John Kerry's Dark Record on Civil Liberties
Thanks for John Berlau's piece, "John Kerry's Dark Record on Civil Liberties" (October). It is nice to see that I am not the only person who thinks Kerry is too right-wing to pass himself off as a Democrat.
In 2000 Gore and the Democrats ran to the right and thought no one would care about the millions disenfranchised by their intolerant Drug War policy. The Florida voter purge lists should have taught them something, but didn't. The Democrats still support the policies that have been disenfranchising nonconformists for the past 34 years.
John Kerry has built his entire political career r?sum? on the high conviction rates of the Jim Crow Drug War. While still with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, white boy Kerry stopped the organization from joining up with the civil rights movement. He then went on to become a Drug War prosecutor to rehabilitate his right-wing credentials from his anti-war youth. As a U.S. Senator, Kerry wrote the legislation that resulted in the shooting down of innocent American missionaries over Peru, killing a mother and child. This even though the best minds of both parties told presidents going back to the 1980s that the policy was dangerous and stupid. But nothing is too dangerous or too stupid for John Kerry the Drug Warrior.
I was disappointed by John Berlau's article for two reasons. First, I was expecting a justified tirade on Mr. Kerry's "dark record" on self-protection and Second Amendment issues. Instead I found a tirade against his record on, essentially, Fourth Amendment issues.
Which brings me to the second reason. There is no admission in that article that government law enforcement entities, by their very nature and mission, must have powers that ordinary people do not have—the power to probe, poke at, spy on, and investigate citizens. The most fundamental responsibility of any government–even a limited one–is to protect its citizens from violence and fraud and to solve these crimes when they are committed. Without investigative powers appropriate to the times and criminal capabilities, this simply can't be done. Without them, there is no way to solve murders or prevent evil men from driving airliners into buildings. This is something the left has not grasped, nor seemingly has Berlau.
Therefore, the issue isn't so much what powers the government has, but rather what it can do with them. It must be able to investigate citizens. With that information it can prevent murders, but must not crush dissenting opinions. Any truly serious discussion of civil liberties must include the fact that search and seizure issues involve some inherent trade-offs, exist in a context, and must reflect the capabilities of the criminals.
Ten Reasons to Fire George W. Bush
The short-sightedness of libertarians like Jesse Walker ("Ten Reasons to Fire George W. Bush(PDF)," October) never ceases to amaze me. Granted that George Bush is no prize from the libertarian perspective, but when it comes to the most important issues for libertarians –namely those having to do with the size and scope of government–there should be no question that the Republican Party presents the best alternative for libertarians.
Of course, the Republican commitment to limited government often is more rhetorical than real, but the Democrats don't even offer rhetoric. Is there any doubt that the Democrats' solution to every problem involves a greater role for government?
The next president will likely name as many as four Supreme Court justices. Does anyone really think that the libertarian cause would be better off with the likes of four more big government activist justices like Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as opposed to a Clarence Thomas, who is the closest thing to a libertarian to be found in authority anywhere in the federal government? Bush is the only rational choice for any thinking libertarian.
One can empathize with Jesse Walker's rationale for firing President Bush. However, given the alternative, it might be more amusing to keep the same team in office so they can continue to handle the chicken, geese, and assorted fowl returning to roost. As things deteriorate it wouldn't be nice to saddle a President Kerry with the blame.
There are ample reasons for disappointment with the Bush administration, and I agree with many that Jesse Walker outlined. I disagree that John Kerry would be even slightly better. He would be disastrously worse in almost all policy areas, not only for his term, but also by setting up statist structures that might endure for decades.
The steel tariffs were just bad policy; they clearly cost more jobs than they saved. But John Kerry demonizes outsourcing of service jobs to places like India. The Bush administration has overseen massive increases in domestic spending. John Kerry attacks the aggregate amount of spending, but demands more spending for each specific program.
The controversy over whether the war in Iraq was a necessary part of the "war on terror" will not be settled soon. But now the U.S. has an obligation to try to build a country in the heart of the Middle East that will not be a sanctuary for terrorists bent on attacking our interests. Will John Kerry pursue this goal as forcefully as George Bush? I do not think so.
Walker also overlooked a couple of important areas where George Bush does have a perspective at least compatible with libertarian ideas.
George Bush wants to partially privatize Social Security, empowering people through ownership of their own assets. John Kerry is against this, which implies a massive tax hike or benefit cut to keep the program going. Despite the Medicare prescription drug fiasco, George Bush is advocating Medical Savings Accounts to try to rein in the costs of health care. John Kerry would opt for a single payer socialized medicine scheme. George Bush wants to make tax reduction permanent while John Kerry wants to take more of our property for public use.
Libertarians should think long and hard about which candidate is more in tune with free minds and free markets.
Age of Propaganda
In "Age of Propaganda" (October), David J. Hanson and Matt Walcoff deride as "junk science" a Department of Justice study that purports to prove that tough U.S. drinking age laws, compared to Europe, produce lower rates of drunkenness and accidents here in the U.S. They rightfully point out that the so-called "study" doesn't stand up to scrutiny. But things are much worse than their article implies.
In a former life, I worked at the headquarters of a state transportation department. I had a good friend who worked in the public safety section. Their job was to analyze every single police report in the state related to motor vehicle accidents and create an entry in the state's official database that summarized the particulars of each accident. A high number of "motorist didn't see the stop sign" remarks might point out the need to make stop signs more visible by cutting trees, relocating the signs, and so on.
In a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, there were extremely unusual directives regarding alcohol involvement in an accident. Rather than statistics guiding policy, a preordained policy dictated what the statistics would be.
Imagine an accident report where a driver stopped at a traffic signal had been drinking but was not legally impaired. A second driver gets distracted and rear-ends the stopped motorist. To most of us, driver inattention would be the obvious culprit in this accident, and the insurance liability would probably reflect as much. What policy dictated was that the "primary contributing factor," in bureaucrat-speak, would be alcohol.
Countless thousands of reports like this are in the state's database, which is then rolled up into the national statistics. While I don't know for certain, I'm inclined to think that this policy persists, and probably exists in all 50 states, since all rely on receiving federal dollars for highway construction and maintenance.
(surname and city withheld by request)