Reason’s Weigel: IPR’s ‘teargas-choked air’

In saying that the uproar over Snubgate has not cost Bob Barr much, Reason‘s Dave Weigel referred to IPR and its “teargas-choked air,” linking to a story about LP spokesman Andrew Davis’s questionable statement that “Barr will not be removed” from the ballot.

Weigel also reports that Barr is representing a gun dealer in a libel suit against Michael Bloomberg. Weigel says that this should bolster Barr’s standing with “ornery libertarian voters,” apparently unaware that “ornery libertarian” icons Murray Rothbard and Walter Block have made the case that libel is a statist non-crime.

Additionally, Weigel reports that the Barr campaign has thwarted Republican efforts to knock Barr/Root off the ballot in Pennsylvania.

19 thoughts on “Reason’s Weigel: IPR’s ‘teargas-choked air’

  1. Fred Church Ortiz

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    I kinda like it 😀

  2. SFMeier

    Fact check Rothbar was talking about laws that were ment to criminalize the act of complaining about the government or government officials. I question if Rothbar would agree with you in that a private individual is allowed to knowingly distort information knowing that such a distortation would cause economic harm to another.

    Rothbar said:
    Another area where the law now distinguishes between private citizens and public officials is the law of libel. We have maintained above that libel laws are illegitimate. But, even given laws against libel, it is important to distinguish between libeling a private citizen and a government official or agency. By the nineteenth century, we had fortunately gotten rid of the pernicious common law of “seditious libel,” which had been used as a club to repress almost any criticisms of government. Currently libel laws have now been fortunately weakened when applied, not merely to government per se, but also to politicians or government officials.

  3. G.E. Post author

    Yes, in that instance — but Rothbard WAS against laws against libel. It was a bad link, but the point is still true.

  4. G.E. Post author

    I’m going to change the link to here: http://mises.org/rothbard/newliberty5.asp

    Another difficult zone is the law of libel and slander. It has generally been held legitimate to restrict freedom of speech if that speech has the effect of either falsely or maliciously damaging the reputation of another person. What the law of libel and slander does, in short, is to argue a “property right” of someone in his own reputation. Yet some­one’s “reputation” is not and cannot be “owned” by him, since it is purely a function of the subjective feelings and attitudes held by other people. But since no one can ever truly “own the mind and attitude of another, this means that no one can literally have a property right in his “reputation.” A person’s reputation fluctuates all the time, in accordance with the attitudes and opinions of the rest of the population. Hence, speech attacking someone cannot be an invasion of his property right and therefore should not be subject to restriction or legal penalty.

    It is, of course, immoral to level false charges against another person, but once again, the moral and the legal are, for the libertarian, two very different categories.

    Furthermore, pragmatically, if there were no laws of libel or slander, people would be much less willing to credit charges without full docu­mentation than they are now. Nowadays, if a man is charged with some flaw or misdeed, the general reaction is to believe it, since if the charge were false, “Why doesn’t he sue for libel?” The law of libel, of course, discriminates in this way against the poor, since a person with few financial resources is scarcely as ready to carry on a costly libel suit as a person of affluent means. Furthermore, wealthy people can now use the libel laws as a club against poorer persons, restricting perfectly legitimate charges and utterances under the threat of sueing their poorer enemies for libel. Paradoxically, then, a person of limited resources is more apt to suffer from libel?and to have his own speech restricted?in the present system than he would in a world without any laws against libel or defamation.

  5. SFMeier

    G.E.,

    Let me ask you an example.

    Supose your wife owns an upscale hair salon and a competitor publishes an acusation knowing that it is untrue which accuses your wife of being a prostitute and that your wife only hires prostitutes. In the days and weeks afterwards her business drops off and when she asks her customers why they stay away they tell her that they don’t want to be associated with whores. Now is intentional economic damage of another business inorder to benfit your own business protected speach?

  6. G.E. Post author

    SFM – I’m not sure where I stand on libel. I’m only pointing out where Murray Rothbard and Walter Block stand.

    Furthermore, it’s arguable whether what Bloomberg did was libel.

    Weigel’s insinuation that “ornery libertarians” (i.e. real ones, not libertine statists) would be universally thrilled that Barr is leading an effort to shake down Bloomberg shows how little he understands hardcore libertarianism or libertarians. That was my point.

  7. G.E. Post author

    Weigel responds to the meaning of “teargas-choked air”

    I just meant that IPR reads like it’s being written from a safe house during a hellacious riot.

  8. SFMeier

    G.E.,

    G.E. I understand that you are arguing if some ornery libertarian would approve of Barr defending gun dealers.

    My point being that I don’t let others think for me and I am still not clear if Rothbard would say intentional harm of distorting the truth in publications is a natural right. Rothbard argues in your example that a reputation has no value but I argue that a reputation can have an ecomic value. And the damaging of that reputation can be equivelent to an act of arson.

  9. G.E. Post author

    I’m 99% sure that Rothbard was against criminalizing libel.

    I’m 100% sure that’s true of Block.

    I don’t let others think for me either, which is why I’m not sure what I think about this matter. I can see libel as an act of “fraud,” and thus, “force.” But I can also see the Block view on it.

    Regardless, the truth of the matter is that SOME libertarians think that libel is not a crime.

  10. G.E. Post author

    And I’m saying that I’m not sure, personally, how I feel about this case. I don’t like the idea of shakedowns, which this could be viewed as. Of course, I hate Bloomberg and love guns, (which is what Weigel is counting on), so I’m sympathetic on that end of it. I don’t know what I think of “libel” and I don’t know if this is libel…. Point being, this is NOT something that’s going to rally anti-Barr “orneries” to Barr’s side.

  11. SFMeier

    Some libertarian behave as if libel is not a crime and have no problem making all sorts of veracious assults. These types of assaults tends to get my gander up. One defense against libel is too have a large enough voice to shout the offender down.

    So Barr in this case makes the claim that he had taken the case before he had decided to run. Here Barr is claiming his actions are not to benefit his current campeighn.

    Will this action placate all libertarian “radicals” a rather broad deffinition in of itself. Of course not, libertarians are so oppionated that god could send jesus down to earth to vouch for Barr and some of use would ask which side Jesus and god are on? Will this placate some radicals. It won’t hurt.

    My point being do we want a candidate who speaks up as real world opportunites present themselves and suggest to the voters how these government actions effect them. These include, cops break down mayers door and shoot his dogs, government bails out fannymae and Fredimac, New York City Mayer defames Georgia Gun Dealers. Texas Secretary of State ignores Election Laws for the benefit of McCain and Obama.

    I always think better of people who demonstrate they are thinking and some times even begrugingly you have to admit when somebody does the right thing. If all you do is say nay nay nay nay nay… I turn you off.

  12. Thomas M. Sipos

    Block made some thought-provoking arguments against libel laws;

    1. Libel laws protect your reputation. What is “reputation”? It’s what other people think of you.

    How can you own a property right to other’s peoples thoughts?

    2. Since libel is illegal, people believe defamatory statements, because “How can he get away with saying such a thing if it wasn’t true? He’d be sued.”

    But if libel were legal, people would adjust their assumptions. They’d think, “Well, so what Joe called Frank a child molester? Anyone can say anything about anyone. It doesn’t prove anything.”

    Thus, legalizing libel would concurrently disempower it.

  13. Richard Shepard

    Criminal libel exists in only a few states, having been ruled unconstitutional in most of the others. In the states where it survives, and the victim is a public figure, the accused must be proven to have acted out of malice.
    Civil libel remains in most jurisdictions, but of course it is up to the aggrieved person to make what is, for reasons touched upon by Rothbard, a difficult proof to make.

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