Ted Kennedy

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I’ve never much bought into the notion that we ought to venerate the dead simply because they’ve died. Nor do I feel the need to reflexively praise politicians for their public service. Ted Kennedy was a lifetime member of the political class. The things he’s being praised and remembered for—his half century in politics, his ability to “get things done” in Washington, his prowess as a legislator (which translates into his ability to use politics, as opposed to civil society, to solve problems), the inherited privilege that came with his last name—none of these things are particularly virtuous in my book.

Here are a few kind words for Kennedy: I don’t doubt Kennedy was sincere when he claimed to speak for the poor or dispossessed. I just happened to disagree with most of his prescriptions for helping them. Kennedy helped liberalize America’s immigration laws. That’s a good thing. Surprisingly, he was a key voice in helping deregulate the airline and trucking industries in the 1970s. We’re all better off for that.

But I feel no compulsion to praise Kennedy’s life in politics. Kennedy was an elite, and not by virtue of any actual accomplishment (sorry, but we have 100 senators no matter who comes out on top on election night. Getting elected to political office in itself adds no value to society as a whole). Instead, Kennedy was an elite by birthright, by being born into the closest thing America has to royalty. He used his status and political power to procure advantages the rest of us don’t have, whether it was evading responsibility for his role in a young woman’s death, or hypocritically killing off a planned wind farm in Nantucket Sound because the renewable energy project would have sullied the view from the Kennedys’ Hyannis Port compound–to pick two examples that bookend his life in politics.

Newspaper editorialists like to eulogize politicians by exalting the sacrifice that comes with public service. I’ve never really believed that. A U.S. Senator’s life is hardly one of hardship. It’s hard for me to find anything particularly praiseworthy or sacrificial about an already-wealthy man adding to his wealth the enormous power that comes with spending 40+ years in the halls of the U.S. Senate. Kennedy played no small role in vastly growing the size, scope, and power of the federal government. In my book, that makes his career contribution to human freedom a net loss.

Finally—and you’d think this would be obvious—honoring a recently deceased politician is a really, really awful reason to pass a trillion dollar piece of legislation.

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94 Responses to “Ted Kennedy”

  1. #1 |  billy-jay | 

    You’re a nice guy, Radley. That’s much nicer than what I would’ve written.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    well said, Radley- I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t realize that he actually helped with immigration and airline deregulation… condolences to Mr. Kennedy’s family.

  3. #3 |  Johnny Longtorso | 

    I’ve never understood the ‘tribute’ argument. If I believe Obamacare will result in long waits for hip replacements and the like, I’m supposed to accept people living for years in agonizing pain as an acceptable price to honor Kennedy? If I think the price estimate is, shall we say optimistic, I’m just supposed to accept the massive addition to the deficit as an acceptable price to honor The Ted?

    They clearly don’t accept that people actually disagree with them and we aren’t just lying to cover our racism and greed. In their minds not only are they always right, deep down inside everybody, even their biggest political opponents, know it.

    “Pass this to honor one of us” just shows liberalism is only about the liberals. The rest of us are just part of the set on which their play is staged.

  4. #4 |  jppatter | 

    The sad thing is that as soon as I heard he had died, my first thought was “The Dems are gonna say ‘Do This (pass health care control) For Teddy!'”. The only surprise I had was how fast they said it; the body was literally still warm when the first statements came out. Sad.

  5. #5 |  Tokin42 | 

    Well said. While I absolutely agree that lionizing politicians when they die is a waste of energy, there isn’t any need to be an ass when a mans death saddens so many people. Your piece was well put without the snark we’re seeing elsewhere.

  6. #6 |  parse | 

    I think you mean his “half century” in politics, rather than his “half decade.”

  7. #7 |  Radley Balko | 

    Yep–thanks.

  8. #8 |  El Scorcho | 

    I think using Senator Kennedy’s name for crass political pandering is a fitting tribute. He will be doing in death what he did in life.

  9. #9 |  adolphus | 

    I have a softer spot for Ted than most people here, but I cannot argue with anything you’ve said. I disagreed with him as often as I didn’t but not nearly so much as other politicians. While I too never subscribed to the notion of reflexively praising politicians upon their death or saw what inherent sacrifice being a Senator was for someone in Kennedy’s position (I suppose compared to other trust funders like Paris Hilton or even JFK Jr. he chose to do SOMETHING with his waking hours) I also can’t get behind instant vilification of them just because I disagreed with their politics. This was a nice balanced post and much closer to the Speaking of the Dead I would like to have at my own funeral.

    And lets not forget that his inherited wealth and elitism came in no small part from the selling of (then) illegal drugs. Just sayin’.

  10. #10 |  Michael Pack | 

    The thing about Kennedy and his ilk is that their not socaslist even if many of their policies seem to be.Being a socialist would mean a system,one which others might use ,they believe they are the only one’s who can handle such power.They believe first and only in themselves.Their the right people to rule,like the royals in europe before our founding.Most of the laws ans programs passed by these types assume that we are far to stupid to take care of ourselves and the self made rich are to evil and greedy to be trusted.The only thing that i mourn about his passing is he didn’t take most of congress with him.

  11. #11 |  Chris Grieb | 

    I agree with everything you said but I would like to suggest one other good thing Kennedy did. His helping defeat Robert Bork kept a really bad person off the Court and led to the appointment of Kennedy who was the 5th vote in Heller.

  12. #12 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    RIP Mary Jo Kopechne (7/26/1940 – 7/18/1969)

  13. #13 |  Ira | 

    Unlike most folks here, I will miss Senator Kennedy. He was a hard core liberal and made no apologies for what he believed in and what he accomplished.

    He was, like most of us, a believer in the American Dream. Unlike most of however he worked at the epicenter of political power to make his dream a reality and for some reason that makes some people bitter and nasty. Shame on them.

    I share in his vision of what America should be and am hopeful that his work will be carried forward by others in DC.

    Thanks for not getting snarky Balco.

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    There is no virtue in taking money from some, just to give it to others. Essentially, Ted Kennedy’s life was dedicated to that activity, as are nearly all politicians. There is nothing heroic or honorable about it.

    Michael Jackson, someone of whom I am not particularly a fan, can take credit for bringing several orders of magnitude more happiness to people for which they voluntarily and enthusiastically traded their own money.

    It didn’t take long to get sick of hearing the perpetual “news” coverage of Michael Jackson’s life and death, but in the case of Ted Kennedy, I was sick of it from the very first mention.

    But, if you want a symbol of your-money-is-my-money politics, if you want a name that epitomizes limitless government jurisdiction over citizens lives, and if you want a metaphor for the arrogant calcified incumbency that characterizes the entire Congress, then Ted is your man.

    My personal feeling is that the only thing the Kennedys brought to government that had any value at all was JFK’s restraint during the Cuban missile crisis.

  15. #15 |  freedomfan | 

    Radley was as nice about Kennedy as one could fairly be.

    I must admit that I am already sick of Kennedy’s scripted media apotheosis. In my car yesterday, a local radio station (KMJ 580 AM) used the line, “This is certainly a tremendous loss for the country.” And, that line was from the local top-of-the-hour allegedly straight news summary, not from some editorial smarm monger. I couldn’t help but scream, “In what possible way is losing Ted Kennedy a ‘tremendous loss’ to the U.S.? Are we running short on fat, statist hypocrites who use other people’s money to assuage their guilt about their material comfort? I feel sorry for his family, but life goes on exactly as before without him.”

    I dread a sickening week of saccharine tributes to “the Kennedy legacy”, the inevitable tearful goodbyes from politicians to “the lion of the Senate”, and meaningless speculation about “the end of Camelot” from pundits dimwitted enough to believe there was a Camelot in the first place.

  16. #16 |  freedomfan | 

    BTW, I know statists will want try to use his death to pass the awful legislation further socializing medicine. But a statist politician’s death shouldn’t result in passing statist legislation. Even if the causality were reversed, it still wouldn’t be worth it…

  17. #17 |  MattH | 

    @ #10: Is it so difficult to spell and punctuate correctly?

  18. #18 |  Billy Beck | 

    “I don’t doubt Kennedy was sincere when he claimed to speak for the poor or dispossessed.”

    {spit} He was just as “sincere” in his blackhearted desire to steal my productivity in order to pay for it.

    Hell will not burn long enough for that monster.

  19. #19 |  Mattocracy | 

    If Kennedy had an (R) after his name, every liberal pundit would be screaming with glee that this drunken murderous ass died. He also died receiving the very best private medicine one could buy with all his inherited wealth. The only reason he amounted to anything was because all of his brothers died before him. He was the GWB of the Kennedy’s and I will remember him as such.

    He was the epitome of what double standards are for the elite. Ted voted to remove liberty and freedom from people and to create privilege for his class. Stating that he was great because he helped pass laws without any regard as to whether or not they were good laws is the same as saying that Bush was a great president because he created the DHS and signed the Patriot Act to protect us from terrorism.

  20. #20 |  MG | 

    Does this mean they have to kill off Mayor Quimby?

  21. #21 |  Nick T | 

    Radley,

    As a Massachusettsian (?) I’m gonna throw this up on my facebook (if that’s cool?) to come back to the folks who are all mourning Ted and thanking him for his “service”.

    My thoughts: He seemed like a really good man on a humanistic/personal level. Like you, I don’t doubt that he cared about the poor and less fortunate, and his insurmountable incumbency allowed him to be more honest and unapologetic in his proposals and positions (which may not necessarily be a bad thing in general). But ultimately, his “service” to his country was something that requires basically zero sacrifice and resulted in great wealth, power and noteriety. Who among us wouldn’t love all of those things and gladly accept the life-style of a US Senator?

    Kennedy was also not without his share of personal and political mistakes and even as a true believer in many things, he made many compromises and deals as people in power often do.

    Lastly, anyone who served in Congress during Bush’s Presidency should be tarnished forever by history, unless they were constantly sounding red alerts and protesting at every turn (as a few were). Because while Bush was the worst, most criminal, most unlawful, most destructive President in American history, Congress, failing to fulfill its role, was complicit in his atrocities. Kennedy stood up to Bush at times, but it seems like his loudest moments of opposition was for things like Bush’s proposal to ban gay marriage through Constitutional Ammendment – giving that proposal was mere political fodder, hardly the most important issue to speak out on.

  22. #22 |  Dakota | 

    One quick note, the whole “service” think effing kills me. If it was “service” to our country he wouldn’t have been paid, or he would have been in harms way. If it’s service to “work” three days a week, with a 30 day vacation every year all for a nice salary in the mid $100,000’s sign me up.

    Now on the other hand. Eunice did dedicate her live to service, through voluntary association.

  23. #23 |  Aresen | 

    Actually, the part that bugs me most is that he gets to be buried in Arlington.

  24. #24 |  Steve C | 

    “his prowess as a legislator (which translates into his ability to use politics, as opposed to civil society, to solve problems)”

    Huh? How would be have better effected change via civil society? Presided over the local kiwanis club? Written the Great American Novel? Become a pundit? Blogger (journalist)? CEO?

    Always interesting to hear what libertarians value, how small-minded they are – I guarantee there’s total radio silence on the passing of major business figures, however they themselves used (and use) the levers of state power to advance their interests. However corrupt and crass they are within their own sphere.

    You could say the same you said here about FDR or Lincoln: proper management of the state, and the main institution that’s capable of dealing with collective action problems in a connected, fast moving world – it’s oh-so-dirty. Libertarians would rather sit on a perch apart from it all, sometimes hiding their eyes, sometimes throwing peanuts, or pretending like all problems can be solved via a little Mill or communitarianism. And that there’s a nice clean wall between politics and everything else.

    7/15/2050: Radley Balko dies, contributed not much of anything because he spent his life as a journalist, and on the basis of a little Rand and Econ 101 and utilitarian philosophy decided that it would be of some value to humanity or even his community to give the stock libertarian take on whatever was at the top of the news cycle. And what do journalists really do for us anyway?

  25. #25 |  Marty | 

    #17 | MattH-

    Samuel Colt used to say that those who spelled words the same way every time lacked creativity…

  26. #26 |  J sub D | 

    Finally—and you’d think this would be obvious—honoring a recently deceased politician is a really, really awful reason to pass a trillion dollar piece of legislation.

    In a sane world governed by rational politicians the demise of someone everybody knew was on his deathbed, someone who would have resigned his office if he felt a shred of responsibility to his constituents, would influence nobody’s stand on an important policy decision.

    I wish I lived in a sane world governed by rational politicians.

  27. #27 |  mark r | 

    {spit} He was just as “sincere” in his blackhearted desire to steal my productivity in order to pay for it.

    Yikes. You are good example of why i could never be a libertarian.

  28. #28 |  Gain | 

    As always, Radley, you succinctly address the heart of the matter instead of wasting words on nonsense and hyperbole.

    Ted Kennedy was, in my opinion, as far from a hero or public servant as anyone can be. Collecting a paycheck from the taxpayers while serving as a shill for big government is neither heroic nor in the public’s best interest. Feigning empathy for the “underprivileged” while planning your next month long retreat at your seaside compound does not make you beneficent.

    It has long been my belief that TK cultivated an altruistic persona in an attempt to create an emotional buffer to separate himself from the events at Chappaquiddick. No doubt, he would have told you (probably told himself) that he was sincere in advocating for the poor, but I find it impossible to believe that guilt was not his primary motive.

    I don’t mean to sound judgmental (although I’m sure I do), but TK was long one of my personal villains. Those from wealth and privilege who commit crimes at the expense of others are the dregs of society. Heinous deeds cannot be erased by subsequent acts, no matter how compassionate or sincere. A guilty man allowed to live a life of luxury and adulation is just as bad as an innocent man punished for crimes he did not commit.

    I didn’t know TK as a man. He may have been a devoted father (devoted husband, not so much) and a truly compassionate man. But TK the “public servant” struck me as nothing more than a self serving partisan elitist. One less of those is a gain, not a loss.

  29. #29 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Considering that two of his brothers were assassinated as politicians, I think it’s reasonable to say that Ted Kennedy was in harm’s way.

    Voting against the Iraq war is another thing he did that a fair number of libertarians would be in favor of.

  30. #30 |  mark r | 

    “One quick note, the whole “service” think effing kills me. If it was “service” to our country he wouldn’t have been paid, or he would have been in harms way. If it’s service to “work” three days a week, with a 30 day vacation every year all for a nice salary in the mid $100,000’s sign me up.”

    And he was elected to that service. Chosen by the people to be one of the two most important voices of his state for something on the order of half a century. Your beef is with the people of Massachusetts, the constitution, the founding fathers, and with the rest of America on that count, not Mr. Kennedy.

  31. #31 |  billy-jay | 

    @25 Marty:

    It’s a good thing he didn’t apply that same logic to making firearms.

  32. #32 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The best I can do is “no comment” about Ted. I battled him, his minions, and what he represented for most of my adult life.

    When he stood against Republicans (such as in the Iraq war) he was at his best. But, I’ll say the same about Bush for when he stood against the Democrats collectivism.

  33. #33 |  Big Chief | 

    I think that using TK to try and pass Obamacare is entirely fitting. While we may not know much about how O-care would work there is one thing we can be sure of – no politicians or their families will ever be on a waiting list or ever denied any procedures. It would embrace the same kind of political privilage that TK embodied his entire life.

  34. #34 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ Steve C,

    Working as a legislator isn’t a peaceful way to make change. After all, the laws that Sen. Kennedy helped passed (all of them) required our compliance or else we would be imprisoned or fined. There isn’t anything peaceful about that at all. MLK never had to get elected to spur social change.

    And BTW, Radley helped get a guy off of death row because of his work. More than I can say for Ted Kennedy. Other journalists have also managed to force a president’s resignation over Watergate and bring to light the massacre at My Lai just to name a couple of things. I would say that journalists have done more to expose corruption and spur change than any politician ever has.

    We don’t just sit on our perch either. Go check out the work that Libertarians have done at the Institute for Justice and FIRE. Real results that actually matter to every day people who are being mistreated by peaceful legislators and their good intention regulations.

    But I guess we’re the narrow minded one’s, huh? Whatever.

  35. #35 |  Euler | 

    “I don’t doubt Kennedy was sincere when he claimed to speak for the poor or dispossessed.”

    I do. People that are sincere about helping others don’t leave a woman alone to drawn.

  36. #36 |  Euler | 

    That should be drown obviously. I guess I need more coffee.

  37. #37 |  PeeDub | 

    Yikes. You are good example of why i could never be a libertarian.

    We’re not required to have extreme viewpoints. We just believe in thinking for yourself.

  38. #38 |  Cynical In CA | 

    Goddamn Steve C, either you are the stupidest fucking person in the world or you have bested Dave Krueger in a sarcasm contest.

  39. #39 |  mark r | 

    “We’re not required to have extreme viewpoints. We just believe in thinking for yourself.”

    Even when, as in the case of the poster who damned TK’s soul to hell, you are awful at it.

  40. #40 |  cleavingSpace | 

    “Working as a legislator isn’t a peaceful way to make change. After all, the laws that Sen. Kennedy helped passed (all of them) required our compliance or else we would be imprisoned or fined. There isn’t anything peaceful about that at all.”

    And here’s the reason folks, why libertarians will never have any serious chance as politicians in the country. Nutters.

    “the laws that Sen. Kennedy helped passed (all of them) required our compliance”

    And he was elected to do so as public official by you, we, the people of the country, along with the other 99 senators. You’re acting like this is a dictatorship.

    Great crowd of people here guys!

  41. #41 |  James D | 

    It has to be said: If he was on Obamacare, he probably would have died early last year …..

  42. #42 |  Steve C | 

    “Working as a legislator isn’t a peaceful way to make change. After all, the laws that Sen. Kennedy helped passed (all of them) required our compliance or else we would be imprisoned or fined. There isn’t anything peaceful about that at all. MLK never had to get elected to spur social change.”

    Ok, so this is my comment to Mattocracy and all libertarians (I know there are a lot of you out there) who hold this view. This is childish. You need to grow up. It’s not different from me saying that prisons are bad because people get locked up against their will, but refusing to take on what to do about murderers.

    What to do about power and how one should distribute power is the paramount question for any society at any time in history, and solutions are judged in terms of bad and less bad. If you can’t bring yourself to stare it in the face and maybe try to make the best of it, your opinion on anything to do with politics is worthless. You don’t get to complain and be taken seriously if you want to hide.

  43. #43 |  Spukhafte Venwirkungen | 

    Minor correction: Ted Kennedy did not “kill off a planned wind farm in Nantucket Sound” – he opposed it, and he probably abused his power in his opposition, but it is still slogging its way through the approvals process and could start construction in 2010 – see http://www.capewind.org

  44. #44 |  freedomfan | 

    Steve C, it seems like the coercive actions of the state against peaceful citizens do not necessarily analogize well with actions against violent offenders. Most libertarians aren’t opposed to government acting against those who have initiated force on unwilling others.

    You might want work on that before chiding others on how to be “taken seriously” in political discussions.

    BTW, many libertarians would take issue with your choice of distribution of power as “the paramount question for any society at any time in history”. Maybe that’s the paramount question for statists. (It may even indirectly define statism, for all I know.) But libertarians don’t necessarily presume it is their right to “distribute power” among others. Many might rank more highly questions exploring how to free individuals from unnecessary coercion so that they have the best chance to achieve maximum fulfillment and self-determination in their lives. Or, how to achieve various valued ends without forcing peaceful people to adopt particular means.

  45. #45 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “You’re acting like this is a dictatorship.”

    Fuckin’ A, cleavingspace, it’s starting to sink in!

  46. #46 |  Cynical In CA | 

    At least Steve C cleared up my confusion. It was the former. Thanks Steve C!

  47. #47 |  Mattocracy | 

    @cleaving space,

    I never voted for Kennedy. I didn’t agree with his values. But I have to abide by his values against my will because he has the power. That is fucking nutters. I don’t care if someone is elected to office. That doesn’t give them the right to force their moral obligations onto the populace. We’re supposed to have our life, liberty, and be free to pursue happiness so long as we don’t deny that to anyone else. So yes, our government resembles dictatorship more than a free republic. It’s just a dictatorship of the majority against the minority

    @ Steve C,

    See above. Murderers violate other people’s rights. You call us childish, and yet you equate our limited government stances with dissolving prisons and letting murderers run free. That’s a real grown up counter point there.

    If you honestly think that government forcing person morals of values onto the citizenry against their will is appropriate just because the majority voted for it, even if it means that someone should be ultimately punished with criminal charges for not complying with majority, then you yourself show a tremendous lack of maturity.

    The whole reason we have a constitution is to prevent the majority from overpowering the minority. The most important of which is the individual. Individuals should be free to do what they want unimpeded so long as they don’t impede others. Kennedy was more often than not, a member of that majority that rarely acted with respect to the dissenting minority.

  48. #48 |  MattH | 

    Gain wrote:
    Heinous deeds cannot be erased by subsequent acts, no matter how compassionate or sincere. A guilty man allowed to live a life of luxury and adulation is just as bad as an innocent man punished for crimes he did not commit.

    I have to take issue with this: it bad to let the guilty go free, but worse to punish the innocent. If you punish the innocent, the total harm includes the harm done to the original victim, plus the harm done to the innocent man imprisoned or executed, plus the harm done by future crimes by the person who was actually guilty but not punished times the probability that he will re-offend. Whereas if you let the guilty go free, you have the same harm to the original victim, and the same possibility of the guilty person re-offending, but no harm done by prosecuting an innocent person. So tolerating some guilty people getting away with their crime, as distasteful as it may be, is still better than the alternative.

  49. #49 |  Mattocracy | 

    There seems to be this recurring idea amongst a lot of people in this country (conservatives, liberals, independents, etc.) that think their representatives in congress are there to push the agendas of their constituents. I don’t know why, when, or how so many people began to believe this, but it really is the core of all the corruption and evil that occurs in DC. Our reps are supposed to protect the freedoms of their constituency, not go on the offensive to against different members of our society.

  50. #50 |  cleavingSpace | 

    @Mattocracy

    You seem very dissatisfied with this country. There are plenty of other ones out there. Why don’t you try the libertarian oasis of Somalia? You won’t have to worry about the pesky ‘dictatorship of the majority against the minority” (also called Democracy) there! You’ll be free to do as you please. No pesky governments to get in your way (they won’t even bother to build your roads!)

    If things get too tough, you can always try your luck in the socialist hellhole of Sweden or Norway :)

    Seriously, most of you sound like Ruby Ridge wannabe’s under a guise of reading a few Ayn Rand books, which is why you won’t be taken seriously.

  51. #51 |  Radley Balko | 

    Amusing watching the “America — Love It or Leave It!” crowd switch from right to left along with the party in power.

  52. #52 |  cleavingSpace | 

    I’m only saying, if he doesn’t like a democratic (which has nothing to do with “the party in power”, btw) form of government, essentially calling it a dictatorship, why doesn’t he try some other ones? I don’t care if GWB or Obama is in power, if you hate that fact that public officials are elected by the public, perhaps you should go to a country that doesn’t have such freedom.

  53. #53 |  Big Chief | 

    cleavingSpace,
    Your comments show you don’t even have the most basic understanding about government or this country, The US isn’t a democracy but a Constitutional Republic, and that one of the key aspects of the Constitution is to protect minority rights against majority power. But then that part of the Constitution has been so attacked by statists on the left and right that our protections are very thin at this point. I have no more interest in living in an unbridled democracy than a dictatorship. Neither recognizes any limits to the role of power.

  54. #54 |  Tokin42 | 

    Matt (#49),

    They started believing it in 1787, as they were arguing and writing our constitution. Our government wasn’t founded to protect every conceivable right the minority may feel they deserve from the representatives of the majority. Let me put it another way…the majority have rights too and a minority of people aren’t entitled to stand in the way of those rights. That’s why, unlike some (cynical, I’m looking at you), I think voting is important.

  55. #55 |  Cynical In CA | 

    I’m withering under your gaze Tokin!

    Believe whatever fantasies or superstitions you choose regarding voting. However, that in no way mitigates the reality that voting is a violent act, and an utterly futile one at that. I have proved time and again that mass non-voting is the only viable means of changing the system. Of course, there are more than enough people out there satisfied with the status quo of State violence, and they demonstrate it annually in the democratic confessional booth.

    As for the assertion by cleavingspace that Somalia is some kind of experiment in anarchy, the collected writings of Chris Floyd should disabuse any sane person of that notion. Somalia is an experiment in the destruction of a society by the U.S. Empire, among the most recent in a long, long list.

    And lastly, I have a hearty “Fuck you!” for the Amerika-love-it-or-leave-it crowd. You first, I was born here.

  56. #56 |  Mattocracy | 

    I too find it amusing that “love it or leave it” statements are coming from a different crowd now. People who don’t like to debate throw it out there like its some kind of trump card. “Oh yeah!? You can leave whenever you want, buddy!” It’s a nice way to end the debate and walk away smug without countering anything.

    While we’re at it…Libertarianism does not equal anarchy (Somalia). There is a difference. I’m a Libertarian, Cynical is an acarchist. Not trying to pick on you Cynical, just using your name to help make some clear definitions here.

    I think government has a purpose to run courts and law enforcement. Maybe if congress wasn’t so busy passing pork barrel stimulus projects and deciding what victimless activity to criminalize, they could concentrate on producing a more honest and accurate justice system that doesn’t send innocent people to prison. They would also have the time to properly regulate how law enforcement treats the general public. That’s really what they are supposed to be arguing about in congress…

    …but not even that occurs in Somalia. I really hate it when people make these comments in an effort to label libertarianism as something that it isn’t.

  57. #57 |  Mattocracy | 

    Further, I don’t hate the fact that public officials are elected by the public. I never said that in anyway and that is not the issue. It’s what the public officials do once they are in power, not how they get there.

    You might think we sound like Ruby Ridge wannabe’s, but you sound like an advocate of big brother to me. But this name calling doesn’t move the conversation anywhere positive. I also don’t think that Ruby Ridge is a good comparison to use since it was a pretty awful event that is remembered as a huge black mark on the reputation of the FBI. So we’re like an unarmed woman and child who were shot by trained government snipers? I’m not sure how you expect me to take you seriously when that is the best zinger you can come up with.

    You never addressed any of my points, just attacked my character.

  58. #58 |  Balko on Ted Kennedy « Occluded Sun | 

    [...] on Ted Kennedy See his article here, which demonstrates a far greater patience and restraint that I could [...]

  59. #59 |  Cynical in CA | 

    No worries Matt. I like to think of libertarians as anarchists who haven’t realized they’re anarchists just yet.

    And as I’ve written before, anarchy doesn’t spell the end of government, it reorganizes government at the individual level by cooperation instead of force.

    You know — political equality, or freedom.

  60. #60 |  John Markley | 

    Steve C,

    “Huh? How would be have better effected change via civil society? Presided over the local kiwanis club? Written the Great American Novel? Become a pundit? Blogger (journalist)? CEO?
    Always interesting to hear what libertarians value, how small-minded they are…”

    This sort of attitude is one of the most repellent aspects of modern liberalism- this sneering contempt for voluntary society, and above all for average people just peacefully going about their lives, because only grand collective projects instituted through coercion are.worthy of attention or esteem. It betrays an immature disdain for normal productive adult life characteristic of fascist warmongers, spoiled lefty trust fund babies, and 5-year old boys.

    Mark r,
    “And he was elected to that service. Chosen by the people to be one of the two most important voices of his state for something on the order of half a century. Your beef is with the people of Massachusetts, the constitution, the founding fathers, and with the rest of America on that count, not Mr. Kennedy.”

    How in God’s name does the fact that he was elected to do X- in this case, wield power and enjoy great prestige- constitute proof that X is a “service”? If the people of Massachusetts voted to give me 10 million dollars, would I be performing a service for the country when I spent it?

  61. #61 |  cleavingSpace | 

    Matto and Cynical (lol you’re actually a self proclaimed anarchist….fucking tool), take a vacation to government free Somalia with Glenn Beck and Ted Nugent. Let me know how it works out for you.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/06/somalia-libertarian-parad_n_197763.html

  62. #62 |  Euler | 

    @ cleavingSpace

    Somalia and the US have completely different cultures. As such, a comparison between the two countries is pretty useless. If you want to make a valid comparison, compare Somalia with government against Somalia today. You will find that there have in fact been many improvements in the absence of a central government contrary to the popular narrative.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy_in_Somalia

    Also, you say that, “And he was elected to do so as public official by you, we, the people of the country, along with the other 99 senators.” Senators are elected by the residents of the state in which they are running, not by the nation as a whole. If you’re going to come in here and talk shit, at least get your facts right.

  63. #63 |  drunkenatheist | 

    Well now, I’d hate to bring it back to the original topic. Radley, thank you for a far more nuanced Ted Kennedy post than I have seen from anyone thus far. As I stated on my own blog, mourning seems to be drawn down predictable partisan lines. Your post is far more respectful than some of the horrendous commentary I’ve seen in other places.

    I will definitely be passing along this post along to the Democrats and Republicans in my life.

    PS- Cleavster, wrt your quote:

    “perhaps you should go to a country that doesn’t have such freedom”

    You obviously aren’t female or LGBT, or else you’d know how laughable that statement is. Oh yes, as a bisexual woman, I remember how “free” I am every time some asshole tries to take away my reproductive rights or feels the need to tell me another bullshit reason why I shouldn’t have been able to marry my ex-girlfriend.

    What’s next, you gonna start quoting Toby Keith?

    PPS- Tokin, wrt your quote:

    “Our government wasn’t founded to protect every conceivable right the minority may feel they deserve from the representatives of the majority. Let me put it another way…the majority have rights too and a minority of people aren’t entitled to stand in the way of those rights.”

    Hilarious. Too much of that is laughable. I presume you are anti-equal marriage rights, support discrimination against non-Christians, and support any sort of racism thrown at people of color? After all, if there is some sort of fucked up, convoluted way to argue that the rights of majority are being violated, I guess all those pesky minorities should shut the fuck up and stop being so uppity, right?

  64. #64 |  Steve C | 

    “Steve C, it seems like the coercive actions of the state against peaceful citizens do not necessarily analogize well with actions against violent offenders. Most libertarians aren’t opposed to government acting against those who have initiated force on unwilling others.”

    So here’s the part where I’m supposed to be impressed, right? Such moral clarity – it’s coercion that we’re talking about after all. Libertarians think other people are supposed to believe that this is the final word on say, the morality of (forced) taxation to pay for an army.

    So I go back to my children reference. Only children can possibly look at the collective action problems (defense and so forth) that governments have faced over time and get SO worked up about coercion. Yeah, the government has big guns, is that supposed to count as insight? That’s only been true through all of recorded history. You have to make collective action happen in the face of individual incentives so you use the deadly force of the state to do so.

    “Oh dear I just started reading about history and the things states do are so unclean and offensive” say libertarians. Welcome to the world. Teddy Kennedy is culpable for evil in the same sense soldiers in Patton’s or Westmoreland’s armies on the attack were culpable – you can stand back and call soldiers murderers but in the context of the challenges a state faces nobody will care and people will rightfully discount your arguments to zero.

  65. #65 |  Steve C | 

    “Most libertarians aren’t opposed to government acting against those who have initiated force on unwilling others.”

    Your rulers want to tax you to fund a military and maybe a justice system. And the local fire department. Your rulers will throw you in jail if you don’t pay up like everyone else.

    I’ve just roughly outlined all governments everywhere going back several centuries at least. Do you have a problem with that and if so can you articulate an alternative (that doesn’t involve getting high to appreciate)?

  66. #66 |  Steve C | 

    “Goddamn Steve C, either you are the stupidest fucking person in the world or you have bested Dave Krueger in a sarcasm contest.”

    So far this comment has a +14 and mine a -31, which tells you what you need to know about Radley Balko commenters.

  67. #67 |  Steve C | 

    “BTW, many libertarians would take issue with your choice of distribution of power as “the paramount question for any society at any time in history”. Maybe that’s the paramount question for statists.”

    I’m pretty sure Hobbes, Locke and all the founding fathers would agree with me, to start with.

  68. #68 |  Steve C | 

    “If you honestly think that government forcing person morals of values onto the citizenry against their will is appropriate just because the majority voted for it, even if it means that someone should be ultimately punished with criminal charges for not complying with majority, then you yourself show a tremendous lack of maturity.

    The whole reason we have a constitution is to prevent the majority from overpowering the minority. The most important of which is the individual. Individuals should be free to do what they want unimpeded so long as they don’t impede others. Kennedy was more often than not, a member of that majority that rarely acted with respect to the dissenting minority.”

    When I look at my copy of the constitution, I see a supermajority is required to change the it but a simple majority plus presidential approval required to sign something into law. Are you saying Ted Kennedy was complicit in violating the constitution? Or maybe you’re saying that passing laws is a majoritarian act? Well yes, by design – am I supposed to be impressed or offended by that?

  69. #69 |  Steve C | 

    “This sort of attitude is one of the most repellent aspects of modern liberalism- this sneering contempt for voluntary society, and above all for average people just peacefully going about their lives, because only grand collective projects instituted through coercion are.worthy of attention or esteem. It betrays an immature disdain for normal productive adult life characteristic of fascist warmongers, spoiled lefty trust fund babies, and 5-year old boys.”

    Libertarian masturbation, but that rates you +6 in this forum – congrats.

  70. #70 |  Enyap | 

    “So far this comment has a +14 and mine a -31, which tells you what you need to know about Radley Balko commenters.”

    That commenters on a libertarian blog tend to agree with other libertarians and disagree with liberals. Yeah you sure told us.

  71. #71 |  Steve C | 

    Enyap is speaking for everyone when he says that the following:

    “Goddamn Steve C, either you are the stupidest fucking person in the world or you have bested Dave Krueger in a sarcasm contest.”

    merits a 40+ point spread. I guess I’m not able to appreciate the power of the argument put forth that I’m the “stupidest fucking person on the planet”. Of course if that’s indeed true you could understand why.

    Nice “community” you’ve cultivated here Radley, your civic feats really put Ted Kennedy to shame.

  72. #72 |  harry | 

    “I’ve never much bought into the notion that we ought to venerate the dead simply because they’ve died.”
    — Radley Balko, beginning his commentary on the death of Edward Kennedy, on August 27, 2009.

    What a cold-hearted and cold-minded man you must be, RB. Why do you think homo sapiens has felt the need to mark their deaths over the several millennia since shovel first met earth and the recently deceased was lowered to rest in the ground? I suppose even then, at the beginning, a proto-libertarian was present and looking askance at the loss of marginal utility as the dead man or woman’s dearest personal possessions followed them into the grave.

    As much as I can tell from the arc of my own life, along with a bit of reading and my frequent personal experiences with death, we humans have always offered veneration in small and large ways “simply” because a person died. No one disputes that it is exactly and only death that allows (or even compels) veneration for each individual in the multitude of forgotten lives that pass on every day. My grandmother lived her life as a thief, liar, compulsive gambler and likely sociopath, but who would have objected to her pastor’s sentimental funeral oration, or her shiny and sumptuous gravestone, or would have attended her wake to pronounce on her many faults, without being permanently marked as inhumane and unbalanced? Even an evil life is owed veneration at death, if manifest only as a stone and a name.

    What offends you about venerating the newly deceased, RB, or at least leaves you cold to the notion? Perhaps you find it false and unearned, or poorly-timed, or imprecise in the general case. Clearly, in the case of Ted Kennedy you hated what the man did, or what he came to represent to you, but did you consider that ugly screed you published some kind of forced accolade, and thus an injury to you? Ressentiment will out. I suppose shouldering the legacy of two murdered brothers, among other aspects of his life, was not sufficient weight to make him anything like right in your world, or your notion of human worth.

    When I was eighteen, ignorant and Republican, still in thrall to the fairy tale world view you propound, I used to read the Wall Street Journal most days. I was comforted by the editorials and opinion columns which relentlessly offered up their standard stalwart defense of ‘freedom’ and the ‘free market,’ but puzzled by the constant invocation of the evil in this man, Ted Kennedy. Every day it seemed there was another person writing a piece with another insult to Mr. Kennedy. Such was my introduction to high church Republican hatred, now a self-sustaining raison d’etre which has steadily metastasized through the Republican party to all its parts, a hundred times amplified each day. It is many years later now and I have admiration for this man– or any person! –who could endure that tidal wave of hatred with evident good humor and collegiality, and earn the votes of millions for over three decades. Regardless of how his legislative accomplishments would or would not fit into my map of the ideal world, in light of his early errors and falsehoods, and his evident personal limitations compared to his more illustrious brothers, I agree with those who feel that Kennedy accomplished a great act of self-overcoming to gain the political successes that he attained. In my book, that is to be applauded, not denigrated and dismissed, as do you.

    Another thing, RB, before I go. You are clearly contemptuous of liberal politicians in general (“… none of these things are particularly virtuous in my book”) but I would urge that before you go pissing on Kennedy’s grave any further, you perhaps ‘walk a mile in his shoes’ and stop whining about name recognition, come down from your ivory tower and see if you can’t get yourself elected to the Senate and maybe change some of these terrible policies that you continually complain about.

  73. #73 |  Pinandpuller | 

    The flag was half mast at Arby’s today. Have we lost our minds?

  74. #74 |  Pinandpuller | 

    One of the most concise comments I have read so far said that TK is now a shovel ready project.

  75. #75 |  Tokin42 | 

    #63 | drunkenatheist | August 28th, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I presume you are anti-equal marriage rights, support discrimination against non-Christians, and support any sort of racism thrown at people of color? After all, if there is some sort of fucked up, convoluted way to argue that the rights of majority are being violated, I guess all those pesky minorities should shut the fuck up and stop being so uppity, right?

    You caught me. Since I believe the people (as in “we, the people”) have the right to decide most issues for ourselves I obviously hate minorities, especially the ultra-minorities like black-bi-athiest-mentally/height/hearing challenged people. Maybe instead of screaming “I have the right to marry my ex!” you should try convincing others that “we” should be allowed to do as we please. Of course, that would mean you would have to take other peoples views into consideration, and we can’t have that.

    Unlike you and Steve C, I understand some of my views are in the minority, I’m not entitled to everything I want, and it’s best to argue with reason to convince others, not hyperbole. Steve got dinged down so far not solely because he was wrong, but because he was an ass about it. If you’ll notice Cynical and I disagree but that doesn’t give me an excuse to be an asshole. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean the other person is the epitome of evil.

    Now that I’ve said that let me add I think bi- folks are just like agnosticts, too weak to make up their minds. There, I said it.

  76. #76 |  Tokin42 | 

    #72 Harry,

    You’re still in a fairy tale world. The argument that we have to speak kindly of the dead, just because they’re dead, is ridiculous. If a man was a dickhead his entire life, dying doesn’t turn him into a saint. Radley went out of his way NOT to piss on his grave but because he didn’t “rent his clothes and put sackcloth on his loins” you view it as a desecration of the deceased. Fairy tale time.

  77. #77 |  Tokin42 | 

    One last thing, as I’ve mentioned here before the good thing about people is….they die.

  78. #78 |  Tobey | 

    Amen!

  79. #79 |  Steve C | 

    “Steve got dinged down so far not solely because he was wrong, but because he was an ass about it.”

    Everything I’ve said is substantive and not different in tone from the precedent laid down by Radley’s post. I’ve put out some pretty substantive arguments, and I’ll take this as a weak way of avoiding the substance because you have nothing to say. You feel that “Steve C is the stupidest fucking person in the world” ought to settle it.

  80. #80 |  Tokin42 | 

    #24 | Steve C | August 27th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Always interesting to hear what libertarians value, how small-minded they are….7/15/2050: Radley Balko dies, contributed not much of anything because he spent his life as a journalist, and on the basis of a little Rand and Econ 101 and utilitarian philosophy decided that it would be of some value to humanity or even his community to give the stock libertarian take on whatever was at the top of the news cycle.

    Nooo, you didn’t start off by being an ass at all.

  81. #81 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Actually, Steve C, you are the “stupidest fucking person™” in the world. But keep coming back, you do provide some entertainment value.

    P.S. As I, and others who share similar views, have expounded ad nauseum on those views countless other times on this and other forums, I feel no special obligation to redevelop these arguments for someone as undeserving as you. Please catch up on your homework on your own time.

    P.P.S. I, and others who share my anarchist philosophy, take a considerable amount of heat on this very forum for our radical views from the very libertarians you conflate with us anarchists. If you can’t take the heat, get the fuck out of the kitchen, to paraphrase that well-known war criminal Harry Truman.

  82. #82 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #75 | Tokin42 — “If you’ll notice Cynical and I disagree but that doesn’t give me an excuse to be an asshole. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean the other person is the epitome of evil.”

    Here’s to us agreeing someday, Tokin. On my terms, of course. ;)

  83. #83 |  Tokin42 | 

    Cynical,

    I know we’ve agreed on stuff, like Steve being a ass and wives ruining your dating life, just can’t think of anything else off the top of my head. I’ve never felt it necessary to have to agree with someone 100% of the time in order to count them as a friend, as long as someones not a total dick we can get along swimmingly.

  84. #84 |  Pam in Taos | 

    I made a comment at another blog about Mary Jo Kopechne and was called some not-so-kind names for failing to praise the Kennedy greatness. I agree with you 100%. A lot of the same folks who are against religious orthodoxy seem to be OK with unquestioning (hero)worship of their (political) guy, though.

  85. #85 |  Cynical in CA | 

    We’re totally cool Tokin. Thanks man. On the subject of dickishness:

    You know, I just wanted to write that I usually take the time to develop carefully reasoned arguments here and I don’t have such a short fuse. I am grateful to those who share my point-of-view for having the patience to remain calm. Please forgive my lashing out as borne of frustration.

    I regard rabid statists of the sort of Steve C and cleavingspace as roughly akin to hosts of an open bar at an AA meeting. Those who have made it over to The Agitator are drifting ever closer to liberty and peace and away from slavery and violence, and all the rabid statists want is to lure these freedom-lovers back to their black holes of violence by plying them with superstition, fear and lies. I just can’t let that go unchallenged.

    /soapbox

    To cap it off, fwiw, a more eloquent and perfectly logical dismantling of Lord God Theodore Kennedy than I could ever muster:

    http://www.fff.org/comment/com0908n.asp

  86. #86 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    All I need to know about Ted Kennedy was answered by his actions on the night of July 18 1969. Coward. Lying coward. Cover my own ass, lying coward. Yep…that about sums it up.

    Most surreal moment in television and political history ever….watching Teddy question Clarence Thomas on his morals and integrity…HA! I would guess Teddy could have been considered an “expert witness”…

    Yep…pretty easy to spend everyone else’s money…especially when daddy’s mob money left you sitting more than well off.

    Searching searching searching….nope…still don’t care he’s dead. Agree with one of the first commentors….you are way nicer than I am Bradley. I guess in some’s eyes, a few good legislative initiatives are enough to outweigh a dispicable act of cowardice (that would have landed those of us not named Kennedy in prison for a few years I’m sure) that cost a young lady her life.

  87. #87 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    Ooops…must need my meds…”Radley”…of course Bradley could be considered a short way to combine your names into one : )

    Sorry about that.

  88. #88 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    And I hate to post 3 in a row…buuuuut.

    We can all be sure that Teddy felt great remorse over what happened that fateful night:

    • ‘One of His Favorite Topics of Humor
    Was, Indeed, Chappaquiddick Itself’
    — Kennedy Friend Ed Klein

  89. #89 |  ASPECTRATIO | 

    It’s always amusing reading the windage of a young and inexperienced blowhard whistling past the graveyard as an old warhorse pol is set to be buried. Such is flavor of Balko’s bilge.

    “Finally—and you’d think this would be obvious—honoring a recently deceased politician is a really, really awful reason to pass a trillion dollar piece of legislation.” No it’s not. Revisit 1964 and see just how much better the United States is as a country for passing the legislative agenda of the then late JFK.

  90. #90 |  old | 

    How magnanimous! Speak ill of the dead? Not Balko! Certainly not Balko’s commenters.

  91. #91 |  David | 

    @aspectratio

    Sticks and stones…oh, where you trying to make an argument there? Seemed more like an ad hominum. Also, I thought the country was doing pretty bad right now…or are you arguing that passing JFK’s agenda was bad for the country? That we can agree on I’m sure.

    @old

    “Quick, sanctimoniously protect the deceased. Vilify all who question dear leader before they do as they did to Hitler and Stalin”

    Seriously though, Kennedy was a war mongering, women murdering, thieving, elitist who was an asshole in life and just because he’s dead does not mean he is now out of reach of criticism. Despite how much you may wish he was.

  92. #92 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Ah, we have AspectRation and Old competing for Steve C’s title.

    Go **** Ted Kennedy’s dead ****.

    And what David wrote.

  93. #93 |  Blagnet.net » Misconceptions about libertarianism and Statism | 

    [...] the comments to Radley Balko’s very good, polite, short post about Ted Kennedy, a few peculiar Statist sentiments blemish an otherwise sensible discussion about the lack of merit [...]

  94. #94 |  Two more on Ted | Quotar Blog | 

    [...] In contrast, Radley Balko focuses more on Ted’s moneyed background. [...]

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