Friday, November 21, 2014

Some Thoughts on Procedure

http://cdn.meme.am/instances/500x/56431912.jpg 
Courtesy of Memegenerator.net and JPB.

"Procedure" is a word that evokes banality. It is the stuff of bureaucracy and litigiousness. It's the word we use to describe colonoscopies in polite company. And, if my Twitter feed is any indication, it is the last refuge of political scoundrels trying to make a point.

But procedure is also the bulwark of rights in our judicial system. (ie, Due Process) Those in power must follow procedure to exercise that power in a way consistent with law and custom. Presidents, Congressmen, police officers, prosecutors, and bureaucrats all most follow procedure to maintain their legitimacy.

I happen to agree with many on the Left, and a few on the Right, that Obama's executive orders relating to immigration were within the laws and customs currently on the books. Whether those laws should have exceptions that one libertarian friend said "you could drive a truck through" is another story entirely, but that's the law Congress gave him to work with.

(dis?)Courtesy of the White House

The Right's sky-is-falling narrative is overblown and off-base, at least in this context. Their references to a King or Emperor skirting procedure would be laughable if not so tragic, given what most of them are conveniently ignoring.

Obama has not once, but twice unilaterally sent troops to fight in civil wars that pose no existential threat to the United States nor could be construed (with a straight face) to be in line with the AUMF --lest we understand the text to mean the Authorization to Unilaterally Murder Foreigners. (See also: the Kill List.)

But you see, it's much easier to rile up the Right's base by helping millions of brown people here at home than blowing up different brown people half-way across the globe.

Take a moment to process that.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Friday, November 14, 2014

How Legal Cannabis Sales Help the Poor

The District of Columbia voted to legalize possession and non-commercial sharing of cannabis in last week's election. That's good, but the more important part of the law is the authorization of the DC City Council to vote to legalize (and regulate) the sale of marijuana if it so chooses.

This further action is necessary for the people in DC who suffer most from the effects of the drug war: poor minorities.

In my latest at Rare, I explain how marijuana for sale is better for the poor than marijuana for free.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Mia Love and Tim Scott

After last week's elections of Rep. Mia Love in Utah and Sen. Tim Scott in South Carolina, the Republican Party faces both a new opportunity in their minority outreach efforts, and a choice.

Although Love and Scott are both black conservatives, they are not the same. While they both tout personal stories that highlight 'pull up from bootstraps' narratives, the differences between them are nether subtle nor meaningless.

If the GOP wants to feel better about its rhetoric toward the poor and minorities without actually addressing their past transgressions, they should embrace Mia Love. If they actually want to address their relationship with black Americans, they could do much worse than Tim Scott.

Neither approach will bring a tidal wave of black support to the Republican Party, but resentment politics repackaged and delivered by a black person is not the way to reach out.

You can read my latest at Rare on this topic here.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Libertarians: "Pay No Attention to the Man Who Won't Stand Behind the Voting Curtain"


I already have made my personal reasons for voting clear.

However, my friend, colleague, and sometimes-editor Aaron Ross Powell has an essay up today about the moral case against voting. I understand where he’s coming from, and I’ll even concede the philosophical argument he makes in it.

But government and the elections that shape it are practical matters, not philosophy, so I respectfully disagree with its broader message.

There is a practical reason to vote, particularly for libertarians as a—gasp!—collective. 

Representative government is responsive to social needs, norms, and change, albeit in a very limited way. Political parties evolve, and respond to those whom they feel most obligated. The math certainly justifies the individual’s decision not to vote, but collectively, voting is quite meaningful.

I don’t understand the libertarians—some of them among the most prominent in the nation—who insist on supporting presidential candidates like Mitt Romney because the alternative is so much worse. Even if that were so, it’s fundamentally absurd to dependably toe the party line in fear of the alternative and expect that party to become more libertarian at the same time.

The incentives for libertarian acquiescence to either party for fear of the other is a recipe for irrelevance.

I often vote for a libertarian not because I identify as a capital “L” libertarian—I don’t—but because I want to express my displeasure with both major parties and in a way that shows my preference for smaller government. 

Aaron writes:

If you cast a vote today, there’s a pretty high chance that in morally significant ways you’re acting just like those friends mugging the old man. You may think there are good reasons for doing this, that a world where you vote for violations of basic human dignity and autonomy will be more livable—happier, freer, wealthier, more equal—than one where you don’t. But you’re still party to countless immoralities. You’re still expressing approval as politicians fail to live up to basic moral standards—and as they do so in your name.

By paying taxes on everything that I buy, and the income that I make, I'm already a party to these governmental immoralities. In many ways, I'm sure my money has gone to all sorts of terrible things both through taxation and participation in the market economy. My freely given or relinquished dollar does not sanction everything the recipient of that dollar does with or without my dollar. 

Likewise, my marginal preference for one major candidate or another--or neither, as I'm primarily discussing here--expresses only a preference, not an endorsement. A vote in one election does not convey approval for everything that person does, and there are alternative means--writing, calling, petitioning, organizing--that can later influence the behavior of that recipient while in office. 

And the more voters I can sway holds a lot more weight than a bunch of libertarians who are sitting-out on philosophical principle.

Whether or not we’re in a “libertarian moment” right now means less to me than communicating that the major parties will not, in fact, get my vote until they start paying more attention to civil liberties and reforming our criminal justice system. 

By myself, it’s not saying much.

But in toss-up districts and states, enough people who vote libertarian can, by shifting the margin, change the outcome of an election. A party that is on the losing end of that would be wise to cater to libertarian issues in the future. 

Yet, like clockwork, the libertarian corner of the Internet is riddled with arguments against voting today and, of course, is most likely to be read by people who agree with them. Effectively, libertarians are taking themselves out of political consideration. 

Not my idea of effective policy change.

Philosophy has its place, as it informs our beliefs and ideals. However, removing yourself—and, more damning, those whom agree with you most—from the election process eliminates the largest incentive for politicians to care what you and those like you believe.

It shouldn't be this hard to explain to libertarians that incentives matter.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Please Stop Helping Us" Review

Some weeks back, a book was brought to my attention by a colleague. It is called "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed" by Jason L. Riley.  I was hoping for a sober analysis of the unintended consequences of big government policies and full of small government solutions to problems that continue to disproportionately affect African Americans.

Unfortunately, what I got was the same ol' tired and worn out argument by conservatives that blacks just need to be better if they want to be treated better. More irritating, the author's disdain for American blacks--being one for the sake of the collective pronoun "us" in the title, but any shared identity is held at arm's length throughout the text of the book--is evident on what seems to be every page. I exaggerate, but not enough to be unfair.

Riley manages to fit in some policy, but most of it after he rationalizes police abuse of young black men  (even though he faced some of it himself) and dismisses those who object to criminalizing wearing sagging pants.His absolution of the criminal justice system by way of nonsensical "soft on crime" posturing and selective quotes of critics should undermine his credibility as a thoughtful writer on the subject, even if you remove the racial aspect entirely.

"Please Stop Helping Us" could have been a damning indictment of the governmental system that purports to help people. Instead, Riley took his opportunity to air his scorn for his fellow American blacks. And that is a shame on more levels than I can explain here.

You can read my review of the book at Rare  here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cops on Camera Event Video

Just posting the video to the Cato panel I was on yesterday. It was covered by C-SPAN so you can find it on their website, or you can watch it here, with footage taken from (and available on) the Cato website.



A most sincere thank you to all of my friends, family, and colleagues that have been supportive of me and this event.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Come See Me at Cato on Thursday

As I've written recently, the advent of small, high quality cameras that can be put on dashboards, worn by police officers, or carried in your pocket as part of your phone is changing the very nature of police encounters and police accountability.

I know it's late notice--it was for me too!--but I'll be on a panel discussing cameras, technology, and policing this Thursday at Cato.

If you can't attend the event in person, you can watch it livestream here or catch it when it's later posted on the Cato Events archives page.

bellum medicamenti delenda est