I read Liberty magazine, so you don't have to!
You may not know it, but every month a magazine appears in the Current Affairs section of the magazine rack at your local Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore called Liberty
typically showcases various facets of libertarian and quasi-libertarian thought. Usually there's a cover story that might grab a casual browser's attention, and stuff of varying quality inside, some of which would be of interest to a broad audience and much of which would be of interest to a rather narrow libertarian audience.
Because there's only one other libertarian magazine that I know of regularly on the shelves (that being Reason
), I usually pick Liberty
up when I see it. I continue to do so even after they described me personally on their front cover in March 2003 as a "strange new McCarthyite."
Anyway, if you're like everyone I know, you're not reading Liberty
. So now -- in an effort to put something on the internet that isn't already there -- I will review the November 2003 issue for you, cover to cover, so you can get a sense of what people in the libertarian world (or at least the Liberty
world) are talking about.
The cover: Liberty
's cover is plain text on a white and blue background, non-glossy paper. Given that limitation, they usually do a pretty good job of putting something attention-grabbing on the cover. Here, for example, we have "Al Franken is a Big, Boring Hypocrite!" and "Wasn't It a Little Crowded on That Grassy Knoll?" See what I mean? Good ways to pull in readers who have no interest in liberty at all.
Here we have an ad for FreedomFest 2004 at Bally's Paris Resort. Apparently, it's the "intellectual feast" of the year, featuring such notables as Ben Stein, Nathaniel Branden, Dinesh D'Souza, Mark Skou-.. hey, waaay-ta minute! Haven't I been to this already?
(This time, though, it's sponsored by the Reagan worshippers at Young America's Foundation.. a much better fit.)
Page 3 contains a fine table of contents
. If you wanted to locate an article somewhere in the magazine, I'm sure this would help you do so. This page also contains the masthead, which has approximately one million two hundred and seventy-seven thousand names on it, many of which belong to people who have actually read Liberty
Pages 4 through 6 contain letters to the editor
. These typically express various degrees of outrage over something in a previous issue, sometimes from someone who obviously picked up the magazine with no idea that it was libertarian. My favorite letter this month says: "Please stop trains from making so much noise! People rules. James Watt Heater, Dalheart, Tex."
Pages 7 through 18 contain the Reflections
department. This is where some of Liberty
contributing editors give brief thoughts on issues of the day. And by issues of the day, I mean issues of the day a month or two ago when the magazine went to press. It's a lot like a blog, only a couple of months behind, and you pay money for it.
Anyway, Mark Skousen
interestingly reflects here upon how Karl Marx's grave is a tourist attraction where people lay flowers and wreaths, whereas Adam Smith's grave is difficult to find, in a cemetery "sprinkled with broken beer bottles, plastic caps from syringes, and the remains of drunks and junkies."
So am I to understand that there are dead junkies
just "sprinkled" about this place, not even buried? No wonder no one visits! Seriously, though, the reason no one visits Smith's grave is because capitalists are too busy being productive. "Let the dead bury their own dead" and all that.
On pages 19 through 22, the Cato Institute's Gene Healy
(a University of Chicago Law alum, by the way) criticizes "Libertarian Interventionism."
This is an outstanding piece on why libertarians should not trust the government to wage war any more than they trust government to do anything else. I also liked these ideas the first time when I read them for free on his weblog
Pages 23 and 24 contain an article by Ralph Reiland on the abuse of prisoners in the US
. I liked the contrast he draws between how sensitive we are to sexual harassment in the private sector, and our insensitivity toward rampant rape and violence in prisons.
On pages 25 and 26, Bo Keely tells of how he went to jail for a day because he accidentally jogged into a National Park. This is good stuff. (Ralph Reiland will be relieved to know that Mr. Keely was not anally raped during his imprisonment.)
On pages 27 and 28, Jo Ann Skousen
tells of how her daughter has been charged with a felony
for throwing a water balloon at a parked car and splashing a cop in the process. Geez, can't these Skousen people stay out of trouble for 5 minutes? Actually, like Keely's article, this is an amazing story of what nasty bullies local cops can be when they want to.
On the other hand, I don't understand why Mrs. Skousen brings up the fact that "Attorney General John Ashcroft wants prosecutors to...report promply to Justice Department headquarters when a [judge's] sentence is a 'downward departure' from [federal sentencing] guidelines." She suggests this means her poor innocent daughter is more likely to get harsh treatment from the judge. But unless throwing water balloons is now a federal
crime (wouldn't surprise me, come to think of it), there's no reason why a state judge would care at all about what John Ashcroft wants.
Pages 29 through 36 contain an article by David Ramsay Steele on the JFK assassination.
Its thesis is, "The Lone Nut theory is unpopular, but it has the advantage of being right." This topic doesn't interest me in the slightest, so I didn't read the piece.
On pages 37 through 40, we have a debate on affirmative action
between Garin Houvannisian and Sarah McCarthy. Hovannisian makes typical arguments against AA.
Sarah McCarthy (taking a break from her usual Liberty
role as a cheerleader for abortion) takes the surprising position that affirmative action is a good thing, now that the court has ordered that it be used to promote diversity rather than remedy past racism. She suggests: "Conservatives and libertarians who view the [Supreme] Court decision [in the recent Michigan affirmative action case] fail to recognize that a diversity standard does not exclude them. A reemphasis on diversity will likely motivate future administrators to recognize that standards require not only a variety of races and genders, but the seeking out of differing political, religious, and economic viewpoints."
This is incredibly naive. The "diversity" movement isn't about diversity per se
. It's about pushing an egalitarian, multiculturalist agenda. It's about promotion of every "minority" culture at the expense of Western civilization. It's about wasting scarce resources on nonsense like "women's studies" and "African American studies" and "queer studies." Diversity of ideas is not good, per se, either. Bad ideas and inferior cultures do not deserve equal time.
Forced diversity of races through affirmative action does not create increased understanding: it breeds resentment on the part of more qualified students who are passed over because they were guilty of not being "diverse" enough.
Pages 41 and 42 contain an article by Bart Kosko called "Palestinian Vouchers."
Here Kosko suggests that one solution to mid-east violence would be to give Palestinians taxpayer-funded vouchers to get higher education in the United States. Yes, that's right, an article in an ostensibly libertarian magazine proposes, in all apparent seriousness, that we start a new federal welfare program paid for by U.S. taxpayers
... to bring Palestinians
--as in, actual Palestinians from the Middle East--here
When I first read this piece, I thought it must be some sort of subtle satire, but upon rereading it, I'm pretty sure Mr. Kosko is serious. He writes: "A pure principle of non-aggression (all initiation of force is wrong) will not support this or any voucher proposal because of the coercive nature of taxes--even taxes that pay for public goods such as national defense. But rule utilitarianism can support targeted vouchers if the expected long-term benefits clerly outweigh the long-term costs."
Oh, so that's why libertarians should get behind this idea: because this form of interventionism and social engineering, unlike all of the others, has "expected"
long-term benefits, as detailed by Mr. Kosko in his two-page article. I understand now.
On pages 43 through 45, we learn that libertarian comedian Tim Slagle did not like Al Franken's book
as much as I did
. In fact, he didn't like it at all! He claims that Franken is unfunny and that he didn't laugh once reading it. If Mr. Slagle is so skeptical of Franken's talent (and so apparently sure of his own, being a career libertarian comedian), I invite him to write the libertarian funny book I want to see that exposes all of the politicians, left and right, as the scheming liars they are. You can read Slagle's review here
on his website.
Then, on page 46, there's a review by Stephen Cox of a book on Islamic thought, which I also didn't read, but it looks okay, if you're interested.
On page 47, there's a great review by Bruce Ramsey
of American Axis
by Max Wallace. Wallace's book unfairly smears the heroic Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh as Nazis. Ramsey does a good job of debunking these claims, and this is worth reading for any admirer of either man.
This is followed, on pages 49 through 51, by a solid review of historian Thomas Fleming's new book on World War I, Illusion of Victory
, which sounds good but is still unread by me.
In the final book review (pages 52 and 53), Greg Kaza gives an interesting summary of a book that looks at how Detroit's city government destroyed ethnic neighborhoods.
Page 54 hosts the Terra Incognita
department, which showcases strange news bites from around the globe. Like "Reflections," this too seems to have been superseded by what is available for free on the internet, in this case sites like Fark
The inside back cover has an ad for some books from the Cato Institute.
More excitingly, the back cover is an ad for my former employer, the Institute for Justice
, celebrating their court victory
that struck down a New Orleans law against bookselling
. The people at IJ are phenomenally good at PR and advertising. While I don't think those are usually good methods to educate for liberty, IJ's work is often quite good at spotlighting particular pernicious government policies and the people they affect. (Of course, they're wrong on vouchers
, but nobody's perfect.)
- posted by J. H. Huebert at 10:47 PM