Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yes, this is a litmus test

People who refer to themselves as "libertarians" spend a lot of time arguing over exactly what they mean by "libertarian."

Personally, I try to be fairly "big tent," figuring that people who once self-identify as libertarian tend to get more consistently libertarian after doing so, if they're a) accepted and b) encouraged to explore libertarian ideas, instead of just slapped around for whatever deviations they still cling to.

So, when I disagree on this or that issue with someone who self-identifies as a libertarian, I generally try to frame that disagreement not as a negative verdict on the other person's libertarianism, but rather as a possible error on their part as to how libertarian ideas apply to that particular issue.

But the fact is that there are some people who call themselves libertarians who ... well, just ain't libertarians. And the facts on some issues are so incredibly clear that it's possible to use those issues as litmus tests. If you're on one side of the issue, you may be a libertarian. If you're on the other side, no, you aren't.

One such issue is -- to use the phrase fraudulently coined by its opponents -- is the "Ground Zero Mosque."

We'll get to the fraud in a moment, but it's really a secondary thing, a side effect. The important part in treating it as a litmus test is this:

If you support private property rights and freedom of religion, you may be a libertarian.

If you don't support private property rights and freedom of religion, you aren't a libertarian.


Cordoba House, the project being fraudulently referred to as a "mosque" by those attempting to prevent its construction, is planned for construction on private property and with private funds.

The opponents of Cordoba House are attempting to stop its construction by persuading a government board to declare the building currenly standing at the project's prospective location "historic" so that the owners can be forced to "preserve" it and forbidden to demolish it and build a structure more to their liking there.

The opponents of Cordoba House oppose private property rights. Their opposition to private property rights stems from their opposition to freedom of religion. They are, therefore, not libertarians.

They're also either liars or idiots, and the evidence points strongly to the former. Here's the skinny:

Cordoba House is not a "mosque." It's an "Islamic cultural center," which is no more a "mosque" than your local YMCA is a "cathedral."

The construction site for Cordoba House is not at "Ground Zero." It's two blocks away, on Park Place between West Broadway and Church Street (and, FWIW, farther away from "Ground Zero" than St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church or St. Paul's Chapel).

The opponents of Cordoba House generally claim to have knowledge of Islam beyond that of us non-Muslims who don't obsess over who's worshiping where. For example, they like to cite chapter and verse on the historical penchant of Muslim conquerors for building mosques on prominent conquered sites.

If they know that much, then presumably they're not idiots -- and if they're not idiots they also know by now that Cordoba House isn't a mosque. From that, it follows that they are just lying about it because lying seems more likely to get them what they want.

If they can use Google Maps (and if they can blog, they can surely use Google Maps) they also know that Cordoba House's construction site isn't at Ground Zero. From that, once again, it follows that they're lying because they know that the facts aren't as emotionally compelling as the fairy tale they're pushing.

The whole "Ground Zero Mosque" meme is fraudulent in the classic sense: It's an attempt at theft by deception. By convincing people that a cultural center is a mosque, and that "Ground Zero" is located two blocks north of where it's actually located, they hope to build popular support for their call on government to steal some things -- a piece of land, a building, and the religious freedom of the land/building's owners -- for them.

And fraud, a/k/a theft by deception, isn't libertarian either.

Update, 6:55pm, 07/27/10: I wasn't thinking of Wayne Allyn Root when I wrote this piece (one reason for ending my involvement with the Libertarian Party was to minimize the amount of time I have to spending thinking of Wayne Allyn Root, period), but along he comes to drive home my point [hat tip: Jill Pyeatt].

Once you get past the "in a fetal position in a corner, laughing at Wayne Allyn Root calling himself a 'leading Libertarian thinker'" phase, note that Root tries to frame a new argument for governernment intervention:

If it turns out that this project is sponsored by a foreign government -- either directly or through a state-sponsored organization that engages in terrorism -- than [sic] the idea of this being an issue of religious freedom is a sham and an argument can be made that our Constitution would actually prohibit this mosque from being built.

The Constitution in Wayne's imagination, perhaps. The real one ... no. And a good thing for the largest Christian denomination, too, considering that every last Holy Roman Catholic church building in the US is "sponsored" by a foreign state (the Vatican).

Root participates in the fraud aspect of the issue, falsely referring to the cultural center as a "mosque" and pretending that it's at Ground Zero in order to obtain valuable considerations ("public pressure on the property owners to sell" the property to someone besides the Cordoba House project, participation in protests, etc.).

Update, 07/29/10: I see that some people are continuing to refer to a "mosque" at "Ground Zero," so I've gone ahead and made a very bad graphic (with a screen capture of satellite photography from Google Maps) to clarify the geography:

Per the legend, "Ground Zero," a/k/a the World Trade Center site, is outlined in red dots. The Cordoba House site is marked with a blue "X."

As you can see, "Ground Zero" and Cordoba House are separated by three streets, two city blocks, a 15-story building (a Post Office which now also houses the New York State Department of Health) and a 21-story building (100 Church Street, a large office complex).

Not only is Cordoba House not at "Ground Zero," it won't be visible from ground level at Ground Zero, nor (at a planned 13 stories) will it be very visible from higher up at Ground Zero since two taller buildings will block much of the diagonal downward view.

I'll leave it to Islamic authorities to explain the difference between a mosque and a cultural center with a prayer area, but where geography is concerned, calling this the "Ground Zero mosque" is 100% hogwash.


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