Thursday, December 10, 2009

Government Waste: Putting the Drug War into Perspective

Lately I've been watching a lot of Fox News, trying to compare it to the other "news" channels on American television, and I almost choked when I stumbled upon a list of the "most wasteful spendings of 2009." I'm against government waste, I feel like our tax dollars should be making a difference out there, and I agreed with the Citizens Against Government Waste interviewee that many (not all) of those expenditures weren't worth it.

But my only reaction was, "What about the Drug War?!?"

How could people who speak against government waste ignore the War on Drugs, the most ineffective, counter-productive waste of our time, money, and lives? During the interview, I remember somebody talking about $300 000 being spent on a new skateboard park. To be completely honest, I would rather have the government saving that money for something more important. But the skateboard park will definitely be more useful to society than the War on Drugs. A skateboard park doesn't create violent gangs or cartels, doesn't lead to overincarceration, doesn't get innocent people and good cops killed, et caetera. The skateboard park will at least achieve its primary goal (giving a place for skaters to skate), whereas the Drug War barely even gets close (reduce drug use).

So basically, if you think a skateboard park is a waste of government money, think further. Building $50 billion worth of skateboard parks every year will always be better than the failed War on Drugs. That's something like 166 666 new skateboard parks every year, more than a million and a half every decade... And as economically apocalyptic as that sounds, it would always be better than the War on Drugs.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SCSU pornography event

Pornography can be a touchy subject to deal with because many people are uncomfortable discussing sex, let alone its commercialization. I concede this fact, but will try to anyway.

I'm generalizing a bit, but I think it's fair to say there are two broad categories of people when it comes to pornography: those who believe it should be illegal and those who believe it should not be illegal. I belong in the latter category. I'm not alone by any means, and I believe I'm in good company. But I want to make myself very clear that supporting the legality of something does not necessarily mean condoning it. For example, when I say I support the decriminalization of marijuana, I do not mean to imply that I condone the use of marijuana (recreationally) or that I would use it myself. When I say abortion is an absolute and inalienable right of women, I do not mean to imply I support women getting abortions (I prefer they don't, but that doesn't mean it should be outlawed). So when I support the legality of pornography, I do not mean to say porn is necessarily a good thing. I'm sure there's a good deal of people who support the legality of pornography but do not necessarily agree with the act (and definitely a great deal that do support the act itself).

Tonight (Wednesday), however, the SCSU Women's Center along with the Residential Life Social Justice and Diversity Committee will be hosting an anti-pornography special event at 6:00 P.M. in Ritsche Auditorium (I'm not sure that I will be able to make it, because I'm also going to a special event on Palestine). The event is titled "The Price of Pleasure" and it will show the documentary that goes by the same name followed by a presentation by Robert Jensen who is an anti-pornography activist and a professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin (he also appears in the documentary).

In one of the few times I've been impressed with the quality of a student-written opinion appearing in the University Chronicle, Neil Panchmatia writes a scathing criticism of the Women's Center position on pornography that it takes in showing the documentary and hosting the professor, which he says is contrary to "the consensus of most feminist scholars." Panchmatia, a graduate student in social responsibility, writes, "In feminism there is lively debate on whether porn is harmful, but through Professor Jensen the Women's Center is promoting only Andrea Dworkin's extreme perspective, which not only claims that porn itself embodies the violation of womens rights, but equates the term 'porn' with 'gender violence,' and even that porn 'causes' rape and fuels violence against women."

Indeed, arguments about pornography are nuanced, even among feminists, but there's little doubt that the position the Women's Center endorses is out on the extreme. A thorough survey of the American public by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman in 1986 showed 78% of people did not believe pornography should be illegal (finding reliable polling on this subject somewhat difficult). I do not deny that pornography can cause problems. I don't think anyone doubts there can be detrimental effects in the participation, production, or consumption of pornography. There is, in fact, robust scholarly literature that deals with this important subject. But to conclude from that that pornography should be illegal is misguided.

In their 1969 ruling in Stanley v. Georgia, the Supreme Court of the United States declared every American has the "constitutional right to keep and enjoy pornographic material in his home." Though the court said they have the "broad power" to regulate "obscenity," it concluded every American may "satisfy his intellectual and emotional needs in the privacy of his own home." That is, the court affirms, Americans have the right to free speech and privacy. (In a true perversion of the Constitution, the court later ruled in 1973 in Miller v. California that it had to right to determine what "obscenity" is and therefore declare it not a form of protected speech or expression under the First Amendment.)

So if we have the right to view pornographic material, one can infer from this that there also exists the right to participate in and produce pornography. That is, consenting adults have the right to perform sexual acts with each other and they also have the right to disseminate depictions of these acts with other consenting adults. They have these rights, but whether you want to argue that engaging in these activities is right or wrong is an entirely different thing. You may wish to educate people, inform people of risks, discuss its immorality and so forth, but we cannot deny them the right to engage in the activity. I can certainly agree, for example, that pornography can have the effect of distorting views on sex and sexuality and objectify and dehumanize women, but it doesn't follow from that that pornography ought to be outlawed.

But proponents of outlawing pornography point to the alleged negative social effects it creates. Particularly, they argue pornography incites violence against women including through rape. "Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice," goes the saying. Is it true? The Classically Liberal blog, in their post on the benefits of pornography, cites a study by Todd Kendall, a professor at Clemson University. Kendall finds, "a 10 percentage point increase in Internet access [to pornography] is associated with a decline in reported rape victimization of around 7.3%," among other benefits. There is a preponderance of evidence that supports this claim. (In fact, in 1969, Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress, in response to the SCOTUS ruling in Stanley v. Georgia, set up the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. What the commission found was that exposure to sexual materials does not create adverse social effects, does not corrupt the individual, that restrictions on the "sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed," and that adults believed they had the right to view pornography on their own accord. Congress rejected these findings.)

To conclude, the right to own, view, participate in, produce, and distribute pornography has been affirmed for consenting adults. We have strong and overwhelming evidence that pornography does not create adverse social effects and, in fact, may reduce violent crimes against women such as rape. Yet, the Women's Center will dismiss these rights and ignore the research to instead advocate the idea that pornography is fundamentally and necessarily wrong and detrimental and ought to be illegal. Needless to say, I believe they are taking the extreme position and it ought to be firmly rejected.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Personal Circumstance & The Economy

Yesterday, I posted a link on my facebook page to Sarah Palin's article on Cap and Trade. I received a lot of flack for posting a Sarah Palin article, and I'm not sure how much the content was actually read. It was a well-written article that I hoped would help people to understand why Cap and Trade is such a bad idea for our economy.

In addition to posting the article, it turned into a debate about which candidates should be supported. I still stand firm in that I would vote for a very smart economist who was a little right wing than a person who supported social rights in every manner that I do who had terrible economic policy.

I feel that the reasons for the argument I'm making are not clear, and it is with this posting that I hope to bring some understanding to those around me about why I make these statements.

Here is a run down of what Cap & Trade is going to do:
Cap and Trade is going to raise energy prices. We are going to be taxed for the amount of energy and carbon emissions we use, and rewarded for those we don't use. There will be a new market, similar to the stock market, for the sale and purchase of these credits. Since we are a global power, we are going to tariff anyone who does not meet our standards in attempts to better the planet.

How Cap and Trade will effect us as individuals and business owners:
With the raise of taxes, companies do not simply pay them and let revenues go down. The beauty of capitalism is that everyone is trying to succeed rather than just get by- but in this case that means passing on those taxes to the consumer. Because of this, energy prices are going to skyrocket. There is an Iowa-based energy company called Mid American energy that hasn't risen its prices in years, but under Cap and Trade prices will raise 25%, just to give you an idea how hefty this tax is.

While the job market is down; 9.5% is the most recent statistic, but this doesn't include people who now consider themselves self-employed, work one part time job just to get by, or are not receiving unemployment. If we include all of these people, unemployment would be closer to 15%.
Is Cap and Trade going to create jobs? Well, as Sarah Palin's article points out, the government knows its going to squash our energy businesses, and includes around $4,200,000,000 to cover unemployment under this new tax over eight years.

In addition to taxing the living daylights out of us all and losing jobs in the energy industry, this bill would also be yet another gut punch to our economy. The intention of Cap and Trade is to get us off oil and coal and most of the energy sources we use today. When our resident energy goes out of business, we will continue to turn to foreign countries to get the same efficiency of energy. Breaking the bank? Invest in Saudi Arabia.
So you might be wiping your brow, thinking, "Well at least we'll still be able to get the energy we need, right?" ... The bad news is these tariffs. If we tariff other countries who don't use the same energy, our energy prices will still be higher than they are now, but that's not the worst of it. Tariffing other countries will cause them to tariff us back. This is another hidden tax to be paid by all business owners who are interested in the "global economy" that our government keeps going on about.

So there you have it- not only will we as citizens be hard for a dollar, but our dollars will continue to leave the country and go to foreign countries. At the same time, our exports are gong to be seriously curtailed due to tariffing, which we will have to pass on to our customers here and abroad, which will cause sales to go down, which causes revenues to go down, and then ... more job loss. More pain in this economy. More of the same stock market crashes and rising unemployment.

Cap and Trade's only redeeming quality is that it will help to cure the national debt- one that we should take responsibility for and find the responsible way to clean up without taxing the life out of our citizens.


You might be curious as to why I seem to care so vehemently about the economy. Here's my story:

This year is my eighth year working at a motorcycle company. I do dealer licensing and registration as well as state licensing, on top of sending out corporate mailings to shareholders, copy editing and just boring office nonsense.
My boss (who doubles as my dad, coincidentally) was an economics major, is a conservative (both fiscal and social, I'm sad to say, but supports my stance on the drug war at least) and was owner of a brokerage firm back in the eighties when that was the hot thing to do. He understands the stock market better than anyone I know and also how the economy works. Its mostly thanks to him (and a few econ teachers I had at Iowa State) that I have the knowledge that I do.

At work, I keep tabs on how our stock is doing in regards to the rest of the market, and the market has been hit hard. I've seen some of my closest family friends hit hard times.
Three years ago, when I graduated high school, I was lucky enough that I was told not to try to get a job- school was my job, but in this economy that is no longer possible.

I know a man who had his life savings invested in Wells Fargo, only for the price of the stock to fall by 50%.

I'm seeing firsthand the effects of this depression- yes, depression- and its not pretty. The statistics don't demonstrate nearly enough what is really going on, and its not good. You probably have had something hit you hard right now, and it might not be as bad as finding out that your retirement just got cut in half (so if you live more than ten years you're kind of screwed) or losing your home like so many are.


In psychology, I learned about what is called Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Physiological is the first need, then safety, then love, esteem and self-actualization.
While all the needs are important- obviously safety is a big one, as well as love- while in this hard financial time, my main focus is money for rent and food. There really isn't anything more important for survival.
Continuing to curtail the economy is going to make these basic needs impossible to obtain for a significant percentage of the population. There are missionaries who go to third world countries to cure hunger: the United States is soon going to need them here if this is the way our country is continued to head, and that's the thing that no one seems to understand.

There has been talk of corporations "too big to fail." Well they've failed and the government has now taken them over in the grandest abrasion into the private sector this country has ever seen. With this, government is growing, the economy is halting, and with it, our GDP.

For these reasons, I would choose a candidate with the right mind economically than one who didn't. For the sake of the future of our country, economic stand point has to come first and foremost. I fear that without real economic recovery, this great nation will lose all the things that make it great: laissez faire, capitalism, freedom to succeed.

I hope you understand my position: the government is not immune from failure. The government is not "too big to fail," its just too big.

Friday, June 19, 2009

ABC Become Another Gov't Monopoly

Now this entry is less of a sociopolitical commentary, and more of a news update. Today I received an e-mail about ABC's decision to air news from the White House. I don't know its original source, but it can be found all over the internet. There are at least 20 sites with this same article, but I'd like to post it again. Please see the article below:

Tue Jun 16 2009 08:45:10 ET

On the night of June 24, the media and government become one, when ABC turns its programming over to President Obama and White House officials to push government run health care -- a move that has ignited an ethical firestorm!

Highlights on the agenda:

ABCNEWS anchor Charlie Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House.

The network plans a primetime special -- 'Prescription for America' -- originating from the East Room, exclude opposing voices on the debate.


Late Monday night, Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay fired off a complaint to the head of ABCNEWS:

Dear Mr. Westin:

As the national debate on health care reform intensifies, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with ABC's astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24, 2009. Next Wednesday, ABC News will air a primetime health care reform “town hall” at the White House with President Barack Obama. In addition, according to an ABC News report, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, NIGHTLINE and ABC’s web news “will all feature special programming on the president’s health care agenda.” This does not include the promotion, over the next 9 days, the president’s health care agenda will receive on ABC News programming.

Today, the Republican National Committee requested an opportunity to add our Party's views to those of the President's to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented. Our request was rejected. I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers.

In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime. The President has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime.

Ken McKay
Republican National Committee
Chief of Staff


ABCNEWS Senior Vice President Kerry Smith on Tuesday responded to the RNC complaint, saying it contained 'false premises':

"ABCNEWS prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers -- of all political persuasions -- even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. ABCNEWS is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue.

"ABCNEWS alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. Like any programs we broadcast, ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Fed Says Recession is Ending!!

Well, if you click the title of this blog, you will find a freshly-written article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about how the recession is coming to an end.

According to a survey but on by the Federal Reserve, "five of the Fed's 12 regions said the downward trend is showing signs of moderating," (

But what does that language even mean?

It means that according to our (non-transparent, monopolized) money and banking supply, the recession might be not falling quite as fast in a little less than half of the country. And this is making news.

People are of course going to attribute this to the bail-outs and our current government's savvy economics, but let me take a minute to compare our nation to a family of four:

Lets say that the Johnson family is having hard times. Mr. Johnson just had his paycheck slashed in half and his wife has lost her job, so things are pretty hard on their small family. But their family isn't the only family on the block (much like how the United States is not the only nation).
Now the Johnsons, hypothetically speaking, might have two options. One, they can borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from their neighbors while they are having tough times, or they can do some penny pinching.
Realistically, the Johnsons don't need three cars, or a membership to the local country club, or 675 channels on satellite TV. (much like our government doesn't need so many of its programs, or unreasonable benefits to employees -such as private jets, etc-)

But the Johnsons don't want to give up their cushy lifestyle, so instead of admitting defeat, saying that perhaps they were a bit unruly with their spending, they borrow the money. Well, after they borrow the money, they aren't going to notice the hard times they had just been having, are they? They are going to be able to make their payments with the money that isn't theirs. They can still go to the country club, even if it is on the dime of a neighbor, who they will eventually have to pay back. With interest.

This is more or less the situation our nation is in. We have printed up money, tried to get China and other countries to back it, and decided we were going to take the easy way out of this recession.
Of course things seem to be easing up. But we should be warned that we aren't preventing a decline in our economy, we are post-poning it, and probably making it worse.
(This is what happened to Germany in between the World Wars; they borrowed money from the U.S., but when the U.S. hit the great depression, they called in those loans and the German economy went to hell.)

However, with the gaining momentum of HR1207 (Thats the bill to audit the Fed, if you weren't aware) the Fed has gone so far as to hire a publicist. Thats right, our Federal Reserve is worried about its public image, and rightfully so.

So, the Fed says the recession is getting better. As a skeptic, I don't know if they are saying this because signs point to yes, and the bailout money is keeping us afloat; or if its because their new publicist is helping them try to clear their name and get some weight off their shoulders (and attention away from HR1207).

My guess? Both.

Good People Violate the Law

I'm probably not writing anything out of the box today, especially considering most of you probably have heard about the recent "Nice People Take Drugs" campaign in the United Kingdom, but I'll go on anyway.

This campaign is brilliant because it aims at killing the Reefer-Madness-like stereotype that people who take drugs are evil, violent, uneducated, or otherwise harmful/useless to society. This is a myth that has been proven wrong several times throughout history. When we take into account that more than 40% of the United State's adult population has admitted to trying cannabis, a substance which seems to be the government's priority when it comes to drug prohibition, we realize that calling 40% of the United State's worthless would be simply misanthropic.

A woman studying at the same university as I started talking to me about this online. I tend to publish many links and videos on Facebook to raise awareness and launch discussion, so this was an expected outcome and I was glad she confronted me on this. According to the woman, who is a fervent supporter of the Democratic Party and a Roman Catholic, "people who take drugs should be put in jail because they have done something wrong and they should be punished for them to not repeat the same mistakes." She went on to say that "people who use harder drugs [than just pot] should be in jail for at least several years because it is very bad for themselves, and society can't let people destroy themselves like this."

Those are very interesting points. Naturally, I disagree with them, and I'll explain why. In this woman's head lies the idea that there are "good drugs" and "bad drugs." Those "good drugs" are those you get from your pharmacist, those you take when your body isn't feeling quite right; the bad ones are those that your government tells you are forbidden. I told her that people use hard drugs legally everyday, and do suffer from addiction from it. I told her the meds that doctors prescribe are sometimes extremely harmful to the mental and physical health of patients, and are sometimes unpredictable because of their relative novelty. On the other hand, cannabis has a rather predictable set of effects that have been observed for several thousand years, and does not have the physically addictive properties of the many painkillers that doctors prescribe to their patients.

Long story short, I told her that the concept of drugs remains the same whether it is over-the-counter, requires prescription, or included in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. You use a substance in order to launch a set of expected effects in your body and/or your mind. Let's take caffeine, for example. I've probably ranted a little bit about this before, but caffeine is a drug that basically has the same effects as some illegal stimulants. Provided you take high doses of it, you will be physically addicted, go through withdrawal symptoms, and crave for that same rush of mental and physical energy provided by the substance. My point is : if even the "good drugs" can be bad for you, then why make a distinction?

She told me that "the people who take caffeine generally aren't addicted, contrarily to the illegal drugs which people take which changes their life forever and they can never go back." If you've taken a critical reasoning class, you will notice the slippery slope informal fallacy in the last part of the woman's argument. But the information in the argument is equally wrong. As I told the woman, people who consume cannabis generally aren't addicted either, and they do so in a very similar manner as that of one who drinks a beer while watching the baseball game after a day of hard work. I think she understood her argument was flawed in many, many ways, which is why she moved on to her final argument.

According to her, "maybe pot isn't that big a deal, but drugs like cocaine or oxycontin will lead to addiction, and from that point on, they will never be able to lead a productive life again. We need someone to do something to prevent people from taking bad drugs!" I could've gone on and on about how her appeal to prohibition and incarceration was not a good approach. Instead, I told her that a cocaine user won't necessarily be an unproductive drug addict, and that (quoting the campaign) "good people take drugs." To mark my point, I reminded her that her beloved President, Barack Obama, had consumed cocaine on several occasions. Did that stop him from leading a successful life? Whether or not you agree with his politics, you know the answer is no.

I don't think the woman was inherently stupid. I don't think she is an evil prohibitionist motivated by profits and greed. I don't even think she was being a hypocrite about this. What I do think is that she is, like many people all over the world, a good-faith American that thought that listening to her government was the right thing to do. Unfortunately for many, she is not the only one who is willing to blindly follow her government in order to do what she thinks is the right thing. What we need is to revive the political audacity within this nation.

A close friend of mine wrote a note on Facebook regarding trust in government in America. His argument is that many Americans believe that in order to be a good American, one must listen and follow his/her government. However, when looking at the values that the founding fathers had in mind during the development of the United States, we can see that there is nothing more American than not trusting the government. In his words : "This country was formed on the idea of not trusting the government, nothing screams American more than not trusting the government!"

So to close up, I'm going to expand the "Nice People Take Drugs" motto and say "Good People Violate the Law". Indeed, since the government does not have authority on what is morally right and what is morally wrong, we can conclude that there will be a significant portion of criminals who aren't inherently bad people. What you believe is right or wrong is for you to decide, not the government. What drugs you choose to take is for you to decide, not the government. How you choose to live your life, provided you do not harm anyone else or their liberties, should be your decision, and not anybody else's.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mom says, "Buckle Up!"

When I got my license at age 16, my first drive on my own was a disaster. My friend, my sister and I piled into my dad's Jeep to drop the friend off at his house. It was March, and in the peak of rainy season, and for about a hundred yards, my dad's car became a boat, borderlining on submarine status.

But before I left on that drive, my parents gave me warnings, "Drive carefully!"; "Don't speed!"; "Buckle up!" Their reminders rang in my ears the way they always do. Other favorite reminders they like to call after me include, "Don't forget your lunch!"; "Make good choices!"; and "Go to bed!" And like so many other teenagers, I took all of these reminders with a grain of salt. Once I hit age 16 I started to find the incessant reminders almost insulting, like my parents didn't think I was mature enough to remember to do something as simple as eat lunch or go to bed.

Perhaps I found this insulting because I enjoy my independence. I like to pay my own bills and work hard and pave my own path, and I definitely don't want anyone to tell me how to do it or do it for me.
But does the rest of the nation feel this way?

Our newest President of the United States has put an emphasis on personal responsibility. On March 10th, 2009, while addressing the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, he was quoted as saying, "Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it's needed, and staying out of trouble." (Emphasis added by myself.)

If students need to take responsibility for themselves, then why don't drivers?

The state of Minnesota enacts a new law today that will benefit drivers. This new law is "empowering law enforcement officers to pull over and ticket motorists for no other reason than failure to wear a restraint while driving. They can tack on extra pain for those drivers with unbuckled passengers under the age of 15," according to

While on my way to work today, I listened to a local radio station, KS95, discuss what a great law this is. They discussed all the good things that can come of wearing your seat belt: helping you stay in control when you swerve, save your life in accidents, even keeping you more focused on what you're doing behind the wheel.
What bothers me is that no one seems to notice that this is a common sense law.

Why should the government have to make wearing a seat belt a law?
Why are there restrictions on the healthy content of our food? Why are there restrictions on smoking?
In our public school science courses, we learn about survival of the fittest. If my own person, not hurting anyone else, wants to smoke at age 17, eat trans fats, and drive around without a seat belt on, why can't I? All of those things don't sound like the greatest ideas, of course, but have we really reached the point where our parents aren't enough supervision?
Have we reached the point where the citizens of the United States won't ever really reach adulthood, because under the rule of our government, we will forever remain children? Is there suddenly a new glass ceiling, a ceiling of adulthood, which all citizens who don't create law will never be able to advance beyond?

I'm not saying that wearing your seat belt isn't a great idea, because it is. It is a personal responsibility, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
I appreciate the reminder from my family and friends to buckle up, and even from my car, which makes obnoxious dinging sounds until I'm secured to my seat, but my qualm remains that perhaps the government is overstepping its boundaries, from ruling body to parent.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thesaurusing & Social Networking

This morning, I came across a link put up by Pete Eyre, one of my favorite liberty activists.

If you know me, you know that I have spent a fair amount of time on Bureaucrash, and that when I first realized I was a Libertarian, I frequented it often. Pete was Crasher-in-Chief up until April-ish. Apparently, since he stepped down, his successor has not been running the site in the same manner that it had been run for so long.
This is leaving those of us who registered for Bureaucrash Social and used it without a social network for freedom minded individuals. Homeless, if you will. Someone at After BureauCrash Action (ABC Action) has decided to do something about this:

Check it out!

The blog doesn't have an author listed, so I don't know who is behind writing it, but since both Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller posted it via twitter this morning, and they are both members of the Motorhome Diaries crew, I would guess they have something to do with it.

Anyway, I was going to leave a comment about what the title of the new network could be, and used my computer thesaurus to help me out. Have you ever entered the word liberty into a thesaurus? If you're ever down, this might cheer you up. Personally, it inspired me.
Synonyms include: freedom, independence, free-reign, self-determination, autonomy, sovereignty, civil liberties.
Antonyms? Even better: Constraint, slavery, tyranny, constraint.

Today I am reminded why I am so proud to be a Libertarian.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Change: What's Going on at Our End of the Political Spectrum

I honestly cannot tell you when the last time I sat down to watch the evening news. All of the mainstream media channels make my head spin, and don't even get me started on daytime world, economic and fiscal news. I just can't do it.

However, thanks to the internet, I can stay in the loop and keep my lunch down. I get daily updates from the Minneapolis Star Tribune in my email, which keeps me on top of whats going on locally. Aside from the numerous Libertarian, End the Fed, Young Americans for Liberty, Campaign for Liberty etc. emails, I developed a twitter account that follows all the #tlot s (thats Top Libertarians on Twitter, for those of you who don't use it).

Through Twitter and the sporadic emails from various liberty-minded groups, I have been able to come across others who want the kind of change I do in the system, and people who actually are out there, making it happen.

These are the people you should really keep an eye out for (in no particular order):

1. Dr. Rand Paul
No, I didn't type that wrong. Dr. Rand Paul, son of Congressman Dr. Ron Paul (who you might have heard of), has been the chairman of the Kentucky Taxpayers United, a group that monitors and rates the State Legislature.
According to an event on Facebook, Dr. Paul has been traveling the state of Kentucky for the past several months meeting, talking, and gauging his support. He will be making a major announcement tonight on Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC. I can only hope, pray and speculate that he will be announcing his much-rumored 2010 run for Senate.
Check out his website, for updates, further information, and to let him know you have his support!

2. Peter Schiff
Schiff is an economic commentator and author of Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse, which was published in 2007. (Yes, that's right, this guy predicted our current economic crisis early enough to have written a book about it. If you know anything about the publishing process, you'll be impressed.)
He has appeared on a variety of financial news programs, including CNBC, CNN, CNN International, and Fox News. Schiff was also an economic advisor for Dr. Ron Paul's campaign in the Republican primaries last year.
According to, Schiff is considering a Senate run as well, but like Dr. Paul, is still testing out the waters. This guy knows really knows his stuff! There's even a link on his candidacy website to his solutions. With actual solutions. And plans.

3. Jason Talley & Pete Eyre
Together, this duo makes up the foundation of The Motorhome Diaries. (Yes, that is a clever play on Che Guevara and The Motorcycle Diaries. Which was actually a good movie if you can get past the whole Communist Manifesto undertone.)
These guys are going across the country (and stopping in Canada and Mexico) and spreading the word about freedom, as well as getting the views of the public. They are meeting up "
with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints at college campuses, homes, businesses and organizations that are united by one thing: increasing individual freedom and responsibility and decreasing the scope of government."
The best part? They bought a used, 30 foot motorhome. Named M.A.R.V. (which stands for Mobile Authority Response Vehicle).
Check out their website to see their itinerary and interviews with some of your favorite liberty-minded people, including Dr. Ron Paul and David Nolan, the founder of our dear Libertarian Party.

UPDATE: I was just informed that these three have been arrested. For more details check out this link.

4. Nancy Pelosi
Just kidding.

So, next time you are trying to eat a cheese burger and watch your Fox News or MSNBC and being spoon fed whichever bias you choose, just remember that there still is an opportunity to make a change in the government- the legal way.
Whether its through the national Senate, like Dr. Rand Paul and Peter Schiff, on the grassroots level like Jason and Pete of The Motorhome Diaries, or on the state, county or local level, keep an eye out for upcoming freedom lovers in the news and in your community.

In liberty,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Majority Rule & Freedom

Usually, when it comes to the fundamental values of the United States, people mention freedom and democracy. Our society and government recognizes such rights as freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and every so often, we vote on popular referenda and elect people to represent us in Congress, putting the abstract concept of democracy into practice. But, while democracy and liberty generally go hand in hand, can they conflict each other? Can democracy take away some of our liberties, and can too much freedom undermine the democratic process?

The first example that comes to my mind is California Proposition 8, more commonly known as Prop' 8. For those who live under a rock and those who just haven't heard of the aforementioned, the proposition involved a popular vote in the state of California to decide whether or not to outlaw same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Now I don't believe government should have anything to do in the tradition of marriage, but considering it already is involved, I personally think that it should recognize all unions, both heterosexual and homosexual. On November 4th, 2008, it was announced that 52.24% had voted in favor of the proposition, supporting the banning of homosexual marriage in the State of California. The majority had voted for the suppression of more than two million people's rights (more than five percent of the population). In this fashion, the democratic process had undermined the liberty of a minority.

Of course sometimes the policies in place for several decades bring some inertia into the equation, and the democratic process fails to bring more freedom to a people. I'm thinking, for example, about the legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis in the state of California. The California Assembly Bill 390 was introduced in early 2009, and would change the policies of the state of California in order to regulate marijuana like alcohol, rather than like heroin. While 56 % of Californians have stated they favored the legalization and taxation of the substance in a recent poll, the policies in place don't reflect this popular decision, and probably won't for a couple of years. But the novelty of this majority is part of the issue, for it contrasts with seven decades of prohibition, and representative democracies such as the United States tend to cause a delay between changes in public opinion and changes in policy.

On the other side, too much freedom may also undermine, or should I say distort, the democratic process. Again, I will use the example of California Proposition 8. In this campaign, as in any campaign in today's United States, significant amounts of money were used by interests groups to support one side or the other. Churches and other organizations took part in the campaign to support the banning of homosexual unions, spending a total of forty thousand dollars to alter public opinion. On another, much more global scale, the mainstream media of the nation did not hesitate to attempt at persuading for or against the proposition, using the great influence they have on the population to change the outcome according to their view. Those campaigns play with the population's faith in the media to make the popular vote shift in a direction or another, and often, money becomes a crucial campaigning tool. Often, the power of ideas is replaced by the power of money, and many votes can be altered through a well financed campaigning effort. In this fashion, complete lack of regulation can lead to a manipulation of democracy.

As an international student, I can't help but compare the attitude of the U.S. media with that of other nations. In several European countries, such as France, there is a legal limit to the amount of money that can be spent on a political campaign. I'm not a big fan of government intervention in the media, but if properly set, that limit can enable the population to remain informed about the arguments of diverse positions without having to be flooded by political propaganda. In many ways, this limit enables the public to be educated without being manipulated. The U.S. can learn from policies in place in other nations, and while exporting freedom to other nation-states may not always be a good idea, importing a more democratic or a more free approach to an issue can bring out great outcomes.

Finding a balance between the people's voice in policy making and the extent to which government should not intervene is a complex and continuous problem, which involves myriads of factors and policies, and which is an essential part of sculpting a free democracy, and democratic freedom. In an era marked by the instantaneous sharing of ideas across borders and oceans, America is not an island, and using the templates of other successful nations may be the key to reaching the free society that every American deserves.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Burden of 4/20

While the reaction to 4/20 being rather unanimous in the cannabis using subculture, the situation out there concerning cannabis as a substance intended for recreational use was much more mixed. While the cannabis users celebrate every 20th of April, and drug law reformers on college campuses use the occasion to raise awareness on this social issue, many voting citizens in this nation are frowning upon the yearly tradition and the use of cannabis altogether. But for what reason?

In this article, originally published on the Daily Camera, a Colorado University representative was quoted saying "It's an event we don't like. We don't sponsor it or support it. We inherit it." And all I want to reply to him is : "Oh my God, what a burden!" In what way has 4/20 become such a difficult holiday to celebrate as a cannabis non-smoker? Are people loud? Are people being hateful? Are people becoming violent and aggressive? No. Because that is not what marijuana does to you. How does a pot-smoking crowd threaten the safety of an entire campus?

In comparison, I have chosen St. Patrick's Day, a well known drinking holiday on all college campuses all over the United States. Now, from experience, I can tell you that the day after St. Patrick's Day, the college campus can be unrecognizable in some areas. On the morning after St. Patrick's Day, it wouldn't be surprising to see a floor getting cleaned because of puke, it wouldn't be surprising to see posters torn off the walls because of drunk people, and it definitely wouldn't be surprising to see a line of twenty people buying Advil at the campus convenience store. Long story short, drinking has a very high social cost.

Well what about marijuana holidays like 4/20? With zero deaths a year attributed to marijuana, I can say with a certain amount of confidence that St Patrick's Day is a much more dangerous celebration than 4/20 is. And yet, campuses throughout the United States encourage St. Patrick's Day as a cultural holiday, when every one knows that most college students see it as an occasion to drink. And what do people do when they drink in excess? Sometimes they are loud, sometimes they can get aggressive, and often, if driving, they can become deadly.

Then where is the burden of having a bunch of people smoke pot? What do people do, when under the influence of marijuana? Generally, effects mentioned include relaxation, peacefulness, and those famous munchies. Which causes people to do what? Buy a lot to eat. Isn't that exactly what we are trying to get Americans to start doing?!? SPEND!!! Get high, and spend!

Do you see where I'm getting at? Shouldn't we encourage people to celebrate 4/20, for the economy's sake, for medicine's sake, and for freedom's sake? A celebration that never hurt or killed anyone, gets a whole bunch of people to be happy all together, and gets people to spend should be encouraged and subsidized by this government, not reprimanded and criminalized!

Friday, April 10, 2009

SGA Elections

This is an issue concerning mainly St Cloud State students, but after all, this is the SCSU Libertarian's Club Blog. Long story short, the Student Government is running elections in this month of April. While there are three candidates, the two major candidates are Travis Holmberg and Michael Jamnick, who differ on a lot of issues important to the St Cloud State community.

On one side, Jamnick and his Vice-President pick Sam Sterner advocate the abolition of "double jeopardy" situations, where offenses committed off-campus result in additionnal sanctioning with the University. Jamnick and Sterner claim they will "work to lessen the financial and legal implications." Jamnick claims in his platform that he will work to lower the drinking age, as a recent survey shows that St Cloud State students are in favor of the idea. In my opinion, there are low chances that this will ever happen, but in this kind of debate, silence is consent, and St Cloud State students do not consent to the drinking age being 21. Among the other issues on the platform, supporting legislation that enables availability of contraceptives, making it easier for Student Veterans to obtain Military Transfer Credits, and keeping the Night Bus, in opposition to the proposition of having a Taxi system, requiring more money from students and not guaranteeing instant availability.

On the other, we have Travis Holmberg and Birat Krishna Thapa, running together for President and Vice-President, respectively. Their platform is separated into five points. The main element of their platform and campaign as a whole is to increase pride in the University from the student body, their motto being "Bringing back the Husky Pride!" They seek to do this through making more events that celebrate the traditions of St Cloud and SCSU, and seek to measure the pride through polls and surveys. The second point of their platform is to "work more closely" with the administration and "various other organizations". The third point is to bring the Student Government Association "more fame" by increasing public relations. Their fourth point is to "help out the organizations with their financial needs", and their final point is to raise awareness about the SGA.

Now I've been pretty neutral so far, and this is where my opinion comes in place.

While Jamnick's platform isn't perfect (no platform ever is), Holmberg's and Thapa's has some serious flaws. First of all, it appears that the platform hasn't even gone through proofreading. For example, simple arithmetic is erroneous : " the top four on our list would be the Residential Life, University Program Board and Public Safety." That's three, not four. The positions are not all declared on the platform, which I find difficult for the transparency of the election. For example, while Holmberg/Thapa omit the issue of the Night Bus vs. the Taxi System in their official platform, Holmberg announced in a public debate to which no more than 25 people were present that their position was that of the Taxi System. If only 25 people out of 16 000 know what your position on the issue is, they might be voting for the wrong reason.

But hey, that's more a criticism on form rather than content. On the content of the platform, I will simply say that the positions are broad and vague. The candidates claim that "they will work with" administration, other organizations, and MSUSA, but do not explain in what way they will work with them. They claim that they "will extend a hand to help out the organizations with their financial needs," but again, don't describe in which fashion. Will they favorise certain organizations more than others? They fail to explain that to us. Their points are also quite redundant, points 3 and 5 being almost exactly the same. They claimed in their debate that they wanted to remove the University's party school reputation, which is something most serious students seek to do, but fail to explain how they will achieve that.

But what's even worse is their reaction to questions asked on their platform thread. Several students have expressed their discontentment regarding the vagueness of the platform, and questions have been asked, one student asking them to go more in depth. Thapa gave long, wordy answers to simple questions, and seemed to be avoiding the actual content of the questions. A student has asked him three consecutive times : "Should people who are present in a room where alcohol is being consumed be sanctioned even though they have not taken part in the consumption of alcohol?" No answer. Instead, long paragraphs describing their position to reduce hate crime and violent crimes on campus. We all want to reduce violent crimes, this doesn't answer the question.

(Left : Holmberg/Thapa ; Right : Jamnick/Sterner)

On April 6th, a student raised questions on various University issues, and kept his discourse formal and polite. By the next day, Thapa had marked the post as "irrelevant," making it hidden by default on the page. This is the equivalent of political censorship. When confronted by one of his personal friends on the issue, he canceled this action, but claimed he did this because he doesn't "see any reason why people should not understand what [he and Holmberg] are trying to say." Since that day, Thapa deleted three additional posts. When that student made a new post to ask additional questions and repeat unanswered ones, this was Thapa's response :

I have had enough of you, if you are in International Student I guess please tell your TOEFL or IELTS Score, you just fail to understand simple english [sic] or maybe you are not reading my post and being an ardent worshipper of JamSam.

This comes from the same person that said "I would love to answer more [questions]," "Please continue posting," and "I strongly urge you to write more if you are not satisfied with my answer." Another part of his response included the line "I am confident that I will win this election no matter what." Why, that's constructive! Why in the world are you making slogans such as "Change is coming!" and putting posters all over campus, practically begging for votes, if you know you are going to win this election?

When the Presidential candidate, Travis Holmberg, got involved on the question asked multiple times and yet remaining unanswered, he did not give his position on the issue. Rather, he asked the student what his position was, and whether or not it should be changed. He went further to say he will meet with the students "when I am President" to discuss policy. Again, no doubt what so ever that he will win this election, and an apparent apathy about some of the policies in place affecting all students living on campus.

So to summarize why I think you should NOT vote for Travis Holmberg and Birat K Thapa : a) they have an extremely vague platform, b) they practice active censorship, c) they refuse to answer questions, rather using their ink to assume bad faith about people interested in their platform.

Moral of the story is : Look beyond hopeful slogans, look into attitude and positions.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Freedom vs. Anarchy

As a libertarian-minded member of society, I tend to get into debates and arguments on current issues and the philosophy of government, generally with people who do not share my political views at all. Throughout the many, often heated discussions I have had with students on SCSU campus, I have noticed an irritating misconception on the libertarian philosophy, which is to confuse it with that of anarchism. Fact remains : freedom is not anarchy.

While I am an advocate of minimal government, I do not believe that a total lack of government would do much benefit for society (euphemism). In fact, removing any form of governance from society would be disastrous for the majority of the population. Without an appropriate law enforcement system, violent criminals would run around freely, committing crime after crime, with no remorse or punishment. People would spend much more time and energy trying to protect their life and those of their family rather than being a productive part of their community, and nothing would ever guarantee the safety of the population.

The proponents of anarchy claim that removing government from society would restore absolute freedom to the people. That’s not entirely true. While you will be able to do absolutely everything you’ve ever been forbidden to do, such as running around naked in the middle of Times Square, it is worthy to note that nothing can stop others from stepping on your freedoms as well. What would happen in a state of anarchy? The strongest, most vile and brutal individuals of society would gain control through terror and impose their policies on the people, without any legitimacy apart from the tyrannical fear they create. The idea of a successful anarchist state is pure utopia, and has historically led to more tyranny and oppression (take Lenin and Stalin, for instance).

(This little drawing made my day, thought I'd share.)

So what do I mean when I say “freedom”, in opposition to “anarchy”? I mean we should have a government that emphasizes economic and personal liberties, and works not to restrict them, but to make sure nobody will. The government should be there to protect you from violent crimes, to protect you from injustice, to protect you from those who want to restrict your freedom, rather than tolerate your way of life. The government should be the protection of your rights and freedoms, not a despotic authority figure that imposes its way of life on the population.

Long story short, anarchy leads to illegitimate tyranny by leaving the power to the mercy of the population’s ruthless and powerful. Freedom through legitimate minimal government will lead to the stable development of communities, in economic and social aspects, as well as the thriving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Expanding the political spectrum (and getting to know the LP)

This is a followup on Jackie's last post. :)

One of the great myths in American politics is the "left vs. right" conflict theory. It's true that there are differences between the left and right, but this is a broad generalization that oversimplifies the political realities.

Often times I get asked whether I am a Democrat or a Republican--whether I am a liberal or a conservative. That there might be a compromise between the two ideologies does not even cross the mind of the questioner. It's either one or the other in this country and there can be no in between. And I think that's a sad reflection of this country's political system, what we call "American democracy." Indeed, you have two dominant political parties, the Democratic and Republican Parties, that have controlled this country for well over the past 100 years. Yeah, sure, you can say that's better than a one-party system, which was often characteristic of some countries we dare not mention. But it's only marginally better.

True, in theory, we have a very open and democratic system with a wide spectrum of political parties that we can vote for. But the established power--the Democratic and Republican Parties--have very tight control over the election process. In a recent Newsweek article, Evan Thomas describes establishments: "By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are." And this is precisely what the two parties do. An easy example to point out is the "Commission on Presidential Debates," which is essentially a bipartisan ("bi," meaning two, rather than nonpartisan, which would have no political affiliation) body that dictates how, when, where, and who gets to participate in presidential debates--an important process in electing our presidents. Naturally, they limit the access third-party candidates have (or even some members within their own party, with whom they may disagree), which I consider an affront to democracy. And that's just one example; there are countless more.

Anyway, I'm going a bit off course. We are aware of the two dominant political parties and ideologies that have monopolized politics in this country for a long time now. But, surely, this can't be all that there is. In American politics, we typically call a person who favors free markets and capitalism but regulation of personal and social issues a conservative. But what do we call a person who favors state control in both social and economic issues? We typically call a person who favors state intervention in the economy but little control over personal and social issues a liberal. But what do we call a person who favors no intervention in either the economy or social issues?

The simplistic model has a straight line to describe those on the left, liberals, and those on the right, conservatives. This model has been expanded, however, to include the vast political ideologies that are ignored in this model. One that I like is the political compass:


This comes from, a nifty little site where you can see where you fit on the ideological chart. As you can see, a vertical axis was created with the addition of Libertarian and Authoritarian. On the far right, you have neoliberals who believe in unregulated markets, and their position is moved up or down depending on how much regulation there should be with social issues (abortion, drugs legalisation, homosexual marriage, etc.). On the far left, you have communists or collectivists who believe in regulated markets, and their position would be moved up or down depending mostly on how much they believe the state should be involved in making decisions. People on the upper left, the likes of which include Stalin, believe in strong and totalitarian state control in their quest for "communism." People on the lower left would be advocates of stateless communism and voluntary collectivism, along with other anarchists.

The domain of the libertarian is the on the bottom half of the chart. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be a leftist libertarian, the likes of which include Noam Chomsky and Neslon Mandela, who oppose the state but do not necessarily agree with capitalist markets. However, in America, libertarians and the Libertarian Party are most closely associated with those on the bottom right. People who have championed the belief in free markets and personal freedom include people such as Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Ron Paul, Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich von Hayek, most of the Founding Fathers, and many others.

The ideology of the Libertarian Party argues against state power (that is, opposite of authoritarians), and instead focuses on individual liberty. It strongly supports the U.S. Constitution, liberalization of the market, the expansion of civil liberties, and is against state aggression and interventionism. This is just a simple and quick description, but it should give you a feel for what we're about. Try taking the World's Smallest Political Quiz to see where you stand. ;-)

Benjamin Seghers

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Enough is Enough

so ive been taking alot of heat lately about being a libertarian. for those of you who dont know, libertarians believe in a small, limited government and more individual freedom. these words may sound a bit cliche and hackneyed, but they hold great meaning to me. so enough is enough. i am going to explain who i am, my philosophical beliefs, morals, and principles that i stand by to the death. here is part 1:

sadly, when people find out i am a libertarian, they look away, or with pity, followed by 10 or more seconds of awkward silence, as if they should feel sorry for me. and suddenly i am no longer me. i am the guy that didnt vote for the first african american president. i am the guy who didnt vote for the man who would tax the rich and help the poor. i am the guy who didnt vote for change.

first of all, i am not racist, sexist, or any kind of prejudice. i dont believe a persons race, sex, religion, class, or gender has any effect on their capabilities as a productive member of society whatsoever. i also dont believe that a group should get special advantages because of afore mentioned traits, or any reason for that matter. let me explain this very clearly. if you want special treatment because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual, you have given your power to the system. you have just said, "i cannot do this on my own, i need help." i think people need to reconsider the traits and characteristics that define them as a human being, such as hard working, trustworthy, and dependable, rather than hispanic, female, or homosexual. there is nothing wrong in being proud of these traits, but to define oneself by them shows a lack of self confidence in ones abilities. equality in a society does not include having to feel guilty for being white, or being male, or being heterosexual, because you have no control over your circumstances of birth.

im sorry, and i may sound evil for saying this, but true equality cannot exist in a society. the hard fact is, there are winners and losers in life. proof is everywhere, from economics to education to biological natural selection. proponents of social equality, more commonly known as socialists, must realize that if someone decides to make everyone equal, there is an immediate imbalance of power once again, because they, deciding who gets what and how much, is now in charge and can take as much as they give. socialists do not understand that greed is an inherent quality of humans, it has existed as long as we have been around on earth. it is the peoples choice to give the greed and the power to a handful of people in the government.

and i may be crazy, but doesnt it seem like a paradox that the majority of people who voted for obama were for more social equality? i mean, they obviously dig his universal healthcare plan, and his promises of no new taxes for the lower-middle classes. he was the last hope for america. victory was won, he is now our leader, and is doing the best he can. this is what most obama-voters believe in. however, any social studies professor will tell you that social change does not come from one individual leader. the montgomery bus boycott would never have worked without the effort of millions of organizers and boycotters. the civil rights movement did not only belong to mlk jr and rosa parks, but to the unsung heroes and heroines of the poor, black communities. the civil war was not won by lincoln, but by the millions who died on the battlefield. nearly every social change happens thanks to people, not one person. so why do these people striving for social equality put all their faith in one man, as if he has all the answers? im not saying his policies will or will not work, i dont believe being black makes him more or less capable a president, im not even remarking on any of his political beliefs, im merely asking, doesnt it seem like a paradox to believe one person can bring equality to a nation when social change stems from grassroots?

it seems to me that the more we trust one person, or one government, the more trouble we get into. we trusted bush to do the right thing after 9/11. recall that his approval rating in the months following the tragedy was nearly 90%. the overwhelming majority of americans trusted bush, even elected him to a second term, and who we now call one of the worst presidents in our nations history. those who voted for obama did so for one of two reasons: 1). they did not want another republican in office, a misconception that the members of your party define who you are, or 2). they trusted that obama would bring change to america. so much trust in one person scares me, no matter the person, or the issue. we are adults america, there are no such things as superheroes.

in summary of part 1 of my series on liberty, i have come forward and claimed that there can never be social equality, that americans should redefine how they percieve themselves, and that obama is not the savior of america. i welcome whatever blowback or hate mail i recieve from this blog, note, whatever you want to call it. i will do my best to keep an open mind about your position and defend my own. so there it is, i have stated my beliefs, without criticizing anybody or mentioning politics in any aspect, and i think i have done so honestly and respectfully. thanks for reading.

Matt Perez
VP-SCSU Libertarians Club

Republicans, Democrats, What?

"What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest writers throughout history, but while his writing ability may have been epic, his(or perhaps his character's) logic was not. In this quote, he is observing the arbitrary meaning of words. While words are arbitrary, the connotations and meanings behind each one is often over-powering. For example, take "snow day." If you come from the upper Midwest like I do, those words probably meant overbearing joy back in grade school.
Here in the real world we have words like "Democrat", "Republican" and "Stimulus".

The ironic thing about the names of the two major parties is that over time they have basically become the opposite of that which their name implies.

A democrat sounds like an advocate of democracy- ultimately meaning power to the people. Based on my understanding of politics throughout American history, I would believe that this is the party that would advocate states rights, focus on the little guy (Joe the Plumber anyone?), and try to hold the system intact.

A republican sounds pretty opposite. A republican would be someone who wants to strengthen the republic as a whole, national, federal; big words with big meanings. These people would probably want the power of the federal government to grow, for the states to be nothing but shadows underneath a large central government. Big wigs come to mind.

Trying to find a modern definition of what either of those parties actually stands for is difficult.

According to, the official website of the Democratic Party, "The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes the strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, open, honest and accountable government, and securing our nation while protecting our civil rights and liberties."
Reading this definition, I can't help but agree with the statement. Personally, I want safety, I want opportunity, I want economic growth. I wouldn't mind affordable health care. I definitely am interested in open, honest and accountable government, and civil rights and liberties are of course important to me.
Based on this definition, I am 100% a democrat.

Neither,, nor provide any sort of definition for what they stand for. However, based on whats going on within their party at the present, I'm not sure any of them are clear on what exactly they stand for. does, however.
Maybe the navigability of their websites reflects their ability to get elected?

Anyway, according to, "The California Republican Party is working for all Californians by promoting limited government, lower taxes, personal responsibility and a strong national defense. We're proud to be the majority party in many parts of California, including many of our largest counties. Thousands of Republican elected leaders are working hard every day to put Republican ideas into action to benefit all Californians."
I am personally a huge advocate of limited government, I like low taxes, I support personal responsibility, and I would like to be nationally defended.
Based on this definition, I am 100% Republican.

Its not a wonder that America has no idea what is going on in the world today. The biased media aside, it is because of things like this that, on election day, I heard people say, "I won't vote, I just don't care."
Even if a random American were to wake up and try to figure out what exactly they believed, they would be nothing but confused. No strong connotations come up with these words, these vague definitions which are supposed to lead us to a huge decision- voting on who is going to lead what is supposed to be the greatest nation in the world. Civil rights and liberties? That sounds like a history book. What exactly is "personal responsibility"? And why is it so hard for the GOP to give a short run down of their beliefs, even if the politicians behind the Republican shield don't follow them?

Words are arbitrary, this is true. But in today's world, the words Democrat and Republican only hold (in my own mind, anyway) long lists of people who hide behind that shield. Red shield, blue shield, at this point, they all look a little purple to me.

Jackie Silseth
President, SCSU Libertarians Club