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Blog Posted in avatar   Johnny Simpson's Blog

Conservative Libertarianism: America's Last Best Hope?

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By Johnny Simpson
Posted Feb 17, 2011 in Politics
"If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer, just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom, and this is a pretty general description of what libertarianism is."
"Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are traveling the same path."
- Ronald Reagan, from an interview with Reason Magazine, July 1975.
To open with, I would like to illustrate in-depth and with cold hard facts a key point of the foreword by putting in sharp focus the late great President Ronald Reagan's quote regarding tyranny by individuals, as it is most relevant to this conversation and a recent news item now posted on Drudge: Modesto Neighborhood May Hire Armed Guards to Cut Down on Crime. In brief, the violent crime situation in Modesto has deteriorated so badly due to budget cuts and police layoffs that the Modesto Police must now recruit neighborhood watches and its citizens pay de facto armed militias to patrol neighborhoods. Modesto, a city of over 208,000 residents at last count, has a police force with approximately 240 sworn police officers, just over one for every 1000 residents. The average ratio of police officers in the US is 2.3 per 1000 residents. That figure is usually much higher in urban high-crime areas. Modesto's own violent crime average stands at 6.81 per 1000 residents, much higher than the national median of 4.7 per 1000 and higher even than the State of California's own 5.61 per 1000.
What does this all have to do with the subject at hand, you ask? Because it is a perfect example in microcosm of how the local, state and federal governments are failing we the American people, and failing badly. Law enforcement and public safety are the most critical responsibility of any government function. Yet even as gang crime soars, the City of Modesto is cutting more police officers and asking the public to participate in neighborhood watches in their absence at great risk to themselves. It begs a question. Why is a municipal California government with a significant tax base cutting police officers and instead begging the public for help? And why do Modesto citizens now feel it necessary to recruit and pay armed militias out of their own pockets in the absence of sufficient law enforcement officers to do the job?
Where are all the Modesto citizens' tax dollars going, if not for most critical public safety? Here's one answer. Last year, even as Modesto was laying off police officers to a level less than half the national average (and a far lower average for high-crime areas like Modesto), the Modesto City Council adopted and funded an agenda to commit $550,167.00 to its Green Diversion Program. This one program, the sole purpose of which is to uproot and grind tree stumps into compost, provided for the employment of five new city workers at an average rate of over $60k per employee in salary alone, for a total expenditure of over $315k for just five stump-pullers and grinders. The average police officer salary in Modesto is $48,000.00.
I ask you, my fellow Americans: which would be more important to you if you lived in an area like Modesto with those kind of high crime statistics? The hiring of an additional eleven police officers to handle rampant and rising gang crime while rotting tree stumps abound? Or the hiring of a very pricey tree stump crew of five and, as Reagan put it, having to carry clubs around in your own neighborhood at great risk to yourselves? And that is only one very small example of government malfeasance and misprioritizing of shrinking financial resources. In this case, the City of Modesto fiddles a most costly Green tune while its streets burn. But it's not just Modesto. Police forces across the nation are suffering dramatic cuts affecting public safety as bloated local governments excise bone to keep the special interest fat in place.
How sad and tragic of a statement is that? The saddest fact is America, which is based on the rule of law above all else, is fast descending into a politically-enabled and facilitated anarchy in almost every possible way today. We pay billions in taxes to defend our sovereign borders, yet our borders are left unguarded by political design and are rapidly becoming a mirror image of Afghanistan's. Drug cartels like Los Zetas cross our borders with impunity to traffic in narcotics, kidnap and murder as easily as the Taliban does Afpak's. As a direct result of intentional federal government negligence and malfeasance, Phoenix today is second only to Mexico City as Kidnapping Capital of the World. Do I need remind you this is in America?
Now compound all that with the exponentially increasing numbers of government tentacles of mass taxation and Nanny State regulations that are strangling our wallets, our livelihoods and our freedoms. With each passing day we Americans become poorer, less safe and less free because our own elected politicians have become tyrannical individuals and cliques dictating what freedoms we may or may not enjoy, or how much of our own money we are allowed to keep, all the while neglecting critical functions of government such as law enforcement and national security in favor of special interests and pet political projects. And We The People pay for it all in every possible way: with our tax dollars, our freedoms, even with our very lives.
The path forward, as eloquently stated by former President Reagan, is very simple. Rather than look at what wasteful government programs should be cut, the starting point should be to prioritize fundamental government services in national defense, public safety, education and health. Everything else can and should be put on the chopping block. As Governor Chris Christie famously stated, "The party's over and the bill's come due." We Americans continue down our doomed path of reckless spending, political patronage and malfeasance and neglect of critical public safety services at our own peril. Look no further than Modesto and Phoenix.
There are many places to start, if only more of our elected officials had the fortitude and political will to do so. I certainly believe the majority of Americans would support them in this day and age given our precarious social and financial situations. I would start with the bloated, inefficient and highly-politicized Department of Education, created by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 as a payback to the teachers' unions which helped elect him to the Oval Office. Since its inception, national literacy rates and grades have either flat-lined or sunk nationwide. How are they helping? There's about $50b a year right there. Let the states and local school districts handle education administration, funding and grants. It's their job.
Next up? Suspend funding for all local, state and federal "Green" programs and roll back the strangling regulations that are stifling economic growth. They have proved a disaster in the European Union, and have shown no better results here in the US despite billions of tax dollars in "investments." Uncounted tax dollars have already been spent on inefficient wind farms, and look at what's happening. They're all freezing up, and now require significant coal and oil power to keep warm and running at great cost. Where's the benefit, I ask you? The Chevy Volt is another glaring example. A $15k car priced at $40k average, with a $7.5k US tax subsidy. Only 321 were sold in January, and many of those were government buys. It's an Enron-like political patronage-driven shell game that we can't afford to play anymore.
Billions in ethanol subsidies can go, too. The programs have highly dubious environmental benefit at best, destructive impact at worst. Even more alarming, the massive diversion of corn crops for ethanol production is causing a world food crisis with higher prices. How is that helping? Save the planet by starving the people and ruining the environment even further? Historically, major leaps and innovations in energy and other technologies have always come from the private sector. How about letting sharp-minded entrepreneurs determine the best way forward in innovation and technology as they always have, and not wasting billions on Green boondoggles whose doom has already been preordained elsewhere?
There are so many massive government bureaucracies and programs that can be cut in part or in toto with very few detrimental effects, and even many beneficial impacts on American society and the greater world at large. The disastrous ethanol program subsidization and production is a perfect example. Here's another idea. How about Congress overruling the immensely destructive ban on farming in the rich and fertile San Joaquin Valley, and turning it back from a dust bowl to the breadbasket and economic powerhouse it once was and should be today? As Thomas Paine wisely stated in his masterful essay Common Sense,"I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” How about we just strip away all the politics and base our decisions on common sense for a Change?
Here is another common sense problem resolution, and I say this as a secular pro-choice Libertarian: defund Planned Parenthood. As a law-abiding citizen, I respect the fact that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. That said, just because I'm a free market capitalist doesn't mean I approve of the Mafia's business practices. PP should have been investigated by Congress, prosecuted and shut down years ago on RICO statutes. As we're finding out now, many PP clinics really aren't much better than the sleazy back alley chop shops of old. Worse even, as we found out recently in Philadelphia. Might I also add that PP advocating undisclosed HIV-positive sex among teens is against the law? How do you feel about your tax dollars subsidizing those outrages?
It is not political to me. It is the financial, moral and legal violations I find disturbing. PP is way out of control, abetted by government malfeasance and intentional lack of oversight despite mountains of sickening evidence that goes back decades. I am all for women getting proper legal health counsel and safe treatment in a matter that could not be more personal. That is none of my business. It is in fact the law. A continuing criminal enterprise that abets hundreds of statutory rapists a year and advocates undisclosed HIV sex among teens is my business. That's at least $300m a year we taxpayers subsidize PP to. What's the federal law again? Hyde Amendment? Obama's related executive order? What do they state as law? If PP wants to be out of control, fine. Let them do it on their own dime. I'm sick of subsidizing their rampant corruption, obstruction of justice and contempt for the law. Has nothing to do with legal abortion per se. I'm all for safe and legal abortions. Key words being safe and legal.
Let's defund NPR and PBS while we're at it. Another $500m a year wasted on government-subsidized politicos to insult and denigrate the American people on a regular basis. They would never survive on their own. They're America's Air America. They would fall just as hard without taxpayer subsidies too, and they know it. Let the free market decide their fate. I also don't particularly like being insulted or lectured to by Muppets either. Want to Save Bert and Ernie? Let Nickelodeon buy the show and put 'em up next to Spongebob! if Sesame Street can hold its ratings weight, that is. If not, they go the way of Teletubbies and the Banana Splits. Welcome to the real world, fuzzy boys! Same for the highly-politicized NEA. They're called starving artists for a reason. I've worked full-time and written scripts for ten years without government subsidy. Get a real job and be a struggling artist on your own dime.
I know I'll be accused of being a right wing Nazi for targeting favored liberal programs. I don't care. We're dying as a nation here. Time to tighten the belts and get back to basics or we're done for. You want to cut off faith-based programs and leave them to fend for charity contributions like everyone else? Or any other conservative-favored programs? Fine. Cut 'em! Wasteful defense programs? Cut 'em! While we're at it, let's get rid of all publicly funded and highly-politicized minority outreach and EEO offices. Tobacco Control offices? Get rid of them! Undercovers can pay kids to test businesses for compliance, and for a hell of a lot less money and bureaucracy. Largest point being, the more we fiddle the more America is likely to burn, and I don't want to see America burn. Example. I know what Reagan's response to the Greece-like situation with Wisconsin teachers would be: get back to work or you're fired!
It's not like there's any shortage of unemployed teachers who would love to get back to work, even at reduced salaries and benefits. They might even care enough about the children they teach not to drag them out of classrooms and use them as political props, or force school district shutdowns and cause untold numbers of Wisconsin parents rescheduling grief and expense because their teachers called in sick en masse and against the law. To paraphrase Tony Soprano, "They're like the woman with a Virginia ham under her arm complaining she ain't got no bread." Again, let them hit the bricks and live in the real world like the rest of us. The taxpayer-funded party's over.
All we Americans ask of our government representatives and employees are to act and spend responsibly, as every citizen who has to work a job and manage a budget must. If that is too much to ask of our politicians, then we keep throwing them out of office until we finally have the responsible political leadership we need to pull us back from the abyss. Last but not least, we true conservative libertarians believe in expanding freedom and opposing tyranny with every fiber of our being. We as a nation, the Shining City on a Hill as Reagan so eloquently put it, have long been the bastion of freedom and democracy and a beacon of hope to the darkest corners of this earth. Millions around the world affirm it with their feet every year.
Regardless of political or financial cost, we should not mince words about cruel savage dictatorships like China's or Iran's. The Islamist extremists who rule Iran today with a bloody iron fist are psychotic butchers, torturers and rapists who commit their many atrocities and crimes against humanity in the name of God. Call them as such. For the record, I have long championed freedom and vehemently opposed tyranny in Iran, and well before the Green Revolution. The Iranian Islamist extremist regime's revolting mountain of atrocities past and present sicken me to my soul. But be they Nazi, Imperial Japanese, Communist, Islamist or by any other name, does it really matter what you call it as the bodies pile up to the sky?
True conservative libertarians are passionate about freedom even unto death. We call out the violent and power-mad human butchers of this world and their enabling stooge sympathizers for who and what they are. We do not excuse or equivocate their senseless violence, coddle or comfort them, give them a soapbox at so-called conservative conferences, or whitewash their mass murders out of political correctness like at Fort Hood. All that will bring us is even more tragedy and death through willful ignorance of the harsh realities staring us in the face. You fight back at bullies and make them hurt. You don't apologize to them for making them beat you up. That only ensures more beatings, or worse.
I have said my peace for now. I leave it to you, the American people, to either accept or reject my words and thoughts. I accept and even welcome your wise judgment and counsel, as long as such counsel is thoroughly informed and thoughtfully considered and not just knee-jerk reactionary politics from either side of the political aisle. But I will not be silent in the face of the many dangers we face in an uncertain nation, world and future. I will not mince words, and I will not be civil for the sake of civility and diplomacy. There is too much at stake to be polite for politeness' sake. We owe ourselves, our children and generations yet to come no less.

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