Libertarians and the left

Roderick Long has organized a series of links for a very interesting debate that has been going on over at the Liberty and Power group blog on the subject of libertarians and the left. Here’s a post I did a few days ago inspired by the Liberty and Power debate with quotes from Roderick Long and Steve Horwitz.

Here’s a sample of the excellent quality of these posts, this one an excerpt from Gus diZerega:

What seems under appreciated is how both right and left have changed over the past few decades. Most liberals are no longer socialists, and while they certainly support intervention, they recognize the central role of market processes in creating a viable economy. Bill Clinton did more for free trade than George Bush.

Further, liberals are far far better on civil liberties in general, and less interventionist than the current crowd in foreign policy. It is difficult to imagine liberals wanting to bring back the draft – it is not difficult to imagine that under the current regime. Bourne was right – war is the health of the state. And no concept of war in our history has been as open ended and vague as Bush’s “war on terrorism” which seems to be expanding into a “war on evil” if we are to believe his neoconservative friends like Frum and Perle.

Libertarians could often make common cause with the right when it was strongly defined by views akin to Barry Goldwater’s. It no longer is. Goldwater harshly denounced the influence of religion in right wing circles, and it is easy to see today which view is dominant. It isn’t Goldwater’s.

Press, Priests and Pork Sausage

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: In the Balkans, everything is politics. Thus with the recent story concerning a folk festival marked by consumption of the world’s biggest pork sausage, the Serbian Orthodox Church’s reaction to it, and the coverage this drew in the Western press.
One SOC bishop threatened to excommunicate believers who attended the Turija town festival – a 20-year old tradition with the world’s biggest pork sausage at its centerpiece (this year, it was 2.2 kilometers long!) – because it took place during the feast of Lent. Another has threatened similar measures against newlyweds who chose to consume their marriage during Lent. Most Serbs, who follow Orthodox customs as part of their ethnic identity but don’t adhere strictly to church rules, shrugged off the threats and went about their business. But the Church outbursts definitely fed the grist mill of secular humanists and elements in foreign press with Serbophobic tendencies… Continue reading “Press, Priests and Pork Sausage”

Chalabi’s Coup Failed?

Spencer Ackerman has an interesting analysis on the gyrations of Chalabi & Co. last weekend. Essentially he asks, what if the walkout by the five Shi`a puppets wasn’t Sistani’s idea at all? What if what we saw was an attempted end run around Sistani? It makes sense in that his scenario is truer to everything Sistani has said and done so far.


Here’s a fellow cleric talking to Reuters: “The religious authorities have made their position clear to the politicians, but don’t want to interfere directly. They have deep reservations, but also know this interim constitution is a step in the right direction.”

For another thing, I would think that if Sistani were so deeply involved, more than five of the thirteen Shia members of the Governing Council would have refused to sign. One of those eight remaining Shia council members, Raja Kuzai, called the walkout “a disgrace”–not something I’d say if I was convinced the undisputed Shia religious authority in the country had issued the directive.

Finally, after a heated two days of negotiations–during which a furious Kurdish official called the boycotters “Iranians, not Iraqis,” a slur in Iraqi politics if there ever was one, given that this was exactly Saddam’s pretext for his massacres of the Shia–the five Council members abruptly shifted their story on their relationship with Sistani’s views on the issue. Whereas on Friday they portrayed themselves as following Sistani’s orders, now they seem to be portraying themselves as pleading their case to the cleric. After a meeting in Najaf with Sistani, Mowaffak Al Rubaie of the Governing Council told The Washington Post, “We are very happy that Ayatollah Sistani understands our point. We came to clarify the reason of delaying signing the law. … [Sistani] understands the explanation we gave him.” Al Rubaie sounds to me like a man who realizes his attempted end-run around the Basic Law simply failed, and is now scrambling to remain in a strong political position on the Council.

Ackerman quotes Juan Cole:

I can’t understand why Sistani wants 5 presidents, and I actually suspect that it is Shiite IGC members who came up with this formula and put it in Sistani’s mouth. As Borzou Daragahi reports, Sistani is a quietist and doesn’t believe that clerics should rule. The main beneficiaries of a 5-man presidency are people like Ahmad Chalabi, who probably could not get selected president, but who want to ensure for themselves some sort of high executive post.

This is just the kind of thing that snake Chalabi would do, while Sistani’s actions as portrayed by the mainstream media over the weekend seemed out of character. Why would Sistani issue a fatwa if there was some “agreement?” If there wasn’t an agreement, why did those 5 walk out last Friday? I’d like to know what Chalabi thought of Sistani’s fatwa, issued just after the Puppet Council got back on script and signed.

Re: Libertarian ‘Purity Test’

As mentioned earlier, the Web is abuzz with talk of the Libertarian Purity Test. Let’s forget the purity bit for a minute and talk about the ideas. My main gripe is that everyone seems to be posting scores instead of talking about specific areas of assent/dissent, which might make this quiz a useful opening for debate. Upon reading that Julian Sanchez–who has defended consensual cannibalism, for Pete’s sake!– scored a meager 79 (out of 160), Radley Balko hit a tepid 98, and so on, I began to wonder how people were answering specific questions. Of particular relevance to this blog are the following:

(1 point questions–Are you more libertarian than, say, Bill Kristol?)
25. Are you against national service?
26. Are you against the draft?
27. Does the U.S. intervene too much in other countries?
30. If it has to fight a war, should the U.S. try harder to avoid civilian targets?

(3 point questions–More libertarian than Ronald Bailey?)
49. Should the U.S. withdraw completely from Europe, Asia, and other foreign bases?
50. Is bombing civilians in an enemy country morally equivalent to murder?

Most of the 5 point questions are about one’s commitment to the broad goals of full-fledged anarchism, but even squishes should take a second look at #61:

Is it morally permissible to exercise “vigilante justice,” even against government leaders?

I would change the end to “especially against government leaders”–those who are most difficult to hold accountable for their crimes through official mechanisms– and ask this question again. If you say “no,” does that mean that the Iraqis had no right to overthrow Saddam Hussein but the U.S. government did? I guess it would go without saying, then, that, in addition to revolution, secession and all forms of conscientious objection (ie, crimes against the state) are also off the table. That’s some kind of libertarianism.

For some related thoughts of interest, see this by Jesse Walker.

Halliburton Stiffs Food Contractor

A U.S. food subcontractor that runs 10% of the dining facilities in Iraq says it hasn’t been paid by a Halliburton Co. subsidiary for months and is threatening to stop serving hot meals to U.S. troops stationed there, NBC News reported Monday.

The company, Event Source, said it’s owed $87 million by Halliburton. Halliburton has a multi-billion dollar contract to feed and house the troops in Iraq.

Event Source claims not having been paid since November, NBC reported. The company prepared U.S. President George W. Bush’s Thanksgiving dinner in Baghdad during his surprise visit there last year. The $87 million collectible includes payment for the president’s Thanksgiving dinner with the troops, NBC reported.

Does that include the plastic turkey?

Cross-posted from UnFairWitness