Barack Obama

Why All of Us Should Mistrust the Government

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It should come as no surprise that President Obama told Ohio State students at graduation ceremonies last week that they should not question authority and they should reject the calls of those who do. He argued that "our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule" has been so successful that trusting the government is the same as trusting ourselves; hence, challenging the government is the same as challenging ourselves. And he blasted those who incessantly warn of government tyranny.

White House Flickr

Yet, mistrust of government is as old as America itself. America was born out of mistrust of government. The revolution that was fought in the 1770s and 1780s was actually won in the minds of colonists in the mid-1760s when the British imposed the Stamp Act and used writs of assistance to enforce it. The Stamp Act required all persons in the colonies to have government-sold stamps on all documents in their possession, and writs of assistance permitted search warrants written by British troops in which they authorized themselves to enter private homes ostensibly to look for the stamps.

These two pieces of legislation were so unpopular here that Parliament actually rescinded the Stamp Act, and the king's ministers reduced the use of soldier-written search warrants. But the searches for the stamps turned the tide of colonial opinion irreversibly against the king.

The same king also prosecuted his political adversaries in Great Britain and here for what he called "seditious libel"—basically, criticizing the government. Often that criticism spread and led to civil disobedience, so the British sought to punish it at its source. The prosecutions were so unpopular here, and so contrary to the spirit of what would become the Declaration of Independence, that when the British went home and the Framers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was added, the First Amendment assured that the new government could not punish speech.

Yet barely 10 years into "our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule," in the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts, Congress at the instigation of President John Adams criminalized free speech that was critical of the new government.

How did it come about that members of the same generation—in some cases the very same human beings—that declared in the First Amendment that "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech" in fact enacted laws that did just that?

As morally wrong, as violative of the natural law, as unconstitutional as these laws were, they were not historical incongruities. Thomas Jefferson—who opposed and condemned the acts (he was Adams' vice president at the time)—warned that it is the nature of government over time to increase and of liberty to decrease. And that's why we should not trust government. In the same era, James Madison himself agreed when he wrote, "All men having power should be distrusted to a certain degree."

The Alien and Sedition Acts were but the beginning of a long train of government abuses visited upon people in America as a consequence of the "experiment in self-rule." I am not quoting Obama's Ohio State speech to nitpick, but rather to establish a base line for my argument that he rejects core principles and historical lessons and, most troubling, the natural law itself when he opines that government should be trusted because it has gained power via self-rule.

Self-rule alone is hardly a basis for governmental legitimacy, unless it is accompanied by fidelity to the natural law and to the rule of law. The rule of law here means fidelity to the Constitution, that all laws are just and apply to everyone, so no one is excused from obeying the laws and no one is excluded from their protections. Yet, self-rule here has been unjust and has brought us the tyranny of the majority. And that tyranny has brought us slavery, unjust wars, Jim Crow laws, domestic concentration camps in wartime, slaughter of babies in the womb, domestic spying without search warrants, torture and death by drones—just to name a few.

The reason Obama likes government and the reason it is "a dangerous fire," as George Washington warned, and the reason I have been warning against government tyranny in my public work is all the same: The government rejects the natural law because it is an obstacle to its control over us. The natural law is divinely embedded in our souls. It is manifested by the universal yearning for freedom and justice. It consists of areas of human behavior—thought, expression, religion, self-defense, travel, acquisition and use of property, privacy, for example—in which our behavior is subject only to the exercise of our free will and not the permission of our neighbors or regulation by the government. The natural law, properly understood, is a restraint on the government.

Yet, government in America—whether it consists of Congress protecting the slave trade, or John Adams or Abraham Lincoln or Woodrow Wilson prosecuting political speech, or FDR incarcerating Japanese-Americans, or George W. Bush promising immunity for torturers and domestic warrantless spies, or Obama killing whomever he chooses with drones—has never hesitated to reject the natural law. All of these violations of the natural law were approved by the majority when undertaken. The government's persistent and systematic rejection of the natural law is alone sufficient to mistrust government and reject Obama's Ohio State advice.

The government that has come about by self-rule derives its powers from the consent of the governed. Because the tyranny of the majority can be as dangerous to freedom as the tyranny of a madman, all use of governmental power should be challenged and questioned. Government is essentially the negation of liberty. If we fail to challenge government at every turn, there will be no liberty remaining for us to defend when the government tries to negate it.

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124 responses to “Why All of Us Should Mistrust the Government

  1. Trust but verify (with MSNBC).

    1. Yeah, I’m starting to lean that direction. Coincidentally, that direction is forward.

      1. Lean forward = bend over.

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  2. maybe really… He argued that “our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule” has been so successful http://www.maxenfr.com/

    1. I agree! It has certainly lead to the apex of civilization….Nike Air!

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  3. Government is essentially the negation of liberty.

    Liberty is the freedom to do whatever you like as long as you do not interfere with the life, liberty or property of another individual.

    Government is the people who interfere with the life, liberty and property of individuals.

    1. Consider this stolen. Great analysis.

      1. Uh this is sarcasmic… truly the bottom of the barrel of libertarianism. I’m sad now.

        1. The “bottom of the barrel of libertarianism” is still orders of magnitude more enlightened and moral than the best of the best of your beloved progressives.

          Tony is a sad.

        2. You’re right, Tony. Freedom IS Slavery.

    2. EXACTLY!

    3. And who concludes when one is interfering with the life, liberty or property of another individual?

    4. Evan. I just agree… Patrick`s report is impressive… last tuesday I bought a great Volkswagen Golf GTI after I been earnin $8978 this-last/5 weeks an would you believe $10,000 last-munth. it’s realy the easiest-job Ive ever done. I began this 3 months ago and immediately got me over $73 per-hr. I went to this website grand4.com
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  4. It might be too politically incorrect to said then some folks wants to form a group of “governmetnomane” or “governmentholic” (these words don’t exist in the dictionnairy), lol.

    1. Try procratic if it doesn’t remind you too much of procreative. It’s somewhat less clunky.

      1. Demosphilia.

        1. Carceral panopticon.

    2. I always go with statist pricks, myself.

  5. Keep in mind that those graduating students are going to have a tough time finding jobs at the same time they are expected to pay for their huge government-guaranteed student loans, their grandparents Social Security and Medicare, all the benefits of the welfare state, plus the higher taxes necessitated by years and years of over-spending and over-promising by the government. An older generation’s mistrust of government might lead to a lot of bitching and moaning, but when this generation figures out how short their end of the stick is, the mistrust of government is going to lead to pitchforks and torches, tar and feathers – and rope. Maybe Obama is saying ‘Don’t blame government’ the same way a hiker would say ‘Nice grizzly bear’ in a similar situation.

    Maybe. I can dream, can’t I?

    1. Yeah, you’re dreaming. These kids will get governent jobs and turn into Greek “civil” servants in their complaining when “austerity” hits.

      1. Anarchists Unite Against Government Spending Cuts!

    2. Yeah, you’re dreaming.

      These kids have been effectively brainwashed by 16 years internment in socialist camps.

      Look at OWS. The kids were fucked by government and universities but blamed kkkorpurashuns for their situation.

    3. It all could have been different if the Rethuglicans hadn’t cock blocked Obama at every opportunity!

      /everybody under 40

      1. You realize a lot of people who post here are under 40 right?

        1. Shhh collectivism is okay when complaining about us. Never mind that it is the people over 40 who are and have been in charge.

        2. Being 26, the thought did occur to me. You do realize hyperbole isn’t necessarily meant to be taken completely literally right?

    4. Actually, many of these kids will move back in with mom and dad, and the parents will wind up paying back the loans.

      Employers are starting to see this effect. I read an article about it recently. Qualified college grads are coming out demanding higher pay, more time off, more lenient working hours, and shit like that. And many employers are complying, because they have no other choice….because if junior doesn’t get that, he just tells mom and dad he can’t find a job and moves back home.

      And so these parents who have handed their kids everything, and the kids worked to earn nothing, now continue the cycle.

      1. And many employers are complying, because they have no other choice

        Um, they always have a choice. If “junior” negotiates a better employment package more power to him.

        1. Well, as older workers retire, their choice is to hire junior with whatever demands he makes, or hire no one. When you need people to do work, that pretty much equates to no choice.

          It’s no different than the average employee putting up with stupid bullshit at work. Sure, you can walk out…but people have bills to pay, and that puts them in the situation of “no choice”.

          At least employees, with proper planning and forethought, CAN walk out if they’re savvy enough to plan ahead.

          1. Sorry, but the only genuine victims here are the parents. And if they’re dumb enough to let their grown children quit their jobs and freeload off them, they deserve what they get.

          2. Well, as older workers retire, their choice is to hire junior with whatever demands he makes, or hire no one. When you need people to do work, that pretty much equates to no choice.

            Sounds like the employee’s supply of labor is demand. If there truly is noone else who will take the job or less then he is getting exactly what he deserves.

      2. “and the parents will wind up paying back the loans.”

        Why do I get the feeling this was OWS’ true motivation, kinda like holding your breath ’til you get your own way.

      3. An absurd statement. What does the employer care whether somebody moves back in with their kids?

      4. Exactly why would any of that make an employer “comply” with any demand by a job applicant?

  6. hence, challenging the government is the same as challenging ourselves.

    Then isn’t the government challenging us the same as the government challenging itself? Then shouldn’t the IRS take my tax return as accurate? And shouldn’t the government let me on an airplane without all the security theatre? If we are them and they are us, why is the trust expected to flow in only one direction?

    1. You’re a funny guy, NEM.

    2. Once the government wins the WoT and WoD then it will be able to trust its people again. This is going to happen any day now, but until then it has to be a one way street.

    3. That part that you quoted is the classic fallacy of equating government with society.

    4. No, you are not the government. We are the government. When the government deals with an individual it becomes everyone but that individual.

      Of course, the government never deals with the individuals who run it. That’s why they never run into the problems that you do.

  7. 3 long-missing women freed in Cleveland: “Holy shit! That guy is President? Put us back! Put us back!”

    1. the dude also forced miscarriages on Michelle Knight 5 different times. I think that should account for 5 murder charges as well.

      I hope this guy never sees the outside of a prison again once he’s inside.

      1. I think that should account for 5 murder charges as well.

        In a sane world you would be right, but instead he’ll probably just get 5 counts of practicing medicine (performing abortions) without a license. I know in some states there’s also laws against performing abortions without the mother’s consent, because Zod forbid they call it murder.

        1. Nah, you’re forgetting that Feminists and their appeasers suddenly have no problem viewing unborn fetuses as human lives if the termination is due to violent abuse by a man.

  8. Yet, mistrust of government is as old as America itself. America was born out of mistrust of government.

    That was more than a hundred years ago and it was mistrust of an evil constitutional monarchy. Mistrust of a benevolent ‘democracy’ and it’s wise elected leaders is another thing altogether and grounds for summary execution.

    1. Thus spake Ezra Klein

    2. Unless a Republican is in charge.

      1. Truly. Remember the “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” bumper stickers that were so popular back when GWB was president?

        1. Yea I do. I also remember leading Republican’s, Cheney et al. questioning the patriotism of anybody that questioned anything they pursued, like for example the Patriot Act. Bachman, currently a Tea Party love child even accused some Democrats of treason.
          For all of the Democrats flaws, and there are many but none that the Republicans also don’t have, I haven’t heard any of the leadership questioning the Republicans patriotism.
          But I guess you get a free ride when you wrap your crucifix in old glory.

  9. Yeah, when some progtard says something like “Why don’t you government hating gun nuts go form your own country?” your answer should always be the same:

    “We did. Who let you in?”

    1. Excellent.

    2. I love this.

    3. The founders were not government hating gun nuts. People who hate government don’t often go around setting governments up, one would think.

      1. How about “government wary gun nuts”?

        1. No. The founders did not subscribe to a radical quasi-anarchist philosophy that had yet to be invented. They were plenty comfortable with all sorts of regulations on everything from business to personal behavior, and even allowed for the complete negation of all personal liberty if you happened to have a certain skin color.

          Self-rule is by far their most important innovation. Not because it produced a particular set of policy outcomes, but because it conferred legitimacy on government–that is, it served to increase trust in government.

          1. Bullshit. Their biggest contribution was checks and balances and division of powers. “Self-rule” was invented by the Greeks and never worked well.

          2. Self-rule is by far their most important innovation.

            Jesus fucking Christ on a crutch Tony. Self-rule was invented by America’s founders? Really?

      2. The founders weren’t a monolithic group, but I think it is fair to say that the vast majority weren’t blindly in love with democratic government. Otherwise they would have created a pure democracy instead of a constitutional republic with so many restrictions and limits on government power.

        The founders were, by and large, men who shared a lot of the same ideas about the positive and negative aspects of government. They sought to create a government that worked well enough to bring about the positives, but was limited enough to guard against the negatives.

        1. Don’t waste your completely rational explanations on a Tonythread. He is only here to torpedo any idea that anything a democratic (or, more accurately, Democratic) government does could be considered illegitimate.

          1. Do you think it’s hard for him? Having the place where his brain would be filled with Dem spooge?

            1. Nah, he likes it that way. Tony’s a good little cadre and doesn’t want to worry his little head with thinking.

        2. Very true…and they were freaked out by Shay’s rebellion. It was one thing for them to rebel a government…but quite another for people to rebel against them.

  10. hence, challenging the government is the same as challenging ourselves.

    You never challenge yourself? You never doubt your own motives? You never think through whether you’re doing the wrong thing? You never stop and say to yourself, “Jesus, Self! What the hell are you doing?”

    1. Well, it appears entirely possible the he doesn’t.

    2. OK, self, go to prison for 10 years and think about what you’ve done.

    3. I hate it when myself storms into my neighbor’s house just because hes growing a plant. And then shoots his dog.

  11. Trusting government is anti-American. It’s counter to the ideals that founded the country and current popular culture.

    Fuck Obama.

    1. What bothers me the most is the statists’ attempts to whitewash or reinterpret that history of skepticism of government.

      The comments on Conor Friedersdorf’s article on this subject were full of that stuff.

      Guess thats what I get for reading The Atlantic.

      1. That place has really gone to shit in the last couple of years.

    2. The South trusted government to enslave blacks for 100 years so there is that.

      1. Riiight, that darn bully government just forced them poor poor southerners to own slaves. Tragedy. You know Libertarianism will never go anywhere until we stop saying stupid things, and making apologies for obvious injustices like slavery.

  12. People that have blind faith in the government creep me the fuck out. Just needed to say it.

    1. People that have blind faith in anything creep me the fuck out.

  13. Jerryskids put it well. Perhaps the Ohio State Young Libertarian club should have been outside the venue passing out flyers expressing just that sentiment?

    1. They’re all in Colorado covering the breaking events there…

  14. Skepticism: the mark and even the pose of the educated mind.
    – John Dewey

    1. An ironic quote considering the source.

      1. We’re all full of irony and contradiction. It’s the human condition.

        1. True enough; I have an entire collection of favorite quotations composed largely of people with whom I vehemently disagree. It’s a quick trip from irony to cognitive dissonance though. The latter gripped the early progressive/socialist movement like a vice.

          1. The latter grippeds the early progressive/socialist movement like a vice.

            FTFY. Past tense implies that it doesn’t anymore.

  15. Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense,
    absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing,
    the other of not knowing.
    What philosophy should dissipate is certainty,
    whether of knowledge or ignorance.
    – Bertrand Russell

  16. In order to maintain an untenable position,
    you have to be actively ignorant.
    – Stephen Colbert

    1. A policy that seems to be working nicely for both political parties.

  17. Look, Napolitano is articulating an essentially autocratic worldview. “Sure, self-rule is great and all, as long as you filthy little peons don’t enact laws I disagree with with. Let’s call them ‘natural laws’ so I don’t have to do any work justifying them.”

    Antigovernment sentiment has certainly not been in the mainstream of American political thought for the country’s entire existence. Government as the negation of liberty? That’s crazy talk, which for some reason unknown to me has added its voice to real political discourse through sheer shrillness. Not any specific form of government, but government itself, the thing people invented a long time ago to be the instrument of enforcing rights, fair play, criminal justice, and defending and facilitating life.

    How about fat libertarian morons go try to live somewhere without a government for a while, then they can come back and tell us how evil it is and how much better it is with no institutions or legal rights.

    1. Let’s call them ‘natural laws’ so I don’t have to do any work justifying them.”

      He doesn’t need to justify them because many, many others have already done so.

      Government as the negation of liberty? That’s crazy talk, …

      Please do the work of justifying this statement.

      How about fat libertarian morons go try to live somewhere without a government for a while, then they can come back and tell us how evil it is and how much better it is with no institutions or legal rights.

      The straw man has had enough, Tony! Just let him die!

      1. So are the natural laws we’re talking about the simplest and most obvious aspects of basic law and order, in which case calling them “natural laws” is just a rhetorical convenience? Or are they meant to be inclusive of every item on a libertarian’s wishlist and exclusive of anyone else’s preferences, which seems usually to be the case? Do we get to have universal healthcare under your conception of natural laws, or does nature not allow that?

        1. They are natural laws because they stem directly and logically from the natural state of any person, that is the state of self-ownership. Natural laws have nothing to do with preferences, though libertarians tend to prefer laws that are consistent with natural laws. Healthcare is a service necessarily provided by others and so it can never be universal.

          1. Any good or service can be universal provided the resource exist and a mechanism (government) exists to distribute it universally. Defense is a service provided by others. So is criminal justice. Neither would be universal without government subsidy.

            1. Any good or service can be universal provided the resource exist and a mechanism (government) exists to distribute it universally.

              “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”

              ? Thomas Sowell

            2. There are so many things wrong with your statements there that I almost don’t know where to begin. I like how you qualify the word mechanism to mean government, conveniently ignoring how Walmart, Target, Apple, and so many other companies do a much better job at figuring out what people want and getting things distributed than does the government. Secondly, defense is not a service provided by others. We provide for our defense by funding the government, which by the way is one of the basic reasons to have a government in the first place. Ditto with criminal justice. Neither one is, by the way, universal. Both “defense” and criminal justice, as practiced currently, disproportionally involve the poor and those of color. Also, things that are crimes when perpetrated by one group of people are not crimes when perpetrated by others (see: hate crimes). And finally, there is no such thing as “government subsidy”. The government does not produce any capital goods or otherwise create wealth. It takes wealth and then allocates it. In other words, we pay for it. Please stop talking like the government is some separate entity.

      2. You don’t understand! If there is something that you don’t want the government to do, that means you don’t want government to do anything at all!

        Any limits on government mean no government at all!

        Libertarians are anarchists!

        Oh crap! Wait a second! Libertarians want to force those who use force to stop using force! That requires force!

        Libertarians are tyrants!

        Anarchist tyrants!

        Aaauuuggghhh! Which is it?!? I’m so confused!

        1. You are confused, but that’s not my fault.

          1. Really was his fault. He should have ignored you or just called you names instead of pretending you were anything other than the slimy piece of disgusting amoral shit you are.

      3. I love how Tony (read all retarded ass liberals) tell us we should go find someplace else to live when they are the fucktards that are insisting we become more like other places (read usually europe).

        1. Well you’re the ones who want to radically alter our society. I just want to preserve and strengthen the status quo, more or less.

          1. We would like to radically alter government, not society.

            Society doesn’t need altering. It just needs the government to get out of its way.

          2. I just want to preserve and strengthen the status quo, more or less.

            So then can we dispense with the notion that you are a “liberal” in any logical sense of the word since you have confessed in this sentence to being a reactionary, more or less?

            1. I love how wanting to limit the government and protecting our rights (as laid out in our founding document) is “radically” altering society, but saying every little thing that pops into a progressive’s head is a fucking right and that means they should be able to take however much money they deem necessary to make sure those “rights” are paid for is somehow not.

      4. The straw man has had enough, Tony! Just let him die!

        No….the chair…hit him with the chair.

      5. His points are well made. Napolitano never backed up this statements with justification and Tony last point is exactly on the money.
        I have a better idea. Why don’t YOU justify Napolitano’s points.

    2. Liberty is acting without interference.

      Government is force and violence.

      So yes, government is the negation of liberty.

      1. Government uses its force to prevent others from interfering with your liberties, so it’s also the protection of liberty.

        1. Justice is an absence of injustice. So justice is not proactive. It is reactive.

          1. Plato would not be amused.

    3. Whose Sockpuppet Statist Troll are you?

  18. And that tyranny has brought us slavery, unjust wars, Jim Crow laws, domestic concentration camps in wartime, slaughter of babies in the womb, domestic spying without search warrants, torture and death by drones — just to name a few.

    Why does Napolitano insist on continuing to insert these little poison pills into his arguments? By any means, the remainder of this article should be convincing, or at the very least, thought provoking. Instead, I can guarantee that Progressives will latch onto this one minor point and use it to convince their audience that none of Napolitano’s arguments should be considered. I would probably find myself editing this little bit out if I forwarded it to some Proggie friends/acquaintances because they would immediately sieze on this and blind themselves to any possibility of understanding the rest of the argument.

    /standard rant about Judge Napolitano’s writing.

    1. There are really strong arguments against abortion and for it. The Judge’s personal stance on abortion is just evident in this paragraph.

      If one viewed an unborn baby as a human being, one must necessarily be protective of that human’s individual rights, which include not being “murdered” in the womb.

      Disclaimer: I do not hold this view about abortion, and I’m not starting an argument on it, just elaborating so that someone else can understand.

      1. Generally my point is that abortion in this context is unrelated to the main point (which is to maintain a healthy suspicion of government and its motives). In fact, a person reading the argument presented, but who also has strong pro-choice views, may fairly point out that suspicion of the government is warranted for people who believe that their liberty is damaged by government restrictions on abortion, but that Napolitano’s insistence on bringing it (abortion) up as a government attack on liberty is contradictory or even hypocritical. I have little to offer on this argument, but Napolitano does himself and his argument a great disservice by muddying the waters by including (perhaps “shoehorning” is an accurate term) abortion into this discussion.

        1. Your argument would have merit but for ignoring that an unborn child has Constitutional rights that protect he or she from murder.
          You thought you had The Judge.

  19. Well really, we can’t blame government. We should blame the assholes that elected these fucking retards based on their own misguided beliefs.

  20. I’m sure the people who agree with Obama on this said the same when the Bushes or Reagan or Nixon was in power. Oh wait no. They were the Wrong Guys and hell being the Wrong Guys they caused mistrust in government which is bad.

  21. Judge Napolitano writes: “Congress at the instigation of President John Adams criminalized free speech that was critical of the new government.”

    This is inaccurate. McCullough in his biography of Adams puts it this way, “the Federalist majority in congress passed into law extreme measures that Adams had not asked for or encouraged, But then neither did he oppose them, and their passage and his signature on them were to be rightly judged by by history as the most reprehensible acts of his presidency. Still, the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 must be seen in the context of the time, and the context was tumult and fear.”

    1. I haven’t had time to research it, but haven’t other historians opined that Adams apathy was strategic, a lawerly way of actually supporting the acts?

  22. Andrew’s brilliance here should be mandatory reading in school every year and read to those that cannot.

  23. like Gary answered I am in shock that a student able to make $6652 in 4 weeks on the . have you seen this site go to this site home tab for more detail— http://WWW.JOBS34.COM

  24. If it wasn’t for the government my 12 yo girl would be able (and have) to work in a sweatshop factory, my vehicles would have no restraints or safety glass, I would be living next to a toxic drainage ditch and I (and everybody I know) would be subjected to pre 1930’s working conditions.
    How do I know this?
    Because these were the conditions in the US the last time the government was under the yoke of “natural law”, pre 1930’s.
    Any belief to the contrary is rooted in either naivete or wanting to benefit from it.
    Something has happened to Reason magazine since I last perused the blog. When you present pieces from shills of Fox News you are inviting derision.

  25. Excellent article. I wish he would have discussed the influence of bias on this issue however. People who proclaim themselves civil-libertarians seem to be endlessly patient with Obama’s civil liberties stance. And if Romney had been elected I am sure there are many on the other side of the political spectrum who would have ignored his buses for partisan reasons. I think this is further evidence that we need stronger third parties, and specifically a reality-based Libertarian party that can serve as more than simply an outlet for disaffected fire-eaters.

  26. As liberals were vocal with “civil disobedience” during the Bush years (and supplemented by the Main Stream Media day in and day out), the non-leftist need some convincing “civil disobedience” today.

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