress shall meet to vote on a joint resolution to renew the emergency. All future National Emergencies will automatically terminate within 90 days without Congressional joint resolution and will not be eligible for renewal by the President without said resolution. The legally required condition for such Emergencies, that there be “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security”, will be applied with its intended strict definition: any pro forma application of these words will nullify the National Emergency created.

Only American citizens can vote. Organizations, including but not limited to corporations, charities and unions, are not citizens and cannot vote. Only citizens who may vote for a candidate or ballot initiative may contribute material resources to that candidate, his or her campaign or any political organizations that seek to affect the outcome of an election involving that candidate or a vote concerning the initiative.
All legislation passed by Congress shall specify that part of the Constitution that authorizes the legislation. The Commerce, General Welfare, Necessary and Proper and Tax and Spending Clauses shall be applied only in their original meaning.

Juries in Federal criminal cases shall be informed of their right to nullify the law under which the defendant is being tried; that is to say that a jury will be informed of their duty to find a defendant not guilty if the legislation under which he would otherwise be convicted is contrary to natural justice and common law. There shall be no garnishment of assets by any Federal authority or agency from anyone who has not been found guilty of a crime.

Fraud is a deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain. Accordingly, Federal representatives shall be personally and criminally liable for failing to honor their oaths of office.

To Which End, We the People declare that those in office who purport to represent us no longer do, and shall not be deemed to do so until they consent to the demands herein, and express their sincere intention to use their political office to fulfill these demands. Until then, we leave our political servants with the words of a former President as they consider the weight of their responsibility and the precarious position of our nation.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy.

Should those who borrow the power of the People continue to use it against the People’s Rights, whose protection is the only justification for the delegation of said Power, We the People shall hold them entirely responsible for the consequences.

Witness Our Hands, this fifteenth day of June, in the year 2015.

To support or comment on this Magna Carta for our country and our time, visit MagnaCarta.US.

Why not send this to your representatives and invite them to lend their weight to it, and/ or to your local media to celebrate the Magna Carta – and our shared legacy of liberty and justice for all that arose from it?

In the UK, the Left Has Other-ized the Rest

Following the British general election, in which the center-right in the form of the Conservatives and UKIP parties completely outperformed the predictions of every pollster, pundit and media outlet, those same pollsters and pundits are earnestly exercized with trying to understand how they got it all so utterly, consistently and massively wrong.

Two dominant explanations have been offered: first, that the British electorate changed their political preferences in the last couple of days before casting their votes; and second, that people who vote Conservative (by far the largest party in England by representatives in parliament and by popular votes) were too “ashamed” to be honest about their intentions to those who ask.

As a Brit who has maintained a strong interest in British politics, but lives abroad, I am pleased to be able to save these navel-gazing pundits a great deal of time.

Let me start with a thought experiment.

Consider the statement, “Some of my best friends are UKIPpers.”

Now replace UKIP in that sentence with any easily identifiable group in society like “black”, “gays”, “women”, or (for the sake of being politically current,) “Scots”. The statement immediately becomes an unpleasant attempt to proclaim one’s progressive disposition while actually demonstrating its opposite – since the very fact of needing to say such a thing admits a regressive, chauvinistic paradigm from which the speaker feels the need to distance himself (in the spirit of “the lady doth protest too much”.)

But as written, with the word “UKIPpers”, that sentence could be said at almost any dinner party in England (assuming that no UKIP voter is invited, of course,) and would likely get a genuinely curious, “Really?” from well-meaning Labor-voters and Liberals, as the start of a conversation about just how shocking people’s views can be … and how genuinely fascinating it is that humanity can include people who maintain such obviously unjustifiable or misguided views.

In other words, many young, educated, middle-class adults (I am one of those) would respond to the statement “some of my best friends are UKIPpers”, not with the horrified silence that the statement, “some of my best friends are gay” would elicit, but more the wondrous curiosity of a person contemplating an exotic and perhaps somewhat dangerous animal.

Why? Fortunately, as a regular listener to the British media who doesn’t live in Britain, I can easily explain.

Although the United States, my adopted country, gives me most of what I need to be very happy, there are some things from Blighty that I can’t do without, like good tea and Marmite. Chief among them is the BBC, and specifically those great Radio 4 comedies that I often play at the end of a busy day as I wind down to sleep… sketch shows, quiz shows, stand-up shows… Many of them are brilliant. The writing is invariably witty; the comedians are invariably talented; and I am always grateful for (and a little bit proud of) this export from my native land.

But all of these shows – all of them – have something else in common. Whereas they would never, ever make jokes at the expense of any of the groups I identified above (with the occasional exception of the Scots – but watch that change now that they have identified themselves as a victim group), they all play off the unstated but unhidden understanding that the Tories are mean or callous or evil, and UKIPpers are all of those things or perhaps just too stupid to know better.

The same is true of comedy and other entertainment on TV in the UK. Shows that do not purport a political point of view but are written with mass appeal for reasonably educated people nevertheless include politically motivated comedy that always comes from the same overtly Left-wing direction. It’s utterly predictable. I still love the shows, but with a recurrent disappointment that well-meaning, clever and funny writers and performers, whose work both arises from, and determines, Britain’s “cultural normal”, do not even care to understand that what they take for granted is not so obvious to a large part of the culture that thinks differently. And worse, the part of British political culture that our mainstream performers, entertainers and comedians don’t get and can’t write jokes for (rather than against) is actually the majority of British political culture.

Most political tribes sacralize something, and the Left tends to sacralize victim groups. Believing their politics to be the only reasonable political manifestation of inclusiveness and compassion, many self-identified left-wingers look down on Tories and Ukippers for other-izing (treating as essentially “other than themselves”) victim groups, such as welfare recipients and immigrants, respectively (just to pick a couple of examples).

The obvious irony is that in so doing, the British Left, through the mainstream and alternative culture, other-ize those they perceive as guilty of the unconscionable offence of other-izing. Left-wing other-ization always manifests as a kind of condescension – a soft shaming that pervades British popular culture in the form of both jokes and serious accusations that go unremarked, about the meanness of Tory voters and the ignorance of Ukippers etc. They always get a laugh and no one thinks anything of it, even though the very same jokes about gays, blacks, women, foreigners would be utterly anathema.

Just as progressives are quite right to point out the meanness and ignorance on which other-izing always depends, they surely display their own meanness and ignorance when they other-ize those who vote differently or have different ideas about what social and economic justice mean, or what social structures make for a happy society over time.

And before I am accused of other-izing the Left, I should say, with my tongue only half in my check, that “most of my British friends are Labor voters”, and I don’t other-ize them at all. I don’t think worse of them. I don’t assume moral superiority that allows me to lump them altogether and then make jokes about them. I understand that decent people have different views – even if I believe to my very core that those views would be extremely damaging if fully implemented – just as I expect some of those friends think likewise about some of my views. And that is absolutely fine.

So, then, without other-izing, I offer the following just as a cultural observation and a large part of the answer to the question that is currently exercising British political pundits.

A Leftish in-crowd culture pervades the UK, and especially its airwaves.

Here’s another thought experiment: can you name a few mainstream British comedians who take an explicitly Tory, classical liberal or (God forbid), populist UKIP-like perspective from which they make jokes about icons of the modern Left in the same way every Radio 4 comedy or TV quiz show naturally takes pot-shots not just at Cameron and Farage (who are fair game because they chose to seek power) but at entire swathes of the public who support them? Not only can such comedians not be named (because they don’t exist): it’s almost impossible to imagine what their acts would even consist of.

Sure, the News Quiz or Have I Got News For You make jokes at Miliband’s expense, but when did you last hear a put-down of “Labor voters” or “Labor politicians” as a block like the ones you’ve hear repeatedly made at the expense of all Tories or Ukip voters and politicians?

Our mainstream culture not longer allows moral condescension based on sexual orientation, skin color, gender, place of birth etc. But condescension based on political disposition is fair game – if and only if the disposition is perceived to be to the right.

If the post-mortem of the elections is anything to go by, the bulk of both Britain’s media establishment and its providers of alternative culture are so saturated in the soft tyranny of pseudo-intellectual condescension against those they perceive as the other-izers, that they cannot see the self-contradiction inherent in their chauvinistic other-izing millions – literally millions – of people.

I am sure there are mean Tories, but all the ones who I know vote conservative because they believe there is more compassion in a hand up than a hand out if the hand out becomes a destroyer of dignity, aspiration or basic fair play. I am sure there are racist UKIPpers, but all the ones I know vote UKIP because they believe that the EU is undemocratic and that freedom of thought and speech (and therefore the ability to determine one’s own destiny) depend on being able to talk about the causes of social and economic problems without being immediately marginalized because they are talking about a sacralized group or issue.

Sneering at the chauvinism of entire groups of people who differ politically, without knowing their stories and reasons, is chauvinistic. Yet, that particular chauvinism saturates British popular culture – whether represented by Russell Brand’s aggressive populism or by Radio 4’s more decent intellectualism – or anything in between. (Murdoch’s papers are just about the exception that proves the rule.)

In other words, under the banner of “We Know Better Than to Other-ize”, the British Left, has other-ized the Rest.

In 1969, American President Nixon was the first to talk about the silent majority.

In 2015, the UK today has something a little different – a silenced majority.

So the real question is not, “Why were the polls and media wrong?”: it is, “why did you expect them not to be?”.

Answer that question and you’ll really understand British political culture.

The Income Tax is Immoral and Unconstitutional – and Not (Just) for the Reason You Think

 

I have just paid my biggest bill of the year. The invoice was for a cool 9% of my entire annual income – or my “Adjusted Gross Income” (AGI) as it appears on my tax returns, which have just been filed. And that invoice was from my accountant who just filed them for me.

I have a pretty modest income – so modest, in fact, that my AGI is of the order of a half of the median household income across the United States – the kind of income that triggers significant subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Even the “top line” of my income falls short of that median: so it’s not as if I’m earning loads and deducting huge amounts.

My financial life last year was pretty simple: my earnings derived from a modest real estate portfolio and some freelance/consulting work. My income is earned through my small business, which, for those who know about these things, is an S-corporation. I have no employees. I do no payroll.

Yet, I have just paid my accountant more than a month’s worth of income to complete my tax returns.

How many pages of tax returns do you think that I, a single individual, and my S-corporation (a small business) had to file, bearing in mind the small amount of income in question?

Frankly, there’s no good reason the answer is not one or two. But you already know the answer is more than that, don’t you?

Ten? Try again.

Twenty? Keep going.

Surely not 50?

You’re still not close.

Did I hear you say 100 – you’re going for three digits now? Wow.

Still not there.

The answer, my fellow American tax victims, is 149.

Just take a moment to absorb that. A sub median-earning American taxpayer, engaged in simple business activities, has a 149 page tax return. And if he doesn’t get it right, his error is punishable. Of that 149, about 100 go to the Feds.

Completing 149 pages of tax forms/schedules/supporting statements is a lot of work. And I know exactly how much it is, because of that big invoice from the accountant that I already mentioned.

It’s $2000 of work – my aforementioned largest bill of the year. And it’s $2000 of work I in no way could have done myself.

I’m no high school drop-out. I have a first class degree in physics from one of the best universities in the world. I like numbers. I like logic. I like intellectual rigor. I even have a nerdy love of spreadsheets (which tells me, for example, exactly how much I spent on groceries this month five years ago ($173.41, as it happens. I’m low-maintenance)).

But I could not reverse engineer those 149 pages of tax returns if my life depended on it. And I would defy anyone without a CPA qualification to be able to do so.

I have no complaint about my accountant, who provided very good service this year, but even he couldn’t get it right first time. As I type this article, I am awaiting “corrected” state returns (which are no shorter).

Moreover, as any small businessman knows, my accountant can only generate those 149 pages of returns after I have compiled all the necessary numbers and data in neat spreadsheets, nicely itemized and comprehensively annotated (two or three days’ work, right there, perhaps?). I know for sure that most tax payers are not as proficient with Excel as I am – so my accountants have an easy time of it with me. (He even told me so.)

Here’s the reality of the American tax system for modestly earning individuals who run small businesses:

My government has put me in a position where I must either pay 9% of my income to a professional just to enable me to avoid punishment, asset garnishment and even imprisonment. Supposedly, I can “do my own taxes”, but that is a joke. No one who has not gone to school for it could accurately complete those 149 pages with any honest degree of confidence – and I don’t care what software he’s using. Moreover, even if it were do-able, the time taken to learn how to do it and then do it properly would be measured in weeks, not hours. And we don’t get to invoice the IRS for our time.

Look in wonder, America, at the most regressive aspect of any taxation system in the world – its utter complexity to the point of Kafkaesque absurdity. And if you think it must be like that, literally a few days ago, the British chancellor announced the abolition of the annual tax return in the United Kingdom.

Can anyone, conservative or progressive, justify the need for self-employed individual to spend 9 percent of his income just to remain a free citizen in good standing or, should he not have the money to spare, to go to school to navigate his way through whichever of the 74,000 pages of the tax code apply to him?

If the tax code were sufficiently sensible that I could do my own taxes (which, as someone who likes money, spreadsheets and math, I’d be very happy to do), I could have paid the Feds double my actual tax bill – and still have been a thousand dollars better off on the money I’d have saved on tax preparation. Relative to the current situation, both I and the country would have been significantly better off.

It is established Constitutional Law (by Supreme Court precedent), basic morality and simple common sense that the government may not place an undue burden on a fundamental right – such as the right to stay out of prison even if one doesn’t have an accounting degree and the right not be forced to expend one’s property on anything other than actual taxes owed.

To quantify the absurdity, here’s a comparison I’ve never seen made before.

In the course of a year, my assets and non-business activities generate nine times as much tax (in the form chiefly of property taxes and sales taxes), as my end-of-year check to the IRS. The cost to me of compliance on that first nine-tenths of my tax burden is zero, while the cost to me of compliance with the other one tenth is about double the amount I actually owe.

You really can’t make it up.

Let me offer these thoughts, then, not as an article, but as an open letter to our government, the IRS and any Constitutional attorneys out there.

To the government, I am notifying you of the undue burden that you are placing on law-abiding citizens whose income, it happens, is deemed by recent legislation to be sufficiently modest that it wishes to subsidize my healthcare: the cost of this undue burden more than cancels out all such subsidies.

To the IRS, I ask this question. What will you do if I save my $2000 in preparation fees, pay you 50% more than I did this year, and I don’t complete those forms? A bonus to me of doing this would be that I don’t have to lie any more. Because we all know that you are forcing me to lie when I sign that paper saying “I declare that I have examined a copy of my electronic individual income tax return and accompanying schedules and statements for the tax year ending December 31, 2014, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete.”

… The real truth is that, “to the best of my knowledge and belief”, no person who is not trained, certified and engaged in daily work in the business of tax preparation, could possibly expect that he could generate a correct 149 pages of this stuff – regardless of how well he tried. And, moreover, the fact that he cannot is exactly why he can’t be expected to vouch for the work of the accountants whom he’d not have to hire if he did understand what on earth was going on in the first place.

Finally, and most importantly – to any Constitutional attorney: I can’t pay you (see above), but I have a tax return that will make your eyes bleed. Get me in front of a jury or, better yet, the Supreme Court, and let us ask 12 or nine reasonable people if the burden of completing this particular tax return – a requirement I must meet to retain my liberty and my property – is reasonable or not. And if just one of the jury or bench believes that a reasonably educated person could accurately complete my tax return in a reasonable period, I’ll be happily defeated – as long as he shows me how.

Otherwise, use me as a legal guinea pig to pull down this entire rotten structure that turns good people into unwilling law breakers or liars of both, reserving its very worst for those of us on modest means who wish to rise in the spirit of the American Dream, which our government and its agents seem all too willing to crush.

Our tax code is so complex that people our government deems too poor to buy their own health insurance must fork over nearly a tenth of their income just to comply with it. I cannot be the only one.
If I could reasonably compute my own tax – and it’s a matter of common law, surely, that a typical citizen must reasonably be able to meet all impositions of the state by his own means – I’d willingly pay double my current income tax because of all the money I’d save on compliance: I’d save enough to visit my family in England twice in a year; I’d save almost my entire year’s grocery bill; I’d save the cost of the roof over my head for two months.

I can afford my tax bill. I just cannot afford to calculate it. And as you can see from my short list, the complexity of this calculation has a very real impact on my life.

This complexity of our Federal tax system is crushingly regressive; it is impoverishing, and it is morally indefensible.

Simplifying the tax code would be simply the most immediately effective, progressive and moral low-hanging fruit Congress could pick. More importantly, the Constitutional requirement of not attaching undue burdens to our fundamental rights – whose protection, according to our Declaration of Independence, is the very justification of the existence of the state – legally and morally demands it.

All Mainstream Media Must Publish the Hebdo Cartoons

To all those media outlets who have convinced themselves that they don’t need to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in reporting the recent events in Paris: you are profoundly wrong.

Your raison d’etre is to present news. The Hebdo cartoons are a natural part of the story of the murders in Paris. To assert that a description of an image is anything like the image, itself, is a rationalization of cowardice. The only reason to “describe images” without publishing them is fear of the consequences of publishing.

charlie hebdo1

The official reason offered by many Western media outlets for not showing us the images that have at least in part provided the excuse for three fanatics to murder is “so as not to cause offense”.

First, you can’t cause offense. Offense is always taken, never given. Western society depends on that – on responsibility for one’s emotions, and if not for one’s emotions, then for what one does with one’s emotions. Many of us get offended on a weekly basis. The “right” not to be offended is not a right at all. Rather it can only ever be, by definition, a claim made to limit the rights of others.

Some people and organizations do indeed get-off on causing offense for attention or for its own sake. I have little time for such behavior. Indeed, all my political work is geared to mutual respect and finding common ground.

But that is not at issue here. Any sane person can see that the presentation of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in stories about the murders in Paris is a very natural and legitimate part of telling the story of those murders – a purpose that is entirely and necessarily consistent with the much greater and deeply necessary purpose of the media in a civilized society.

charlie hebdo2

This is all very basic stuff. Murders have been committed because (among other reasons) the murderers dislike the way their victims exercised their freedom of expression. Some media organizations whose existence depends on that freedom, and that have the greatest responsibility to defend it (because they exercise that right every day), are giving it up without a fight. That responsibility to defend it is a responsibility to self-interest, let alone to the free society that allows them to operate, and to the people from whom they gain their revenues.

If these mainstream media outlets have adopted “not causing offense” as a new standard for editorializing, then I hereby inform them that I – and millions like me – choose (because it is always a choice) to be deeply offended by much of the mainstream media’s credulous reporting of our own government’s actions – especially in foreign policy, military and civil rights matters – since 9/11.

I don’t expect them to be very bothered by that, of course, because it’s not the causing of offense that concerns them – and all editors know as much from a moment’s introspection. They’re not concerned by my taking offense because I, being a civilized human being whose mind has not been ossified by religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, am not going to use my offense as an excuse for violence against them.

Everyone who’s working at these media outlets realizes that one goal of the attacks in Paris is to render the Western press unfree, or to punish it for exercising its freedom (which is exactly the same thing). Now, by definition, only the media, and those who work in the media, can decide whether to give the attackers what they are demanding – a veto by one group on everyone else’s freedom of expression.

A media executive might protest that his job is not to take political, cultural or religions sides … that the presentation of information doesn’t entail direct engagement in such controversy. And that is correct … and that is why the editors should do their job without fear or favor, which is to tell the story in full. It’s by not publishing those cartoons, therefore, that media outlets are acting politically and morally – and they are doing it for the wrong side.

When George Bush famously said, “either you are with us or you’re with the terrorists”, he was profoundly wrong. At that time, the media collectively failed us miserably by promoting the fear-driven propaganda that resulted in the deaths of many American servicemen, many more innocent foreigners, and the take-down by our government of the very rights that the terrorists in Paris would also like to see taken down as they establish their silly caliphate.

But now if you’re in the media, there is a clear sense in which “either you are for freedom of the press, or you are with the terrorists” – because you can’t be for freedom of the press if you would prefer not to do the proper job of the press so as to avoid the possible consequences of defending press freedom by exercising it.

Think about that. If you’re an editor who’s not publishing those cartoons today, you’re not just failing to defend press freedom, you’re acting against a free press because you’re giving up your job to tell the whole story at the very time when the story is about the freedom on which your job depends.

That is not a neutral position.

As Sartre said, “What is not possible is not to choose”.

This is not about multiculturalism or cultural sensitivity. It is not about imposing images of a prophet on people who don’t want to see them. My deep sensitivity and respect for the values and lives of Muslims around the world, many whose lives have been destroyed by Western policies that I oppose, in no way requires me to engage in a wholesale suppression and denial of my own values – which include media that tell the truth without knowing distortion by either falsity or omission.

Ironically, perhaps, in the next few days, the media’s actions will speak louder than their words. And to turn to another idiom, a picture is worth a thousand of those. Right now, then, one cartoon is worth even more than that – but, crucially, no cartoon is worth an order of magnitude more.

Much of the American media, in particular, spent many years rather uncritically providing platforms for people who have asserted that defense of our freedom requires killing innocent Muslims abroad – while legislatively compromising away those very values that we were purportedly defending… without any of the sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities (let alone lives) that they have found over a few images.

The events in Paris have shed light on something that has always been true: that the fight to maintain our liberties can ultimately only be won or lost in the minds of the people whose liberties they are. They are won or lost whenever people choose to preserve those liberties by exercising them even when doing so feels risky, or when, alternatively, people decide not to exercise them because they are less important than avoiding discomfort.

So media, are you with us, the People, and our freedom of speech – which is also yours, or are you with the terrorists? Because if you will not do your job at this time when your freedom even to be the media is attacked – then what the heck are you for?

And please don’t come back with the tired trope about protecting your employees. If they don’t like the fact that their organization is choosing to do the right thing, rather than fall into gross hypocrisy, then they can exercise another beautiful freedom … the freedom to get a job that suits them better.

Nous Sommes Charlie: Offence is Never Given – Only Taken

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are like all other rights: to keep them you have to exercise them – and sometimes that takes courage and involves risk. We should be profoundly grateful to those who help keep that right for us by exercising it.

And today, our thoughts are with our French friends – and especially with the families and friends of those who have been directly attacked for using that most important of freedoms – freedom of speech – to stimulate our use of another – freedom of thought.

And we don’t lose sight of the fact that we must stop ceding the moral high-ground in fighting against such an attack on liberty through a foreign policy that makes terrorists by killing innocents. Nor do we forget the impingement on the same liberty by our own politicians.

Offense is Always Taken – Never Given… but if it can be given, it is given by physical aggression against innocent people.

Two Robins Wish You a Very Happy Christmas

I arrived in England yesterday from my home in the States and the jet-lag had the better of me this morning by 4.45 am.

Dad, whom I have traveled across the Atlantic to spend Christmas with, is still in bed as I write this, and I am sitting alone on his couch in a silent house.

Nevertheless, I have already received my biggest Christmas greeting of the day. A little bird came to give it to me.

Creeping around Dad’s house with my first cup of tea in hand, so as not to wake anyone, I wondered over to the living room window to see the dawn – something my body clock prevents me from doing when I am not jet-lagged. Peering out, I saw in the little garden below me a rather stereotypical bird house. Perched on top of it, right there on the front of the roof of the box, was a robin – the very symbol of an English Christmas.

I smiled at the coincidence of it; the simplicity of it; the Christmassyness of it. It was as if the universe had just conspired to make me a Christmas card in the three dimensions of reality.

Of course, the little robin wasn’t there to deliver to me a Christmas greeting. After all, he didn’t know I was going to look out of the window right then. And he couldn’t – because he’s a robin.

People often say that we “come into the world”. But we don’t: we come out of it. As the wonderful Alan Watts used to say, just as an apple tree “apples”, so the universe “peoples”. It also “robins” and, I’m pleased to note, it also “Robins”, for Robin happens to be my name.

Since Isaac Newton, it has been fashionable to believe that consciousness is an “emergent property” of physical stuff, which might fancifully be expressed as the idea that consciousness is fundamentally a very complicated rock. But that idea is a noetic and cultural fashion: it’s not scientific as much as it is scientistic.

As much as I love the intellectual sincerity and commitment to empiricism of people like Richard Dawkins, who would essentially agree with that view, I don’t hold to it. More like most people throughout most of history and most of the world, I suspect the opposite is closer to the truth: that a rock is a very simple form of consciousness – which enables me to wonder if the two robins of my story – the big Robin (me), and the little Robin (my Yuletide avian acquaintance) – are expressions of the Divine, or in Christian terms, beings “made in God’s image”. It also allows me to conceive of Love as fundamentally real, and fundamentally meaningful, rather than just a sensation that arises from a cosmic accident involving lots of particles.

But why? Why would the Divine express Itself in Robins and robins and everything else in the world? Because – and here’s another one of my working hypotheses – that is the only way It can experience what It knows Itself to be. And the most important aspect of Its nature is Love. There’s more to it than that, of course, but on a Christmas Day spent with family and with thoughts of loved ones elsewhere, that seems the aspect of All That Is that is worth focusing on.

Whatever your metaphysical disposition may be, this is for sure: you cannot fully understand one part of our universe without knowing all of it. To explain completely everything there is to know about a single grain of sand would take in all the laws of nature and “initial conditions” of the universe, if there are any. And to specify them would be (with allowances for the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics,) to explain the whole universe. William Blake wasn’t being fanciful when he wrote of seeing “a world in a grain of sand”.

Whether you prefer rock-as-crude-consciousness or universe-in-a-grain-of-sand, you’re still left with We Are All One, and little robin and big Robin as just two fluctuations of the same ultimate reality –what All-That-Is is doing and here and now. Little robin and I are fundamentally united.

I have bookshelves full of New Testament history and biblical exegesis. I was rather preoccupied with it for years as a young adult. And the traditional Christmas story that has been handed down in Christmas sermons in institutions of organized religion is, in my humble opinion (and to be as kind as I can possibly be), extremely incomplete and misrepresented. But the bigger story – indeed, the universe-sized story – that Love is ultimate reality and manifests in physical form, has to my mind, a lot more going for it. And for what it’s worth, I type that as someone academically trained in the physical sciences and a philosophy of science.

If it is the case that the little robin and I are ultimately the same thing – fluctuations of an underlying All That Is – then I have to wonder if there is any way I could have been standing at my Dad’s window a few hours ago without the little robin’s looking back at me from that bird house.

Now I am being more fanciful than Blake, perhaps, but whatever the truth of all that, I saw a robin on Christmas morning and he jolted me into the here and now and a direct of experience of peacefulness and oneness and Love. And I am pretty sure if it weren’t Christmas day, and it wasn’t a robin, the symbol of Christmas, he wouldn’t have done that.

So whether he intended it or not, the little robin brought me, in a very deep sense, my Christmas greeting this morning.

And since it’s Christmas Day, which is a rather good day for dwelling on things Divine and fanciful (for some of you, they will be the same thing, and for others they certainly won’t be), I’ll allow myself the thought that just because the little robin didn’t know he was bringing me a Christmas message of peace of Love doesn’t necessarily mean that All That Is didn’t put him there for that very purpose.

So from that robin, through this Robin, to all of you, my readers – whether you believe yourself to be a very complicated machine or a rather limited expression of the Divine – I wish you very much Love and a truly happy Christmas.Robin Card

A Primer on Compromise for Libertarians

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” – Mark 3:25
“Politics at its purest is philosophy in action” – Margaret Thatcher
“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” – Thomas Jefferson

compromise is should

Whereas to many outside the liberty movement, including the mainstream media, politicians like Rand Paul seem quite libertarian, many Americans who actually call themselves “libertarians” seem to despise Rand Paul for not being libertarian enough in various areas, and so they call him a “neo-con” or a “shill” or similar.

To other libertarians, Rand Paul is exciting not only because he’s standing up for important pro-liberty and pro-Constitutional positions but also because he’s getting significant parts of the libertarian message into the mainstream, and doing it in a way that isn’t making everyone roll their eyes and marginalize him as some kind of a kook. The latter may be his most important work because culture drives politics, and cultural change is what makes political change stick.

Among the latter subset of liberty-lovers, there is some frustration in the perception that as a movement, we actively refuse to make the best of every opportunity (and goodness knows we have so few of them) to move the dials of the cultural and political mainstream toward liberty.

Like it or not, it is almost impossible to discuss political effectiveness without an understanding of the nature of compromise. Speaking as an insider of the liberty movement, I believe we have a particularly uncomfortable relationship with it, which we must examine if we are going to cease to be political outsiders.

A good way in to the topic is to consider the sentiment, felt by so many of us who realize that both sides of the political duopoly (or monopoly disguised as a duopoly) are responsible for the destruction of our liberty: “I’m sick of supporting the lesser of two evils.”

What does that really mean? For a libertarian, liberty is the direction of the Good, and tyranny is the direction of evil. In a complex society of competing interests, and especially in politics, you almost never get to move directly toward where you want to go (your version of the Good). Imagine it on a diagram. Draw a line from where we are to where we want to be: we are moving in the right direction when we move not more than 90 degrees from the direction of that line.

On our political spectrum of evil (tyranny) to good (liberty) stand those who would actually make things worse than they now are. They want more Patriot Act, more state killing without due process, more NDAA, more curtailments of speech, more invasions of privacy, more welfarism – especially corporate , and more militarism. In 2012, Romney and Obama both fitted that description. In other words, they stood between where we are and the “evil” end of our spectrum. To support either was to move more than 90 degrees away from the line to the good that we are seeking to follow.

And indeed, if you thought one was less bad than the other, then you could accurately call him the “lesser of two evils”.

I wonder if, though, in its passion, the liberty movement sometimes mistakes the lesser of two goods for an evil? For consider another situation. Consider two imperfect candidates (the word “imperfect” is redundant, of course: people are not perfect). One that stands between where we are as a nation and the Good (liberty) cannot be said to be “the lesser of two evils”. At worst, he is the “lesser of two Goods” – since should he take office, we’d have moved in the direction we are seeking to go, even if not as far as we would wish, and even if not along that direct line to the Good.

Let’s say you like the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson on nearly everything; you like the Libertarian Party because it’s unapologetically libertarian. And let’s say you like Rand on civil rights and due process, but think he’s as bad as Obama on everything else. (I don’t think this is reasonable, but there are plenty of Libertarians who say this, so let’s go with it for the sake of argument.)

If that’s what you think, then don’t call Rand the lesser of two evils. Call him the lesser of two Goods. If you don’t actively support Rand because you have a more libertarian alternative, that is great, but take great care before standing against those who support him – for one simple reason. If he were running the country, in important respects, we’d have shifted closer to your ultimate destination … not just politically, but, more importantly, because one of the greatest media platforms in the land would be in the control of someone who promotes – and normalizes – many libertarian ideas, rather than in the hands of someone who promotes – and normalizes – statist ones.

“That’s all very well”, say some libertarians, “but even if I like him on some issues, look at how he’s sold out on others, and on his endorsements”. This is worth considering because someone’s consistency speaks to their integrity and you can only really tell the value of someone’s principles when you see the price he’s prepared to pay to defend them.

To stick with Rand Paul as an example, when he endorsed Romney in 2012, I felt physically sick for most of the day. I campaigned against Romney fervently – as fervently as I campaigned against Obama, and as fervently as I had campaigned for Ron Paul. I did so out of principle. Which begs the question, does that mean that Rand’s endorsement of Romney necessarily violated the principles on which my campaigning against Romney was based – or worse, was an act of selling out? Put simply, how could a person who campaigned against Romney on principle support a man on the same principle, who campaigned for him Romney?

When Rand ran for Senate in Kentucky, he made a deal to gain the support of the Republican party, which he calculated he needed to be able to win the Senate seat, if and only if he supported the eventual presidential nominee of the party in 2012. So in 2012, Rand kept his word. What did he get for keeping his word and doing that (literally) nauseating thing of endorsing Romney? Simply, he got the platform that has enabled everything he has done since. Now we might say, “but he didn’t have to: he could have won in KY without selling out”. Perhaps. But that is a hypothetical and necessarily uncertain. Rand had to make an actual decision to maximize his capacity to achieve a specific purpose. What we know is that he made that decision for a reason and he got the result he played for.

So that endorsement, when seen in its full context, has moved the dial toward liberty inasmuch as Rand has, since making it, stood against the NSA, against drone killing of Americans without trial, against militarization of the police, against unconstitutional declaration of war, and all the other things Rand and his staff have stood for since he’s been in the US Senate. Did the endorsement make me sick? Absolutely. Does that mean I stand in judgment against of it from a libertarian position? Based on the analysis above, of whether the net effect of his actions was to nudge the culture toward liberty or away from it, I cannot – because principles are made valuable when they are acted upon.

As the liberty movement comes of age, it will have to understand that, whereas some endorsements and other political moves are made purely out of principle, some are made – and must be made – strategically to better place a principled politician to act on his principles. Usually, those of us on the outside of the game cannot see, or even guess, the factors that a politician must consider in the strategic calculation at the time he must make it – and we cannot see the outcome until much later.

When Rand endorsed McConnell a few months ago, what was the calculation then? More libertarians were sickened. McConnell is a partisan, after all – and a partisan man of a party that has undoubtedly promulgated anti-libertarian after anti-libertarian policy. Was Rand’s endorsement of him a compromise of principle or a means to gain something that will enable him to get support for a practical change in the direction of some principle in the future?

A fair answer must consider this: is it better to make an unprincipled declaration to be able to make positive principled change – or better to make only principled declarations and thereby be excluded from being able to make that principled change?

Even more important is this question: is it better to go along with a bad state of affairs when you believe that your overt support cannot make it worse if it enables you subsequently to do good – or is it better to state one’s opposition to that current state of affairs from the get-go but in so doing reduce your chance of being able to put your principles into practice and change it with great effect later?

Clearly, good and principled people can and do answer both of those questions differently. But the differences in answers are not necessarily themselves differences of principle: they are just as likely to follow from differences of beliefs about method or strategy.

All this means that a political act cannot be judged in isolation from the context in which it is made – both situational, and personal. When it comes to the horse-trading of politics, we, the public, are very far removed from the game. We have no idea, say, of what was given or taken for that endorsement of McConnell. Does the fact that McConnell’s victory speech stakes out for the first time ever (?) a non-interventionist foreign policy indicate that Rand’s strategic concessions are bringing concessions from the Republican party on philosophy? I don’t know, but if so, great – because that’s exactly how you want to make those trades: make concessions that make nothing worse, to win concessions on that actually make things better. (Consider the political equivalent of exchanging Federal Reserve Notes for gold.)

But we still haven’t gotten to the most radical challenge of political compromise for principled citizens: we are often too quick to label as “compromises of principle” decisions that not only aren’t compromises of principle at all, but are their very opposite – principled compromises. For example, if a statement or endorsement is not going to actually make a practical difference to anyone’s liberty in the short-run, but has a significant chance of enabling the person who makes it make a material difference to our liberty in the long-run, then at the level of principle, the statement or endorsement is not a compromise at all: it is actually principled act inasmuch as it is a step toward the practical manifestation of principle.

While the unapologetic statement of principles is a critical component of cultural and political change, principles that never become more than statements are worthless. Libertarians have been purely stating their principles for a long time – and look at where we are. Let’s at least allow that playing to win is a reasonable approach for a libertarian and/or Constitutionalist politician who wants to be in a position where his principles can have a practical and long-lasting impact.

Winning means being in the game. It also means collecting enough good cards throughout the game to be able to play a strong hand for liberty when the opportunity to make actual change arises.
If you can’t stomach that game, then don’t play it. But if you are of the “no good can come of politics” mindset, please be careful of taking a position whose logical consequence is that all who fight for liberty within the political process are irredeemably compromised – for that position is denied by history time and time again. Throughout a thousand years of Anglo history, the established political process, with all its flaws, has been the arena in which the hard-fought improvements in liberty, won by the People, moved first in the culture, have been secured for future generations. In times and places where it hasn’t been, change has typically been violent (think of the Russian revolution, or the French revolution), and less successful in securing liberty at all.

Indeed, fighting for liberty “in the system” vs. “outside the system” is an entirely false dichotomy: history and common sense both say that when real society-wide change happens, it reflects attitudinal changes outside of politics that are eventually realized in the political establishment.

One of my favorite examples is that of Thomas Clarkson, a student of my alma mater, who in 1786 wrote a thesis on the “slavery and commerce of the human species”. He spent two years travelling on a horse around England, interviewing people, collecting information, sharing information, talking about the issue of slavery, publishing engravings of instruments used on slave ships etc. He wrote another tract in 1788, “Essay on the Impolicy of the African Slave Trade”. There were myriad currents and reasons that explain the shift in Britain against slavery, some to do with the economics of empire, others to do with the loss of the American colonies. But none of that marked the actual beginning of the end of the slave trade: that came because of a principled politician, but a politician nonetheless, called William Wilberforce, who directly incorporated Clarkson’s work in a speech in Parliament in 1789 that resulted in the vote to end slavery. It may not have been able to have been done without Clarkson. But it certainly could not have been done without Wilberforce – or someone else playing the game of politics, as committed as he was to advance the one libertarian issue the country was ready for, compromising as necessary as he, and his supporters, went.

I campaigned against Romney for president, on principle. The organization with which I am associated campaigned against him fervently, supporting Gary Johnson, also on principle. But I don’t get to sit in judgment of Rand on principle – because my context was not, and is not, his. Rand was operating in a world where such a compromise may enable him to do more for liberty than I can do. In other words, a compromise that for me would definitely have been one of principle, for him may, have been just methodological.

That the same principle can result in different decisions in different contexts has profound implications for political strategy. Once we admit that we never can fully know the context in which others operate in, the humility gained should help us not divide our small libertarian house against itself.

I wonder if there are a few Libertarian Party supporters, or Independents, who are reading this, and caring about liberty as I do, can’t imagine voting for Rand for president if Gary Johnson was also running. Just as I endorsed Johnson in 2012, I’d be delighted to see him run again in 2016. But remember this. If Johnson becomes the Libertarian nominee for president in 2016, and there is every sign that he shall, it will be because of the compromise he made to run and win as a Republican for Governor of New Mexico, in which capacity he did more for liberty – and especially economic liberty – in his state than any Libertarian or unaffiliated governor has ever done.

That’s unfair because there hasn’t been a Libertarian or unaffiliated Governor? Well, exactly.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that soon, libertarians and Constitutionalists may have the opportunity in a Presidential election to choose between a very small chance of moving the country a long way toward liberty (say by a vote for a Libertarian Johnson for President) or a much larger chance of moving it toward liberty but less far (say by a vote for a Republican Rand for President). Good libertarians can make that call differently, but none can claim without arrogance that those who decide differently are choosing the lesser of two evils: in this case, they’ll be deciding between two goods. That is a fundamentally different thing, especially when you consider that even the lesser of two goods on paper might become the greater of the two if it is better placed to do the Good it wants to do.

This is emphatically not an article written to endorse Rand Paul or Johnson or any other politician. Rather, it is a plea for libertarians who put more weight on moving the dial toward liberty at all and libertarians who put more weight on the need to turn the dial a long way, to recognize that we are not opponents. It’s the very fact that each of us is using liberty as the primary metric for choosing whom to support – that, in other words, we are all seeking to move to the Good – that puts us on the same side.

Of course, there are those who just hate all parties and the electoral process, on principle. And that is a perfectly defensible position too. But the problem is the same, because the measure of Good is not just what you stand for; it’s what you deliver. (That is a truth that all libertarians see clearly when it comes to Republicans who talk about small government and individual rights and deliver none of it, or even its opposite. Consistency demands we apply it to ourselves.)

I, too, am a purist by instinct. At Thomas Clarkson’s university, I studied physics and the philosophy of science. For purists, I recommend these subjects heartily.

But now I’m doing politics – and political purism, alas, is a contradiction in terms.

On Immigration, Obama Redefines Amnesty, Oppression, and the Law

The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores… there must be one set of rules for everybody

– Al Sharpton

In his recent speech on immigration, Obama told us that, “mass deportation is contrary to our character”.

Embracing his new standard for executive action, I have a few questions.

If mass deportations are against our character, is locking up 1% of Americans – disproportionately black men – for hurting no one, consistent with our character? No, so what are you doing about the war on drugs, Mr. President?

If mass deportations are against our character, is recording the most intimate communications of our people consistent with our character? No, so what are you doing about the NDAA, the NSA, and the Patriot Act, Mr. President?

If mass deportations are against our character, is the killing of innocent people in foreign countries, and labeling them energy combatants just because they are adult males, so that we do not have to take moral responsibility for what we are doing – is all of that consistent with our character? No, so what are you doing about the drones and the killing of innocent people in undeclared wars, Mr. President?

Yet, the irony of Obama’s statement about our national character was trumped entirely by his quoting scripture: “We shall not oppress a stranger”.

Whatever is the best way forward on immigration – and I take no stand on amnesty by asking this – are we really going to equate extreme discomfort with rewarding law-breakers with oppression? That is insulting, I am sure, to many Americans. Enforcing reasonable laws concerning borders – which, at least in our century, are part of the basic identity of a country – is not really oppression, is it? Rather, it’s the natural democratic inclination of a people: the means by which the demos (people) geographically delimits the exercise of its kratos (power). Isn’t it a kind of common sense, evident in every single country in the world?

Let me help my President out with the meaning of the word, “oppression”. Locking people up for choosing what they ingest is oppression. Come to think of it, locking people up for any victimless crime is oppression. Seizing the property of people who have not been found guilty of crime is oppression. Killing innocent people in foreign countries with drones, when your country is not immediately and imminently threatened, is oppression. Giving secret state agencies the ability and permission secretly to read and watch the intimate communications of citizens is oppression.

Enough of English vocabulary. What about American immigration?

The current American legal immigration system is a Kafkaesque system with which I am, unfortunately, all too familiar. Several times going through the legal immigration process, I noted that it would have been easier for me as a legal immigrant to have just given up and become illegal. And if that sounds hyperbolic, realize that (based on data from a few years ago), two thirds of legal Mexican immigrants, were once here illegally – so the system has for a long time been telling would-be immigrants that one of the best ways to legal status in this country is to break the law. No illegal immigrant is to blame for that fact.

It took me more than five years and thousands and thousands of dollars – on top of all the taxes I paid along the way- to get a green card. Supporters of amnesty claim their plans are “fair” because they require the payment of taxes, a criminal background check, a fine, and “the going to the back of the line”. In other words, their proposal is that illegal immigrants should get exactly the same deal as a legal immigrant – but with the bonus that the fine will be less than the legal costs that most immigrants have to bear. And don’t think that legal immigrants have a significantly easier time during their journey to permanent residency. During the time it took me to get my greencard, contributing to the economy and paying my taxes all the time, on four occasions I had to make repeated applications, each with inches of paperwork, for permission to stay, under threat of having my legal status revoked and being immediately required to leave within a month or two. In terms of practical and emotional stability, it is no easier to be a legal immigrant for business in the USA than an illegal immigrant.

It seems that under Obama’s amnesty plan, I could have gotten my residency status, including the right to work with any employer, in less time and at much less cost than it took me to do it legally. Moreover, the fact that the illegal immigrant who shall benefit from amnesty will not receive citizenship is no detriment to the formerly illegal immigrant: unless expressly forbidden, this will be a step on the path to full citizenship, putting the illegal immigrant in the same position as the legal immigrant, against at less cost. As a legal immigrant, after the brutal five years of engagement with the legal immigration system to receive my greencard, I have to wait another five years before I can apply for citizenship. So the minimum time it takes a legal immigrant, here for business, to become a citizen is ten years. That’s the line to the back of which legal immigrants go.

The proposed normalization of status of those who have entered under the legal radar seems all the more inconsistent when one considers that we are actually killing people overseas because, Obama tells us, our national security is threatened. You always get more of what you incentivize, so shouldn’t this amnesty be part of a package that at least undoes the obvious incentive to more illegal immigration and enhances border security in a way that allows us to actually monitor who is entering our nation?

Those who are uncomfortable with rewarding illegal activity are not oppressors. They are genuinely concerned citizens, who feel that illegal immigration offends their basic sense of fairness, and they are scared because, if their country cannot even control its borders, with serious consequences in some border states, then what can it control?

This debate is not simply one of compassion vs. oppression. It is one of balancing compassion, fairness (justice) and the democratic right of citizens.

If, as Obama, seems to suggest, our country needs to take a sharp turn toward compassion – a turn that I would support fervently – then let’s do it. Let’s have “amnesty” for the innocent victims of American drones; for the men who, with a Federal conviction for a non-violent crime, lose years of their lives in a cell, only to come out and be unable to find work; for the families who’ve had their assets seized because they have violated some outrageous EPA rule, harming no one; for the victims of state surveillance who are suspected of no crime at all, and so on and so on.

And then, if as part of all of that, we implement this immigration amnesty – if the American people decide that is indeed true to our character – then let’s again be consistent by changing the immigration law so those who would come to America to work are incentivized to follow the rules, rather than break them.

And if you need help designing such a system, ask the one group of people in America who know the most about the immigration system but are listened to the least – the legal immigrants who know the rules because they played by them.

Perhaps Obama is right that this is about oppression, but not for the reason he thinks. The resistance he is meeting on this issue can be largely understood by realizing that many Americans feel oppressed – by a political class that is doing things to them, rather than for them. And immigration, because of the issues of fairness and control mentioned above, is just one area where that feeling is strong.

You see, Mr. President, creating a whole new legal status for millions of people is – by definition – a legislative act, and by legislating in an executive office, ignoring one of the most profound protections of the rights of all Americans, you are perpetrating a very serious oppression indeed.

Liberty Is the Politics of Love

You know you love someone when you want for them what they want for themselves.

The three little words that really convey this sentiment are not, “I love you “, which can mean all kinds of things to all kinds of people; rather they are, “As you wish”.

Love is kind, expansive, proactive, and fundamentally non-constraining. And although some of us may disagree on a positive definition of love, we can surely all agree about what it is not: restricting, compelling, imposing, or violating the right of another to pursue his own happiness and self-actualization. Those characteristics attach to something altogether incompatible with love – and that is Fear.

And it is evident that fear has also been the driver of our nation’s politics for many years.

In a divided nation, as partisans work to use the political system and the institutions of power to impose their worldview on those who disagree with them, could we develop a politics not of Fear or imposition, but of Love? What would it look like? What system or philosophy could possibly be Love, politicized?

The answer is the politics of Liberty. Liberty, like Love, says to its recipients, “As You Wish” or “I want for you what you want for yourself”. Liberty seeks to build a society in which people can express themselves most fully because they can express themselves most freely.

While this identity between Liberty and Love is for me the best argument for the former as a political philosophy, it poses serious challenges to those of us who are fighting for it.

As I discussed with the wonderful Jeffrey Tucker on two episodes of my Blue Republican Radio show, liberty that is not Loving is not true liberty. Even libertarianism, like all political philosophies, can become a dogma, purporting a principled basis but in practice chiefly concerned with proving its own rightness and imposing itself on unwilling recipients. Even libertarianism can be imposed without consent – but only if it is not loving, and fails to put people first.

Tucker calls the latter tendency “Brutalism”, after the architectural school that was associated with the Soviet ideology and era – for, like brutalist architecture, brutalist libertarianism refuses to make any concessions to the culture, history or aesthetics of the people who are supposed to benefit from it – a refusal it justifies by its own supposed functional rightness and an appeal to a neat system of ideas.

If true Liberty (“as you wish”) is the politics of Love (“as you wish”), then what does that tell those of us who seek to bring more of the former to our national politics? The power of this question follows from the fact that most human beings have a very deep and clear experiential understanding of Love.

Some of the specific qualities of love are so obviously those of Liberty that there is little that needs to be said about them. For example, both refuse to aggress against another. Neither seeks to constrain another, except in emergency situations, perhaps, when someone’s life is in immediate danger, unperceived by the endangered party.

But Love is more multi-faceted than that and, therefore, so is Liberty.

First of all, Love is inherently humble. If you love someone, then you want to know what makes them happy, so Love shuts up for long enough to hear. Love listens. It listens to the beloved and acts on what it hears. Love acknowledges that different people experience and express Love in different ways. Even when it hears from the beloved something that seems misguided, wrong or even unloving, it doesn’t assume its own superiority, acting in a way that rejects what it heard as valueless. That variation in experience and expression of Love among people is in no way inconsistent with Love as a universal – and perhaps the fundamental – human value.

Similarly, the politics of Liberty must understand that Liberty, itself – like Love – may mean different things to different people. And similarly, also, that variation in experience and expression of Liberty is in no way inconsistent with Liberty’s being a universal – and perhaps the fundamental – political value.

Love is concerned with consequences, seeking to improve itself and adjust when the actions of the Lover are received badly by the Beloved. In other words, it is concerned and it is responsive. That makes it empirical. There is not, and there cannot be a dogma or orthodoxy of Love. No formula. It remains rooted in the human experience. And so Love is not measured theoretically by some abstract or impersonal metric: rather, it is measured in large part by the experience of those at whom the Love is directed. Like Love, Liberty should never forget that its primary purpose and measure is the happiness of people – and the facilitation of our own and others’ self-realization.

Further, Love recognizes that it has various manifestations, flavors and expressions. It even allows that sometimes, in the hands of imperfect people, it can produce completely opposite results.

In our life, we may love different people differently, and we may love the same people differently as they change, or as we do. The lesson for those who pursue political liberty is the need for sensitivity to context: an appreciation that different societies, cultures and historical traditions may use liberty to build different institutions, emphasize different principles, evolve in one way or another. Libertarians benefit their cause by respecting what a culture has already built with it. Just at “Love” that is maintained against the will of the Beloved, and denies what the Beloved values, is not Love, so a form of “Liberty” that is rejected by the people for whom it is promoted, is not Liberty.

Love is unifying. Just as Lovers do not divide against each other because their Love brings them to opposing conclusions in a few areas of their lives, so libertarians should take care not to divide among themselves because various of their number experience Liberty in ways that lead them to opposite positions in certain specifics. If they do so, they lose the opportunity to build what otherwise they may have been able to build together.

Love is respectful. It allows people to follow their own path, even when the one who Loves can see the pain that the Beloved is about to choose. By definition, letting people follow their path is the essence of Liberty, too. Sometimes, sadly for the one who Loves, the Beloved is not ready to receive the Love that is offered to them. At such times, the person who Loves may have to wait patiently and calmly, remaining open to the Beloved but standing far enough back not to impose. Parents, for example, when they look at their children, have a particularly deep sense that the point of the human experience is the journey – not the finding of a “right destination” and sitting there. And when they see their kids follow a path that will result in pain or difficulty, they don’t put down their children for their idiocy or lack of moral rectitude, but allow them to make their mistakes, as they did, being ready to support them when the request comes.

Said John Ruskin in 1870,

One evening when I was yet in my nurse’s arm I wanted to touch the tea urn, which was boiling merrily. My nurse would have taken me away from the urn, but my mother said let him touch it. So I touched it. And that was my first lesson in liberty.

And it was entirely consistent with his mother’s love.

Love lets people follow their own path that not only for this metaphysical reason that life is a journey, but also for the practical reason that judging someone for a mistake that they cannot perceive and insisting that they comply with your judgment always backfires. It breeds resentment and alienation.

The lesson for libertarians? Part of loving liberty, and part of loving people – and those two things are the same thing – is to be respectful in the face of people’s mistakes and ill-informed opinions. In particular, recognize that part of being human is at times not to behave consistently with one’s values, or the facts on the ground. Treat the mistaken with respect because only then will they be open to you and your ideas when they are ready to hear them. Libertarians are imperfect and have plenty to learn too.

For most people, politics is the society-wide application of morality. These are the same people that when they love their children, or their husbands or their wives, don’t just express that love in allowing them their freedom and doing them no harm. Rather, they actively care. Ultimately, Love cares. People who love make compromises. They go out of their way to ensure that their interactions with their beloved are fair, not just in their own sense of fairness, but in a way that is judged as fair by their Beloved.

Similarly, those of us who seek to reclaim our political liberties might appreciate that some of our ideas, if implemented without consideration of the thoroughly illiberal circumstances of many of our countrymen whom they’d effect, could do immediate harm – not because the ideas are wrong, but because we would be disrupting an equilibrium, transitioning from one state of affairs to another, in a way that some people who did not chose the change with us, are not ready for. Many of those are people who have been disempowered by their dependence on the state. Think of the young adult who’s been brought up in a house where he’s never seen a parent work, but watched his one parent cash the welfare check to survive week after week. And others have been made promises by the state which – although they perhaps should not have been made – should not be broken without extremely good cause. Think of the old state worker who’s paid his payroll tax for a lifetime and has expected for a lifetime the huge pension he is contracted to receive from his nearly bankrupt state.

If Liberty is the politics of Love, then caring for such people during a transition to what is Good and free is as much a duty of the libertarian as the transition itself. It is the very society that we seek to change that, after all, put many of them in the positions they are in.

I am convinced that such a humble, respectful, empirical and actively caring posture of Love is the best way making the case for true individual liberty sufficiently congruent and compelling that it will change our nation. The Love = Liberty equation reminds us that to speak of Liberty is not to speak about a political system, but to speak about the state of the spirit, or the soul, or simply humanity, itself.

Love is not indifferent. Libertarians may be entirely right that civil society should take care of most of what the state does today. But if the rest of the country cannot see the movement care – cannot see that it is concerned to offer those civil solutions and alternatives inasmuch detail as it points out the faults of what we have – they will rightly believe that we’re more concerned with our philosophy than with people.

More concerned, in other words, with Liberty than Love.

And that would be a contradiction in terms.

Thirteen Years On, Our Choice Is Between America and Fear

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.”

America has surely been a great nation. But with true greatness — true power — comes self-confidence. What has happened to the America that the world used to love, even if in some quarters, grudgingly? It was always American self-confidence, justified largely by the examples we set regarding the treatment of our people and, during our grander historical moments, other people, on which our leadership depended. We were respected and powerful to the extent that other nations wanted to be like us — to have our prosperity, our freedom and our openness.

Thirteen years after 9/11, who have we become and who do we appear to be?

Minimizing risk at reasonable cost is the action of a sensible man or nation. Trying to eliminate all risk at any cost — not only financial, but also of principle — is the action of a man or nation that has become obsessive, compulsive, scared, or all three.

A few years ago, a friend of mine returned from a tour in Iraq as a proud American soldier to be required at Seattle airport to remove his shoes and equipment and be screened in the full fashion. The treatment shocked him as it was his first encounter with it and gave the lie to what he believed was his purpose a day earlier on the streets of Baghdad. Simply, how could he have been fighting over there to protect American liberties and values if they were being compromised away with so little fight at home?

The rest of us might ask how we so easily take away the Fourth Amendment right of that soldier, who a day earlier had put his life on the line for our Fourth Amendment (and other) right(s). We could ask a similar question about the First Amendment right of a Vietnam vet who is now a member of the tea party and is on a government agency list as a potential troublemaker for that reason, or, to push the point further, the inalienable right of the small businessman to pursue happiness and be treated equally with all others if his taxes are being used to bail out the bank that holds his mortgage but made poorer business decisions than he did.

The use of force — whether legal or military — always reveals a failure of some other, preferable means. If our sons and daughters in uniform are truly fighting for American freedoms, then those freedoms must all still exist at home uncompromised: inasmuch as we give them up at home, those men and women cannot be fighting to protect them, just as a matter of simple logic. Those of us who are fortunate enough to stay at home while our soldiers fight abroad, demean their service if we are too lazy not to speak out in opposition when our leaders compromise our Constitutional rights (always for our own good). And if, worse, we support those compromises out of our own fear, then we meet our soldiers’ bravery with our own cowardice.

In the last century, America led the free world by being the indispensable nation that others sought to emulate. But obsessive, scared nations, like obsessive scared people, are not models for anyone. America had led the free world by persuasion, based on a moral authority that came with the rights and prosperity that its legal and economic systems provided for its people. As our nation has ceased to trust in those rights and the system that has provided its prosperity, we have given up moral authority and persuasive power. That is why so many of our attempts to make ourselves safer will fail in their stated purpose.

Thirteen years on from 9/11, we can afford to take a deep breath. If anyone attacks us, we’ll still be able to respond with the greatest military force in the history of the world. If anyone should infiltrate us, we have some of the most honorable men and women and the best technological means to find them, and a justice system, older than the country itself, to deal with them. If we have a recession, we can take our losses and come back with the ingenuity and effort of an entrepreneurial and serious population. If another nation should grow its economy in leaps and bounds, we can say “good luck” to them, because we know we can do that too.

We call our country the land of the free and the home of the brave. But who, honestly, is feeling brave and free today?

I want America to get its swagger back — for the good of the world, let alone ourselves.

Becoming America again is a choice. We can swagger without shouting. We can carry the big stick and not be the first to use it. And we can instinctively say “Hell, no” each time anyone would take it upon themselves to take even one of our liberties away to make us “safer” or for any other purpose.

I wonder how many Americans would voluntarily fly in a commercial jet in which passengers did not go through today’s imaging scanners or the full pat-down at the airport, but went only through the security procedures that were in place on 10 Sept 2001? All passengers would know, along with any potential terrorist, that our flight is marginally less secure.

The risk of attack would, I suppose, be marginally higher than it would be on those planes whose passengers had gone through today’s procedures. But since it is probably nine times less than the risk of dying by suffocation in my own bed, I would take the odds to make the statement that as an American, following Franklin, I will not give up my liberty for my safety; that I want America back; that I would rather have the Bill of Rights than the extra 0.0001 percent reduction in the probability of being blown out of the sky. I bet there would be millions like me.

There is no such thing as certainty. If you don’t want uncertainty, then you don’t want life. Americans have always embraced uncertainty and taken life by the scruff of the neck. The real question is, “if I am to take a risk, for what is the risk worth taking?”

If the government is going to protect my life, it must first leave my life full of the liberties that make it worth protecting. And in the USA, when those two things are in tension (and they rarely are, despite what we are told), it should be up to the individual to decide on the balance.

If we so choose, we have the power to make the last 13 years of fear, wars, invasions of privacy, bailouts etc. the exception to the rule of American history, rather than the new normal. It would be the choice to be changed by not what comes at us but what comes from us.

9/11 was a historically unprecedented shock and we acted accordingly. We were shaken. No shame in that. But a decade or so later, we can take stock at what we have collectively done to our great nation and determine whether it has served us and will serve our children. We may disagree on what we find but I’d wager that many will say that we have compromised away more of our own identity than any terrorist attack ever did take or ever could take.

The terrorists took over 3,000 lives. The loss was severe; we should learn its lessons of sensible precaution and humility. Each one of those lost souls was — is — an infinity, and we should never forget them. It goes without saying that the relevant agencies should be fully resourced to protect us, and their work supported – right up to the point that America is in danger of no longer being American.

Yet, fewer lives were taken on 9/11 than are lost in one month on American roads. Everything else that we may have lost since then, we have consented to lose.

In fear and shock, we may have given the terrorists more of what they really wanted, by making ourselves poorer in both treasure and liberty.

Bin Laden said,

“All we have to do is send two mujaheddin … to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.”

While some of the expenditures of treasure may have been wise, were all of those of liberty, too?

To remain the land of the free and the home of the brave, let us actively choose to be America again. Indeed, to honor the memories of our countrymen lost on 9/11, we must choose to become more truly American than we have ever been.

How will we know when we’ve done that? At the very least, we will have more civil liberties than we did on 10 Sept 2001 — not fewer; and we will be less frightened — not more.

God bless America, and all who lost kin or kith on Sept. 11, 2001.

No Sex Please: We’re Californian

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.

This bill seeks to change the perfectly moral and behaviorally natural “no means no” standard of consent to sexual activity into “everything except an explicitly verbalized “yes” (along with the acquisition of positive evidence of the same that can be later presented just in case you are ever accused of anything untoward), means “no”.

Let us be absolutely clear what such a rule does and does not do. It does not require that sex always be consensual. That is already the law and the policy of any sane institution. Rather, this bill seeks to make most heretofore consensual sexual activity between adults punishable by requiring a specific form of consent – explicit agreement to a specific request.

Most consensual sexual activity between normal people does not involve the kind of explicit, subsequently provable statement of consent, that this bill demands. Sex usually happens between people who trust each other and – precisely because they know each other well enough to engage in sexual activity – wouldn’t wish to receive or provide such encounter-specific and explicit consent to continue with what to both parties is natural behavior – behavior which, some would say, is often most fulfilling when engaged in with just that trust, naturalness and spontaneity.

The Californian bill would make the majority of such normal encounters punishable. Avoidance of punishment would require either a) refraining from normal (consensual) sexual activity or b) engaging in positive behavior that is mandated by the rule. Both are affronts to basic human rights.

Moreover, the California bill states that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship do(es) not imply consent. It also specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

Seriously? It is of course true that “a current relationship or prior sex doesn’t imply consent” per se, but “a current relationship or prior sex” most certainly does bear on what does imply consent. Consider an ongoing sexual relationship. Does explicit consent have to be given for the 200th sexual encounter between the couple? And if so, how should it be recorded? That there is clear implied ongoing consent of a kind that stands behind most sexual encounters among human beings is not a prescriptive statement or a normative one: it’s just a recognition of reality. California is thus making normal sexual encounters – of which the sexual act is the culmination – punishable.

Of course, relationships can end and the contextual element of consent can thereby be changed. But consider a relationship that ends acrimoniously. By California’s new bill, since the man cannot provide proof of explicit consent for that last sexual encounter, he has, a priori committed an offense if the woman seeks to declare that an offense was committed. He is, in other words, guilty until he can prove himself innocent. “Slippery slope” does not even come close.

Were this rule to be generalized beyond California’s educational institutions, then most men who’ve ever engaged in sex would be deemed guilty of having engaged in non-consensual sex. Of course that is absurd: all they would really have been guilty of is failing to engage in a mandated form of speech.

For what it’s worth (and it is worth a great deal), the mandating of speech or behavior is against all premises of common law and the healthiest norms of a genuinely free society. And it may even be against the first amendment: even if California’s bill doesn’t force specific words to be said before sex, it nevertheless does force certain behaviors or speech that is designed to elicit a certain response.

Defenders of such a rule might argue only that nothing is mandated because no one is forced to have sex. That would, of course, be to miss the point entirely, but let’s address it for completeness: if someone is willing to have consensual sex with me, then we have a natural right as human beings to engage in that activity, regardless of how we have expressed our willingness to do so. No public institution can impinge on that – or any other – natural right.

Let us generalize away from sex to focus on the principles at stake here.

If you were to say to me that I may not perform any other activity unless I communicate something to someone in a certain way, then you would not be protecting anyone from the outcome of that activity: you would be merely removing my freedom to engage in it with the positive purpose of controlling my communication. You would be preventing me from exercising a natural right, from being a normal human being, going about my business without harming others. This is exactly what happens in prison: which operates by firstly removing a natural freedom (to move freely, for example), and then requiring the incarcerated person to earn that right back in limited fashion as a privilege by performing positive, specified activities. I truly don’t wish to be over-dramatic or reactionary, and obviously the degree of infringement of freedom caused by California’s bill is not quantitatively comparable to that caused by imprisonment, but the principle must be starkly seen.

And what do we get for this basic violation of natural rights? Will California’s bill prevent campus rape? Under the bill, any dispute will still come down to she-said, he-said. Whereas a real rapist would in the past have tried to lie his way out by claiming “she consented to sex”, he will now lie his way out by saying, “she affirmatively consented to sex”.

So in the best case, California’s rule does nothing; in the worst, it punishes decent, sexually active adults and compromises natural rights.

Either way, it is dangerous. The passing of such a law gives lazy politicians and institutional officers the sense that a very real and serious problem has been taken care of when it has not at all. By defining consent so narrowly, non-consent is defined so broadly that its true instances cannot be identified. The genuine moral responsibility of educational institutions to identify actual sexual predators – and to engage in the self-examination necessary to identity the cultural causes of the presumed heightened prevalence of rape at the institution – is entirely abdicated.

Of secondary import is the negative contribution of such a bill to an even broader, if less dangerous, problem: men’s generational inability to understand women, with all those mysterious-to-men female modes of communication, all the ways they communicate their desires, all the ways they like to be made to feel like women, and the way in which everything on that list is mediated by context.

To summarize in British vernacular, “don’t bother with any of that, mate. Just get her to sign here”. That’s where we are going. A law that forces free people, harming no one, to do things they choose not to do can only be consistently enforced with repeated refinements to specify, in ever-increasing detail, the mandated action whenever a case is brought. Such law-making turns the real meaning of rights on its head. Just as all human beings have the (negative) right to the integrity of their bodies, they have the same (negative) right not to be forced to do things they do not want to do when they are harming no one.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, obviously – so I am really seeking to contribute to a debate that I believe must be had. But for sure, college students are legally responsible adults at institutions that are designed to teach them how to think for themselves, and become responsible decision-makers. So as an initial suggestion, why not tackle this devastating moral and cultural problem by educating them about the issue, and requiring them to rise to both the challenge and the responsibility of negotiating, setting and implementing their own policies to deal with it in their community?

Cultures, after all, are the sum total of the attitudes and expectations of the people in them. Therefore, requiring individuals to consider the issue of sexual consent with the other members of their community may be the only way to get to the real roots of the problem – to treat its causes, and not just its terrible symptoms. Education before the crime – rather than punishment after the non-crime – would seek to help men and women understand and genuinely respect each other’s modes of communication and expectations in social contexts.

Without such an approach, we are surely just diminishing our moral sensitivity and giving up personal responsibility – in the name, ironically, of moral sensitivity and personal responsibility.

And meanwhile, the Californian government will be not only in your bedroom, but also in the conversation you have on the way there.

What Women Want

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.

Generalizing from anecdotes is always dangerous but there’s little alternative to drawing on personal experience and conversations in observing the relationship between men and women and the meaning of gender in our culture.

I remember distinctly as a young teenager having no idea what to do with girls except to be nice to them – just as I was supposed to be nice to everyone. I recall thinking that any kind of physical advance on a girl was by definition aggressive, and therefore I was a better person for not making them. I realize now, of course, that that may well have been a convenient rationalization of my own cowardice, but all the same, it was the rationalization that most naturally made itself available as I was growing up.

In my 14-year old mind, there was a compelling logic to “if men and women are equal, then I should treat men and women in exactly the same way”. By the other end of my teenage years, I had no more idea about what to do with girls – except to continue being nice to them.

By my last year of university, I had been with only one girl – my first girlfriend, whom I’d actually met before I arrived at university. That relationship had finished a few years before, and by my last year, I’d had none of that sexual fun that students were supposed to be having – and that window was about to close with my upcoming graduation. Nevertheless, many of the most attractive women at my college would often take advantage of my open door policy and come around for tea and conversation.

So when a fellow student, who lived in the same building as I and was known as something of a womanizer, asked me how it was all the college’s most attractive females were visiting me on a regular basis, I answered, “Because I am not doing with them what you would want to do with them”.

I heard myself say those words. When I started saying them, I thought I was making a statement of my own moral rectitude. By the end of the sentence, I realized I was making a statement about my own emasculation.

And more or less in that moment, I resolved to try something different. The next time one of those attractive girls came up for tea, I broadened my conversation to include flirting. I didn’t call it that. I didn’t call it anything, but I think if I’d been asked, I’d have called it, “being less pathetic”.

And lo and behold, these women – good friends, all of them – started responding in kind. Where there was only tea, there was now tea and chemistry. I didn’t go “all the way” with any of them – I only had a few months of university left and wasn’t that much of a quick study – but I discovered the fun of actually playing with gender and sexuality.

Ten years later, I find myself sitting in a bar in Manhattan with a friend, discussing how, based on more experiences in the intervening decade than I can begin to list here, women actually like men to be men. I was speaking in a sexual context and, obviously, drawing on conversations and experiences with women with whom I’d actually been close enough to be able to discuss or even directly test the hypothesis. Presenting my findings to my friend as some kind of exciting discovery, I ventured that women seemed to like those traditionally male qualities of self-assuredness, assertiveness, and in the right context, even dominance, and especially when they were harnessed in the expression of desire. Women, I’d found, wanted men to make the first move with confidence, rather than to ask whether this, that or the other was ok. They wanted men to take risks.

The fact that I was about 30 years old and any of that was surprising, and the fact that behaving in such ways that are attractive to so many women felt so “risky” to me as a man, told me something about the culture I was brought up in: they pointed to an over-reach of the politics of feminism into cultural and personal experience in a way that wasn’t serving anyone very well. Put simply, some of the moves that most women who are attracted to a man want him to make might prompt another woman to claim sexual harassment. Context is everything, for sure, but no one taught the young men of my generation about that: rather, since the imbalance of power is always in favor of the man, we as men are dangerous by default. When I was a young adult, the rules of thumb for how good men behaved said nothing of context.

Moreover, a man of my generation, unlike my Dad’s, is taught no codified language to signal attraction to a woman in a non-threatening way. My father’s generation engaged in such a thing as courting. There were safe ways to signal one’s desire for a woman, and for her to respond. There was an etiquette of attraction, if you will. But male Generation-Xers, who reached manhood as feminism reached its political peak, had no such codes. So I, wanting to treat everyone in my world well, was careful to do nothing that could possibly be interpreted as being predatory. And I set a high bar for myself, as approaching anyone with the goal of getting from them a gratifying experience for myself was predatory by definition – wasn’t it?

Back to the bar in Manhattan. There I was with my friend, chatting about all these things, and a woman comes up to us, telling us that she’d been listening in; that we were so right; that she wished more men knew this, and that we really should be teaching seminars on this stuff to other men. Since then, I have had dozens of conversations with women who’ve said the same thing. In a strange recurrence, the most recent, a month ago, was with a lady who owns a dating and match-making company, and was so excited to hear a man venture this hypothesis that she invited me to come and speak to her clients.

What would be the thesis of such a speech?

It would be that to be human is to be gendered; that some of the most intense, sublime and human experiences available to us are sexual; that our experience of our sexuality is an experience of polarity – the gap between the masculine and feminine. Femininity, masculinity and sex are delicious to the extent that the polarity exists, is directly experienced and is even amplified.

Men and women are indeed equal in humanity and moral agency, but the most intense experience of being a man, or of being a woman, is in the difference between them – not their sameness. This is not to make either superior. Rather, it makes them more equal than any political account of gender ever can, since it asserts their utter dependence on each other. If you cut a magnet, with a north pole and a south pole, in half, you end up with two small magnets, each with north and south. There is no north except with a south, and vice versa. There is no magnet without both. It is impossible even to define each pole except by defining the other.

How is this fundamental truth of our sexuality, intensely experienced by most people repeatedly in a lifetime, nevertheless hidden to us? Consider the reaction, especially among women, to “Fifty Shades of Grey“, a book about a relationship based on male sexual dominance and female sexual submission, which sold 100 million copies. The only thing surprising about its massive success is that anyone is surprised about it. What is the cultural context that can make so many of us so unable to observe our own sexual responses and motivations that we are actually surprised by them when we see them out in the open?

I’m not a reader of “gender theory” or “feminist theory”. My “polarity theory” is simply one that I have evolved to explain both my personal experiences and those of almost everyone to whom I’ve ever spoken about this topic. I recently ran it by a relationship therapist. I was fascinated by his response. He said that not only was I right but that this theory explains why he has so many more lesbian couples come to him with sexual problems in their relationship than gay male couples. He expounded that gay couples tend more often to begin a relationship with sex, and so that polarity of energies – the masculine vs. feminine – is established from the beginning – and if it can’t be, then no relationship gets off the ground. Lesbian couples, on the other hand, he explained, are much more likely to come to him for help with sexual difficulties in their relationship, because those relationships usually do not begin sexually and so that polarity is not established: rather, the sexual aspect of their relationship grows out of everything else that brought them together, often leaving them to discover that without that polarity, the sex simply doesn’t work.

It was around the time of that conversation with the therapist that a rather attention-grabbing article about just this issue came out in the mainstream-as-it-gets New York Times Sunday supplement. Although many have taken issue with some of its findings since publication, there was one line that summed it up and is consistent with my own experiences and those of the people with whom I’m close enough to discuss such things.

the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust….

That should be so obvious as to be a banality, but my generation has been trained not to see it. Many women, for example, want to be pursued. But a decent man brought up in the feminist era is immediately faced with a problem: if we are pursuing, then, by definition, the woman is running away – so we must be doing something that the woman doesn’t want. The right thing to do – the thing that respects her “equality” – is to stop the pursuit. After all, if she wanted what we wanted to give her, she’d already have told us, or, at the very least, let herself be “caught” as quickly and easily as possible.

I remember back in my teenage years, the “No means No” marches in London. And in the context that that slogan was meant to be applied to, the point is clearly both correct and morally essential. But in some contexts, “No” can mean “Not yet, but I’m open to your continued, respectful or playful attempts”. And just as a young man must be taught to respect a woman’s “no”, he needs also to be taught how to read women, to read context, and to do both without feeling guilty or anxious about the desires that naturally drive him. If we fail as a culture to give men even that, then the good men – as all too many women seem now to be finding – will continue to default to a safe, scared, hands-off mode, and we all end up losing much of the pleasure of being sexual beings.

The experience from which that woman in the bar in Manhattan was speaking – as confirmed by many others to whom I’ve spoken since – is that, indeed, many men don’t know how to make a woman feel like a woman. And both men and women are suffering from that. A woman wants her man to help her feel like a woman – to establish that polarity. If he can’t do that, because he can’t feel himself as a man, then we are on a vicious cycle of destroying the polarity – that experience of the very difference that makes gender and sex so … well … sexy.

Feminism should surely be celebrated for the political, and indeed, cultural successes it has had. They are too many and too obvious to miss.

But it seems now, perhaps, that whereas the political and institutional benefits of feminism have been almost entirely to its credit, women, themselves, are now experiencing in their personal lives – in the actual experience of being a woman – the damage that has been done by a culture that has removed the permission, even ability, of men to revel in the pole of the sexual magnet that they represent.

And I don’t mean that faux, superficial masculinity of sports teams and large trucks that American advertisers like to push at us. I mean that which each man defines for himself – whatever it is that makes him feel powerful, able and attractive – and confident enough to know that he can go to that place of assertiveness with his sexual partner in the bedroom, without that saying anything about his treatment of women anywhere else.

By the right man, a woman likely wants to be pursued. By the right man, a woman likely wants to be taken. Some want to be dominated, and others, at the very least, want to be in the presence of dominance. And nearly all women want to feel like women – and would like their men to play their part in that.

Since I started making notes for this article, some weeks ago, as if as confirmation of its main theme, I discovered the existence of the Men’s Rights Movement – and the many women who populate it – and the springing up on social media of anti-feminists.

The fact that such sentiments are now moving mainstream speaks to a cultural hypothesis I am currently testing out – that feminism, like the modern Progressivism that has its roots in the ’60s, is at the end of its two-generation lifespan – and that the pendulum is beginning – just beginning – to swing back.

And no one should be surprised. Approximately two generations after the beginning of feminism, young adults, especially young women, get to assess its outcomes while taking for granted its successes. To generalize, many of the political successes that feminism fought for may well be responsible for giving some of those anti-feminists some of the security, education, representation and, indirectly then, power to declare that they don’t like feminism for the bits that don’t suit. They don’t like feminism because they blame it for taking the man out of their men, the woman out of themselves, and if you’ll allow me to be a little more literal, the man out of the women, too.

My favorite teacher at high school was the Head of Mathematics. His students liked him because of his dry sense of humor and his provocative way of educating – at least 10% of the time about life, rather than math. I can’t recall the context… but one of the most memorable lessons he ever gave concerned the meaning of “equal”.

To say a woman is equal to a man is like saying a giraffe is equal to an elephant. Equal has a particular meaning. It means “is the same as”. Giraffes are not equal to elephants because they are different.

In the ’90s, that tongue-in-cheek comment was sufficiently provocative that it has stayed with me for two decades. Now, though, it will do as a concise explanation of why, culturally, if not politically, Feminism, like all -isms, is, at best, incomplete.

Feminism is about enabling women to have what they choose. But women choose to feel like women – to experience the delectable polarity of the female and the male, and that requires a culture that empowers, and celebrates, both.