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October 24, 2009

The Enterprise & a new Free Liberal

A week ago today I was sipping tea at the Auld Shebeen in Fairfax with Free Liberal publisher Kevin Rollins, talking jive about stewarding the Free Liberal brand. And as often happens, the conversation was supplemented with notebook squiggles and hasty illustrations.

Let me give you a little background: Kevin is currently a graduate student in economics at the George Mason University. And he also fills out a nexus of relationships as the Managing Editor of Econ Journal Watch. To break up the long hours of scholarship and academic drama, Kevin gets nostalgic with reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Can you blame him?

In case you don’t remember, Star Trek: TNG is about these people who explore space and routinely make the stupidest possible decisions when facing the unknown— but you don’t have to take my word for it! Take this episode:

“Someone hacked our ‘droid— or ‘rhoid, whatever —through the galaxy Internet. Then it took command of the ship by mimicking the captain’s voice. Should we blast the ‘rhoid to smithereens with our ray-gun majiggies?”

“No way! He is one of the main awesome characters. If we survive to the end of this episode, the ‘rhoid shall continue as a trusted senior crew member. It would be inhuman to destroy an inhuman mandroid just because he can be hacked a little.”

…or this one:

“We barely survived that encounter with the mysterious cyber-borg ship. What should we do now?”

“The only character who has experience with these cyber-borgs is urging us to get the heck out of here, but I say we send a handful of headstrong, ill-prepared people into their cyber-hive to investigate. It’s our only choice.”

“Make it… so.”

Anyway, they fly around on a ship called the Enterprise, which is the main connection to what Free Liberal is all about: personal, social, and cultural entrepreneurship guided by the liberal values of liberty and community. Even if the characters of Star Trek sometimes suffer from radically reckless disdain for consequences (and the lives of their crew), they get one thing right: every episode they ride their stereotypes raw into new conflict, defying any rational boundaries one might infer, putting their whole enterprise to the test.

So let it not be a surprise that a graphic of the Enterprise made it into our conversation and scribbles about the Free Liberal.

Right now, the Free Liberal site is clogged up with hard-coded content and links that are no longer relevant to the needs of the futuristic free liberal of today. It’s like that episode of Star Trek in which the captain got so busy with grad school that he didn’t write in the star-blog for a very long time. The homepage is like the ship’s bridge, with several well-meaning captains of other vessels at the helm, but they’re not savvy to the specific vocation of the Enterprise: Free Liberal isn’t just a vehicle to publish libertarian luminaries like Paul Jacob, Fred Foldvary, or Ron Paul— the free liberal enterprise has a unique history and mission.

Part of expressing that mission is pushing more of the unique Free Liberal content to the fore, instead of keeping it in the wings or burying it deep in the site’s innards. The captain needs to write in his star-blog again, and when guest columnists challenge core values of the enterprise, the captain should respond.

Another part of expressing the free liberal vision is highlighting the best content from history. This site has been online since 2003, and now has well over 6,000 articles including many features from the now-retired paper version of the publication. Kevin and I talked about flagging those high-quality articles and features that best articulate what the Free Liberal is about, and make them clearly accessible in a new section (which we jokingly called the Q Continuum; the Q is for “quality”). What are your favorite pieces from the Free Liberal of yester-year?

The third part is the site design itself. Over time, we’d like to make the site more like an online magazine, and there’s a whole lot we could do to make the site ready for the next generation of the web. There’s actually so much that we talked about breaking development into small chunks with achievable goals. I asked Kevin if he would be like to redesign the site in the open, with feedback from the community.

He just said “Make it so.”

You can follow the redesign on the Design Opus blog or follow @freeliberal on twitter here. Please submit your favorite Free Liberal features and articles in the comments below!

John Stephens is a Quaker web developer in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Posted by johnstephens at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2009

Survey: Help us improve The Free Liberal


We’ve had several exciting conversations over the past few months toward improving The Free Liberal. This clunkety old site has served us well over the years, but we think we can do it better, maybe even a whole lot better.

It hasn’t been completely rosy. Behind the scenes, this site has caused a lot of despair, heartache, and shattered relationships. Paul Gessing moved to the desert to escape the stress, and Bob Capozzi has to meditate like ninety hours a day just to deal (it gives him the calm composure of a saint though). Don’t even ask about Kevin Rollins. As I write this, he’s cringing in the dark muttering about his “birthday present”.

Just kidding—our editorial team is mostly on the up and up. And yet we know the site needs some serious improvement. But, somehow, you come here and use the site anyway. Thanks!

Anyway, all of this is to say we’re interested in your point of view. Would you be willing to take a few minutes to fill out our very short survey? We want to know what you like about the site, what you don’t like, and stuff like that. There are no personal questions or anything.

This survey is open to readers, TFL bloggers, and everyone. Oh, and feel free to share your questions and thoughts below.

Thanks again! You’re super.

John Stephens is a Quaker web developer and creative professional at Design Opus.

Posted by johnstephens at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2009

Discussion on Liberty in New Mexico with Jason Talley of Motorhome Diaries

If you've been reading this blog over the last week, you are probably aware that the guys from "Motorhome Diaries" were in town over the weekend. I sat down and discussed the Rio Grande Foundation's successes and the overall state of liberty in New Mexico. Check out the interview below:

If you are a liberty lover, log on to the Motorhome Diaries page, get in touch with the guys, and help them put together a meet up in your city.

Posted by PaulGessing at 12:22 PM | Comments (4)

April 20, 2009

Gloom Antidote

Deaf, dumb and blind as we each are in our little Matrix cocoons, we sometimes miss the Big Picture.

Check this video for a quick reminder:


Posted by RobertCapozzi at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2009

Paul Jacob is Free at Last!

Finally admitting defeat, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has dropped charges against our friend Paul Jacob:

"The statute under which these defendants were charged has been declared unconstitutional, and the appellate process is complete," Edmondson said. "The statute is no longer enforceable."

Of course, such language hides the fact that even if the law was not declared unconstitutional, it is a petty, politically-motivated prosecution by Edmondson. And as the attorney general seeks higher office, the voters of Oklahoma should remember this prosecutorial effort that needlessly put good people through the ringer and also wasted time and money that could be spent going after real criminals.

Way to go Paul Jacob for standing tall against injustice. Shame on Drew Edmondson.


Posted by KevinRollins at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2009

Hail to the Transpartisan Chief

"What I hope to model is a way of interacting with people who aren't like you and don't agree with you that changes the temper of our politics," Obama was quoted as saying.

-- Allen, JoAnne, "Obama sees his race as an opportunity", Reuters, January 19, 2009.

And if Obama needs any help working on his "model", he can consult these new transpartisan resources:

My new blog:
Transpartisan Alliance:


Posted by KevinRollins at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2009

Tu ne cede malis sed contra audentior ito

Apparently this was the motto of Ludwig von Mises. It translates in something like: "Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it."

Interesting counsel. For me, it sounds like a prescription for a very unhappy life, and an ineffective one.

Of course, it's premised on a notion of "evil." Where evil starts and ends are highly subjective. Is the driver who cuts us off "evil," or just careless? Is the killer a murderer, acting in self defense, or temporarily insane? Is the man who takes a loaf of bread a thief, or just hungry?

It's quite easy to be "bold" in response to "evil." Perhaps that means that we should pass the careless driver and cut him or her off, too. Kill the killer. Take off the hand of the thief. Exact rough justice at each and every "evil."

No, that doesn't comport with a civil society and a rule of law. Civil society – and civilized people – recognize that judgment should be suspended to await justice. It requires patience, not boldness.

Rashness and sanctimony lead to Salem witch trials.

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 06:00 AM | Comments (4)

October 08, 2008

Liberal Fascism Obama Style

I stand on record as not caring who wins the presidential election. Neither mainstream candidate has pledged to shrink our federal government and obey the Constitution. That said, having had Jonah Goldberg in town a few weeks ago to discuss his book and the broader concept of Liberal Fascism, I have become more aware of the reality that fascism is a leftist ideology.

Recently, some disturbing videos in support of Obama's cult of personality have come to light. Check this one out. It is reminiscent of an adolescent military march. This one is even more frightening as the kids in the video are younger and are clearly being indoctrinated into Obama worship by their parents.

Ultimately, the problem here is not really Obama per se but the cult of the Presidency. No longer are presidents considered mere officers in a Constitutional republic, but they are perceived as catalysts for self realization and our hopes and dreams. This is not a good thing.

Posted by PaulGessing at 01:13 PM | Comments (2)

September 28, 2008

Saving the Environment and Avoiding Taxes

Google has been one of the most innovative companies in the world for some time now. Their web browser is used by hundreds of millions of people every day and I couldn't get around town without their maps. According to recent news stories, however, their most recent innovation may take the least as far as combining environmental and bottom line benefits are concerned.

The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles (11km) offshore.

The “water-based data centres” would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.

So, use ocean water to save massive amounts of electricity (an expected $9 million worth of it annually) and hang onto more revenue at the same time. What a beautiful concept. We'll see if google's floating data center idea "floats" and whether it can keep politicians' grubby hands away from these platforms or if they'll find some way to tax.

Posted by PaulGessing at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2008

Free Liberal Jesus

I just finished Tod Lindberg's book, The Political Teachings of Jesus. Tod is a research fellow at Hoover and an editor at Policy Review. In this work, he focuses on looking at the words of Jesus as they would be meant politically, separating out their religious context. He calls this the Jesusian teachings, as opposed to the Christian. He doesn't talk about how Jesus would feel about abortion and gay marriage and distrusts such analogies to today's hot button issues.

Jesusian teaching is about increasing freedom and equality for all. The main grist for his analysis is the Sermon on the Mount, from the Beatitudes to the Ancient Law to Self and Others to Judgement and the Golden Rule to the Narrow Path and the solid Foundation. His analysis of the Our Father is brilliant, especially when he discusses how "Our Daily Bread" is about making sure the entire community has the means to feed itself, not just the individual. In later chapters he analyzes the parables, scenes and saying of Jesus, the modern world and the place of miracles in the Jesusian movement (as well as the need for them in transforming the non-Jesusian world). His thesis here is that much of the modern world has adopted Jesusian ideals, however imperfectly, with a society based on the Golden Rule, freedom and equality.

It is compelling reading and I recommend it to believers and non-believers alike.

Of course, no reviewer ever ignores his own work in the same area, and I am not either. There are a few items Tod did not touch on that I do in my chapter on "Christian Humanism," which includes but goes beyond the Gospel texts, including philosphical reasoning and religious commentary as well. In my discourse on "Liberation Morality," I make the point, based on scripture, that moral teaching is not about pleasing God, but about making human life more livable. A perfect God does not have a stake in what is moral and what is not, morality is entirely about living the best life in this world. This allows a rethinking of teachings on homosexuality in light of findings that Gays and Lesbians are created that way, rather than being in any way disordered or diseased. I also re-examine the Crucifixion as a divine vision quest rather than a payment for human sin to satisfy an angry God. Both of these positions have profound implications on attempts to legislate morality and impose some higher standard on human behavior that I don't believe even God would recognize.

I also commend to you Carl Milsted's Holistic Politics, which is a free liberal reinterpretation of the Ancient Law in support of what could be considered free liberal ideas.

All three works provide a sound moral foundation for the work we do here, from what we support to our transpartisan approach.

Posted by MichaelBindner at 09:45 AM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2008

"Fair Trade Coffee" Hurts the Poor

Lots of">do-gooders like to believe that "fair trade" is superior to genuine "free trade." As discussed on wikipedia, the term "fair trade" is:

An organized social movement and market-based approach to alleviating global poverty and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, and flowers.

The intent is to help raise living standards for those in poor countries. But does it work? A growing body of evidence says "no." This article from theChristian Science Monitor argues persuasively that "fair trade" actually harms the poor.

As the author points out:

If there were just 10 small coffee growers worldwide, the price per pound of beans would be astronomical, and many people would rush to become coffee farmers. The current market price is "low" by comparison because there are already so many growers competing. By paying more than the market price for coffee – the authentically fair price – fair traders send a signal to people in developing countries to join an already overcrowded field.

In doing so, they artificially lure them away from perusing better-paying jobs that would enrich the diversity of a developing country's economy. A caffeinated price means more growers, more land destruction, more dependency on a single cash crop. It's a subsidy that undercuts the very sustainability fair traders want to promote.

Unfortunately for the do-gooders, the best way to help inhabitants of third-world nations is genuine free trade. Also, helping to educate them on the benefits of trade and limited government would be helpful.

Posted by PaulGessing at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2008

The Job of President

The discussion by MicahTillman Robert Capozzi and my comments on RC's blog relate as much to the job of President as the job of government as a whole. Joel Achenbach looked at the job of President a few months ago in the Outlook section of the Washington Post. There is a great deal of agreement in the political science community that the job of President, as written, is undoable. Most presidents have aides make many decisions that could better be made by an elected official. This is not necessarily salutory for representative government.

The way around this is to homogenize regional boundaries across agencies and create regional vice presidencies and regional congressional caucuses to handle most of these affairs (from base closings to regional economic policy). Regional VPs could be elected by the electoral college, with each nominee appointing a slate and the winner of the most votes in that region elected to office. In other words, in New England/New York, you would likely have a Democratic RVP. In Dixie, you would have a Republican, etc. The stability would be good for government.

The regional VPs could meet in a council headed by the VPUS, who could also oversee domestic agencies with a national mission - such as a Department of Science containing NASA, Air Traffic Control, Highway Safety, Fuel economy, Environmental Superfund, Medical Research and Drug regulation, National Parks and Patents; the Department of Treasury and Commerce, which would focus on the gathering of economic statistics, the Census, Engraving and Printing, Comptroller of the Currency, the public debt, social security privatization and collection of an income surtax on the wealthy; and the Department of Justice and Civil Rights, which would monitor the civil rights performance of regions, executive clemency, representation of the United States, workplace safety and wage and hour regulation (which some regions will likely do poorly).

This arrangement would free the President to focus on what is really important: defense, foreign affairs and homeland security. The existence of regional vice presidencies would also narrow the field of presidential "eligibles" to people who have held this office and high level flag officers. Governors and Senators would be outclassed.

For more on this proposal, see the relevant chapter of my book at

I brought this topic up in one of the weekly editorial events. It was treated cooly, so I am bringing it up again in blog format for reading and comment.

What do you believe the President should be doing - and who should do the other stuff?

Posted by MichaelBindner at 10:56 PM | Comments (80)

May 02, 2008

Not Playing It Safe in Uganda

From the Atlas Economic Research Foundation:

Ugandan Journalist and founder of an independent newspaper in Kampala , was arrested on Saturday, April 26, 2008 at his office. A bold advocate of free speech and a champion in promoting the dangers of foreign aid, Mwenda was arrested for being critical of President Yoweri Museveni's government. Mwenda has since been released on bail, he had this to say "I do not want to play it safe especially if doing so will stop me from fighting for freedom and liberty in uganda - my life would be meaningless if I lived for 100 years watching evil being committed and doing nothing about it. A time comes when people have to take a stand, a strong stand against tyranny. I cannot hide these people's suffering in order to remain alive. I would have abandoned my responsibility to Uganda and to humanity.

More here:


Posted by KevinRollins at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008

Escaping the State?

Commenting on my blog 283 Nonarchy Pods -- Comin' Right Up, Tarvok makes a good – though obvious – point:

"With the exception of only the most marginal of land (read: uninhabitable), or a few anomalous regions such as Somalia, where can one go to escape the State?"

I'd ask the question: Why is that? Whether Iceland in 1000 AD was inhabitable or not is a question of taste, but nonarchists persist in citing the Iceland experience as somehow "proof" that nonarchy can work. Perhaps the opposite is the case: That isolated Iceland couldn't maintain its nonarchy illustrates that nonarchy is – for now, at least – an unsustainable model.

Weapons of war back then were primitive, yet Iceland was overwhelmed. Habitable places today would have to face far more sophisticated weapons. Is there any doubt that if the Long (now) 285 were to somehow prevail that the geographic area formerly known as the United States would quickly be overrun?

Perhaps we should all go back to the dorm room and play another round of Dungeons & Dragons...right after watching reruns of Star Trek.


Posted by RobertCapozzi at 06:55 AM | Comments (10)

January 28, 2008

"Both our laws and our highest ideals"

Bush says we should respect both in regards to our immigration policy.

It should be so with ALL our policies.


Posted by KevinRollins at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2008

Obama -- Beacon of Hope?

Could a transpartisan Barack Obama sell the world on America, capitalism, and liberalism (versus socialism)?

French political scientist Dominique Moisi seems to think the Democrat will give pro-American Europeans some arguments to “sell” the United States among anti-Americans. “Why is Obama so different,” he asks in a recent syndicated essay, “from the other presidential candidates? After all, in foreign policy matters, the next president’s room to maneuver will be very small. He (or she) will have to stay in Iraq, engage in the Israel-Palestine conflict on the side of Israel, confront a tougher Russia, deal with an ever more ambitious China, and face the challenge of global warming. If Obama can make a difference, it is not because of his policy choices, but because of what he is. The very moment he appears on the world’s television screens, victorious and smiling, America’s image and soft power would experience something like a Copernican revolution.”

This is from Alvaro Vargas Llosa's piece at the Independent Institute. (Hat tip: Michael Strong)

Posted by KevinRollins at 02:19 AM | Comments (1)

November 26, 2007

Lions for Lambs

I’ve not read any reviews of Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs, and this isn’t a review, just some thoughts for your consideration. With Redford, the profoundly talented Meryl Streep, and the ever-intense Tom Cruise as the leads, it’s hard not to plunk down $9 for an hour-and-a-half’s worth of entertainment. While Lions for Lambs is mildly entertaining and generally interesting, this one provided me with insight into old-school liberal mentality.

What struck me about this offering was the story arc of the African- and Hispanic-American characters. Infused with “idealism” by poli-sci Professor Redford’s character, these non-well-to-do students get the idea in their heads that they should drop out of college and enlist in the military to fight in southwest Asia. Professor Redford does not approve. He attempts to convince these young men that their “fight” should be here at home.

They understand that, yet they feel compelled to sign up, anyway. We flashback to a class project they share with us, and here’s where this film careens into a sad parody of the progressive mindset. They suggest that the U.S. is effective at what they call “engagement” with the rest of the world. Presumably, they are referring to foreign aid. There is no mention of how U.S. foreign aid very often falls into the hands of tin-pot dictators or comes in the form of munitions, which in turn are used to keep down foreign peoples across the globe.

Instead, where the U.S. falls down is in its “engagement” within America. There’s no mention that government spending exceeds 40% of GDP. This is not considered. A laundry list of targets for domestic government aid is recited unblinkingly.

Cruise neocon Republican senator is reasonably well characterized. With a world filled with terrorists who wish to “kill us,” Cruise’s counter jihad seems to make a sort of internal sense, but is also not questioned, other than the fact that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have hardly been “cakewalks.”

Lions for Lambs should more properly be characterized as propaganda. It does give us insight into the progressive mindset, one which has yet to question the efficacy of government in securing our liberties. I’d suggest passing or waiting for the DVD for this one.

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2007

Lost Lesson of Thanksgiving

ABC journalist John Stossel makes a very important point about Thanksgiving. He suggests that sharing isn't all that it's cracked up to be, citing the failure of Pilgrim communalism and even Soviet Communism.

He concludes:

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know that their future products are safe from confiscation, they will take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

I think Stossel's correct, as far as he goes. Private property and no confiscation have proven time and again to be the most effective means to produce plenty. Incentives, of course, matter.

Sharing, however, can indeed be a wonderful thing, if done voluntarily. Adam Smith called the phenomenon "fellow feeling," the sense of sharing and acting compassionately to others is, for most, an experience that goes beyond dollars and cents.

I suggest that charging people to sit down to a Thanksgiving feast at home with family and friends would be a rather empty experience. That's what IHOP's are for!

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 06:33 PM | Comments (1)

November 09, 2007

Woodstock > Vietnam as Yin > Yang

Paul Gessing (and Sheldon Richman) makes some great points here.

On the other hand, I wonder whether there would have even been a Woodstock were there not a Vietnam. Horrible as Vietnam was, it did lead to a certain consciousness raising that might not have otherwise happened. The cultural repression of the 50s might have just continued through the 60s. Sometimes virtue is adopted as a reaction to vice, it seems.

Separately, Richman says: "It would be easy to criticize McCain for politically exploiting his five-and-half years of suffering as a captive of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war."

Perhaps it is "exploitative." But, as I see it, John McCain did not cause Vietnam. As a young man, he was a willing participant, and he had a horrible time in prison camp. That he survived seems to me perfectly reasonable for him to cite as an example of his character. I wish pols did more of this sort of storytelling. That McCain does so with humor adds to the experience.

I'm highly ambivalent about McCain generally. But he has been a strong voice against the US employing torture tactics in the "war on terror," for which he gets points in my book.

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2007

Last Night's Republican Debate

I stopped watching the debates months ago. Not due to a lack of interest, but because I have already made up my mind. There is only one candidate I can enthusiastically support, Ron Paul, and I'll just have to wait until the primary process works itself out to decide which "lesser of two evils" candidate I might vote for if Ron Paul fails to win the Republican nomination. The great thing about Youtube is that I don't have to waste an hour or two watching Giuliani pontificate or Tancredo bash Mexicans, I can watch the only candidate I really care about.

From the looks of these clips, Ron Paul was stirring things up last night. The idiots on Fox News of course can't stand Ron Paul's principled stances, but as Jim Bovard points out, "Ron Paul is the Buster Douglas candidate".... and I believe that down to the lawlessness of the competition (like Mike Tyson).

Posted by PaulGessing at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2007

The Rub on Vick

Up front, please know that I share a home with two dogs: Buddy The Wonder Dog and Queen Audrey, black labs both. I am careful to NOT say that I “own” them. Rather, I consider myself their butler. They are both consistently loving and compassionate, qualities that I aspire to but have yet to fully achieve.

So, as this news of Michael Vick’s admission to being a circus master to organized dogfighting and butchery has been in the headlines, my perspective has been evolving. This behavior was barbaric, most believe. Yet, some suggest that Vick and his colleagues were merely exercising their property rights over the dogs. Perhaps it was cruel, but some believe dogfighting should be legal. If we outlaw dogfighting, this leads to a slippery slope of outlawing slaughtering cows, pigs and chickens for food.

And perhaps that’s so, on one level. But, for me, outlawing cruelty to animals is quite a bit different than outlawing the eating of meat. Parents, for instance, in a sense “own” their children, but civil society does not allow parents to physically abuse kids like Vick’s associates did to the dogs. Property rights do not, in my view, trump the idea that cruelty should be dissuaded by law.

Is there a bright-line test for what constitutes “cruelty”? Not that I’m aware of. However, Vick & Co. were over it, I submit.

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2007

Aaron Russo, RIP

Hollywood producer and freedom movement activist Aaron Russo passed away yesterday. From my personal site:

An old friend, Hollywood icon and warrior for freedom just passed away. Hollywood producer and former presidential candidate Aaron Russo had been battling cancer for years and it finally caught up with him. I just spoke with immediate family members and confirmed his passing. [snip]

I’ll relay more information as the immediate family has time to deal with the situation.

If I had to guess the epitaph Aaron would prefer, it would be this: All your freedoms, all the time!

Some biographical information from Michael Hampton:

Award-winning filmmaker and libertarian political activist Aaron Russo succumbed to cancer Friday at age 64.

Russo was best known for his films, most famous among them Trading Places and The Rose, which won three Golden Globe awards in 1980.

What’s less well known is that he was also instrumental in bringing musical acts to the United States in the 1970s, including one of my all-time favorites, Led Zeppelin.

In his later years, though, Russo turned to politics. In 1996 he produced and starred in a film, Mad as Hell, where he criticized many government policies such as the national ID card, the war on drugs, and government regulation of alternative medicine. In 1998 he ran in the Republican primary for governor of Nevada but was defeated. In 2002, before he could decide whether to run again, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

In 2004 he ran for President under the Libertarian Party banner, but failed to get the nomination.

Most recently he produced a documentary film, America: Freedom to Fascism, showing a quest to discover which law requires Americans to pay federal income taxes and finding something quite different.

Posted by StephenGordon at 10:18 AM | Comments (2)

August 13, 2007

The Simpsons as Free Liberal Mythology?

I’ll try not to give TOO much away for those who’ve yet to see The Simpson’s: The Movie. But while a farce, aspects of the film fit nicely into a Free Liberal point of view.

First, Homer – the ultimate self-centered narcissistic consumer – realizes that he has contributed in a big way to an environmental calamity. It’s such calamity that the government is planning to take an action that will jeopardize the very existence of Springfield. Homer has fled the scene, yet his conscience impels him to do the right thing, even though it appears that the “right thing” will be dangerous for him.

Indeed, Homer realizes that by helping others, he will help himself in most important ways. This notion may be unsettling to atomistic freedomistas, who tend to point to Gordon Gekko (“Greed, for lack of a better term, is good”) from the film Wall Street as their creed. At a higher level of inquiry, however, Homer is confronted with a similar choice to that of Neo/Mr. Anderson in The Matrix, played by Keanu Reeves. Homer’s journey is all the more fateful, of course, because unlike Neo, Homer directly contributed to Springfield’s plight.

Second, government is shown in The Simpson’s: The Movie to be poor doctors of a dysfunctional situation. Doctors are taught to “first do no harm,” yet government actors attempt to overreact to a threat in a most Draconian manner. Maggie Simpson has the better idea of attempting to persuade fellow Springfielders to take action before a calamity ensues. (Maggie’s chart does look a bit like Al Gore’s in An Inconvenient Truth and is perhaps a bit alarmist, but she advocates in the appropriate direction.) The Feds, however, have a better idea, one that is hard to conclude is anything but a “cure” that is far worse than the disease.

Being restricted from giving away too much, I recommend this film to all. Not only is the mythology instructive, but the Simpson’s producers have an uncanny and seemingly bottomless ability to make us laugh.

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2007

Notes on Sicko

Just back from Atlantic City, spending a few days in the sun, surf, and casinos. While there, I got a chance to see Michael Moore’s Sicko. Say what you will, the man is a gifted propagandist. He’s now able to pull off things that others can’t.

Still, were I doing a “counter Sicko” documentary, I’d know where to start. Atlantic City. The town is filled with recent immigrants from eastern Europe and Russia. So, I’d go around and ask them, “Why have you immigrated to the US vs., say, France?”

I’m pretty confident that several of the immigrants would say, “No jobs in France. US have jobs. Good jobs. Much opportunity.” Or some such.

I could follow up: “But in France you’d get ‘free’ healthcare.”

And I’m pretty confident I’d get answers like: “Rather have job, take my chances.”

Moore used all sorts of manipulative anecdotes to make his case. Fair enough, I suppose. But the final scene, with Moore jokingly “petitioning” Congress to do his laundry, really said it all for me. In a sense, that’s what statists want: A complete nanny state, where the government ‘takes care’ of everything for the people. Me? No thanks. I can do my own laundry, thank you very much.

One series of anecdotes that Sicko does expose that is a major concern is his exposing of insurance companies. Denial of benefits, and even the twisted incentives of rewarding insurance-company staff to have high denial-of-benefits rates is chilling to me. An individual can easily to denied their contractual rights by the deep-pocketed insurance companies.

This imbalance is, for me, the Achilles Heel of free-market capitalism. Capitalism is based on property rights and contracts, yet the legal system is a stacked deck in favor of the well-heeled and large corporations.

This imbalance needs fixing…pronto. Otherwise, the Moore’s of the world can and will make the case for the State to step in and redress this obvious injustice.

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 08:40 AM | Comments (1)

July 04, 2007

Greenberg on Immigration

I disagree with Paul Greenberg on the immigration bill -- I think it should have died -- but I do share his distaste for the point system contained in the bill. Do we really want government bureaucrats deciding who is worthy and who is not worthy for entry into this country? I prefer an Ellis Island strategy in which we basically let everyone in as long as they don't pose a direct threat to the country as a criminal or carrier of some horrible disease.

Ultimately our country and economy are strengthened by immigration, but economic data can be twisted and are not enough to sway people anyway. Ultimately, it is the moral argument that must win the day. The past failures of the US government to overcome anti-immigration sentiment to let Jews escaping the Holacaust into the country is one specific example of the failure of our government to adequately judge the need to accept people from other lands.

Posted by PaulGessing at 12:45 PM | Comments (2)

June 29, 2007

Someone in cable "news" has a clue

I have always hated cable news. While the original expectation was that the additional airtime available on cable would be dedicated to ferreting out the stories the big three networks were too busy to cover, this has not come to pass. Instead, we have wall-to-wall coverage of such stories as Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton.

While that cespool doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon, I felt a little heartened by this exchange between Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough on MSNBC in which Ms. Brzezinski refuses to lead with a story about Paris Hilton. As usual, Scarborough looks like an ass.

Posted by PaulGessing at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007

Us (Us Us Us Us), and Them (Them Them Them)....

And after all we're only ordinary men...

In re: Kevin Rollins's question on his blog Polarized Too Extreme, there are several answers, depending on the level of inquiry.

Yes, activism as it's generally practiced, tends toward an illiberal, partisan worldview.

But, no, it's not inherently so, IMO. Gandhi in India largely used a transpartisan, non-violent approach in advocating the obvious virtue that India should be independent. Martin Luther King's non-violent approach to consciousness raising around the obvious injustice of segregation was not "us and them" in tone and content, but rather we shall overcome, some day.

And, of course, Pink Floyd poetically had the model about right. "Us and them" is "not what we would choose to do."

-Robert Capozzi

Posted by RobertCapozzi at 06:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2007

Virginia Tech Every Day

As awful as what happened at Virginia Tech may be, we as Americans must understand that even worse things are happening in Iraq every single day. And, while Saddam Hussein was certainly an evil man, what is happening in Iraq is a direct result of America's misguided foreign policies.

Hopefully, the country wakes up in time to stop more Virginia Tech's from happening in Iran.

Posted by PaulGessing at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2007

Ending Poverty: What Works?

It has long been the conventional wisdom that one's level of care for the poor can best be measured by how much government spending you support on their behalf. Argument being, government programs are the best way to help poor people get on their feet.

A new study by the Rio Grande Foundation gives support to the limited government viewpoint finding that during the 1990s, states that spent and taxed less actually experienced far greater reductions in poverty than did those states that spent and taxed more.

These findings are not entirely surprising given the findings of various studies of economic freedom around the world that have repeatedly found freer nations to have greater economic success than non-free nations, but limiting the study to only the 50 states shows that even within a similar culture and government umbrella, limited government beats big government -- even for the poor.

Posted by PaulGessing at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2007

Amazing Grace Review

On Friday, I recommended readers of this blog check out the movie Amazing Grace which is playing in theatres now. I enjoyed the movie, but as someone who has been involved in the political process for much of my adult life, I found the movie to be something more akin to a history/civics lesson than a movie for entertainment as many of the film's reviewers have pointed out.

I still recommend the movie and believe that anyone who struggles daily against the establishment will gain from watching it, but I think that it is an even better choice for the average movie-goer who is less interested in politics than in the story itself. These are the people who may realize that the world around them is not a "given" and that they can change it for the better.

Posted by PaulGessing at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2007

Amazing Grace

If your weekend plans are not already booked, may I suggest you check out a new movie coming out this weekend in most areas of the country called "Amazing Grace." The story is of William Wilberforce's efforts as a member of Parliament in 18th-century England to end slavery and the slave trade in the British empire.

I first heard the story of Wilberforce and his compatriot Thomas Clarkson from Larry Reed, President of our sister think tank in Michigan. Reed visited New Mexico in November of last year and those who attended the events also heard the story of Clarkson and Wilberforce.

Essentially, Clarkson started the world's first think tank with the "libertarian" goal of ending the slave trade. He and Wilberforce acted as a team and over nearly 50 years accomplished their goals. The lessons are that ideas matter and you should never give up.

I can't do the story justice here so see the movie. I'll have my review posted over the weekend.

Posted by PaulGessing at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2007

Let Me In--Recovery from Autism is Possible!

Free Liberals interested in alternative treatments and/or just looking for some uplifting reading may want to check out Laura Santos' Let Me In--Recovery from Autism is Possible! The book details how Mrs. Santos used "alternative" treatments to help her son recover from autism.

Posted by NormSingleton at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2007

Ron Paul Running for Prez!

Finally, a candidate with principles has entered the 2008 race for the presidency. With the nightmare scenario of statists McCain and Hillary looming on the horizon as leading contenders for the top office, we need someone of Dr. Paul's limited-government principles more than ever.

Posted by PaulGessing at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

Left-Libertarians and workers of the world unite!

Free liberals and others wishing to build a left-libertarian movement will be interested in Roderick Long's criticisms of libertarians for dismissing the concerns of the working class instead of working to build a movement that is pro-liberty, pro-union, anti-state, and pro-worker. I am not sure I agree with everything but, like most things Roderick writes, it is well written and reasoned and provides ample food for thought. Roderick ends with a challenge to both leftists and libertarians that free liberals may want to take up:

"First: eliminate state intervention, which predictably works to benefit the politically-connected, not the poor. As I like to say, libertarianism is the proletarian revolution. Without all the taxes, fees, licenses, and regulations that disproportionately burden the poor, it would be much easier for them to start their own businesses rather than working for others. As for those who do still work for others, in the dynamically expanding economy that a rollback of state violence would bring, employers would have to compete much more vigorously for workers, thus making it much harder for employers to treat workers like crap. Economic growth would also make much higher wages possible, while competition would make those higher wages necessary. There would be other benefits as well; for example, Ehrenreich complains about the transportation costs borne by the working poor as a result of suburbanisation and economic segregation, but she never wonders whether zoning laws, highway subsidies, and other such government policies have anything to do with those problems.

Second: build worker solidarity. On the one hand, this means formal organisation, including unionisation – but I’m not talking about the prevailing model of “business unions,” conspiring to exclude lower-wage workers and jockeying for partnership with the corporate/government elite, but real unions, the old-fashioned kind, committed to the working class and not just union members, and interested in worker autonomy, not government patronage. (See Paul Buhle’s Taking Care of Business for a history of how pseudo-unions crowded out real ones, with government help.) On the other hand, it means helping to build a broader culture of workers standing up for one another and refusing to submit to humiliating treatment.

These two solutions are of course complementary; an expanded economy, greater competition among employers, and fewer legal restrictions on workers makes building solidarity easier, while at the same time increased solidarity can and should be part of a political movement fighting the state.

That’s the left-libertarian movement I’d like to see. And people keep telling me it doesn’t exist. Good lord! I know it doesn’t exist; why else would I be urging that it be brought into existence?

Of course I’m also told that it can’t exist. Libertarians tell me it won’t work because leftists don’t care enough about liberty; leftists tell me it won’t work because libertarians don’t care enough about the poor and oppressed. In short, each side insists that it’s the other side that won’t play along.

Now the answer to this is that some will (and have) and some won’t – but that we should do what we can to increase the number who will. So here’s a general challenge.

If you’re a libertarian who thinks leftists don’t care about liberty, why not become a leftist who cares about liberty? That way there’ll be one more. Or if you’re a leftist who thinks libertarians don’t care about the poor and oppressed, why don’t you become a libertarian who cares about the poor and oppressed? Once again, that way there’ll be one more. And in both cases there’ll also be one fewer libertarian of the kind that alienates leftists by dismissing their concerns, and likewise one fewer leftist of the kind that alienates libertarians by dismissing their concerns."

Posted by NormSingleton at 09:52 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2006

On the Passing of Milton Friedman

In case you haven't already heard the news, Miltion Friedman, one of the greatest freedom-fighters the world has ever known, died yesterday at the ripe old age of 94. Friedman is best known as a Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist, but he was truly a liberty-loving individual on all levels. He and his wife worked on issues as diverse as school choice to drug policy reform. He also strongly opposed the Iraq War . Dr. Friedman will be sorely missed by all.

Posted by PaulGessing at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2006

300 million people

As of Tuesday, it is estimated that the United States will have 300 million inhabitants. There has been a lot of hand-wringing about immigration and whether the United States can handle so many people, but it is hard to see what is different about the current spat of overpopulation and immigration worries.

The Malthusians have been wrong before and will continue to be wrong because they simply fail to understand that human ingenuity can overcome the problem of scarce resources in a free society.

Now, if we actually heed the advice of some of these doomsayers, who knows how that might negatively-impact our ability to support all kinds of life.

Posted by PaulGessing at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2006

Institute for Justice -- A Pro-Freedom Gem

Jim Turbett and I were afforded a lovely evening in the new offices of the Institute for Justice, which recently moved from the District out to a larger and more impressive office in Arlington, VA. IJ is celebrating 15 years of "litigating for liberty" and they deserve a toast to their fine success.

The new office almost seems like a museum, or a showroom for their many accomplishments, as they have pictures of clients, cover-stories of national news magazines covering their cases, and "I am IJ" ads posted attractively in between offices and cubicles. It affects a comfortable, friendly air, even while the visitor knows that these spaces must house the work of some very serious and effective people

And the staff is serious and effective, but they are definitely not miserable Washingtonian gray suits. They obviously are in love with their work and they could not have been more hospitable to us. Like the office, they don't find professionalism and humanity to be at odds. Chip Mellor is correct to describe his team as a "Merry Band of Litigators."

IJ fights battles which most Americans should appreciate. I agree with Jim's comment that if a political organization was searching for a mission, it could not do better than to adopt IJ's priorities and positions. IJ's sucess is well deserved and I look forward to the great things we shall see from them in the future.

~Kevin D. Rollins

Posted by KevinRollins at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2006

Global Family and Day of Peace Day or where is Tom Lehrer when you really need him!

Today, Congress voted to establish a Global Family Day and a Day of Peace and Sharing. This is humanity's greatest advancement since National Brotherhood Week, which was immortalized in this great song:

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks. To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

Posted by NormSingleton at 09:57 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2006

A failure to communicate

Freeman editor and hardcore libertarian Sheldon Richman sounds a lot like a Free Liberal in his piece on the continued public support for the minimum wage despite all the ink that has been spilled by free-market economists demonstrating the folly of government-set wages. Sheldon blames the failure of our message to get through on libertarians failure to emphasize how the free society benefits low-income workers:

"It is essential that principled opponents of the minimum wage not appear insensitive to the plight of low-income workers. Some people of course are responsible for their economic plight, but many others are put at a disadvantage by the mercantilist, mixed economy we live in. (Let's not forget, it's not laissez faire out there.) In opposing the minimum wage we should champion the disadvantaged by emphasizing that:

Any regulation, tax, and trade restriction that stifles the formation of new businesses, and thus competition, reduces the bargaining power and self-employment options of workers -- low-income workers most of all. Less bargaining power equals lower wages.

Every intervention that raises the price of housing, clothing, food, and medicine harms low-income people most of all.

Every land-use rule and all government landholding keeps the price of real estate and rents artificially high, harming low-income people most of all.

The actions of the central bank devalue people's money, harming low-income (and fixed-income) people most of all.

A rotten education system harms the children of low-income people most of all.

Simply put, every interference with free people in the free market is first and foremost an attack on the poorest, most vulnerable in society. But notice that each intervention has its beneficiaries; together they constitute the privileged class. The chief enemy of the vulnerable is the corporate state, the system of mercantilist privilege for the politically connected that constrains the creation and diffusion of wealth. In this light the welfare state (the minimum wage and such) is revealed as a way to keep the vulnerable from catching on and rocking the boat. The Manchester liberals Richard Cobden and John Bright put these considerations at the heart of their nineteenth-century peace-and-free-trade movement.

People of good will never stop voting for the minimum wage until they realize, first, that economic laws are implacable; second, that pretending the laws don't exist hurts those they wish to help; and third, that the best way to help is to sweep away all government privilege. Genuine liberals must rededicate themselves to making their movement a people's movement."

On the same lines, I recently came across this great Ron Paul quote from a 1998 Firing Line interview:

"I happen to be a libertarian because of the compassionate nature of the results. I happen to believe that the most prosperous society comes from a libertarian society where people are free to produce at the maximum amount. And you will have the least amount of poverty and the greatest amount of charity...If we are compassionate, I think anybody who cares about the poor has to really start thinking about the libertarian message, because that is where the greatest amount of prosperity is going to come."

Posted by NormSingleton at 09:12 PM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2006

The Tree Climbing Actress

Thanks to Paul for pointing out the spectacle of Daryl Hannah climbing a tree to protest the destruction of a garden in Los Angeles. I'm sure the urban garden is lovely and maybe it SHOULD be preserved... But, there's a very simple way Daryl Hannah could remedy the situation without causing a conflict. She could buy it. If the garden visitors value the land more as a garden, more than the current owner values it as a warehouse, then they could demonstrate the strength of their preference by voting with dollars.

A similar situation happened in Northern Virginia some years ago, when a farm park in McLean was slated for development. Much outcry took place at government meetings, but the local residents didn't ante up. Evidently, the people who were lobbying to save the park were unhappy and there were undoubtedly others who would have benefited from the beauty and uniqueness of a park in the heart of suburbia. I think this is a tragedy.

But, it is mostly a tragedy caused by failing to see solutions beyond government mandate and collective decision.

We need people who are willing to not just scream and yell, but who will consistently work to preserve (and create) quality of life. Any group of concerned citizens could work together to achieve more pleasant and friendly neighborhoods. If citizens can't pay to save a open spaces individually, working with neighbors is way to build community and add even more value to the places we call home.

-- Kevin D. Rollins

Posted by KevinRollins at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

Free-for-all (frfr-ôl) -- n. A disorderly fight, argument, or competition in which everyone present participates.