Saturday, May 20, 2017

From the Archives: 3 Virginia legislators explain their votes against gay judge candidate

3 Virginia legislators explain their votes against gay judge candidate
May 20, 2012 3:52 PM MST

Virginia General Assembly gay judge Tracy Thorne-Begland
In separate interviews at the Fifth Congressional District Republican Convention on May 19, three members of the Virginia House of Delegates offered virtually identical explanations for their votes to reject openly-gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination to be a General District Court judge.

The rejection of Thorne-Begland made national headlines last week after a post-midnight roll call failed to return the 51 votes needed to approve his election as a judge who presides over traffic citations, minor crimes, and small claims. (In other states, the occupant of such a bench might be known as a magistrate or justice of the peace.)

None of the three, interviewed by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner on the grounds of Hampden-Sydney College near Farmville, mentioned the fact that Thorne-Begland is gay or that he is married to a same-sex partner. All said their vote was about Thorne-Begland's political activities during his tenure as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

‘Contrary to the oath’
Rob Bell General Assembly gay rights Virginia politics Albemarle Charlottesville
Delegate Rob Bell, who represents a district near Charlottesville, said that he voted “no” on the Thorne-Begland nomination.

Bell explained that he “thought the actions [Thorne-Begland] took while an active-duty military officer were contrary to the oath of office and the Military Code of Justice and I thought the actions he took thereby meant that I did not think he would be a good judge for Virginia.”

Delegate Danny Marshall represents the city of Danville and parts of Pittsylvania and Henry counties. He also voted to block Thorne-Begland’s election.

“I’m glad you asked why,” he said.

Noting that he is not a military veteran himself, Marshall said he listened “to the passion” of fellow legislators with military backgrounds.

‘Political agenda’
“When you go into the service,” he said the veterans explained to him, “you raise your right hand and say you will not use that uniform as a sounding board for any of your political agenda. He did that. He [wasn’t] supposed to do that. My concern was, if he’s already done something that he said he would not do, would he use that court to move his political agenda forward? That’s what I was worried about.”

Danny Marshall Virginia House of Delegates gay rights
Pointing out that he is not a lawyer, Marshall continued, “judges call balls and strikes. We as the General Assembly -- we set the laws. They don’t set the laws; they don’t set the agenda. We set the agenda and let them call balls and strikes. That’s my worry -- that he would do more than call balls and strikes.”

Asked about the election of two former members of the General Assembly, Clay Athey and Bud Phillips, as judges the same day that Thorne-Begland was rejected, Marshall argued there was a difference in the kinds of political activism in the three cases.

“We vote on 3,000 or so bills each year in the General Assembly,” he said, but the two former legislators did not have one issue that motivated them.

“Clay Athey or Bud Phillips did not have one issue they were worried [about]. Again, it’s 3,000 bills or so each year, so they didn’t have that animal rights issue or whatever issue, they did not have a single issue. This gentleman had a single issue” in his background, Marshall said.

‘Certainly qualified’

Delegate Marshall conceded that, “if you looked at his résumé, he was certainly qualified to do the job. I listened to the other lawyers in Richmond [and] he’s done a heck of a job in prosecuting people” in the city of Richmond.

“I was torn with this. From that side, he’s got the skills to do the job. My worry is,” he asked, “would he use being a judge to be an activist judge?”

Delegate Charles Poindexter, now in his third term, represents parts of Franklin and Henry counties and all of Patrick County. He also voted no on the Thorne-Begland nomination.

‘Pure, poor judgment’
Charles Poindexter Virginia General Assembly gay rights
He explained that “the gentleman took an oath when he entered the United States military to uphold the constitution and all the regulations and rules of the United States military. He did not do that. He broke that oath openly, willingly, and publicly several times – not just once but several times, even on television. Anyone would have got kicked out of service for that.”

That, Poindexter said, showed “pure, poor judgment. That’s not something you do. We were there to elect him to exercise good judgment on laws and people and events and circumstances.”

The vote against Thorne-Begland, he said, “had nothing to do with what the charge is about,” that is, the nominee’s being openly gay.

Instead, Poindexter argued, “he just used pure, bad judgment, did not demonstrate the integrity and character to be a judge, and I voted no.”

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 20, 2012. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

From the Archives: Attorneys Ted Olson, David Boies discuss Proposition 8 and gay marriage at Cato

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 18, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Attorneys Ted Olson, David Boies discuss Proposition 8 and gay marriage at Cato
May 18, 2011 2:40 PM MST

Rick Sincere Theodore Olson David Boies Cato Institute gay marriage
Two veteran Supreme Court litigators – former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson and David Boies (twice named Lawyer of the Year by the National Law Journal) – spoke at the Cato Institute on May 18. Their topic was not the National Football League’s labor dispute, in which they are each representing opposing sides, but rather a case on which they serve on the same team.

In May 2009, Olson and Boies – who had earlier represented opposite sides in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2000 presidential election case, Bush v. Gore – together filed suit in the state of California to challenge Proposition 8, a ballot measure from the previous November that prohibited same-sex marriage in that state. In August 2010, federal district judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional; its proponents have appealed the decision.

Observers immediately dubbed the two lawyers an “odd couple,” since it seemed unlikely, on its face, that a conservative Republican like Olson (who had served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush) would join forces with a Democrat like Boies (who represented Al Gore and worked for the late Senator Edward Kennedy on Capitol Hill) to uphold the rights of gay and lesbian individuals to marry.

‘History of discrimination’

It became clear during the panel discussion at the Cato Institute that both Olson and Boies are equally passionate about this issue. Olson noted that the “history of discrimination [against gay people] is quite unpleasant to reflect on,” and that denying individuals the right to marry on the basis of sexual orientation is akin to granting a person all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship but, by dint of his nationality, denying him the right to call himself a citizen.

Ted Olson gay marriage Cato Institute Rick Sincere Theodore Olson
Ted Olson
He pointed out that in the pre-Civil War slave era, slaves were prohibited from marrying because marriage would be a symbol of their independence, and that when emancipation came, slaves rushed to be married because it was a way of asserting their new freedom.

Similarly, Boies asserted that “we all have an interest in protecting individual rights against government discrimination.” He pointed out that his clients and the proponents of Prop 8 both agree that marriage is a fundamental right that has been confirmed 14 times by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Boies said that depriving gay and lesbian citizens of the right to marry seriously harms them and the children they are raising. And, he pointed out, there is no benefit to other people from depriving gay men and lesbians of the right to marry.

After the panel discussion – which also included comments from former White House chief of staff John Podesta and Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy – Ted Olson spoke briefly with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the case, which was originally designated Perry v. Schwarzenegger but is now called Perry v. Brown because of the change in governors in California.

Overwhelming evidence

With regard to the prospects for the case, which is now stalled in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals while some peripheral matters are being litigated, Olson said, “We hope that we’ll get ultimately to the Supreme Court and have the Supreme Court affirm the rights of gay and lesbian individuals to be treated equally and with decency and dignity, not just in the state of California but everywhere else. The badge of discrimination that’s engraved in the California constitution has to be eliminated.”

He added that the most surprising thing he encountered during the trial was the power of his team’s case.

“We were overwhelmed by the strength of our own case,” Olson said.

“Just to listen to the expert witnesses and to hear the evidence was overwhelming,” he explained. “We had strong convictions about our arguments but the fact that the evidence was so compelling beyond our expectations was very gratifying.”

Boies and Olson predicted that a ruling from the Ninth Circuit will come late this year or in early 2012, and that if the U.S. Supreme Court chooses to hear a further appeal, the high court’s decision is not likely for at least two years.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

From the Archives: Openly gay Navy veteran rejected for judgeship by Virginia legislature

Openly gay Navy veteran rejected for judgeship by Virginia legislature
May 16, 2012 1:40 AM MST

Virginia state capitol Richmond Thomas Jefferson architect General Assembly Rick Sincere
How often does a state legislature’s vote on the appointment of a local traffic-court judge win the attention of the New York Times, MSNBC, Washington Post, and other national news outlets?

Not often (if ever), except when, as in the case of Virginia judicial nominee Tracy Thorne-Begland, the proposed judge is openly gay and the only one of dozens of similar prospective judges rejected by the state House of Delegates.

Thorne-Begland, a prosecutor for the past decade in the Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, was sponsored by Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi and two colleagues to fill an open slot in the city’s General District Court, which has jurisdiction over traffic offenses, small claims, and petty crimes.

Bob Marshall intervenes

Thorne-Begland’s nomination was vociferously opposed by U.S. Senate candidate Bob Marshall, who represents Manassas and parts of Prince William County in the House of Delegates. Marshall said that Thorne-Begland, a Navy veteran who served as a pilot during the first Gulf War, was unsuitable for the job because of his previous activism on behalf of the civil rights of gay citizens and because he is legally married to his same-sex partner even though Virginia’s constitution forbids same-sex marriage.

Marshall argued that Thorne-Begland could not be trusted to uphold the law in a neutral, judicious manner because, like Marshall himself, he is outspoken on gay-rights issues.

Thirty-three legislators voted their approval of the nomination, which had sailed through the Republican-dominated Courts of Justice Committee without controversy. Thirty-one voted against the nomination, while ten abstained and 26 were absent for the 1:00 o'clock a.m. roll call. A majority of 51 votes was necessary for the nomination to succeed.

Social media outrage

Virginia lawmakers and voters took to social media to register their outrage at the vote.

Tracy Thorne-Begland Jennifer McLellan Virginia state senate gay rights
Shortly after the vote, at 1:16 a.m., Delegate Mark Keam (D-Fairfax County) tweeted a photo of the vote display board in the House of Delegates and said, “VA House voted down Tracy Thorne-Begland as a General District Court Judge. First nominee rejected in my 3 years here.”

State senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) posted on his Facebook wall:

“I'm glad this is being noticed and criticized widely! My worst day in nine years in the General Assembly. I can't imagine how Tracy Thorne-Begland feels.”

State senator Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) also posted on Facebook:

“The treatment that Mr. Thorne-Begland received by the General Assembly, well after midnight Tuesday morning, was disgraceful and offensive... Together with many of my fellow Virginians, I am embarrassed by what I witnessed take place early this morning.”

Elsewhere on Facebook, Richmond City Council member Charles Samuels wrote:

“It’s rare that I comment about the decisions of other elected bodies, but I have to say that the decision to vote down the judicial sponsorship of Mr. Tracy Thorne-Begland in the General District Court for the City of Richmond surprises, disappoints and frustrates me.”

Delegate Jennifer McLellan (D-Richmond) posted her floor speech on the matter on YouTube, noting that Thorne-Begland "was willing to fight and die for his country but he was not willing to lie about who he was to continue to serve."

On Twitter, the Virginia ACLU stated:

“We don't take positions on judicial [appointments], but shame on [Virginia] House for rejecting Thorne-Begland [because] he's gay.”

Lawyer Brian Schoeneman, a 2011 candidate for the House of Delegates, headlined an article on the widely-read Virginia politics web site, Bearing Drift, “Vote against openly gay judicial nominee another black eye for Virginia.”

Schoeneman wrote that “the vote last night was wrong. We let irrelevant issues cloud the real question – whether Thorne-Begland was qualified and would be competent in doing the job of a General District Court judge – with conjecture and character-assassination. Those are the only questions that matter, and we ignored them by bringing his past activism into play, especially when it would have little impact on the job.”

That article, published on a conservative web site, drew 71 comments by late Tuesday evening, a few favoring the negative vote against Thorne-Begland but most agreeing with the view that the vote was shameful.

Based on those comments and others, many Virginia political activists anticipate that this legislative vote will result in ridicule by late-night TV comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Jay Leno.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on May 16, 2012. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Guest Post: Race-Based Rhetoric is Inherently Un-American

by U.S. Representative Tom Garrett

Tom Garrett Congress Virginia Fifth Congressional District Charlottesville
Racism is an abhorrent institution, period. No one who believes they are better, worse, or unequal based on the color of their skin has a place in the District I represent or the America I defend. The charade that took place in Charlottesville on Saturday night was either criminally naïve or an intentional image meant to stoke the bigotry and intolerance that our Commonwealth fought to bury decades ago. Unfortunately, I am under the impression that it was the latter and I have no sympathy for those who embrace it. As I learned more about the gathering that occurred this weekend, purportedly to save the Lee statue from removal, I could not believe what I was hearing. While the First Amendment protects speech and expression, whoever thought that two hundred people carrying torches was anyway productive must have failed basic American history. Regardless of any cause they wanted to represent, their actions spoke for themselves in the message they delivered and that message should be rejected by all of us.

Race relations are a complex issue in the South, especially in Virginia, but I am proud of the special role the Fifth District has played in their progress. It is the home of flawless documents written by flawed men that created a system for all man to be treated as they were created, equally. It is home of General Lee’s surrender, the symbolic end to our bloodiest war and slavery. And it was home to Barbara Johns, a young spark in the Civil Rights movement who led her high school walkout against segregation and became the only student-initiated case in Brown v. Board of Education. These positive legacies inherently stem from dark pasts. We cannot forget where we came from, for progress will not seem as sweet. The pictures and chants of Saturday evening remind us of the darkness that once intimidated millions, but it will not intimidate us now.

I embrace an ideology rooted in protecting the ultimate minority – the individual. Collectivization based on race or any other distinguishing trait has no home in republican principles. These practices inherently divide us, run counter to our core, and regressively reject others from joining our cause. There is no home in my party—the party of our founding documents, the party of Lincoln, and the party that fought to pass the Civil Rights Act—for a race-based organization. For as much rhetoric as the modern Left uses to associate these actions with my party, I expected to see more of Virginia’s democratic leaders condemn these actions, yet Senator Kaine and Governor McAuliffe remain silent.

As a soldier, prosecutor, and legislator, I’ve devoted my life to defending American ideals. Anyone who believes the color of a person’s skin makes us different is an anathema to the values I’ve fought for. We must remove the plank from our own eyes and work together, regardless of partisanship, to reject these organizations and look beyond physical differences on our way to our more perfect union.

Source: Office of Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA5)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Guest Post: Don Quijote, Man of Free Markets

by Eric Clifford Graf

Economists from the Austrian School have long argued that the free-market mindset, which reached its pinnacle during the classical liberal period of the 18th and 19th centuries, traces its own origins back to the early modern period, especially the ideas of the neo-scholastic thinkers of 16th and 17th century Spain known as the School of Salamanca.

Eric Graf Cervantes Modernity Don QuixoteJust to name a few, men like Domingo de Soto (1494-1560), Martín de Azpilcueta (1491-1586), Diego de Covarrubias (1512-77), Luis Saravia de la Calle (1500s), Tomás de Mercado (1525-75), Luis de Molina (1535-1600), Juan de Mariana (1536-1624), and Felipe de la Cruz Vasconcillos (1500s) were keen to define, analyze, debate, and explain things like interest rates, the pricing of goods and services, the causes and effects of inflation, the advisability of different monetary policies, and the relation between supply and demand.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), author of the first modern novel, Don Quijote de la Mancha (part one, 1605; part two, 1615), was familiar with the School of Salamanca. As evidence, here are five major ideas at the core of free-market thinking which are also at the core of Don Quijote:

Subjective Value
Salamancan and Austrian economists embrace the notion that free and voluntary exchange implies that even two wrongs can make a right. If both of us leave happy, the “true” value of things we exchange matters less than the fact that we exchange them. Tastes, wants, and needs are subjective. Indeed, such differences are precisely why we produce stuff and trade it. Without them we would all be poor, starving brutes.

Examples of subjective value theory abound in Cervantes. For example, in Don Quijote Part 1 Chapter 21, Don Quijote, the eccentric hidalgo (gentleman) asks Sancho, “Do you not see that knight coming toward us, mounted on a dappled gray and wearing on his head a helmet of gold?” The squire is unconvinced: “What I see and can make out ... is just a man riding on a donkey that’s gray like mine, and wearing something shiny on his head.”

The Time Value of Money
In the Protestant world, men like John Calvin and Henry VIII began eroding usury laws around 1550. In Spain, the Salamancans debated. Saravia’s Instrución de mercaderes (1544) marked a transition between different ways of thinking about business; Mercado’s Suma de tratos y contratos (1569) advanced a liberal view of charging interest; Vasconcillos’s Tratado único de intereses (1637) indicated the basic injustice of borrowing money for free.

Cervantes’s critique of usury laws appears in Don Quijote Part 1 Chapter 4’s dialogue between the hero and Juan Haldudo regarding the back pay the peasant owes a shepherd. Don Quijote calculates that “nine months, at seven reales a month” comes to “73 reales,” which includes an interest of 10 reales. It’s a game of perspectives. If we laugh at Don Quijote, we endorse the official policy against interest; if we accept his calculation, we think like rational market participants.

By the way, a surcharge of 10 reales for the use of 63 reales for nine months, or 21% annually, was a reasonable rate around 1600.

Free-Labor Markets
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels credited Thomas Hobbes as an originator of their materialist assessment of how the world works. They liked Hobbes’s critique of metaphysical thinking but also his understanding of labor as a commodity subject to the law of supply and demand. A fundamental aspect of the transition from feudalism to bourgeois capitalism involved an awareness that we should compensate people for their property or services.

Hobbes was a serious reader of Don Quijote. Throughout the book, squire and hidalgo negotiate Sancho’s salary. In Part 1 Chapter 20, Sancho presses his master: “I would like to know ... just how much a squire made from a knight-errant in those days, and if they were paid on a monthly basis or daily, like bricklayers.” When Sancho threatens to go on strike in Part 2 Chapter 7, Sansón Carrasco, also known as “perpetual diversion and delight of the courtyards of the schools of Salamanca,” offers his services. Don Quijote perceives a market: “Did I not tell you, Sancho, that I would have plenty of squires from whom to choose?”

Stable Currency 

John Maynard Keynes observed that only one man in a million perceives the destructive effects of inflation. Hoping likewise, the Habsburg kings of early 17th-century Spain undertook the first modern industrialized production of fiat money to finance their wars, corruption, and extravagance. The results correlate well with the fall of the Spanish Empire marked by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 (see figure below). Artificially induced inflation was criticized by members of the School of Salamanca, especially Mariana. Philip III burned Mariana’s books and the Inquisition charged him with lèse-majesté – insulting the monarch, which was treason.

Purchasing power of the billon cuarto coin reverting to the market value of copper, 1597-1659. The maravedí was one of the era’s units of account. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

In Don Quijote Part 1 Chapter 1, the first metaphor in this greatest work of fiction involves a comparison between Rocinante’s hooves and the decayed purchasing power of the era’s quarter coins. Later, in Part 2 Chapter 17, Cervantes has his hero attack what is first described as the king’s money cart. It’s really a cart carrying the King’s lions, which refuse to fight with Don Quijote. But when he uses gold coins to tip the driver and the lion tamer, bribing them to say he vanquished the beasts, it’s symbolic: gold is a store of value against Philip III’s money. The narrator reports that the lion tamer “promised to relate that valiant deed to the King himself when he arrived at court.”

Sweet Commerce
Montesquieu’s notion of “doux-commerce,” a vision of the positive effects of trade, anticipated Adam Smith, James Madison, David Ricardo, Norbert Elias, Steven Pinker, and Niall Ferguson. Anticipating Montesquieu was Mariana, who said, “There’s nothing more excellent in human life than that good faith by which commercial relations are established and society among men is constituted.”

Don Quijote also concerns this lesson. The protagonist’s madness dissipates as he comes to terms with bourgeois virtues. In Part 1 Chapter 1, he is mismanaging his domestic economy such that not even Aristotle could help him. Just one chapter later, he learns that, unlike chivalric novels, the real world requires payment for goods and services. Fittingly, the innkeeper knights him by pretending to read Latin from an accounting ledger. By Part 1 Chapter 7, our hero grasps that he must finance his adventures: “Hawking one thing and pawning another, all for less than he should have, he came up with a reasonable amount.” Don Quijote is perhaps most bourgeois in Part 1 Chapter 44, where he quietly resolves, without his usual recourse to violence, a payment dispute between the innkeeper and two guests.

The greatest irony involving commerce in Don Quijote is that the marketplace rescues the novel from its own violence against itself. In Part 1 Chapter 9, the narrator explains how he acquired the continuation of the text that ended in the middle of the knight’s battle with the Basque in Part 1 Chapter 8. Asymmetrical information about bundles of paper the narrator finds in Toledo’s marketplace results in their purchase and then the employment of a local Morisco to translate them. Think about this: we couldn’t read the novel past Part 1 Chapter 8 were it not for the miracle of a multiethnic marketplace for goods and services.

Cervantes was a capitalist? An Austrian? A free-market Randian? A libertarian? An English liberal? I hedge by saying he was a precursor.

Nevertheless, when it comes to thinking about economics, there’s a tangible intellectual feedback mechanism amplifying the influence of the first modern novel: Salamancan thoughts on political economy influenced Cervantes; later, proto and classical liberals who also read Salamancans often validated their ideas while reading Don Quijote. John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Frédéric Bastiat were also intense fans. But that is another story.
Republished from PanAm Post.

Eric Clifford Graf Don Quixote economics Salamanca
Eric Clifford Graf (PhD, Virginia) is director, writer, and host of Universidad Francisco Marroquín’s Discover Don Quijote de la Mancha, a MOOC (“massive open online course”) available in both English and Spanish.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

#StarWarsDay Guest Post: What's So Bad about the Galactic Empire?

by Sean Malone

Everyone familiar with Star Wars knows that the Empire is bad, and the Rebellion is good.

But, why?

Seriously. What makes life under Emperor Palpatine so unbearable, and what would make life under the New Republic so much better, for the ordinary citizens of the galaxy? The movies offer surprisingly little information as to what's actually wrong with Imperial rule.

Now, I'm not talking about blowing up planets or Anakin murdering Jedi children. I'm talking about the daily lives of ordinary citizens. People who don't have any connection to the Sith or the Jedi or the battle for the Senate or any of that stuff.

Sure, behind closed doors, Emperor Palpatine is secretly a Sith Lord who can shoot light bolts from his hands. That definitely seems evil, but, according to the movies, nobody but a few Jedi even knows about it. He doesn't walk down the street electrocuting random peasants.

For the most part, his brutality seems to be limited to confrontations with the Rebel Alliance.

And yeah, Darth Vader is one of the most intimidating villains of all time, and he's obviously a menace to Rebellion soldiers and the Jedi, b
ut imagine you're just some ordinary moisture farmer going about his business on Tatooine. Unless your name is Owen Lars, Darth Vader almost certainly doesn't care about you. He's mainly interested in finding Luke Skywalker. So the question is, what would it mean to live in a Galaxy "ruled" by the Empire, and why is it the ultimate depiction of Tyranny in popular culture?

Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace
The more I've thought about this, the more I have struggled to come up with an answer based on anything actually depicted in the films themselves.

Part of the problem is that in most Star Wars movies, the characters are all fighting in a single political struggle. And apart from Padme's interminable dialogue about Senatorial procedure in the Prequels, there's almost no discussion of governing philosophy in the entire series.

Ask yourself: What does the Rebel Alliance stand for besides the destruction of the Empire, and what does the Empire stand for apart from maintaining power?

In A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin at least offers some insight into the Empires operation, when he explains that regional governors have “complete control” over their territories.

But, what does that actually mean? What policies does the Emperor want to be enforced across the Galaxy? What is it that he's actually imposing on his citizens that requires multiple planet-destroying superweapons to enforce?

I mean, I get that Palpatine wanted power, but, what does he actually do with it?

Once he acquired political control over the Galaxy, did he ban gay marriage? Droid marriage? Gay droid marriage? Did he ban books and restrict speech? Does Star Wars even have books? Did he nationalize (or “Galactize”) major industries?

For something that's so important to the story, Star Wars doesn't really even try to answer these questions.

When Liberty Dies

But here's what we do know.

First, there's a lot of smuggling in the Star Wars universe. And that probably means that there are a lot of laws and regulations making various goods and services costly or illegal. Prohibiting or restricting trade creates Black Markets, it can also impoverish many people and make their lives much harder when they can't access the things that they want and need.

Even though it's the invisible fabric of everyone's daily life, commerce doesn't really seem to exist in the Star Wars universe at all, but one way the Empire could be ruining people's lives is by controlling what gets bought, sold, or traded; dictating prices; or by taxing everything so much that even basic necessities become impossible to afford.

Another thing we know is that the Imperial military uses its power against citizens of the Empire, and not just in terms of collateral damage.

In Star Wars: Rebels, Storm Troopers and other Imperial agents are often seen conscripting innocent people into their armies and seizing their property without compensation. More recently, in Rogue One, we see a Star Destroyer hovering over a Kybur Crystal mine, and the Empire appears to force people to work in the mines in order to acquire key components of the Death Star.

We might assume that the Imperial military gets many or most of its supplies and resources through similar means – stealing from people around the galaxy, taking their property by force. But that assumes some kind of property rights, and that's never fully established in that world.

Star Wars The Force AwakensAnd there's one more terrible thing we know about the Empire from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Reformed Storm Trooper Finn (FN-2187) explains to Rey that he was actually taken from his family as a child, conscripted into the Imperial Army, and trained to be a soldier. That's a form of slavery that many real-world governments have used throughout history. Sadly even the United States government still has the power to draft its citizens into war, though that hasn't happened for decades.

Unfortunately, Star Wars never actually wrestles with these issues in any meaningful way.

It seems to assume that the major difference between a "good" world and a "bad" world is the presence of Democracy, but that's hardly a guarantee. Many Democratic leaders have created misery for their citizens and even used Democracy to amass power and become dictators themselves – just like Emperor Palpatine did.

I think the idea that a Senator becoming Chancellor becoming the Emperor works so well in the film because it's so true to what we actually see in real life. And when Padme says “This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause,” she gets to the real issue here.


The only answer to this question that actually makes sense is that the Empire is an awful place to live because its people lack individual freedom.

Citizens of the Empire aren't secure in their possessions and property. They can't go where they want without being stopped by Imperial forces. They can be imprisoned or forced into an army without a trial or the opportunity to say no, and restrictions on trade and commerce make them poor and condemn them to getting what they need from dangerous black markets, smugglers, and gangsters.

If the Rebellion stands against that, then they are true heroes.

Sean Malone Star Wars liberty #StarWarsDay
Sean Malone is the Director of Media at FEE. His films have been featured in the mainstream media and throughout the free-market educational community.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

From the Archives: 30 years on, Swedish scholar revisits Friedman’s ‘Free to Choose’ in new film

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 30, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

30 years on, Swedish scholar revisits Friedman’s ‘Free to Choose’ in new film
April 30, 2011 10:54 PM MST

Free or Equal Johan Norberg Milton Friedman Free to ChooseBeginning in August, PBS television stations around the country will have the opportunity to broadcast a new documentary film, Free or Equal, presented by Swedish free-lance writer and Cato Institute senior fellow Johan Norberg.

Free or Equal revisits and distills some of the ideas found in Milton Friedman’s 10-part documentary series, Free to Choose, originally produced in 1980, focusing on the Nobel laureate’s views about the struggle between freedom and equality. Its release also coincides with a yearlong run-up to the centenary of Friedman’s birth.

In an interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner on Friday, April 29, after a special preview screening of Free or Equal at the Cato Institute's Hayek Auditorium, Norberg said that “I was an admirer of the [Free to Choose] series. When I was developing my own ideas on some different subjects, I was quite impressed by this.”

Still relevant after 30 years
As the 30-year anniversary approached, Norberg explained, “we thought, ‘How can we update this and show that these ideas are extremely relevant to the kind of discussion that we’re having [today] about spending, taxation, debts, bailouts, stimulus packages, all those things?'”

Compressing the ten hours of Friedman’s original series into the sixty minutes of Free or Equal required some creativity on the part of Norberg and the producers.

“I really had to skip most of our ideas to be able to do that, but we figured that it’s important to just get it out there and try to touch upon those important principles,” he explained. “Then if people are interested, we’re doing other things and a lot of other people are doing great things on expanding these ideas and getting them out there.”

This documentary, he added, is "in a way, a teaser.”

Vantage points
Norberg and his crew traveled to three continents and several different countries both to do research and to film on location, sometimes from the same vantage points that Friedman used in Free to Choose three decades ago.

Johan Norberg Free or Equal Milton Friedman freedom economics
“The most important stops along the way,” Norberg said, were the United States, Sweden, and Hong Kong, “because we thought that we should pick some sort of extremes in the way we’re thinking of political/economic alternatives.”

Free or Equal is not Johan Norberg’s first film.

“I have made films before,” he noted, “but mostly they’re based on my books. I’ve written a book on globalization and I made a documentary about that [Globalisation Is Good]. I wrote a book on the financial crisis, and I made a documentary about that [Overdose].”

It is a challenge, Norberg added, to make a documentary film, which requires a different sort of process than writing a book does.

“The processes are different,” he explained, because "what you’re doing when you’re writing is constantly expanding on your subjects and finding different things that you have to explain. Then you write a chapter about that, you do more research and so on.”

In contrast, "it’s really the opposite when you’re doing a documentary,” Norberg continued. “You have the ideas and then you’re trying to narrow it down, you’re trying to simplify it as much as possible, and make sure that you try to cover as much as [you can] in very, very little time.”

There is, he said, “almost nothing left of a book when it’s on the screen for an hour.”

Teenage anarchy
Norberg came to libertarian ideas after a period as an adolescent anarchist in his native Sweden.

“I started out as an anarchist in high school, neither left nor right, just generally opposed to authority and big things, big government, and big business,” he said.

He chuckled and explained:

“What made me more interested in classical liberal and libertarian ideas was my meetings with other anarchists and realizing that a lot of them really thought that, ‘Yeah, we want freedom for everything but not if people really start a factory or employ people because then we’re going to go over there and punch them.’”

At that point, he thought, “'Hmm, that’s not really according to my principles.'”

He was reaching for other ideas and, in a time before the World Wide Web and the Internet, he found them in the library.

He first discovered “the Manchester liberals -- Cobden and Bright -- and Adam Smith,” and then he found “modern libertarians” like Friedman and Nozick, as well as Ayn Rand, “slowly and steadily realizing that I probably agree more with them.”

In the months between now and August, when Free or Equal hits people’s homes, Norberg will be lecturing about the ideas in the film and about Milton Friedman himself, and also will be releasing clips from the movie and “sending them around the world.”

While Free or Equal has been made available for PBS stations to broadcast, “it’s up to individual stations around the country” to choose to use it, Norberg explained.

If people are interested in seeing the film on TV, he said, they should call or email their local PBS program directors and request that they schedule Free or Equal for broadcast in their communities.

“That will help to get it out,” Norberg said.

Suggested Links

'Atlas Shrugged' movie: Audience reactions mixed, box office returns respectable
UVA historian explains Ayn Rand's unusual popularity in 2010
Revisiting a libertarian classic - Charles Murray's 'In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government'
After Microsoft and Google, is Apple next in line for a parasitical government shakedown?
'Deep doo-doo': Virginia author Jim Bacon warns of coming financial crisis in 'Boomergeddon'

Saturday, April 29, 2017

From the Archives: Senate candidate E.W. Jackson defends anti-gay stance as ‘fundamental’

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 29, 2012. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Senate candidate E.W. Jackson defends anti-gay stance as ‘fundamental’
April 29, 2012 7:26 PM MST

In a previous interview on, which he featured on his campaign Twitter feed, Virginia Senate candidate E.W. Jackson said that he thinks “we maximize individual freedom [and] we let people make their own choices, where those choices don’t impinge on the life, the liberty, or the property of others,” adding that under those conditions, “we’re going to always be a better country for it. We persuade people of what is right and decent and good and moral; we don’t try to force it on them.”

Jackson was one of the participants in a debate on April 28 in Roanoke sponsored by the Republican Party of Virginia. He and other GOP primary candidates George Allen, Bob Marshall, and Jamie Radtke answered questions about policy topics from a panel of political activists.

‘Fundamental rights’
After the debate, the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner asked Jackson to restate his position on government non-interference in the moral lives of citizens.

“Where life is concerned, where property rights are concerned, in other words, when the fundamental rights of other citizens are concerned,” Jackson said, “I think government certainly has a role and our constitution indicates it’s supposed to secure those rights for other citizens.”

He added, however, that “if that’s not what’s at stake, then yes, I tend to believe that we are better off when we are freer to make our own decisions and to chart the course of our own lives without the government telling us what we should and should not do and, frankly, I think most Americans feel that way, given the overreach of this government.”

Not a libertarian

E.W. Jackson gay marriage Senate debate Virginia politics
To follow up, Jackson was asked how that position is consistent with his stated policy stance on prohibiting same-sex marriage and supporting the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“For me,” he replied, “the issue of marriage is a fundamental issue. It’s a fundamental moral and spiritual issue and I don’t think that the state should be sanctioning marriage between other than a man and a woman.”

Jackson conceded that he would not call himself a libertarian and added that “I don’t know that libertarians would call me a libertarian,” but that what he had said previously is that “libertarians like me because they know I lean very strongly into keeping government out of the lives of people.”

With regard to gay marriage, he added, “you’ve got to remember, what is really happening there is that people who want homosexual marriage are inviting the government to put its imprimatur on what they want to do and to change 6,000 years of human history and 200 years of American policy. So in my view, they’re the ones who are trying to use the government to intrude upon those of us who believe that marriage as it is is just fine.”

‘Affecting our culture’
The next question was how Jackson would be affected if the gay couple next door were to get married.

“I’m talking about it affecting society, affecting our culture in the long term,” he answered.

“I would turn the question around and say, if you’re going to upend 6,000 years of human history, it is incumbent upon you to prove to me that somehow we’re going to be better off with that.”

Asked whether “gay people and abortion” are the only exceptions to his general view that the government should not interfere in citizens’ private lives, Jackson replied:

“Well, I don’t know that I would limit it, as you put it, ‘gay people and abortion.’ I think it would have to be something you’d have to look at on a case by case basis. Look, you have to remember something. We’re called to represent the constitution, to represent the people of the United States. We’re also called to represent our own consciences.”

Podcast available
A complete audio recording of this interview with E.W. Jackson is available as a Bearing Drift podcast.

Friday, April 28, 2017

From the Archives: A look back at efforts to put the brakes on government growth since 1980

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 28, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

A look back at efforts to put the brakes on government growth since 1980
April 28, 2010 3:13 PM MST

John Samples is the director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of a new book published this month called The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History.

Samples spoke about his book at a Cato briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 28, on a panel with Representative F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

After the panel discussion – which was recorded by C-SPAN for future broadcast – ended, Samples responded to a few brief questions from the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner.

Limiting Government Cato Institute government John Samples libertarian Rick Sincere
Summing up his book, Samples said that it “looks at the effort to limit the federal government and, in some ways, to roll it back, after 1980. To understand what happened in that period, I look back to the 1930s and forward to the 2006 election.

“It’s really the story,” he said, “of trying to bring about some limits on the federal government, how it succeeded, how it failed, and why.”

During the Capitol Hill briefing, Samples mentioned the Tea Party movement and the effect it might – or might not – have on politics and elections. Are the roots of the Tea Party movement libertarian? Yes and no, Samples explained.

Spontaneous Tea Parties
Any kind of spontaneous movement in the way the Tea Party has been, he said, “is going to have a number of different people with a number of different views.”

However, he added, “because it arose specifically in response to an expansion of the federal government in the summer of 2009 … I think the core of this movement is a great dissatisfaction with that basic change – a big change – in the scope of American government.”

In other words, although various issues might be brought up at any given Tea Party gathering, Samples said, “the core is basically a concern about what’s going to happen in the United States with a large federal government.”

Comparing the election year of 2010 with the two years he examines in his book, 1980 and 1994, Samples found both similarities and differences.

1980, 1994, 2010
“In 1994 the economy was not too bad. In 1980 the whole modern movement came to power in the person of Ronald Reagan, because the 1970s had been very poor economically.”

John Samples Cato Institute libertarian limited government Rick Sincere
That suggests, he said, because we’ve had rough economic times since late 2007 or early 2008, “that we’re in a similar period and that sooner or later we may see a strong revival” in which “America goes back to its roots, in many ways, and one of its roots is a kind of limited government,” particularly with regard to the economy.

So I think all things considered, we may be something like that now – more like 1980 than ’94.

One difference with 1994, he added, was that that year also manifested itself in “a crisis of governing. You had a lot of corruption. A surprising number of Members of Congress had either been thrown out or were under investigation.”

Moreover, Samples said, “you also had a sense in ’94 that this dominant majority that had been in power for 40 years was so entrenched that you couldn’t actually vote them out.”

That, he said, contrasts with 2010:

“I think that doesn’t exist now. We may see huge swings in House membership in 2006, 2008, and again in 2010.” The electorate, he said, “can really make a difference in a way that they were frustrated in ’92 and 1990.”

Regardless of what happens in 2010, however, Congressman Sensenbrenner warned at the beginning of the panel discussion that in order to put the brakes on spending, “we are going to have to dance the dance again,” and that will require a “trifecta in 2012” – that is, an election that results in Republican control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

Monday, April 24, 2017

From the Archives: Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 24, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas assesses two years of the Tea Party
April 24, 2011 12:34 AM MST

Radio host Joe Thomas Charlottesville Tea Party
Since its first rally on April 15, 2009, the Jefferson Area Tea Party has sponsored two more Tax Day rallies, in addition to events on Independence Day and regular meetings for its members and supporter at various locations in and around Charlottesville.

The group’s latest Tax Day event took place on Friday, April 15, at the Free Speech Monument near Charlottesville’s City Hall. The emcee was WCHV radio talk-show host Joe Thomas, bedecked in colonial-era costume.

After the rally ended and the crowd began to disperse – or to stick around and attend the first Fridays After Five concert of 2011 – Thomas spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about the state of the Tea Party movement, the issues that have persisted for the past two years, and the release of Atlas Shrugged-Part One.

Tea Party rhetoric
Thomas worries that the Tea Party movement could be co-opted by professional political consultants.

"There’s been a change in the rhetoric” since the Tea Party first surfaced in early 2009, Thomas said, “but remember, politics, as we have it right now, is driven by a very, very smart group of consultants. They see the 1,500 people we had at the first Tax Day Tea Party rally [and] every Tea Party rally across the country, and they say, ‘We have to work the language of the Tea Party into the rhetoric.’”

The economy is uppermost in Thomas’ mind, as it is with many Tea Party activists.

“Something that was said here is very important: one month’s worth of interest on the debt covers seven or eight very major departments’ entire budgets,” he pointed out.

“We need to realize that the borrowing is what’s going to kill the country,” Thomas explained. “This country is strong because it was one of the great marketplaces. The citizens of this country consume goods from around the world and other countries want to sell here. If our dollar stops being valuable, as it will if they continue to print [more money], that’s when we fail.”

Core focus
Thomas believes there has been consistency in the Tea Party’s ability to focus on a few central issues and not be distracted.

radio host Joe Thomas Charlottesville Tea Party
“The core is still about the taxing and the spending,” he said.

“How many groups,” he asked, “have libertarians and Moral Majority crowds in the same group?”

That may engender some “friction that the Tea Party feels sometime,” Thomas suggested. “Do they go to the social right or to the libertarian right?”

Despite this source of potential conflict, he said, the Tea Party has “stayed focused on the economic ground,” echoing the advice James Carville gave to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

With regard to the possible social/fiscal split, Thomas counseled: “If we can afford to live and we can afford to pay our bills, the rest can be handled between adults.”

‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the movie
Thomas suggested that the growth and success of the Tea Party may have been partially responsible for the long-awaited release of a movie based on Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.

“I know that they had been working on [the movie] for some time,” he said, noting that he had interviewed Objectivist philosopher David Kelley of the Atlas Society, who had been an advisor to the producers of the film.

Kelley told him, he said, that the project “really started to move forward when they started to see the interest in the libertarian mindset of the Tea Party.”

Seeing that, he said, the producers thought, “‘Now may be the time to get this moving.’”

Joe Thomas can be heard weekdays from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. on WCHV radio (1260 AM and 107.5 FM). He also cohosts “The Afternoon Constitutional,” on WCHV-FM in Charlottesville and on WFJX-AM in Roanoke.