David Theroux’s latest on Secular Theocracy, Part 2

Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy, Part 2

Part 1 can be found here. For more Secular Theocracy as a concept, start here. David founded the Independent Institute, a highly-regarded think tank in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the summer after my first semester of college (2009; I started college in Feb of 2009 after hanging out in Ghana – long story!) I had the opportunity to attend the Independent Institute’s summer seminar for students.

In fact, that summer I attended four seminars put on by various libertarian think tanks and the Institute’s was the first of the summer. I really, really enjoyed it and was able to make some lifelong connections. For example, Dr Foldvary – the co-founder of this blog – was one of the lecturers there. Here is the Institute’s main web site.

Religion and Liberty

I’m not a religious person. I have an unconventional Mormon background but rejected the faith of my parents for a large number of reasons. I’m not hostile to religion, either. At least, I try not to be (it’s hard sometimes!). I’ve seen first-hand what religious organizations can do for humanity. When I was living in a Ghanaian village of no more than 300 people, I had access to no more than two hospitals in the village. One was run by the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the other I cannot remember (the SDA hospital was closer). It was most likely a Catholic one. Religious organizations representing Islam, Judaism, Christianity and even Buddhism were ever-present in Ghana, and they all provided much-needed skills and supplies to that magnificently socialist state.

I attribute my atheism and my libertarianism to my skeptical nature. If you can prove to me that God does indeed exist, or that paternalism is good for me and my fellow man, then I will turn on a dime. I don’t know very much about anything, after all.

Anyway, religion has been under attack in the West since the Enlightenment. There are both good and bad reasons for this. One of the best reasons is that religious authorities often burned dissidents at the stake for opposing their claims to authority. In much of the world today, especially in some Muslim regions, non-believers are subjected to stonings, beheadings, and torture when the authority of the ecclesiastical class is challenged. However, in today’s Western world, the war on religion is a rather petty affair. Most skeptics don’t want to argue about the existence of God, they simply want to denigrate believers at best, and persecute them at worst. Continue reading

Around the Web

Political scientist Jacob Levy shares his thoughts on unions

Social liberalism and the drug war, in which Bill Clinton and the Left gets taken to task for its hypocrisy

Austrian economics and anthropology: what’s the connection?

Staying out of Syria

Dr. Ivan Eland has a great op-ed on what the US needs to do in regards to the situation in Syria, but what I found even more pertinent were his criticisms of US hypocrisy overseas:

The United States sometimes likes to stay above the fray while secretly fueling conflicts indirectly and accusing rival countries of stoking the conflict by supporting the bad guys. For example, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently accused the Russians of providing offensive weapons to the Assad regime. The Pentagon immediately started backpedaling by saying that attack helicopters being sent from Russia to Syria were not new but were probably old ones being repaired. The Russians then stated that the only arms contracts they had with Syria were for defensive weapons, such as air defenses. The American media of course gave a pass to the deceptive pronouncement by Clinton.

Bashar al-Assad is a brutal ruler who has so far killed more than 10,000 civilians in his own country. And the United States may be generally correct in criticizing Russian support for him. But even that is hypocritical, because the U.S. has supported governments that killed far more people—for example, in the 1980s, the U.S.-backed government of El Salvador killed 65,000 of its own people, many execution-style.

Also, the United States has directly killed more innocents than Assad ever has. In Vietnam, U.S. carpet bombing and other types of attacks killed millions of civilians and rivaled the wanton Nazi destruction in the Balkans during World War II. In the Korean War, the United States targeted dams in North Korea to flood cropland, thus inducing starvation among the people in order to hamper the North Korean war effort.

Conservatives often like to pretend that they favor limited government, but their blind support for US policies overseas highlights their true desires. Conservatives and liberals alike hide behind libertarian rhetoric when it is politically necessary (like when the other party is in the White House). This is because the American public is broadly libertarian and doesn’t like being told what to do, so why can’t somebody like former Governor Gary Johnson – who represents the best of both the Left and the Right – gain more traction in the national political process? Continue reading

Around the Web: ObamaCare Edition

Over at the Independent Institute’s blog, the Beacon, Melancton Smith worries about SCOTUS’s ruling and how it will be viewed by tax-hungry politicians:

Roberts is correct that Congress often uses the taxing power to influence conduct, but all the examples that he gives (taxes on imported goods, cigarette taxes, etc.), focus on discouraging conduct not compelling conduct. He cites no example of where Congress taxes someone for not doing something. I realize that this is a fine distinction I am making, but in my view Congress does more violence to the dignity of the individual by taxing him for not buying insurance than taxing him for buying a pack of smokes.

Yes, the taxing power is not equal to the full regulatory power of the government brought on by use of the Commerce Clause, but I fear that the Court has given power hungry legislators a road map of how to augment federal power using the tax power.

Yes, it’s true that the ruling on ObamaCare has given legislators a clear path to using the tax power, but this is precisely why the ruling is going to be good for federalism in the long run. Americans are notoriously stubborn when it comes to taxes (and I wouldn’t have it any other way baby!) and this new ruling is essentially forcing legislators to tax people directly rather than in the roundabout way (through the Commerce Clause) that has been done since the fascistic New Deal-era. Continue reading

Two More Days!

Two more days to sign up for the Independent Institute’s summer seminar scholarship offer.

I first became interested in libertarianism during the 2008 presidential campaign, when Ron Paul gained national prominence for his tangle with Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.  In the summer of 2009, just after the presidential primaries wrapped up, I embarked on a nationwide journey to learn more about the concept of liberty.

My first stop was the Independent Institute’s summer seminar, an from that experience I not only learned a lot about how markets work (I just spent the afternoon going over my notes from the seminar), but I was also able to make some great connections as well.  Indeed, the co-editor of this blog, Fred Foldvary, was a lecturer at the seminar, and Brian Gothberg, who is incredibly good at teaching basic economic subjects, are just some of the fantastic people that I have been able to count over the past three years for intellectual support.

If you want to spend a week in one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most beautiful locales, learning about liberty, history, civil society, and the market process, then I highly suggest checking out their seminar.  It is absolutely fantastic.

Some Great Links From Around the Web

A fascinating blog post on Indian domestic politics and foreign policy by a Ph.D. student living in New Delhi and studying at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Alex Warren, a journalist with extensive experience in the Middle East, writes about Libya’s decentralization.

“The Current Models Have Nothing to Say.” That is economist Robert Higgs’s analysis of modern, orthodox economics.

Might regionalism help solve Central America’s woes?  Be sure to check out the rest of the blog, by Seth Kaplan, too.

Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic has a penetrating look at the logic of a drug warrior (h/t Brian Aitken)

Co-editor Fred Foldvary, writing in the Progress Report, explains that value is subjective.  This is an important concept when it comes to understanding economics.