(CCU Student) Economic freedom in the USA is unmatched, right? Wrong, according to a policy briefing given today at The Heritage Foundation, which I attended as part of my CCU Washington semester.
Ambassador Terry Miller, Director of Heritage's Center for International Trade and Economics, spoke on the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, co-published by Heritage and the Wall Street Journal. The Index scores 179 economies from around the world on ten factors in four major areas: rule of law (property rights and freedom from corruption), limited government (fiscal freedom and government spending), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, and monetary freedom), and open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom). The Index is in its eighteenth publication this year. The Index in its entirety can be found at www.heritage.org/index.
The Index indicated that the United States actually fell from ninth to tenth in the global rankings. According to the data provided in the back of the index, the U.S has not enjoyed a status of "free" since 2009, when our rating was an 80.7. Since then, the rating has dropped 4.4 points to a 76.3, placing us squarely in the "mostly free" category, along with other countries such as Japan, Qatar, and Austria. This shift downwards comes not only from the recession itself; the economic policy choices made as a result of the recession have hindered economic freedom and growth. If we want our ranking to begin returning to a status of "free", we need to remove burdensome regulations and limit federal spending on failed stimulus packages.
On a global scale, economic freedom has been on the decline. Much of this is due to the recession policies, where governments attempting to spend their way out of the recession generally tend to limit free enterprise practices. There has also been a rise in federal government corruption and a general lack of the rule of law, which also tends to lessen economic freedoms. On the positive side, many countries are now lowering their corporate tax rates or converting to a flat tax system. This tax reform is a great way to entice businesses to start or remain in-country and has created competition between countries of who can have the best business-friendly environment. Inflation is also declining as markets are beginning to slowly recover from the recession.
The biggest gainer was Zimbabwe. Currently, Zimbabwe places next to last in the ratings, ahead of only North Korea, but they improved 4.2 points from last year to a 26.3. Key areas of growth were business, labor, and trade freedom, government spending, and property rights. Obviously, there is still much room for improvement, but it proves that with the right policies in place, everyone can move up in the world.
The biggest loser was Greece. This year, Greece placed 119 with a 55.4, dropping 4.9 points from last year. The two key areas of decline? Government spending and labor freedom. This correlates very well with the current debt crisis that has recently caused Greece to pass an austerity plan with the hopes of receiving more loans from the EU.
Overall, there is hope. As economies become more globally integrated, more opportunities for economic flourishing are created. Competition for markets will increase, driving governments all around the world to create better and freer environments for business. As such, poverty worldwide will decline, and quality of life will increase for everyone.
(Denver Post, Jan. 29) So now we’ve heard the State of the Union according to Obama and the State of the State according to Hickenlooper. We’ve seen Gingrich’s debating prowess and Romney’s tax returns, Santorum’s sweaters and Ron Paul’s scowl. But how much does that really tell us about the shape America is in? If we’re not the land of the free, we’re nothing, right? Economists James Gwartney, Robert Lawson, and Joshua Hall, like a team of doctors taking your vitals before surgery – the operation in this case being the potential removal of elected officials across the land – bring grim news that Americans’ freedom to better ourselves economically has slid drastically in this decade. Hardly the change we hoped for.The authors’ “Economic Freedom of the World 2011,” a data-rich report from the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, BC, uses five indicators to rank 141 countries on how well they allow you and me to work toward affluence, keep what we earn, and use it as we choose, free from government interference. Since 2000, our country fell down the scale faster than almost any nation on earth.Notice that this occurred under various combinations of unified and divided control in Washington. The unrelenting trend, with bipartisan culpability, has been “liberty yielding and government gaining ground,” as Thomas Jefferson warned. Notice too that the report’s data end in 2009. The humongous deficits and health-care takeover since then have only worsened our score.America still ranks 10th in the Fraser global index (exactly where we place in another valuable economic-freedom scorecard just updated by the Heritage Foundation). But look who’s ahead of us: Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Chile, the United Kingdom, and tiny Mauritius. Then blush to see the company we’re in among the getting-less-free-fastest club: only the Latin caudillo regimes of Venezuela and Argentina, and the North Atlantic basket cases of Iceland and Ireland, have regressed as badly as Uncle Sam did in recent years. No wonder big majorities are now telling pollsters they believe we’re in decline and will leave our kids a narrower horizon of opportunity.But not all the tidings are bad. Colorado as a state, when ranked against our 49 sisters and the 10 Canadian provinces by another team of Fraser Institute scholars in “Economic Freedom of North America 2011,” trails only Alberta (the oil-rich neighbor whom Obama spurned with his Keystone pipeline veto), Delaware, Texas, and Nevada. We actually gained one place over the previous year, 2008 to 2009.This result again, paralleling the experience in Washington, has been achieved even as party control seesawed at the state capitol. You can be sure that’s mostly because our Colorado constitution, unlike the federal constitution, has a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to restrain government growth. And partisans on both sides shouldn’t forget that the North America scorecard (EFNA) has a two-year data lag exactly as the world rankings do. Hence it doesn’t reflect the Democrats’ “dirty dozen” tax increases in 2010, nor the Republicans’ sad 2011 performance with a state enabling bill for Obamacare and no effort to repeal Bill Ritter’s car tax – er, fee.Fraser rates the 60 states and provinces on 10 criteria under the headings of size of government, takings and discriminatory taxation, and labor market freedom. If Colorado had passed Right to Work in 2008, we’d rank even higher. And that’s not just a bragging point. EFNA includes statistical proof that living standards rise in a state with almost 1:1 correlation to the rise of economic freedom. Occupying the best cabin on a sinking ship counts for little, however. If the Canadians, Brits, and Aussies continue outdistancing the U.S. in that precious freedom Jeb Bush has called “the right to rise,” all of our red- and blue-state political cheering will be just so much white noise.
(CCU Student) Yesterday I took part in a meeting with John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, and others for a planning and update session on the direction of the Centennial Institute and our effectiveness of spreading the principles of freedom and the values of 1776. In my time at CCU, I have had the privilege of watching the Centennial Institute act as a beacon of truth and a forum for healthy debate and political discourse that is gaining popularity in Colorado and is growing on the radar screen of the Conservative movement. In our session, we had a preview of things to come such as policy briefs, guest speakers, and our capstone event of the year: Western Conservative Summit. I cannot divulge much but I will say that it looks like we are in for a treat this July.
Sitting in on the meeting was a Fellow of the Centennial Institute, Kevin Miller. Formerly dean of the CCU Business School, he is the author of the recently published Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally - or Socialism. In his book, Miller proposes that for too long the Conservative movement has focused entirely on instilling virtue on a federal level. What is really needed is virtue on a local level and freedom on a national level. Looking at Miller’s argument, I could not agree more with his thesis.
Even since the Great Society of LBJ, the conservative movement has attempted to instill virtue into the national government. Because the Progressives have done it for so long, we now believe we have to take the virtuous Conservative agenda to courts and to congress. However, they have failed to recognize a very critical truth, that without local virtue, we cannot hope to initiate a virtuous government. If the government is a reflection of the people and the society, then create a virtuous society at the local level. The federal government will follow. The American system as the founders intended is a two way street of freedom and virtue that begins with the individual.
It would seem that in recent history that the Socially Conservative movement has been on a crusade to such proposals as gay marriage. As long as these pillars of the Liberal agenda remain, nothing else matters. However, what these well-meaning individuals fail to recognize is that you cannot put a virtuous law into place without a virtuous society to hold it up. Any engineer will tell you that this method could never work in setting upon a structure, so why on earth will it ever work in the structure of the American legal system? We cannot make government the champion of a moral cause because government was never meant to be a judge of morality. Morality can only be left to God and his relationship with an individual.
When written into law, virtue is no longer virtuous. Compliance with a law and doing the right thing are totally different things. Do I follow the speed limit out of the goodness of my heart and concern for the safety of others? No. I don’t speed because I don’t want to pay a ticket. The same goes for trying to instill virtues into the government. Are we going to get rid of homosexuality in America by banning same-sex marriage? Are we going to eradicate abortion (which some call murder) and broken families by repealing Roe v Wade? To think so would be foolish. Where many in the Conservative movement are missing their mark is thinking that stopping symptoms cures the disease.
What is needed in the United States is true freedom on the national level. Only in this environment can true virtue exist. If Conservatives and Christians want their government to reflect their virtues, then they need to get society to reflect those virtues first. So rather than waste time at a protest of an abortion clinic, perhaps I should simply witness to others and attempt to win them into the kingdom of God. History has proven the effectiveness of God’s word on a society. But such occurrences as the Great Awakening or the Enlightenment occurred within societies and on an individual basis before they impacted nation-states in a political manner. It is when Christians try to make theology political and cultural that counter movements arise and take the government in a different direction.
If our desire is for America to be a great nation, we first need to make Americans great people. When our society is great, the government will be forced to follow. But unfortunately there is a massive moral deficit in this country that is far more dangerous than the economic deficit. By and large, Americans have allowed themselves to become materialistic and shallow. Our society operates in the realm of instant gratification and entitlement. We allow our role models to be upstanding individuals like Tiger Woods, Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, and the cast of Jersey Shore. Rather than study men like John Locke and Jesus Christ, we study the latest scandal coming out of the NFL or the latest news from the stock market. And yet Americans are surprised when individuals in government and power behave in a base and immoral manner. Why are we surprised when politicians are found to be living in infidelity when many American families are falling victim to unfaithful spouses? When many American citizens are guilty of frivolous spending and accruing debt, we should not be shocked to find our government in a similar state.
What is needed is a return to virtue on the part of the average American. Without such action, we can never hope to recover our government and restore our nation. Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this about America; that our government fostered the freedom to choose virtue and virtue allowed for a free people because virtue restrained the desires of the flesh. Without this unique relationship, neither virtue nor freedom can ultimately succeed. Without it, America cannot hope to succeed.
(CCU Student) Valentines weekend treated the economically inclined individuals very well this past weekend with the release of a movie trailer that has excited all the believers of supply side economics. On April 15, 2011, or "tax day", many individuals will be placing their full efforts towards mailing in the controversial 'income tax' mandated by the federal government. This year, director Paul Johansson introduces a film adaption to one of the most powerful novels of all time, Atlas Shrugged, which displays mere irony to the significance of its release date. The awareness of this novel is a gem in the advocacy of expanding your free market ideology; in addition, this movie will deeply challenge each and every individual in their understanding of history and political economy.
Written in 1957 by author Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged tells the story of Dagny Taggart, a railroad heiress that attempts to maintain the integrity and profitability of her family business in a politically corrupt era of government intervention. Dagny feels the forces of government and society pressuring her to abandon her free enterprise, and she faces the daunting task of making sense of the disappearance of fellow private industrialists one by one. As free choice and competition begin to slowly decay, Daphne seeks revelations that will ultimately challenge her views, and force her to decide between fighting in her world for economic freedom, or leaving behind everything she has ever valued.
Many economists notion the writing of this novel as a foreshadowing of modern United States economics in a world that is currently portraying similar attributes of those displayed of government in Atlas Shrugged. While this movie has been broken down into two parts (Most print versions consist of over 1,300 pages), Part 1 will without doubt leave its audience on the edge of their seat for the final Part; to be released undoubtedly in the near future. For any student that is looking for a movie that will challenge the very basis of your understanding paradoxical relationship between the government and the market, I could not recommend your viewership any higher. Through this on screen adaption of Rand's free market principles, you will see capitalism in a new light, and comprehend the immediate dangers of a socialistic society. This is an excellent opportunity to expose yourself to arguably the most influential economic wonder of all time coming to theaters on April 15, 2011.
Thursday, 16 December 2010 10:39 by Admin
Centennial Institute Fellow Kevin Miller has brought out a book-length treatment of his provocative essay on freedom and virtue in American politics, published last year in Centennial Review. Freedom Nationally, Virtue Locally - or Socialism was released Nov. 29 by Denali Press. Learn more and order the book here.
Bill Armstrong, the former US senator who now heads Colorado Christian University, says the book is "full of passion, wisdom, and horse sense... Kevin Miller is an important thinker." John Andrews, director of Centennial Institute, calls it a guidebook for helping "conservatives rediscover the 'render to Caesar principle," without which "America won't remain the land of the free."
Miller's argument in brief, adds James C. Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Peoples Will Lead the World in the 21st Century, is that "while freedom is an attribute of political system, virtue is an attribute of human beings -- and so the attempt to use the state to pursue visions of virtue is undermining the republic of the Founders."
(CCU Student) Outside of the encapsulated paradise, Adam and Eve fled once man chose the path of sin. Regardless of interpretation, personal exegetical views, or interpretation, reasonably prudent readers of the Bible (Christian or non) can agree that when sin was first experienced—reality immensely shifted. Further extensioning, the presence of sin insured economic systems would ALL be fallible in some regard.
Two modern paradigms I would like to bring up are North and South Korea. Interestingly, one being the least free economic system in the world, the other being amongst the top three least government controlled economies.
Radically opposite but not quite, people in the North live in an ubiquitous society where deification, animalistic-dehumanizing, incarceration, and public execution are nationwide tools used to instill obedience, fear, and extend loyalty. People in the South are economically free to act as Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and self-deterministic thinkers would advocate.
Although the two radically oppose each other on many levels—they still have two things in common: (1) sin and (2) levels of economic fallibility. What does this mean and why should we care? It means hoity-toity critics proposing liberation theology need to take a step back and examine the root cause of tyranny by undertaking the opposite root (or route): selecting donation to charities, aiding the poor, funding operations for those who cannot afford them, but by no means should we trust a state to dictate whether I do so and to what extent. It means Christians need to acknowledge that free-systems of government propagate extenuating social freedom to evangelize; while further understanding that there WILL be places to point fingers towards 'unholy' scenarios.
An example would be the exploitation and biblically unethical forms of business practice that can be exerted in a non-command-economy; however, while that system may allow such actions of free will, it never puts one's life in grave danger; unlike the 97% controlled economy in North Korea, the blanketed poverty of Equatorial Guinea, the subjugation of women in the Middle East and North Africa, the pompous corruption in Venezuela, and the list goes on.
Face it, there are trillions of ways countries can operate, but only a handful of directions the economy can shift: more control-----------less control. Economically, the examples of econometric statistics from centuries of data prove people live better when this paradigm shifts right (directionally). Fallibility? Indeed, but what an easier environment to share the gospel and teach your children wholesome values. How do you feel about somebody telling you how to raise your children, pay for operations, or whom to send papers to? Think about what less restriction could do to advance the Christian faith!
Do not be ashamed of what you believe. For if the chips are thrown on the table, your personal convictions need not be tested, shifted, or torn. Remember results of free debate between non-believers and Christians. Such a debate would never be had without risk of fatality on the other end of the spectrum. Furthermore, let us acknowledge the fallibility of economic systems, and use our contextualization skills to fight for what works best on a macro level, so we can begin sharing the gospel on a micro level. These are merely thoughts, provocations, and questions—but keep remembrance of what the wise, C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
The actor Sean Penn, speaking on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, defended Venezuelan Communist dictator Hugo Chavez, accusing the American media of being biased against left-wing causes. He complained, that "every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it! And accept it. And this is the mainstream media…there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies."
Lecturing in Modern Global History daily at Colorado Christian University, I often refer to Chavez as a dictator, but Sean Penn thinks that should be a felony. However, our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, so I am free to call a dictator a dictator without fear of prosecution. That isn’t true in any current Communist country, among them Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or Zimbabwe, and won’t be true here, if the left continues to solidify its control of our country and continues to reinterpret our Constitution any way they want.
We must do all we can to protect our Constitution from so-called “Progressive”, left-wing innovators who advocate a “living constitution”. If we allow them to convince us that the Constitution is outdated, merely the product of “dead white males”, if we allow them to more loosely reinterpret our Constitution, distorting it to fit their own wealth-redistributing agenda, then all of our Constitutional freedoms are in danger of being lost. First they will convince us to give up our right to bear arms, then they will convince us of their right to indoctrinate our children, then they will convince us of the dangers of allowing people to speak freely.
The day may come when people like Sean Penn will insist that my lectures be more “politically correct”. Like political dissidents in Communist and most Islamic countries, I may be carted off to prison for calling a dictator a dictator. One may say, “Watson, you are committing the ‘slippery slope’ fallacy.” However, we have already slipped quite a bit down that slope, and we should begin to consider how far down we have already traveled on Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom.”
(Townhall.com, April 2) Dear Grandson: I risk writing you this letter in order to pass along some censored history. Today’s America of 2050, officially atheist by law, is a very different place from the “nation under God” of my boyhood in 2010. When you take your first communion in Denver’s underground church on a spring morning once known as Easter, you need to know how this and other holy days disappeared from the American calendar.
Our country at mid-century remains the envy of the world, still fairly prosperous and optimistic, still claiming to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. But I’m sad to tell you that during my lifetime, “brave” and “free” have been redefined so as to disallow any reverence for that power whom our founders called the Creator. Christians and Jews have been made outlaws.
So hide my letter with your Bible; both are illegal to possess. It is only because your father and mother honor the civil-disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King and ignore the ban on Judeo-Christian writings that you can read the Scriptures at all.
How tragically does the noisy complacency of my parents back in the Bush and Obama years contrast with the quiet courage of your parents today. Again we see how adversity brings out the best in the people of God, as all history teaches. If believers had been more vigilant for freedom of conscience back in the Teens, judges wouldn’t have dared to rewrite the First Amendment as they did in the Tiernan case.
Instead, young Timothy, your generation grows up in a spiritually-neutered culture that has swiftly taken over what was once the most devout nation on earth. Hence this year of 2050 is punctuated by Bunny Day and Kosher Day on what used to be called Easter and Passover – by Turkey Day and Santa Day in place of Thanksgiving and Christmas. To silence all theistic echoes, even the secular holidays of Memorial Day and Independence Day have been renamed as Peace Day and Sparkler Day.
The dominoes began falling with the election of a “Freedom from Religion” activist, Robert Tiernan, to the Colorado House in 2010. Once in office, he played on the Catholic sex scandals, allegations of evangelical homophobia, and the anti-Israel mood to portray the God of the Bible as civilization’s worst enemy. His bill branding the Gospels and the Torah as hate speech became law on Good Friday, 2012.
A coalition led by broadcaster James Dobson, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Rabbi Hillel Goldberg filed suit, denouncing the act as “tyranny worthy of Lenin or Nero.” But the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it. The majority opinion by Justice Keith Ellison, the Muslim former congressman newly appointed by President Obama, ruled that “religion” in the First Amendment excludes by definition every thought, word, and action that manifests intolerance toward any species whatsoever, or the planet itself.
Legislation and court rulings piled on rapidly after that, first marginalizing, then stigmatizing, and finally criminalizing the followers of Jesus and Moses. Islam was judicially certified as a “political system,” however, giving it indulgence and then preference – resulting in the Sharia-infected USA of today. Buddhism and earth-worship also remained free, the one as a “philosophy,” the other as “science.”
The times are grim, my boy. Yet the faithful have survived worse. This Easter, albeit in secrecy and danger, you kneel to a God who loved you enough to come here and die so you might live. Your friend Aaron whispers at Passover his gratitude for a divine deliverance from bondage and death. Down the centuries, neither Caesar nor Satan nor all our own sins have been able to halt these ancient devotions. Nor shall they now. Stay strong – Grandfather
(CCU Faculty) In 2008, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court decided that the highly restrictive gun control laws of Washington, D.C. were in violation of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. In so deciding, the Court issued a somewhat narrow opinion stating that the 2nd Amendment was offended by the decision of the federally-administered District of Columbia. What went unanswered was the extent to which the 2nd Amendment applies to all state and local government ordinances.
Immediately following the Heller decision, opponents of two very restrictive laws in Chicago and its neighboring suburb Oak Park, Illinois were challenged. The case, which will be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court, will focus on this very straightforward question: does the Second Amendment apply to state and local laws, or just to those passed by Congress or the federal establishment of Washington, D.C.?
To many, this may seem like a silly question. When most people consider the Bill of Rights, which includes our protections concerning speech, press, religion, speedy trials, jury of peers, etc., we have great confidence that each item listed in the Bill of Rights is secure, regardless of whether we are operating under federal, state or local ordinances. This interpretation was not, for much of our nation’s history, the understanding of our Bill of Rights..
In 1833, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Barron v. Baltimore, in which it established a precedent of “dual citizenship.” Briefly, the case had to do with a local wharf in the Baltimore Harbor where Mr. Barron co-owned land. The wharf had been open to ships docking and loading/unloading goods. In the process of constructing roads, the city of Baltimore diverted local streams which led to a buildup of sand and debris, making Mr. Barron’s wharf unusable by many ships. In response, Barron sued the mayor of Baltimore, arguing that a “taking” of his rights had occurred, in violation of the 5th Amendment protection concerning eminent domain, and that he must be given compensation for this. In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Barron’s argument, stating that the Bill of Rights applied to Federal Government actions and not the states: "amendments contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them."
Based upon this ruling, states need not guarantee Bill of Rights protections unless their individual state constitutions included such protections. All of this began to gradually change following the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, specifically Section 1 which states: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Following this amendment’s addition to the Constitution, the Supreme Court began the gradual process of “selective incorporation.” By this, the Court has interpreted the phrases concerning “privileges and immunities” and “due process of law” to require that specific components of the Bill of Rights be protected not just by the Federal government, but also by state and local officials. Gradually, over the course of more than one hundred years, the Supreme Court accepted individual cases and “selectively incorporated” the protection. Cases familiar to many include Gitlow v. New York (1925, Free Speech), Near v. Minnesota (1931, Free Press), Mapp v. Ohio (1961, Search and Seizure) and Miranda v. Arizona (1966, Access to Counsel). These have all been cases where the Supreme Court has “incorporated” Bill of Rights protections using the 14th Amendment to require state and local governments to protect these liberties.
What to this day has not been incorporated, even with the Heller opinion, is the 2nd Amendment. In fact, lower court rulings, including some from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in which the current Illinois cases originate, have found the opposite: that the 2nd Amendment does not speak to state and local ordinances concerning gun control. Rather, it applies exclusively to the Federal Government.
The Case of McDonald v. Chicago presents the Supreme Court with the opportunity to correct these lower court decisions and to ensure that the 2nd Amendment protection of “keeping” arms should not be infringed by any level of government.
(CCU Faculty) This week, The Centennial Institute hosted a debate on the question of whether, and to what degree, marijuana should be legalized in the state of Colorado. This is obviously a very important issue and extremely relevant. The Colorado legislature is currently attempting to deal with the continuing issue of how best to administer its current medicinal marijuana law.
During the Centennial Institute debate, the libertarian position favoring the easing of restrictions and possibly outright full legalization continued to surface. At the root of this argument is a belief that people should be able to make choices for themselves, without government restriction.
While respect for liberty is indeed a fine thing, liberty itself is not unlimited. The approach of most libertarians typically seeks a liberty unchecked. None of the participants at the Centennial Institute debate expressed a personal desire for to have access to marijuana, and all expressed personal reservations for themselves and their family members concerning its use. What this position amounts to is the following: its wrong for me but you can do whatever you want.
During the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, Senator Douglas explained how slavery had existed in his home state of Illinois for a time, but when the people of his state decided that it no longer worked for them, they voted to end it. In contrast to this, Kentucky, Illinois’ southern neighbor, had slavery and continued to have it. In Douglas’ mind, they continued to have legal slavery, as it worked for them. Douglas’ opinion of this discrepancy between Illinois and Kentucky concerning the legality of chattel slavery was an attitude of indifference. It was not right for some, but was for others.
Abraham Lincoln responded to Douglas’ indifference to slavery in the last of their seven debates, held in Alton, Illinois: [Douglas] says he “don’t care whether it is voted up or voted down” in the Territories.... Any man can say that who does not see anything wrong in slavery; but no man can logically say it who does see a wrong in it, because no man can logically say he does not care whether a wrong is voted up or down....
Lincoln correctly questions the logic of Douglas. If something is wrong, how can we not care whether it is legal? If there is something wrong with marijuana, how can we “not care” whether or not it is legal? The panelists all seemed to agree that for them, marijuana wasn’t a good thing. Is this merely a personal preference or it there something inherently wrong with it, which explains why they don’t want to use it, nor do they want their children to?
This is in no way an attempt to equate slavery with marijuana usage. What is similar is the argument that was put forth by Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858 concerning slavery and the argument put forth by most libertarians concerning marijuana and most other morals laws that exist in the United States.
There are indeed obvious and significant differences between slavery and marijuana. What needs to be acknowledged is that the libertarian argument shares the same “don’t care” indifference of Senator Douglas. If we recognize that something is indeed wrong, how can we not insist on laws prohibiting it?
This attitude toward law and governance is enormously important, not simply in the debate over marijuana. The other, more significant example of this indifference and its tragic consequences is our current laws on abortion. Again, the libertarian position is often one of: I wouldn’t do it, but that doesn’t mean we should prevent others from making this choice. If we know something is morally wrong, how can we argue that we “don’t care” whether it is voted up or down?