The Danger of Identity Politics

Identity politics inflict great damage on those individuals who belong to marginalized groups. Unfortunately for them, both sides of the political spectrum run entire political campaigns on identity politics, rather than any identifiable political ideology and Americans gobble it up.

We could, for instance, take a stand that free speech is an important ideal; one which is worthy of fighting to protect. Instead, what we see across the political spectrum is that free speech is worth protecting only when it doesn’t make someone feel bad. On the left this commonly shows up in the case of mandating that people use gender pronouns which they may not even be aware exist; on the right, this same sensitivity to free speech has most famously reared its head in the disapproval of kneeling during the national anthem. If we recognize that freedom of speech is necessary for the voluntary exchange of ideas and the perpetuation of our freedom, it should also be recognized that we must defend this ideal regardless of whether we like what another person is saying. If you dislike someone’s message steps can be taken to counter it, and disapproval of the message can be portrayed even while acknowledging that that individual has the right to say those things which you disagree with.

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Similarly, an actual ideology would be that police brutality is bad and violent force by the police should be reserved for use in situations only where it is absolutely necessary to protect themselves or innocent citizens. I would imagine few people would find these ideas objectionable, and an even greater number of people might even ardently agree with them. Identity politics however, does not allow for such a universally applicable idea to exist. Identity politics insist that we must explicitly decry excessive use of force against only particular groups of people, rather than taking the broader stance that excessive use of force against everyone is bad. To make the latter claim is to somehow discredit the suffering of the identitarians’ selected group; a group which they will typically claim is the most proportionately disadvantaged in whatever cause they are fighting for.

While this is wonderful logic for capturing emotion, and winning political favor and elections, in actuality it serves to perpetuate the damage against marginalized groups of people. The reason for this, while it may not be immediately apparent, is rather simple. Let’s continue with the police example. Members of the identity politics movements in this arena (BLM and others) believe that they are fighting for a very noble cause, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that assertion. In reviewing the actual effects of their movements though, I see little that has been accomplished besides creating further divisiveness in this country. By pitting one group against another, they create the scenario where anyone who doesn’t take up their fight finds themselves backed into a corner. These people then naturally become defensive as they feel they’re being attacked. Those engaging in this form of identity politics are telling everyone who doesn’t participate that by doing so they are morally corrupt, this, in my experience, has never been a successful persuasion tactic.

Now let’s pretend that instead of associating this belief with a particular social or ethnic group some number of Americans took up the stance that the use of all excessive violent force was bad. I again pose the challenge to find anyone who disagrees with that original statement. You might find differing opinions of what constitutes excessive force, and that’s fine, it opens the door for a healthy and rational debate. Without the alienating effects of the identity politics based stance, a large scale disapproval of excessive force and the associated voluntary collective efforts to stop it would result in the toning down of violent force used by the police and this change would, by statistical necessity, benefit the group or groups who are most heavily a victim of said excess force. By the mere fact of proportionality, African Americans, and other groups of people who are most often on the receiving end of excessive force would see the largest improvement in their condition, while rich whites and others who never or very infrequently experience this, would see almost no change in their condition, because there would be nothing to change.

 

A Nation Which Seeks to Conquer All, Will Conquer None

Martin Luther King Jr. was an extremely eloquent and intelligent man, far ahead of his time in many ways. Besides the equal rights he fought for here at home he had much wisdom to impart regarding America’s foreign affairs as well. Since his passing America has only increased their meddling in the affairs of foreign nations, most of whom present no immediate threat to the safety of the United States. This pre-emptive war presents possibly the greatest risk to the safety and well being of America. Stretching resources which could be used here at home or in case of actual defensive needs and creating enemies by imposing our will on those who do not seek it.

Some of my favorite excerpts as well as the recorded speech follow:

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”
“I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).”

Congress Votes; Denies Themselves Right to Vote

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Last Wednesday Congress voted on an amendment introduced by Senator Rand Paul. This amendment was set to curb the authorities introduced in the Authorization for the use of Military Force Act (AUMF), which was introduced in response to the 9/11 attacks. It should be clear to anyone that this authorization has far exceeded its intended duration. Any military action set out by the United States in direct response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th have ended a long time ago. Yet 16 years later, two different presidents have continued to piggyback off of this authorization. If you give a mouse a cookie….

The bill introduced by Rand Paul seemed like it should have been a slam dunk, after all, why wouldn’t Congress have wanted their power back? Apparently this just goes to show my foolishly naive thinking yet again as the bill was voted down 61-36. There was a pretty good mix from both Democrats and Republicans on how they voted, with some of the most progressive senators voting in favor of Paul’s amendment. This should come as no surprise as the one area where “progressives” and libertarians can usually agree is on limiting the United States’ military empire.

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This of course used to be a key platform of the conservative party. George W. Bush won his first election on the idea of non-interventionism. Sadly, the conservative party platform is quite different today, in large part due to W’s response to 9/11 and the AUMF. Those who voted against Paul’s amendment spit out the same tired rhetoric that an amendment such as this would put the country at risk because it would limit our ability to respond to national security threats quickly. They missed the irony that that response is both an insult to congress itself by confirming that they are incapable of getting anything done in a timely manner, and in opposition to the constitution which they were sworn to uphold.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) even went so far as to say, “you can’t replace something with nothing, and we have nothing.” Well, I for one can think of something that you do have…

War Powers Clause - Wikipedia
Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution grants congress the ability to declare war.

 

Libertarianism Defined

In the not so distant past I was a liberal. Not a classic liberal, but a “progressive” liberal. Educated as an engineer I considered myself to be a fairly smart individual, someone who could understand the “common sense” policies proposed to keep the government involved in our lives. Sure, not all politicians had pure intentions, but certainly the checks on their power would ensure that the good intentions of public policy would mostly shine through; or so I told myself at the time. I voted for Barack Obama in his first term, thinking that he was the obvious choice while indulging myself in the rhetoric of his campaign about change and hope; I even posted an Obama campaign sign in my front yard.

So what happened? How could I have gone from that to writing a libertarian news/opinion site? Well the short answer is that I initially found myself interested in libertarianism under what were, admittedly, somewhat selfish notions. I had become disillusioned with politics and the feeling that my input did not – and never would – matter in a significant way. In 2012, with only the most basic understanding of libertarianism I cast my vote for president of the United States for Ron Paul. Since that time I have greatly enhanced my understanding of libertarianism through studying economics in graduate school, and independent study of such renowned economists as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand.

So what then is libertarianism? It is the political, economic and social system which provides the most opportunity for success – however you may define that – to the greatest number of people.  The foundation for libertarianism is the idea that each person is their own sovereign individual with the right to decide how they lead their life and the ownership of their property and all products of their efforts with the caveat that an individual’s actions must not inflict harm on another individual. This is of course a high-level overview, but it is this right to life and property which form the basis for libertarianism.

Economic Freedom

It has been suggested that libertarianism benefits only the haves, while leaving the have-nots out to dry. This is false. The current system of crony capitalism, which is the direct result of not following libertarian principles, does do this. The course of history however, has been perfectly clear in showing that a free market system has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system so far yet devised. In a free market system, the economy is not a fixed pie and for someone to rise up does not require someone else to sink down. On the contrary, in a free and voluntary economic system, agreements are only made when both parties see a benefit to the agreement. Now let’s not delude ourselves, this is not to say that no one will ever make a mistake in judgment, or enter into contracts which do not provide the originally anticipated benefit. We are dealing with humans, who are imperfect, sometimes corrupt, and almost always greedy, but we must remember two things: first, it is a proper role of the government to enforce contracts between individuals, so that if one party strays from their original agreement, the government does have a responsibility to take action against that individual and second, while we acknowledge that a free market society may have imperfections, so do all other economic systems, and the failings of those other systems have been proven throughout history to be much more detrimental to the overall well being of the people.

Personal Freedom

Milton Friedman once said, “History suggests only that economic freedom is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.” At first glance, the idea that economic freedom is required for political freedom may seem unrelated or backwords. However, economic control is the means through which the government can most easily control an individuals’ actions and ability to care for themselves. A heavy system of taxes limit an individuals’ options to engage in a self sufficient lifestyle, while simultaneously giving government the permission to regulate actions.

Why is it that someone who wishes to paint fingernails or give manicures requires government licensing? Is this such a dangerous task that the government must closely monitor your activities in this field? What if a customer decided they wanted to use someone’s services who did not have this license? If this person chose to operate a store front or had to report their income taxes they would quickly be found out for operating an illegal business, and the government would quickly descend upon them, to punish this horrible individual who simply sought to exchange the service of painting nails for money. In order for there to be a law, such as mandatory occupational licensing, there necessarily has to be consequences for disobeying the law. If there are no consequences then it is not a law, but merely a suggestion.

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy is one of the most easily identifiable areas where libertarians disagree with modern Republican rhetoric and agree with Democratic rhetoric. In reality, both major parties have been following the same interventionist foreign policy for years. Obama failed to withdraw from Afghanistan as promised and killed thousands in drone strikes in the Middle East. Before him, Bush was elected to his first term on a non-interventionist foreign policy, though that quickly went out the window.

Libertarianism favors a non-interventionist foreign policy for the reason that it actually strengthens America’s position in the world. Free trade and diplomacy will always build more allies than bombs. The founders advocated for this position, and it was this approach that prevented the Cold War from breaking out.

Wars, contrary to popular rhetoric, are not good for the economy. Tanks, airplanes and ships must all be paid for through either increased taxes, printing of money (which causes inflation), or borrowing from other nations.

It’s important to note that non-interventionism is not isolationism; countries that trade and interact peacefully with each other will be much less inclined to take military action against one another. However, in the case that military action is necessary for the defense of the United States, the proper course of action should be followed. That is, the declaration of war should be voted on by Congress, not declared by the President. The founders purposefully reserved this declaration for Congress and not the President because the implications of declaring war are so great that they should not be exercised unchecked at the whim of a single person.

Environmental Protection

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding libertarianism is that a libertarian environmental policy is where mother earth goes to die. It is an understandable misconception, and it was one of my last policy holdouts in embracing libertarianism. Since the protection of our environment is what allows all of life to exist, it is uncomfortable leaving such an important matter up to the marketplace. It provides a much higher comfort level to utilize government force to provide environmental protections. However, like most government provided functions, the benefit anticipated and the benefit received are not the same.

Instead of protecting the environment, the EPA has actually been the largest responsible party for pollution. If we revisit one of the foundations of libertarianism, private property, we can begin to see how libertarian policy protects the environment.

First, pollution of land, water and air would be self regulating. If, for example, a factory decided to dump pollutants into a stream, any property owner downstream of the factory would be able to file suit against the factory for destroying their property. The factory owner would then be responsible for restoring the damaged property to its original state.

Property owners also have an incentive for conserving resources, including wildlife. These are attractions for which individuals willingly pay, and we all know that an increase in demand is the best way to trigger an increase in supply. Government currently attempts to simulate this free market conservation model, distributing greater funding to wildlife areas which sell the most hunting and fishing licenses. Of course, this simulation adds levels of extra bureaucracy, skips the incentives and removes the competition which force private enterprises to operate efficiently. There is another, less obvious downside to state ownership of land and wildlife. That is, if the government damages the lands or its inhabitants, who takes action against the government to reverse the damages?quote-the-smallest-minority-on-earth-is-the-individual-those-who-deny-individual-rights-cannot-ayn-rand-24-0-085