A Dialog on Liberty and Equality Wanders into the Guns In America Symposium


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

Related Post Roulette

36 Responses

  1. Maribou says:

    More JHG, please. Soonest.

    (The Jaybird parts were good too, but I can get as much of them as I want, whenever. 🙂 )Report

  2. Tod Kelly says:

    I like the dialogue thingy. It works really well, especially for this.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Yes. I’m wondering what sorts of great conversations we’re missing because of this particular medium.Report

      • Believe it or not, in the first year of the site, we ran quite a few dialogue posts like this. They sort of disappeared as the site grew and behind the scenes discussions on substantive topics became less frequent, but they were some of my favorite posts from that time period. I am really happy to see the format make a return.Report

  3. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Thank youReport

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    The kind of Liberty that non-whites want is entirely different than the kind of Liberty that most libertarians talk about on this site.

    Now, I’m no comparative neurologist, but it’s been my understanding that the non-white population of the United States does not in fact share a single hive mind.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I should clarify, since it’s not clear from my comment alone, that the quoted sentence is from John Howard Griffin, not from Jaybird.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        He and I had been talking back and forth for a bit. I’m sure that I leave far, far more “most” or “many” -type words than he does. If you come across something like that in our dialog with each other, know that he’s overlooked my such omissions.

        When we discuss a general issue as if it were universal, that’s on us, sure… but the interesting, meaty part is the general issue.

        Put a “most” in there and read it again, if it helps.Report

      • John Howard Griffin in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Fair enough. I stand convicted.

        It was a rhetorical flourish of exaggeration in order to make a more fundamental underlying point.

        I do not speak for the entire non-white community, nor can I.Report

  5. zic says:

    Jaybird, this is. Terrific.

    In particular, this:

    It seems that it is implicit in what you are saying that we cannot prevent the laws being used to protect the powerful at the expense of the powerless. While I agree this is difficult to do completely, I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

    helped me focus on how the dialogue here often goes whizzing past like cars on a six lane. Much thinking on it the differing povs needs to be done.Report

  6. Will H. says:

    I’m not so sure that David Gregory received some non-ordinary consideration that Leonard Pitts or Juan Williams wouldn’t.

    At the arraignment stage, bail hearing, sentencing, etc., I’m sure Gregory would receive some amount of consideration as well.

    But I think it’s more about position than race.

    There may well be some differences in the baseline as to what constitutes sufficient position with people of color, and to me, that’s a secondary consideration.

    Kennedys are permitted to kill because they’re white; it’s because they have money.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

      Make that:
      Kennedys aren’t permitted . . .Report

    • John Howard Griffin in reply to Will H. says:

      Oh, I don’t disagree about Gregory and Williams. But, I think Jaybird was bringing it up more as a comparison between David Gregory and a poor, unknown black person.

      There is definitely something included in this in regards to class, as well. Jaybird and I are slowly marching around another topic (which is what this dialog is from), and so there is still much to say or stipulate or analyze.Report

      • There is definitely something included in this in regards to class

        This (and the willingness to make exceptions to the policies when it’s “perfectly reasonable” to do so) is what I think that “racism” has evolved into.

        We know that many of these policies are silly, and boilerplate, and do more harm than good… so for people who know a guy who knows a guy, they can get told “oh, we don’t care about testing positive for weed” but a guy who doesn’t know a guy can get told “sorry, but the policy says you have to pass a drug test”.

        Leonard Pitts or Juan Williams would get similar treatment for holding that magazine on the news show (with, perhaps, different people screaming for heads to roll and other people rolling eyes and pointing out that this is one of the exceptions that, seriously, we make for cases like this).

        It real easy to see “well, it’s *OBVIOUS* that we should make an exception for this guy” as a perfectly reasonable, perfectly harmless thing to say. Hey, I’ve coded with him before. His code is tight. Sure he smokes on the weekend… but his code is very, very good. Let *ME* vouch for him.

        And now we have a society where policies apply to these people but not those people… and people are tripping over themselves to explain that we *SHOULD* be making exceptions.Report

  7. Dan Miller says:

    It’s interesting to me that your discussion of the state has such a laser like focus on criminal law, mostly skipping the welfare state. After all, probably one of the most common ways to interact with govt is getting Medicare or Medicaid, frex. Your worry is that law will inevitably favor the well-off and connected. Why not worry just as much that an absence of law would do the same? An inadequate welfare program will immiserate the poor as much as excess police attention.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

      Well, criminal law oozes into everything.

      Let’s look at weed. I got a job at a HUGE global conglomerate here in town and one of the first things they had me do was pee in a cup. This was no problem for me (alcohol is my anti-drug) and I got on board. A few months later, I was having a talk with one of my co-workers about the drug test and he told me that he told the recruiter “you’re going to find weed on there” and the recruiter asked “do you have a criminal history?” and the guy said “no” and the recruiter said “we only care about cocaine, opiates, and meth.”

      Now let’s say that my bud, who was white, had been black. Would it be more likely that he would have an MJ bust on his record? It seems more likely to me that that would be the case, from stuff that I’ve heard.

      That bust would mean that he was disqualified from getting the computer job even though there was going to be a positive drug test for the substance in question.

      So the one guy could get a job in computers even though he smoked weed and the other guy couldn’t. Which one is more likely to be immiserated?Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m just saying that when liberals disagree with libertarians about the question of poverty, both sides believe that criminal justice plays a role, but major disagreements come when you bring up the welfare state.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Dan Miller says:

          Well, my general inclination is to hammer out exactly what the Welfare State ought to provide and I usually come up with a list like: Shelter, food, water, sewage, education, health care, phone/internet… and what else? Did I miss anything?

          If someone has these things provided for them and it is still not enough, then what? I suppose we could say “well, the nutrition isn’t *PROPER* nutrition, we should make sure that it has a certain amount of carbs/protein/fats” or “the education needs to be improved dramatically before we can be said to be providing a real education” or “Medicaid is too much trouble, we need to completely revamp how health care is provided to everyone in this country” which is great…

          But now we’re talking about WIC or EBT and what food, exactly, people should be allowed to purchase with it. We’re talking about education reform. We’re talking about health care policy. We’re talking about how social institutions like, say, education do very, very well in certain parts of town and very, very poorly in others and discussing “what do we do in that situation?” is likely to get us to talk about such things as charter schools or “firing bad teachers” or all kinds of things that will get people off into a tizzy. Talking about health care reform is something that we’ve hammered over and over again.

          The tension, the political tension in practice, is between the Conservatives who want this kind of Paternalism and the Liberals who want that kind of Paternalism. And more of it. Always more. Double down.

          My suspicion is that there are a hell of a lot of feedback loops going on (without talking about “poverty traps” or “moral hazard” or anything like that) and that the best place to get people in the right direction is probably to address issues like “culture” rather than, yet again, say “well, we just haven’t provided enough Paternalism”.

          The War On Drugs has created a number of pathologies that we could pretty much end tomorrow. Stop throwing young men in jail. Stop giving young men felony records.

          After that, I suppose I would push for more marriage and/or life partnership pair-bonding relationships when there is a child involved. Saying much more than that would probably veer too far off into the whole “culture” argument (if you wanna go there, I suppose I can), but there are far too many babies born out of wedlock in the welfare community. We should bring wedlock back. We should make fatherhood a vocation… but that’s pretty difficult if a disgusting percentage of males in the welfare community have to be carted off to prison for bullshit reasons (making them pretty much unhirable for any but the crappiest jobs once they get out).

          With all of the pathologies involved in the situation, I think that the pathologies easiest to remedy are the ones involving criminal justice: specifically the bullshit war on drugs.

          After that, I imagine that things will improve dramatically and we’ll be better able to tackle such things as education… and, if we can tackle education, health care will follow. So much will follow.

          But first we have to tie off the worst pathology. The failures of the welfare state are many, sure… but they aren’t driving everything. Criminal Justice is.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Jaybird says:

            “Did I miss anything?”

            Old Age Pensions, Unemployment Insurance*, and stuff that helps the physically and mentally disabled get around and have access to the city/where they live.

            *Yes plenty of people get fired for their own incompetence but I think it is more common for someone to lose their job because of redundancies, lay-offs, restructuring, or even events really distant from themselves. The recent financial crisis is a good example of this. From 2005-2007, the economy seemed to be doing artificially well because of the Housing Boom and various things done in the financial markets. It was not only Wall Street types who were doing well. This is when there was a buzz about new lawyers making 6 figure salaries and lots of people were going to law school. The financial crash in 2007-2008 led to a lot of people losing their jobs including people not at all connected to the financial and construction industries.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to NewDealer says:

              Shelter, food, water, sewage, education, health care, phone/internet, Old Age Pensions, Unemployment Insurance, and public transport.

              It seems to me that this kind of Paternalism will create a positive feedback loop.

              That is: the habit of providing X for oneself will be reinforced and taught to others (most notably children) in a culture where providing X for oneself is held as a premium.

              The habit of having X provided for oneself will be reinforced and taught to others (most notably children) in a culture where having X provided for oneself is held to be the norm.

              Now, if you’d like to make the point that nobody provides all of these things for themselves, they all come from the fount of government, sure. I’ll concede the point… but there are people who seem to think that they get a paycheck and they think that they’re paying the rent and buying their own food without understanding that the landlord is getting a tax break and that their high-fructose corn syrup is subsidized.

              I’d say that it’s still pretty much true that the illusion of self-sufficiency among the ignorant folks who think that they’re paying their own rent and buying their own food is a habit as well.

              I’d go on to say that it’s a very, very important habit to have… indeed, if I were thinking about ways to really screw up a community, I’d change the habit to one where people get in the habit of being used to have others provide for them. (To use an international example, I’d say that the Palestinians living in Iraq under Saddam’s rule displayed a lot of these traits.)Report

            • I think state-provided old age pensions and unemployment insurance might be unnecessary if some of the basics were really guaranteed. Of course, the devil is in the details.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Dan Miller says:

      This is in a nutshell maybe the biggest divide between liberals and libertarians.

      A liberal looks at the hand of the state and says, “how can we best use that hand to help people up, and catch them when they fall?”

      A libertarian looks at that same hand and says, “how can we best keep that hand from cracking people’s noggins, searching their cavities, shooting their dogs, and locking them up and throwing away the room?”

      Not to say that neither side can’t see the other’s POV, but they give different weights.

      And in part, the issue that most concerns each, helps fuel the issue that most concerns the other – more men in prison means means more poverty means more crime means more drugs means more public dissatisfaction, leading to calls for more public assistance and more police response (transpose all of these chickens and eggs as it suits your bent); and round and round and round the wheel turns.

      There are times when I think a true liberaltarian alliance could do some real good; I am just not sure how we get there. Stop distrusting each others’ motivations, for one.Report

      • Dan Miller in reply to Glyph says:

        I think the issue is that lower-income populations and others who are most vulnerable need both the most and the least interference from the state. The most, in the form of welfare, health care assistance, etc etc; and the least, in the form of not getting arrested for the same crap that rich people on the other side of town do without fear. The usual problem I have with libertarians is that they conflate the two–this is the undertone of a lot of arguments in the “welfare hurts the poor” genre. Jaybird, to his credit, isn’t conflating them in this piece; but I think he is ignoring half the equation, which is that active government can and does actually help marginal populations, and its absence can be detrimental.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

        Perhaps just start out with that it will only focus on social issues like prisons and the war on drugs, gay marriage, and possibly military spending.

        And then when it comes to economics, the welfare state, taxes, and public goods (roads, schools, libraries, scientific research, etc): liberals and libertarians don’t try to convince each other and don’t get butt hurt about diverging votes.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to NewDealer says:

          If there was an actual libertarian party in Congress (and note, as a filthy social democrat, I want more variety of parties in Congress via IRV/PR voting), that’d be possible because of coalition building. The problem is that Big Libertarianism, as much as there is that, is mostly controlled by very rich people who are only interested in mainly electing people who care about tax rates. Yes, I know, various think tanks give Radley Balko money. But, then those same people turn around and invest millions in getting Mitt Romney elected instead of millions in getting anti-War on Drugs /pro-gay marriage representatives or local officials elected.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            I do not disagree with your analysis.

            Most libertarians are white. Hence they don’t feel the pain of the drug war as much as non-whites. So they can smoke their pot with the same impunity as upper-middle class suburbanites and focus on the economics.Report

          • At least when it comes to the war on drugs, it’s not entirely clear which candidate who had a chance at winning was anti and which was pro. Romney might have proven to be a Nixon in China guy with the war on drugs, or he might have been worse than Obama. Obama might be better now that he’s no longer running for reelection, or he might continue his status quo beggar thy citizens policy.

            I get where you’re going, though, with the caveat that I haven’t read much from the libertarian think tanks or followed who they donate to to be able to evaluate your factual claims. While my bias is to assume that in general, what you say here tracks with the way things have turned out, I’m withholding judgment because my bias often leads me to wrong conclusions.Report

            • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

              I hope that the Washington and Colorado votes show the voters want a sea-change in the War on Drugs. At least for marijuana.

              There are probably still top ranking Democrats and Republicans who smoke marijuana and maybe even do other drugs. The problem is that they do it from the safety of their detached and private suburban homes. Hence, the drug war does not affect them in a bad way. This was the sad and tragic status quo for a long time. Many whites did not really push hard for ending the drug war because the prohibitions did not really hurt them too badly or at all. However, Colorado and Washington give me hope that this is changing.

              However those are still too fairly homogeneous and not very diverse states. Though Colorado does have a growing Latino population. A real sea change would be in a very diverse state where the drug laws are really enforced in a racially disparate way.Report

              • I’ll admit that Colorado is not as diverse as California, New York, or Illinois, but I imagine there are still some concerns about disparate enforcement of some criminal laws. The Latino population is growing, but it has been a presence for a very long time at least in Denver, and even longer in areas that were Latino before 1848 (e.g., San Luis Valley). (And I welcome the presence, by the way. The more diversity, the richer the culture.)

                Your point at any rate is an interesting one. I suspect that “top ranking” members of either party, however, probably run a very real risk of being exposed by media and probably decline to indulge for that reason. (I could be wrong. Politicians can be stupid.)

                I also suspect that the argument of “whites don’t oppose prohibition because they aren’t subjected to its harsher forms” is correct, but perhaps needs some qualification. I think another part of the problem is that the people who want a continuation of the War on Drugs are very vocal and very interested (in the 18th century sense of “having a vested interest in”) and very organized to that purpose, while those who want an end are less so. (In part, of course, this feeds back to the original point: if more people were adversely affected, then they would, presumably, want to organize and be vocal to end the prohibition.)Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    I’m about halfway through but have to cut out; I’ll return late to read more. But, yes, more JHG would be great, both posts and in the comments (I think he has mentioned discomfort in the comment space at times, something we should be mindful of on a variety of levels). And I like the dialogue. I was actually just thinking that we should do our own Intelligence-Squared style debates, either view webcast or with similar exchanges to this.

    Anyway, yes, lots of great stuff here, and my sentiments would echo very much of what JHG has said up until the point I’ve read (Jaybird discussing marijuana law). In a nutshell, it is easy for folks to support laws when they are unlikely to be the target of those laws; similarly, it is easy for people to support freedoms when they are likely to be the beneficiary of those freedoms.Report

  9. Does this conversation go on over email or at Mindless Diversions? Not that it’s really any of my business. I’m just curious how it’s done.Report