Monthly Archives: November 2006

What Should Be Done About Drunk Driving ?

Today, the New York Times writes about the increasing movement to require even first-time DUI offenders to have ignition-interlock systems installed on their cars that would require them to pass a breathalyzer test before they could start their cars:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 — The threat of arrest and punishment, for decades the primary tactic against drunken drivers, is no longer working in the struggle to reduce the death toll, officials say, and they are proposing turning to technology — alcohol detection devices in every vehicle — to address the problem.

In the first phase of the plan, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, backed by a national association of state highway officials and car manufacturers, will announce here on Monday a campaign to change drunken driving laws in 49 states to require that even first offenders install a device that tests drivers and shuts down the car if it detects alcohol.

Many states already require the devices, known as ignition interlocks, for people who have been convicted several times. Last year New Mexico became the first to make them mandatory after a first offense. With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year.

Here in Virginia, ignition interlocks are required even for first time offenders whose BAC level exceeds a certain limit. And, it’s hard to see many people arguing against extending these requirements to everyone convicted of a DUI offense, as New Mexico is poised to do. The problem, though, is that it’s quite easy to see where MADD is headed next:

Two companies have introduced products that hint at future strategies. Saab, which is owned by General Motors, is testing in Sweden a Breathalyzer that attaches to a key chain and will prevent a car from starting if it senses too much alcohol. Taxi companies and other fleet owners are the target market, the company said.

A New Mexico company, TruTouch Technologies, is modifying a technique developed for measuring blood chemistry in diabetics and using it to measure alcohol instead. The appliance shines a light through the skin on the forearm and analyzes what bounces back.

Future devices may read alcohol content when a driver’s palm touches the steering wheel or the gear shift lever, said Jim McNally, the chief executive of TruTouch.

In other words, Big Brother will be watching what you drink. Sean Lynch writes about this issue today at Catallarchy and makes this excellent point:

Far more motor vehicle deaths are provably caused by excessive speed. Most people who receive speeding tickets have received a speeding ticket before, and most people who receive one speeding ticket will eventually receive a second. Therefore, let’s require everyone who has ever received a speeding ticket to have a device installed in their car from exceeding the posted speed limit. Everyone knows that posted speed limits are frequently too low, just like a .08% BAC is too low for the vast majority of the population. And almost all of us speed, just like most of us have driven with >= .08% BAC at some point in our lives. But, of course, since we’re suddenly talking about the majority instead of some demonizable minority (i.e. “drunk drivers”), such a requirement would never pass.

Or would it ?

North American Union?

Over at JasonPye.com, one of their more conservative (i.e. less libertarian) bloggers, Larry Stanley, is railing against immigration, highlighting this quote by Tom Tancredo (R-CO) (emphasis added by Larry, which I will continue here):

“People have to understand what we’re talking about here. The president of the United States is an internationalist. He is going to do what he can to create a place where the idea of America is just that – it’s an idea. It’s not an actual place defined by borders. I mean this is where this guy is really going.”

America is a place defined by borders, but it is much more than that. A year and a half ago, I argued specifically that America is an ideal, and that this nation is an approximation of that ideal:

I love America, but I don’t consider myself a “nationalist”. America, to me, is not simply a nation. America doesn’t start or end at our borders. America is an idea.

“The American Dream” is more than three little words. It is the idea that if you put your mind to something, the only thing that will cause your success or failure is the strength of your idea and your work. The government, ‘the man’, isn’t going to keep you down. The American Dream is an expression of the triumph of human potential. It is, in three little words, the idea that you can be all that you desire and more.

When you read the words of many of the idealists who founded our nation, they didn’t believe our birthright of liberty came as a result of being born in America, they believed these rights to be inherent in all of humanity. They were determined to set up a nation based upon those rights, and thus America was born. But the rights came first, and the nation came later.

The worry of these folks is that we will one day be a de facto North American Union, where most of the barriers between the US and Mexico will be as easily-traversable as France to Germany. It is a call for little more than protectionism, to deny those who aren’t already here from the chance to join in the American ideal. They are afraid that if we respect the rights of new entrants to our nation, it will somehow diminish their rights. But that’s not how it works.

William Allen White said it best: “Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you give it to others.” These folks are asking that other people, stuck in horrible third-world countries where the rule of law and property rights are not even fathomable, much less respected, just accept it. Their position is that because these people were not born here in the United States, they are not deserving of the blessings of liberty. It may be easy to tell someone in a nation where tyranny is enforced by jackbooted thugs with automatic weapons that it is their responsibility to win their freedom. But it downright cruel to turn them away when they escape those nations to live the dream of freedom here.

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Want Peace ? Support Free Trade. Want Protectionism ? Support War.

So argues Donald Boudreaux, Chairman of the Economics Department at George Mason University in a column in today’s Christian Science Monitor:

Back in 1748, Baron de Montesquieu observed that “Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who differ with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.”

As Boudreax points out, there is plenty of real world evidence to support this 258 year-old theory:

During the past 30 years, Solomon Polachek, an economist at the State University of New York at Binghamton, has researched the relationship between trade and peace. In his most recent paper on the topic, he and co-author Carlos Seiglie of Rutgers University review the massive amount of research on trade, war, and peace.

They find that “the overwhelming evidence indicates that trade reduces conflict.” Likewise for foreign investment. The greater the amounts that foreigners invest in the United States, or the more that Americans invest abroad, the lower is the likelihood of war between America and those countries with which it has investment relationships.

Professors Polachek and Seiglie conclude that, “The policy implication of our finding is that further international cooperation in reducing barriers to both trade and capital flows can promote a more peaceful world.”

Columbia University political scientist Erik Gartzke reaches a similar but more general conclusion: Peace is fostered by economic freedom. Economic freedom certainly includes, but is broader than, the freedom of ordinary people to trade internationally. It includes also low and transparent rates of taxation, the easy ability of entrepreneurs to start new businesses, the lightness of regulations on labor, product, and credit markets, ready access to sound money, and other factors that encourage the allocation of resources by markets rather than by government officials.

Not only that, but free trade, and respect for private property rights, goes hand-in-hand with political freedom as well:

Democratic institutions are heavily concentrated in countries that also have strong protections for private property rights, openness to foreign commerce, and other features broadly consistent with capitalism. That’s why the observation that any two democracies are quite unlikely to go to war against each other might reflect the consequences of capitalism more than democracy.

Instead of closing borders to trade, we need to be opening them. Instead of making it more difficult for foreign products to compete, we should be making it easier. The alternative, trade barriers that impose economic consequences on the world as a whole, only lead to the type of conflicts that brought us such lovely little disasters as World War One and World War Two.

The Collectivist Party

November 19, 2006 will go down in American history as the date when America’s newest party, the Collectivist Party, replaced the old Democratic Party of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as the America’s major party. The only party that can somewhat challenge them is a regional party from the Deep South known as the Republican Party.

The event that led to the birth of the Collectivist Party is when a senior Congressman named Charlie Rangel said all Americans were the property of the State:

Rangel said the draft would require “a couple of years” of service in the military or in other public agencies.

Basically, for a couple of years, young people get to be slaves of Uncle Sam and Uncle Charlie doing their dirty work. This is a question of who owns me, me or the government?

In addition to two years of forced slavery, the Collectivist Party has wage controls in mind:

It looks like full steam ahead for a significant boost to the federal minimum wage when Democrats assume control of Congress in January.

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said Thursday that increasing the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 would be his top priority as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

On the House side, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., already has listed an increase in the minimum wage as one of the issues that would be taken up during the first 100 hours of the next Congress.

So the Collectivist Party is against the right of employers and employees to neogotiate the terms of employment.

In addition, the Collectivist Party wants to control your healthcare:

In her remarks, Clinton outlined a range of challenges she said Democrats would tackle in the coming months, such as trimming the federal deficit, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and improving the image of the United States abroad.

She also said Democrats would focus on improving the quality and affordability of health care _ a touchy matter for the former first lady, who in 1993 led her husband’s calamitous attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The failure of that effort helped Republicans win control of both the Senate and House the following year.

“Health care is coming back,” Clinton warned, adding, “It may be a bad dream for some.”

So how do we stop the Collectivist Party? More importantly, do the American people want to stop them?

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Religious Freedom vs. The War On Terror

There are few symbols of Islam that arose more controversy in the West than the burqa, a covering that some Islamic women wear, either by force or by choice, that completely covers their body and hides even their eyes from public view. In what may well be a sign of things to come in Europe, the Netherlands is preparing to completely outlaw the wearing of the burqa:

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government agreed on Friday a total ban on the wearing of burqas and other Muslim face veils in public, justifying the move on security grounds.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk will now draw up legislation which will result in the Netherlands, once one of Europe’s most easy-going nations, imposing some of the continent’s toughest laws against concealing the face.

“The cabinet finds it undesirable that garments covering the face — including the burqa — should be worn in public in view of public order, (and) the security and protection of fellow citizens,” the Dutch Justice Ministry said in a statement.

Here’s the question. If a woman truly believes that her religious beliefs require her to wear a burqa, or a headscarf, or whatever garment one might name, does the state have the right to make it a crime for her to do so ?

Clearly, I think the answer is no.

However, this move in the Netherlands is only the latest development in what looks for all the world like a clash between European values and those of its predominantly Muslim immigrants:

Existing legislation [in the Netherlands] already limits the wearing of burqas and other total coverings on public transport or in schools.

France has banned the Muslim headscarf and other religious garb from state schools while discussion in Britain centers on limiting the full facial veil, or niqab.

Italy has a decades-old law against covering the face in public as an anti-terrorism measure. Some politicians have called for this rule to be enforced against veiled Muslim women.

So, one can expect things like this to continue. Whether that makes it right, though, is another question entirely.

Prominent Democrat Wants To Reinstate The Draft

Rep. Charles Rangel, who is set to become the Chairman of the House Ways And Means Committee (or, as I like to call it, the Ways-To-Be-Mean Committee), has called for the reinstatement of the military draft:

WASHINGTON — Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” Rangel said.

Rangel’s evidence for this ? Nothing, it seems but his own mind. Does he forget the fact that the badly-executed Vietnam War occurred in an era when we had the draft ? Not to mention the very Korean War that Rangel fought in. The idea that war would be less likely if there were a draft in place quite simply has no evidence in history.

More disturbing than Rangel’s misunderstanding of military history, though, is his collectivist rhetoric, and the idea that you “owe something” to your country.

He said having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve. Instead, “young people (would) commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it’s our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals,” with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.

Since when does the state have the right to ask anyone, young or old, to “commit themselves” to the service of others for any period of time ? If you thought liberty was under assault with the Republicans in control of Congress, it looks like things will only get worse in 2007.

Further coverage of the story here.

Oklahoma: Two Steps Forward, One (Potential) Step Back

UPDATE: My reading comprehension took a breather today. Replace Oklahoma with Arkansas for most of this post. I guess I had Oklahoma on the brain after the tattoo story. Suffice to say that I did have a point in that all states like to use taxation or outright bans of unpopular behavior or activities based on the tyranny of the majority. Thanks Kevin for catching my mistake.

Recently, Oklahoma finally became the last state in the US to legalize tattooing. As I said then, it was a promising sign, but I didn’t think that they were going to understand the wider lesson of it being wrong to ban it in the first place:

I’d like to say that this change in the law is Oklahoma’s realization that outlawing behavior that they simply find unappealing, which does not infringe on anyone’s rights, is bad policy. But it’s not. This is them retreating from one restriction of freedom that no longer has a lot of public support. I’m sure they won’t be shy about keeping those restrictions that exist, or enacting new restrictions, as long as the majority supports it. After all, that’s what government is for, right?

Well, they may be showing their hand. This, of course, isn’t about outlawing something, it’s about using the power of taxation to discourage behavior, which I also find deplorable. It seems that because beer is such a nasty, sinful, awful substance (if extraordinarily tasty and refreshing!), Oklahoma decided in 2001 to add 3% sales tax on its sale, to pay “for the children”. While this was intended as a temporary tax to offset budget shortfalls, the Governor wants to extend it when government coffers are full:

Lawmakers studying the Public School Fund budget proposal Thursday scratched their heads when they saw that Gov. Mike Huckabee’s recommendation includes keeping the additional sales tax on beer.

The tax is to end June 30, 2007, but the executive recommendation has it continuing at least through fiscal 2009.

Sen. Terry Smith, D-Hot Springs, asked if that was a mistake.

“The governor is supporting continuing the beer tax,” answered Mike Stormes, the state budget director.

The tax brings in $ 6. 9 million a year for preschool programs. It was a part of the $2 billion-plus Public School Fund budget submitted at the Arkansas Legislative Council-Joint Budget Committee budget hearing.

Yep, in order to pay for preschool programs, we should probably tax the people who need those programs the most. You know, the ones most likely to consume large quantities of beer. Namely young, single, childless men. That’s fair!

In the defense of Oklahoma, though, this attempt by Huckabee appears doomed to defeat:

Sen. Percy Malone, DArkadelphia, described the beer tax as a “temporary tax” and said legislators should “honor our word” and eliminate it.

“There’s no way in the world the members of the Revenue and Tax Committee are going to extend this tax… under no circumstance,” said Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle.

Sen. Paul Miller, DMelbourne, noted that it really didn’t matter what Huckabee recommended because the forthcoming recommendations of the governor-elect — Mike Beebe — will be what the Legislature considers. Huckabee leaves office Jan. 9.

Good for them. Let’s hope they’re able to resist the desire to tax the infidels sinners.

In other news, Georgia may be rescinding their ban on Sunday sales of alcohol, which I find to be quite a shock:

“Customers are requesting it and retailers are here for customer service,” said Kathy Kuzava, who heads the Georgia food industry association.

Her organization represents major retailers as well as with smaller independent stores. The Food Industry Association along with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores plans to lobby the legislature to lift the ban on Sunday beer and wine sales, though not liquor sales.

“The number one sale day in supermarkets is Saturday and the second one is Sunday. It’s frustrating because we can’t service our customers seven days a week,” said Kuzava.

The plan is expected to come under fierce opposition, with well-reasoned arguments like this:

“I consider it the Lord’s day. It’s His day, not our day or the state’s day or the United States’ day. I don’t think we should be drinking on that day, and I don’t think he wants other people drinking on that day either,” said convenience store shopper Bob York.

Really, how can you argue with that?

Milton Friedman: Advocate For Liberty

David Boaz has an article up at TCS Daily about the legacy of Milton Friedman:

Friedman was born in New York in 1912, at the end of a long period of peace and prosperity. The first half of his life witnessed a series of catastrophes for peace and freedom – World War I, the Bolshevik coup d’etat in Russia, the rise of fascism and national socialism, World War II, communist domination of half the world. Happily, Friedman’s parents had left Eastern Europe, avoiding the cataclysms there.

But freedom was under challenge in their adopted home, as well. The federal income tax began in 1913. World War I ushered in government planning on an unprecedented scale. Then came Prohibition, the New Deal, Keynesian economics, and a widespread feeling that the federal government could solve any problem it set its mind to.

Then, after World War II, with the big-government mentality almost unchallenged in the United States, Milton Friedman began writing. He wrote first about technical economic issues and laid the groundwork for a shift in U.S. monetary policy that would come later. Then in 1962, amidst the enthusiasm for John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier, he published “Capitalism and Freedom,” a book that influenced a whole generation of younger people. He proposed such ideas as school vouchers to bring the benefits of competition to education, a flat-rate tax to make the income tax less burdensome, and floating exchange rates to improve international finance.

Friedman, of course, became known around the world as a passionate advocate for free markets and individual liberty, and he became known not just to academics and world leaders, but to the general public as well:

In 1980 Friedman broadened his audience further with the publication of a book, “Free to Choose,” and an accompanying PBS television series. Millions of people watched “Free to Choose” and came to understand how markets work. One viewer, a young actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger, said in 1994: “In Austria I noticed that people would worry about when they would get their pension. In America, they would worry if they were going to meet their potential. Friedman’s books explained to me how a dynamic capitalist system allows people to fulfill their dreams.”

That show appeared just after Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Great Britain, and just before Ronald Reagan was elected president. Thatcher and Reagan represented a revolution that Milton Friedman had helped to create: a shift away from central planning and the welfare state and toward a renewed appreciation for entrepreneurship, free markets, and limited government. The collectivist ideas that had dominated the 20th century were being replaced by a more libertarian spirit.

And the rest is history.

Milton Friedman Dies at 94

This news came across my inbox today. With sadness, I must pass it along:

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who advocated an unfettered free market and had the ear of Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, died Thursday. He was 94.

In more than a dozen books and in his column in Newsweek magazine, Friedman championed individual freedom in economics and politics.

His theories won him a Nobel Prize in economics in 1976.

Milton Friedman, in addition to his economic work, was a champion of individual freedom and bears his mark on the philosophy of the authors here. He is a central figure in the philosophy of libertarianism and free-market economics. He will be missed, but in that emotion, he will also be remembered.

As a blogger, I’m a regular reader of Catallarchy, where his grandson, Patri Friedman, posts. In addition, I regularly read Milton’s son David Friedman’s blog “Ideas”, and read his book, The Machinery of Freedom. Being involved in the world of blogging, reading their work (and sharing Patri’s affinity for poker), it makes something like this a little bit more personal. So I’d like to extend my condolences to both of them, and their entire family, for their loss.

What If Coffee Shops Were Run Like Public Schools ?

Over at The American Spectator, Andrew Coulson wonders what might happen if coffee shops were run the same way we run public education:

Imagine what would happen if coffee shops were run like schools. Let’s say that state and local officials granted Starbucks a “public coffee” franchise, paying it $10,000 annually per customer (about what the public schools spend per pupil) to keep us all in caffeinated bliss.

It would be the espresso shot heard round the world.

Not everybody likes the same brand of coffee, and the decision to let Starbucks give its product away for free would drive most other suppliers out of business. Coffee drinkers would get mighty steamed about that. Aficionados of competing shops would demand the right to spend their share of the coffee franchise money on the baristas of their choice.

Of course, if things played out the way they have in education, these dissenters would get nowhere. In the end, they would be forced to cave and join the tax-funded coffee queue at Starbucks, or foot the bill at their preferred shops and kiss $10,000 a year in free coffee goodbye.

But that would be just the beginning. Once Starbucks had a guaranteed source of tax revenue, customer satisfaction would fall by the wayside as a motivating principle of its business. After all, it would get paid the same amount whether or not folks were served well or promptly. To improve its bottom line it would no longer need to focus on consistency and innovative new products. So it would look for ways to cut services.

Of course, that’s not how the coffee shop market works. Starbucks competes with Caribou Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts and countless other local and regional coffee stores and franchises (not to mention the national brands available in supermarkets). And we’re all the better for it.

Why, then, do we insist on socialism in the education marketplace when the alternative seems all so simple ? As Coulson says:

In a free education marketplace, popular, well-managed schools would grow, while unpopular, poorly managed schools would close. There would be no politburo-like board threatening to merge schools together or close them down for its own budgetary reasons. The incentives of that marketplace would encourage innovation and a variety of options to cater to the diversity of families’ demands. Children would not be treated as interchangeable widgets to be processed through a single official system based on their age, or be shuffled around from one school to another just to make someone’s numbers work out.

We don’t trust our coffee to the government, and yet we’re willing to entrust our children ?

No, They Haven’t Learned Their Lesson

The Republican Party, after losing their majority in the midterms, should be looking at themselves and realizing why they have lost. The key word in that sentence is should. Instead, the Republicans appear to be ready to reelect their House leadership and a man whose only qualification is that he’s a Bush loyalist will be become RNC chairman.

To remind you why Republicans lost last Tuesday, they lost because they went Washington and they support Big Government. Mel Martinez’s office, if you remember, was the author of an infamous memo during the Terri Schiavo tragedy that gave talking points for Republicans to use on that issue. The Republicans do not do themselves a service with limited government voters by appointing a man who sought to use the tragedy and government intervention in the dispute of the Schiavo and Schindler families for political gain.

The only message this sends is that the Republican party is still not interested in the votes of limited government suppoters.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

American Economy As A Family

Over at Control Congress, there’s a post about How Bad Trade Deals are Destroying the Middle Class. It was a call for greater protectionism, because the authors believe that we are not negotiating trade deals that are free:

These days comparable numbers are imports are 16.22% of GDP and exports are 10.46% of GDP. Per se, there is nothing wrong with trade growing as a percent of GDP. However, the brutal reality is that our nation can no longer pay its bills. Imports of goods are almost double exports of goods. We enjoy a small (and shrinking) surplus on services and are now in deficit for payments (profits received from overseas US investments versus profit earned by foreign investment in the US).

If you could only pay half of your bills, your debts would be soaring. Guess what? So are the debts of the United States. Of course, the national debt is growing and more than 50% owned by foreigners. However, the debts of ordinary Americans are rising as well and a growing percentage are owned by foreigners as well.

The trade debate is usually depicted in terms of “cramped, narrow minded, locally oriented protectionists” versus “visionary, open minded, free trading globalists”. This caricature is largely correct. However, that doesn’t mean the protectionists are wrong. With America going broke, they are at least on the right side of the issue..

Now, I’m reflexively against protectionism. I could point to just about every post at the Eidelblog, as Perry is very strong on this subject, but a very recent post at Coyote Blog makes the point even better. Even without the trade deals being ideal, we’re likely to be getting the better end of the deal than the Chinese people.

But I decided to go a different route. I drew an analogy in the comments section over there, and I thought it was a pretty good one:

Is America going broke, or is the US Government going broke?

Think of it like a household. You’ve got two working parents who own a small business, paying their bills, getting increases to their income every year, etc. Overall, they’re doing fine. Then you’ve got a spoiled brat of a child, who wants to spend, spend, and spend some more, but the parents have put on an allowance.

The US Government is the spoiled child. That’s not a problem so far.

The problem is when you give the spoiled child a credit card. Now the child can get themselves into trouble and require the parents to bail them out. And if the child spends too much, it can overwhelm the parent’s ability to pay the bill. At the very least, it forces the parents to put off capital expenditures that could grow their small business (and thus their income). They want to go to the bank to get a loan for their business, but the bank won’t lend to them (it’s got it’s money lent out through its credit card branch, and their child’s debt make them a bad risk).

The parents are the US economy. The child is the government. The credit card is public debt, and China is the bank/credit card company.

The problem has nothing to do with trade. The problem has to do with a government that is spending more money than it’s taking in, and is getting so far in debt that the people giving it an allowance (the taxpayers) are in danger of being overwhelmed paying off its debt.

A trade deficit isn’t a bad thing, if China were spending its money investing in US equities/etc, that could be fueling economic growth. Instead they’re investing their money in T-bills, fueling government spending that is little more than a sink-hole, affecting economic growth little (if at all). Then, when the bill comes due, the government will have to take money out of the economy (further damaging economic growth) to finance their burden.

If we had a trade deficit with China, and they were using their excess dollars to invest in American business, we’d be in good shape. We can use that investment to make more jobs here than what we outsource to “over there”. Unfortunately, we’ve got a spoiled child spending our money, giving us back nothing useful for it, and sucking up the money we need to build our economy.

The New York Times Tries To Understand Libertarians

And fails.

In a piece about “corporate social responsibility” the New York Times interviewed someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute and came away with this unique undertanding of libertarianism:

OVER 35 years ago, the economist Milton Friedman wrote a famous article for The New York Times Magazine entitled, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase its Profits.” It’s not hard to find critics of corporate social responsibility who still take that hard-line view.

“C.S.R. is a misguided attempt by a subcategory of business managers to deal with the crisis of corporate legitimacy,” said Isaac Post of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Russell Roberts, an economist at George Mason University, said: “Doesn’t it make more sense to have companies do what they do best, make good products at fair prices, and then let consumers use the savings for the charity of their choice?” Their essential point is that companies are simply not equipped to “save the world” — nor is it their mission. That’s what governments are supposed to do.

Nice try Old Grey Lady, but I don’t think so.

H/T: Hit & Run

Well If That’s All You Can Come Up With….

In an article published on Election Day, Reason Magazine asked Congressman Jeff Flake, a member of the Republican class of 1994 2000 and of the Republican Liberty Caucus, what happened to the Republican revolution that started in 1994. His response, was, in a word, depressing:

Reason: Whatever happened to the class of ’94?

Flake: I think Republicans have by and large gone native. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise. You look at any measure of spending—overall spending, mandatory, discretionary, non-defense discretionary, non-homeland security spending—whichever way you slice it, the record looks pretty bad. When you look at where we’re heading, with Medicare Part D, it just means that these programs run out of money a lot sooner than they were going to already.

Republicans have adopted the belief or the principle that you spend money to get elected. When I was elected in 2000 it was ingrained in us, and since then it’s been even more so: Here’s how you get reelected, bring home the bacon. You have the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose job it is to reelect Republicans, saying in defense of his earmarks that it’s the job of Congress to create jobs.

In other words, they ended up becoming exactly the thing that they campaigned against in 1994 — an entrenched majority concerned primarily with maintaining and expanding their power than. Not every Republican Congressman was like this; there are always exceptions to every rule. By 2004, though, it was clear that, for many Republicans in Congress those ideas about small government and freedom that they had in their stump speeches really didn’t mean anything to them. At least they didn’t govern like they did, and Flake recognizes that:

Reason: Has the GOP given up on the ideals of small government?

Flake: Well, that’s the natural conclusion to draw. There are some—like [fellow Arizona Republican Rep.] John Shadegg and not many others—who still vote for limited government. Of course all of them still profess it, but when you look at their votes you have a hard time concluding that they really believe it. Staying in office, staying in power, has come to overwhelm everything.

And on November 7th, they paid the price for that.

As I noted earlier today, the small government ideas at the heart of the Reagan Revolution and the `94 election still resonate with the American people. They just don’t believe the Republicans anymore when they promise to cut spending and control the growth of government. If the GOP is to make a comeback from this setback, and they most certainly can, they need to find the men and women who believe in those idea and get them into office. Starting with the Presidency.

H/T: Outside The Beltway

Previous Posts:

Why The Republicans Lost
Why The Republicans Lost, Part II

Why The Republicans Lost, Part II

Apparently, the public no longer considers the GOP the party of small government:

The Club for Growth today released new survey data that shows the Republican Party has completely lost its brand as the party of limited government and low spending. The poll is instructive since it surveyed voter attitudes in 15 battleground districts where neither candidate suffered from personal scandal.

Regarding Tuesday’s election results, former congressman and Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said, “There’s no doubt in my mind it was not a repudiation of conservatives but it was a repudiation of the Republican Party.” The results from this survey prove that.

Some key results:

When you look at Washington today, please tell me whether you think the Republicans or the Democrats are doing a better job on each issue. If you see no difference between the parties on these issues, just say so.

Q: “Eliminating Wasteful Spending”;

Republicans 24.6%
Democrats 39.1%
No Difference 30.3%
Don’t know/Refused 6.0%

Now tell me whether you think the following phrases better describe the Republicans or the Democrats in Washington.

Q: “The Party of Big Government”;

Republicans 39.3%
Democrats 27.9%
Both 16.3%
Neither 9.3%
Don’t know/Refused 7.4%

Would you agree or disagree with the following statement: “The Republicans used to be the party of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and limited government, but in recent years, too many Republicans in Washington have become just like the big spenders that they used to oppose.”

Agree 65.8%
Strongly Agree 43.4%
Somewhat Agree 22.4%
Disagree 26.4%
Strongly Disagree 13.4%
Somewhat Disagree 13.0%
Don’t know/Refused 7.9%

And to those who would argue that the electorate has changed its mind, that the idea of limited government, tax cuts, and fiscal restraint doesn’t fly anymore, take at look at this:

Q: All other things being equal, which type of candidate for Congress would you be more likely to vote for? A candidate who wants to reduce overall federal spending, even if that includes cutting some money that would come to your district; or, a candidate who is willing to increase overall spending on federal programs and grow the federal budget, in order to get more federal spending and projects for your district?

Cut spending 57.3%
Bring home projects 27.6%
Don’t know/Refused 15.1%

Q: The 2003 federal tax cuts lowered tax rates on capital gains and dividend income. In two years, those taxes will go up if Congress does not extend the tax cuts. Do you support extending the current lower rates on capital gains and dividends, or do you support allowing those taxes to go up?

Extend the tax cuts 62.1%
Allow taxes to rise 24.8%
Don’t know/Refused 13.1%

Q: The 2003 federal tax cuts lowered income tax rates across the board,cutting the lowest tax rate from 15% down to 10%, and cutting the highest tax rate from 39.6% down to 35%. In four years, those tax rates will return to their previously higher levels if Congress does not extend the tax cuts. Do you support extending the current lower income tax rates, or do you support allowing the income tax cuts to expire and let rates return to their previous higher levels?

Extend the tax cuts 59.1%
Allow the tax cuts to expire 26.8%
Don’t know/Refused 14.1%

Q: The 2001 federal tax cuts phased out the inheritance tax, also known as the death tax. The law is currently scheduled to completely eliminate the death tax in four years, but then it allows the death tax to return in the year 2011. Would you prefer to have the death tax permanently eliminated, or would you prefer to see the death tax brought back in 2011?

Permanent elimination 61.6%
Brought back in 2011 21.5%
Don’t know/Refused 16.9%

The American public still believes in small government. They just didn’t think the Republicans do anymore. Given the record of the past six years, their assessment would appear to have been accurate.

H/T: Cato@Liberty

Previous Posts:

Why The Republicans Lost

Why The Republicans Lost

Much has been written, and much will continue to be written, about what happened on Tuesday and why the Republican Congressional majority that was created in the revolution of 1994 crumbled so quickly in 2006, but I don’t think anyone has said it better than the man who led that revolution twelve short years ago:

After having watched the majority he engineered in 1994 crumble in this week’s elections, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich laid into President Bush and congressional Republicans in an Atlanta appearance Thursday.

Taking questions after a medical forum, the former GOP congressman from Cobb County said four c’s — an absence of competence in Republican performance, an absence of candor, corruption and the bad advice of consultants — led to Tuesday’s defeat.

Interestingly enough, these are failures that one can also ascribe to the Democratic-controlled Congressional leadership that was overthrown in 1994. One would have thought that the GOP would have learned from their mistakes, but, obviously, more than a decade in power has destroyed the essence of the ideas that helped Gingrich and the rest of the GOP do something that, until that day, nobody ever thought they could do — return the Republican Party to majority control of the legislative branch.

Unfortunately, the promise of what happened in 1994 was betrayed long ago.

“I remember what it felt like the night we were at the Cobb Galleria and for the first time in 40 years we won control of the House and (there was) the Contract with America and people were very exicted about welfare reform and cutting taxes and balancing the budget and all those things, and I have to say 12 years later that I’m very disappointed, but if you look at what I’ve said all year, I’m not surprised.”

As for whatRepublicans should do now, he said, “I believe the House and Senate Republicans and the White House need to take a deep breath and think very seriously about this election result, because I think we’re at a very important turning point this is either a temporary interruption of what has been a gradually consolidating center-right majority, or this is a breakdown of that center-right majority leading to a significant effort to establish a center-left government majority.”

Remind me again why we kicked this guy out of Washington ?

ESPN Power Struggles

This post was originally posted at The Unrepentant Individual, where I’ve been posting about college football a lot lately. It drifted over into the territory of monopolies, so I thought I’d cross-post it here.

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Over the past few years, cable companies have been battling ESPN over the cost of carrying the ESPN channel. It’s long been part of the “standard” cable offerings, but ESPN, knowing their status as the “WorldWide Leader in Sports”, have steadily been raising their costs to the cable providers. It’s gotten to the point where cable providers have been threatening to make it a pay channel.

ESPN, though, rather than taking their foot off the throttle, have kept the pressure up. ESPN GamePlan was understandable, because they were offering pay content for games that wouldn’t normally ever be broadcast nationally. That works well for fans who have left their alma mater’s locale, like I have. For a cost of $99 per season, you can subscribe to ESPN GamePlan and get all the games you desire. But ESPN decided to take it to the next level. They created a new channel, ESPNU, which is dedicated to college sports. And they’ve used this to exert more pressure on cable providers.

You see, ESPN GamePlan games are often available through local affiliates. I have had situations where I’ve caught Purdue games on CSS (Comcast Sports South), which normally would have required a subscription to GamePlan. Those games are usually broadcast locally to the school on ESPN+ channels. But ESPNU is different. It’s a channel like ESPN or ESPN2, in that games broadcast on ESPNU are only available on ESPNU. And they want all cable providers to carry ESPNU. Many have chosen not to, at this point.

Games carried on ESPNU require me to head out to a sports bar to watch. It’s actually been a little tougher than normal, because one place I would normally go to watch games doesn’t even carry ESPNU. So it requires going to certain sports bars. Granted, since I’m a fan of Purdue, a mid-level Big Ten team, I understand that it’s going to be a little tough for me to always find my team on TV. But ESPN knows that if they really want to get cable providers signed up for ESPNU, they must piss off fans of bigger programs. So earlier this year, Ohio State played a conference game on ESPNU, much to the chagrin of Columbus residents. OSU fans seem to think it’s a god-given right to watch Buckeye football on basic cable. Last weekend, I believe (I could be mistaken) that the Michigan – Ball State game was on ESPNU. ESPN is trying very hard to use their “monopoly” power to ensure local cable providers will add ESPNU to their lineups.

I use the term “monopoly” in quotes for a reason. ESPN is the “WorldWide Leader in Sports” for a reason, and that’s because they’ve done it better and cheaper than anyone else for quite some time. But they’re not a state-enforced monopoly, they’re a natural monopoly. And they’re pissing off their customers. You know what the result of that will be? As I pointed out before the season started, the result will be the Big Ten Network. In a natural monopoly, competition will arise which forces the monopoly power to change its ways, or lose its monopoly status. The Big Ten Network is the first attempt at doing just that, offering the games not carried by ESPN, ESPN2, or a major network, and putting on its own channel that may carry less of a price tag than ESPNU.

This is a real-life example of the natural breakup of a natural monopoly. And I’m not going to guarantee it’s going to be a clean fight, and I’m not going to guarantee everything will come up roses. But I think it will work itself out, and it will do so without the power of government. Not that anyone will pick up on the lesson, but I feel like someone has to point it out.

Why no politics?

After all, it is election season… in fact tomorrow is election day; why hasn’t a brilliant and insightful commentator such as myself opined on this election?

Honestly, I just can’t stand to write anything about politics right at this moment. I’m getting two dozen (no exaggeration) political calls a day between my home phone, and my and my wifes cell phones; then theres the commercials (nonstop and particularly nasty this year)…

The last thing I want to do right now is write about politics.

… buuuuut I’m gonna anyway, just a little bit anyway.

Tomorrow, I am voting against every democrat. Note, I am not voting for republicans, I am very explicitly voting against democrats.

It’s not that I particularly like Republicans; it’s that I will never, ever, do anything that is in my power to do, to aid democrats in gaining any kind of power ever again.

I would very much like my children to not either be dead or forced to be muslims, in 20 years; and if democrats are not absolutely crushed at every turn, I would be willing to bet money that will happen.

Oh and there are no viable libertarians who aren’t nut jobs that I can vote for, as usual, so I won’t be voting for them either; and the way the Libertarian party is these days, they’re just as bad as the democrats on foreign policy, if not worse.

Additionally I am voting no any any proposal “for the children”, “for the workers”, or “for the environment”; because in my experience any time a law is “for” those things, it is against freedom, liberty, responsiblity, and the individual rights of man.

I am voting against any proposition or candidate endorsed by teachers unions, organized labor, PETA, MoveOn, NOW, NARAL, the VPC, HCI, and any other number of far left interest groups; because if they agree with it, I KNOW it’s horrible.

I’m voting against any candidate that has had an automated war dialer call me… guess what, they’re all democrats too. Oh and all the groups above? Yeah they’ve been wardialling too.

I’m voting against every proposition that gives the government more power over citizens; but yes on the four that give the government more power to deal with illegal aliens.

I’m voting no on any proposition that gives the government the power to steal more money; but yes on allowing legislators a pay raise, because our legislature only pays $24,000 a year, and it’s silly that a waitress should make more than a state senator; even if our legislators hold other jobs.

You might note; primarily I’m voting against things; and boy am I just plain sick of that.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Plans for the Mid-Term Election

This election is putting most classical liberals in a bind. We don’t really want to see the continuation of the borrow-and-spend behavior of our current one-party rule, but we likewise don’t want to see the tax-and-spend-even-more behavior of the Democrats. We don’t want to see the enforced-morality of the paternal state our current one-party rule is pushing, nor do we want to see the nanny-state version of people telling us to live our lives. We want the government out of our pocketbooks and our homes. Classical liberals have divergent issues on the Iraq war, to be sure, and that adds one more major question mark.

Many of us are soul-searching as to how– or even whether– to vote next Tuesday. Do you vote for the lesser of two evils? And is the lesser of two evils continued Republican control of Congress, or is it divided government? Is it more important to hold your nose and vote against your principals as a defensive measure, or is it better to just throw up your hands and stay home, knowing that your absence at the polls only contributes to the greater of two evils getting elected?

I don’t know how each individual person’s situation works, but I have a bit of an easy out this year. There is no Senate election this year in Georgia, so nationally, the only race I have to vote for is for the House. And I live in a “safe” Republican district, so I know that my vote won’t count. So I’m staying home tomorrow. My congressman, who seems to be a nice guy, and who I’ve actually met and talked to, is not receiving my vote. He’s a first-term guy, and I keep looking at the votes he’s cast and one thing is clear to me. He values loyalty to the party line over voting for freedom. This time, I can’t bring myself to hold my nose and actively vote for a continuation of the Republican party rule.

But, of course, my congressman won’t read this blog, and certainly won’t know that I didn’t vote or why I didn’t vote. That’s but one reason why voting is a very poor way to actually try to “send a message”. So I’m going to draft a letter and fax it to his office tomorrow, so he knows that he’s lost the vote of someone who would be likely to support him otherwise, and why he lost that vote. If he finds himself asking why his margin of victory isn’t as large as he had hoped, perhaps my letter will clue him in.

Remember, folks, voting (or not voting) is very unlikely to actually effect any change upon the political system. It’s only the first step. If you really want to make a change, make sure your elected official knows exactly why you voted for them, why you voted for their opponent, or why you stayed home. “Sending a message” at the ballot box is easily misinterpreted, so you need to do something to make it more clear.

The Case Against Prohibition

Over at Catallarchy, Patri Friedman makes the case against drug prohibition, in a way that doesn’t rely on the ideas of personal liberties, natural rights, or any other theoretical basis:

I think all this talk of incentives and local vs. global control is making way too complex an argument which in this case is completely unnecessary. The reason why we should legalize drugs can be summed up in four words:

Drug prohibition doesn’t work.

It doesn’t matter if we can handle drugs, or if, as Parker claims, we use them irrationally. It doesn’t matter who suffers from drug use (mainly the user, as libertarians argue, or society, as others argue). What matters is that passing laws and establishing Drug Enforcement Agencies has a demonstrably negligible effect on drug use – and a demonstrably terrible effect on civil liberties. It appears that order to actually eliminate drugs you would have to impose a completely insane police state – since nothing short has worked, including some moderately-insane police states (ie Singapore).

Yep, that about sums it up. Granted, I’m an adherent to the libertarian ideal of “it’s my body and I’ll do what I damn well please”, but that hasn’t exactly gotten us so far. And to a large degree, trying to make that argument against people who firmly believe that the government should have the power to protect us from ourselves isn’t going to be fruitful.

Sometimes you just need to pull the end-around:

This is a simple, pragmatic argument that depends only on empirical evidence whose conclusion is glaringly clear to anyone who looks at it seriously. Thus it is vastly superior to any libertarian invocation of personal liberty, incentives, or whatever. I believe in most of our pet theories too, but no one else cares, so when there is a universal argument why use one that will only apply to the choir?

Arguing over ideals only works with people who can convinced their ideals are wrong. Everyone has their own ideals, and objective proofs of right and wrong are hard to find. Facts, though, are much more stubborn, and at best we can argue over interpretations of those facts. When the facts are on your side, argue from the facts, and back it up with ideals, not the other way around.

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