April 14, 2014

In defence of limited corporate liability

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:47

The RSS feed that used to track Megan McArdle’s posts at Bloomberg View has been on the fritz for a couple of weeks, so I missed this article when it was posted earlier this month:

The argument for unlimited liability isn’t just a libertarian evergreen; it’s also something you occasionally hear from the far left, because it would basically make the corporate form untenable. Imagine, if you would, that by buying and holding the share of a firm for 10 minutes, you thereby subjected yourself to seizure of all your goods to satisfy potential lawsuit judgments — even if those judgments involved behavior that involved no legal liability at the time of the acts.

Not possible? That’s basically what happened with asbestos liability. Firms that had had no legal liability under the doctrines of the times in which the asbestos was sold or used suddenly found themselves driven into bankruptcy by massive settlements. Moreover, after the first wave of lawsuits exhausted the funds available to pay asbestos claims, plaintiffs’ lawyers started pushing to expand the number of pockets that could be dipped into.

A company that had never manufactured asbestos could be sued and have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on lawsuits and settlements because it had once bought a company with an insulation division that had formerly manufactured asbestos — even though it had immediately sold off that division in the process of completing the merger. Insurers could be forced to pay out for the whole of a company’s liability if they had sold a company insurance for even a year between the time a company started making or using asbestos and the time that the plaintiff discovered the harm. And “harm” wasn’t limited to getting sick; you could sue for the emotional distress of worrying that you might get sick.

Kind of hard to imagine becoming a shareholder under those circumstances, isn’t it? Maybe you’d better put your money in the bank — a small, privately held bank, of course. Commerce would look something like it did in medieval Italy, where all economic activity was basically organized by the family or the partnership.

Growth would have to be financed by debt or by retained earnings. That’s how British firms financed expansion in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. It’s how small businesses tend to finance expansion now.

The traditional libertarian answer is “insurance”, but that’s a non-starter as well.

To which I answer: What insurance company?

Insurers are also corporations, and their owners get the same valuable shield from liability that everyone else gets from the corporate form. They may have shareholders, or they may be mutually held by their policy holders, but either way, someone is getting protection from lawsuit by the same laws that protect General Motors Co. This sort of liability shield is vital for any large aggregation of capital requiring lots of contributors — which is basically the definition of an insurance company.

April 8, 2014

Ten un-answerable questions for libertarians

Filed under: Humour, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:58

Uh-oh, Bleeding Heart Libertarians has spilled the beans:

10 Questions Libertarians Can’t Answer, and Hope You Won’t Ask!

Libertarianism philosophy is like a cockroach that scurries away once you shine the light of reason on it. Here are 10 hard questions libertarians can’t answer.

1. Which Koch brother has more authority over you? [...]
2. Which corporation should rule the world? [...]
3. When oppressing the poor, is it better to use kicks or punches? Or should you hire other poor people to beat up poor people for you? [...]
4. If you’re so smart, how come not everyone’s a libertarian? [...]
5. Wasn’t America libertarian in 1850? Or at least 1870? And isn’t American 2014 clearly better than American in 1850 or 1870? [...]
6. How could a libertarian society produce new generations? [...]
7. If Murray Rothbard was such a badass anarchist, why did he work for a state university? [...]
8. Come to think of it, how can libertarianism ever get going without stealing from the government? [...]
9. Which political leaders will you put on your currency? [...]
10. If capitalism is so awesome, why is anyone still poor? [...]

H/T to Julian Sanchez who offers this trigger warning:

April 1, 2014

Libertarian Police Department

Filed under: Humour, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:32

In The New Yorker, Tom O’Donnell goes on the road with the hardworking cops of the LPD:

I was shooting heroin and reading The Fountainhead in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole 474 million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down… provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said, “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m on it.”

H/T to Walter Olson:

March 14, 2014

CPAC is “desperately, fantastically, magisterially uncool”

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:32

James Delingpole writes in The Spectator that the Republican party is in danger of falling into the hands of libertarians:

According to the kids at CPac — more than half the attendees are under 25 — the candidate of choice is Rand Paul. To get your free, red ‘I stand for Rand’ T-shirt at his exhibition-hall stall, you had to fill out a questionnaire stating where you stood on various libertarian issues (drugs, size of government, NSA surveillance etc). I got 190 Rand points out of a possible 200, so we’re definitely in the same camp ideologically. But though his speech — whose somewhat laboured homage to Pink Floyd’s (clunky, fifth-form political album) The Wall didn’t work nearly as well as Sarah Palin’s homage to Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs And Ham — went down a storm with the libertarian PaulBots in the audience, I have my doubts as to whether its chewy earnestness will play quite so well in the wider America beyond.

On the plus side, Rand Paul’s politics definitely reflect where young America is headed. For example, he’s pro-legalisation of marijuana (as were 63 per cent of the CPac voters), as I suspect — in the wake of the successful Colorado experiment — almost every state in the union will be by the end of the decade. And like his dad Ron, he’s against America spending money it can’t afford on being the world’s policeman (52 per cent of those polled at CPac agreed it was time America’s allies provided more of their own defence).

But this puts it him very much at odds with the hawkish tendencies of the traditional conservative mainstream (as represented, on this issue, by the likes of Rubio and Cruz). Which doesn’t augur well for a US conservative movement fully united in opposition to whichever candidate (Hillary?) the Democrats throw up for the 2016 presidential election. In America, as in Britain, conservatism has rarely looked more divided: neocons v. isolationists; libertarians v. SoCons; Tea Partiers v. Rino squishes. And, just like the People’s Front of Judaea and the Judaean People’s Front, they loathe one another even more than they do their natural enemies.

March 6, 2014

Elect Tim Moen – “I want gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with guns”

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:46

The Libertarian Party of Canada has risen from the dead (again). Here’s the federal candidate for the Alberta riding of Fort McMurray-Athabasca:

LPC poster for Fort McMurray-Athabasca

Vincent McDermott reports for Fort McMurray Today:

Libertarian party candidate Tim Moen wants gay married couples to have the right to protect their personal marijuana plants with guns.

That’s one of the many slogans Moen, a captain with the Fort McMurray Fire Department and freelance videographer, is posting online as a federal byelection in the region approaches.

“To me, that meme is the message of classical liberalism and the philosophy of liberty,” he says.

“People should be allowed to marry whoever they want, put what they want into their bodies as long as no one is hurt, and protect themselves and their property.”

Moen is the first federal Libertarian candidate to run in the Fort McMurray-Athabasca riding.

The party advocates a platform of no government interference in Canada’s internal social and economic affairs, on the grounds that doing so violates personal liberties and freedoms.

The Libertarian Party of Canada was formed in Toronto in 1973, but has not elected a single member to the House of Commons, nor has it ever gained higher than 0.25% of the popular vote.


Late last week, the RCMP classified the CZ 858 and the Swiss Arms Classic Green rifle as “prohibited,” meaning gun owners without the proper licensing will now have to surrender the two firearms to local police without compensation.

“Now these people are criminals just because of the property they own,” says Moen.

“Gun control is not about protection, so much as it is about control. We’ve seen what happens in countries that allow these liberties to be eroded and it’s not pretty.”

It also means the party is firmly supportive of LGBTQ rights, open immigration, the legalization of drugs and prostitution — so long as it’s between consenting adults. It also views pollution as a violation of property rights.

“The memes show we care about issues the left likes and issues associated with the right. It doesn’t have to be one or the other,” says Moen. “You don’t have to stay in one group. It’s not about left versus right. It’s about bringing a message of hope.”

Moen’s platform can be viewed at votemoen.ca, or on his Facebook page, Tim Moen for Parliament.

Full disclosure: I was active in both the LPC and the Ontario Libertarian Party through the late 70s and mid-80s.

H/T to Nick Gillespie for the link.

February 20, 2014

The Lego Movie – blatant anti-authoritarian propaganda

Filed under: Liberty, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:48

Anton Howes says that the recently released film is sheer individualistic and capitalistic propaganda:

The Lego Movie shows us a compelling dystopian world of conformity, regulation and authority where everyone “must follow the instructions” or be “put to sleep”. It is a tale of the battle between the chaotic, creative destruction of freedom, and the rigid, forceful regulation of bureaucracy.

The run-of-the-mill protagonist Emmet is blatantly shown to be brainwashed by repetitive and generic tv shows, corporatist celebration days like Taco Tuesdays, and a perpetually playing propaganda anthem called “Everything is Awesome” with clearly collectivist undertones: “everything is cool when you’re part of a team”. He works with other construction workers to tear down the “weird” and diverse buildings and replace them with generic ones.

But it gets so much better. The dystopian dictator’s position as both the CEO of the Octan Corporation and President of the World perfectly encapsulates the problems with corporatism and monopolies on force. Indeed, his evil plan is stultifying regulation taken to the extreme: he wants to use superglue to literally stick everything permanently into the “perfect” position, relying on a robotic army of “micro-managers” to make sure that everything is exactly how he wants it to be before being stuck into place. There could be no clearer metaphor for the perils of intruding technocrats.

February 4, 2014

SoCons and their ambivalence toward libertarianism

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:37

Jonah Goldberg makes a case (that might not sit well with many SoCons) that social conservatism is actually more fundamentally libertarian than modern liberalism:

I guess where I’d disagree with Siegel’s formulation (and Vin’s) is the idea that liberalism is necessarily “radically civil-libertarian” about much of anything. Of course, individual liberals may be civil-libertarians. I can certainly think of plenty who are. But as an intellectual, cultural and political project, I think liberalism is better understood as a competing value system. Think of it this way. Social conservatism is very libertarian about all sorts of things, and not libertarian about other things. Constitutional considerations aside, where it believes the State shouldn’t interfere it is because non-interference advances a cultural agenda of traditional conservatism.

The same goes for liberalism. It celebrates certain lifestyles or cultural choices because it likes the content or fruits of those choices. It is a mistake, it seems to me, to say liberals are libertarian about much of anything. They are outraged about alleged intrusions into our privacy when it comes to the NSA, but utterly dismissive of potentially far greater intrusions into our private lives via things like Obamacare.

Consider gun rights. Yes, conservatives believe in second amendment rights because they are in the Constitution. But they also value a culture of self-sufficiency, self-defense and a traditional understanding of individual sovereignty. (Relatedly, I think it’s fair to say that hunting culture is inherently conservative and, very broadly speaking, anathema to much of liberal culture). Liberals dislike gun rights, because they detest gun culture (their Constitutional arguments in this regard have always struck me as nearest-weapon-to-hand debating points and rationalizations given their general disdain for Constitutional literalism in nearly every other regard) and see gun violence as a kind of public health issue, which means the State should have an unlimited license to deal with it. The right of armed self-defense also offends the State’s monopoly on violence, and liberalism is a jealous guardian of State power. Liberals talk a great game about being libertarian when it comes to sexual politics, but have no problem politicizing other, equally personal, choices: like what you can eat, or what you can say (I’m thinking of things like campus speech codes). Moreover, the recent push to socialize the provision of birth control (and abortion) is hardly a libertarian enterprise.


Oh, a quick addendum, lest I be greeted with the usual scoffing at the suggestion that social conservatism is more libertarian than liberalism.

I would argue — and have argued for years — that mainstream conservatism is vastly more libertarian than liberalism for a number of reasons. I’ll list four. Law, Metaphysics, Economics and the Family.

1) Mainstream conservatism actually takes the Constitution seriously, which means that written into conservatism is a very real limit on what the State can do to advance a cultural agenda.

2) Metaphysically, conservatism draws heavily on Judeo-Christian values, and therefore has a constrained vision about the limits of social and individual perfectibility and the power of the State to achieve such things. Liberalism, as Bill Voegeli, Thomas Sowell and others have argued, has no such limiting principles because at its core it is an unconstrained vision.

3) Economically, conservatism and libertarianism while not entirely identical overlap considerably. This means we actually believe that there’s a very limited positive role for the State to second guess the allocation of resources in the market place or to spend money better than the people who earn it.

4) Conservatism, unlike liberalism, considers the family a near-sacrosanct institution that should be an oasis from government meddling (barring instances of abuse and the like). The family, for liberals is the last nut to crack. Which is why people like Melissa Harris Perry can talk about “public ownership” of children or in the words of Hillary Clinton talk about how we need to move away from the idea there is any such thing as somebody else’s child.

I could go on, but I think those four should do for now.

February 3, 2014

If you object to anything the government does, Cass Sunstein says you’re paranoid

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Justin Raimondo on the former head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and his “with us or against us” views of dissent. Any dissent:

Taking up where Princeton University historian and Clintonista Sean Wilentz left off, Sunstein avers:

    “It can be found on the political right, in familiar objections to gun control, progressive taxation, environmental protection and health-care reform. It can also be found on the left, in familiar objections to religious displays at public institutions and to efforts to reduce the risk of terrorism.”

In short, any objection to the Obama administration’s agenda is indicative of “paranoia” on both sides of the political spectrum. While it would be tempting to write this off as mere partisan bombast, this isn’t the case with Sunstein, an ideologue whose faith in the beneficence of government action underlies all his public pronouncements. If government sees some benefit to state-sponsored displays of religiosity, well then what’s your problem? And as for the Surveillance State – it’s just a program to “reduce the risk of terrorism,” and has absolutely nothing to do with industrial espionage, compiling dossiers on innocent Americans, and tapping Angela Merkel’s phone.


So how do you spot these libertarian subversives who deserve to be “cognitively infiltrated” and quite possibly suppressed? According to Professor Sunstein, they share five characteristics:

    “The first is a wildly exaggerated sense of risks – a belief that if government is engaging in certain action (such as surveillance or gun control), it will inevitably use its authority so as to jeopardize civil liberties and perhaps democracy itself. In practice, of course, the risk might be real. But paranoid libertarians are convinced of its reality whether or not they have good reason for their conviction.”

What would be a “good reason,” in Sunstein’s view? He doesn’t say, conveniently enough, but what about secrecy? Shouldn’t our suspicions be aroused by the fact that the NSA started spying on us behind our backs? Not even the author of the Patriot Act knew it was being utilized by this administration – and its predecessor – to justify scooping up all telephonic and Internet data generated within our borders and far beyond. Why was it all done in the dark, with even the court proceedings “legalizing” this anti-constitutional coup kept secret? The answer is clearly because such brazen chicanery could never stand the light of day.

And surely Sunstein’s argument can be turned around and aimed at its author: isn’t his proposal that the US government hire paid snoops to “cognitively infiltrate” so-called conspiracy theorists on the Internet (and elsewhere) using a hammer to kill a flea? In his infamous paper, he cites polls showing a good proportion of the people of New York believe the 9/11 attacks were the work of the US government, but even if this somewhat dubious statistic reflects reality what is the risk of failing to confront it with government action? Does Sunstein expect 9/11 “truthers” to take over the state of New York anytime soon? Who’s paranoid now?

January 26, 2014

The New York Times profiles Rand Paul

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:19

An interesting view of Rand Paul by Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg:

As Rand Paul test-markets a presidential candidacy and tries to broaden his appeal, he is also trying to take libertarianism, an ideology long on the fringes of American politics, into the mainstream. Midway through his freshman term, he has become a prominent voice in Washington’s biggest debates — on government surveillance, spending and Middle East policy.

In the months since he commanded national attention and bipartisan praise for his 13-hour filibuster against the Obama administration’s drone strike program, Mr. Paul has impressed Republican leaders with his staying power, in part because of the stumbles of potential rivals and despite some of his own.

“Senator Paul is a credible national candidate,” said Mitt Romney, who ran for president as the consummate insider in 2012. “He has tapped into the growing sentiment that government has become too large and too intrusive.” In an email, Mr. Romney added that the votes and dollars Mr. Paul would attract from his father’s supporters could help make him “a serious contender for the Republican nomination.”

But if Mr. Paul reaps the benefits of his father’s name and history, he also must contend with the burdens of that patrimony. And as he has become a politician in his own right and now tours the circuit of early primary states, Mr. Paul has been calibrating how fully he embraces some libertarian precepts.


Since becoming a national figure, Mr. Paul has generally stayed on safer ground. His denunciations of government intrusion on Americans’ privacy have been joined by lawmakers in both parties and have resonated with the public — though no other member of Congress as yet has joined him in his planned class-action suit against the National Security Agency.

He has renounced many of the isolationist tenets central to libertarianism, backed away from his longstanding objections to parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and teamed with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for an easing of drug-sentencing laws. He recently unveiled a plan for investment in distressed inner cities.

Much of that is in keeping with the left-right alliance Mr. Paul promotes, an alternative to what he dismisses as a “mushy middle.” Such partnerships, he says, “include people who firmly do believe in the same things, that happen to serve in different parties.”

Of course, no profile of Rand Paul is complete without including his early influences, including his musical tastes:

Rand was engrossed in his own course of libertarian study: He received a set of Ayn Rand novels for his 17th birthday. And he followed the rock band Rush, some of whose lyrics had libertarian themes.

Gary L. Gardner Jr., a high school friend, said: “I remember even back then being on a swim team bus and a Rush song comes on. I think it was the song ‘Trees’ — and he said, ‘Man, listen to the words of this, you know those guys have got to be conservative.’ ”

“The Trees” tells the story of maples, overshadowed by tall oaks, that form a union to bring equality to the woods “by hatchet, ax and saw.”

Rand Paul influences

The pantheon of libertarianism includes economists like Mises and Friedman and the novelist Rand; Mr. Hess, a former speechwriter for Senator Barry M. Goldwater; Mr. Rothbard, an economic historian and social thinker; Ron Paul, congressman, presidential aspirant, father and “hero”; and Rush, whose lyrics were infused with libertarian themes.

October 30, 2013

The “Libertarian Moment” – or small government’s latest 15 minutes of fame

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:34

In Time, Nick Gillespie says that if “everyone from The Washington Post to NPR to The Atlantic are talking about some variation on ‘America’s Libertarian Moment,’ attention must be paid”.

The American Values Survey is based on responses gathered in late September and early October from a representative group of about 2,300 adults. The researchers used answers to questions about national security, economics, and “personal liberty” to create a “Libertarian Orientation Scale.” By such measures, 7 percent of Americans are “consistent libertarians” and another 15 percent “lean libertarian,” meaning they oppose increased government spending on things such as military operations and domestic surveillance, raising the minimum wage, and environmental regulations.

Such fiscal conservativism is matched by social liberalism, with libertarians in favor of legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights, allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs, and keeping the Internet unregulated. Libertarians are much more likely than most Americans to be male, white, and under 50 years old. They are also far less likely than most Americans to be religious and to think that religion has a place in politics. This puts them at odds with “other key Republican base groups” such as the Tea Party movement and white evangelical Protestants.

As befits people who put a high value on individualism, libertarians don’t fit easily into existing political categories even as they are far more likely to pay close attention to politics than the average American (56 percent of libertarians versus just 38 percent) and to always vote in primary elections. “The Libertarian Orientation Scale and traditional measures of political ideology that run along a liberal-conservative axis are only weakly correlated,” according to the survey.

That means that the 22 percent of Americans who are consistent libertarians or lean libertarian are fully capable of throwing any election in their direction. That makes them the true wild cards of American politics. A majority of libertarians describe themselves as independent (35 percent), affiliated with a third party (15 percent), or as Democrats (5 percent), with the remaining 45 percent calling themselves Republicans.

October 6, 2013

Reason.tv – Why More People Identify as Libertarian

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:10

“We’ve noticed in the last fifteen months an uptick in the number of people who are actually self identifying as libertarian,” says Freedomworks’ David Kirby.

Kirby sat down with Reason magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch to talk about why more people describe themselves as libertarian, how politicians like Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Justin Amash have come to think of themselves as libertarian and whether Glenn Beck calling himself libertarian is a good thing.

September 25, 2013

QotD: “Liberaltarianism”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Oh, so anyway, another peeve of mine is the way liberals — and many libertarians — act as if there’s a lot of common cause between liberals and libertarians. The thinking seems to be that since both liberals and libertarians are for drug legalization, gay marriage, etc., that liberals can be seduced to the libertarian cause or that libertarians and liberals should forge a new “liberaltarian” political alliance to replace the old right-leaning fusionism. This was my friend Brink Lindsey’s big cause for a while, and I never bought it. It’s also something you hear from a lot of liberal college kids who want a wee bit more plausibility when they pose as rebellious.

But the truth is that what we call liberals today — a.k.a. progressives — simply aren’t libertarian even on most of their “libertarian” issues. As I’ve written before, being a “social liberal” isn’t the same thing as being a libertarian:

Your typical liberal Democrat says she’s liberal on social issues but that doesn’t make her in any meaningful way a libertarian. For instance, the vast majority of the libertarians I know hate things like speech codes, smoking bans, racial quotas, and the vast swaths of political indoctrination that pass for “education” today. They tend to oppose gun control, think fondly of homeschooling (if not always homeschoolers) and are generally split on the question of abortion. They do not, however, think that the government should be steamrolling religious institutions with Obamacare or subsidizing birth control. Liberals tend to loathe federalism or states’ rights (though there’s been some movement there), libertarians usually love the idea. The liberals who don’t like it fear that states or local communities might use their autonomy to live in ways liberals don’t approve of. Libertarians couldn’t care less.

Sure, there’s overlap between liberalism and libertarianism on things like gay marriage. But the philosophical route libertarians and liberals take to get to that support is usually very different. Libertarians are disciples of thinkers like Hayek and von Mises. Liberals descend from thinkers like John Dewey. The former believed in negative liberty, the latter positive liberty. And therein lies all of the difference. As a gross generalization, libertarianism advocates freedom to do whatever you like (short of harming others). Liberalism supports freedom to do whatever liberals like; everything else is suspect.


That’s because libertarianism is about curbing state power to let people be and do what they want. Liberalism is about using state power to make people do and be what liberals want. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Jonah Goldberg, The Goldberg File, 2013-08-23

September 24, 2013

Reason.com banned from Reddit‘s /r/Politics subgroup

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:35

Nick Gillespie is puzzled that Reddit users are no longer allowed to submit links to Reason:

So I’m left wondering exactly what we did to incur the wrath of TheRedditPope. Reddit penalizes sites and users that scrape articles from original sources, try to game the system by submitting only material in which they have an publishing interest, and don’t add much information or analysis. As several of the commenters in the thread note, Reason.com is the biggest libertarian news site on the web and whether folks agree or not with our take on a given topic, they can’t seriously accuse us of ripping off other sites or not shooting our mouths off with our own particular POVs on any given topics.

Consider the attempted post that brought the ban to our attention. The user who contacted us had apparently tried to submit this story: “Do-Nothing Congress? Americans Think Congress Passes Too Many Laws, Wrong Kinds of Legislation.” Click on the link and you’ll be taken to an extended analysis of information drawn from the latest Reason-Rupe Poll, an original quarterly survey of American voters that has garnered praise from all over the political spectrum and has been cited in all sorts of mainstream and alternative outlets. If the Reason poll — which is designed by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this site, and is executed in the field by the same group that conducts Pew Research — and that post in particular don’t meet the threshold of original content that is news-rich and original, then nothing does.

I am a huge admirer of Reddit, even in the wake of recent revelations about the /r/Politics ban. As I wrote last year in a Reddit thread,

    Reddit is one of those rare sites that actually delivers on the potential of the Internet and Web to create a new way of creating community and distributing news, information, and culture that simply couldn’t exist in the past. Like wildly different sites ranging from slashdot to Arts & Letters Daily to Talking Points Memo to the late, lamented Suck, Reddit is precisely one of the reasons why cyberspace (or whatever you call it) continues to excite us and make plain old meatspace a little more tolerable.

September 14, 2013

Reason.tv: George Will’s Libertarian Evolution

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:50

“I’ve lived in Washington now for 44 years, and that’s a lot of folly to witness up close,” says Washington Post columnist George Will. “Whatever confidence and optimism I felt towards the central government when I got here on January 1, 1970 has pretty much dissipated at the hands of the government.”

“In part, I owe my current happiness to Barack Obama,” continues the 72-year-old Will, who “so thoroughly concentrates all of the American progressive tradition and the academic culture that goes with it, that he’s really put the spring in my step.”

Branded “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America” by the Wall Street Journal, Will received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977 and is the author of numerous books, including Statecraft as Soulcraft: What Government Does, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, and One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of our Singular Nation. A regular panelist on ABC’s This Week, Will has the distinction of having been attacked in the pages of Doonesbury and praised in an episode of Seinfeld (for his “clean, scrubbed look”).

More recently Will has become a champion of libertarianism, both in print and on the air. “America is moving in the libertarians’ direction,” Will wrote in a 2011 review of The Declaration of Independents, “not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous.”

Will sat down with Reason‘s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch to discuss his libertarian evolution (2:16), how Sen. John McCain spurred his political transformation (4:07), Ronald Reagan (4:29), the tax code (8:45), why the Republicans are becoming more interesting (19:30), what the government should be spending money on (23:14), war hawks and foreign policy (25:19), the benefits of judicial activism (34:49), gay marriage (37:55), marijuana legalization (39:04), the importance of Barry Goldwater (40:28), Mitt Romney (45:45), the 2016 election (46:37), Medicare (48:52), how Everett Dirksen’s untimely death changed his life (50:42), why President Obama makes him happy (52:06), affirmative action (53:07), and his optimism in America’s future (57:31).

September 9, 2013

New South Wales “accidentally elects” libertarian senator

Filed under: Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:17

Australia makes it a legal requirement to vote in elections, which pretty much guarantees that a fairly high proportion of voters know little or nothing about the people they cast their mandatory votes for. Add in the fact that (at least in some jurisdictions) the order on the ballot isn’t in either alphabetical or party affiliation order. In New South Wales, this meant a Liberal Democratic candidate got votes that may have been intended to go to the Liberal party’s candidate:

The man elected to take one of six Senate seats in New South Wales says allowing the general public to carry weapons is one way of curbing gun crime in western Sydney.

Voters in New South Wales have chosen Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm for the Senate after the party appeared in the top left hand corner of ballot papers.

The seldom-mentioned party gained 8.89 per cent of the initial vote allocation, ahead of the Greens’ 7.77 per cent.

The party, which believes in social libertarianism, a free market economy and small government now joins a key group of minor party and independent senators set to hold the balance of power after July next year.


Mr Leyonhjelm accepts his party probably gained votes in error, with voters thinking they were choosing the Liberals.

The name has been raised as an issue before — in 2007 the Liberal Party objected and they ran as the Liberty and Democracy Party.

Mr Leyonhjelm admits the massively-long NSW Senate ballot paper may also have pushed votes to the Liberal Democrats.

“Oh yeah, we think there are three reasons why our vote was as high as it was,” he said.

“There are some people who voted for us because of our policies and they like what we stand for and we would like to think that that was all of them, but I don’t think that is the case.

“There would be some people who voted for us because we were first on the ballot paper — there is always a sizeable number of people who don’t care and vote for the first one on the paper, and with such a big ballot paper that was probably a factor.

“Then there are some people who mistook us for the Liberals, probably the Liberals, but they could also have mistaken us for the Christian Democrats or even the ordinary Democrats.”

In the 1980′s, we nearly had this happen in an Ontario election: the official Liberal Party candidate was disqualified after the deadline for submitting candidate names to get on the ballot, so the Libertarian candidate got a lot of votes that clearly were from people who thought they were voting Liberal … but not enough to win that riding.

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