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December 18, 2009

Barney Frank: Poker? Why, I'm Not Even Sexually Attracted to 'er!

Barney Frank, the grotesque venomous toad, is actually doing something I approve of: seeking to delay a federal "crackdown" on illegal internet poker sites and casinos, and, I suppose, trying to revisit the issue (which got decided with almost no debate when Bill Frist inserted a midnight amendment into some omnibus spending bill) and maybe undo the crusade against Demon Gambling.

So that's all good, I think.

But this quote is spectacularly, macabrely ironic:

You won’t find the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee at a poker table or roulette wheel, as Frank doesn’t gamble. But he said he does not want the government telling people what to do with their own money.

Right. Note the point I keep harping on. Barney Frank is a crusader against any efforts to impose or even encourage any sort of traditional morality by the government. He is -- as regards only traditional morality -- a libertarian.

Meanwhile, he's supporting the government's efforts to throw you in jail if you don't purchase a government-qualified health insurance plan.

Liberals -- leftists, really -- continue to "bravely" (is it brave anymore?) tweak and thwart traditional mores and taboos while simultaneously replacing them with new taboos and new Temperance Crusades even more onerous and obnoxious and freedom-destroying than the ones they're so "courageously" freeing us from.

IN: Government-permitted gambling

OUT: Government-permitted Ho-Ho's and Mountain Dew

IN: Gay "bathhouses"

OUT: Actual baths -- too much water and too much energy used!

IN: Transgenderism

OUT: Transfats

IN: Anal bulbs

OUT: Light bulbs

On this point I do agree with the libertarians. I often do tweak them, because they can be very, very silly. But there is no doubt that the impulse to control one's fellow citizens is always lurking about in society. And sure, it's annoying when it comes from (as Frist's anti-gambling amendment did) from the right, pushing their sense of probity and restraint on the rest of us.

Well-intentioned? You bet! And yet, still, a censor may be well-intentioned -- he doesn't want me to be scandalized by forbidden images, or have the wrong thoughts put into my head -- but I resent his unrequested brain-nannying just the same.

But few -- especially on the left itself, a group which seems to have almost no capacity for self-examination or self-reflection whatsoever -- seem willing to acknowledge that the left's Brave New World of Rational Secular Humanistic Bureaucrat-Promulgated "New Morality" is more hateful to freedom than anything likely to be passed by the right anytime soon.

Via PetiteDov's Twitter, and on her blog, a video "expose" on a similar point.

Do purveyors of dangerous, unhealthy fast food actually drag customers into the restaurants and force-feed them the fats and salt?

One brave documentarian decides to risk his very health but discovers that in fact no one kidnaps people and re-enacts the Nine and 1/2 Weeks sexual feeding scene by force-feeding them Chicken McNuggets.

Oh, and Here's Why Libertarians Piss Me Off: The right has largely lost in the culture wars -- the right is fighting them, but fighting to either regain huge swaths of territory already lost, or fighting to retain the few hills they still hold (like -- saying "Merry Christmas" in public).

The right's social agenda is actually pretty cramped in most areas. Much of it is purely gestural -- moral suasion and talk about family values and character and the like -- or is soft encouragement -- increasing the child tax credit.

And yet libertarian types tend to spend outsized amounts of energy, passion, and venom decrying these fairly limited and fairly cramped efforts at softly restoring some sense of social restraint.

Are these obnoxious restraints? From their perspective, certainly. And yet, the restraints themselves aren't backed (by and large) by positive legislation mandating the behavior.

And yet when leftists do just that -- no only attempt to impose their sense of morality on society, but with the teeth of actual government coercion and actual government threat of punishment for noncompliance -- libertarians often sort of talk much more quietly, or pull the bullshit move where they shout about the right's mostly-gestural politics in the same breath they shout about the left's legislatively coercive politics, as if they're the same thing.

And that pisses me off, because while I get that they want to smoke pot and have sex without government interference (PS, when's the last time anyone got busted for giving a Blowjob in the First Degree?), it just seems that 99% of their energy is spent on these subjects, sex and drugs, and 1% seems spent on health-care insurance mandates and Kelo and all of the rest of it.

Not all, of course. Instapundit hits the economic stuff all the time, more than the other stuff, and there are plenty of libertarians who do the same.

Perhaps it's selection bias; perhaps libertarians are talking about this other stuff a lot too, but I only wind up being directed to their articles when they're on about gay marriage or something.

There's probably a lot of that.

Still, I just think that for many self-styled libertarians, there's an angry, self-righteous, blazingly furious tone when it comes to the right's gestural efforts at social control, and an imputation of bad motivation, whereas with the left, at least, there seems to be this (admittedly unspoken) vibe that "Hey, well at least we understand why they're doing that; it's rational at least, unlike this irrational stuff coming from the right."

I'm not sure I really want to stand too far out on this limb, because I have a feeling that a lot of libertarians are going to tell me differently, and they'll be right... to an extent. They'll be right that there are a lot of right-ish libertarians, or libertarians balanced about these things.

But I do really think that a lot of libertarians focus disproportionate emotion on the right's largely-gestural efforts, and little emotion on the left's. They may still talk about both -- they may intellectually oppose both and intellectually argue against both -- but I always seem to sense this emotionally-invested hostility about the right's mostly ticky-tack efforts on this front, while there's not that same fire-breathing "I condemn you enemies of freedom!" passion in opposing the left's real legislative coercive stuff.

Again, I could be wrong.

Whoa! I just realized I insulted all the libertarians here -- and there are a lot of them. And I didn't even mean to!

Because I wasn't clear who I was talking about.

I don't mean philosophical libertarians. I am specifically talking about professional libertarians -- that is, libertarians paid to be libertarian. Commentators, I mean. A lot of the staff at Reason, I mean. And not even all of them, either; just a lot of them.

I don't mean people who call themselves libertarian.

I mean instead the professional advocates of libertarianism.

It's from them I usually get this decided vibe that while they are, in fact, annoyed with the left's attempts at controlling them, they can at least understand that, because it's "rational" (i.e., has nothing to do with God or the Bible), and that their actual anger and venom is more often on display with the right's not-exactly-similar behavior.

Seriously, this isn't CYA or "walking it back." I really did have in mind, this whole time, libertarian writers I sometimes read.

(Several of whom I've met, by the way, and are nice enough fellows in the main. I don't really want to trash them too much, but I do always get this feeling from some of them that while they are angry about diminishments of freedom from any political faction, is the diminishments (tangible and gestural) from the right that actually get their lizard-brains buzzing and really get the heart revving.)

And to Further Apologize (Gee, Theme of the Week): Right now, if anyone from Reason or formerly from Reason is reading (which they're probably not) they're thinking, "What the hell are you talking about? We make the substantive case for liberty, including that case from the right, on a weekly basis, in polished columns; you just make dick-jokes all day."

And they're right. They do make the substantive, intellectual case for liberty, including the rightward case for liberty, better than I do. They're deeper thinkers. I am not a deep thinker and I've really made no secret of that; what saved me in law school, for example, is not that I was a deep thinker, but a facile thinker: I can pick up the superficial, bright-line, black-letter take-away from stuff pretty fast. And I can express that stuff pretty well. So well in fact that I often have tricked professors into thinking I knew what the hell I was talking about.

But on actual depth of thinking? If I were graded on that? Well, to self-grade myself, as Obama did, a Good, Solid B+.

So I confess these guys are both doing more and better substantive work in this area, including the areas I agree with them on, than me.

My complaint isn't about the intellectual case being made. It's just that when I see their prose is really crackling with energy and radiating genuine heat -- when they're not just tweaking, but railing -- I just seem to find them doing that most of the time with the right.

Like SNL political sketches, mostly (except for Dennis Miller and Jim Downey) -- the left tends to get tweaked puckishly, while the right gets the real stinkfinger.

Again, could be wrong. This could be entirely selection bias.

Edit: I stupidly called out two guys I rather liked as examples of what I'm talking about -- genuine passion when opposing rightish restrictions, tweaking when it comes to leftish restrictions -- and have by now realized that 1, I don't read these guys very much and have absolutely no right or even a fair foundation to say something like that, and 2, they're good guys, and 3, I really just should not have said anything like that from a position of near-perfect ignorance.

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posted by Ace at 12:45 PM

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