Saturday, December 11, 2004

Friday, December 10, 2004

Column David Brudnoy, RIP

David Brudnoy, RIP

Tibor R. Machan

Boston, Mass., will never be the same. David Brudnoy, its most
intelligent and high spirited talk show personality, who broadcast from
WBZ-AM, died of skin cancer, at age 64, on December 9th, after a career
in various branches of journalism and media work.

I have a very special spot in my heart for David, who was the first one
to review my very first book, The Pseudo Science of B. F. Skinner, just
after it appeared in 1974, in the pages of National Review, where he was
an editor at the time. We became friends shortly thereafter, sometimes
linking up at one or another of the many libertarian-conservative

David was a loyal champion of human liberty all his life, moving
gradually from attempting to educate Republicans and conservatives about
how they ought to be more principled in their defense of the FoundersÂ?
vision, to eventually embracing the libertarian alternative outright. He
taught several courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and
indeed he was kind enough to invite me to lecture in one of his classes on
the nature of human rights when I was still teaching back in Fredonia, New
York. (Incidentally, such an invitation did a young professorÂ?s career a
world of good, given how the academy is mired in the nearly blind worship
of prestige!)

It was after I gave this lecture to a bunch of top of the line Harvard
students that I figured out the main difference between my students back
in Fredonia and those at CambridgeÂ?self-confidence. None at Harvard began
a question to me, following my presentation, with Â?This may be a stupid
question.Â? They all Â?knewÂ? their questions had merit, whereas my students,
who asked questions of equal substance, always tended to apologize.

Later, when David became the host of his own radio programÂ?in addition to
being a reviewer on, I believe, BostonÂ?s PBS television stationÂ?he made
absolutely no bones about his devotion to human liberty. Despite being in
the center of modern liberal, welfare statist academic (as well as public)
opinion, David pulled no punches but championed free minds and free
markets on the air whenever he could.

So when I began to get some more of my work published in books, David
immediately took the opportunity to have me on his program and the two of
us went at discussing the fallacies of statism. His audience was vastÂ?in
the end reaching 38 states and Eastern CanadaÂ?and he and his guests would
receive calls from every nook and cranny of the country. It was a delight
to sit across from him in the studio and interact with a pretty formidable
radio audience comprised of both severe critics and enthusiastic
supporters of the free society.

David had a style about him that was both firm and gracious, so those
with whom he disagreed seemed very rarely to get mad at him even though he
shut some of them off once they proved to be insufferably thickheaded. He
was openly gay from I cannot remember what year and suffered from AIDS
without, however, succumbing to the illness even after a couple of very
close calls. As a gay man, libertarian, and highly cultured individual he
was also a cosmopolitan and someone who believed that individual liberty
is for everyone, including for homophobes who would not extend the same
civilized attitude toward him.

Although David grew up close to the budding conservative movement led by
William F. Buckley, Jr., he wasnÂ?t bitter about how so many millions of
supposedly pro-American conservatives betrayed their loyalty to the
FounderÂ?s vision by urging homophobic laws and regulations or the war on
drugs everywhere. David detested, mostly philosophically, such
duplicitousness, yet dealt with those exhibiting it most cordially. (It
must have been agonizing for his adversaries to be treated so decently,
when they often lashed out at him with open venom.)

David BrudnoyÂ?s memoirs, Life Is Not A Rehearsal (Bantam, 1997), is a
wonderful, racy and cheerful account of his adventuresome life. It conveys
how one can fare well even in a world in which all too many people wish
one ill.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tibor Machan--Column on Obesity Study

The Coming Assault on Food Firms!
Freedom News Wire

Tibor R. Machan

Reuters reported on its Web Site on December 7th
( that a study from
the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University states that
"With current trends of increasing overweight and obesity afflicting all
age groups, urgent preventive measures are required not only to lessen the
burden of disease and disability associated with excess weight but also to
contain future health care costs incurred by the aging population."
According to the report, recent Â?annual average Medicare charges for
severely obese men were $6,192 more than for non-overweight menÂ?84 percent
higher.Â? Routers reported that Â?For severely obese women, annual average
charges were $5,618 more, or 88 percent higher than for women not
overweightÂ? and that Â?For men the total average annual Medicare charges
for those not overweight were $7,205, for the overweight $8,390, for the
obese $10,128 and for the severely obese $13,674.Â?

Now this report is important for a variety of reasons. For one, the
data do bode ill for the obese among usÂ?we are not only likely to die
sooner than the fit but if we live on, we will be doing so badly and itÂ?ll
cost a lot to treat us. Another important and alarming aspect of the
report is that it treats obesity as if it were some kind of act of nature,
something with which one is afflicted, like a viral disease, not as a
self-inflicted condition for which those who are suffering from it are
responsible. Once again, people are denied their fundamental human
capacity to make choices in life and instead seen a zombies or non-human
animals doing what they are forced to do by factors outside their own
What other health related issue recently came to light in this fashion
and what were the results? Remember tobacco and the humongous sums with
which tobacco firms were fined? They, too, rested on the contention that
tobacco smoking caused not only serious health problems for smokers but
also major economic burdens for the Â?heath care system.Â?
In light of all the government propaganda about what ails America and the
worldÂ?the global warming scam being just one of themÂ?I must say I donÂ?t
trust the latest study as far as I can through an obese person! This is
because of the way the study conclusions are worded, namely, omitting very
assiduously any mention that obese folksÂ?of whom I am a member, judging by
my scores (I should lose quite a bunch of weight)Â?are responsible for
getting that way. But since costs need to be borne by some, who do you
think is the next best candidate for bearing them?

Yes, it will be various major corporations that are in the business
of selling the goods and services that can make customers fat. McDonald
comes to mind, as do the rest of the fast food firms, as well as all those
that produce beef, pork, and the rest of fatty foods.
A countryÂ?s financial burdens arise from mismanagementÂ?government is
subject to the dynamics of always spending more than it has on hand to
cover its expenses. This is one of the symptoms of the tragedy of the
commons, in this case of the treasure which everyone wants to use via the
political process. It is also predicted by public choice theory. So the
result is literal bankruptcy.

Taxation, that vicious extortionist scheme, is being widely resisted
by citizens these days, so the new tactic is to go after the big bad
corporations that Ralph Nader uses on each presidential run lately for his
demagogic purposes.

The study at the Feinberg School is, I am willing to bet, the most
recent move in the direction of suing all those American companies the
products and service of which can be used to get obese.

One public policy disaster begets another and anotherÂ?but
governments never go out of business because of their mismanagement and
the malpractice of their administrators. Instead, they dump the results of
these on us all, even if we had nothing to do with the matter. My obesity
ought to be my problem, not that of my neighbors. But that ideal of
individual responsibility is now nearly dead among public policy
expertsÂ?there isnÂ?t any money in it for them.

Tibor Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in business ethics and free
enterprise at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and is author of
"Putting Humans First" (Rowman & Littlefield). He advises Freedom
Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tibor's Quite Happy Again Posted by Hello

Essay on Constitutional Problems

The Paradoxes of Special Treatment

Tibor R. Machan

One of the embarrassments of the First Amendment to the US Constitution
is that although it is a quintessentially libertarian principleÂ?the right
to freedom of the press and religionÂ?it perpetrates a colossal case of
favoritism, given how much power the courts have taken the US Constitution
to accord to the government in other areas and professions. And today this
is coming to haunt jurists big time.

The recent proliferation of bloggersÂ?who are amateur journalists,
reporters, editorialists, pundits and the restÂ?is testing the notion that
those who deal with ideas ought to be more free (and enjoy exclusively the
special privilege of keeping sources confidential) than the rest of us.
Bloggers are some of the rest of us. But should they not be free of
government meddling? Should confidentiality be granted to conversations
between a blogger and some source concerning a matter of concern to the
law? Well, journalists have been insisting they deserve this because they
would lose a vital resource if they had to reveal the names of their
informants. Well, so might bloggersÂ?or anyone else, for that matter.

So now the bright idea has been proposed that a legally binding
distinction be made between professional journalists and amateurs,
including bloggers. Two journalists, from The NY Times and TIME Magazine,
are attempting to fend off investigations into the leaking of a CIA
operativeÂ?s name to columnists Robert Novak and they are advancing an
interesting argument. As The New York Sun reports,

The crux of the reportersÂ? contention is that the public would be less
well informed if journalists could not promise their sources
confidentiality. However, the proliferation of blogs and bloggers could
represent the AchillesÂ? heel in this approach. If Ms. Miller and Mr.
Cooper are entitled to claim special treatment in the courts, so too could
hundreds of thousands of Americans who use the Internet to post comments
about their views on current events.

Problem is the true AchillesÂ? heel goes much deeper. Journalists and
ministers simply ought not to be the only ones whose individual rights
need to be fully respected as they go about doing their work. Whether this
includes their having the right to keep sources confidential or anything
else, the point is that neither bloggers nor anyone else ought to be
subject to prior restraint. And this means that all professionals, not
just those in journalism (and the ministry), must be treated as innocent
unless proven guilty.

But this, of course, would pull the rug from under all government
regulations of all professionals throughout the country. None of them
should be treated as less deserving of having their unalienable right to
liberty protected, which means none of them may have prior restrain
applied to them. All government regulation amounts to prior restraint (a
term usually reserved to government trying to step in to mess with the
press even if what the press has done violated no oneÂ?s rights). All these
regulations aim to tame the professionals being regulated before they do
any harm, without the requirement that what they do is shown to pose a
clear and present danger to anyone.

The New York Sun piece goes on to discuss certain pertinent remarks by a
journalism lobbyist:

Â?The whole issue now is, who is a reporter?Â? said the president of the
Texas Press Association, Wanda Cash. Â?I have great discomfort with that.
Is Drudge a journalist? Probably. Is the disgruntled refinery worker who
puts up a blog about Exxon a journalist? I donÂ?t think so. The problem is,
who decides?Â?

If, however, all citizens had the very same liberties, never mind what
profession they belong to, these issues would never arise. Either everyone
is free to do whatever is peaceful but, if there is some kind of rights
violation, no one may hide behind privilege, period. Or, alternatively, if
professional journalists may hide their sources when they learn of
something of interest to the legal authorities, everyone else should also
have that right. If a colleague of mine tells me of some deed that the
legal authorities want me to reveal, I get to keep the matter to myself as
much as a journalist or priest or spouse does without being accused of
obstruction of justice.

Trouble is that much of politics, law, and public policy plainly lacks
integrity. It is all about yielding to pleas for special treatment.
Farmers, scientists, educators or whoever are all standing in line for
being dealt some favor or exception or subsidy.

What is not fully recognized is that the US Constitution itself gave rise
to this with privileging journalists and ministers regarding much of their
conduct, while fully exposing the rest of us to the meddlesome state.
Yet, the criterion for whose right to liberty requires full protection
should have nothing at all to do with oneÂ?s profession. No one should be
at liberty to violate anyoneÂ?s rights but everyone who acts peacefully
must be protected from prior restraint.

The Interstate Commerce Clause has, sadly, been interpreted over the last
12 decades or so to expose everyone within or near commerce to government
interference. There is absolutely no justification for thisÂ?our rights are
ours as human beings, first, then as citizens, not as journalists,
philosophers, auto mechanics, psychiatrists or restaurateurs. Regardless
of oneÂ?s profession, one has basic rights to, among other things, oneÂ?s
life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. And the US Constitution, while
comparatively speaking a relatively freedom-promoting document, simply
fails to apply the FounderÂ?s basic political philosophy strictly enough.

Periodically these flaws of the Constitution lead to troubleÂ?as they did
to major trouble via the civil war (or as some prefer to call it, the War
Between the States). Now the problems spring up vis-à-vis journalism and
the bloggersÂ?should the latter be among those exposed to government
meddling or should they be privileged just as journalists are? And then
shouldnÂ?t just all of us? (And when it comes to ministers, what if I start
a little church of my ownÂ?should I be tax-exempt or should there be some
government established distinction between me, a member of a tiny clergy,
and all those others who are members of big, established churches?)

These problems are all symptoms of failing to respect and protect
everyoneÂ?s rights. Any decisions the courts make here are already flawed
because the document on the basis of which they attempt to rest a decision
is itself incoherent.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Essay on secularisms

Materialism through Equivocation

Tibor R. Machan

Within the secular philosophical community there is more division than
meets the eye. Critics of Secular Humanism, mainly from theological and
religious circles, tend to overlook thisÂ?they think that all those who
reject the supernatural realm are therefore materialists. This way they
can intimate that without embracing the supernatural, we consign ourselves
to the status of bits of matter floating about aimlesslyÂ?without
consciousness and, more importantly, without moral conscienceÂ?in the
universe (unless we drastically redefine these notions).

But some justification exists for how Secular Humanists are treated by
these critics. Quite a few secular thinkers do embrace the materialist
alternative. Their false choice is that between materialism and
spiritualism, where the former amounts to affirming only nature-as-pure
matter as real, the latter embracing something spooky and ineffable,
namely, the ghostly supernatural.

But there are other alternatives that many philosophers who have rejected
supernaturalism or spiritualism affirm without hesitation. These thinkers
are also naturalists, holding that there nothing besides what is part of
nature exists. They do not believe that any scientific laws can be escaped
in this natural realm, nor the laws of a metaphysics, limited to the basic
ones, such as the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-Contradiction, the Law
of the Excluded Middle, and the Law of Causality.

Yet what separates these secular thinkers from the materialists is that
they agree that many types of beings can exists in the world, not just
bits of matter (whatever that is supposed to be anyway). As a result, of
course, they also hold that there can be different kinds of causes in
reality, depending on the nature of what is involved in a causal
relationship. Sure, billiard balls on a pool table and a whole lot else
thatÂ?s part of reality will exhibit the Law of Causality in a mechanistic
fashion. On the subatomic level, however, this same law will be exhibited
in the fashion spelled out by quantum mechanics; while at the level of
human consciousness the Law of Causality will be manifest as self- or
agent causation or free will. And others versions may well exist, too,
with scientists looking into the matter all the time.

My point here isnÂ?t to show that these different forms of causation
existÂ?it is, at any rate, pretty evident to most of us that they do.
ThatÂ?s because human beings also have the unique capacity to know of their
own causal power Â?from inside.Â? They are able to experience it as it
exists within them when they act (and how this differs from when they are,
say, pushed about by forces over which they have no control, such as the
wind or a virus). Ed Pols, in his The Acts of Our Being (1982), shows this
brilliantly. The point is to make it clear that not all naturalisms are
alike. AristotleÂ?s is different from HobbesÂ?s, SpinozaÂ?s from MarxÂ?s, and
NewtonÂ?s (when he wasnÂ?t dabbling in supernaturalism and the occult) isnÂ?t
that of EinsteinÂ?s.

In short, not all naturalists are reductive materialists. Whether they
are correct is, of course, another matter. But to know that the
alternatives are more varied than both some of the critics and some of the
defenders of the secular stance make it appear is important. At least for
PR purposes! Why?

Because common sense tells many people that they have free will and there
are moral responsibilities they need to fulfill. They have a well enough
grasp that they could well neglect these (which is when they may be said
to be acting irresponsibly and can be blamed for this), or fulfill them in
exemplary fashion (which is when they deserve praise). When secular
thinkers deny this, along with denying some alleged supernatural
dimension, they easily alienate ordinary folks from secularism. Few will
go along at the price they think they have to pay, namely, to abandon
their common sense, what essentially gets them through their lives with a
good deal of success. So they remain linked to supernaturalism where they
think free will and morality has to be located.

But if they are aware that embracing secular ideas does not need to mean
giving up on their common sense beliefs in free will and moral
responsibility, they could well give the secular option more attention.
And they indeed should.

Tibor in Good Mood! Posted by Hello

Column on Crimes vs. "Crimes"

Perils of Meddlesome Public Policy

Tibor R. Machan

A clear case is drug enforcement. Since much of drug trade and use is
carried out in private, within the borders of someoneÂ?s own property, the
only way to detect this stuff is by invading privacy in the myriad ways
that can be done in todayÂ?s high tech culture.

The laws against drug use, as many other laws pertaining to victimless
Â?crimes,Â? plainly encourage law enforcement that is in blatant violation
of justice, of due process. That is to say, it violates the provision of
justice that requires that laws be enforced without violating individual
rights. A good constitution spells out those rights and the American
document does a creditable job of stating some of these.

When police officers must enforce laws that require violating such
rights, we witness the systematic debasement of the legal order we live
under. What is not fully appreciated is that this is nearly impossible to
avoid when there are so many laws regulating private conduct. Take a law
against sodomy, for example, or against hiring illegal aliens. To find out
that these laws are being violated is very difficult without breaking all
kinds of principles of justice.

The reason is that such victimless crimes involve mostly willing
participants. These laws, in other words, pertain to acts between
consenting adults. So they have no complainants, no one who is actually
hurt when the crime is committed. But then how is one to tell where itÂ?s
being committed, who is committing it, etc.?

The answer is you need to gain entrance to locations and the
Â?cooperationÂ? of witnesses, by intimidation, threats, spying, snooping,
breaking and entering and so forth. No way can the enforcement of such
crimes remain on the up and up.

One beauty of the free society is that when laws are being violated, it
must involve someone who is wronged. Rights violation wrongs people, even
if they might benefit from it in limited ways (say by writing a best
selling book after being assaulted or robbed). Limiting law enforcement to
laws that are truly in the business of Â?securing rightsÂ? makes it possible
to be guided by due process and achieve the objective sought.

But when the law, public policy or regulation gets involved in
regimenting how people should conduct themselves irrespective of whether
they violate or threaten to violate peopleÂ?s rights, then the standards of
police work get utterly confused. In the very act of doing oneÂ?s job as a
police officer, one is violating peopleÂ?s rights, which deprives the
entire system of moral standing. It also attracts the worst kind of police
officers, the bullies, those who love to harass people whose choices they
simply do not like, never mind whether they have done someone any wrong.

The situation is perilous for justice because it is very difficult to
extricate a legal system from these corruptions. For all the malpractices
there tend to arise vested interest groups. Unlike with the Draconian
tyrannies where once found out, there is sufficient resolve not to fall
pretty to pleas of special privilegeÂ?e.g., Nazi concentration camps did
not remain active because the guards had strong unions and lobbyistsÂ?with
the sort of malpractices involved in the meddlesome welfare state this
isnÂ?t so. Instead a tug of war ensues, with all parties insisting that
their meddlesomeness is vital to the quality of the society. (Just think
of all those righteous advocates of the war on drugs!)

My only hope here is education. In time enough folks could acknowledge
the superior value of respect for rights, even to trump their special
projects. Then, maybe, the system will get cleaned up. But until then
those in society who understand the gross injustices that are perpetrated
by the system must keep at it, even if immediate progress is unlikely.

Today a sheriffÂ?s organization called me to contribute to some retirement
program or something. I kept the guy on the phone long enough to give him
a lesson or two about what is involved in enforcing vicious laws. Who
knows, it might have taken.

Column on diversity

The Ideal of Meaningless Diversity

Tibor R. Machan

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd isnÂ?t happy. When that occurs, we,
who follow the venerable publication, will know it. The home of her
columns are the envy of many who sound off on the events of our time.

On this occasion she was complaining about how Tom Brokaw of NBC TVÂ?s
Nightly News will not be replaced by someone black or by a woman but,
instead, by another white male. As she puts it, Â?Those guys are hard to
kill off. Indeed, white men are ascendant in Red State America.Â? She
quotes Brokaw himself opining on this: Â?I honestly thought, eight or nine
years ago, that when we [Peter Jennings, Dan Rather] left," she quotes
Brokaw, Â?that it would be the end of white male anchor time."

OK, so perhaps she didnÂ?t really mean literally Â?kill offÂ?, although with
her characteristic venom whenever her own will is thwarted, you cannot
tell for sure. On the occasion of her ill chosen words, however, we may
take a pause and consider just what this racial and sexual diversity stuff
is all about. Certainly, it follows nicely the intentions of many, many
people at university campuses across the country. As a member of several
panel discussions at those where I have taught and am still teaching, I
get this a lot: Â?But you are a white male and this shows we lack diversity
on this campus, what with those other white guys sitting there next to

Just exactly why is it so important to construe diversity in terms of
color and sex, even national or ethnic background? Surely it is rank
prejudice to believe that because someone is black or a woman or hails
from China, certain views will emanate from that personÂ?s lips. The depth
of diversity involved in mixing it by such criteria is ridiculously
shallow. So, OK, we will see blacks and women but for all we may usually
anticipate, the views we will get are the same across the board. The
really important diversity, namely of viewpoints, is completely unrelated
to whether on is a woman, a man, 50 or 23 years old, from Europe or
Africa, rich or poor.

Unless, of course, color, race, sex, location and such make someone think
a certain way. But that would be a racist, sexists, ageists or whatever
thought. And then, naturally, the very policy of diversity would be tied
to whether one is of a certain race, sex, national or ethnic origin. And
that would render it immune to criticism.

Ms. Dowd probably doesnÂ?t even fathom this, but her demand for other than
a white male at the helm of NBC TV Nightly News is, actually, racist. As
if picking a black would make the news come off differently. As if putting
people of a certain color, race, sex or national/ethnic background on the
airÂ?or, for that matter, on a panel of scholarsÂ?amounted to providing a
diversity of viewpoints.

If that were the case, racism and such must be viewed as very
naturalÂ?those who are white males can be counted on, reasonably, to make
certain choices in hiring, irrespective of competence, qualifications,
skill, and the like. Blacks will then be guaranteed by their color to
think in certain ways, as will whites, women, those from Russia or
Afghanistan. And Maureen Dowd will, of course, spout forth as she does
because, well, she has to, regardless of judgment, reflection, evidence,
argumentÂ?that is to say, regardless of the qualify of her thinking about
these matters. ItÂ?s simply all set, by race, sex, ethnicity.

Such Â?identity politicsÂ? is the death of true diversity, of the variety
of thinking that ought to be hosted at universities and other centers of
debate, including in the news media. What good does it do to mix it up on
the basis of such irrelevant criteria anyway when it has nothing to do, as
it surely does not, with how someone thinks?

At a recent event at my university, following the viewing of Michael
MooreÂ?s Fahrenheit 9/11, a few professors, including me, mixed it up about
the merits or lack thereof of this cinematographic jewel. None of us
looked all that different from one another but, by Jove, we all thought
quite differently. After I spoke a few words in the midst of it all, a
young black woman stood up to say that if someone is white, he or she will
never be able to know just what blacks have been experiencing in the way
of prejudice and oppression. I quickly replied that that is a hopelessly
defeatist view: it would mean that understanding across the races is
impossible. (Never mind that it assumes that no whites have ever
experienced prejudice and oppression!)

Very tellingly after the event was over, three black students came up to
me thanking me for my comments, saying they appreciated how I acknowledge
that what counts is not oneÂ?s color, race or similar relatively
superficial attributes but the qualify of oneÂ?s mind and the merits of
oneÂ?s thinking. Just so.


Sideways is hilarious, even if neither of the main characters is to be
emulated at all. The story line isn't bad, though--especially the stuff on
getting published. But it is the scenery, which is simply stunning,
conveying an ambiance via the California Central Coast's wine country
that's hard to beat--I'd say it matches Tuscany, where I have done a bit
of traveling, without much trouble. It occurred to me that here is for
once Hollywood having no trouble making bourgeois life look pretty good!


Column on Law & Order

The Corruption of Law & Order

Tibor R. Machan

No, this time I am only indirectly speaking about the terrible legal
system that the USA is now sliding toward. Instead, it is the TV show, Law
& Order, that comes up for discussion. But, once again, it is for its slow

When the show began there was a healthy idealism about it. The initial
story lines stressed principles not only of law but of justice. Michael
MoriarityÂ?s Assistant DA was motivated from conviction and the ideas and
ideals that guided him were mostly truly valuable.

In time others came to the show, left it, and Sam Waterson, while very
competent and often dealing with very significant issuesÂ?such as
individual responsibility versus excuses for how one behavesÂ?isnÂ?t given
as many occasions for soaring as was his predecessor on the show. Much of
the show now is torturously PC.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of the programÂ?for not always dealing
with monumental themes is not something for which a TV program ought to be
chidedÂ?is how the most recent addition to the characters, one who replaces
Lenny, that of Dennis Ferina, has brought some really objectionable traits
to the way the police are depicted. Or, are the writers perhaps aiming to
be more realistic?

FerinaÂ?s character is given the role of bullying. A night club owner is
nearly coerced into giving him help by using the threat of closing down
his establishment for trivial violations of some kind of city regulations.
This approach to gathering information, which really indicts the
detectives for lacking the skill to proceed within the guidelines of due
process, is not OK at all. It is vicious, a form of police malpractice,
yet the show makes no mention of that fact, no one is called on the carpet
to answer for such conduct. By omission, then, Law & Order is now
endorsing injustice, somewhat akin to how those giving lip service to law
and order in the USA are often doing gross violence to justice, to
individual rights.

As Thomas Aquinas said, Â?A man is said to be just because he respects the
rights (jus) of others.Â? While mere authority shouldnÂ?t count for much,
Aquinas had it right, just as did the American Founders: Political and
legal justice is when the peopleÂ?s rights are respected as they are being
protected. Which means due process.

So many people in our country and elsewhere bellyache about the bad
influence of Hollywood and other producers of entertainment, mainly
because of sex and violence. Well, few would point to Law & Order, the TV
show, but I will. Just as it was with Miami Vice, so it is beginning to be
with Law & Order. The cops canÂ?t do anything wrong.

This is sad. I have myself been a member of the police in my life, an Air
Policeman, and I find it especially annoying to have one of the most
poplar TV shows in the country sanction methods of dealing with the public
they are supposed to serve that are obviously wrong. I and most of my
colleagues struggled hard never to step over the line, never to
intimidate, threaten anyone who hasnÂ?t be shown to be guilty of anything.
It is disturbing that a popular and widely respected TV program would so
betray the profession of the peace officer.

Again, let me make clear: I do not expect drama of Shakespearian caliber
on a TV series. So if Law & Order isnÂ?t any longer its original
exceptional self, such is life. Writers can run out of elevating material.

But itÂ?s another thing entirely to begin to slack off on essentials. And
of police work it is most essential that due process be strictly adhered
to, including in how the profession is depicted when made a vehicle of
entertainment. Talk about promoting perverse moral values!

Alas, it goes to show, once again, that people are often able to fail as
well as succeed. However, when it is not noted clearly and explicitly that
such is our lot, there is even greater danger of malfeasance. The very
corruption of a profession is recklessly glorified on TV.

Column on Bad vs. Evil

Why Bad isnÂ?t the Same as Evil

Tibor R. Machan

Because so much of the substance of ethics is linked to religion, and
because religion is a troublesome seat of truth for those who trade in
evidence and argument, ethics (or morality) has itself gotten the back of
the hand of the modern, erudite intellectual. Instead of talk of evil,
which such people tend to demean as superstitious or confused, modern
thinkers acknowledge only the existence of bad things, mistakes, or

Bad things, of course, are hardly deniable. An earthquake that kills
thousands is bad. A virus or a hurricane would also be. But all these are
generally thought of as distinct from evil deeds, which are the bad things
people do that they might and ought not have done. Evil assume that those
who do it have a choice. They could refrain from doing the deed and indeed
ought to. Evil is something only an agent with free will can produce.

In the last 400 years or so there emerged a view of the world that has
basically eliminated morality because the idea is that everything that
happens has to happen. There is no choice in the universe, nothing that
can be produced by something with a free will. A free will is taken to be
something spooky, mysterious, miraculous and thus the province of faith,
not of science, reason, evidence or argument. As a result, evil is dead.

What has come to replace evil is, of course, bad stuff. Murder, rape,
lying, cheating, laziness, betrayal, cowardliness, and such are all
afflictions. People are victims of such behavior or suffer such conditions
but are never responsible for them. And their decency, heroism, or other
worthy achievements are also simply accidental, not something for which
they can rightfully take credit. The most prominent of ethical and
political writers today embrace this outlook.

Of course there isnÂ?t full consistency about any of this. There are
plenty of intellectuals, philosophers, even psychologists willing to
deploy ethical or moral language, but very selectively. Racism is still
evil, so is bigotry or unfairness, especially when it comes to promoting
it in the economic sphere. And EnronÂ?s ex-chiefs are still evil!

But when push comes to shove, this is pretty forced nowadays. The basic
theories that rule, from particle physics to cosmology, tilt firmly
against the idea that human beings are free agents and are responsible for
what they do.

Not that all those who are complicit in dispensing with ethics will
bite the bullet. Some doÂ?there are books arguing unapologetically against
morality by people who embrace the fully determinist outlook (just take a
look at Ted HonderichÂ?s little volume, How Free Are You? [Oxford
University Press, 2002])Â?but some want to have it both ways and try to
make determinism compatible with free will (for instance, Daniel Dennett
in his Elbow Room, The Varieties of Free Will Worth Having [MIT Press,
1984]). But the latter mean something different by ethics from what most
of us do: they have in mind that bad behavior exists and that yes there
are means of coping with such behavior, like punishment, blame and so
forth. Yet, they deny that the behavior could have been otherwise, except
if certain impersonal forces had prevented it.

So, for example, a murderer is responsible for the murder in the sense
that it was he or she who engaged in the behavior that produced the
homicide. But only if there had been some factors to intervene would the
behavior have been avoided. Choice didnÂ?t have a role at allÂ?or if it did,
then the choice itself had to be caused by certain factors.

In short, the same person in the identical circumstances could not have
done otherwise. Which is to say, free will does not exist by this view.

Well, this is a problem and I am not going to presume to deal with it all
here. Suffice it to observe only that what underlies it is an impoverished
view of what is possible in the world. The determinists think there can
only be one kind of cause, namely, the sort we witness in mechanicsÂ?say on
the pool table when one ball causes another to move. But there could well
be other types of causesÂ?for instance, when Mozart creates music or
Rembrandt paints or indeed a philosophers produces a defense of

Column on Medical v. Non-Med Marijuana Use

Marijuana UseÂ?Medical vs. non-Medical

Tibor R. Machan

The late 60s and early 70s were my graduate school days, at U. C. Santa
Barbara, and there was then plenty of pot smoking going on. Some of it was
reckless, just as alcohol consumption or gambling or other peaceful
conduct can be quite reckless, but most of it was merely a bit
mind-numbing and consciousness-altering. Yes, many, many young people got
high yet few if any suffered greatly, certainly not by moving on to hard
drugs. At least no more so than the number of moderate wine consumers move
on to become alcoholics.

But while the United States of America was parading itself as the leader
of the free world during that Cold War era, it was mostly the champions of
patriotism and loyalty to the flag who insisted on making pot consumption
a crime. Their persistence led to the abomination we know as Â?the war on
drugs,Â? an immensely costly and vicious undertaking by government to
punish people engaged in the trade and consumption of a substance that
does not cause anyone to do anything criminal (even if it does lead some
people to become lethargic and temporarily confused). The policy also
resulted in making the USA a massive home to prisoners who have violated
no oneÂ?s rights at all.

>Nothing above even suggests that consuming pot is
OK. It is very risky to any users and as such extreme caution needs to be
exercised with it, just as with alcohol. Indeed, abstinence is probably
best, for most of us.

Yet here was a place where a dominant element of American culture turned
directly against the political principles on which the country was
founded. We all, individually, have the unalienable right to our lives,
liberty and pursuit of happiness, or so the Founders stated because they
learned it from people like John Locke, the English political philosopher,
and from their knowledge of the history of human community life. That
history showed them that government is to be the hired servant of people,
not their rulerÂ?ergo, the importance of asserting those rights. Sadly,
conservatives, who pride themselves on wanting to retain the principles on
which their communities are founded, completely jettisoned their
commitment to honor this countryÂ?s most important tradition and switched,
instead, to embracing the statist conservatism of Europe and the rest of
the world.

Of course, it is a problem of conservatism which of several competing
traditions to embrace, so the switch was not all that surprisingÂ?just look
at President Bush and his reversal of Ronald ReaganÂ?s efforts to cut back
the scope and size of government, all the while claiming to be a
conservative. The price of the witch, however, is staggering. Thousands of
lives have been ruined because these conservativesÂ?and by now even
othersÂ?take it upon themselves to disregard the unalienable rights of
individuals and impose their will on the rest of us.

At this time there is a little bit of an opening out of the morass of
this shameful tyranny in our Â?freeÂ? society. The US Supreme Court will
decide whether at least some people, those who are likely to gain health
benefits from consuming marijuana, will have their right to liberty
protected. If they judge in favor, they will uphold another conservative
ideal, namely, stateÂ?s rights, something that used to be partisan but now
is embraced not just by advocates of medical marijuana use but many
environmentalists. And they will also exempt a few folks from the tyranny
of the war on drugs.

Yet, sadly, they will also affirm a disgraceful policy of discrimination
by treating those who have a certain use for pot, leaving others with a
different but equally peaceful use as criminals if they persist.

The real answer is the abolition of prohibitionÂ?just as it was, once
again, with alcohol.