Ron Paul moves to abolish gun-free zones

US Congressman Ron Paul recently introduced the “Citizens Protection Act of 2011” (H.R. 2613), which will repeal the federally created gun free school zones act. Introduced in 1996, this makes it an offence to carry a gun within 1000 feet of a private or public school.

Within a couple a years of the legislation being enacted, two disaffected teenagers walked into Columbine High School secure in the knowledge that they would be the only ones in the school who were armed. And, of course, Columbine triggered a slew of copycat episodes.

Paul has a knack for bringing his bills to a vote so that supporters and opponents can be identified.  This will be interesting.

More information here.

Dark days for libertarians

Cass Wilkinson had this piece in the Australian on Monday 9 May 2011. Apart from being rather pessimistic, it summarises things well in my opinion.

IF you don’t like bike helmets; if you think adults should be able to play racy video games; if you don’t think it’s anybody’s business what you eat or how often you exercise; if you believe in freedom of speech, movement, religion and love; if you’re sick of the government having its hand in your pocket, its feet in your bedroom and its eyes on your email you might just be a liberal.

But probably not a Liberal.

Since John Howard put the party on his two-track path of liberalism and conservatism, the only main party ostensibly devoted to liberal ideals of small government and personal freedom has increasingly demonstrated you can’t walk two paths with one set of feet.

South Australian Liberal leader Isobel Redmond recently told The Australian, “to me the Liberal Party stands for individual freedom and the right to pursue your own ambitions and dreams, to not have the government directing how you live your life”. But notwithstanding Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull and Ted Baillieu, the Liberals are turning into what Labor has long accused them of being: a Tory party.

The Liberals now support high taxes to pay for what were once regarded as Labor social goals: Medicare, family payments and pensions, environmental protection and maternity leave. And since Work Choices is “dead, buried and cremated” it’s hard to see what serious differences exist on economic policy except for the carbon and mining taxes.

Simultaneously, Labor is busy turning itself into what its opponents have long accused it of being, a party of clumsy big government socialism.

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A lesson from Egypt – decentralise the internet

For five days recently, the internet in Egypt was off the air because the government contacted ISPs and told them to shut down. As an attempt to suppress anti-government protests it was a failure, but it serves as a heads up for the rest of the world.

Much of the internet’s core infrastructure is located in the United States, where a bill known as the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act” is proposed. The bill first appeared in 2010, sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins. It is making an appearance again in 2011, commonly known as the internet “kill-switch” bill.

The idea is that during a “national cyber emergency” (e.g. internet-based attacks on the power grid or hacking into US weapons systems), the President and the Department of Homeland Security would have the authority to shut down private systems across the country, essentially bringing down the internet to stop the attacks until everything could be secured. (Because the internet is a distributed network and the US is a huge country, it’s unlikely the government could take down the whole thing but it could knock out a big chunk.)

However, a provision of the legislation is that it “shall not be subject to judicial review.” In other words, the courts could not declare the legislation unconstitutional, effectively striking it down. Clearly there is more at stake than simply protection from terrorist cyber attack.

We are now starting to hear comments in Australia about “cyber-security” too. As we have no Constitutional safeguards to include or exclude, we could end up with a more complete  government kill-switch than the US.

There are two possible responses – fight the kill-switch politically, and decentralise the internet.

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Some folk don’t like Obama

It seems lofty rhetoric and a black skin are not sufficient qualifications to be effective as US President . What a surprise.

Obama’s popularity, low and falling, is expected to be a major contributor to the Democrats losing control of the House of Reps and perhaps the Senate in the mid-term elections next month.  The reasons are many and varied, but this mentions a few of them.

A new political force – the Liberal Democrats (LDP)

Yesterday’s election result shows Australia has a new political force – the Liberal Democratic Party.

In only our second federal election (and the first under our proper name), the party gained over 2% of the Senate vote in NSW and Queensland and 1.5% in Victoria.  It is fifth highest in these states.

We also negotiated an excellent flow of preferences in NSW and will either win a seat or (more likely) be the last ones eliminated.

A couple of parties representing narrow interests did OK – the Sex Party, and Shooters and Fishers for example, but the LDP differs from these because it stands for individual choice and freedom, embracing the interests of all the “freedom” parties and combining them into a coherent philosophy.

Federal elections are tough for small parties. It’s nigh on impossible to win a seat in the HoR and a Senate spot is a long stretch.  We have every intention of keeping at it, but our immediate focus will be on building our brand by getting state divisions up and running. There are seats in State parliaments that are a lot easier to win than a seat in the Senate.

Our focus will also be on fund raising. We believe our vote would have been a great deal higher if every voter had known who we were and what we stood for.  Achieving that is simply a matter of money.

Anti-war or anti-liberty

Within the libertarian community there is a sharp difference of opinion about involvement in wars in foreign countries. Some regard Jefferson’s statement of “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations–entangling alliances with none” as holy writ. Others, including myself, take a less absolute line.

There is agreement that wars are too often used as a pretext for high taxes, loss of freedom and distraction from domestic issues, and that libertarians are right to be very sceptical. But does that mean involvement in foreign wars is never  justified under any circumstances?

The conflict in Afghanistan is a case in point. Leaving aside issues about how the war is being prosecuted and what victory might look like, some say involvement is unjustified simply because it is a foreign war.   I regard that as contrary to libertarian philosophy, which places individual liberty ahead of the collectivism of national sovereignty.  Large numbers of individuals in Afghanistan, including virtually all women, are at grave danger of losing what remains of their freedom if the Taliban succeeds.

The following article from the Wall Street Journal describes the situation. The author is most likely a leftie, but I think her concerns should be shared by libertarians.  There are many in the world who suffer dreadfully from oppression and military action is rarely the solution, but  if the liberty of women in Afghanistan is not worth fighting for, what is?

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A ‘fine’ conflict of interest

Guest post by Gavin R. Putland

In Victoria, if you are pinged for exceeding the speed limit by less than 10kph, and if it is your first offence for at least two years, you can apply to have the fine withdrawn and replaced by a warning. Most police officers know about this loophole, whereas most other citizens don’t. And that, according to Police Commissioner Simon Overland and Deputy Commissioner Key Lay, is why police officers caught speeding are 25 times more likely to be let off than the public at large.

But if you are caught speeding, and if police records show that you are eligible for a warning instead of a fine, why don’t the police tell you about this opportunity or presume that you will apply? Answer: revenue. And why haven’t police and politicians pointed out this loophole on every previous occasion on which fining people for minor speed infringements has been alleged to be about revenue? Answer: because it really is about revenue.

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