Forced to Be Free

What anti-TV crusades, the campaign against the “Ground Zero mosque,” and Ayn Rand’s “intellectual heir” have in common with the reform movements of the antebellum era

Across Europe, high-minded debates about terrorism, assimilation, and the social effects of Islam have been devolving into disputes over the clothes the government will let people wear, as countries from Switzerland to the U.K. ponder bans on burqas and head scarves. Curiously, legislators and pundits on both sides of the Atlantic have tried to justify such dress codes with the language of liberty. A Spanish politician, for example, denounced the veil as a “degrading prison.” 

He was not referring merely to families that force women to cover themselves. In that case, the legislation would target the compulsion, not the clothes. The garments supposedly serve as prisons whether or not the wearer wants to don them. Removing them by force, it’s implied, would be an act of liberation.

This paradoxical claim—that the exercise of liberty can be an impediment to freedom—has a long history in the U.S. as well as Europe, emerging in arguments over rights ranging from the freedom to drink to the freedom to follow the faith of your choice. The belief has many roots, but in the American context the most important source might be the antebellum reform era. From the early 19th century to the Civil War, reformers battled liquor, prostitution, Catholicism, and Sabbath breaking; they built prisons, asylums, and utopian communities; they both denounced and defended slavery. Some of their efforts extended the sphere of American freedom. Others merely presented restrictions on liberty as a revolt against servitude.

In the aftermath of the New Deal, historians typically treated the period as just another step in the progression of liberal reform. A typical example is Arthur Schlesinger Sr.’s The American As Reformer, published in 1951, with its closing declaration that Americans “have never regarded democracy as a finished product but something to keep on building.” This sunny view would have come as a surprise to Catholic immigrants, the chief target of the Know-Nothings’ illiberal crusade for “War to the hilt, on political Romanism.” That sure looked like a reform movement: It was an effort to refashion society, advanced with the rhetoric of republican values, and its supporters often embraced more conventionally progressive movements of the reform period as well, such as the fight against slavery. Yet for Schlesinger the Know-Nothings were simply one of the “bigoted enemies” of change. He thus avoided the issue that another historian, Clifford Griffin, would later raise in The Ferment of Reform (1967): “if anti-Catholicism was a reform movement, it might be necessary to define reform in a different way from that accepted by the majority of historians.”

Problems like that one led to a much darker interpretation of antebellum reform. The key text here is Griffin’s 1960 book Their Brothers’ Keepers. Guided by the gloomy aftermath of the McCarthy era, Griffin painted the reformers as intolerant Grundies “possessed by the assumption that everyone who differed from them was wrong.” Aiming “to make other men sober, righteous, and godly—to make others like themselves,” they deployed both voluntary suasion and governmental force, seeking “the rule of the righteous and the jurisdiction of the just.”

It was a powerful and influential interpretation, and it was grounded in far more evidence than Schlesinger’s sweeping little book. But it too had limits. Griffin was writing at the tail end of a period when historians tended to treat the abolitionists with condescension, painting them as maladjusted fanatics whose aversion to compromise made peaceful emancipation less likely. That made it easy for him to treat the anti-slavery movement as just another band of busybodies, even though they aimed to extend rather than constrict human liberty. By the end of the ’60s, young historians were more likely to see the abolitionists as heroes and to bristle at their older image.

It didn’t help that the reform community included slavery’s apologists as well as its opponents. In his 1987 book Proslavery, the maverick historian Larry Tise pointed out that the institution’s defenders included not just Southerners but a host of old New England Federalists; when proslavery arguments were revived after the American Revolution, Northeastern clergymen were in the vanguard. Tise’s tale of Northern elites spouting “a reactionary critique of anything that smacked of being French or Jeffersonian” fits snugly with Griffin’s description of Northern elites alarmed by social transformation and bent on maintaining social control. Indeed, some of the same names appear in both books. But Tise’s enforcers supported servitude while Griffin’s endorsed abolition.

The deepest problem, though, was that Griffin tried to cover too much ground. At different times and places, reform could be conservative or disruptive. Any explanation that tried to paint the reformers as either one or the other was bound to be incomplete. If you’re trying to understand the antebellum period as a whole, you need to find themes that emerged in both forms of reform.

Two of those themes stand out. One is the rise of perfectionism: the idea that individuals and societies, through single-minded effort, could free themselves from sin. In 1978 Eric Foner pointed out that while perfectionism could manifest itself as a “tendency toward social control,” at other moments it led its exponents “into an intense anti-institutionalism and, occasionally, all the way to anarchy.” At such times, the reformer’s evangelical passion “came to challenge all existing institutions as illegitimate exercises of authority over the free will of the individual, and as interferences with his direct relationship with God.”

The first form of perfectionism produced the prison, the asylum, and the almshouse, authoritarian institutions that exploded in the reform era. The second perfectionism spawned the anarchism of Adin Ballou, Henry Clarke Wright, and the young William Lloyd Garrison, the former Federalist who did the most to popularize what became known as the “no government” position. “Unquestionably,” Garrison wrote, “every existing government on earth is to be overthrown by the growth of mind and moral regeneration of the masses. Absolutism, limited monarchy, democracy—all are sustained by the sword; all are based upon the doctrine, that ‘Might makes right;’ all are intrinsically inhuman, selfish, clannish, and opposed to a recognition of the brotherhood of man.” The Garrisonites rejected politics entirely, stressing nonviolent action instead.

There was a big gulf between the two sorts of reformers. But to the extent that they shared the perfectionist impulse, it was possible to flip from one side of the divide to the other. When the Civil War broke out, for example, Garrison abandoned his pacifist anarchism and became a pro-war nationalist. Another anti-state abolitionist, Gerrit Smith, endorsed not just war but conscription; at one point he complained that Abraham Lincoln was too respectful of constitutional liberties.

Smith is an especially interesting case, because he proved it possible to espouse both brands of perfectionism at the same time. Before the Civil War, he usually sounded like a radical libertarian. Arguing that “Government owes nothing to its subjects but protection,” he opposed slavery, tariffs, subsidies for internal improvements, public debt, public schools, and the idea that the state should protect “the morals of its subjects.” Yet he also favored a ban on alcohol. This combination of views is hard to fathom today, but it felt natural at a time when the rhetoric of the temperance movement drew heavily on the rhetoric of the abolitionists, with prohibitionists promising to liberate drunkards from the “slavery of drink.”

That’s the second theme: the way the concept of slavery was extended to cover noncoercive activities. In Inventing the Addict (2008), the cultural historian Susan Marjorie Zieger quotes an anti-slavery minister who declared the plantation preferable to the bottle. The drinker, he explained, is reduced to “buying, and when his money is gone begging for the privilege of being a slave.” The rhetoric of slavery and the rhetoric of addiction are still closely linked today. You don’t often encounter people calling for a ban on beer in the name of freedom, but you do hear alleged anti-authoritarians denouncing, say, television in the same terms.

Temperance wasn’t the only movement that aimed to restrain people’s liberties under the banner of resisting slavery. Nativists saw Catholics as the agents of an alien hierarchy, so they conducted their crusade in the name of preserving American freedoms; many Know-Nothings believed their cause was closely linked to the struggle against the Slave Power. (As one nativist orator put it, America faced “two co-operating foes, the Papacy and Slavery.”) Anti-Mormon propagandists saw the Latter-Day Saints in similar terms, and the first Republican platform denounced “those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.” The metaphor didn’t die with emancipation: After the Civil War was over, the anti-prostitution movement routinely referred to sex work as “white slavery,” whether or not actual compulsion was involved. Such rhetoric has reappeared repeatedly in subsequent decades. Whenever a new religion emerges, you’re more likely to hear it described as a “cult” that menaces its members’ psychological freedom than as a set of voluntary beliefs and rituals.

The arguments once used against Catholics and Mormons come out in force today when the topic is Islam. And I’m not just referring to burqa bans. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born feminist and former member of the Dutch parliament, is in most respects a classical liberal. But when Reason interviewed her in 2007, she called for the abolition of Muslim schools. The United States “is based on civil liberties,” she said, “and we shouldn’t allow any serious threat to them. So Muslim schools in the West, some of which are institutions of fascism that teach innocent kids that Jews are pigs and monkeys—I would say in order to preserve civil liberties, don’t allow such schools.”

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  • Old Mexican||

    The arguments once used against Catholics and Mormons come out in force today when the topic is Islam. And I’m not just referring to burqa bans.

    I don't remember Catholic or Mormon liders ever saying shit like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....r_embedded

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    JFK wasn't brash enough to actually fly the Papal flag over the White House, but we all knew what was going on.

  • DADIODADDY||

    'till the Pope put out that hit on him...

  • Old Mexican||

    'Twas the Fed, DADIODADDY. 'Twas the Fed.

  • Jen||

    Nah, it was definitely the mob.

  • DADIODADDY||

    I always suspected Jackie, over that whole Marylin thing...

  • ||

    Sure it wasn't the Jooz?

  • DADIODADDY||

    or Elvis?

  • ||

    C'mon Jackie knew the marriage was a sham from the beginning.

  • DG||

    Didn't the original Mormons lead by Joseph Smith want to overthrow the government?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: DG,

    Didn't the original Mormons lead by Joseph Smith want to overthrow the government?

    Depends - what government?

  • Old Mexican||

    By the way, ABC took the above video out of their website in a clear show of journalistic bravery and principled commitment to the truth...

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2601521/posts

  • Pip||

    And I don't recall the Catholics or the Mormons blowing up New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

    Analogy. Fail.

  • roystgnr||

    You don't recall any bloody wars between Protestants and Catholics, huh?

    And you can't recall any conflicts with Mormons either? Your memory wasn't jogged by the discussion of a mass murder on September 11th? For that matter, Wiki "Mormon War" and you'll end up at a disambiguation page.

    ...

    I'd provide a third link explicitly, but some fool decided that "more than 2 links" is now a reason for Reason to reject a comment. Killing substantiated discussion in a doomed attempt to reduce comment spam seems to be a bit baby-with-the-bathwater, don't you think?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: roystgnr,

    You don't recall any bloody wars between Protestants and Catholics, huh?

    Oh, you were an eye witness?

    And the bloody wars of religion had nothing to do with religion per se.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    And the bloody wars of religion had nothing to do with religion per se.

    Of course not.

    Like all wars they had to do with power, but they were justified and sold on the basis of religion and staffed as much as possible with radicalized believers.

    Which is to say the wars of the reformation are pretty good analogues for our current trouble with radical Islam. These conflicts are after all about power; on the side of the jihadists they are justified and sold on a religious basis and staffed with fanatics. The situation in terms of justification and staffing is more complicated for the developed nations, but at a minimum there are some people pushing to make it about Christian vs heathens.

    I'd just as soon avoid that. Better to make this about free people fighting to remain that way.

  • ||

    Not to sound crass, but does it really matter what names we give the sides as long as we win?

  • Pip||

    I'm talking about in this country, assfuck. I don't give two fucks from \Thursday what happened in Europe. I don't fucking live there.

  • roystgnr||

    Funny, I could have sworn you were talking about a religion invented in Eurasia and about the religions that forked from it in Europe. (Not sworn in the illiterate sense of the term, mind you; you've got me beat there)

    But okay, even though you were the one who brought up Protestant and Catholic violence, I'm willing to let you back down from the subject like a petulant child if you can't admit your mistakes. How about that Mormon violence, then? Did you make it through to that part of my comment? I know there were literally dozens of words strung together, and it's obviously taxing you to try to make it through all of them, but the ones you ignored were actually relevant and belie your confused reply.

  • Joe||

    that's like saying that christians blew up the Fed Building in OKC. False analogy fail.

  • cynical||

    Prototypical terrorist Guy Fawkes was on the Pope's team, though.

  • ||

    "I don't remember Catholic or Mormon liders ever saying shit like this:"

    I remember fundamentalist Christians saying stuff like that when I was kid--against Catholics. That the Catholics would some day take over the government, and then the anti-Christ would be the President of the United States.

    So, anyway, it is kinda weird that there are Muslims out there who are openly advocating doing something that fundamentalist Christians used to accuse Catholics of wanting to do...

    Sure seems to show what a tin ear some Muslims have for Western culture--the Pilgrims left England 'cause they couldn't stand the King being the head of the church...

    Many Christians still give their children nightmares about the pope or some other religious figure inhabiting the White House, and here come these oblivious Imams charging through the china shop...

    I'm not saying Islam is incompatible with Western culture, but there shouldn't even be a debate about whether some of these Imams are tone deaf.

    And the Ground Zero Mosque is another excellent example. Whether it should be legal is a completely separate issue--but whether this Imam is completely oblivious? That shouldn't be a question anymore.

    ...unless you want to say he's stirring up the hornets nest on purpose, which you can make a good argument for too.

  • ||

    Spanish Inquisition.

  • ||

    "Spanish Inquisition."

    An interesting proposal. It could be highly effective too, but there'd be all kinds of baggage afterward. And without a livid Jesuit supported by a Catholic King and Queen in the White House, wouldn't it be completely unexpected? Although...

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  • dennis||

    Have you ever read a Jack Chick tract?

  • Old Mexican||

    Sorry, "leaders." I'm thinking in Spanish again...

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Wish I could that. I usually think in swears these days.

  • ||

    I wish I knew enough Spanish to make a missing-verb joke en espanol right here.

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    Peikoff is not Ayn Rand's "intellectual heir" — in any sense.

  • ||

    I agree.

    I think he's more like her "ecclesiastical heir".

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    +1!

  • ||

    As someone who is quite fond of Rand's philosophy, I gotta say that Peikoff is Objectivism's answer to Pauly Krugnuts.

  • ||

    Rand herself never published anything (to my knowledge) remotely approaching the tenor of Peikoff's remarks. She was an atheist but not a militant one, her detractors' claims notwithstanding. She would most certainly have defended the right of a property owner to build a mosque in New York, if it were being done legally.

  • Ray Pew||

    Rand herself never published anything (to my knowledge) remotely approaching the tenor of Peikoff's remarks. She was an atheist but not a militant one, her detractors' claims notwithstanding. She would most certainly have defended the right of a property owner to build a mosque in New York, if it were being done legally.

    I have read many of her works and have to disagree. Rand was definitely not libertarian, in fact despised libertarianism's acceptance of individual ideologies not in accordance to Objectivist principles.

    Ayn Rand on the American Indian:

    "They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using . . . . What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent."- Address to West Point, 1974

  • Robert||

    That was about her understanding of real estate -- that you shouldn't be allowed to just sit on a vague claim to a vast area to keep others from making a definite claim to specific land.

  • ||

    I think everybody is limited by what they know--and what they don't know.

    In that statement, she seems to be talking about Native Americans as if they were a monolithic and homogeneous culture. There were lots of groups that qualified as owning their property--by her definition.

    And what about all the land they lost that was recognized as their property by the United States government?

    I think Rand would have sounded a lot less stupid on that topic if she'd had any idea what she was talking about--so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. I don't think she had any inkling what she was talking about.

  • ||

    ""that you shouldn't be allowed to just sit on a vague claim to a vast area to keep others from making a definite claim to specific land.""

    Didn't early American surveyors do that very thing?

  • ||

    "They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using..."

    The Cherokee went to the The Supreme Court and the Supreme Court decided the Cherokee had rights to their land--that isn't good enough for Ayn Rand?

    Oh, the President ignored the Supreme Court and the rights of the Cherokee, who were farming there just like their white neighbors, and forcibly removed them by way of a death march, in which 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee died of starvation and exposure en route.

    Rand might have a leg to stand on if the United States had never made a treaty or ever upheld the rights of Native Americans--or if Native Americans had never asserted their rights or had never respected each others' property rights before the white man came...

    But none of those things are true. The simple fact is that Ayn Rand was woefully uninformed on this issue--she would never have said such a stupid thing otherwise. She simply had no idea what she was talking about.

  • Robert||

    She was uninformed about plenty of issues she wrote about. Still, we should understand her thinking as, "Given what I know about this...."

  • ||

    But being so wrong about this, and being led there for ideological reasons, dare I say, isn't that a little typical here?

    It seems to me that Rand may have suffered from a tendency to oversimplify the world in order to make it fit her ideology philosophy, and this might be an excellent example of that.

    Doesn't mean she wasn't right about her philosophy, but glossing over certain people's rights, with whom treaties were made and broken...? I'm sympathetic to Rand and her ideas, but...

    I can see how people might have a hard time telling the difference between somebody who didn't know what they were talking about and somebody who did and was just denigrating their rights for other reasons.

    I'd love to live in Ayn Rand's world, and I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. But when the best thing we can say about somebody is that she must not have known what she was talking about, then don't we have to score one for the opposition? ...if we're gonna be honest.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    She's had no love for white people as such. The soviets were white she wouldn't say the Soviets had a right to the land. Her qualifier was "civilization" and if you've read her, you know what she means by that word. The issue is not whether the tribes were farming or not. It's about whether they respected individual rights and property within the tribe. Most tribes didn't, therefor most tribes were outlaws with no rights. She wasn't saying anything a thinking person wouldn't derive from Locke's view on property rights.

  • ||

    But their rights were contractually recognized--by treaty--even the Supreme Court said so.

    They were using the same farming techniques as their white farmer neighbors!

    "They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using..."

    That is a false statement. It ignores the facts... A thing is what it is and not something else.

    They did have a right to their land. They conceived of their own rights and negotiated in good faith to have them respected. Their rights to their land was recognized by treaty.

    They were using their land--they adopted contemporary farming techniques...

    Rand has no leg to stand on here, save ignorance.

    Go with that.

    There's no reason to twist the facts to make Rand look right all the time.

    So Ayn Rand was wrong about something once? So what?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "...even the Supreme Court said so."

    If you think Ayn Rand's understanding of individual rights yielded to a supreme court because it was a supreme court, you should read Ayn Rand.

    "They were using the same farming techniques as their white farmer neighbors!"

    USSR could have used those farming techniques but the fruit of a man's labor would not have been his to keep. That's what she meant by civilization. Freedom is not farming techniques, it is individual rights.

    "Their rights to their land was recognized by treaty."

    Whose rights to whose land? The Chief's? The tribe's? There is no such thing as group rights. A treaty doesn't change that. If a ruler makes a treaty with a ruler it is nothing but a couple of thugs shaking hands. White man with powdered wig or noble savage doesn't matter.

    "They were using their land--they adopted contemporary farming techniques..."

    Are you seeing how you are defending tribal collectivism yet? The Soviets were using their land. They were using modern agricultu-blah blah blah. What could the individual dispose of? Nothing, No land belonged to individual American indians. There is no such thing as American indian rights or worker's rights or bus drivers' rights or teachers' righs, just individual rights. Without individual rights there are no rights.

    I disagree with Rand about a lot of concretes, just not principles so far.

  • ||

    "They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using..."

    That isn't a statement I made up. That's what she said.

    A thing is what it is and not something else--and what this is? Is factually incorrect.

    I've showed what she said.

    I've showed the facts.

    The facts contradict what she said.

    Hence she was wrong on the facts.

    Even an Objectivist should be able to understand that.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    According to her philosophy(which I agree with) property can only be owned by individuals by right. When she said that their rights had not been concieved she was saying the individual was not allowed to privately own property and farm for himself and keep and dispose of the fruits of his labor. That generally the individuals were at the mercy of their chief. They all potentially had rights but they were never concieved becuase they were sacrificed to the group or the chief. You may disagree with her view on what makes something someones property but I don't think she was talking out of her ass.

  • JOR||

    Let's grant all this for the sake of pure argument (none of it is really true; when people say the Cherokee were using the same farming techniques as their white neighbors, they are in fact describing a system of individual rights to property).

    See here:

    "They all potentially had rights but they were never concieved becuase they were sacrificed to the group or the chief."

    If people's being oppressed or enslaved is a good reason for dispossessing them of what little semblence of liberty and property they DO have, then it follows that white westerners were justified in enslaving, and holding enslaved, and disposing as they saw fit, of black Africans. After all, enslaved blacks' rights were "never conceived" because they were slaves from birth (or capture in Africa, from tribal societies in which they likely had no rights by these lights to begin with, in the case of first generation slaves); therefore, they had no rights at all, and plantation owners and slave traders were justified in using them as they saw fit.

    Does that seem right to you? Do you think that would have even seemed right to Rand?

    Rand's philosophy was incoherent. At the deepest level, her egoism contradicts her individualism, and she ends up sacrificing one to the other when commenting on different things. (She tends to sacrifice individualism to egoism when commenting on groups she doesn't otherwise sympathize with, for whatever reason - like Palesitians or American Indians or Russians, which she sees as objects that can be used or destroyed by the people she projects her ego onto, like American soldiers or Israelis - and do the opposite when discussing the rights of people she sympathizes with - who she treats as ends in themselves, rather than as objects who can be used or destroyed at the hands of anyone who is "better" i.e. anyone who can do so successfully and hence show themselves to have more successful strategies for survival).

  • GMT II||

    After reading the article I still don't know if it is in good or bad form for my Muslim wife to wear a white burqa in the south?

  • mnaryan||

    Before or after labor day?

  • ||

    Put a Stars and Bars on it and you'll really blow their minds.

  • Sexy in bed||

    Red one in bed

  • Well, now||

    Maybe the mosque is okay, but I don't want those damn Boy Scouts meeting at the YMCA.

  • ||

    That chick looks so pissed off. I just don't get how people can be so motivated about bullshit.

  • The Gobbler||

    It's called foreplay.

  • ||

    It was probsbly "that time of the month" for her.

  • ||

    I guess you have to do something to get through the day. I go to work. You masturbate furiously to Glee episodes. NutraSweet chokes shaved groundhogs in his garage. And that chick hates on the mosque and goes to protests.

  • ||

    Glee? Way off Epi. Try an Always Sunny All-Waitress Compilation.

  • ||

    Nice try to deflect, wylie, but we all know it wasn't that; it was to the transvestite that Mac was seeing. NTTAWWT.

  • ||

    You got me. I'm totally gay for The Tranny.

  • you bunch of pervs||

    it's the progressive insurance gal for me, all the way

  • ||

    I'd rather go for the e-surance girl. My entire life is a cartoon anyway.

  • ||

    I would slay Flo as long as she wasn't flowing.

  • ||

    Perhaps she is pissed off about the thousands of murdered Americans. Or perhaps about the Hamas supporter trying to build the mosque.

    But to libertarians thats all just bullshit.

  • ||

    When it's obvious religion-baiting and TEAM RED vote-getting, yes...it is all just bullshit. I mean, supposedly TEAM RED believes in property rights...except for this, right?

    Yup. Bullshit.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Last I checked, Hamas, a pretty despicable organization in its own right (not unlike most governments - ZING), did not attack Americans on American soil. They might have cheered it, and agreed with it, and masturbated furiously to the horrendous results, but guilty of it they are not. That's like saying all those people who were glad O.J. was not guilty deserved the same punishment he should have received. If we start holding people accountable for things they haven't done but thought about, then Kate Beckinsale will be issuing me a restraining order shortly.

    Regardless, I wouldn't have a problem with some nefarious private insane group of mercenaries dropping Bin laden's head and shredded torso on the white house lawn for a cool billion.

  • I thought||

    Bin Laden died of the thin disease years ago. Remember those years in Africa?

  • ||

    Yes, let's make that plain, Hamas has not attacked Americans on American soil. Just on other soil, so they're okay.

  • Kleptoparasitarianism||

    Sweet!

  • Geotpf||

    Hamas supporter trying to build the mosque.

    [citation needed]

  • ||

    That's a half-truth!

  • ||

    OK, you got me...they're not shaved. But the fact that you put mascara on them is creepy enough.

  • ||

    I *REALLY* wish that people would stop equivocating on religions that are in reality nothing alike.

    When Christians annoyingly assert that JEEEZUSS WILL RULE THIS EARTH! There is no ellipses..."Because Christians will slay all who oppose him!"

    I never met a Mormon who was anything more that a bit eccentric in his theological views. (my own planet, indeed!:))

    Islam, on the other hand maintains a modern plan for the political and theological domination of all infidels by conversion or by slaughter. More than just quirky in their beliefs and attire, they demand that we respect their quirks or die (or pay tribute). They use our liberalism as a club with which they beat us quite regularly. HOW DARE YOU OFFEND ME!!! MORE OF YOUR PEOPLE WILL DIE BECAUSE YOU HAVE OFFENDED US!

    Comparing irrational, bigoted discrimination against the two former religions to the completely rational reaction against the spread of Islam's doctrines of hatred, marginalization, and subjugation is the very letter and spirit of dishonesty.

    One wonders why so many at Reason are willing to commit such public acts of Islamofellatio. What do you stand to gain by making nice-nice about the culture of murder and rape that is Islam? Let them defend themselves in the arena of rational ideas before you go dropping your drawers and bending over backwards to help them do what they are overwhelmingly unwilling to do themselves.

    Let Islam be submitted to a scintilla of the rabid hatred that Christianity suffers daily from the Liberal West, see what happens to it. Will Islam endure as Christianity has, apologizing for its mistakes, and attempting constantly, nauseatingly, to ingratiate itself to its detractors, or will Islam simply promise to bathe in their blood? It remains to be seen, because modern "liberals" are afraid to criticize non-western views, mostly, I think, because in the non-west, they still kill you for disagreeing.

  • ziggy||

    I also love the examples of the abortion clinic bombings which happen how often? Not that often. There is no comparison when it comes to "militarization " of islam and any religion in its current form. 500 years ago? yes today? no.

  • ||

    When Christians annoyingly assert that JEEEZUSS WILL RULE THIS EARTH! There is no ellipses..."Because Christians will slay all who oppose him!"

    Duh. Jesus will do the damning himself. He doesn't need his worshipers to deal with you when he can just send all the unbelievers to hell we he returns. Jesus is a real bootstrappy fellow.

  • ||

    Not sure what you mean by this, Wylie. If I have to choose between a smug Christian damning me in his mind and a Muslim blowing me to smithereens, my choice is clear.

  • ||

    Oh, I agree, one set of delusions is definitely less harmful than the other.

    There's still a superiority, "My God Would See You Dead and Condemned For Eternity" streak there.

  • ||

    I'm willing to allow smugness to continue. At least I can berate the Christian for it, and belittle him, and tell the world what a stupid imbecile he is for believing in his whitebearded god. I don't think the Muslim will sit for that kind of treatment is all I'm saying, and as a result, that's why I think this article's thesis is unfounded. You *CAN* shit on Christians and Mormons, because as irrational as they may be, they do value free dialogue, even if it makes them pissing mad.

  • ||

    they do value free dialogue to a greater

    I'll partially agree, with that added qualification. On the other hand, I think the only thing staying their righteous fists of divine truth from shutting our heathen mouths permanently is their fear that god will punish them. A muslim might be more inclined to take action if the prevalent view is that god rewards those who do his Divine Dirty Work.

  • ||

    *they do value free dialogue to a greater extent

    (yeah, i suck)

  • ||

    You totally agree with me...Christians and Mormons BOTH believe it's REALLY WRONG to kill people, sinners or otherwise. Even if you are completely cynical about Christianity, you admit that Christians are precluded from taking god's favorite pastime away from him.

    The word is still out on how the religion of Islam deals with the murder of non-Muslims. For shit-sake, word is still out on how the religion feels about killing fellow Muslims who don't abide by the rules of Sharia!

  • ||

    You totally agree with me

    No, only partially.

    Christians and Mormons BOTH believe it's REALLY WRONG to kill people, sinners or otherwise. Even if you are completely cynical about Christianity, you admit that Christians are precluded from taking god's favorite pastime away from him.

    I think their belief is in the punishment that would result, not the inherent rightness or wrongness of the act. If god was cool with it, they would have no problem snuffing out unbelievers. Which is exactly what muslim extremists think. And xtian xtremeists (band name?) too. Hell, extremists are pretty uniform in their willingness to kill regardless of racial, cultural, or spiritual backgrounds.

    Whoa, maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with religion?! Maybe it's just that mentally functional human beings know that killing is wrong, and the rest will use whatever justification is handy.

  • ||

    I'll yield to your logic on this, as we seem to be agreeing from opposite directions.

    I don't adhere to the idea that Christianity is about not getting punished--but then, I'm a rarity, an objectivist who still identifies as Christian.

  • ||

    You mean there are two of us? Alright!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Wylie,

    I think their belief is in the punishment that would result [from killing], not the inherent rightness or wrongness of the act.

    That's not true. You follow the commandments as they are God's laws and not because you would be punished in the afterlife - there's no such proviso in the Bible.

    And I say this as a non believer.

  • ||

    If god was cool with it, they would have no problem snuffing out unbelievers.

    This is his point, wylie--that god, in the Christian/Jewish sens IS NOT cool with them killing unbelievers. That particular compulsion is not in the bible/torah

    Which is exactly what muslim extremists think.

    No, it is not what they 'think'--it's what's set down on the pages of the Quran. If you can't convert them, you can kill them--or, if you want, you can make them pay you to let them stay alive. That's not an aberration.

    And xtian xtremeists (band name?) too.

    No. Christian extremists often warp what they find in the bible--the bible doesn't tell Christians to kill unbelievers, so any 'extremist' who insists that it does IS 'hijacking the religion', as the saying goes.

  • ||

    ""
    A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

    A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

    If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 NAB)

  • ||

    "That whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."
    Chronicles 15:13

  • ||

    Yes...and that difference illustrates perfectly why freedom of speech is more compatible with christianity than islam. All religious people judge you. Not all of them try to assassinate you.

  • ||

    Unless you work at an abortion clinic.

  • A is Awesome||

    And, your saying all Muslims want this? Your proof being?

    My counterproof being I have several Muslim friends, they are way more pacifist and friendly than modern Christians.

    Not that it matters, since all religion is bunk.

  • ||

    A is awesome, don't put words in my mouth. Who would be so stupid as to state that all members of a group share the exact same mentality? Then again, who would be so stupid as to demand proof of such a ludicrous statement?

    I'm speaking generally about the perceived personality of a religion, not about the mentalities of its adherents. If Muslims don't like how they are perceived, they should work harder to dispel the illusions, and spend less time declaring fatwas on women who write screenplays. That is, why should I offer to help them clean up their image, when they don't seem to be working very hard to do it themselves?

  • A is Awesome||

    Why? That is ludicrous to spend time dispelling illusions. Why care what people think? It's not helping them clear up their image, it's clearing away these idiotic generalities about them. I admit I was exaggerating your point slightly, but I'm trying to state that the general American perception of what Islam isn't rational.

  • cynical||

    I dunno. I mean, the abortion clinic bombing is a good example -- something happened within the pro-life movement to dampen the violent extremes and stop the bombings. Maybe we have to lean on the moderates until they lean on the radicals until they lean on the violent radicals.

  • Good||

    What a relief that you have counter proof.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    And how...he knows several individual Muslims who are way more pacifist and friendly than some unnamed cross-section(or the whole as a conglomerate) of Modern Christianity. It would appear the science is settled.

  • ziggy||

    I know more pacifist christians. THe muslims I know just talk shit about jews and America. True story, but idiotic to use as an example.

    Fact is world wide, its seems to me more muslims behead people, opress woman, blow themselves up. When was the last time a christian beheaded an infidel? or stoned a woman? or blew themselves up? or flew into the twin towers? Every continent has had multiple or deadly attacks by muslims.

    All the while moderate muslims just sit on the sidelines and cry foul when people generalize. It's intellectually dishonest not to recognize that Islam, is far from a religion of peace.

  • A is Awesome||

    First, I like that the moderates sit around pointing out false generalities. Yes, maybe they could be more active in denouncing extremists.

    Second, when distorted, no religion is a religion of peace. Why? Because religions are naturally irrational.

  • ||

    "That whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."
    Chronicles 15:13

  • ||

    Since that poster didn't feel like giving context......that's past tense, people.

  • ||

    Do you happen to know any Muslims that live in predominately Muslim countries? That would be a more relevant comparison to Christians that live in Christian countries.

  • El Duderino||

    There is some common sense in here, but lets further clarify the point.

    Most Muslims are normal people who are about as interested in converting the world to Islam as Christians and Mormons are. It is the fact that Islam has far too many EXTREMISTS compared to a similar sized population of almost any other religion that sets them apart from these other religions. There are particular aspects of Islam, which you described indirectly, that allow extremists to more easily find justifications for murder.

    It is understandable to be upset about the idea of building a mosque anywhere near ground zero. There is a long history of Islamic conquerors erecting mosques as trophies over defeated land, and this mosque (center or whatever) is named after one of them, so it is not too much of a stretch to see this building as something akin to a trophy.

    Despite my aversion to the GZ mosque, there is nothing other than complain about it that I would want to do. I do not want government to get involved in any way.

    Comparing religions is ridiculous. Muslims need to rid their ranks of extremists. Being disturbed by Islamic EXTREMISTS is normal, because their beliefs and actions represent the antithesis of libertarianism. Just don't get tempted to use the government to effect a resolution to the things that you might find revolting.

  • ziggy||

    What's funny is how lefties all of a sudden come out in defense of property rights...

    This mosque should be allowed to be built, but anyone who doesn't see it as a slap in the face to america is incredibly naive... There was absolutely no need to built it there.

  • ||

    If we ban the building of mosques near Ground Zero, I want the banning of Catholic Churches near elementary schools. If all Muslim imams are terrorists, it's only logical to assume that every Catholic priest is a child rapist.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Brian from Texas,

    If we ban the building of mosques near Ground Zero, I want the banning of Catholic Churches near elementary schools.

    I would rather have the banning of elementary public schools near anywhere in this planet, as they are infinitely more dangerous for children and incidious than both mosques and churches, as they are nothing more than playgrounds for bullies and forced indoctrination centers. At least, when it comes to mosques, muslims already come with a mindset...

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    + 69 virgins.

  • DADIODADDY||

    pretty valid assumption, about the priest/child molester thing I mean...

  • ||

    If all Muslim imams are terrorists, it's only logical to assume that every Catholic priest is a child rapist.

    Exactly! What was that Bible verse again commanding Priests to molest children? There aren't any?

    Priests acting evil is not a reflection of their ideology unless their ideology directs them to do it. When an Imam preaches violent Jihad in the name of the pedophile prophet, and quotes the Koran, and then someone commits mass murder shouting "Allah Akbar" it does have something to do with ideology. Denial of the ideological factor is obtuse.

  • DADIODADDY||

    they can certainly build it...and some aspiring individual can certainly park a fertilizer/diesel oil bomb out front...just think of the media frenzy.

  • DADIODADDY||

    just saying

  • DADIODADDY||

    fuck hope the NSA wasn't looking when I typed that...

  • nsa||

    see you soon

  • DADIODADDY||

    d'oh

  • Old Mexican||

    In theory, Peikoff believes in strictly limited government and strong protection of individual rights. But in June he joined the chorus of complaints that the authorities should block a Muslim community center from being erected near the site of the 9/11 attack on Manhattan, on the grounds that Islam — not just jihadism, but Islam itself — is a threat to a free America.

    And since all people really care what Peikoff thinks or says to the point of sick fascination . . .

  • A is Awesome||

    He is one of the worst public/news show speakers I have ever heard.

  • Draco||

    As I see it, the practical liberal and libertarian opposition to Shazam isn't based on what it does and will continue to do to its adherents, it's based on what the expanding sphere of its own illiberality will do to the rest of us if it isn't restrained. You either buy that argument or you don't - I'm not taking sides here one way or another.

    But suppose there were an anti-liberty party whose explicit platform was to repeal the Bill of Rights, and which met in Christian church basements throughout the country, running candidates in local and national elections. Would "principled" libertarians support their right to exist, to organize, and to win control of the country? It's a hypothetical, but there are similarities with the period where many feared that the international Communist party was a threat to freedom too virulent to be allowed to operate in a free country like the USA.

    It comes down to a question of whether prior restraint is the only practical course of action in some extreme cases. Would libertarians really accept the results of a free election (or allow it to go forward in the first place) where the winners' platform called for their opponents being rounded up and gassed after suspending the Constitution?

    I think the answer is obvious: everyone has a limit where their ideals will be overcome by events, and will be willingly compromised. We are in the end a practical species, who have survived as long as we have by regularly making such compromises.

  • Jen||

    Well put.

  • Mo||

    But suppose there were an anti-liberty party whose explicit platform was to repeal the Bill of Rights, and which met in Christian church basements throughout the country, running candidates in local and national elections. Would "principled" libertarians support their right to exist, to organize, and to win control of the country? It's a hypothetical, but there are similarities with the period where many feared that the international Communist party was a threat to freedom too virulent to be allowed to operate in a free country like the USA.

    Yes.

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

    The answer to bad speech is not banning it, the answer is more speech.

  • roystgnr||

    Would "principled" libertarians support their right to exist, to organize, and to win control of the country?

    Yes, yes, and no, respectively. This isn't a hypothetical question: even wishy-washy sort-of-libertarian America has discovered that the best solution to anti-liberty movements like the Klan is to allow them to organize, punish them when they cross the line, and let the sunlight of ridicule disinfect them when they don't.

    And as for your fourth, unasked question: "Would principled libertarians then support banning or even just relocating the construction of new Christian churches because of the crimes of a tiny minority of Christians?", the answer is "Hell no, but thank you for leaving off the scare quotes this time."

  • Robert||

    The trouble comes when you have only partial influence, and not total control of the situation. Radical libertarians are not in position to draw and enforce the line in question, but we are able to push back a little against those approaching the line. The temporary regime that is actually in control presents us with few choices; if they gave us the deciding vote as to whether to disempower the anti-liberty church-party well in advance of its assuming the reins or power, that might be the best choice even though it does limit their liberty.

  • ||

    Yes, yes, and no, respectively. This isn't a hypothetical question: even wishy-washy sort-of-libertarian America has discovered that the best solution to anti-liberty movements like the Klan is to allow them to organize, punish them when they cross the line, and let the sunlight of ridicule disinfect them when they don't.

    Except that's not quite what happened. Numerous states and cities have various laws on the books designed to keep the Klan from openly existing in their area--anti-masking laws, for example. The power of the state was used to aid in making the KKK something to laugh at rather than something to fear.

    And this is something we don't do to Islam. We don't shine the cleansing light of ridicule on it, we don't use our state to limit it's more egregious offenses. Instead, we self-censor ourselves in line with Islamic prejudices, we rail against those who take exception to the 'convert or kill' philosophy that underlies Islam--calling them 'islamophobes', bigots, racists, and hate groups.

    To go back to the Klan scenario, it is as if we are supporting the right of the UKA Knights of the KKK to have their march and symbolic 'cross lighting'(electric, no fire) in close proximity to the site at which some Invisible Empire, Knights of the KKK members lynched a few black guys. And we're deriding the people speaking out against it because they're two different Klan groups, we can't blame the action of some Klansmen on ALL Klansmen, can we? AND we know that members of the IEKKKK are helping to fund the march, and their supporters will be attending. But the UKAKKKK has the right to march and have their say....

  • jacob||

    we rail against those who take exception to the 'convert or kill' philosophy that underlies Islam--calling them 'islamophobes', bigots, racists, and hate groups.

    And if this were the "underlying philosophy" of Islam, then your assertion would make sense. I think the problem with your assertion is that I can say I know doznes of muslims (the medical field is full of them), and not once have I heard of this 'convert of die' philosophy. In fact, most muslims I know are no different than anyone else.

    [Let me guess - you're response is going to say something like "they're just waiting for the right time"]

    The problem with the attitude of you is the collectivist attitude you espouse. You seem to be incapable of realizing that not all, and probably not even the vast majority, of muslims want to "convert or kill" everyone.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    "libertarian America has discovered that the best solution to anti-liberty movements like the Klan is to allow them to organize, punish them when they cross the line, and let the sunlight of ridicule disinfect them when they don't."

    Except where pro-Sharia Islamic movements are concerned. For them, libertarian America thinks it's best to let them organize, apologize to them when they cross the line because our arrogance left them no alternative, and to call eachother bigots and let the sunlight of ridicule disinfect the pissed-pants of anyone who disrespects them by drawing a picture of their prophet or pointing out that nearly all terrorist attacks stem from their ideology. Because such "libertarians" obviously just hate brown people.

  • ||

    Up to the point that they attempt to usurp the U.S. Constitution in regards of natural rights, I'd say let them try. I see no point in pre-emptive action against 'them', when all it will do is force them to adapt more coercive techniques. Let them try outright. At that point, it's fair game and probably some sort of Civil War, which is likely what would happen in the case of the Jihadists anyways.

  • ||

    The comparison to the Know-Nothing movement of the mid-1800s is very noteworthy. I wonder how many of these mosque opponents are direct descendants of Irish and German Catholics who came off the boat between 1840 and 1850.

  • ||

    I was not aware that American Jews were clamoring to build mosques in Mecca.

  • ||

    Or synagogues. D'oh.

  • DADIODADDY||

    just give them time...

  • Yep||

    And the libertarian Muslims defending the Jews right to build on private property will be shouting down the 99.9999% of the Muslims salivating at the thought of explosions and blood.

  • ||

    I would guess that a synagogue in Mecca would not last long, given Muslim's reaction to cartoons, and to someone talking about possibly burning some korans.

  • ziggy||

    but Islam is a religion of peace?

  • cynical||

    No, submission.

  • ||

    You know, my cock would fit perfectly in that girl's mouth.

  • DADIODADDY||

    with plenty of room left over

  • ||

    OK. Then my cock and my fist would fit perfectly in that girl's mouth. Better?

  • ||

    She said throw in the the other fist and you have a date.

  • Robert||

    The thing I find lacking in your article is acknowledgment that various people (activist or just goers-along) really are convinced that various behaviors are compelled by such things as drugs and religious leaders. As long as there is a clear example of non-willful complex human behavior that is not externally compelled -- sleepwalking -- at least some of them have a case, as it is not currently possible to directly experience another's thought process.

  • ||

    Again, the question is not whether muslims are free to build the friggin mosque near ground zero; rather, it is a matter of location, location, location. I know, the first amendment. Any reasonable objection of which I am aware agrees they are free to build; we're "free" to object, though. Right? Without having pejorative labels thrown upon us? One word: Cordova.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Any reasonable objection of which I am aware agrees they are free to build

    Any reasonable objection, yes. But not the objections of Newt Gingrich,
    Carl Paladino, Rick Lazio, or -- getting back to the article -- Leonard Peikoff.

    we're "free" to object, though. Right? Without having pejorative labels thrown upon us?

    Wrong. You're free to object, and your critics in turn are free to throw whatever pejorative labels upon you that they want.

  • ||

    See, I'm not getting this. The people and the state worked hand in hand to turn the Klan into a euphemism for 'inbred redneck' instead of 'murderous Democrat voting bloc'. Why is it wrong now? Because this bunch of murderous asshats have attached their murderousness to the white-bearded guy in the sky? Because some of the adherents of this murderous faith aren't doing the murder themselves?

    You're very against the state being involved, but the state has been involved before when situations like this have arisen.

  • ||

    You're misdirecting.

    We can't mistake regular Democrats for the Klan, even if we knew there were Klan among them.

    And it isn't that some of the adherents of this "murderous faith" aren't doing the murder themselves--it's that the overwhelming majority of American Muslims are just as horrified by terrorism as the rest of us. Perhaps more so.

    ...to the point that many of American Muslims were reluctant to believe that Muslims could do something like 9/11.

    I've sat in mosques and listened to them talk about it. I worked with Muslims on a daily basis before 9/11, and I saw their reactions afterwards... They were horrified.

    It doesn't matter how many times you say their religion inherently violent--that doesn't make it so, and it doesn't make the people who call themselves Muslims inherently violent either.

    And I think the problem I run into--as a libertarian--is trying to sell my condemnation of the Imam building this mosque amid all the voices calling for banning it because of the religion.

    It's hard enough for libertarian voices to be heard--why make it harder by calling outright for religious discrimination?

    Using your analogy, you'd crack down on Democrats because of the Klan. That's pure misdirection.

  • ||

    Why not just criticize the people responsible?

    It's the Imam who's being a jackass about this--no need to blame Muslims everywhere...

    He took a taxpayer financed junket a few weeks ago to tour the Persian gulf and talk about himself and his cause--on the taxpayer's dime!

    Using your analogy again--when the man in the Klan is doing his thing right in front of you, why blame everyone else but him? It's not Muslims generally who are responsible for this insult--the guy responsible for this has a name and a face...

    Why blame the nameless, faceless Muslim world generally? Why blame the religion?

  • ||

    ""He took a taxpayer financed junket a few weeks ago to tour the Persian gulf and talk about himself and his cause--on the taxpayer's dime!""

    Those junkets of his started under the Bush Admin, as part of Bush's anti-terror strategy.

  • ||

    "Those junkets of his started under the Bush Admin, as part of Bush's anti-terror strategy."

    So what?

    He helps himself to junkets on my dime and then says what he builds is none of my business?

    Ha!

    I'm the guy who all along has been arguing that he has a perfect right to act like a jackass...

    All I'm saying is that he's acting like a jackass by building that thing there--and taking advantage of taxpayer money and then turning around and saying what he does and where he does it is no one else's business?

    That's in addition to. ...jackass behavior if I've ever seen it.

  • ||

    "Those junkets of his started under the Bush Admin, as part of Bush's anti-terror strategy."

    By the way, that wouldn't be the only part of the Bush Administration's terror strategy that ranked.

  • ||

    Per A.H.Ali:
    "...So Muslim schools in the West, some of which are institutions of fascism that teach innocent kids that Jews are pigs and monkeys—I would say in order to preserve civil liberties, don’t allow such schools.”

    She's right!
    And we oughta' close all the Lutheran Schools too!
    After all it was Martin himself that said, “If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words "I baptize thee in the name of Abraham"”

    ?Why don't I remember this from catechism class?
    Bernieyeball

  • El Duderino||

    Can one protest something they believe to be objectionable without demanding political action?

    I think the real problem with the GZ mosque is that on one hand it is objectionable on many levels and on the other, having government "do something" about it is equally objectionable. That said, it doesn't look as though protesting the GZ mosque is doing anything to sway the decision of the builders to stop their planned build.

    I think some "libertarians" who feel strongly about not building the GZ mosque have to resolve the dual issue problem above and resort to justifying the only resolution they themselves cannot effect without government intervention. And now I think we can use this situation to understand the mind of a progressive.

  • ||

    "Can one protest something they believe to be objectionable without demanding political action?"

    I do it all the time. I do it on this issue!

    That's what being a libertarian is all about--knowing the difference between what's private and what's public. Complaining about all kinds of stuff--not just the government--is part of living in a civil society. That's one of the reasons I prefer private enterprise and markets to government--because private enterprise tends to be more responsive my complaints. Write a letter to McDonalds complaining about how long you had to wait in line, and then write another letter to the DMV. See who responds first. We'd be lucky to get a response from the DMV at all.

    This is usually where people get all bent out of shape--but I support the right of newspapers to publish cartoons that offend Muslims AND I support the right of Muslims to protest newspapers that print things that offend them. It's the same thing! The same rights.

    We can't pick the people we like and defend their rights and then turn around and argue that other people don't have the same rights simply because we don't like those people.

    I mean, in a more libertarian society, how do you expect people to get what they want? You're not using the police to force newspapers to stop publishing cartoons mocking Muslims, so what do you expect offended Muslims to do? Nothing?!

    That's not a free society. I expect them to complain, loudly...

    "Give me liberty or give me death" always sounded a little harsh to me; how 'bout "Give me liberty or I'm gonna bitch and moan about it until you stop?"

    Do I think the Ground Zero Mosque should be built? Hell no! Do they have a right to build it? Hell yes!

    And I have a right to bitch and moan about it. I might complain to the people who are building it, and I might complain to the people who are financing it too. And if they build it anyway, I might keep complaining about it over and over and over again.

    I can bitch and moan with the best of 'em--that's what being a libertarian is all about.

    We never shut up. That's why women find us irresistible.

  • El Duderino||

    I agree completely. Unfortunately, I think that too many people believe that protesting should result in government action. I think it is understandable since government seems to get most of the attention when it comes to protest (or at least that is what I have observed and I could be wrong). I think this is because government has such a deep reach into our personal lives.

    The problem is when the protest becomes a demand for services. Everyone has their own idea of what services are ideal and the loudest voices (most influence over politicians re-election hopes) wins in most cases and I think unions, especially public unions are a good example of this. But I digress, back to the GZ mosque issue.

    The GZ mosque is an odd example of protest worth consideration in that it brings out right leaning people who may claim to be "libertarian," in some vague sense of the term, to protest and in some cases demand some kind of as yet unclear government intervention in the matter. On the other hand, it brings out progressives who fancy themselves to be culturally "diverse" to com out and defend property rights of all things unimaginable. I think this phenomena goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to humanity. We live on principal until utility seduces us into using some other principal as a bludgeon to get what we think we want.

    When I see the two different groups standing in front of the proposed location for the GZ mosque, I am forced to consider one larger point of view over the other. Because I believe in property rights and I oppose government interventionism, I have to suddenly adapt my mind to consider, at least momentarily, other progressive ideas, because I see people I can identify in quasi objective ways, or perhaps just intuitively as progressive and I my mind wants to resolve the juxtaposition of property rights and public property positions before me in the same group of people. Then, after about three seconds of careful thought, I recognize that they are just using property rights to win an argument against a crowd who strongly believes in property rights.

    I might have missed something in the whole GZ mosque situation, or I may have read into it too deeply, but I do not recall actually hearing or seeing any protesters demand some kind of government action. I unfortunately did not DVR all the news coverage, but I am sure it is out there. I think that the majority of the sentiment about having the government do anything at all about the GZ mosque was ginned up by the press and by the progressive protest groups who supported the GZ mosque. I wish this could be investigated, as it would be interesting, if not a bit disturbing to see if all or most of this government intervention sentiment was being trolled out by the media (at least the left leaning talking heads and guests thereof) and not the actual participants.

    Another interesting thing (I just thought of, so sorry for the long post) is that people making demands of the government, particularly progressives, are making demands based on their own personal set of values and therefore are acting on their own rational self interest, despite their insistence that they are doing it for the little people. Unions preserve their own benefits and pay. Community organizations protect their social programs. Rich white kids resolve their own guilt. High minded liberals of all types protect their own social niches because those social niches are built upon certain progressive ideas like global warming, or socialism, or health care, whatever, name the cause and there is a group defending its cause. They may not agree with this assessment, but how else could anyone explain a groups insistence on promoting a program or idea that has already been proven to be a failure. I know I use this term a lot, but it is their inability to resolve cognitive dissonance without resorting to justifications.

    I dont think libertarians are isolated from this mental disorder, I myself have made irrational arguments in an effort to defend a position, hell, I could be doing this now, but somewhere at the end of the libertarian path is the truth and it just takes some walking to get there. The truth is the core of my existence, which is the indisputable fact that I have a mind capable of facilitating my survival through imaginative and innovative means. Liberalism (not classical, but modern American) has no such truth that I can see, other than to define an end state, which is essentially a state where everyone is equal in their means and results in life. I know a lot of progressives, and none of them believe these ends can be achieved absolutely, but they try anyway. These ends, while noble sounding, are impossible because humanity is energy and matter expressed as a complex system. Humans have a will of their own, if you force that will to succumb to authority, it will lash out until the balance of power is equalized. It is only in this state where society can find the balance it needs to prosper as it is the only state where all members of society can express their imaginations to the point that it resolves to innovation.

  • Robert||

    That's how I felt about the New Coke, which to me was the most important issue of, what year was it, 1984? As involved as I was in libertarian reform, that made more difference to me than all else, but I sure didn't want to have gov't do something about it.

  • El Duderino||

    Thats why I took a principled stand and switched to Pepsi.

  • ||

    Whatever happened to Jolt cola?

  • El Duderino||

    I think it still exists, but you will probably have to buy it on e-bay because nobody wants to sell soda that tastes like leopard piss.

  • jtuf||

    Update from New York City: No recent news on the Religious Tolerance listserve, which means it must be quiet at Ground Zero this month. I hope to be down there on Tuesday.

  • jtuf||

    Great article Walker. It might be appropriate to protest outside a specific school that is preaching hate, but asking the government to shut it down crosses a line.

  • ||

    Re the paradox of prohibiting drink in the name of freedom - it is an interesting but not widely known fact that most prohibitionists wanted to prohibit the manufacture and sale of drink (as the 18th amendment prescribed) but not the consumption or even the purchase of drink. The idea was that the drink seller was inflicting harm (even "enslaving") the poor helpless drunk. This idea of the consumer as a helpless victim of the manufacturer/seller is of course alive and well today in campaigns against tobacco and drugs and is spreading to rhetoric against fast food. Even the old temperance rhetoric against big bad liquor companies is reviving.

  • ||

    How compassionate of them.

    The problem we have today is that things like drinking, smoking and eating fast food are not just being called unhealthy and therefore ban worthy in the prohibitionist sense you described, but they are also a costly public expense. Government involvement in healthcare, at all levels creates this hazard, and this hazard can easily be used to justify government control of almost anything.

    Cars are dangerous. More people get seriously injured in car accidents than any other kind of accident. This is a burden on our emergency rooms and therefore a burden on our public health care system. Should we ban cars? Before you laugh this thought off as ridiculous, keep in mind that we already banned incandescent light bulbs for less. Also keep in mind the governments proclivity for funding public transportation and add in their absolute belief that cars are bad for global warming.

    But if you come out on television and say something like this, your just a crazy person, or a fear monger.

    My plan is simple. I am going to stock up on all sorts of incandescent bulbs. I am going to store them in a storage facility and when the ban goes into effect in 2012, I am going to begin selling the bulbs on the black market. I realize that my market wont last very long considering my limited supply, but I hope to get arrested so I can challenge the ban. Who knows, maybe I can find some way of getting one of the American manufacturers who stand to lose it all to stand up and defy the law. Do they really think rushing a light bulb plant and breaking all the bulbs will be an image that will go over positively with the public who by most accounts are growing more skeptical about AGW and government intervention?

  • ||

    How the hell can you prohibit both the 'sale and manufacture' of a good and equivocally say we don't want to punish the 'consumption and purchase' of the good? They knew what the fuck they were doing. You just didn't have to ban both ends of it. Only one. Since the law made it illegal to 'sell' there would be no 'purchase'. since the law made it illegal to 'manufacture' there would be no consumption.

  • ||

    Sy, the answer to your question is that those who purchased from bootleggers were not subject to prosecution - only the seller was committing a crime. Also, home brew of wines and ciders was legal if they were not sold commercially and thus were not perceived as "exploitation for gain".

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