Monday, November 5th, 2007
I have read and seen a lot of coverage of the Phelps family in recent days. I had heard of them long ago, but mostly forgotten them. Then the controversy over the lawsuit over their picketing of soldiers' funerals arose. My first impression was that this was a free speech issue. Then I did more reading. And pondering. I came to some conclusions.
First, I think that this is an area where our current social arrangements are weighed in the balance and found wanting. I found some harrowing descriptions of abuse that occurred in the Phelps family when his sons, who ran away from home, were younger. It was at the level of truly sickening. Information can be found here (See chapter two, especially. And expect to be angry for a long time.) If the allegations are true, then these people should not be picketing, not because there should be a law against picketing, but because they should be in jail for child abuse.
Second, the terrible controversies over free speech are so intractable because there is so much public property. The limits to what can be done on public property are not all that clear—well, to me at least. I have seen videos of people attempting to place Ron Paul signs over freeways, and being told that this is an illegal use of public property. Hmmm. So our current understanding of free speech means that you cannot post a sign over a freeway, but you can picket a soldier's funeral. I'm not exactly sure what the rules should be, if we have such public property, but I know there is something off balance about that. In any case, when property is public, you do not have the same mechanism for determining appropriate behavior that you have in private settings. The proper uses are determined politically. Which means, each of us has some say, but only a minuscule amount, as to how such spaces are to be used.
Third, I found some material online suggesting how libertarianism has solutions to the problem of child abuse. (Short answer, the role of insurance in such a system would provide some tools.) Many imagine that laissez-faire would entail that parents can do whatever the hell they want to do to their kids and get away with it. This is false. And in the Phelps case, I can say that from what I read—and every time I look at this I read more, so any conclusions are provisional—our current system did little to handle things well.
Lastly, when I see these people in the media, I see many people make a fundamental mistake. They address Shirley Phelps as if she were a normal human being capable of conversation. She is not. Everything that makes it into her ears gets distorted, and everyone who disagrees with her is given some villain role to play in the drama. Last night on Geraldo, a guest who was on with her made the appropriate choice. He refused to talk to her and offered a psychiatric diagnosis instead. Perfect! Anyone who addresses these people as if they were capable of conversation would be a dangerous person to be around during a Zombie Apocalypse. (Hat tip: Kobra)
3:13 pm Pacific Standard Time
Saturday, November 3rd, 2007
I recently discovered commentator Karen Kwiatkowski at LewRockwell.com. This piece really caught my attention. The other day, it struck me that I should search to see if she was posted on YouTube. I was in luck. They had a speech of hers sliced into four segments (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). The speech was sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation. Kwiatkowski spells out how we lost our republic and what to do to get it back. In short, she preferred the original Articles of Confederation to our current Constitution. Many of the seeds of destruction were sown so early that we should not put all our hope into some official effort like the Constitutional Convention, as that way of securing liberty will eventually fail. Instead we should put the bulk of our effort into understanding freedom and living it now. This was a very hopeful message.
10:58 am Pacific Standard Time