Security Chief: "We have to abridge individual rights"


Remarkable article in today's Congressional Quarterly. An excerpt (though you should read the whole thing):

Eight months before the White House appointed him the Homeland Security Department's top intelligence official, retired U.S. Army Gen. Patrick M. Hughes told a public forum at Harvard last year that the government would have to "abridge individual rights" and take domestic security measures "not in accordance with our values and traditions" to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States. […]

Hughes, a former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), [made these statements] in previously unreported remarks at a March 2003 Harvard University forum on "Future Conditions: The Character and Conduct of War, 2010 and 2020."

"Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States," Hughes said, according to a transcript obtained by CQ Homeland Security.

"Therefore, we have to abridge individual rights, change the societal conditions, and act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions, like giving a police officer or security official the right to search you without a judicial finding of probable cause," said Hughes.

"Things are changing, and this change is happening because things can be brought to us that we cannot afford to absorb. We can't deal with them, so we're going to reach out and do something ahead of time to preclude them.

"Is that going to change your lives?" Hughes asked rhetorically. "It already has."

Link via Tapped.


NEXT: Mapping Madness

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  1. The Cliff Notes for this is, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”

  2. gary,

    Try this Slate explainer:

  3. gary,

    That’s right up there with ‘… then the terrorists have already won!’. It says so much while not really saying so much.

  4. Liberty is simply a luxury that is secondary to safety.

  5. Gary, did you know that Red states have a fifty percent higher suicide rate than blue? Sound to me like those who love the whip of authority most are the ones most likely to nurture a death wish.

    Thanks anyway Gary, but I’d rather keep my Constitution the way it is if its all the same to you and the rest of the suiciders.

  6. I totally agree with him, that to make America totally safe, and prevent any future terrorist attacks, we would have to stomp all over traditional American liberties.

    However, I suspect I disagree with him on whether it would be worth it…

  7. At the risk of rehashing a phrase that’s getting a lot of use these days ….

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    I’m not ardently opposed to the use of some reasonable shortcuts in due process where the danger level or suspicion level is high, but those shortcuts must still be properly justified, even if it’s after the fact.

    However, I am opposed to blanket reductions in due process and liberty, because there’s zero evidence that those blanket reductions would provide any substantive improvement in either safety or effectiveness, and there is an enormous amount of evidence that those blanket reductions would be abused, and would also be used in venues outside of the stated purpose of addressing terrorist behaviour.

  8. We must destroy freedom in order to save it.

  9. Here is a good example of the kind of abuse that could result from the wishes of idiots like Hughes.

    Obviously, the department of homeland security doesn’t have enough actual security related work to do, so they’re shaking down small businesses for selling toys. (and even if the toy really does infringe, there are other agencies whose job it is to enforce those laws).

    And this is the government that he want to give essentially unrestrained police power to.

  10. I loved this statement straight out of the “How To Build Your Own Nanny-State” handbook:

    “Set aside what the mass of people think. Some things are so bad for them that you cannot allow them to have them. One of them is war in the context of terrorism in the United States…”

  11. crimethink has it exactly right.

  12. OK, one last time, the reason for due process is…

    Oh, screw it, it’s not even worth arguing. I should just drink the right-wing kool-aid like so many other libertarians and learn to love whatever the government does. As long as they claim it’s for homeland security it must be OK, right?

  13. Pres. Reagan once was asked weather we should consider giving up some of our civil liberties in order to better combat Soviet communism. He answered that doing such a thing would be like giving up without a fight, and would make America less worth fighting for. (see: Reagan’s War by Peter Switzer for this and a whole account of his long struggle and victory over communism)

    Gen. Hughes is being so unpatriotic that he might as well be spitting on the flag. That would be his right of course, but it’s a valid question as to weather this little Ceaser would know that. The only thing for us to do is to contact our congressional rep and senators and ask that Gen. Hughes be fired at once. He is a threat to our liberty. If you value liberty, please contact your congressperson and senators:

  14. “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home”

    James Madison


    Vote before it’s too late, and this time, make it count.

  16. When I first considered the question “should individual liberties be abridged or shorted in order to provide for our safety”, my first inclination (and one I argued for a long time with much success was, yes, without security there is no liberty.

    But, now, ask yourself this:

    Is a United States with no respect for individual rights a United States we WANT to defend?

  17. Haven’t security types pretty much always made this argument reguardless of circumstances?

  18. Bad top cop. No donut for him.

    Don’t fight the enemy’s war for him. Live free or die.

  19. Is it worth noting that he said this about a year before joining Homeland Security, and that he is an assistant secretary, which is about four administrative layers down from the Secretary (Secretary, Deputy, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries) so his comments from a year ago may not be binding on policy?

    For what it’s worth, on March 10, 2004 Tom Ridge seems to have disagreed with him:

    “To suggest there is a trade-off between security and individual freedoms – that we must discard one protection for the other – is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it.”

  20. Is a United States with no respect for individual rights a United States we WANT to defend?

    Rape as a means of prisoner control


    Secret trials


    out-sourcing of interrogations (ie, torture)

    Capital punishment

    Civilian deaths

    Under this administration, that’s what you’ve already got: a United States with no respect for individual rights.

  21. Ummmm…. and HOW bad is it supposed to get again, before we break out the torches, pitchforks and shotguns? I mean, there’s that old line about the Second Amendment not being about hunting ducks, and all…


  22. If Ann Coulter wants a traitor, this guy takes the cake.

  23. So, just how bad does a country have to get before a middle-class professional figures it’s time to give up her middle-class existence in this country and start a new life as a stone-broke Canadian/European waitress?

    Seriously, though–is this just a weird ‘blip’ like McCarthyism, where things will soon go back to normal and history students fifty years from now shake their heads in disbelief at how bad things were, or is this really the beginning of the end of “America: Land of the (sort-of) Free?”

  24. …the beginning of the end of “America: Land of the (sort-of) Free?”

    Uh, I think we’ve already passed through that gate. And I mean well before this president.

  25. Boy, raymond, stunningly ignorant critique there:

    I like how all those things are to blame on this Administration, I bet there were no executions in the Clinton days, and, despite all of his votes on the matter, you seem to think that PATRIOT Act will go away under a Kerry administration.

    Seriously, raymond, why not just blame the death of Ray Charles on this administration too, because, hey, it happened on Bush’s watch.

  26. Ayn Randian-
    While executions and prison rape certainly predated the Bush administration, the other things on Raymond’s list are pretty much the fault of the current leadership. As bad as things were before, at least in the old days you could think “Things are going to get better” and have this thought be at least PARTIALLY grounded in reality. But nowadays? I dunno.

  27. I wouldn’t ‘blame’ this administration for the Patriot Act. That crap was sitting around waiting for an excuse to shove it into law. 9/11 happened, and there’s the excuse. Then they rammed it through and 98 senators and 357 congressmen voted for it. They’re not ‘this administration’, they’re supposed to be the brake. Hell, they’ve got another one sitting around waiting for another excuse. It’s even crappier, and I’ll bet that if there was some further terrorist attack that it would get rammed through with about the same margins. And then those clowns in the legislature wouldn’t have any excuses, “Fool me twice” and all that. But it would still pass. That’s indicative of why I have no faith in the gridlock scenario for limiting government expansion.

  28. BS: Listen to what they say (occasionally they’ll let something slip in a moment of usually unintended candor) but – more important! – watch what they do.

    Randian: True enough. This “creeping crud” has been developing over a number of years, and throughout many administrations, of both the Ass and Elephant species.

    Methinks we can safely conclude that the sun has now set on the US as a constitutional republic, and dawned on the untouchable oligarchic cartel.

    An anecdote: a few years back, I was the chairman of our town committee (minor party: I’ll give you three guesses which and the first two don’t count). A friend happened to be the chairman of his town committee (one of the majors). We’re at a picnic and he comes up to me and says, “I’m jealous of you.” Given that we were a town committee of a party of – what – four people at the time, I asked him what he meant. “You get to say exactly what you think, whenever you want.” It was then I understood the true nature of major party politics.

    I have a friend who is an executive director of a local charity (and has been on boards of non-profits and local government commissions and such for years). She likes to talk about the “meeting before the meeting.” (Any of you involved in organizations – governmental, political, or otherwise – know what she’s talking about.) And where I live (and I’m sure it’s typical, especially of smaller communities), it’s the same names and faces to be found on the boards of directors and executive staffs of the various and sundry organizations (again public, political and private). Occasionally someone moves or dies, some new schmuck gets recruited, and now and again everyone stands, shifts one chair to the right and trades hats, but it’s still the same people (many/most of whom are probably unknown to the population at large, but known to one another). Well, DC is the same way, writ large, but with more at stake than a city council seat or who’s going to run the next chicken barbeque.


  29. Who are the terrorists again? Maybe they should call it “take away my homeland security”. So now not only do I have to worry about some nut job with a bomb strapped to his body I have to worry about some nut job coming to “protect” me by searching my house because I might look funny….super.

  30. I become more convinced each day that the Second Amendment needs to be protected at all costs. Not only is it our last resort against tyranny, but it also protects us from needing ‘protection’ from the government.
    As fewer and fewer citizens own guns, their reliance on needing government thugs to protect them increases and they give up more and more of their individual liberties. Just imagine if citizens were able to carry firearms on planes – 9/11 would never have succeeded unless the entire plane was populated by terrorists. 9/11 like strategies will never succeed again because passengers from now on will likely mob any troublemaker on a flight.
    In the war on terrorism, people must be empowered to protect themselves – not made to cower like sheep while the wolf ‘protects’ them.

  31. Hughes is an impractical idiot. The US is too big, the borders too open to have any strictly defensive policy keep attacks from happening. The only effective long term way to keep the US safe is to 1) kill the terrorists outside of our borders before they get here. 2) Change the societies that produce terrorists so they don’t produce them any more (easy goal to state, not so easy to implement).

  32. John Joy-
    I don’t think Europe is utopia; I’m just wondering if it might not be a better option at this point. I remember reading something written by a European, to the effect that “In America, you have more freedom if you are a businessman or the head of a corporation, but less freedom if you’re just an everyday individual trying to live your life; in Europe, it’s the other way around.” Considering where I am on society’s totem pole, I like the idea of living where my boss doesn’t have the “freedom” to not give me any paid sick days, or require me to work unlimited amounts of overtime. (Not that my own personal boss does such things, but I know that in that regard I’m luckier than most Americans.)

  33. Both parties have been a disaster when it comes to civil liberties. However, I think the democrats are the worst. Their solution to every single problem is expanded government power. One look at the connection between the food nannies, the trial lawyers and the Democrat party regulatory activists should give anyone concerned with civil liberties the heeby jeebys.

  34. Jennifer,

    I have worked overseas, the individuals do not have more freedom to have the things you like. They pay for each and every one of them with high tax rates, high unemployment, and little social mobility.

  35. As an example: did any of you read the news story a few weeks ago, about the woman in Alabama or Georgia or someplace who was fired from her job because she had a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker on her car, and her pro-Bush boss said “Remove the sticker or lose your job?” (Kerry heard about it and gave the woman a job.)

    So which is more important: the freedom of a boss to say “You’re not allowed to publicly support candidates I dislike,” or the freedom of an employee to support a candidate her boss doesn’t like? In Europe, I gather the employee’s right trumps that of the boss in such a case, and I agree.

  36. metalgrid: Yes, but the Second Amendment is a dead letter unless people are both able and (more’s the point) willing to use it.

    The Second was always intended as a “last resort” check on government in its totality (and, for that matter, was intended to dovetail with the check on federal power by the states). It doesn’t do much good if people don’t see a problem – and, I’m afraid, they don’t. They simply don’t see the system as broken, and really don’t understand the system’s true nature and modus operandi. (This is evidenced by the applause from the various expected corners about the reduction in “voter apathy” as can be seen in the spirited – often mean spirited – “Bud bowl” style rooting for their “team,” er, candidate.)

    The “players” (that cartel I mentioned earlier) have, over time, become experts at “circling the wagons” and keeping out of the effective public discourse anyone whose hand hasn’t been stamped by them. The effective disenfranchisement of minor parties is a very visible symptom of this minors function not so much to get people elected as to inject new ideas into the mix. It should, thus, come as no surprise that Bonesman A and Bonesman B are spouting nearly the same crap, and would behave in a nearly identical manner regardless of who is elected.


  37. TJIT-
    The social mobility of America is not as great as the mythos makes it out to be, and I would think that freedom of speech and thought and olitical opinion is even more important than freedom to be able to afford to buy ten tons of unnecessary crap each week, rather than five.

    Again, not saying Europe is perfect; I’m just saying there are tradeoffs in everything. For most of my life I thought America, with all its flaws, would be better than other countries; now I’m not so sure.

  38. “At the time of his remarks, Hughes was a private consultant…” – CQ

    Let’s find out what he says about those comments. Put his feet to the fire. Also, metalgrid’s comment, “I become more convinced each day that the Second Amendment needs to be protected at all costs” raises an issue I rarely see covered. I, for one, am absolutely hard-line on 2nd Amendment rights being preserved and think it’s a shame it gets ignored by so many.

  39. Jennifer, the scenerio you’ve described about a woman fired for a Kerry bumper sticker is a poor example of limited freedom. It’s a better example of Freedom of Association. The woman has no rightful claim to her employers property.

  40. Wellfellow–
    When did I say she has a right to her employer’s property? I’m talking about a bumper sticker she put on her own car, and the woman never campaigned for Kerry as a representative of the company for which she worked. Are you saying the guy was right to fire her? I don’t understand the mentality that “It’s wrong for the government to take away your freedom, but it’s okay for your employer to do so.”

  41. hey jennifer,

    i also gotta take issue about the boss has more rights here, and the worker bee there. you get those types of political problems over there, too. there was a big case in copenhagen concerning a political statement and an employee. also, in austria, you have to be organized (and thereby supporting a political party) for certain jobs. my best man, eric, from salzburg has had some issues with this. if you’re a small business owner, you have to get a whole slew of approvals and such.

    even though i’d say you’re very constrained here in your small business, it’s worse over there. the small shops on lawrence ave, west of western, heading out over the river are less in number in copenhagen, munich, vienna, hamburg, and berlin. spare me that “little guy speech” (that comment directed at the original utterer, and not you jennifer, grin)

    europeans like playing the “more free for the little guy” card and cite the myriad of positive rights that are “enjoyed”.

    having spent a great deal of time actually living there, i would disagree wholeheartedly, based on my experiences, with that quotation.

    i’m interested in finding out more about this lady who got fired – does anybody have a link?

  42. Also, wellfellow, do the woman’s property rights mean anything here? Should she be free to put a bumper sticker on her car without losing her means of making a living?

  43. DRF:
    Here are a couple of links. To find more, just Google this: Kerry, “bumper sticker,” fired

  44. At the risk of threadjacking, I would be interested to know the official Libertarian take on this case, too. Whose rights should matter more in this case: the right of the boss to fire people who don’t meeet his standards of political correctness, or the right of an employee to support a candidate her boss doesn’t like?

  45. Jennifer: But… I’m a businessman! 8^) Actually, regarding the stickers and such, I like to make it policy not to mix business and politics, or business and religion. Since I tend to use my personal truck for client runs (not to mention work for a certain charity having the same sort of policy), the only sticker thereon is my AAA sticker. But you are right, on some day-to-day matters (but not others), Europeans may be less hassled, and – let’s face it – the tax burden here is starting to creep right on up, soon to be in the European dooryard. (Ethical disclosure: I carry a EU – Irish – as well as US passport.)

    Curtis: But how to convince a critical mass that action based on the principle of the Second is justified and worthwhile? Too few and you have nothing more than an insurrection by rabble-rousers, which would be quickly suppressed (and used as an excuse for still more draconian laws). If you have enough… then why don’t they simply “vote the bastards out?” And, again, when’s the right time? Too late and… you’re fighting with sporks and broomsticks, since that’s all folks will be allowed to have. And, if it comes to it… then what? Warring factions, a la the Balkans? (I’m not bringing this up to disparage the Second or be a wiseass – these are legitimate questions in need of discussion.)


  46. Jennifer-

    Before you move to Europe I would suggest reading the EU constution (raymond is bound to post it here again soon). The federal government may be running down ours, but we still have the freedoms documented and an opportunity to fight for them through our system. The EU constitution is a monstrosity, packed full of bureaucratic restrictions on individual liberty.

  47. thanks, jennifer.

    i guess we can file envirodorks in with academic departments at many fine institutions…

    JMJ – good call not mixing buz and politiks. but i disagree that europeans are “less hastled”: many countries have (albeit drastically relaxed in recent years) strict opening laws, and i’ve had trouble getting groceries after hours. granted, the central-northern perspectives are different from those in the brit isles or benelux…

    happy friday,

  48. B.-
    A Constitution is only as good as the will of the government to enforce it. The fourth and fifth amendments would technically make drug testing illegal, yet it happens nonetheless. The Constitution forbids the cops from seizing your assets on suspicion of drug use, yet it happens anyway. A good chunk of the Patriot Act is unconstitutional, yet there it is.

    I heard that the Constitution of the Soviet Union guaranteed all sorts of wonderful rights and freedoms, yet I also hear the the old SU sucked as far as personal freedoms were concerned. So which should we believe–the Soviet Constitution, or the Soviet reality?

  49. Jennifer, you seem to think that the woman had a ‘right’ to that job. But I can’t agree that any such right exists. Sure, she can voice her political opinion, but like the Dixie Chicks she can’t then claim that she shouldn’t face any sort of responsibility for taking that opportunity to voice her opinion. It doesn’t make some people here happy, but I can’t say that anyone has the ‘right’ to be employed by someone else. So yeah, I’m on the boss’s LEGAL side. This doesn’t make him less of a jerk, though.

  50. DRF-
    Envirodorks? Huh? Did I miss something?

  51. Highway-
    You do realize, I assume, that by giving the right of an employer to regulate his employee’s political speech, you’re taking away the right of a much larger number of people (employees) to express political opinions, don’t you? Do you think that as long as the guy taking away your rights doesn’t work for the government, it doesn’t matter?

  52. As to Constitutions, you might look at them from a starting point. Sure the actual conditions can be very different from what the Constitution says, but if the Constitution says craptastic things in the first place, like the EU one does, then it’s for damn sure it’s not gonna be better in reality.

  53. Hi jennifer –

    enviromate is the company, and i couldn’t remember it (had closed the link) and had to get the phone, so i wrote the closest approximation of the company name that came to mind…

    it’s friday. and boston fans can finally stop whining. so it’s a good week. and team america was pretty good…

  54. Highway-
    Good point about Constitutions. What about my question about the right of one man who holds the purse strings to trump the rights of all the “little people” whose politics don’t jibe with his? I fail to see how a corporate dictatorship is much better than a governmental one.

  55. I’ve got some questions for General Hughes. Why should protecting America start by taking away the rights of American citizens? We aren’t even willing to take the steps necessary to prevent millions of illegal aliens from coming into the country. Some people even want to let illegals have drivers licenses, etc. Shouldn’t we address the security of our borders before talking about curtailing the individual liberty of U.S citizens?

    General, when you say “set aside what the mass of people think,” does the term “representative democracy” mean anything to you? We have to “act in ways that heretofore were not in accordance with our values and traditions.” Why would we want to do that? Don’t you believe there are some things more important that safety & security?

    If you want to talk about going after our enemies & destroying them, I’m with you. If you want to impose restrictions on the rights of aliens from terror-supporting countries, that’s fine with me. But if you think we need to turn the U.S. into some sort of psuedo-police state in order to be safe, count me out. I’d rather live with the increased risk of terrorist attack, and I hope most Americans agree.

  56. JMJ, believe me, I know what you mean. If there’s an amendment to the Constitution more vulnerable to hype and misunderstanding than the 2nd, I’m not sure which it would be. Kerry, for one, says he will preserve it, yet votes like a sculptor who is reducing a block of granite to chips and chips only.

  57. No, I’m not ‘taking them away’. I’m saying that I think freedom of association is more important.

    We didn’t even get into the arguments about whose property the speech took place on. Yeah, the bumper sticker was on her car, but the car was in his parking lot. Hello legal snafu. AFAIK, he wasn’t saying she couldn’t vote for K/E, or even tell others she was voting for K/E, but he was saying that he didn’t want that poster on his lot. So it really comes down to property rights, and we could argue about it, whether her car on his lot was her property or his, or what effect it was.

    Is it optimal for bosses to tell people what they can say? Probably not. But like I said above, nobody has a RIGHT to a particular job. All bosses regulate speech in some ways. You don’t have to work for them. Yes, it’s a burden, but if it’s that important to you, then you make the decision.

  58. Your restatement of the question adds another thing I’d want to respond to. If there is some sort of ‘corporate dictatorship’ set up, where that business owner’s power is indistinguishable from the power of the state, then we do have a big problem. But we aren’t talking about something like that. This boss had no further actions to take besides firing her. I don’t think he had the cops come out and rough her up, nor was he part of some cabal of business owners to blackball her. Those situations have much worse consequences.

    But saying “I don’t want you to work for me, get out.” has a lot lower implication level. It’s not a case where, as was discussed in here a while ago, an employer of illegal aliens is mistreating them under threat of ratting them out to the INS. It’s not a case of rights trumping rights. It’s a case of privilege trumping privilege. People have argued this case like it’s some clash of equality, but it’s not.

  59. Along with excellent cultural commentary, the monitoring of Constitutional rights infringement by law enforcement is the most outstanding feature of Reason online.

    Reading Hughes’s comments was a chilling experience.

  60. Hughes has it all wrong, but what do you expect from a power protecting military pol?

    Terrorism is less of a threat to America then the lock of control the Republicans and Democrats have on government. Of course you are going to have discussions of abridging individual freedoms and rights when there is no libertarian or constitutional party factions telling the dems and repubs to stick it up their ass and move aside.

    In the meantime, I am going to continue blaming this whole mess on the war on drugs. Abridging liberties would be unspeakable if it weren’t for the constitutional eroding WOD.

    Attention GOP and DNP, quit treading on my constitution, you fucks!

  61. You need a guy like this as part of the process. You don’t want him powerful enough to make policy at a whim, but he is invaluable as a guy who can bring the risk vs. return calculation to light. You need him, you need the civil libertarian.

    It scares me somewhat in libertarian circles the degree to which folks will pooh pooh on some very real costs of liberty, or, more explicitly, the degree to which tradeoffs are not acknowledged. It is true in general that its better for 1000 guilty men to go free than for one innocent to rot. I am skeptical that we’d all be so blase about that if we stipulate that those 1000 each get a nuke. There is a tendency to just laugh off the possibility of significant harm as ALWAYS being a scare tactic by statists.

    I don’t want to lose my libertarian decoder ring (though some of you wanted to take it away when I supported the war), so I will put this in terms of opposing liberties. The terrorist has the ability to destroy lives to the tune of thousands at a time, so there is a reasonable cost in liberty to stop him. The suggestion that the freedom cost of preventing a large scale terrorist attack might be higher these days than at previous times in the past, but still entirely reconcilable with libertarian principles, should not be dismissed out of hand. Thousands dead is a lot of violated rights.

  62. Jennifer,
    Consider if the shoe was on the other foot.

    If you can force people to associate by making person A pay person B, can you force person B to work for person A? Why not?

    What if she had decided to quit because of the political environment at work? Should she be allowed to leave with no consideration of her employer’s rights? Should she be forced to pay to train the new employee?

    Let’s say that the gov’t settled this dispute by finding the woman a new job–working for the Bush campaign, for example. Fair?

    Freedom of association simply means that nobody is forced by the government to associate with anybody they don’t want to:
    You don’t have to pay Neocon campaign workers to work out of your home to drum up Bush support, and they don’t have to work for you.

    Everybody in America is considered their own business:
    You can sell your services to anybody
    You can refuse to sell you servcies to anybody
    Nobody is forced to buy from you if they don’t want to.

    Should we throw that away and let the government decide what everybody does to avoid any consequences of having a public political opinion?

    The boss is free to be a jerk, as much as the woman would like to take that freedom away from him.

    She is free to air her political opinion, as much as her boss would like to take that freedom away from her.

  63. Are federal prisons safe places to be?

  64. However, I think the democrats are the worst. Their solution to every single problem is expanded government power. One look at the connection between the food nannies, the trial lawyers and the Democrat party regulatory activists should give anyone concerned with civil liberties the heeby jeebys.

    Actions speak louder than words. The Democrats expand government and stamp on certain liberties, and that is the platform on which they run.

    The Republicans say they are for free-markets and civil liberties and cater to corporate embezzlement and authoritarian supression of liverties.

    At that point, I have to say that the Democrats are the more honest of the two. The Republicans are a lose cannon who do the opposite of what they say they stand, with no telling how far they go; and get a free ride from the impressionable and gullible liberty leaning individuals like you.

  65. Jennifer,

    The property she is claiming is the paycheck she expects to get from the employer. This has nothing what-so-ever to do with women’s rights, or anyone’s rights. The employer has every right to set up whatever arbitrary rules for employment, no one has any “right” to a job provided by someone else, just as my freedom of speech does not allow me to enter your home and spout off. Yes, it was her car, and she has the right to put a sticker on it, the employer did not take away that right, he exercised his right to cease interacting with her. Again, we call this freedom of association.

  66. “Thus and therefore… why should the Powers That Be be, in any way, truly interested in STOPPING terrorism?”

    A couple of thoughts about the familiar path of using ‘who benefits’ as the sole descriptor of events.

    It is easy to pull the conspiracy lever for any number of society’s problems. Why would drug companies want to cure anything? They profit from pain! Why would teachers want to teach anything? They profit from ignorance! Why would police want to lock up criminals? They profit from crime! Why would politicians want to stop terrorism? They profit from terrorism!

    This is self interest narrowly defined in each case, and is completely unconvincing, at least to me, as a description of anything that real people decide to do. No president wants to see thousands of Americans dead for no reason.

    As for the interventionist foreign policy bit, I still think it is a naive analysis that many libertarians cling to. In the absence of Cold War US intervention in foreign affairs across the globe, there would only be KGB interference in foreign affairs across the globe. It is unclear to me that everything is better for us in that scenario. You have some information, and you decide based on that information either to act or to stay put. Inaction has consequences just as action does, and the catastrophe that results from inaction is no less a catastrophe than the one that results from action.

  67. This is self interest narrowly defined in each case, and is completely unconvincing, at least to me, as a description of anything that real people decide to do. No president wants to see thousands of Americans dead for no reason.

    You have, IM(NS)HO, way too much faith in your common man (or, at least, common politician), and what motivates them. I’m curious: have you had many dealings with politicians, and, if so, at what level(s)?

    And there’s a big difference between the work done by “regular folk” (and the motivation to do it) and politicians. I take the aspirin from the drug company because it gets rid of my headache; if it didn’t, I’d stop taking (and thus buying) it. (WRT the teacher: well, let’s not get started on the perverse motivators there.)

    I always got a chuckle out of the Flintstones episode The Tycoon, what with Fred trying to imitate Gotrocks by answering the phone and mechanically chanting, “Whose baby is that? What’s your angle? I’ll buy that!” Of course, it’s rational consideration of the answers to the two questions – and its link to whether that final order is justified – which produces tycoons, rather than ruining them.


  68. If any of y’all don’t understand why so many people dislike Libertarians based upon the belief that Libertarianism is basically the economic version of “Might makes right,” re-read sections of this thread again.

    I think the only concern an employer should have concerning an employee is: can she do the job, without interfering with others ability to do theirs? Anything else is none of the employer’s business.

    However, if her original employment contract had a “no democratic bumper stickers” clause, I would side with you. But it didn’t.

  69. Jennifer.

    Here’s another, related discussion you might find interesting.

    Lots of times, people defend theoretical positions they’d drop in an instant if they found themselves in unpleasant circumstances. If I got fired for wearing a libertarian pin…

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in all this.

  70. Liberty is simply a luxury that is secondary to safety.

    if you believe this, to paraphrase franklin, you will get and deserve neither.

  71. Jennifer,

    Say the bumper sticker was a racist one that supported the KKK, should the person still be able to keep the job? If you say one is ok then the other should be too right? Or are you just going to create another government program to decide which bumperstickers are ok and which ones are not? And the presence of a racist bumpersticker might be against numerous “hostile environment” rules. So which prgram rules the free and fair bumpersticker program or the EEOC anti hostile environment program?

    I like people and I want them to do well life. The reason many of us oppose the idea of the “government” helping people is most of the time it doesn’t help them it makes their situation worse. The bumper stikcer problem above illustrates that what should be straight forward is not once the government is involved. My opinion on this is based on years of experience watching various federal programs in action on the ground.

    By and large big business loves big government. They use lobbyists, and lawyers to shape the competitive landscape to their needs. Most of the time they will use the rules to squash small competitors before they get off the ground. The actions of the broadcast industry against satellite radio is a good example of this. Remember, the feds and all of their anti trust enforcement did not put the hurt on IBM it was a small company started with a few people named microsoft that did that.

  72. It scares me somewhat in libertarian circles the degree to which folks will pooh pooh on some very real costs of liberty, or, more explicitly, the degree to which tradeoffs are not acknowledged. It is true in general that its better for 1000 guilty men to go free than for one innocent to rot. I am skeptical that we’d all be so blase about that if we stipulate that those 1000 each get a nuke. There is a tendency to just laugh off the possibility of significant harm as ALWAYS being a scare tactic by statists.

    mr ligon, i agree to some extent — but not nearly to the extent towhich the united states has already reacted. there are fundamental risk assessment problems now in united states policy.

    in the short term, there is no evidence — none — that would lead a strict rationalist to conclude that the united states is in danger of any attack at all. what there is is a shitload of fearmongering propaganda in the air. now, i think the odds are greater than zero — but i do NOT think it is an imminent danger that should keep people up at night — OR keep our armies in the field.

    brass tacks: 9/11 killed 3000 people — fewer than get killed in the average year running around the house with the scissors open. the visceral paranoia that resulted from 9/11 isn’t intelligent risk assessment: it’s panicky animals stampeding because of something they saw on TV. politicians are either succumbing to or taking advantage of that, depending on who they are.

    the standard comback among the paranois is that the NEXT attack will kill a zillion zillion. my answer: SHOW ME. if you can evidence the possibility, i’ll consider trading the certainty of slaughtering thousands of innocents and imprisoning thousands more on our way to becoming the most hated nation on earth for the possibility that someone will nuke new york harbor.

    but before you go telling me that it’s certain to happen: i might note loose nukes and chem/bio weapons have been around for some time — and no one yet has nuked tel aviv, which would have been target #1 since 1947.

    to go off on a paranoid tangent about what is POSSIBLE ignores what has HAPPENED. we’re fortunate, in some respects, to have israel as a test case for what *can* happen via terrorism. and nothing of the kind has yet. so strawmen like those 1000 each get a nuke carry very little weight with me.

    it must be said that i accept the eventuality of such an attack on the united states (and israel, probably first). but i also am amazed at what the fearful think will help them. a totalitarian police state? rounding up and killing all the arabs in america? turning iraq in to a sheet of glass? amazing!

    again, for all its problems, israel is proof that one can continue to live with a western-style government while an object of terrorism. will there be tragedy? yes. the point is that imploding into an dank orwellian hole WILL NOT STOP IT — and you will trade the occasional possibility of tragedy for the CERTAINTY of tragedy.

  73. If you want to keep your liberty for sure, through thick and thin, do the following …

    1) Buy a .30 caliber or equivalent semi-automatic rifle. Don’t buy a weird caliber that will make resupply difficult. If you live in a state like CA, settle for a bolt action rifle.

    2) Take target practice a few times a year. Ensure you can reliably hit a small target at 300 meters or less. Accurate shooting is your best defense against superior firepower.

    3) Keep the weapon clean and well maintained. Don’t use corrosive ammunition or let your weapon rust.

    4) Keep a few hundred rounds of ammunition on hand. Use the oldest for practice and top up with new ammo.

    5) Do not be a loon about gun rights. If someone asks you why you own a rifle, simply reply, “Just in case the ‘course of human events’ dictates it’s use.” Then smile enigmatically.

    And more to the subject, that a former Army officer, sworn to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” would say such things as described above, is disgusting. That attitude is something, if it ever comes to it (don’t expect that it will, though), well worth fighting against.

    And what Marius said.

  74. Say the bumper sticker was a racist one that supported the KKK, should the person still be able to keep the job?

    Intriguing point.

    In other words, what you’re saying is, every employer is free to institute his own “don’t ask don’t tell” policy.

    To take this one step further… Would you defend the right (“right”) of an employer to fire a worker who puts a Kerry sign on her own front lawn?

    I can understand the free-association argument when it comes to hiring. But when the employer-employee relationship has been established, doesn’t the employer have certain responsibilities towards the employee?

    After all, accepting a job is a commitment. Because one has accepted employment with A, he is not available for the job with the double salary from B.

    Where one is employed can sometimes determine housing arrangements. An employee may have bought a car to get to work. He may have hired a baby-sitter.

    Accepting a job has costs for the employee.

    If I want to hire only Republicans, I have to make that clear from the outset.

  75. Jennifer,

    What you opine to be the proper criteria when hiring or firing people is nothing more than a pleasant thought. I wish people would hold the door open for me. Please don’t confuse good manners and social grace with governing principle.

  76. Raymond,

    Should I be allowed to not work for a company that puts a Kerry sign on the lawn I may find offensive? Can I quit when they put the sign up?

  77. “The employer has every right to set up whatever arbitrary rules for employment, no one has any “right” to a job provided by someone else,

    Comment by: wellfellow at October 29, 2004 12:41 PM”

    You can’t be serious. What if the boss decided she she should provide sexual services for him, or babysit her kids, etc.

  78. Raymond-
    My point was that this is exactly the sort of thread that scares people away from Libertarianism. I don’t know the exact statistic, but I’d guess employees outnumber employers in this country by at LEAST 300 to 1, and yet folks like Highway are basically taking the stand that an employer can do anything that isn’t specifically forbidden in an employment contract.

    Where I work, I’m guaranteed the right to take an hour for lunch anytime between 11:30 and 1:30; however, my contract does NOT specifically grant me the freedom to choose where and what I eat. If my employer suddenly decided that each employee was required to eat a hamburger at McDonald’s every day or else lose his or her job, folks like Highway seem to think that my only form of recourse should be to find another job, which, in this economy, would probably take a VERY long time and result in a significant loss of income for me.

    Do you actually not see the difference between supporting the KKK and supporting a presidential candidate different than your boss’s?

    If an employer chose to have and announce a blanket “no bumper sticker” rule, well, that’s his prerogative. But there was no policy of the sort in place; the woman put on a bumper sticker, and then the boss called her into his office and ordered her to either remove it or leave. This is not a matter of following a contract–this is a matter of being subject to a bully’s whims.

  79. Um, quit the job? Good luck staying in business with ridiculous demands and no employees. You don’t need the government to ensure that.

  80. Wellfellow-
    Read your post, which was simultaneous with mine. In theory, a company which did not treat its employees well would soon go out of business for lack of employees; in practice, when times are bad enough there will always be people desperate enough to do pretty much any job, and the only instances where employee treatment resulted in a company’s downfall was when the employees had a non-religious higher power to appeal to.

    Or various violent and bloody revolutions throughout history.

  81. I understand what you’re saying, Jennifer, although I think rules like that are nearly impossible to enforce. What I consider poor behavior could be very different that what someone else thinks is. It’s a similar situation with price-gauging laws. People could act like @$$holes in times of duress (or anytime), but I’m not so convinced it’s the role of the government to make people act nice. Keep in mind, the employee has no more claim to the job than the employer has on the employees’ labor. It’s a voluntary transaction.

  82. Jennifer,

    Yes I see the difference. Now try and write it up in a neat little rule that will cover the Kerry sticker, the KKK sticker and everything between those two poles. Difficult, complicated, and expensive.

    You see the “problem” somebody got fired for a Kerry solution. You don’t see the cost of your “fix” to the “problem”. Create a government rule regarding the bumpersticker, have the government write the rule (probably at least ten pages when everything is said and done). Set up enforcement and compliance for the bumpersticker rule. Mail rules to employers, employers look at another ten pages of rules to deal with bumper stickers and decides it is easier to automate the production line and not hire new workers.

    It would have been nice if the boss had not fired the person for having the Kerry sticker. Your “solution” to the problem ends up hurting more people then the original problem did. This is often the result when the government tries to “fix” some “problem”.

  83. gaius:

    Let’s take Israeli security and level of military involvement down to levels you would be comfortable with in the US. Things would be no worse for Israelis?

    What has happened is that terrorists have exploited publicly the vulnerabilities of an ‘open society’. I suspect you and I would agree that those vulnerabilities are an acceptable cost. I would protest if you were to suggest that there is no cost, however.

    After burning my hand in the toaster oven, I can hypothesize about the causes of my pain and resolve, perfectly reasonably, not to stick my hand in a blast furnace. You know that terrorists intend to blow us up and you know that nuclear material is out there. It is odd to me that you need much else in the way of evidence that terrorists would choose to nuke us if they could, and it is equally odd to me that you would suppose that decreasing the probability of a successful attack can never be worth the cost paid because, after all, it is only a probability. Security is always about probabilities.

  84. Fabius: While owning/training with the rifle is a Good Thing(R) Just Because,(TM) we’re right back to the questions I brought up October 29, 2004 at 09:57. Who do we shoot? When do we know it’s time to shoot ’em? How do we go about it in such a way as to have better than a zero probability of successfully achieving our aims? Better (and related) question: who’s “we?” I know a miniscule percentage of a population can (provided sufficiently clever and satisfactorily provisioned) pull off a coup, but how many? Two percent? Five percent? Ten percent? Twenty? And what’s the “end game” such as you don’t end up with a situation worse off than it was before?

    The vast, vast bulk of the country (sadly) seems content with things as they are, as they drive about with their magnetic stickers and flags gleefully flapping in the breeze, thinking they’re the cat’s behind for partaking in the national “Bud bowl” of November 2. They can’t (won’t) see it for the farce it really is; and by the time sufficient numbers of them do, it may be too late to do much about it.

    Answers, anyone? I’m afraid I’m stumped.


  85. I suspect you and I would agree that those vulnerabilities are an acceptable cost. I would protest if you were to suggest that there is no cost, however.

    i never would, mr ligon, i agree. but i see too many balancing the cost against the wrong counterweight. there is an implicit assumption that kicking ass and taking names makes you safer in this environment. it does not! it puts you in greater peril — this is not a war, it is a popular insurgency — and this is the fundamental misperception among an american majority, including (possibly) the white house.

    It is odd to me that you need much else in the way of evidence that terrorists would choose to nuke us if they could,

    you suppose that they are totally irrational. i don’t. they have a manifesto, aims they want addressed, and they know the threat of nuclear response is far more powerful than lighting that candle.

    the cold war hawks tried to make that same argument about the soviets for 40 years (and vice versa). it was wrong all along. the iraq hawks tried to make that argument about saddam. and they were wrong too.

    osama & co haven’t done a thing yet to make me believe they don’t understand the game they’re playing. mistakes, sure — but they have stated aims and want to accomplish them. much like hezbollah or hamas, if they were negotiated with and given a measure of success and access to real power, they would take it — as the ira and irgun did before them. obliterating new york with nuclear weapons does not get them closer to any of that.

    continue imperializing their homelands, though, and we may get it in the head after all.

    …and it is equally odd to me that you would suppose that decreasing the probability of a successful attack can never be worth the cost paid because, after all, it is only a probability. Security is always about probabilities.

    if i thought we were decreasing such probability, i would applaud. unfortunately, we’re doing quite the opposite in iraq — we’re in the process of proving al-qaeda prescient and making them sympathetic figures to all muslims. this is a program for failure not only in iraq but globally.

    until we begin to understand that al-qaeda is a rational insurgency against indirect american misrule (both real and perceived) with massive popular support — because they honestly address real grievances! — we will continue to fail miserably and dramatically increase the odds of american tragedies at the hands of blowback.

    the bush adminstration has been singularly disastrous in both its neolithic misperception of the problem it confronts and what it can do about it. i hope kerry’s better.

  86. Who do we shoot?

    mr joy, i think the example of history is that many factions will decide for themselves individually — but once a critical mass starts, many will. but it shoudl be noted that some already are (like it or not, gang warfare constitutes a low-intensity civil war).

    pull off a coup, but how many? Two percent? Five percent? Ten percent? Twenty?

    i don’t think a successful coup is likely as long as there is civil peace — there may be an attempt or two (a cataline, if you will — and i’d make the neocons a good bet for that).

    but lasting dictatorship comes because people WANT it. it solves the problem of chaos and unrest — peopel feel they need it. and i think one can observe in the ongoing deterioration of the american psyche into a fearful leaping from one threat to the next that such chaos, once started, would lead shortly to widespread calls for draconian order.

    in this thread, near the top, someone came out and said it:

    Liberty is simply a luxury that is secondary to safety.

    brother, that’s the path to tyranny, right there.

  87. Keep in mind, the employee has no more claim to the job than the employer has on the employees’ labor. It’s a voluntary transaction.

    But once the transaction is made, there’s a contract. And contracts protect rights and list responsibilities.

    It seems to me that we also have to take into consideration who or what the employer is: A person or a corporation.

    Persons have rights which corporations don’t. For one thing, persons have their fundamental rights by virtue of being human persons, whereas the only rights a company has are those granted by the chartering power. So, an “employer” is not necessarily the same thing as an “employer”.

    (We sure have wandered far from the original article.)

    This administration is not particularly respectful of human rights or of the Constitution. Bush’s support for the marriage amendment is evidence of the latter, surely.

    stunningly ignorant critique… why not just blame the death of Ray Charles on this administration too, because, hey, it happened on Bush’s watch.

    Whose administration hired Hughes as “the Homeland Security Department’s top intelligence official”? Or are we all being stunningly ignorant because hey Hurricane Frances happened on Bush’s watch?

  88. but lasting dictatorship comes because people WANT it. it solves the problem of chaos and unrest — peopel feel they need it. and i think one can observe in the ongoing deterioration of the american psyche into a fearful leaping from one threat to the next that such chaos, once started, would lead shortly to widespread calls for draconian order.

    …and THAT’s what I’m afraid of. It wasn’t too many years ago that people were starting to get pissed about creeping statism and jackbooted thuggery… until a couple of nutjobs dropped a federal building on some babies. Then people started getting uppity again… and some nutjobs (predictably) rammed some airplanes into buildings. Here we are, three years hence… and people are juuuuuuust starting to get a little (albeit VERY little) uppity again. You can bet your bottom dollar we have an atrocity upon which the politicians can capitalize on the way.


  89. It wasn’t too many years ago that people were starting to get pissed about creeping statism and jackbooted thuggery… until a couple of nutjobs dropped a federal building on some babies. Then people started getting uppity again… and some nutjobs (predictably) rammed some airplanes into buildings. Here we are, three years hence… and people are juuuuuuust starting to get a little (albeit VERY little) uppity again. You can bet your bottom dollar we have an atrocity upon which the politicians can capitalize on the way.

    I really, really, really hope that your implications are wrong. The problem is that part of me thinks you just might be right. Maybe.

  90. Pretty much you state what my position is, that if it’s not explicitly approved by the employment contract, then it’s discretionary. It may ‘scare you off of libertarianism’, but that really isn’t necessary, since there are many levels of libertarianism. I don’t particularly agree with the isolationists, for instance. The problem with the discussion, without trying to do a reduction ad absurdum is that arbitrary rules erode freedoms. That’s why I think that the government should stay out of it. The arguments about bureaucracy and enforcement costs are just ancillary things. The main point is that it’s another area where the government shouldn’t be involved in, Constitutionally and just in principle.

    It would be sad if you lost your job, but if it would be so hard to find another job doing the same thing at that pay level, maybe you’re overpaid (noone likes to hear that). But you aren’t seeing the other side of the issue, it seems. Why should an employer have to justify every single thing he does? No reason. There’s nothing particularly special about employer / employee relationships. It should be an agreement entered into freely that can be terminated in accordance with the contract, which in many places is ‘at will’. But there are consequences for everyone’s actions. When the boss fired her, he lost a trained worker, who presumably was good at her job. He now has costs to replace her, plus additional costs for bad community feelings. If he complains about having to pay those costs, then I lump him in the same boat as the woman whining about being fired: Should have thought of that before you fired her. He even gave her the opportunity to remove the sticker (which wasn’t even stuck on, just taped to the back window). She refused, while changing the subject: “You can’t tell me who to vote for.” Which as far as I know he never did. Neither side has ever said he even IMPLIED ‘Vote for Bush or you’re fired’. He didn’t want the advertisement for something he wouldn’t endorse on his property, where others presumably could imply that he was endorsing it himself. Yeah, that’s a little stretch, but that’s back to that earlier property rights argument.

    If your boss starts making LEGAL unreasonable demands, yes, your only recourse should be quitting. What else should there be? What else could there be? Well, I suppose you COULD try to sue them, but on what grounds? Like it or not, being a jerk is not in and of itself illegal. And if you give in to the demands, then we’ve found out what your paycheck is worth. But the government determining what ‘reasonable’ demands are? That’s not the job of government.

  91. I should close tags. The italics are only supposed to be for ‘reductio ad absurdum’. Sorry.

  92. When do you shoot?

    I depends. Not the greatest answer, but everyone has limits to what they’ll put up with. For me, things aren’t nearly bad enough right now. In fact, I see things as better than during previous scares, police actions, wars, etc. (Is Sean Penn being hauled before HUAC? Is Walt Brown in jail? Is Zogby in a camp in the Owens Valley?) Not what one would want it to be, but still better than it might be.

    If the government were to intern thousands of citizens and to put down protests violently and to censor news and to cancel elections and to rule by decree and to try to disarm the populace, I would be willing to shoot. If I were the only one and got crushed, so be it. But that isn’t happening, nor do I expect that it will.

    The issue of victory or defeat does not enter into the question. Resistance to oppression is a matter of principle. The prospect of defeat did not stop the Continental Army. The Belgians resisted the Germans, twice. It didn’t stop the peasants of the Ukraine (millions of them had to be starved, murdered, deported, tortured and imprisoned into submission). It didn’t stop the Polish Home Army.

    Because I am rational, I can judge when I am oppressed and what I should do about it. I can also judge others’ claims of oppression, the justice of their cause and the morality of their means of resistance.

    If a large proportion of the US populace is well armed and proficient in the use of those arms, there can be no question of any real oppression here because the costs will be too great for those who would be our masters.

    “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

  93. (One last thing. It’s the weekend; all the American libertarians are home from the office and sound asleep. This thread is over, so…)

    Ayn_Randian –

    The United States of America has never lived up to the hype of the Declaration of Independence, just as Christianity has never embodied the Law of Love.

    The fundamental human rights of the defenseless, the weak, the poor have throughout American history been violated by the powerful, who have used government to maintain and increase their power.

    After 9/11, I argued that the first response should be a vigourous reaffirmation of the principles of the Declaration: Abolition of capital punishment. Reform of the prison system. Repeal of laws the only goal of which is to limit the rights and freedoms of Americans. Notice to despot-allies that the US would no longer be an accomplice to their tyranny.

    Instead, the government of the US handed bin Laden a great victory. You agreed to play the game according to his rules.

    You have embraced authoritarianism and torture and death. You have strengthened tyrants. You have bought the leash.

    Americans are now faced with a choice The Economist calls “the incompetent v. the incoherent”.

    You have had four years of the policies of the incompetent. The incoherent offers at least (as Jennifer said above) “hope”.

  94. Highway-
    Do you actually think the country would be more free and in better shape if contracts between employer and employee had to spell out EVERY LAST DETAIL? Here are just a few rights which I (along with most other employees on this thread) am not explicitly guaranteed:

    –the right to eat whatever I wish for lunch
    –the right to walk through the office, rather than do cartwheels for the amusement of my boss
    –the right to leave each day without being strip-searched for missing office supplies
    –the right to go out on weekends, even to attend concerts and rallies of which my boss does not approve
    –the right to continue living with my boyfriend, sans marriage
    –the right to get married, if we so desired
    –the right to save or invest my money as I see fit, rather than invest in the company
    –ad infinitum

    No contract could possibly spell out all such details, and I fail to see how working conditions in America would improve if we were required to do so. Indeed, things would only get worse.

    As for the idea that I can just “find another job if I want to–” do you guys still persist in believing that finding another primary source of income is as easy as changing your socks?

    Not trying to convince you; there’s likely no point. I just want to point out, again, that attitudes such as this one are exactly why Libertarianism will NEVER become popular enough, or win enough popular support, to make one single damned bit of difference in how this country is run; nobody who depends on their income for survival (i.e., 95% of American adults) will vote to give their boss carte blanche in regulating their lives, which sounds like what you endorse here.

  95. Jennifer.

    (I hope you check this thread.)

    There are two kinds of “libertarian”: big L, and little l.

    Big-L Libertarians belong to a party called “The Libertarian Party”.

    Little-l libertarians are like economists. Put three in a room, and you’ll have 4 different opinions.

    The only political philosphy I can accept is libertarianism. Don’t give up on it just yet.

    (“Libertarian” sounds like some kind of religion. A mix of Lutheran and Unitarian, perhaps, with a dash of pot-smoking thrown in. I wish they’d call it something else. Anarchy lite, maybe. Or “Liberal”, which is pretty much what it’s called over here.)

  96. Raymond-
    I haven’t given up on little-l libertarianism, but as I’ve said before, I call myself one NOT because I agree with everything it stands for, but because I disagree less often than I do with the Dems and Repubs.

    Problem is, pure, unalloyed libertarianism is like pure communism–it can’t possibly work, because both philosophies share the fatal flaw of assuming that human nature is far nobler than it actually is. Highway and wellfellow both seem to advocate a system that would work wonderfully well if all employers were wise, farsighted individuals who understand the value of treating employees with dignity and respect, and would never be cruel enough to fuck with an employee’s livelihood; the system would also require employees who can afford to leave their job over matters of principle, without having to deal with mundane concerns like how to pay their bills and avoid joining the ranks of the homeless.

    I have NOT given up on libertarianism; I’ve just given up hoping that it will ever make a goddamned bit of difference in how this country is run.

  97. If it makes a difference in your own happiness and how you treat others, then it’s worth the effort.

  98. None of those things you mentioned are things I would say are ‘rights’. They are freedoms or privileges, as things you are able to do. And no, none of that stuff would HAVE to be spelled out in a contract, as obviously most business owners don’t have problems with any of that stuff. You aren’t guaranteed any of that stuff ANYWAY. I just don’t think you are seeing the freedom of association part of it. At this moment, you could be fired if you went to a place for lunch that your boss didn’t like. But why should YOU be allowed to put conditions on him that he doesn’t like when he shouldn’t be allowed to do the same to you? Because he employs you? No, it doesn’t have anything to do with your job. But why should he have to be around you if he doesn’t like your activities?

    I don’t expect to convince you, either. However, I can see no justification whatsoever for the involvement of government when a person and their employer has an argument about any trivial matter. And what you’re implying, by saying that ‘the boss shouldn’t be allowed to…’ is exactly that. That the government should be allowed to say which disagreements are worthy of dismissal and which aren’t. Yes, they already do this, wrongly in my opinion, in cases of race and gender. But I also understand that those are situations with long histories. That they use the current situation to ‘make up’ for it, I don’t agree with. But this also means I can’t agree with EXPANDING that power of the government.

    I think the issue is that you assume an oligarchy, and I do not. You assume that the only people with power employ others. I’m assuming that people start businesses on their own all the time, for various reasons. I’m assuming that people can change what they’re doing. Do those things take risk? Yes. There are plenty of bosses who are “wise, farsighted individuals who understand the value of treating employees with dignity and respect, and would never be cruel enough to fuck with an employee’s livelihood” already. I work for one. But it’s not my fault if you don’t. You want to make a change, be one of them. Enough GOOD bosses will drive the bad ones out. But I lose empathy quickly for people who bitch about their jobs continually, and blame it on society that they couldn’t do something different. Yes, I’m aware how hard-hearted that makes me. But especially in this country where you’re at is your own doing. Everyone would love to make more money for doing less work with fewer restrictions. Too bad the world doesn’t work that way, and it’s my unchanging opinion that trying to make it fit that mold will destroy what we hold dear.

  99. And I would point out that this is not ‘I got mine, screw you.’ It’s ‘I got mine, now you get yours.’ Happiness is not a zero-sum game.

  100. HIghway-
    I’m actually quite happy with my current job, and I highly doubt the people in charge there would be so short-sighted as to make reality out of my hypothetical examples. And if they ever did, I am also lucky enough to have a boyfriend who makes more than enough money to support us both while I took my time to find a new position. But I also know that in both aspects, I am far luckier than many people.

    Everything you have said thus far–discussing freedom of association and whatnot–seems based on the unspoken (and untrue) assumption that the employee-employer relationship is a relationship of equals; you mention “What if he told YOU where to eat, or you’re fired” and “What if you told HIM where to eat, or you quit” as if these thrreats bore equal weight.

    Fact is, if I quit tomorrow then my immediate supervisor would have an increased workload for the next couple of weeks, simultaneously doing my job and interviewing someone to take it over; however, the company as a whole, and the people in charge, would scarcely notice, and the company’s bottom line would likely be affected not at all. The company president has no concern over that, and need not fear the repurcussions if I were to break off our relationship. Whereas if I were fired, it would cause serious disruption for me and even put me at risk of utter financial ruin.

    Consider this: there are laws in place stating that bosses cannot tell their employees, “Have sex with me or you’re fired”; I don’t know of any laws expressly forbidding employees from telling their bosses, “Have sex with me or I quit.” That’s because the former deals with an actual problem where the latter does not.

  101. Any society will have people with power over others; the whole point of civilization as a whole is to try to reduce the amount of damage that can be done by those with the power. Governments are not the only organizations, and monarchs are not the only individuals, who need to be kept somewhat in check rather than be allowed to run roughshod over the lives beneath them.

  102. Highway –

    Would you agree that my distinction between corporate employers and individual-human employers is valid?

    I can see no justification whatsoever for the involvement of government…

    If a company is “chartered”, it is the creature of a government. It exists through the good graces of a government and is bound by rules that government sets up.

    (The British East India Company, for example. And the American colonies.)

    I just don’t think you are seeing the freedom of association part of it.

    Would you agree that only human individuals have human rights? Would you agree that “freedom of association” applies to individual humans and not to incorporated entities?

    I work for an “incorporated entity”. Though my colleagues may not enjoy being obliged to spend time with me, the only way they – as individuals – may exercise their “freedom of association” is by quitting. My colleague may despise my libertarian pin, but he may not fire me for it.

    Every “boss” I’ve got also works for that incoporated entity. Insofar as they are all colleagues (we all work for the same company) they may not fire me for my libertarian pin (unless, of course, there is a dress code or if expressing libertarian tendencies is specifically forbidden in the contract).

    I own the phone company. (Well, I and about a billion other people, but that’s not important.) If I dislike the phone repairman’s politics or bad breath or pierced nose, even my ownership doesn’t give me the right to fire him.

    Yesterday I googled the company Jennifer mentioned earlier. I was trying to find out its status. I couldn’t. But it is referred to as a “company” all over the place, with the guy who fired the woman as “owner”.

    It is my position that nothing gave the owner-employee of this incorporated entity the right to fire a colleague for an “offense” not specifically covered by a contract or by law.

    Freedom of association, property rights… None of these is applicable to this situation.

    ps – I don’t think being nice should be a legal obligation. Justice should be, though.

  103. Raymond-
    After re-reading Highway’s last post, I was struck by when he said that such things as getting married, eating lunch, having political opinions or having (harmless, legal) fun on the weekends are not “rights” but “privileges,” presumably to be granted or withheld at an employer’s discretion.

    Forgive me for continuing to beat a dead horse, but let me just repeat–THIS is why libertarianism (big L, little l, whichever) will never get enough grassroots support to make a difference–because of the apparent belief that things like the Bill of Rights only apply to those who sign the paychecks. I remember the old joke about “The Golden Rule–he who has the gold, makes the rules!”–but I never imagined there were sane people who thought that was a prescription for a free and healthy society.

  104. Also, now that it’s too late to get an absentee ballot for Tuesday’s election, I would be very interested to know what Highway would think if the pro-Bush employer mentioned earlier scheduled all pro-Kerry employees to work the full twelve hours that the polls will be open, and say “Anyone who goes to vote today is fired.” Should this also be allowed?

  105. hey jennifer,

    that golden rule is a good one for those who believe in corporate cronyism or mercantilistic capitalism, not the free, competitive, open market. barriers to entry or exit, setting up by (extra-) legal, wink-and-nod (see: “everything counts”, 1983 Depeche Mode)deals are most assuredly NOT the libertarian capitalism that many espouse here.

    the “might make right” philosophy is a belief of bullies or by those who never wish to leave their small ponds, after all, bigger fish and all. that’s fairly constraining on growth, development, and dynamic life.

    the views expressed here, “it’s private property” or “what if it were a kkk sticker,” do go a long way into pointing out problems of looking to government for solutions. however, the defense that “these companies would go out of business” is also misplaced – people who need work will dance on tables… or an atmosphere where christian conservatives feel at home might be hostile to another – it would attract one type, repel another type. assuming one type of job seeker and one type of job provider is too simple.

    we can extend this argument in many (absurd?) directions, such as the religious-symbol-clothing ban in france or dress codes at denny’s. while the owner is certainly an asshole, using this case as a bellweather for libertarian ideas is not advised. this is not an either-or case. just as this story probably has nuance, arguing for the merits of the subtlties of libertarian capitalism on this either-or frame is weak. kinda like the coffee at juvie… but that’s another story.

    happy halloween. celebrate today: piss off a fundie! 🙂

  106. DRF-
    I’m not sure what you’re saying here–DO you think employers should have the right to make their employees obey whatever whims they have, regardless of whether or not these whims have ANY bearing on whether the employee can do the job for which she was hired?

  107. hey jennifer:

    good question – sorry for not being clear. sans knowing speficics, in general i’d feel that the employee is not the employer’s bitch, doing whatever whim. the contract spells out specifics, including dress codes, etc. if it’s not in there, i don’t think the employer (assuming a certain-sized business where these laws apply on a federal level, then i’d guess it’s state-to-state) has the right to make ad hoc rulings that don’t get codified in the contract.

    a lawyer would have to help us out here, but i’d say it’s really kinky and wrong of said employer to invent such ad hoc reasons. the kkk sticker could be covered under “hostile work environment” as a universally-accepted symbol of some morons who don’t get it. and therefore could be wrong. besides who would have such a bumpersticker (although some of the fundie stickers get interpreted that way).

    i wore my devil’s mask and a “you are leaving the american sector” t-shirt from checkpoint charlie this evening. it was my “tour guide for kommie-land (the devil)” outfit. someone actually got it 🙂

    if it’s [the particular issue] in the contract, that’s okay, i guess. however, it’s the ad hoc stuff like this where i have a problem.

    and i HATE the “might makes right” types. as bad religion sings, “rosey smiles lose their radiance/ when you take it on the chin” – perfect description of might makes right types. get poked in the nose, your smile and your bravado can fold up like a cheap puptent.

    as long as the contract has specific guidelines, and you sign the contract, then it probably is okay for specific job tasks, dress codes, or codes of conduct when clients are present.

    if we all could discuss the backstory to this tale (were there other issues here, was this company policy, etc.) that could enable us to discuss the particulars here, so i really can’t comment about this particular case.

    as for the general comment, whether employers have employees at a whim, no i do not think this is right, as it probably violates the conditions of the contract. it’s one where both sides have to monitor each other… sadly. assuming that there is no backstory and this is the plain deal, then i feel the employeer behaved incorrectly. (with the caveat that i do not know the legality of this in alabama).

    check out what other, right wing sites are saying. amazing stuff. would they apply such argumentation to their own side……..

    happy halloween. oh – the packers won. remember the “every election since 1936” bit and “every election post bosox series win”… kerry is predicted winner by those guidelines. as someone we know said: “damn bush for making us root for the packers”.

    one bit from my college (late 80s/early 90s at a bastion of pc’dom), professors and pc students created this atmosphere where bad things would happen to bush I supporters. including professors who clearly ding’d students on class participation grades for no apparent reason, save for the political. it was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. regardless of the side. win clean or not at all. period.

    greetings from chicago,

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