Sunday, March 23, 2008

America's War on Sex

"In our free society, people have the right to choose how they live their lives."-- President George Bush, June 3, 2006 So why does our government:

• want to censor what you read, hear, and see?
• try to limit your access to contraception?
• attempt to legislate "good moral values"?
• try to brainwash your kids about "abstinence"?

These are the kinds of questions Dr. Marty Klein asks--and answers--in his new book, America's War on Sex. With hundreds of examples ripped from today's headlines, he names names, challenges political hypocrisy, and shows the financial connections between government and conservative religious groups that are systematically taking away your rights. Dr. Klein isn't shy about it. He demands to know--as you should demand to know--

If 50 million Americans consume pornography, why does the government dare to regulate it without consulting any consumers? Why do Congressmen listen to "victims of porn" but not healthy adults who use porn?

Now that "abstinence-only" sex education has been proven a failure, why does the government still give it $200 million each year? And how can most of that money go to "faith-based" groups who tell your kids how God feels about their sexual choices?

Why do hundreds of American communities feel they have the right to eliminate legal adult entertainment, claiming "we're not that kind of city"?

Why do family courts have the right to judge the private sexual habits of each parent when making custody decisions?

Our glorious Constitution guarantees us the widest range of rights civilization has ever seen. Why are those rights systematically undermined and revoked when it comes to sexual expression? Is there a conspiracy to deny us our sexual rights? No, says Marty Klein: "It's worse than a conspiracy. It's a war. They're very open about it--it's a War on Sex." It's a war that threatens the very fabric of our secular democracy. The American Taliban, our own sexual jihadists, want to replace our government with laws based on the Bible, creating a country in which "normal sex" is narrowly defined and no one has the right to alternative sexual information, health care, or personal expression. America is fighting a war on terror to prevent the overthrow of our way of life by fanatics who want to base all law on their strict religious beliefs. It is completely unacceptable that a group of conservative Americans is trying to accomplish the same thing right here.

Hardback. Inscribed by the author. 212 pages. $28.95.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Case Against Adolescence

A good thinker integrates the books he or she reads. Often you discover that information in one book corresponds with information in another. And sometimes the connections are rather unusual. For instance, I found an interesting connection between Unger’s biography Lafayette with Robert Epstein’s book The Case Against Adolescence.

At the age of 14 Lafayette was engaged to be married. His bride to be was then 12-years-old. The would-be mother-in-law wanted her daughter to wait until she was older. So marriage was delayed until the girl turned 14 and Lafayette was 16. For his wedding gift he was made a captain and “command of a company in the Noailles Dragoons when he turned eighteen.” At about the same time Louis XVI, then just twenty, and his wife took the throne of France.

Upon turning 18 Lafayette assumed his captaincy and shortly after became a father. At that time he persuaded some friends to join him on a journey. He was going to America to fight for the liberal revolution against the English monarch. At 19 he accepts the commission as a Major General in the Revolutionary Army. He becomes a hero of the American Revolution.

And this brings me to Epstein’s fascinating and persuasive book The Case Against Adolescence. Dr. Epstein is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine and someone thoroughly familiar with the literature on the topic.

His basic case is that adolescence is a recent, Western invention. The Lafayette case above indicates what that means. During much of Western history teenagers were not treated as if they were some class of more advanced children. The reality is that they were given adult responsibilities and adult rights. And, for the most part, they proved themselves capable of handling such rights and responsibilities. Even today this process of socialization continues to exist in numerous cultures around the world.

Recent Western society, however, compartmentalized teens. It stripped them of a large portion of the rights that teens historically held and started treating them more and more like children. This compartmentalization had several results.

One is that teens, who used to spend a considerable amount of their teenaged years working and socializing with adults, were relegated to peer groups. Where they used to have regular contact with adults, which helped them learn how to act like adults, their role models suddenly became unsocialized teenagers like themselves.

In addition, there is the ever-present teenage complaint: “I am not a child.” Of course teens are not children. But socially and legally they are often treated that way -- except when the law finds it convenient to hold them responsible like adults but without the rights of adults. Epstein says this sort of treatment is infuriating and frustrating to young adults. They feel grown up but they are treated like children. This encourages them to act more like children than like adults.

Epstein outlines numerous cases where children or teens were put into adult situations due to circumstances and performed as well as adults. He shows from the literature that the ability of teens to act in mature ways is not significantly different from that of legal adults.

Teens who are frustrated by their treatment as children, however, find various ways which force society to treat them as adults. One such method is to act violently or criminally. Another is to become a parent or to act in ways associated with being “grown up”. What is often seen as “acting out” is the cry of an adult wanting to be treated like an adult, but being treated like a child.

There are aspects of Epstein’s book which libertarians might take issue with. But, on the whole, it is a call for the extension of human rights, responsibilities and liberties to a segment of the population who are too easily treated like second class citizens. General Lafayette is an example of what can happen in a different time with different social values, a time when young adults were treated as rights-bearing individuals, not as big children. Lafayette lived up to those expectations and so do most teens when given the opportunity. For this reason the subtitle of Epstein’s books is “Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen.”

This is an important contribution to the case for giving teens their full set of rights. It is persuasively written, covers the major areas of contention, and brings forth reams of scientific evidence to refute the notion that teens are merely surly, large children. It is highly recommended. Hardback, 489 pages, list price $24.95, Laissez Faire price, $22.95. To order call 1 800 326 0996.

JOHN TAYLOR GATTO: “Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a policy maker, or a recovering victim of enforced childishness, you need to read this book.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Atlas Shrugged with Antlers!

Laissez Faire Books has been working to expand it’s fiction department, especially fiction for the young. And while you can find books for older children or teens it is especially difficult to find material for those who are younger. One delightful exception to that rule is Thidwick: The Big-Hearted Moose by Dr. Seuss.

The story concerns a herd of moose at Lake Winna-Bango and one moose in particular, Thidwick. One day a Bingle Bug asks Thidwick if he can ride on Thidwick’s antlers. Being a gentle soul Thidwick is happy to comply. A hour later he discovers that the bug has invited a Tree Spider to share the antlers as well. Soon a Zinn-a-zu Bird joins them.

Thidwick is unpleased when the Zinn-a-zu starts plucking hair from his head to build a nest but the bird tells him “You can always grow more.” The next morning Thidwick is dismayed to discover the bird’s wife joined him during the night and her uncle, a Woodpecker, has joined the group. The uncle has also decided to make some holes in Thidwick’s antlers which he then invites a family of squirrels to use. Soon the menagerie is joined by a turtle and a bobcat.

Thidwick discovers that the rest of the herd has deserted him. Worse yet, winter is setting in and the moose-moss he eats is now scarce. He has to swim the lake to the other side if he is to survive. Thidwick steps into the water only to hear this clamor from his “guests”.
“STOP!” screamed his guests. “You can’t do this to us!
These horns are our homes and you’ve not right to take
OUr home to the far distant shore of the lake!”

“Be fair!” Thidwick begged with a lump in his throat...
“We’re fair,’ said the bug.
“We’ll decided this by vote.”
Of course when the election is held Thidwick is outvoted eleven to one. So Thidwick obeyed the will of majority and climbed back on shore. Of course the freeloaders immediately expanded the number of “guests” living at Thidwick’s expense. Just when Thidwick doesn’t think it could get worse --- it does. Hunters arrive looking for a nice moose head for the wall of their club. Burdened by the weight of his guests poor Thidwick finds it hard to escape the hunters.

Exhausted by the extra weight he is forced to carry he is trapped by the hunters when a miracle happens, well, not a miracle exactly. It’s time for him to shed his antlers so a new set can grow a new set.
“And he called to the pests on his horns as he threw ‘em,
‘You wanted my horns; now you’re quite welcome to ‘em!
Keep ‘em, They’re yours!
As for Me, I shall take
Myself to the far distant
Side of the lake!”
One can’t help think of Wyatt’s torch in Atlas Shrugged. Ellis Wyatt is finally disgusted by the looters confiscating his business one piece at a time. He set one of his oil well’s alight and posted a note at the bottom of road leading to it. “I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It’s yours.”

Now only does this Dr. Seuss classic illustrate how the welfare state grows and grows it shows how it burdens down those forced to carry the weight. And it eventually puts them at risk as well. Thidwick had only one alternative ”to shrug”.

This book has some wonderful illustrations that any child would enjoy. The book is a hardback and is $14.95. To order a copy call Laissez Faire at 1-800-329-0996.