Must Watch: John Stossel’s Illegal Everything

Make the time to watch this great episode of the Stossel show on growing government restrictions in our lives, and how the average American commits three felonies a day! From police shutting down kids with lemonade stands and local governments stopping girl scouts selling cookies, to someone being threatened with imprisonment for 6 months as the planning department didn’t approve of a tree species  someones backyard, 6 years in gaol for importing some lobster tails, to a couple being fined for hosting bible studies in their homes … right down to more controversial issues of drug prohibition… this has it all and is a must watch!

So, block out 45 minutes and watch! 🙂

Defending death threats

I believe in free speech. I mean — I really believe in free speech.

That doesn’t just mean that I support Andrew Bolt’s right to say whatever he likes about aboriginals, irrespective of who gets offended. And it doesn’t just mean that I oppose all censorship, such as the banning of Mein Kampf in some European countries. It also means I oppose defamation laws, and I believe you should be allowed to say anything about anybody, whether true or false, for whatever reason. It even means I believe that tobacco companies should be free to advertise.

I believe attempts to limit speech “for the public good” will mostly do more harm than good, and that messy and imperfect freedom is better than neat and tidy (but even more imperfect) government control.

Today I was discussing another of the controversial areas of free speech. Yesterday, that crazy old kook of the blogosphere grumpy-Graeme Bird wrote an eloquent rant aimed at me, where he said:

“He must die. John Humphreys must die so that this country can live.  He has betrayed this country too many times and he must no longer live … This is too important a subject to let John Humphreys live. Where does the lying end. I’m convinced that it only ends when John Humphreys is cold and stiff … HE MUST DIE, FOR THE LYING TO END. AND THIS IS A LIFE OR DEATH MATTER … I am accusing Humphreys of being a knowing traitor … SO MY NEW CLAIM IS THAT HUMPHREYS WILL NEVER STOP LYING. THAT HE WILL NEVER BE A SAFE PAIR OF HANDS. THAT HE WILL ALWAYS BE A TRAITOR. WHILE HE YET LIVES.”

My first death threat. Now I know that I’m important. A few friends have suggested I take it seriously, and one kindly offered to call his federal police friend who would call Graeme… but I nixed that idea. For his part, Graeme says that it is not a death threat because he doesn’t plan on doing any killing himself. That’s good to hear. But another friend pointed out that the above sentiments might still be considered incitement to violence… which got me thinking about free speech.

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Andrew Bolt, Race and Identity Politics

WARNING: VERY LONG POST

In a recent court decision, conservative commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Racial Vilification Act (Eatock vs. Bolt, see http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2011/1103.html ).

From the classical liberal perspective, the good intentions behind the Racial Vilification Act do not justify the existence of the Act; Free Speech is an absolute right which is only bounded by fraud (for example, in the case of actual defamation) and coercion (i.e. making threats of violence or similar forms of extortion).

I am not a viewer of Andrew Bolt, although in full disclosure I did once send him an email which corrected a philosophical mistake of his; he accused Postmodernism of being Metaphysically Subjectivist (i.e. people’s minds literally remake reality). I believe that to be mistaken since Postmodernism is Epistemologically Subjectivist, typically on philosophical grounds derived from German Idealist thought. This has been my only interaction with his work in the past, and I know little about him. Although I was pleasantly surprised when reading his Wikipedia page that he’s an Agnostic rather than a religionist.

But the reason for this post is that I found a specific comment about the Bolt case interesting from the perspective of political philosophy.

Commentator Brian F. McCoy argued that the ultimate issue in the Bolt case wasn’t freedom of speech. He identified the core issue as “freedom of identity” (see http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=28512).

What a fascinating concept.

“Identity” in the context of the case was referring to social identity or the groups with which one identifies.

The following article is not so much a deliberate argumentative essay per se. Rather, it is a set of commentary on a series of interconnected issues raised by the Bolt affair. In it, I will cover epistemological and philosophical considerations relating to the concept of “social identity” and I will also discuss the various analytical frameworks and assumptions that are used when dealing with the concept. Ultimately I will launch into a discussion of Brian McCoy’s “freedom of identity.”
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Submission on civil unions

The Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser has recently introduced a private members bill on civil unions for same-sex couples. The debate is ongoing, but submissions to the relevant committee considering the bill closed today. Below is my submission, on behalf of the Australian Libertarian Society.

Submission to the Legal Affairs, Police, Corrective Services and Emergency Services Committee

RE: CIVIL PARTNERSHIP BILL 2011

On behalf of the Australian Libertarian Society (ALS), I would like to suggest that the government does not belong in marriage at all. The debate about how the government should regulate our love lives and our personal relationships rests on the idea that the government should be involved in the first place. That starting assumption is flawed. Love and relationships do not become better or worse because you inform a politician. Few married people conclude that their love is real only because it has been approved by Anna Bligh or Julia Gillard.

A marriage or civil union is an agreement between two people, and the only people who should be able to make that decision are the people involved. So long as the people involved are consenting adults, there is no reason for the government to restrict their right to form a contract with each other. The idea that the government should restrict the basic economic freedom to contract, on the basis that the parties to the contract are the same sex, is a perplexing attack on liberalism and the rule of law.

Ideally, the government should fully deregulate “marriage”. But if the government insists on continuing its weird fixation with documenting our love lives, then at the very least they should conduct their kinky hobby without discrimination. Personal discrimination is necessary and normal in everyday life, but government discrimination should never be tolerated because the government has the privileged position of being able to impose their views on others through force, and without direct consent.

In case this isn’t clear, let me state it simply — marriage should be fully deregulated, but if that is considered “too radical” then the government should at least allow for same-sex civil unions.

Defenders of marriage will rightly say that marriage is traditionally a religious concept. If only it had stayed that way. I suggest that religious groups should be free to discriminate according to their beliefs, just as we all discriminate every day regarding who we date, meet, support, visit, like, etc. However, that discrimination must not be done with the backing of government. Churches should always be free to *not* conduct a same-sex marriage or a same-sex union, but that decision should be left to each church, and not imposed by the government.

Freedom is now considered a quaint concept in most of the western world, including Australia. While political talking heads will argue passionately about how the government should run our lives, most people are genuinely perplexed when they hear the idea that perhaps the government should not run our lives at all. Many people now feel comfortable in their gilded cage, debating about the rules that our “leaders” should impose on us. This letter is in support of civil unions, and to let you know that some of us still believe in human self-ownership and reject the idea of government control of our lives.

You may set restrictive laws if you like. I will consider obeying them. Who is Ron Paul?

Kind Regards,

John Humphreys
Australian Libertarian Society
libertarian.org.au

“There Outta Be A Law!” – Toddlers And Tiaras Edition

“There Outta Be A Law!” – Toddlers And Tiaras Edition
By Andrew Russell

Ever since the announcement that Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant was planning to hold a children’s beauty pageant in Melbourne, plenty of Australian parents flocked to the latest and greatest Moral Panic. The pageant is now over, but the Moral Panic makes for interesting analysis.

As is depressingly typical in Australian politics, said parents (mostly affiliated with the group Pull The Pin) were not happy with merely privately boycotting the event or protesting it; they aim to make children’s beauty pageants illegal in Australia (see: http://www.pullthepin.com.au/). In other words, “I don’t like it, so There Outta Be A Law against it!”

The Pageant was going to feature Eden Wood; child Beauty Queen who was extensively featured, gyrating around in a pink sequinned Stripper Cowgirl outfit, on several Current Affairs shows. Eden cancelled; conflicts between Today Tonight and A Current Affair prevented her from attending.

As per usual, the Moral Panic over Universal Royalty’s event included every libertarian’s most loathed four-word logical fallacy; “think of the children!”

According to both Pull The Pin and Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants, these events harm the stars of the show. They harm the children they claim to be celebrating.

Pull The Pin’s petition for laws against child pageants (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/pull-the-pin-on-beauty-pageants-for-children.html) reads as follows;

“We believe that child beauty pageants instil harmful messages in children (girls in particular as they make up the majority of participants), including that their looks are their currency.

We feel that child beauty pageants are exploitative and not in the best interests of the child, but the commercial interests of pageant promoters and parents living vicariously through their children.

We would like to see age restrictions applied (16+) so that the decision to compete against their peers in a beauty contest is made with full consent, and when their emotional maturity better enables them to fully comprehend and handle any negative self esteem impacts. We oppose the narrow gender messages child beauty pageants help perpetuate, doing nothing to improve the status of women in general, and encouraging ever younger games of ‘compare and despair’.”

In this article, I will make four basic arguments;
1) Fears of ‘child sexualization’ are clearly overblown,
2) Some anti-Pageant forces may be acting out of wounded pride rather than the interests of the children,
3) The Pageant critics make some very legitimate identifications of problems with child beauty pageants, but these problems are also found in children’s sports and no one is trying to ban them,
4) Finally, there seems to be a troubling undertone of xenophobia amongst anti-Pageant forces.
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Counting Jedi.

There has just been another instalment of the old “24 Hr media cycle” lament from Canberra. This time it’s from Julia, who is fretting that that the Internet and pace of the news cycle were working against in-depth discourse. Don’t get her wrong, she jurst lurves the opportunities of the Internet and rejoices in its influence in the “democratization of public space.” (This may put her at odds with Communications Minister, Conroy, who is obsessed with censoring it.)

The gist of these arguments is that the constant need to feed the cycle results in a lack of depth in debate with the result that politicians appear to be shallow and puerile. No explanation is given of why they appeared that way before the rise of the 24 hr cycle which has retaliated by blaming the government’s 24-hour spin cycle.

In an example of the problem, Federal Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten called for Australians to respect the census and not kid around. He feels that the question on religion should only be answered in ways that the government recognizes. He has specifically banned Jedi’s, and Pastafarians, none of whom will be counted. The Jedi faith responded with a press release today: Continue reading