Why Libertarians Aren't just Republicans Who Smoke Pot

Because we also think this kind of intrusion by the state is offensive.

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-10 for H.R. 1981, a data-retention bill that will require your ISP to spy on everything you do online and save records of it for 12 months. California Rep Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats who opposed the bill, called it a “data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites.”

It really pisses me off that the Republicans wrap themselves in the mantle of individual liberty when challenging Obama over insane spending levels, but then, simultaneously, do this kind of crap.


  1. Roy:

    Orwell missed both the method and the decade, but not the idea.

  2. Dan:

    Eh... much ado about nothing at this point. No way this will make it to a law. There are enough liberty loving legislators to defeat this kind of baloney. Thankfully. And I would say the vast majority of the ones against this would come from the right, not the left.

  3. Hunt Johnsen:

    This would certainly allow the government, or hackers for that matter, to blackmail the entire male population of the world. (Oh sure - you never click on those sites do you!)

  4. Sam L.:

    We thought that about McCain-Feingold, you may remember, Dan.

  5. Dan:

    Touche', Sam. But that was a completely different genre of stupidity. :-)

  6. steve:

    This is why it is soo difficult being a libertarian. Every time I get worked up about something Obama does, I just imagine what McCain would have done in his place. Both parties are hopeless. Its turtles all the way down.

  7. astonerii:

    Republicans are a big tent party. That is why I give "Republican" branding no credibility at all. Arlen Spector was labeled a Republican.

  8. Matt:

    This is actually much to do about nothing...

    If you actually look at what the bill is asking business to retain (billing information, IP assignments), they are actually things that any business is already keeping (in case of a billing/use dispute for instance). There is no record-keeping of sites you've visited (actually read what they're asking business to keep; billing info and ip assignments).

    This is no different than rules governing hotel guest records, or any other number of businesses that are required to keep records for several years on hand, and honestly any ISP ALREADY keeps this information for varying lengths of time (recall ISPs giving IP assignment information to the RIAA/MPAA, this information is already stored!).

  9. astonerii:

    "This is no different than rules governing hotel guest records, or any other number of businesses that are required to keep records for several years on hand, and honestly any ISP ALREADY keeps this information for varying lengths of time (recall ISPs giving IP assignment information to the RIAA/MPAA, this information is already stored!)."

    Not all, some specialized ones make sure they do not keep any record at all of you outside of the bill, and they are willing to take no name and untraceable cash cards. Even some of those promise to keep them only for a short specified period of time.

  10. chuck martel:

    The more information the insane bureaucracy gets, the bigger the haystack into which the needles will disappear. Having a record of everything that happens is the same as having no record at all.

  11. steve:

    Not quite Chuck. Sure, the haystack will be too big for them to spot a terrorist or even catch a low profile money launderer. But, if they decide they want to get you for whatever reason, then all they have to do is root around long enough in the haystack and their ever expanding list of laws until they find a match. In other words, not so good for stopping crime, great for personal vendettas by beuracrats.

  12. Matt:

    Well, this isn't some "huge government haystack".

    This is just putting into writing a requirement to keep records that every ISP already maintains. In order to get this material, the feds would need a warrant. The idea behind this is that when the Feds close down an illicit site (kiddie porn, etc) they can use access information gathered from seized servers, combined with records kept by the ISP to catch end users.

    In fact, my beef with this law is that it seems superfluous, as you would assume that the feds could already achieve this with warrants/subpoenas. As I've said before, this information is already being stored by your ISP. They keep it to cover their backsides (again, RIAA/MPAA lawsuits... without this information being kept by your ISP they wouldn't have been able to sue end users). This law will NOT cause any more information to be "stored" than already is. At most it will codify how long the records will be maintained (storage capacity being what it is, this data is already stored well past what this law will mandate) and ensure ISP cooperation. The thing is, the ISPs were already cooperating, and were they not the government already has the power to compel their cooperation.

    The idea of the internet as some world of complete anonymity and freedom from consequence is simply not true. The internet is a collection of privately owned networks, and the owners of these networks have a right to keep records of sale/service (that IP address they assign you and your billing information). If they were not allowed to keep these records, it would be impossible for them to provide their service! Further, in a legitimate investigation, the state has the right to gather evidence of a crime. The Feds getting a name/address to go along with an IP address from the vendor is no different than any other sales information from any other purchase which can already be gathered in an investigation.

  13. Allen:

    @Matt, that's nice to know but you do realize that your arguments at very best simply show that this law isn't needed. According to you they already keep the information and are already compelled to turn it over. So if the law isn't any different than how things already are, why did they pass it?

  14. Matt:

    Reasons for the law?

    2. Campaign commercial fodder
    3. Ignorance of how an ISP functions (they don't understand that this law basically changes nothing)

    In my opinion, the libertarian argument against this law is that it accomplishes nothing but adding yet another law to the already too complicated law books. Businesses already keep this information on file... but now there will be compliance costs associated with PROVING that you are keeping this information on file which will be many many times more expensive than the cheap storage capacity already being utilized to keep the records on file.

    My point in posting wasn't to support the law, but merely to point out what the law wasn't (some vast new government power).

  15. ErisGuy:

    Once again EUrope leads, we follow. When will my people want to be free?

  16. chuck martel:

    For a number of reasons, record-keeping is mandatory for businesses, in fact, without accurate records business is impossible. But is this also the case for the state? Why are birth certificates required? People certainly can live and function without one. Isn't the use of two and three (or more) names for an individual rooted in the state's desire to be able to identify every citizen? So they can conscript them to the military or assure that they've paid their taxes? The bureaucratic obsession with storing reams of names and dates is going to be on the top of the list for remediation when I get to be boss.

  17. Dan:

    Matt - one question - why again should my ISP be storing my credit card information? The IP information is their information, my credit card and bank account numbers ARE NOT. Dismissing this as "well, they already do that stuff" is preposterous and ignores the push to make it go a bunch further (and subsequently entrench it) than necessary.

  18. Everyman:

    Amen, and while we're at it, let's see if we can get it across to these clowns that they are not welcome in our bedrooms, either.

  19. mahtso:

    I don’t know enough about the bill in question to form an opinion as to its merits, but the blogger's implication that it is akin to “ObamaCare” appears to be off the mark because no one will be forced to use the internet under the former, but people are forced to buy insurance under the later.

  20. Big John:

    "Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle".
    Libertarian Theme Song

  21. Dr. T:

    From XBIZ Newswire: "But supporters, like Texas Republican Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the committee, claim it's an aid to law enforcement.... “Investigators need the assistance of ISPs to identify users and distributors of online child pornography."

    I keep reading about this epidemic of child pornography on the internet, but I cannot recall ever reading a story about the arrest of anyone in the USA who produced child pornography and distributed it over the internet. The few arrests of child pornography producers I've read about were of people who invited others to watch live performances or who distributed physical media within a select circle. Almost all arrests for child pornography possession (on computers) have been of people who obtained photos or videos from other countries or from FBI sting sites.

    The largest collection of child pornography in the USA is on computers owned by our federal government. A few years ago the Dept. of Justice collected and digitally analyzed thousands of child porn images to facilitate pattern-matching of electronically transmitted image files. Has this effort shut down any child porn producers? Not a single one. It did provide some of the photos that the FBI used to set up its stings. I'm sure the victims in those photos are relieved that continued distribution is sanctioned by law.

  22. Dr. T:

    @Matt: "This is just putting into writing a requirement to keep records that every ISP already maintains...."

    It must be nice to live in a world where you just invent your own truths to justify whatever big government wants.

    ISPs typically purge their logs of user surfing every few days. The logs are massive and would be costly to store for longer periods. Also, most ISPs purge their logs to avoid being entangled in subpoenas, search warrants, criminal law suits, and torts. Data retention for longer periods occurs only when a law enforcement official presents an ISP with a warrant or court order to retain data on a specific user. The proposed law will require every ISP in the USA to retain every bit of every customer's web surfing history for a full year.

    If the law passes, USA-based ISPs will either raise rates (to cover the costs of data retention, lawyers, and time lost with each warrant and subpoena), relocate to other countries (if possible), or close down.

  23. Benjamin Cole:

    Hmm. Let's see; We have no military opponents of note. Our defense outlays are double, in real terms, of that of just 10 years ago. We will spend $1 trillion a year on national defense, homeland security and the VA in the next 10 years. Mostly for coprolite, and patronage.

    And now we are supposed to set aside even more money to record every e-mail and web search of every person in the USA? Or the world (if they search a US website)?

    BTW, this is like making a copy of every letter, telegram and phone call made in the days of yore, before the web. The web is how we transact our lives these days.

    How about this: We cut military outlays, homeland security outlays in half, and voucherize the VA. And blow to kingdom cum any idea of recording web searches by citizens.

    And start paying down the debt.

  24. steve:

    If they let me smoke pot unmolested, I would vote republican for a year.

  25. Windy:

    Steve, then vote Ron Paul in your State's primary/caucus, you may have to change registration in order to do so, but you can change it back after the presidential election. Ron Paul is the only candidate with principles, the only candidate to consistently support an end to the federal war on drug(user)s (in votes as well as speeches), along with an end to all the wars in which we are currently engaged and no new wars unless we've be attacked by another country's military and even then only with congress declaring war. He also wants to end the fed and give us back a monetary system that is stable and sound, and he wants the federal government to obey the Constitution. What more could one want from a presidential candidate? If all libertarians and all drug war reformers would vote for him he'd win the nomination and the election, then we'd finally have a president who WILL end the drug war, half our battle on that front would be won, and he'd be good for us libertarians in many other ways as well, such as reducing the power and scope of the federal government's intrusion into our everyday lives, like the one discussed in this thread. Gary Johnson would make a good running mate for Dr. Paul (as would Judge Napolitano).

  26. Mark:

    You have no absolute right to privacy. The minute you go on the internet you have entered a public domain. The second you make an online transaction, the data about your transaction is no longer absolutely private. IF you are making credit card transactions for kiddie porn, then too bad for you.

    The real problem you so-called "libertarians" have is that you simply refuse to understand the difference between a legitimate transaction and an illegitimate transaction. To you, a transaction is just a transaction. But, legitimate businesses keep appropriate transaction records. Illegitimate businesses do not. When the government calls on my business to provide documentation, it can be a hassle and sometimes it is not reasonable, but we provide the documentation. When the kiddie porn internet "provider" (clearly a "victimless crime" to you libertarians) refuses to supply the documentation or never kept the documentation of their transactions, then they have broken the law and will go to jail. This is crime and punishment 101. One of the most effective ways of squeezing out crime is to make it difficult for the crime to operate or for them to take their gains into the "legitimate" world.

  27. JBurns:

    For a little clarity, this is the provision at issue:

    (h) Retention of Certain Records- A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least 18 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account, unless that address is transmitted by radio communication (as defined in section 3 of the Communications Act of 1934).

    So all it requires is that CableVision maintain for 18 months after I terminate service a record showing that the network address they assign to my internet connection is XXX.XXX.XX.XXX. I presume the purpose is to aid law enforcement in tracing the origin / distribution of files they already possess -- whether it's child porn, terrorism, hacking, or any other crime related. I have to admit that as much as I dislike over reaches of government power, this is pretty far down the list of things I get excited about.

    Although if I were in Congress every time a law like this were introduced I'd introduce an amendment to take away some other government power -- there are plenty they could do without.

  28. Mark:

    "government power — there are plenty they could do without."

    THe government's powers are defined by the constitution. Which ones would you take away? THere is a difference between how a government uses its powers and which powers it has. But I think your open minded view of this subject is right on.

    I will say it again. Libertarianism is a foolhardy position. While I have sympathy for a lot of their positions, the problem is they simply have a worldview that is completely wrong. They cannot see "both sides of the coin", and issues like this (and drug legalization amongst others), demonstrate the problem with their views. The State has not just the power, but the obligation to protect its citizens. How we balance that power and the rights of individuals is a political matter. In this case, the State clearly has a purpose in requesting that this data be retained. The rights of "law abiding" citizens are hardly compromised. For almost everyone, the fact that this data is retained or not retained will never change one aspect of your life. The "cost" in individual liberty is almost negligible. The value that this statute could provide to society is substantial. When you weigh the cost/benefits, this is a no brainer.

  29. anon:

    "THe government’s powers are defined by the constitution."

    Which is a living document and means whatever 5 of 9 folks in robes thinks that year.

  30. Mercy Vetsel:

    I think Warren is smoking pot. The debate isn't whether or not Republicans are libertarians, it's which party is more libertarian relative to the other.

    In brief, not all Republican congressmen are libertarian, but you can be damn sure that all libertarian congressmen are Republicans.

    This particular piece of police-state crap is bi-partisan through and through. Debbie-Wasserman Shultz, that obnoxious progressive mouth-piece was one of the two original sponsors and 10 other Democrats signed on as co-sponsors as well.

    So, not to sound like a broken record, but when it comes to Washington, the good (L) is the enemy of the mediocre (R).

    Once again, would everyone PLEASE check out the RLC ratings before making stupid comments about Coke and Pepsi, Twiddledee and Twiddledum or stating that "both parties are the same."

    Instead lets see some evidence. There must be a few issues where the Democrats side with the libertarians and the Republicans don't.


  31. steve:

    Mark - You have no absolute right to privacy. The minute you go on the internet you have entered a public domain.

    This may be true, but why? Mail is private. The government doesn't make records of everyone I send to or receive it from. Why not? Too much work I expect.

  32. commieBob:

    Amen brother.

    Lack of freedom stifles innovation. If we quit innovating, we are doomed (literally, as in; the economy will crumble and we will starve and freeze in the dark). We really need to get back to "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as our paramount value.

  33. Mark:

    "This may be true, but why? Mail is private"

    It is "private", but it is not absolutely private. The Constitution addresses this. With the proper warrant, the government can snoop into any of your communications. What a "warrant" is the balancing act between an individual's "right to privacy" and the State's legitimate powers to pursue evidence of crime.

    "Which is a living document and means whatever 5 of 9 folks in robes thinks that year."

    And I agree with you, but I disagree with that constitutional philosophy. In my opinion, each element of the Constitution means something. It has a purpose. The ability of the judicial branch to decide later that it means something else is a little bit suspect. For example, consider the age requirements for holding federal office. These elements of the Constitution have a reason for being (nepotism being the primary reason). The Supreme Court clearly does not have the power to decide that, well, 34 is close enough in age to be President, and I doubt clearly they would ever assert that claim. So, by extension, if the Commerce Clause had a meaning in 1787 it still has that same meaning. If the meaning changed, then the People should ammend the document accordingly.

  34. Dan:

    Good insights, Matt.

  35. Allen:

    Well, now that H.R. 1981 is out there we know Matt is spouting ignorance. This bill goes far, far, beyond tracking a few basic things for billing purposes.


  36. steve:


    So you are saying that mail requires probable cause before snooping. Yet this bill requires pre-emptive snooping followed by probable cause (for now I assume) for government to look at it.

    Yes, I understand that a few more crooks may be caught more easily but the risk is too high. We are just walking into a surveillance state one step at a time while saying "its for the children".

    Don't forget to tell your children you did it for them when they ask you how anyone could sit idly by while the machinery for enforcing speech restrictions was set up in full view of everyone.

    You yourself say the constitution gets ignored. This is how it happens, one small step at a time.

  37. steve:


    please ignore that snide comment about telling your children you did it for them. It was rude. I get carried away sometimes. I apologize. I take it back.
    The rest stands.

  38. Mark:

    "Yet this bill requires pre-emptive snooping followed by probable caus"

    No it is not. It just requires that the data be retained so if probably cause is found, the data will be on hand. Not that difficult. No different than the IRS requiring you to maintain your tax records for multiple years. That does not give them the power to seize those records without probable cause.

    "but the risk is too high"

    And the "risk" is what? Tell me what the "high risk" is? If you are following the law there is very little risk and this legislation does not really change anything.

    If you are doing something legal, but embarrassing, then you have already accepted the preponderance of risk by going onto the website in the first place. YOu have already given an outside entities not contrained by probably cause the information already. This legislation does very little to increase those problems.

    So, if you are not doing any illegal business transactions or surfing illegal kiddie porn, then what do you have to worry? If you are truly worried that your wife is going to find out you are surfing porn, the probability she finds out because of a government investigation into your web habits are very small.

    The fear of privacy is way overblown. People who have this information have very little interest in it on an individual basis. I once had a database that had the bra and panty size of over 5 million women. If you think I spent my day looking through this data ogling individual customers you are simply crazy. No one cares. It is there for business reasons, and business reasons only.

  39. steve:

    By the reasoning of "what have you got to fear if your not commiting a crime?", then probable cause itself is unnecessary since they will find no crime.
    Why would the founding fathers ever make a point about probable cause?

    What am I afraid of? I am afraid that the government will set up surveilance of people with political views they don't like.

    They will then inspect these peoples tax records, driving records, etc. for any flaw they can pin on them. With an ever growing list of laws this gets easier and easier. (ex. Ever deposit 9,000 in a bank? That now makes you suspicious for money laundering. Since you are avoiding the 10,000 reporting requirement.) The government doesn't even have to convict you of anything to ruin your life. Just charging you is often enough to seize all your assets (the innonence of which you have to prove, not them proving your assets guilty) and turn you into a pariah.

    You may tell yourself it can't happen here or that the 1st ammendment will protect me. I consider that wishful thinking since the constitution is being steadily revoked piece by piece. This is just one more step, snooping before probable cause when it has always been probable cause then snooping in the past.

  40. Mark:

    "I am afraid that the government will set up surveilance of people with political views they don’t like."

    And I think you are paranoid beyond belief. Interaction creates records. If you are worried about that, then don't interact. Pay cash. Do not post on the internet. Do not have any social networking profiles. Do not go on the internet at all. If you are so worried about them that is about all you can do.

    But, instead of seeing how everything is going to get you, just relax. Who cares what the government does.

  41. steve:

    "just relax. Who cares what the government does."
    LOL, who cares indeed. Apparently you do since you are passionately defending their actions.

    Sure, my fears would take a while to come to fruition but I have kids, and I care what happens to them. After all, why do you care soo much that someone watching kiddie porn on the internet would have to be watched for a few weeks without prior records instead of arrested immediately with them. There must be some reason for your passion besides "most businesses do it that way anyway."

    A final tip. Telling libertarians they are paranoid beyond belief at the potential for government abuse is not going to change any minds with them. Many libertarian websites consist of little more then reports on one government abuse of power after another. Including wiretapping without warrants, planting of evidence, police and prosecutors lying to get a conviction etc. Not saying your wrong (I hope you're right for my kids sake), just that you will have to adjust your arguments if you hope to convince anyone on those sites.

  42. Mark:

    "just that you will have to adjust your arguments if you hope to convince anyone on those sites."

    I don't really care about "convincing anyone" at those sites. That is a hopeless mission. Law abiding citizens have very little to fear from the government.

    "After all, why do you care soo much that someone watching kiddie porn on the internet would have to be watched for a few weeks without prior records instead of arrested immediately with them. There must be some reason for your passion"

    Exactly. The prior records aid in reducing this crime. The more tools that law enforcement has in combatting these issues the better.

  43. steve:

    "Exactly. The prior records aid in reducing this crime. The more tools that law enforcement has in combatting these issues the better."

    This is the very argument that will be used next to eliminate the requirement for probable cause before government starts searching these files. After that, some terror attack or something and the government is into searching political affiliations. Step by step, until all freedom is gone.

  44. steve:

    As an aside, be sure not to buy any gold or silver or anything as expecting the nice government men to destroy the dollar would be paranoid beyond belief.

  45. Mark:

    "This is the very argument that will be used next to eliminate the requirement for probable cause before government starts searching these files"

    And, that is a completely different argument, made on completely different grounds, and one that I might not support. I personally believe that the "slippery slope" argument is a very weak one. It essentially admits that you cannot win the argument based on merits, but rather have to resort to looking at ALL POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS. Based on this argument, the second we created the Constitution, step by step, all of our freedom would eventually be gone (which was the extreme anti-federalist position, btw), and we should never have created the Constitution in the first place. Why, giving the President or a national legislature all of that power meant that one day you would just be a slave to the national government.

    Do I think that the government is too big? You bet. Does it exercise too much power? No doubt. Is this specific legislation something that is too big and too powerful? No way. It is a legitimate requirement.

  46. steve:

    SLippery slopes do occur. The 10th ammendment which you acknowledged earlier is ignored was destroyed by a slippery slope.

    Well we seem to be at an impass. Our arguments amount to I fear government you don't.

    Anyway, I thought this was interesting:


    There were two points in it I thought were interesting.

    1). There is no probable cause requirement.
    2). It doesn't apply to wireless providers who are
    free to delete their data when they see fit.

    It kind of looks like the bill may have more to do with increasing the costs of isps (who are many and tend to be small) vs wireless providers (who are few and big).

  47. Mark:

    But again, slippery slopes are another argument, a different case. The 10th Amendment has not "slipped away" because of the very first issue, but over a sequence of steps.

    This issue has nothing to do with any of your fears. Those would be subsequent, independent steps. In some cases I might even disagree with those steps. But to claim that STEP A happens, therefore STEP B will happen is just a poor argument against STEP A.

    Again, when someone resorts to the "slippery slope" argument, it is very clear that I have won that argument because they cannot directly contradict my argument and need to resort to some other issue. Slippery slope is just "change the subject because I am losing".

  48. steve:

    Ok, Ok I will give up on the slippery slope line. I see it holds no water with you.

    steve - "“This is the very argument that will be used next to eliminate the requirement for probable cause before government starts searching these files”

    mark - "And, that is a completely different argument, made on completely different grounds, and one that I might not support."

    steve - "1.) There is no probable cause requirement."

    Since you made no mention of this, I guess I can infer that you do support this on more or less the sam law and order grounds.

    Also, any opinion on Wi-Fi being exempt. If everyone does it that way anyway except for a few rogue isp's then why would the big Wi-Fi providers want an exception.

    LOL, this is fun. I hate working.

  49. Mark:

    Again, as I pointed out earlier, the anti-Federalist made basically the same slippery slope arguments you are making about this particular issue (and I am sure you make the same arguements over every government policy). Everything was well and good, the anti-Federalist claimed, but you know, the slippery slope. Eventually the federal government is going ot make us all slaves. Since we are not all slaves, I think that this argument is wrong, as is yours.

    Can the government abuse power? Sure. But that can happen with or without this legislation. WIll it be possible for the government to add to their "power' in similar fashion? Sure.

    But, what is obvious to me is that the government has found a gap in their ability to prosecute crimes that involve internet communications. When they try to prove cases involving child pornography, as an example, the ISPs are not required to maintain this information so very solid pieces of evidence vanish making it harder to convict child pornographers and the like. I think that this is a substantial rational why the government would create rules that govern the retention of informaiton regarding these internet transactions. This is no different than similar rules involving the retention of business records for a period of years. No more, and no less.

    Yet, you prefer to see this as some sort of conspiracty because obviously people want to snoop into your business. That is just ridiculous.

    THe very formation of government removes private liberty. Every action of government reduces private liberty. It is the tradeoff between the value the People get from these actions versus the sacrifice of personal liberties that define all government statutes. You may believe that the "sacrifice" is too big and ohhhhh sooooooo scarrry. Yet, for any law abiding citizen this has zero impact on their lives. So, the cost is extraordinary minimal. Yet, the value to the government in enhancing its ability to protect us is potentially significant.

    Anyone who cannot see the almost infinite cost-benefits to this is, as I said earlier, overly paranoid.

  50. steve:

    I get it. Slippery slope arguments won't convince you.

    Any opinion on Wi-Fi being exempt. If everyone does it that way anyway except for a few rogue isp’s then why would the big Wi-Fi providers want an exception.