I’ve defended them against my fellow paleos here, here and other places but I don’t feel inclined to do so anymore. I didn’t hate Reason, but I recognized they were more into “libertinism”/cosmopolitanism whether or not it had anything to do with the State, which Cato seemed rightly indifferent about. Reason also seemed more evenly split on the Iraq war and allowed proponents a lot of room to loudly voice their case, whereas Cato officially opposed it and didn’t air the views of their pro-war minority. Cato always seemed sensible and their flaws minor. That was before I came across this, which is hard to imagine from a libertarian. He actually analogizes the Congress restraining the Executive within the limits of the law (even conservatives are supposed to like “The Rule of Law”) to the government trying to regulate the market. That’s not just worthy of excommunication from libertarian circles, that puts a high bounty on your head, dead or alive. I first read about it in this item at the Mises blog from Stephan Kinsella. Following up there, Karen de Coster noted that Cato has also advised the government to spend $11 billion initially and $2.1 billion in annual costs to “outfit all 6,800 U.S. commercial [emphasis mine] aircraft with advanced laser-jamming infrared countermeasures against MANPADS [man-portable air defense systems]“. You’d think Cato would realize the threat was overblown and let the airlines (and the passengers that pay for it) decide whether the costs met the benefits. Tom DiLorenzo compared Cato’s Pilon to judge and Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano on this issue. Reason was apparently unaware of Pilon’s piece when they wrote this ironically recommending that paleos and cosmos forget the irrelevant past and join together on FISA. They went after Pilon later here, as did Cato’s Tim Lee here. Thoreau of Unqualified Offerings discusses it here, but refuses to turn his back on the Beltway Crowd (which I find understandable except in light of his attitude toward Ron Paul and the paleolibertarians). IOZ mocks Pilon (and Cato more generally) here, as would be expected. The Man has not yet mentioned it, but he did highlight this on the false dichotomy between our liberties and security, pointing out how useless most of what the feds do is. UPDATE: Julian Sanchez tears Pilon up here and points some other sins from Cato. Balko tries to defend Cato, but finds this unforgivable. I agree with him on what kind of dissent is proper for Cato to tolerate within its walls.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m unusual among libertarians in that I carry no water for any “right to privacy” and don’t just accept but whole-heartedly welcome the Transparent Society. So why am I upset? Because, for one thing, Pilon has bought Uncle Sam’s nonsense hook, line and sinker after the all the evidence that they aren’t actually doing anything to look after us. Just look how they’ve treated do-gooder wire-tap translator Sibel Edmonds (off-topic, but who agrees with me and Assman that she looks pretty good for her age?). Recall that they had plenty of information before 9/11 but were just too incompetent to put it to any use. If they were serious about preventing terrorism they would have jumped on Ron Paul’s bill to limit visas from the countries that produce them. This is all just dicking around and grabbing more power because they can. It’s also expensive (among the rare things that have exceeded the feds’ ability to shovel out cash), and (memo to strong-defense libertarians) dollars spent pretending to protect us aren’t “imaginary” like food eaten when you’re supposed to be dieting.
I was wondering where I had heard the name Pilon before, and then I recalled him being attacked along with Clint Bolick and Randy Barnett in Gene Healy’s Perils of Libertarian Centralism, which is further discussed here by Stephan Kinsella. I’m a big fan of federalism/secession/decentralization. I think it will promote policy competition by lowering the costs of exit. I also fear large and powerful states. I don’t think even an independent Texas or California would have tried invading Iraq. In supporting the ability of the central government to overrule state/local governments (practically the only power-structure capable of going up against it, though they have been greatly weakened from the past) in a libertarian direction, you also implicitly empower it to overrule them in an unlibertarian direction, and that way is much more natural for the government. Some relatively even-handed but good writings on this are Chandras Kukathas’ Two Constructions of Libertarianism contrasting a “Union of Liberty” and “Federation of Liberty”, Roderick Long’s What Empire Does to a Culture and David Friedman’s Neither Anarchy nor Minarchy is Necessarily Libertarian. Jacob Levy (who I primarily remember from this and that) argues against the observed link between centralization and the welfare state (a phrase I don’t feel like mouthing nowadays unless it contains the word “warfare”) in Federalism and the Old and New Liberalism, citing in his opening Benjamin Constant. I have elsewhere pointed out that Ron Paul is a consistent enough federalist that he doesn’t fault the Supreme Court’s decision on Kelo vs New London, though he deplores what the city actually did. This leads people like my least-favorite-libertarian of the moment Tim Sandefur and the not-as-bad Kip Esquire to claim that Paul is not a libertarian at all, with the latter calling him a “neoconfederalist” (which fits me better since I prefer the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution). David Friedman answers that charge here. Some argue that libertarians are off their rockers are believing in “state’s rights” because only individuals have rights (I don’t believe in rights at all, but let’s ignore that). What “state’s rights” really means is a restriction on the power of the central government (even Thomas Woods admits states don’t really have rights). You may argue simultaneously that the U.S Constitution does not grant the national government to power to prevent state X from doing Y AND that the X’s state constitution doesn’t grant it the power to do so either. That is what Ron Paul did with regard to Kelo.
On a somewhat related note at Volokh (where Randy Barnett blogs) Orin Kerr and Ilya Somin have been arguing about judicial restraint (Orin more in favor, Ilya more opposed), with Sandefur commenting on it here. They say it boils down to have comfortable they are with democracy, but I’m not comfortable with it (I’m usually the one attacking it in debates) and I still lean toward Orin. I’m just not comfortable with krytocracy either. At least with legislators you can “throw the bastards out”. Ilya seems to be falling prey to what might be considered Kip’s Law: assuming the Court is more likely to intervene in a libertarian rather than anti-libertarian direction. I don’t know if that can be said to be the case. Ilya notes approvingly that most of the laws SOTUS overturns are state or local rather than federal. I don’t see that as a positive. Aren’t they supposed to have their own Supreme Courts for that? I would expect that non-libertarians would be just as eager to intervene with the Court without solid basis in the written law. The norm of government officials obeying it (that Rule of Law thing I mentioned before) would erode and the natural tendency of government behavior would be in a statist direction. I recognize that Congress completely ignores the Constitution all the time, but the Supreme Court hasn’t been helping with talk of an “evolving Constitution” and treating the Second Amendment as an embarrassment with caveats that don’t apply to others and flat-out ignoring the Tenth (and Eleventh until recently, but who cares about that one). Kip Esquire says the litmus test for libertarianism is approval of Lochner-style Due Process economic rights, but how often does the Court actually go for that, or claim the Commerce Clause has been overstretched? For those who think that courts can only overturn laws rather seizing the coercive power of the state for themselves, you haven’t heard of Russell Clark, who took the power of the purse from legislators by requiring them to hike taxes for schools, among other demands (it didn’t help). I don’t expect any branch of the government to actually stay faithful to the rules laid out in the Constitution (that’s why I think the anti-federalists were right to reject a Constitution whose powers would be seized and restrictions ignored) but I like the effect it has as a Schelling point so that legislators think twice before passing bills of attainder or ex post facto laws.
I commented on the Paul newsletter controversy and the paleo vs cosmo/beltway/neo/mainstream libertarian split before. David Friedman characterizes it instead as one between wimps and boors, and Scott Scheule of the Distributed Republic continues on the theme here. I suppose I’m a boorish wimp or wimpy boor.
Now some links that have nothing to do with libertarianism: Via Ilkka, I find Dennis Mangan saying the only smart people he knows are on the internet. How did we live without it? And yes, blogs without comment features should be ashamed of themselves. Manan also reveals that he has one cousin who is a hotshot Middle East expert formerly of the State department (and seems like the opposite of Mencius’ vision of them) and another who is a Druze candidate for city council in Milwaukee. Unqualified Offerings points out an article saying Bill Clinton knew damn well Saddam didn’t have WMDs but sabotaged the inspections and brought about the Iraq War. I’m starting to remember why I hated him so much in the 90s. Also, the War Nerd finally has a new column out.