I remember when I was first learning about libertarianism, the philosophy that basically wants government’s role limited in both the economic and social spheres, the rule of thumb was that Republicans were better on economic issues while Democrats were better on protecting individual liberties, like freedom of speech. Does that rule of thumb work today?

In addition to vigorously supporting out-right limits on politic speech through campaign finance laws, Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with the plain, old political process, in which there is a lively public debate about issues. Brian Doherty writes about this dynamic in Reason, focusing specifically on liberals’ behavior during the health care debate:

Yet the process has already proven to be an unconscionable disappointment to many liberal legislators and commentators. Their increasingly shrill reaction to the debate has revealed a disturbing strain of American political thought that cannot comprehend how anyone could disagree with a big-government solution to health care without being evil, stupid, insane, or all three. Faced with the infuriating complication of democratic dissent, advocates of greater government involvement in health care, including some federal officials, have unleashed a vicious campaign against a sizable political minority.

The same could be said about many issues. As soon as the good, free speech loving “liberals” assumed power they began ruminating about ways to squelch talk radio (too conservative for their liking). And perhaps the greatest example of the “cream the dissenter” mentality has been in the global warming sphere, where those who contradict the line that scientists all agree that man-made global warming threatens civilization and we can do something about it by slashing carbon emissions are tarred as tools of the oil industry and see their credibility and funding threatened.

James Taranto details the latest example of just how far the global warming discussion has gotten from the scientific method:

The Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, “has embarked on an urgent exercise to bolster the reputation of climate-change science” in the wake of a whistle-blower’s revelation of widespread misconduct by climate scientists, London’s Times reports:

“More than 1,700 scientists have agreed to sign a statement defending the “professional integrity” of global warming research. They were responding to a round-robin request from the Met Office, which has spent four days collecting signatures. . . .”

One scientist told The Times he felt under pressure to sign. “The Met Office is a major employer of scientists and has long had a policy of only appointing and working with those who subscribe to their views on man-made global warming,” he said.

The concept of scientists–or journalists, or artists–signing a petition is ludicrous. The idea is that they are lending their authority to whatever cause the petition represents–but in fact they are undermining that authority, which is based on the presumption that they think for themselves.

The problem with the petition as a form is also a problem with the Met Office petition’s substance.  The purpose of the petition is to shore up scientists’ authority by vouching for their integrity. But signing a loyalty oath under pressure from the government is itself a corrupt act. Anyone who signs this petition thereby raises doubts about his own integrity. And once again, the question arises: Why should any layman regard global warmism as credible when the “consensus” rests on political machinations, statistical tricks and efforts to suppress alternative hypotheses?

I know that there are lots of Democrats out there who earnestly believe that the world would be a better place if we let the government, for the good of the people, control more of our resources and redistribute wealth. Can’t they also respect the idea that there are those of us on the other side that truly believe what we say we believe?