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Archive for the ‘Individual Sovereignty’ Category

The Many Faces of Libertarianism

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, politics on May 11, 2010 at 1:31 pm
So I just completed the quiz, “What Kind of Libertarian Are You?” at My results were both surprising and enlightening — at least to me.
I scored 92 percent “left-libertarian.” According to the quiz, left-libertarians are “more associated with the anti-authoritarian left” and are “more critical of conservatism and corporatism.” Evidently, recent bailouts have put a bad taste in my mouth toward corporate welfare.
My second highest score was 75 percent “minarchist.” Curious as to what the term meant, I decided to do a little research.
Minarchy, or “minimal statism” is a political philosophy that advocates a system where government acts only to protect the life, liberty or property of an individual. Basically, it sees government as a necessary evil.
Minarchy comes closest to describing my political leanings. It is in contrast to anarchy, which argues against any form of a compulsory state.
Here are the rest of my results:
  • Anarcho-capitalist: 67%
  • Agorist 67%
  • “Small L” libertarian: 58%
  • Paleo-libertarian: 42%
  • Geo-libertarian: 42%
  • Libertarian socialist: 8%
  • Neo-libertarian 0%

‘Rights Aren’t Rights if Someone Can Take Them Away’

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, politics, rights on May 7, 2010 at 1:25 am

Who says Congress is can’t come together for the common good?

Yesterday, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) and Congressmen Jason Altmire (D-PA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) introduced the Terrorist Expatriation Act.

It should be renamed the American Citizen Expatriation Act.

The bill aims to strip Americans of their citizenship if suspected of affiliating with a foreign terrorist organization and are apprehended abroad. It would amend the 1940s bill, 8 USC 1481, which gives the federal government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship if they choose to fight for a foreign military force. So far, the White House appears to not support the bill.

Senator Joe Lieberman, the bill’s main architect, wants to expand 8 USC 1481.

“Because it just seems to me if you basically declare yourself to be an enemy of the United States you’re no longer entitled to the rights of citizenship,” he said.

While civil liberties groups are rightfully crying “unconstitutional” and pointing to the bill’s disregard for due process, Lieberman’s remarks reveal a more serious, and dangerous, assumption: That the rights of Americans are dependent on their status as citizens and therefore, may be taken away.

Deceased controversial comedian George Carlin is rolling over in his grave:

“Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away, they’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country is a bill of temporary privileges.”

But the U.S. Constitution wasn’t meant to protect “temporary privileges” — it was meant to recognize already existing human rights. Having these rights declared in the first ten amendments of a document doesn’t make them valid.

Actually, the Bill of Rights doesn’t even bother differentiating between citizens and non-citizens. Like the freedoms of expression and religious conviction, justice is not some privilege to be revoked. It is an inherent right — one that suspected terrorists own.

Veils, headscarves and religious intolerance

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, women's rights on April 23, 2010 at 12:40 am

“The level of hypocrisy in this debate beggars belief – while we criticize countries who force women to put clothes on, we can force them to take them off for the sake of ‘liberation.’ ” — Intissar Kherigi

Belgium is looking to be the first European country to ban the niqab — a traditional head scarf-veil combo worn by Muslim women that covers the entire face except for the eyes. Lawmakers say the niqab hides the identity of women and creates a barrier between them and society.

Parliamentary member Daniel Bacquelaine introduced the bill. He says such a garment isn’t acceptable in a “tolerant society.”

“We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen,” Bacquelaine said. “It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual.”

The move toward banning traditional Muslim veils and headscarves is a trend spreading across Europe. In 2004, France cited the principle of “secularism” as reason to outlaw headscarves in its schools.

The argument that such laws are necessary is a weak one. The argument that such laws promote “secularism” and “tolerance” is downright ridiculous. How can a law promote tolerance by being intolerant of individuals’ beliefs and choices?

Forcing Muslim women to remove the niqab is like forcing orthodox Jewish men to shave their beards. Both are worn because of deep, religious convictions.

To be sure, some Muslim women have no choice and are forced to cover themselves. As a feminist woman, I could not be more opposed to the wearing of garments such as the hijab, niqab and burka. To me, they are symbols of religious and patriarchal oppression. But my convictions do not give me the right to force Muslim women, or men, to forsake theirs.

As researcher for Human Rights Watch Judith Sunderland points out, the debate about whether or not to ban the niqab is really one about individual liberty:

“It’s really fundamentally about the proper role of the state in matters relating to religion and personal autonomy.”

John Stuart Mill and ‘social tyranny’

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights on March 10, 2010 at 1:35 am

I haven’t studied John Stuart Mill since high school and vaguely recall something about utilitarianism. But the other day a friend of mine gave me a copy of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Now I’ve only delved into the first chapter so I’m not exactly well-versed on Mill’s philosophy.

However, I was introduced to his concept of “social tyranny.” Basically, social tyranny is the collective “voice” of the people drowning out that of the individual. It is majority rule or rule by the loudest.

Mill contends that social tyranny is more dangerous than government tyranny because “it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the souls itself.”

Social tyranny is the reason I fear socialism. It is the reason I fear conservatism. Both ideologies mean well. They see problems within a society and try to remedy them through the “collective voice of the people” otherwise known as government and law.

But too often, the good-intentioned ideologues forget about the individual. Too busy envisioning the society they consider fair and just, they lose sight of liberty and inherent rights. Such is the case with legislation that attempts to define marriage, affirmative action and drug laws.

Is there a balance to be reached between individual rights and the collective good? I’m not sure. Perhaps Mill will enlighten me.

A digital revolution

In Individual Sovereignty, media on February 23, 2010 at 2:34 am

While most conservatives in America believe government is too powerful, leader of the British Conservative Party David Cameron, says its the people who are gaining control.

In Camerons opinion, control is shifting away from large national governments to the individual. In a recent TED talk, he attributed the transfer of power to the information revolution.

Weve gone from a world of local control, then we went to a world of central control, now were a world of people control, Cameron said. Were now living in a post-bureaucratic age where genuine people power is possible.

While the British Conservative Party and its leaders politics are far from perfect, Camerons belief in the empowerment of the individual through the information revolution is revolutionary. According to him, the revolution can alter both society and government.

We believe that if you give people more power and control over their lives, if you give people more choice, if you put them in the driving seat then actually you can create a stronger and better society, he said. And if you marry this fact with the incredible abundance of information that we have in our world today, I think you can completely, as Ive said, remake politics, remake government, remake your public services. 

The explosion of information and technology has dramatically changed the world in which we live. Most importantly, it has empowered individual users in ways never before imagined. Now it is the people, not a select few, that control the information flow.

Digital ‘strip searching’ at airports?

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, protest on February 16, 2010 at 3:16 am


A millimeter scanner

When I flew home for Christmas break on Dec. 19, I wasnt aware of the controversial body scanners TSA was beginning to employ. But after the failed attempt by the now notorious Christmas bomber, I realized my digital figure, minus boots, sweater and pants, had already been viewed by TSA agents.

Tulsa International Airport is among the 19 U.S. airports TSA has selected to use the full-body scanners. The scanners, like Supermans x-ray vision, produce digital images of a persons naked figure. While the renderings arent exactly pornographic, privacy advocates and civil rights groups have raised strong objection to the scanners.

Originally, TSA claimed the machines would only be used on persons requiring extra screening. Instead of a full-body pat down, passengers in question would be subjected to a 2-and-a-half second scan. However, as was the case at Tulsa, airports are instead using the machines for all passengers boarding. Unlike Londons Heathrow airport, passengers in the United States can opt for a full-body pat down.

There are two different types of the body scanners being used. The backscatter uses x-rays to scan and produce a realistic 2 dimensional image. The somewhat less-revealing millimeter scanner I was subjected to at Tulsa, uses terahertz waves to produce a 3D image. The latter appears to be the more widely used.

However, there are serious health concerns over the use of the millimeter scanner and terahertz waves. Terahertz waves lie on the electromagnetic spectrum between infrared and microwaves. An article in Technology Review says radiation from these waves could cause DNA strands to tear apart and interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication.

Privacy and health concerns have caused European Union President Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba to resist U.S. pressure to implement the scanners. He said a commission will first conduct studies to make sure the machines “are effective, do not harm health, and do not violate privacy.”

Hopefully, the United States will take note and similar precaution.

image produced by a millimeter scanner

image produced by a backscatter

Watch: Germanys Pirate Party members protest the use of airport body scanners in their underwear

Government: a ‘dangerous servant’

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights on February 10, 2010 at 4:08 am

To have a healthy fear of government is to understand human nature — its to understand ourselves.

I often hear people making fun of conspiracy theorists or those fearful of big government. After all, government is nothing more than the people. So what is there to fear?

First of all, government is not the people. Government is a representation of the people — or at least it should be. Secondly, inherent rights and power belong to persons, not groups. Government is a group and therefore a surrogate power. When we talk of issues such as civil rights or womens rights, it is the people constituting the group, not the group itself, that own the rights and, consequently, the power. This distinction may seem unnecessary but it is crucial.

Persons within a democratic republic give up some of their inherent power to the government in exchange for various interests. However, the power ultimately rests within the people.

The danger of government lies in the heart of humankind. Which one of us has not experienced the rush of being appointed to a position of power or at times sought to lord ourselves over others? The potential for power abuse among individuals pales in comparison to that of government — especially that of a superpower. Surely those tasked with buying up billion-dollar industries and bringing nations to their knees face tremendous temptation.

Because of this, it is a wise citizen who posses a healthy fear of, and keeps a consent watchful eye on, her government.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

— George Washington