Freedom

So Rush Limbaugh has been dropped from the group interested in buying the St. Louis Rams. This has got a lot of people up in arms about supposed discrimination. For example,

Welcome to America circa 2009, where loyalty to the ruling class determines private ownership of assets. Sound more than a bit like Chavez’s Venezuela?

That criticism is misguided. Freedom–political liberty–is at heart, the right to associate with whomever you choose, without fear of retribution by the state, regardless of your reasons.

Whatever any of may think about their decision, Limbaugh’s business parters were free to drop him at any time–for political reasons, because he’s ugly, because they think  he smells, or because he doesn’t wear the right brand of pants.

It’s when the government steps in and dictates salary, compensation and the benefit structure for private employees, or when the government assumes ownership of private corporations, or when the government priviliges some creditors over others (in violation of the law) for purely political reasons that freedom is abridged.

There are many reasons to lament the loss of political freedom in America, but Rush Limbaugh’s failed bid to buy a losing sports franchise is not one of them.

Taking sides

I am under no delusion regarding the nature of the choice offered to Iranian voters in this last election. This was not an election where freedom and increased liberalization were on the ballot. Mousavi is not a good guy and it’s doubtful in the extreme that his election would presage any great opening of Iranian society. To the extent that the protests could work to reverse the outcome, we’d likely be no better off with the new administration than the current one.

But regime change is not the point. The global struggle for freedom and human rights is not generally won at the ballot box. The struggle for freedom in the midst of tyranny is a long and arduous process, it takes years, consumes lives and is in constant need of support and comfort.

Mousavi may not be champion of liberty, but the protesters in Iran seemed not to be protesting his defeat so much as they were protesting the appalling arrogance of a tyrannical regime that demonstrated that it simply didn’t care. And frankly, the President of the United States of America should be a champion of liberty. He should stand tall and strong and make it clear that the United States stands for freedom, democracy, political liberty, free speech and the right to assemble.

What bothers me about the Obama administration’s response to the protests in Iran is not that they didn’t do more to support the protesters or clamor for a recount… it’s that they didn’t stand up and forcibly and articulately defend the values that Americans hold dear.

If the circumstances dictate that his role is largely oratorical, then embrace the oratory and defend freedom. Instead he opened his press conference by declaring–again–his recognition and support of a regime that was, at that very moment, engaged in the worst kind of political crackdown.

Will Wilkinson has argued that showing support for the dissidents in Iran only aids and abets warmongering neocons, and since we don’t want to go to war with Iran, we should be cautious in the extreme and avoid doing even as little as changing the color of our Twitter avatars.

That’s absurd. It’s the elevation of cheap abstraction over human liberty. There are legitimate reasons why America should avoid armed conflict with Iran and reasons why we should not provide material aid to either of the two sock-puppets in this Iranian election. But there is no legitimate reason not to vigorously and loudly declare our solidarity with the men and women who are resisting oppression.

To shy away from such support, and worse, to ridicule that support because it supports a “narrative” that Bill Kristol might like is the worst kind of petty, provincial, partisan spite.

The protesters in Iran need support, if we cannot offer material support then we should be giving them all of the moral support and political cover that we can. Even if that means ~shudder~ rubbing elbows with other pundits.