July 24, 2016

Libertarian Candidate Austin Petersen Believes He Can Win with Fellow Millenials, Conservatives, Social Democrats

austin petersenAustin Petersen makes the “boy president” John F. Kennedy seem like an elder statesman. Petersen wasn’t even eligible to run when he announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s Presidential Nomination (he’s since turned 35 and is fully eligible). As the first “millennial” candidate, Petersen believes he can not only attract young voters, but others across the political spectrum.

“I believe I can bring in not just libertarian voters, but I think I can bring in conservative voters and I think I can bring in social democratic voters because I embody those principles of economic freedom and personal liberty,” Petersen said.

Petersen does believe opponents Gary Johnson and John McAfee have a slight advantage in executive experience, having both run large businesses and in Johnson’s case, the New Mexico State Government for two four-year terms.

“It does put me at a disadvantage,” said Petersen, “but obviously my campaign slogan is I want to take over the government to leave people alone. So, the idea is not that I want to run things. I just want to let people run their own lives. So, do you really need to have been a former software billionaire or a former governor in order to be President of the United States? I would submit ‘no.’ If so, the founding fathers should have put that in the Constitution.”

Petersen believes he can distinguish himself as a voice or reason in the general election, even in a year where an angry electorate has seemed to prefer populist bomb-throwing over calm, intellectual messages.

“Honestly, when you put three ducks in a row and one of these kids is doing their own thing, sometimes the voice of reason wins out. And that’s simply because when there’s so much cacophony and noise, and background noise, sometimes a small, quiet voice can be heard,” said Petersen.

Like many of his opponents, Petersen faces almost as tough a challenge in winning the Libertarian Nomination as he would in the general election. Libertarians are known to be strict on ideological purity and Petersen has challenged the central libertarian principle of non-aggression as a guiding principle for government power.

“I’m willing to take even the most sacred cows and slaughter them for all to see, because I really kind of actually enjoy that,” quipped Petersen. He argues that children, for example, have positive rights and the non-aggression principle doesn’t adequately ensure them.

Outside the theoretical world, however, Petersen’s positions line up pretty closely to those of his opponents, any of which he said he would support if he were not to win the nomination.

You can watch the full video interview below. More information on Petersen’s campaign can be found at austinpetersen2016.com.

The final debate before the delegates vote for the nomination is tonight (Saturday May 28) at 8:00 PM EDT and will be carried live on CSPAN, Reason.com and several other media.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Final Presidential Debate: 2016 Libertarian Party National Convention

convention debate8:00 PM EST – The atmosphere is electric, much like Ron Paul’s event in 2012 just days before the RNC – the latter resembling what Rodney Dangerfield would call “the dance of the living dead.”

8:27 PM EST – “I’d like to build a wall around Donald Trump and make Bernie Sanders pay for it.” – Austin Petersen

8:31 PM EST – “The rights you are born with don’t change depending upon which side of an imaginary line you’re born on.” – Marc Allen Feldman.

8:35 PM EST – “There is an offensive word in your question and that is ‘taxpayer.” – John McAfee

8:36 PM EST – “When it comes to the federal role in education, abolish the Department of Education.” – Gary Johnson

8:41 PM EST: “We’d have voluntary mutual aid societies like we did before the government took over social security.”

8:44 PM EST: “None of us are going to pass a drowning child, even if we are dressed in a tuxedo, going to a wedding. You jump in and save the child. Libertarianism is not heartlessness.” – John McAfee

*8:45 PM EST: First boos for Gary Johnson for remarks about global warming and that “free market bankrupted coal.”

8:49 PM EST: “Why can’t we have a lottery? A lottery is just a tax on people who are bad at math.” – Austin Petersen

8:49 PM EST: “This government survived for 120 years without an income tax. How was that possible? We had a government that was reasonable.” – John McAfee

8:52 PM EST: “The minimum wage is always zero, as one knows who is out of a job.” – Marc Allan Feldman

8:54 PM EST: “The minimum wage was originally devised to stop black workers from competing with white labor.” – Austin Petersen

9:01 PM EST: “When you talk about a 35% tariff on foreign goods, who ends up paying them? Well, we do.” – Gary Johnson

9:04 PM EST: “I have a barber and we have a free trade agreement. I give him money and he gives me haircuts. He never gives me money.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:05 PM EST: “Money is not a creation of government. It is a creation of the marketplace.” – Austin Petersen

9:05 PM EST: “End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed!” – the delegates

9:16 PM EST: “Radical Islam is a threat. Congress needs to get involved. They have abdicated their responsibilities to the president. There needs to be an open discussion and that hasn’t happened.” – Gary Johnson

9:18 PM EST: “The most dangerous religion in the world is statism.” – Austin Petersen

9:23 PM EST: “We used to manufacture weapons to support our war efforts. Now, we manufacture war efforts to support our weapons industries.” – Marc Allan Feldman.

9:27 PM EST: “I kind of like the United Nations because it really doesn’t do much.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:29 PM EST: “Calling me an isolationist because I don’t want to invade Poland is like calling me a hermit because I don’t want to rob my neighbor’s fridge. Switzerland has the greatest foreign policy. Have you ever had Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolate or a Swiss Army knife?” – Darryl Perry

9:32 PM EST: “What we are dealing with are two machines. They have no heart; they have no soul. They eat everything.” – John McAfee [on the two major parties]

9:36 PM EST: “I believe in gun control. I believe people should control their guns.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:45 PM EST: “I have traveled extensively and in most Third World countries, you can use the bathroom in the street, in front of everyone. Having seen that, I don’t understand how anyone could care.” – John McAfee

9:49 PM EST: “As far as the nomination of justices, I want to support the firm right of Congress to do nothing. It’s the only thing they do well.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:50 PM EST – An appearance by Jesus.

9:56 PM EST – “The drug users remain constant whether it’s criminalized or decriminalized.”

10:00 PM EST – Darryl Perry loses his shit over drug laws.

10:06 PM EST – “As many of you know, my wife is black. I can assure you that discrimination was not ended by any legislation.” – John McAfee

10:10 PM EST – “I want you to help me help you make the Libertarian Party libertarian again.” – Darryl Perry

10:11 PM EST – “This is not a campaign about one man. It is about a revolution of We the People.” – Austin Petersen

10:14 PM EST – Marc Allan Feldman tears the place up. Wait for the footage.

10:16 PM EST – The crowd goes wild.

Is Libertarian Kevin McCormick a More Likable Alternative to Trump or Clinton?

kevin mccormickWith unfavorability ratings at record highs for the candidates of both major parties, polls show Americans are more likely than ever to consider voting for a third party. That’s inspired more excitement than usual at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, where delegates from all 50 states have gathered to choose the party’s candidates for President and Vice President of the United States.

I had a chance to sit down with Kevin McCormick, one of the candidates seeking the party’s nomination (video below). More information on McCormick’s campaign can be found at www.kevinmccormick2016.com.

Watch the video interview at The Huffington Post…

Rand Paul’s Campaign Proved Libertarianism and Conservatism Are Antithetical to Each Other

1024px-Rand_Paul_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Google Rand Paul today and you’ll find stories about him suspending his presidential campaign under “Breaking News.” In one way it is; in another it isn’t. It’s really an old story, but those who don’t know history have been doomed (again) to repeat it.

Since William F. Buckley started National Review in the 1950s, libertarianism has been viewed as a subset of conservatism. Reagan affirmed this view in the 1970s, before rising to the presidency selling that same theory.

But what caused Reagan to fail to shrink the federal government (it doubled in size during his presidency) is the same problem that doomed Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Libertarianism and conservatism are antithetical philosophies and any attempt to combine them will fail.

It is important to understand the philosophical differences here, because they do indeed dictate political positions today. I’ve written an entire book about this, but the crucial difference between libertarians and conservatives is this: true conservatives don’t believe man keeps his natural rights when he enters society. Understood properly, they don’t even believe they exist in nature at all.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Free Excerpt: Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Where_Do_Conservativ_Cover_for_Kindle

CONTENTS

Chapter One: Something is Wrong with the World

Chapter Two: Where Do Conservatives Come From?

Chapter Three: Where Do Liberals Come From?

Chapter Four: Where Did the Founding Fathers Come From?

Chapter Five: Defending the Creed The Conservative Tide

Notes

Chapter One:

Something is Wrong with the World

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.”

 – Morpheus to Neo in the motion picture “The Matrix” (1999)[1]

 

Back in 2010, I was invited to speak at a conference sponsored by Campaign for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning organization founded by former Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Arriving at the hotel the night before, I discovered the political conference wasn’t the only convention there. The same hotel was also hosting a huge Star Wars convention.

Everywhere I looked, characters from the hit movie franchise adorned the lobby. I got a picture with Darth Vader. As it was the end of a long day, I headed to the bar for a beer. A man dressed as young Obi-Wan Kenobi sat down next to me.

“How’s the convention going for you?” he asked.

“I just got here,” I replied, “but I’m not here for the same convention you are. I’m here for the Campaign for Liberty event.”

“What’s Campaign for Liberty?” he inquired.

I looked around for a moment and replied, “Well, it’s an organization everyone at your convention should want to join.”

“Why is that?’ he asked.

“Because they want to end the American Empire and restore the Old Republic,” I replied.

The young Obi-Wan looked at me for a moment with an expression that read, “Do I really want to get into this?” Then, as if acquiescing to his own curiosity, he said “Tell me some more.”

I explained the organization as briefly as I could. Occasionally, he would interject, “I actually agree with that.” He seemed to agree with more than he disagreed with. Then, it was his turn.

“I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal,” he told me.

When I asked him what that meant to him, this was his reply:

“I believe if you can afford a $400,000.00 house, then more power to you. Enjoy it. But what’s wrong with this country is the idea that people feel entitled to houses they can’t afford, vacations they borrow money to take and two or three cars. People need to start living within their means.”

This is what a “dyed-in-the-wool liberal” thinks?

Believe it or not, I hear statements like this from people who self-identify as liberals all the time. Yet, less than a year before my new friend made this statement, President Obama had called for and then signed into law an $800 billion “stimulus package” designed to subsidize people who couldn’t afford to pay their own mortgages. Obi-Wan didn’t seem to notice the irony.

Liberals aren’t the only ones who sometimes fail to see the difference between what they and their representatives believe.

That same year, I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the first time. CPAC is an annual rally held in Washington, D.C. where “anybody who’s anybody” in conservative politics gathers to speak, promote books, launch political campaigns, etc.

In addition to an all-star cast of conservative speakers, the event also features an exhibit hall where mostly grassroots conservative organizations set up booths and ply their wares. I was as interested in what these “regular folks” had to say as in the featured speakers. I asked each of them why they identified as conservative.

Their answers weren’t surprising. I heard a lot of affirmations of the free market, small government, individual liberty and religious freedom. These are the principles nearly every one associates with “conservatism.”

What was surprising was how little these positions resembled those taken by the conference’s speakers. On the big stage, attendees were warned that President Obama’s “socialist” healthcare program, which subsidizes private insurers, threatens Medicare, a healthcare program run completely by the government.

They heard passionate cries that Obama was “gutting the military” by not increasing military spending as fast as they deemed necessary. They heard that Obama was “soft on radical Islam,” and even implications he was a Muslim himself.

They heard little or nothing about rolling back regulations on business or reducing government spending. They heard no criticism of the federal government spying on their phone calls or e-mails. They heard nothing about reducing the size and reach of government at all.

Then, there is what liberal and conservative politicians actually do.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected to do one thing: to not be George W. Bush. The electorate voted against Bush’s wars of choice, civil liberties abuses, executive power grabs and government secrecy, all in the name of national security.

Rightly or wrongly, they also blamed Bush for a bad economy. He certainly hadn’t done anything to help.

During his campaign, former constitutional law professor Barack Obama promised to end the wars, restore constitutional protections of civil liberties, and run a “transparent” administration. He promised to review every one of Bush’s executive orders and overturn any that “trampled on liberty.” He promised to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

For the liberals, he promised to fight against the cozy relationship between multinational corporations and Washington, D.C.

Obama did wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he started several new ones, with results even more disastrous.

Siding with rebels in Libya to overthrow former U.S. adversary-turned-partner Muammar Gadhafi, the Obama administration allowed the country to be taken over by much more radical Islamists. Ditto for Egypt.

Siding with rebels in Syria to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime, the administration has inadvertently armed and trained thousands of jihadists who subsequently joined the Islamic State (IS), if there was ever a distinction between the two groups to begin with.

On one occasion alone, over a thousand rebels, carrying U.S.-supplied arms and equipment, defected from the rebellion in Syria and joined IS in Iraq.[2]

Where Bush was accused of misleading Congress to gain its support for the Iraq War, Obama hasn’t asked Congress for authorization at all. So much for the constitutional law professor.

Every dollar borrowed to fund these wars is a dollar that can’t be lent to a business to expand and create new jobs. It’s not just a dollar that is paid to a soldier instead. There’s a lot more waste when the government spends money than when private employers spend it. Since 1996, there has been $8.5 trillion in funds sent to the Pentagon that they can’t account for at all.[3]

At home, Obama hasn’t fared much better at not being Bush. Thanks to Edward Snowden, the American public now knows that government spying goes well beyond what they understood was occurring under Bush. Instead of rolling it back, Obama has expanded it.

He built a massive NSA data center in Utah to store phone, e-mail and other data belonging to American citizens, all obtained without probable cause or warrants. The center inspired so much public outrage that a Utah legislator actually introduced a bill to cut off its water supply.[4]

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

The prison camp at Guantanamo remains open. Despite his frequent condemnations of the use of torture, his administration continues to employ it.[5]

As for transparency, Erica Werner at the Huffington Post notes the irony that Obama accepted an award for transparency “behind closed doors with no media coverage or public access allowed.”[6]

On corporatism, Obama has consistently poured gasoline on the fire. The Dodd-Frank legislation he signed into law allows too-big-to-fail banks to become even bigger and more of a threat if they fail. His forays into “investing into green energy” have been nothing more than typical crony capitalism, ending in disasters like Solyndra.

Then, there’s the Affordable Care Act.

Hardcore liberals wanted a government-run, single payer healthcare system. They wanted “Medicare for everyone.” What they got was another crony capitalist scheme that showered hundreds of billions on corporate health insurers, made healthcare more expensive for everyone, and may not have decreased the net number of uninsured at all.

“Obamacare” was originally the Republican answer to Hillarycare in the 1990s. Republican governor Mitt Romney implemented a version of it in Massachusetts. Whether they’re right or wrong about what they want, Obamacare is nothing like what the hard left elected Obama to give them.

Everyone else likes it even less. 2014 Gallup polls show Americans disapprove of Obamacare by a clear majority.[7]

Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, a majority of Americans, including 59% of those not affiliated with either of the two major parties, disapproved of the job President Obama was doing.[8] Like Bush in 2006, the president was a liability on the campaign trail for his own party, which lost control of the Senate in that election.

Thank goodness the conservatives are different, right? Wrong.

In 2000, George W. Bush campaigned on the usual Republican platitudes of free markets, smaller government and individual liberty. He even harkened back to Old Right values, including “a humble foreign policy.” He said that it was not America’s job to be the policeman of the world.

How did that work out?

On promoting the free market, Bush and the Republican Congress couldn’t have been worse. They only enacted two significant economic policies: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the TARP Bailout.

One was a massive increase in regulation and the other an equally massive government subsidy to Wall Street.

On both occasions, Bush evoked one of the most anti-free market presidents in U.S. history. He called Sarbanes-Oxley ”the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.’[9]

On TARP, Bush claimed he “abandoned free market principles to save the free market,” something liberals routinely credit FDR with in making their case for even more regulation.

Bush consistently endorsed the misconception that economic crises are the result of free markets, rather than the government interventions that really caused them. His explanation for the housing crisis was “Wall Street got drunk.”

Before the first vote on TARP Americans of all political persuasions bombarded their representatives with angry phone calls, e-mails and demonstrations. Congressmen were visibly scared. They voted it down the first time.

But they eventually passed it, with Bush, Obama, and Republican nominee John McCain all in support. Bush helped cool grassroots opposition with a passionate speech designed to scare the daylights out of us. Enough people believed him to allow Congress to ram it through.

As for “small government,” Bush and the Republicans increased federal spending 50% over Clinton’s last year in office in just six years. It was $2.7 trillion by 2007. It would top $3 trillion before Bush left office.[10] “Big spending liberal” Bill Clinton only increased it by 25% over all eight years of his presidency.

One might offer 9/11 as an explanation for Bush’s failures either to curb spending or to execute a humble foreign policy. After all, a military response to 9/11 was necessary and wars cost money.

That makes a nice story, but it just doesn’t jibe with the facts. Of that $2.7 trillion spent in 2007, only $70 billion was spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.[11] That leaves $800 billion in increases to account for.

Moreover, the majority of that $70 billion was spent in Iraq, a war virtually everyone acknowledges was unnecessary, unrelated to 9/11 and a mistake. The Iraq war and the very un-humble foreign policy it represented was the single biggest reason Republicans lost Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

Then, there is individual liberty. Bush broke new ground in trashing the Bill of Rights with his warrantless wiretaps, surveillance of financial data and expansions of executive power. Between the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act of 2006, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments went out the window.

You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know there’s something very wrong with the government eavesdropping on your phone calls without a warrant and being able to arrest and hold you indefinitely without charges or any appeal to a judge.

Didn’t we used to make fun of the Soviets for this?

The policies enacted by Bush and the Republicans couldn’t contrast more with their rhetoric or the reasons conservative voters say they elect them. It’s insane.

We’ve tried every possible configuration within the two party system. We’ve given the Republicans control of the White House and Congress. Then, we gave Congress back to the Democrats. After that, we gave the Democrats the White House and Congress. Now, we’ve given Congress back to the Republicans.

We’ve tried it all and Washington, D.C. is as broken as ever.

The economy continues to falter. The government tells us unemployment is decreasing, while at the same time acknowledging they don’t count people who’ve given up looking for work.

Does anyone really believe unemployment is really down?

They tell us what they call “inflation” is under control, while at the same time acknowledging they play tricks with those numbers, too.

Does anyone really believe prices haven’t gone up?

There are some things Washington doesn’t even try to deny. The wars go on. The federal debt continues to increase. The unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare continue to explode, unaddressed. Young people know they won’t be getting the benefits. Why should they continue to pay?

Regardless of our politics or what Washington tells us, we all have a sinking feeling that won’t seem to go away. Something is wrong with the world. We just don’t know what it is.

Often, we’re told the representatives we elect aren’t “real liberals” or “real conservatives.” Grassroots conservatives have even come up with a clever acronym for this phenomenon: “RINO.” It stands for “Republican in Name Only.” It’s meant to describe a Republican who campaigns on conservative rhetoric but acts more like a liberal Democrat when in office.

Both liberals and conservatives believe their representatives don’t truly believe in liberal or conservative principles, respectively. If only they could elect genuine liberals or genuine conservatives, the government would get back to representing the people, the economy would revive, and Washington, D.C. would “work.”

This book is going to challenge those assertions.

What if the conservatives in Washington are the real conservatives? What if they actually do what they say they will, if you listen closely enough? What if conservatism isn’t really what most Americans think it is? What if the “RINOs” are the real Republicans?

What if all of the above is true for liberalism as well? What if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are the real liberals?

There are a few basic principles that virtually all Americans still claim to believe in. They are summarized in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

There are few, if any, Americans who would disavow that short passage. It is so universally accepted that we’ll call it the American Creed.

Jefferson had a gift for conveying enormous ideas in very few words. This was one of his finest moments. In those one hundred thirty-four words, he captured all of the elements of the political treatises of his time. It’s worthwhile to take a moment and break it down.

First, the Creed talks about what philosophers back then called “the state of nature.” The state of nature is the condition man would find himself in if there were no government. Critics sometimes mistake this to mean some ancient time when we all wore fig leaves and ate only what we could find on the ground or club over the head. They misunderstand the term “state of nature” to mean a time before government ever existed anywhere on earth. That’s not correct.

The state of nature can occur anywhere and anytime, wherever and whenever there is no effective government to enforce law and order. Think “Lord of the Flies.” But it doesn’t have to be on a desert island, either. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke observed that all princes existed in a state of nature relative to each other, because there was no government over them.

The Creed says that in the state of nature we are all equal and have certain rights. These rights come from our Creator and are inherent. They aren’t granted to us by any government. These rights are also “unalienable,” meaning they cannot be taken away. Neither can we surrender them ourselves. Unalienable rights are as much a part of us as our own skins.

The Creed then tells us the purpose of government: to secure these unalienable rights. That’s a very limited purpose that necessarily precludes other things some people believe governments are supposed to do. But the Creed is unambiguous. Government’s purpose is to secure these rights, period.

The Creed concludes by reminding us that whenever the government becomes “destructive of these ends,” meaning it fails to protect or itself violates our unalienable rights, we have the right to alter or abolish the government and construct a new one.

Both liberals and conservatives claim their philosophies are the true basis for the American Creed. In the chapters ahead, we’re going to examine the foundational conservative and liberal philosophers to try to confirm or deny those claims.

Along the way, we’re going to meet some interesting people, like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. But don’t worry. We’re not going to spend hours analyzing the categorical imperative or rubbing our chins and asking “Why am I here?”

We are going to revisit what these writers and thinkers said about the nature of man, the purpose of government, and the extent of the government’s power and compare their ideas to the American Creed.

In other words, we’re not just going to rehash what conservative and liberal politicians have said and done. We’re going to try to figure out why they said and did those things. We’re going to try to figure out how they think.

The results are going to surprise you.

 

Chapter Two:

Where Do Conservatives Come From?

This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!””

–          Attributed to Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt[xii]

 

Conservatives get their name from their desire to “conserve” the socio-political structure as it is. If change must occur, it should be gradual and as undisruptive as possible. Rather than “liberal,” the true opposite of conservative is really “radical,” as in “radical change.” That more than any specific policy is what the conservative fears most.

American conservatives are divided into two groups, as were their British forebears. They generally agree on most things. They share the same vision of the nature of man, the purpose of government, and the extent of the power invested in government. They disagree on the form of government or how that power should be distributed.

We’ll call the first group “centralizers,” because they seek to centralize government power, both in a national government and in the executive branch. That’s something liberals accused George Bush of trying to do with executive orders, signing statements, and other “unilateral” executive policies.

We’ll call the second group “constitutionalists,” because they seek to divide power between national, state and local governments and between separate branches within those governments. These would be more like “Old Right” conservatives Robert Taft or Barry Goldwater. A resurgence of Old Right conservatism is emerging today out of the Tea Party movement, with its emphasis on constitutional checks and balances.

While these two groups of conservatives have fought some epic internal battles over the course of American history, they have also worked together just as often. As they agree on most things, they tend to close ranks to resist perceived threats to their shared principles.

The literary traditions of British and American conservatism are rich. One could name hundreds of works as important in understanding conservatism. However, there are two men who are very much foundational: Thomas Hobbes and Edmund Burke.

Hobbes plays the larger role in developing the philosophy of conservatism. Living a century before Burke, he develops the tenets of conservatism from “the ground up,” articulating conservative ideas that Burke would echo later. Their chief differences are on the form of government. Hobbes was a centralizer and Burke a constitutionalist.

Conservatives on the nature of man

All conservatives agree on man’s nature. In a word, we’re bad. Very bad. So bad that life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”[xiii]

Hobbes lays out this view in his massive work, Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, generally referred to simply as Leviathan.

First, he discusses man’s condition in the state of nature:

“Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.”[xiv]

That sentence was written over three hundred years ago. We’re going to be looking at passages like this from time to time to demonstrate just how long some of these ideas have been around. Don’t let the “haths” and “thereupons” throw you. We’ll provide translations in 21st century English wherever necessary.

In this passage, Hobbes is just saying “all men are created equal,” just like in the American Creed. But then he says this:

“From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore, if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies, and in the way to their end, which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only, endeavor to destroy or subdue one another.”[xv]

Where the American Creed says that man’s natural equality is the source of our rights, Hobbes says it is the source of all human conflict. Talk about a glass half empty kind of guy! It gets worse:

“Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man.”[xvi]

Hobbes actually believes that man’s natural state – meaning his condition in the absence of any government (whether twenty thousand years ago or tomorrow) – is a state of war. That’s pretty grim, but it is the basis for all conservative thinking. Not only does man need a government, but one powerful enough to “keep him in awe.” Otherwise, he is in a de facto state of war with every other man.

This isn’t just a 17th century idea. If you’ve seen the movie Apocalypse Now, it conveys the same message. It was based on a book called Heart of Darkness by lifelong conservative Joseph Conrad. Conrad’s novel was set in colonial Africa, while Francis Ford Coppola resets the story in the Viet Nam War, but the message of both is identical. As the main character, Marlowe, travels farther up the river and into the unsettled interior, he gets farther from the confines of society and government. The farther from these confines he gets, the more savage and insane the people become. The journey ends with Kurtz, who embodies man’s true nature when unrestrained by government. Man literally has a “heart of darkness.”

Whether you agree or not, both the movie and the book convey the idea brilliantly. Coppola also weaves in the insanity of war as a theme, without losing Conrad’s original message.

Burke and the constitutionalists are in lockstep with Hobbes on the nature of man. Russell Kirk, the 20th century intellectual leader of Burkean conservatism, says this in his own introduction to Leviathan:

“What must strike the reader with especial force, in this cold and relentless book, is the almost diabolical truth in Hobbes’ interpretation of human nature.”[xvii]

He also presents Burke’s view of man’s nature as indistinguishable from Hobbes’:

“Burke knew that just under the skin of modern man stirs the savage, the brute, the demon. Millennia of bitter experience have taught man how to hold his wilder nature in a precarious restraint; that dread knowledge is expressed in myth, ritual, usage, instinct, prejudice.”[xviii]

Now that you’re really feeling good about yourself, let’s go a bit further. We’ve established that man is bad and that it’s unfortunate that we are all created equal, because it brings out even more badness in us. What about those “inalienable rights?” Are we endowed by our Creator with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Not quite.

“And because the condition of man (as hath been declared in the precedent chapter) is a condition of war of everyone against everyone (in which case everyone is governed by his own reason and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies), it followeth that in such a condition every man has a right to everything, even to one another’s body.”[xix]

Hobbes takes a completely different approach to the concept of rights than does the American Creed. Where the Creed describes rights as moral principles, Hobbes is more mechanistic. Forget “what ought to be,” Hobbes is only concerned with what goes down when the rubber hits the road. And what really goes down is killing, looting, pillaging, cars turned over and burning…You get the picture.

Again, Burke agrees here with Hobbes. He quotes Hobbes directly in Reflections on the Revolution in France,

“Government is not made in virtue of natural rights, which may and do exist in total independence of it; and exist in much greater clearness, and in a much greater degree of abstract perfection: but their abstract perfection is their practical defect. By having a right to everything they want everything. Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body as well as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.”[xx]

The idea that man has “a right to everything” in the state of nature completely contradicts the American Creed. The Creed assumes rights are negative. They describe what other people should not do to you.

For example, the right to life is not the positive right to live under any circumstances. When someone is killed in an earthquake, we feel bad about it, but we do not say his right to life was violated. The right to life is specifically the right not to be killed by another human being.

Similarly, the right to liberty is the right not to have someone forcibly interfere with your peaceful actions. You might want to fly. That you can’t does not violate your right to liberty. Only violent interference by other people constitutes a violation of your right to liberty.

Implicit in the American Creed is the existence of these rights in the state of nature. They are not endowed by government, but by our Creator. That governments are created “to secure these rights” confirms that they must exist before government.

But conservatives don’t believe that. They believe that man has a right to everything in the state of nature, even to one another’s bodies, meaning there can be no rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness in this state. Since these rights do not exist without government, then the purpose of government must be something other than what the Creed says it is.

Hobbes goes on to say that none of the benefits of civil society are possible in this state, because man’s entire life is dominated by the constant fear of violent death. Without a government “to keep them in awe,” men cannot acquire property or benefit from the division of labor, because other men will immediately attack them and steal whatever they produce.

He goes so far as to say that death of natural causes is rare in the state of nature. Yikes!

So, as far as the state of nature goes, both Hobbes and Burke reject the tenets of the American Creed, as do the schools of thought they founded within conservatism. Russell Kirk sums up the conservative position on the Creed when discussing John Randolph:

“John Randolph of Roanoke wholly repudiated the common interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, denounced Jefferson as a Pied Piper, and turned his back upon political abstractions to seek security in prescription and in an unbroken vigilance over personal and local rights.”[xxi]

Conservatives on the purpose of government

Burke summed up well what conservatives see as the purpose of government. Government exists to “thwart” man’s natural inclinations and to take him out of the state of war and into a state of relative peace.

Burke gets this idea from Hobbes as well, who said that men form government for the purpose of “getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war, which is necessarily consequent (as hath been shown [ch.xiii]) to the natural passion of men, when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants and observation of those laws of nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters.”[xxii]

This idea that only the awesome power of government can keep our dark nature at bay explains quite a bit about the way conservatives react to the world today. While non-conservatives have a natural instinct to resist what they think is a bad law, even to practice civil disobedience, this scares the living daylights out of conservatives. They believe it’s better to follow a bad law until it is changed than to undermine the authority of the government in any way. Once the idea of resisting a law is introduced, we’re on our way back to the state of nature, which is a state of war.

It also explains why conservatives generally support law enforcement officers no matter what the circumstances. Rarely will you see conservatives side with an alleged victim of police brutality. Their first instinct is always to side with the police officer. That’s because they see the “thin blue line” as more than just functionaries who enforce the law. To conservatives, they are literally all that stands between civilization and the inherent state of war that exists wherever there is an absence of government force.

End of Excerpt

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Notes

Chapter One Something is Wrong with the World

[1] The Matrix (1999) Warner Bros. Pictures

[3] Paltrow, Scott J. “Unaccountable: The high cost of the Pentagon’s bad bookkeeping” Reuters November 18, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/investigates/pentagon/#article/part2

[6] Werner, Erica Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/31/obama-accepts-transparenc_n_843195.html

[9] “CORPORATE CONDUCT: THE PRESIDENT; Bush Signs Bill Aimed at Fraud In Corporations” by Elizabeth Bumiller New York Times July 31, 2002 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/business/corporate-conduct-the-president-bush-signs-bill-aimed-at-fraud-in-corporations.html.

[10] http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200 Note: The U.S. government fiscal year runs October 1 – Sept. 30, meaning that outgoing presidents actually propose the budget their successors will operate under during their first nine months in office.

[xii] Bolt, Robert A Man for All Seasons

[xiii] Hobbes, Thomas Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil Hackett Publishing Company Indianapolis, IN 1994 pg. 76

[xiv] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 74

[xv] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 75

[xvi] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 76

[xvii] Kirk, Leviathan, I, pg. 5

[xviii] Kirk, Russell The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot Regnery Publishing; Seventh Edition (November 30, 1953) Kindle Edition Location 707 of 6718

[xix] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 80

[xx] Burke, Edmund Reflections on the Revolution in France Second Edition London Printed for J. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall 1790 pgs.88-89

[xxi] Kirk, Conservative Mind, Location 2144-2148

[xxii] Hobbes Leviathan pg. 106

Press Release: Tom Mullen destroys conventional wisdom on American politics with new title

Where_Do_Conservativ_Cover_for_KindleContact: Tom Mullen (tom@tommullen.net)

Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Part One available November 27, 2015

Buffalo N.Y. – Author and columnist Tom Mullen reveals the truth about the American conservative and liberal movements and their incompatibility with the American Creed – the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that Republican politicians who expand government are “RINOS” or that totalitarian Democrats aren’t “true liberals,” Mullen proves conservatism is an inherently big government philosophy, liberalism is antithetical to inalienable rights and neither inspired the founding fathers.

With in-depth analysis of seminal political thinkers, including Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke and Marx, Mullen exposes the true nature of conservatism and liberalism, proving both in their purest forms are poison to American liberty.

 

About the author

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. His work has appeared in The Washington Times, The Huffington Post, Rare and numerous other publications. Tom holds a B.A. in English from Canisius College and an M.A. in English from Buffalo State College. Tom is also a singer/songwriter with several CD releases, both as a solo musician and with his band, The Skeptics. He resides with his family in Western New York. More information can be found on his website at www.tommullen.net.

Libertarians and Sandra Bullock agree; we really do want world peace

Miss-Congeniality1The Sandra Bullock movie “Miss Congeniality” hilariously lampooned the vapid plea for “world peace” by beauty contest contestants. But that’s really what libertarians want.

First and foremost, libertarians want an end to the most destructive government program of all, war.

But libertarians also recognize that forcing people to purchase things they don’t want or need, like “public” education, health care programs or bankrupt retirement plans, forcibly prohibiting peaceful activities like taking medicine without permission from a doctor or accepting a wage below the arbitrarily imposed government minimum, or forcibly mandating people to associate with others against their will are all just as unpeaceful, i.e. warlike, as sending armed men in government costumes into a field to slaughter each other.

In all of these cases, force is initiated against the innocent, which is, by definition, war. Peace is not possible until all legalized aggression is abolished, and peace reigns over all human endeavors. To the obtuse cry, “There ought to be a law,” libertarians respond “Let there be peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.”

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

More anti-libertarian nonsense: libertarianism failed African-Americans

TAMPA, April 6, 2013 ― If my colleague Chris Ladd had written the usual, libertarians-are-racists screed, it would be unworthy of a response. But he didn’t. In fact, his piece “How Libertarianism failed African Americans” is a thoughtful and philosophically consistent argument that clearly disclaims any accusation that libertarianism is inherently racist.

But it’s still nonsense. That it is eloquently stated makes it all the more harmful.

Ladd’s premise is that racism and Jim Crow presented libertarianism with a dilemma. Libertarians oppose all government interference with freedom of association and free markets, but blacks were being “oppressed” by the voluntary choices of white people not to serve them. Therefore, libertarians had to choose between staying true to their principles or supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which meant granting the federal government the power to override private decisions.

Most libertarians don’t oppose most sections of the Act, which prohibit governments from discriminating. They oppose those sections which allow the federal government to prohibit private decisions based upon race. Ladd recognizes this distinction, claiming “African Americans repression rose not only from government, but from the culture and personal choices of their white neighbors.”

First, Ladd’s history is completely wrong. Like many conservatives and liberals, Ladd sees libertarianism as a subset of conservatism, an “extreme” version of the conservative philosophy which supposedly advocates a market economy. For him, libertarianism traces back only as far as Barry Goldwater and became an independent movement in the early 1970’s when anti-war conservatives formed the Libertarian Party.

Libertarianism does not follow at all from conservatism. It is the philosophical child of classical liberalism, which struck an uneasy alliance with conservatism during a few, short periods in the 20th century, after the liberal movement completely abandoned individual liberty. The so-called “Old Right” should really be called the “Middle Right,” because conservatism has meant bigger, more interventionist government for most of American (and world) history.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…

More anti-libertarian nonsense: Libertarians are heartless

TAMPA, March 28, 2013 – This week’s anti-libertarian nonsense is “libertarians are heartless.”

There are many variations on this theme. Libertarians oppose government-run education so they must not want poor people to get an education. They oppose government-run healthcare so they must want poor, sick people to die. They oppose government-subsidized housing so they must want poor people to be homeless, too (if they aren’t already). Libertarians are selfish, amoral…You get it.

Libertarians also oppose state religions, but no one claims libertarians are against religion. I wonder why? It seems to follow.

The people who make these claims don’t understand what libertarianism is and don’t really understand the nature of government or their relationship to it, either.

Libertarians do not object to you helping the poor. They merely object to you forcing someone else to help the poor.

Libertarianism answers only one question: When is violence or threatening violence justified? The libertarian answer is only in self-defense. That includes defending your life from an immediate attack upon it or defending yourself against a previous theft of property or other crime.

This is where libertarians face reality and their opponents don’t. Libertarians understand all government action is violent action. That’s not because people in the government aren’t doing it right. It’s because that is what government is designed to be. Violence is its raison d’etre.

The philosophical justification for government in a free society is security. Because humans will sometimes invade the life, liberty or property of their neighbors (whether next door or in another country), there has to be some adequate means to force the perpetrator to cease his criminal activity and make restitution to his victim.

Government is supposedly the answer. Government is the pooled capacity for violence of everyone in the community. That’s all it is. That’s why Thomas Paine based his entire treatise Common Sense on one fundamental assumption:

“Society in every state is a blessing but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one;”

Why an evil? Because it is an institution of violence, nothing more. This is a foundational American idea. It is the reason for the entire Bill of Rights. Government must not be allowed to suppress speech because offensive speech does not justify violence. Government may not prohibit the keeping and bearing of arms because merely possessing arms does not justify violence against the possessor.

When intolerable? When it is used to initiate force, rather than respond to it. If one individual steals from another, the victim has a natural right to point a gun at the thief and demand his property back. In society, the individual supposedly delegates this power and the government points the gun at the thief for him. Almost no one would consider this unjust.

But what if no crime has been committed? Suppose I knocked on your door and demanded money from you at gunpoint. Would you drop the charges against me if you found out I had taken your money and paid some anonymous stranger’s medical bills? Do you believe that is the best way for human beings to solve the problem that the stranger can’t afford to pay them?

Almost no one would answer either of those questions “yes.” Yet, there is absolutely no substantive difference between that scenario and a government-run healthcare program (or education, or housing…). The only superficial difference is a government official is holding the gun. But most Americans can’t see it and will actually argue with you that it isn’t there.

There is an easy way to find out. Simply refuse to cooperate. Deduct the amount you owe for Medicare from your tax return next month and include a note waiving any benefits from the program. Or deduct the amount of your property taxes that underwrite public education and Medicaid (which is most of the bill) and indicate you waive the right to utilize either.

What will happen next? You will get some “reminders” about the oversight in the mail, followed by increasingly threatening letters. Sooner or later, someone in a black robe will write on a piece of paper. Then, men with guns will show up at your door. Don’t believe me? Test my theory.

So what do libertarians really say that is supposedly selfish or amoral? That initiating force against people is wrong. Period. You are free to help other people who need it, but you cannot force your neighbors to do so under a threat of violence if they don’t. You may build schools and hospitals for the poor and ask for contributions for anyone you wish. You just can’t pull out a gun if they decline to participate.

At one time, Americans believed so strongly in this principle that they seceded from their country and formed a new one based upon it. Imagine if they reestablished it again.

Libertarianism anyone?

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Anti-libertarian nonsense: Those government roads

TAMPA, March 22, 2013 — Libertarians have to deal with a lot of nonsense when making their case. Invariably, if a libertarian suggests any reduction in the power of the state, he is regaled with this supposedly devastating rejoinder:

“So, I suppose I won’t see you driving on any of those government roads.”

There are many reasons to stomp on the stupid button. Here are just a few.

First, there is the implication that the libertarian is disingenuous or even ungrateful. He seeks to reduce the power and influence of the state, perhaps even (gasp!) lower taxes, yet still has the audacity to drive on the roads that the government provides.

This argument holds no water. After being forced to purchase a road whether he wishes to or not and being virtually prohibited from building his own, exactly why should the libertarian not use the road he has paid for? Where is the contradiction in pointing out that the government road he was forced to buy would have been cheaper and of higher quality if it were produced by the market? Exactly why is he disingenuous or ungrateful by suggesting that the next road be financed the same way as houses and factories?

Of course, if the government didn’t build the roads, they wouldn’t exist, right? The proponents of this farcical idea should read some American history. For much our first century, the chief domestic policy debate was over whether the government should be allowed to subsidize roads, and the government side lost. As Tom Dilorenzo writes in How Capitalism Saved America,

“But the fact is, most roads and canals were privately financed in the nineteenth century. Moreover, in virtually every instance in which state, local or federal government got involved in building roads and canals, the result was a financial debacle in which little or nothing was actually built and huge sums of taxpayer dollars were squandered or simply stolen.”

All of the heroes of that century were on the private road side. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson argued against government-subsidized roads. Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and finally Abraham Lincoln – the proponents of state capitalism and privileges for the wealthy – argued for them.

Read the rest of the article at Communities@ Washington Times…