YES WE CAN

Considering the amount of money Ron Paul has raised, Glenn Reynolds asks

CAN YOU STILL CALL HIM A MINOR CANDIDATE?

The answer is yes.

But apparently libertarians have a lot of money. Go figure. Good thing that, for all the distorting undemocratic influence of money in politics, you can’t get elected in America without a bunch of people voting for you.

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THE MENDACIOUS MISTER REYNOLDS

Anyone out there concerned about the amount of influence Glenn “Heh” Reynolds holds over what people read out on the internets should be more worried about the links that folks don’t click on but instead assume, understandably, to say something roughly approximating what Professor Reynolds says they do.

Take the new website Save the ACLU, organized by influential members and former members who’ve had a series of increasingly nasty and public disputes with the current leadership over how well the organization is living up to its own values. The major flashpoints have been the extent of compliance expected of board members with the leadership’s public relations approach, and the extent of compliance demonstrated by the leadership with conditions imposed by public and private organizations offering funding.

As the website describes,

Over the past three years, these breaches of principle include the ACLU’s approval of grant agreements that restrict speech and associational rights; efforts by management to impose gag rules on staff and to subject staff to email surveillance; a proposal to bar ACLU board members from publicly criticizing the ACLU; and informal campaigns to purge the ACLU of its internal critics.

You’d have a hard time guessing that those were the sorts of grievances in play if you just read the link on Instapundit, which reads:

A SAVE THE ACLU CAMPAIGN from supporters who feel the organization has become excessively politicized.

Now the generous read here I suppose would be that “politicized” refers to “office politics” – that the ACLU is being accused of being too political in the sense of being too concerned with reputations and status and salaries and the like. But that’s hardly the intuitive read of that sentence. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that even the ACLU’s supporters have come to echo the contention of Reynolds and others that when the ACLU was backing free speech three decades ago it was being heroic, but when it backs privacy rights today it’s being “political” out of hatred for Bush.

The gripe of the critics, arguably, is that the ACLU isn’t being political enough – that is, that the politics of its mission haven’t sufficiently infused its methods of implementation.

STATING THE OBVIOUS

In a banner ad over at Instapundit, right-wing blog outfit Pajamas Media shares the breathless prose of Tammy Bruce:

The core of the American people has manifested itself most purely in blogs because elites for so long controlled all avenues of communication. Those days are over now.

The blogosphere oozes with this kind of petty triumphalism – from Andrew Sullivan’s “The Revolution Will Be Blogged” tagline to Ed Driscoll’s “Year of Blogging Dangerously.” Bruce’s claim is just a shining example because it counterposes “elites” with the “core of the American people.” She’s right that American journalists are a fairly elite group (the shift in journalists’ conception of their job from a trade to a profession is related to this). That’s why coverage of unions, contrary to the claims of most bloggers, tends to be so right-wing and hostile. But if Bruce thinks that blogs – overwhelmingly written and read by the wealthiest sliver of the population – represent the “core of the American people,” that suggests that she has a rather elite conception of the American people herself.

COMBUSTIBLE MATERIALS

Twelve miners died after the Sago Mine explosion in West Virginia, and a thirteenth is in critical condition. That much has been all over the news this week. What hasn’t been, as Jordan Barab reminds us, is the mine’s 200 citations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the year leading up to this horrific but preventable accident. That includes 21 citations for “accumulation of combustible materials,” the likely fuel source for this kind of tragedy. The Sago mine had three times the industry average for accidents. The highest of the penalties for these citations? A $878 fine. But as Jordan notes, most of the penalties were closer to $60.

The human tragedy in West Virginia might give pause to some of the ardent libertarians committed to arguing that miners willfully and knowingly take risks upon themselves by entering into free contract arrangements, and that the industry which employs them will correct itself for the sake of free-market competition for employees. But not Glenn Reynolds. Why consider the perverse incentives that led to twelve men’s deaths when you can instead blame the media for passing along rumors that they hadn’t died?

The miners’ families aren’t in anguish because of false reports that these men were alive. They’re in anguish because these men are dead.

A compelling argument against libertarianism…from Glenn Reynolds:

…if bankruptcy law is “anti-freedom.” then what’s pro-freedom? Debtor’s prison?

Glenn is responding to a reader questioning how a devout libertarian like him can be so opposed to the bankruptcy bill that would make it harder for those who fail in the free market to mitigate the effects of that failure. The reader’s right: if the free market is really a just and efficient tool that distributes goods according to virtue, any good libertarian should see the existence of bankruptcy law as a reward for bad behavior or even a “perverse incentive,” and staunchly support a bill like this one to further shred that protection net. Protections for debtors are a good idea, and this bill is a trainwreck, because – contra the libertarians – it’s too often the obstensibly free market which fails citizens, not the other way around. Contemporary libertarianism is, dare I say it, bankrupt precisely because it posits a vision of economic freedom which fosters greater economic slavery for the majority by accelerating the race to the bottom, encouraging exploitation, further marginalizing the already vulnerable, and denying the rights and freedoms which enable consumers and workers to leverage demands from employers. As Glenn himself recognizes, a system which leaves someone who goes bankrupt to rot leaves him less free. But so does a system which allows employers to lock their employees inside for the night with impunity, or forces parents to choose between medical treatment for themselves or their children. Debtor’s prison is certainly “anti-freedom,” but so is child labor, so is union-busting, so is social security privatization, so is cutting tax cuts for the rich, and so is the Senate’s refusal to reverse the near decade-long decline in the value of the minimum wage. It’s nice to see Glenn and other conservatives recognize that this bankruptcy bill is a threat to real freedom, but the threat isn’t just this bill: it’s the broader economic agenda this administration is inflicting on America.