A Defense of Penn Jillette’s Recent Column

After Penn Jillette‘s recent article for CNN, I said I disagreed with his views and that not only should we vote (as opposed to sitting out the election like Penn), but we should also support government intervention in some instances. I feel that Democrats would be the lesser of two evils for sure, but a Barack Obama administration would make things better for many Americans.

Afterwards, I received an email from a reader, Paul, who felt otherwise:

Long time reader first time writer. I’m a mite more militant in my atheism than you, but I read your blog in part because I aspire to be nicer. I applaud your unfailing levelheadedness in infidel/believer relations and your Net activism for causes like teaching Elizabeth Dole manners.

However, I take issue with your recent dismissive post regarding Penn Jillette’s CNN commentary.

Like Jillette, I swing libertarian. As such, I shuddered at the notion that “many” of our problems can be solved only with government. I think government is necessary for some things (legal and often physical infrastructure, collective action on climate change, …). But government action simply mucks up “many” problems where it might seem indispensable to some (the drug war, immigration, or say, airport security). For Obama-specific government messes, I point to his support for corn ethanol subsidies and the monstrosity known as the Farm Bill ($300 billion which the ideologically disparate Wall Street Journal and New York Times united to condemn as misspent).

I admit I prefer Obama to McCain, but I caution against suggesting a democrat won’t want to interfere with your personal choices. As a libertarian I think most of my economic decisions should be my own. But even in personal matters democrats interfere with consumption choices, like food and smoking (tobacco, even in private establishments). And it was Hillary Clinton and now-maligned Joe Lieberman who teamed up to condemn violent video games. Abortion and creationism aren’t the only issues.

Perhaps like Jillette, I don’t actually swing the lever. It’s taken as self-evident (gospel?) truth that voting is a civic duty. I disagree. An individual’s vote only actually makes a difference when there’s a tie, which is unlikely when you have, say, 100,000 voters. Abstention is then hardly idiotic. And it’s less idiotic when you disagree with the policy proposals of both major candidates. Voters bear some responsibility for the actions of the elected. I won’t confer my approval upon a politician I largely disagree with just to satisfy a bogus sense of duty.

I certainly don’t intend to persuade you politically. I just want to let you know that I (and I know of others like me) exist among your readership and I don’t wish to be dismissed.

I remain a happy reader,
Paul

As I told Paul, I certainly don’t want to dismiss Libertarian ideas. But I do think those individual votes matter and a few votes (combined) can make a difference in certain parts of the country.

I’m not sure, though, where the boundary lines should be drawn in terms of government intervention.

Feel free to add in your two cents.

  • http://lonelocust.com Gridman

    If I’m not mistaken, the argument presented just then boils down to, “I can’t be blamed, I didn’t elect the guy.”

    Sadly, life makes us take stands that are sometimes the lesser of two evils. If you’re that irritating guy in the corner (metaphorically there, that’s not a personal observation) saying, “don’t blame me, I didn’t have a hand in it”, does that really matter if the worse of two evils prevails?

  • http://atheistamputee.blogspot.com Jimmy

    I’m actually in the same boat as Paul. There should be no big government policy in economic (typically democrat) or social (typically republican) matters. It seems like we’re given two choices, and neither of them actually give a shit beyond their personal agenda. I refuse to vote for a party who has a high percentage of followers who think that the Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and I refuse to vote for a party that claims to be for social and economic change, when they’re really just milder republicans.

    Lets face it, things aren’t going to change much (tax wise) for middle class Americans no matter who you vote for, and the preservation of social freedoms will be either violated completely or protected as they are (which is non-progressive).

    I’ve considered voting, but as I get to know each of them more, I realize that these guys are just politicians being political.

  • David

    It’s my opinion that those who do not participate in the decision making process, waive their right to complain about the results. Abstaining only makes a significant difference when you require quorum. In this case, there’s quorum to spare.

    If you’re waiting for the Atheist Libertarian candidate, you’re going to be waiting a while. I realized a while ago that in voting for representation, you’re picking a direction, not necessarily an end result. And I’d definitely rather go one way than the other, this time.

    Penn’s stand may be firm, which I can respect, but he’s dead wrong. If you’re not going to participate in government by voting, then quit complaining about what it does.

  • Carlos

    I find it interesting that most Americans (liberal or conservative) seem to have this view of the government being this separate ‘them’ institution that either acts for the benefit of the people or against it, depending on your views.

    However, I think it is much better to view the government as ‘us’ — after all, that it is what it should be. As a society, we make a tacit agreement with each other that we need to have some established protocols and rules for getting along together. And the ‘government’ is simply those people we select to ensure these principles are carried out. Well, in theory. I can imagine that it’s hard US citizens to feel that the far-reaching behemoth that is the US Government is actually an extension of their own identity and culture.

    But it should be that way. I notice that Americans always treat their government as something that is to be feared, whereas in most of Europe, and to a certain extent in my country (New Zealand), the government fears the people. Which they should, as they have a responsibility to the people.

    I know this is mostly a ‘mind-set’, rather than making much difference in a practical sense, but I think it does, in the long-term, affect how a culture thinks, behaves, and votes. The proliferation of Libertarian views, in particular, seem to be borne out of the notion that the government is an unpleasant, self-serving ogre that should be avoided as much as possible.

    My main problem with Libertarian views is that it tends to view people as living in bubbles, and that everyone can/should go about there business as they see fit without affecting others. However, we all live on the same planet, use the same roads and breathe the same air, and it would be silly to even imagine individual isolation of these things. Libertarians are often critical of welfare and public (as in government funded) education and health, as though as long as they’re ok, then that’s all that matters.

    On the contrary. Even though I, personally, have the wealth and the capabilities to provide for me and my family, make sensible (mostly) choices, and live in relative comfort, I still have a personal vested interest in seeing that the most incapable and unfortunate people in society (regardless of how pathetic or lazy or useless they may seem) are cared for and have access to the same basic opportunities as I do. Even though there may be a moral argument for why this should be, you can put it in simply selfish terms – I don’t want to live in a gated community to protect myself against the hordes of desperate, poverty-stricken criminals. Similarly, when I am old and today’s young people are running the country (both in government and commercially), and I’d like to think that there was enough of them with good educations so they could make intelligent, informed decisions that may affect my quality of life.

    Obviously the Libertarian view is favourable for things that don’t affect others – such as recreational choices, sexual preferences etc., but for things that affect society as a whole, we all need to make sure that life is fair for all. And to save us the trouble of spending our lives constantly do-gooding and addressing injustice, we have created an institution whose job it is to do this dirty work for us – the government.

    At least it should be. It’s a shame that government has been so perverted that many people no longer recognize themselves in their government. Sadly, it has become ‘them’, not ‘us’.

  • Becky

    I agree with Jimmy and Paul, and I’m interested to see other people’s responses to this.

  • Nick

    Of course, there are more than two candidates — it’s just that those third-party candidates don’t have a following strong enough to realistically hope to win the presidency anytime soon.

    But by voting for a third-party candidate you *do* support, even if he (or she) isn’t going to win, rather than not voting lends credence to the views that candidate supports and could potentially help swing the major parties in your ideological direction over time.

    Your vote doesn’t have to break a tie to matter.

  • Tao Jones

    Voting is imperative.

    The reader’s argument that an individual’s vote only counts in a tie is silly. With 100,000 people thinking the way you do, that is potentially a swing of 100,000 votes either way.

    How are the powers that be to know that your lack of a vote was in protest rather than apathy? Do you think the politicians really care if you don’t vote? If you’re not voting for them, they’d rather you not vote at all.

    What about starting a campaign to spoil your ballot? Vote for a write-in candidate if you can — and not Donald Duck, but someone you really think should be running the country. How about voting for a third-party candidate? Make sure your libertarian candidate is on the ballot by signing their nomination form. Find a way to use your democratic rights to make yourself heard.

    Eventually when enough votes for third-party candidates, people will begin to take notice and demand reform. These times are far more complex than a two-party system is capable of serving.

    Your opinion is never going to be heard if you simply stay on the sidelines. Assert your democratic right to have your vote count. Maybe your individual vote will be a negligible blip in this election, but maybe you can inspire others who share your views to get off the sidelines themselves.

    I mean, face it, do you think you’re the only one who feels the way you do?

    The only meaningless vote is the vote you didn’t cast. Do nothing and nothing will change. So you can either complain about how your vote doesn’t matter, or you can do something about it.

  • http:://ozatheist.wordpress.com/ OzAtheist

    Here in Australia, we don’t get any choice, we have to vote. But some people do a “donkey vote” where they tick all the candidates, or whatever, to make the vote worthless.

    I’ve always considered not voting or donkey voting a bit weak.

    Sure the choices are often not what you want, but isn’t voting for the lesser of two evils, better than the worse evil getting into power because you didn’t vote?

    What about voting for an independent or one of the minor parties? eg. The Green Party or just for Paul The Libertarian Party

    Over the years elections here have seen minor parties gain some power, particularly in our Senate. This occasionally makes the two major parties stand up and take some notice of what the people actually want.

    Perhaps Penn’s or Paul’s vote would be better spent actually voting for someone rather than not voting at all?

  • http://uncrediblehallq.net/blog/ The Uncredible Hallq

    Given all the shit Nader’s gotten, it’s nice to see the support for protest votes in hopes of changing things for next time. That’s what I plan to do. Contra Hemant’s rhetoric, if McCain-Palin get elected, it won’t be so much four more years of Bush, but four more years of the past year and nine months of Bush. That is, Democrats will still control Congress, and will put up a fight against most of what McCain tries to do. Those who dislike the government should see it as a gloriously ineffectual possibility. (Not that I’d vote for McCain on these grounds–I also want to see him punished for his year of cynicism.)

  • Cathy

    In the US, we do have massive problems with unjust and just plain illegal disenfrancisement and tampering with votes, but, I feel that it is a person’s obligation to try to use the means available to try to stop the bad, corrupt politicians. So, even if your vote does not count, you should at least try before you throw away that option. By not actively trying to stop the corrupt politicians, you are helping them win. Voting is a pacifist activity and it is generally rather cheap, so you stand to loose little by voting and much by not voting if the election turns out to be decided by a slim margin (327 votes in Florida decided the 2000 election). So, cost of voting=filling out a form and going to a polling place and pulling a lever. Cost of not voting potentially equals giving the bad candidate(s) the margin of support they need to win.

  • justin jm

    Getting to the topic of how much government should do, I agree with Carlos:

    I find it interesting that most Americans (liberal or conservative) seem to have this view of the government being this separate ‘them’ institution that either acts for the benefit of the people or against it, depending on your views.

    However, I think it is much better to view the government as ‘us’ — after all, that it is what it should be. As a society, we make a tacit agreement with each other that we need to have some established protocols and rules for getting along together. And the ‘government’ is simply those people we select to ensure these principles are carried out.

    In a perfect world, or at least an ideal one, government would run social programs that actually work. That many do not is not an argument against this function.

  • http://bugsoup.blogspot.com bugsoup

    For those who think elections aren’t close enough for a few votes to matter:

    2000 US Presidential election results

    If just one neighborhood became more involved in the process, Florida could have gone to Gore (with or without recounts). Just imagine the different kind of country and world we’d live in if that happened. 537 votes were enough to decide the election.

    That said, I still support people who want to vote for third (or fourth, or fifth) party candidate, but the key is to get out and make your voice heard.

  • Gullwatcher

    In 2004, in the state of Washington, the governor’s race was a near tie. The candidate I voted for won by only 129 votes out of a total of nearly 3 million.

    Tell me again now why my vote doesn’t really matter?

  • Miko

    First off, I’ll second those who mentioned voting third-party. I’m planning on the lesser-of-two-evils option this election myself, but if a considerable number of people are voting third party, it sends a message to the dominant parties even if your party doesn’t win a single electoral vote.

    (327 votes in Florida decided the 2000 election).

    Actually, one vote decided Florida in the 2000 election.
    —-
    And now, a response to some of Carlos’ thoughts, from the perspective of a somewhat green left deontological libertarian. (And I don’t necessarily agree with every statement below; in some cases, I just think it’s worthwhile to understand the arguments.)

    I find it interesting that most Americans (liberal or conservative) seem to have this view of the government being this separate ‘them’ institution that either acts for the benefit of the people or against it, depending on your views.

    It’s worth pointing out that Libertarians are neither liberal nor conservative. Trying to buttonhole us that way misses the point. Similarly, we don’t necessarily see govt acting for or against the benefit of the people; the issue is that it’s attempting to sort everything in life into the bins “forbidden” and “compulsory.” And as I mentioned in the original post on this subject, Libertarianism is all about protecting the rights of people to make really stupid decisions.

    However, I think it is much better to view the government as ‘us’ — after all, that it is what it should be.

    Why should it be? ‘Us’ existed prior to the creation of government.

    As a society, we make a tacit agreement with each other that we need to have some established protocols and rules for getting along together.

    Most of the recent US elections have been fairly close to 50/50. In some cases, they’ve been so close that as a mathematician I would say that the results lack any type of statistical significance and are basically random. There’s no tacit agreement: there’s two equal sized minorities taking turns inflicting their will on 100% of us. Also worth noting is that the government are the ones making the rules about how the government is chosen; I’d say they have a vested interest in this choice. Note how IRV never gets anywhere.

    [Moral argument for welfare]

    Personally, I support its goals. But there’s a moral argument against it as well. You’re essentially forcing people who choose not to to financially support the program nonetheless, which is a nice way of saying ‘theft.’ While you don’t have to agree with the position, it’s worth understanding why some people are displeased when others decided to vote their hands into the first groups’ pocketbooks. Unless you support an individual’s choice to hold up strangers at gunpoint to demand money for medical bills, say, you might ask why you become okay with this scenario when the government is added as an intermediate link.

    [Selfish argument for welfare]

    Again, I agree. But should we all be forced to do what you decide is in our best interest?

    Similarly, when I am old and today’s young people are running the country (both in government and commercially), and I’d like to think that there was enough of them with good educations so they could make intelligent, informed decisions that may affect my quality of life.

    I’d rather just set things up so that they couldn’t make decisions that affect my quality of life. And while we’re on the subject, is giving everyone the same exact standardized education the best way of ensuring this? From my experience, pre-university education in America has very little to do with making intelligent decisions or with being informed about anything.

  • Jack

    But you could have stayed home and the vote would have been exactly the same. So no, your vote didn’t matter.

    To all the “vote or you can’t complain” people: why can’t I complain that the system didn’t manage to produce someone I wanted to vote for?

  • Gullwatcher

    @Jack

    why can’t I complain that the system didn’t manage to produce someone I wanted to vote for?

    Again, there is no them, there is just us. If you didn’t care enough to get in there and help the system produce someone you found acceptable, you don’t get to complain about that either.

  • Miko

    In 2004, in the state of Washington, the governor’s race was a near tie. The candidate I voted for won by only 129 votes out of a total of nearly 3 million.

    More than anything, that race was an argument for why WA should be split into two states along the Cascade range.

    Also worth noting, 129/3million = 0.000043. The election was a coin flip which would have demonstrated the will of the people equally poorly with both potential outcomes. I was pleased with the actual outcome, but it’s not a great endorsement for the virtues of representative democracy.

  • Gullwatcher

    More than anything, that race was an argument for why WA should be split into two states along the Cascade range.

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s weird living in a schizo red/blue state, but it won’t be happening, for more reasons than the obvious. It’s like a microcosm of the US, only with an east/west divide instead of a north/south or coast/middle. What is the same is that the blue bits provide more of the revenue, the red bits use a disproportionate amount.

  • HP

    First of all, and it’s been said before, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. That is to say, American Liberalism is not perfect, but it’s been shown time and time again to be marginally better than Conservatism.

    Secondly, Libertarianism simply does not work. It is impractical, and consistently fails every test to which it’s been put. Intellectually, it’s a fine idea, but when it comes to implementing Libertarian ideals in the real world, the end result is always, and without exception, massive failure. I’m always astonished at how self-proclaimed Libertarians never seem to notice how badly their cherished ideals fuck up in the real world. There are plenty of examples in the real world of minimal-government/low taxation states. They go by names like Somalia and Haiti.

    Thirdly, Penn Gillette is an unqualified moron. He’s not a skeptic at all. He makes a fetish out of markets and property, which are manmade, artificial constructs. Accepting the superiority of markets or property without question is no different than accepting religion or spirituality or UFOs without question. Penn, if you’re reading this, email me. I don’t care if you’re 6’5″; I’ll cut off your dick and feed it to you and you’ll thank me.

    Libertarianism is absolutely inconsistent with freethought and skepticism. (Obviously, I’m not as friendly as Hemant.) It belongs with Marxism in the dustbin of history.

    I’m not a member of any political party, and my voting record is spotty at best, but we’ve got decades’ worth of hard data on economic and social approaches to governance. Look at the numbers; look at the data, and give me one good reason not to vote for the Liberal.

    I’ve been around long enough to see the liberal candidate change parties more than once. (It wasn’t that long ago — before Reagan — that liberals and conservatives were fairly evenly distributed among the Democrats and Republicans.) Anyone who votes for the conservative out of some kind of misguided “Libertarianism” is an idiot, and I’ll gladly back that up with words or, if the occassion demands, fists. Ahistorical, ignorant morons, the lot of them.

  • lynn

    Voting for president only matters if there’s a question about which way your state will go.

    So far, I plan to vote Libertarian Party in the interest of increasing its percentage of the vote, because I think it’s important to have a third party, I live in Illinois which is obviously going to Obama, and though I have respect for him and I like what I’m hearing from him, I like it on an emotional rather than a principle level.

    That said, given that I like Obama and Palin’s a creationist and social conservative, I might vote against McCain/Palin. But I’ll have to hear and see some more libertarian kinds of things from Obama to get over the fact he voted for the new Patriot Act.

  • llewelly

    Well, I’ll be voting for Obama, but folks, I live in Utah, the state were Bill Clinton came in third place, behind Ross Perot, not just once, but twice. So y’all who is arguing in favour of voting your arguments don’t mean fuck-all to me. I vote because there are other races, and other issues on the ballot, where my vote will matter. Obama will get ticked just ’cause he happens to be on the same ballot.

  • http://joelschlosberg.blogspot.com Joel Schlosberg

    Thanks for the clarification. Like Paul, I’ve been a longtime fan of your atheism-related stuff while also being libertarian (more in the tradition of leftists like Emma Goldman and the extreme left end of the Green Party than the sort of libertarianism associated with Cato or the LP, but sympathetic to the mainstream libertarian movement as well) and sympathetic to anti-voting arguments, albeit seeing the practical value of voting “blue” (I’m an unrepentant Nader voter from 2000, although I voted Kerry in 2004 and will be voting for Obama), and it’s nice to know that you’re not totally dismissive of libertarian and anti-voting arguments if they’re presented in a thoughtful manner, and that the dismissive/insulting tone of the original post was misleading of your actual opinion. There are quite a few freethinkers out there who can’t stand libertarianism at all; every so often, a freethought blog will suddenly cough up a nasty anti-libertarian screed like this one from PZ Myers or this one from Brian Flemming, and so I’ve gotten used to that sort of thing.

    Like Paul, I don’t feel like I have to win people over to libertarianism — my dislike for proselytism extends to politics as well as religion — but it would be nice to get non-libertarians to think about pushing back the line of what needs to be done by government a bit — and to think about the way that government works against their goals, as enumerated for instance in this book by a liberal economist.

    Mostly, I was taken aback by the surprised tone of the post, as if anti-voting, anti-political ideas were just some weird personal aberration on Jillette’s part without any history of their own. After all, just within the world of freethought, George Carlin has lampooned voting in a memorable routine from Back in Town, and Atheism: The Case Against God author George H. Smith has written at length about the ethical reasons for opposing voting. And there’s everyone from Thoreau to Howard Zinn (who I guess could kinda count — he’s blurbed Doubt: A History, right?). None of these people are simply stupid or lazy or fanatical.

    BTW, as for threats to civil liberties from the liberal side of the political aisle, this article is a good overview. And remember that MPAA head Jack Valenti was a personal aide to LBJ!

  • AxeGrrl

    Tao Jones said:

    Eventually when enough votes for third-party candidates, people will begin to take notice and demand reform…..Maybe your individual vote will be a negligible blip in this election, but maybe you can inspire others who share your views to get off the sidelines themselves…..Do nothing and nothing will change. So you can either complain about how your vote doesn’t matter, or you can do something about it.

    Perfectly said :)

    and as Gullwatcher said:
    there is no them, there is just us.”

    It’s kind of ironic that many of the people who want to change the country the most don’t seem to ‘get’ that that entails doing something rather than not.

    and OzAtheist:
    Over the years elections here have seen minor parties gain some power, particularly in our Senate. This occasionally makes the two major parties stand up and take some notice of what the people actually want.”

    I completely agree. For those of the Libertarian stripe, the ONLY way things are going to change within the current system is to put work into organizing and making the big boys take notice of the minor parties……and again, how does one do that? by participating.

  • http://agersomnia.blogspot.com Agersomnia

    I have to agree with Carlos’ first post.

    The government shouldn’t be seen as a separate entity from the people, and the government should be afraid of the people. Specially in a country with such proliferation of guns among civilians…

    The media play a vital role here, of showing more crisis and scary stories than there really are. Fearful people rarely have the strenght or the numbers to be influencial in State decisions and politics.

  • Christophe Thill

    I think this is a good picture of the libertarianpositions, as well as a good caricature of it, all rolled into one.

    First, let’s not confuse opposing bad policies with opposing the principle of a state policy in general. State policies are designed by bureaucrats? Fine! Let’s fight so that the concerns of ordinary citizens are really taken into account. Let’s fight for more democracy. Not for less regulations.

    The State is attacking your freedom by prohibiting smoking in places like restaurants and cafés? When smoking was allowed, my freedom was attacked: freedom of breathing freely, of keeping my cancer risk low, etc. The only freedom I had was to just go away. Did libertarians raise a fuss about it?

    The problem with libertarians is that they still haven’t understood the story of the free fox and the free hens. They’ve turned freedom into a meaningless sacred cow.

  • the Shaggy

    As a Canadian, voting is astoundingly important to me. Nothing defines the democratic process quite like it, and every time I hear the voter turnout as less than 60% it makes me sad.

    I am one of those people who actually think that going to the polls should be mandatory for everyone, but that they compromise this by adding an “Abstention” box on the ballot. A wasted vote looks lazy, a spoiled vote look apathetic. That makes so much more of a point. If you’re forced to go to the polls, at least you’ll be required to make that choice.

    Choosing your elected official is a right and priviledge of citizenship, but it should also be an obligation. It doesn’t matter what your political leanings are.

    (BTW I just got selected for jury duty. Happy birthday to me! :-P)

  • http://joshuamcharles.com/ Josh Charles

    Game Theory clearly demonstrates that libertarian ideas are not ideal solutions to problems.

    It’s what convinced to not be a libertarian, after being a rabid libertarian for about two years.

  • http://dragonbites.wordpress.com Scott G.

    Individual votes are to the election process like individual vaccines are to herd immunity. Sure, one vote lost here and there will not make a difference, but if enough people stop voting, the whole system breaks down and everyone suffers.

  • stogoe

    Libertarianism is all about protecting the rights of people to make really stupid decisions.

    The problem with this is, though, that when you do make those stupid mistakes you expect the government to clean up your mess.

    The State is attacking your freedom by prohibiting smoking in places like restaurants and cafés? When smoking was allowed, my freedom was attacked: freedom of breathing freely, of keeping my cancer risk low, etc. The only freedom I had was to just go away. Did libertarians raise a fuss about it?

    No they did not. It seems that Libertarians are really only concerned with the rights and privileges that affect them personally. It truly is a selfish, short-sighted ideology.

  • Vincent

    the uncredible hallq said:

    Contra Hemant’s rhetoric, if McCain-Palin get elected, it won’t be so much four more years of Bush, but four more years of the past year and nine months of Bush.

    The reasons I will vote for Obama are many, but I only need one. The Supreme Court.
    McCain won’t be 4 more years of Bush, he will mean 20+ years of worse than Bush.

  • Stephan

    I agree that an individual vote probably won’t make a difference, but if a whole bloc of voters (in this case atheists) decide their vote does not matter and they will abstain, that could very well make a difference.

  • dave

    “Penn, if you’re reading this, email me. I don’t care if you’re 6?5?; I’ll cut off your dick and feed it to you and you’ll thank me.”

    “Anyone who votes for the conservative out of some kind of misguided “Libertarianism” is an idiot, and I’ll gladly back that up with words or, if the occassion demands, fists. Ahistorical, ignorant morons, the lot of them.”

    I said this on a different thread, but i’m a libertarian who has been *much* more friendly towards–and has almost always voted for liberals, out of the idea that they were less dangerous, and at least meant well.

    Now, i’m no longer so sure. I haven’t seen actual arguments against the libertarian position, just insults. I mean, a discussion of why the war on drugs isn’t racist? Why welfare is better than tax credits?

    There have been *several* threats of violence, like the above. Is this really what we ought to expect?

  • MAZZ

    Maybe I just don’t get it. I’ve seen the words “Libertarianism/Libertarian” used quite often but I still can’t grasp the idea. I understand that it has something to do with “limited government” but do Libertarians agree on what limited government is or what parts of government will be limited? Will there still be a Federal Standard (or even a state standard) for education? Does the limited government intervention apply to states as well as Federal laws? I’ve noticed quite a few Libertarians have an issue with the IRS. For those that do, do they suggest abolishing the Federal Government all together, because I don’t see how even a limited government can function without any federal funds raised.

    I guess my point is, like a few other posters have said here (much more eloquently than I), Libertarianism is at it’s best, a meaningless philosophy used by anyone that’s angry at the government, and at its worse, dangerous and corrosive to a fully functioning society.

    P.S. If someone could give me an accurate account of Libertarian ideas I’d appreciate it. I don’t like not knowing what I’m talking about. :)

  • Mark

    Honestly, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe, voting IS, for lack of better terminology, a civic duty. If there is a low voter turnout, what does that REALLY say about the person we’ve elected? Frankly, it doesn’t matter WHO you vote for as long as you vote for someone. That’s the beauty of living in this country. You can vote for whoever you want! There is, apparently, this mistaken notion that, because there are two people with the most media coverage, we can only vote for them! No dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans actually exists.

    If you don’t feel like voting Dem or Pub, vote for someone YOU think would get the job done. Write them a letter/e-mail/message by way of carrier pigeon telling them to get involved in government because they will make choices that YOU want made. Don’t just sit back because the cookie cutter people that EVERYONE ELSE has pushed into these places of power don’t work for YOU.

    DO SOMETHING!
    It couldn’t HURT to try, right?

  • Axegrrl

    Wow! talk about relevant timing for this topic! something unprecedented happened today in Canadian politics that is a perfect example of ‘the people’ having an effect on the system by getting involved and speaking out:)

    Here are some of the details:

    “TORONTO — The debate over the debate is, well, over.

    The Green Party has been given an historic victory after broadcasters airing the federal election debate in October granted leader Elizabeth May a podium at the televised event yesterday, amid a firestorm of controversy.

    The leadership debate will mark the first time the Green Party will take to the mic and address Canadians at a federal leadership debate.

    The decision came after NDP Leader Jack Layton and Prime Minister Stephen Harper backed down yesterday from their opposition to May’s participation in the Oct.1 and Oct. 2 leadership debates.

    A storm of public outrage at attempts to shut May out have followed Harper and Layton, with members of Layton’s own party blasting his position.

    A jubilant May cheered after learning late yesterday afternoon of the networks’ decision reversal.

    May credited the outpouring of public support for giving her this chance, calling it a triumph for democracy.

    These last few days have proven that democracy doesn’t happen behind closed doors,” May said in a phone conference. “I hope this gives the average Canadian a sense that democracy works.”

    The big boys were trying to squelch the voice of one of the smallest political parties in the country and people basically said ‘what are you so afraid of?’ When it appeared that the controversy might ‘cost’ them, they relented. Bravo!

    Yeah, not participating is a much more effective way to change things.
    Right.


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