Monthly Archives: January 2007

An Out Of Control Prosecutor

Many of my fellow contributors have written about the abuses of police departments in various parts of the country, but the Duke University Lacrosse case highlights another problem in our legal system, the out of control prosecutor:

RALEIGH, N.C. — The state bar has added ethics charges to a complaint filed against the prosecutor who brought sexual assault charges against three Duke lacrosse players, accusing him of withholding DNA evidence and misleading the court.

The new charges by the North Carolina State Bar against Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong were announced Wednesday and could lead to his removal from the state bar, according to a copy of the updated complaint.

Nifong’s office arranged for a private lab to conduct DNA testing as part of the investigation into allegations three men raped a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a stripper at a party thrown by the lacrosse team last March.

Those tests uncovered genetic material from several men on the woman’s underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player. The bar complaint alleges those results weren’t released to defense lawyers in a timely fashion and that Nifong repeatedly said in court he had turned over all evidence that would potentially benefit the defense.

In other words, Nifong had in his hands evidence that pretty much excluded then men he was prosecuting for rape from even having had sexual intercourse with the accuser. And he choose to not only not release them to the defense as required by law, but to lie about it to a Judge.

And it’s even worse than that, because Nifong apparently had exculpatory evidence in hand before he even filed charges:

[A]ccording to the bar complaint, testing conducted at DNA Security Inc. had concluded by April 10 that none of the samples provided to police by 46 lacrosse players matched any material recovered from the accuser’s “rape kit.” A week later, Nifong charged Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann with rape.

If these allegations are true, then Nifong should most certainly be disbarred. Whether there remain grounds after that for criminal prosecution or civil liability is uncertain. In either case, though, it’s clear that an out of control prosecutor can be as much a danger to civil liberties as a cop with an itchy trigger finger.

A Crime That Can’t Be Defined

It seems that police in Atlanta, Georgia have been arresting a lot of people for violating a law that gives them an extraordinary degree of discretion:

Adrienne Carmichael didn’t understand how little it could take for her 17-year-old son to land in jail on a disorderly conduct charge.

“I thought [disorderly conduct] was if you got out of control with an officer,” she says.

But a broadly worded category of the crime – known as “DC-6″ – has emerged as a heated controversy in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, because it appears to allow police to arrest people simply for hanging out. Residents claim the charge amounts to an excuse for harassment.

DC-6 is the most frequent non-traffic offense cited by Atlanta police. As of Dec. 18, 7,551 DC-6 arrests — about 22 a day — were made in 2006, outpacing criminal trespass at 5,407 and drinking in public at 4,621.

What, you might logically ask, is DC-6 and how can the citizens of Atlanta be sure they aren’t violating it ?

Well, that’s an interesting question:

According to the DC-6 ordinance: “It shall be unlawful for any person [to] … be in or about any place where gaming or the illegal sale or possession of alcoholic beverages or narcotics or dangerous drugs is practiced, allowed or tolerated[.]”

What that means, essentially, is that a person can be arrested simply for being in what police designate as a “known drug area” — even if he or she just walks down the street or chats with a neighbor. That’s problematic, says American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Gerry Weber, because the law is so ambiguous that it invites discriminatory enforcement and therefore may be unconstitutional.

“It’s one of those catch-all laws that police use when they can’t think of any other charge,” Weber says. “It’s a street-clearing device.”

(…)

A police employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says there’s no official list within the city that would designate a location as a hot spot for illegal activity. Instead, the employee says, identifying known drug areas is “all up to the officer’s discretion.”

And that is precisely the problem. If a criminal statute is so broad that it allows an officer to essentially define a violation by what he sees in front of his or her eyes, there is no way that it can be reconciled with the idea that state has to have probable cause that a crime has been committed before it can even take someone into custody.

H/T: Dvorak Uncensored

The Case Against Forced Vaccination

In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Courtland Milloy responds to readers who have criticized his stand against forcing parents to immunize their pre-teen daughters against the human papillomavirus (HPV):

Let’s get something straight: I am not against a vaccine that prevents strains of the human papillomavirus, as some readers have contended. Nor am I for cervical cancer, which is caused by the sexually transmitted HPV. However, as my previous column on this subject indicated, I am opposed to the government mandating the vaccine. I say leave the role of strong-arm drug pusher to the thugs on the street.

There is no reason that a voluntary program, based on an informed and sensitive health education campaign, would not work. New Hampshire, consistently one of the nation’s healthiest states, has a voluntary HPV vaccine program, with plans to vaccinate 63,000 girls ages 11 to 18 over the next four years.

Instead of forcing parents to vaccinate their children, New Hampshire health officials engage in a widespread education program directed at doctors, nurses, and, ultimately, parents aimed at educating them on the reasons why the HPV vaccine might be a good idea for their daughters:

The New Hampshire approach encourages residents to take more responsibility for their lives. With the government acting as partner — instead of some antebellum massa — parents are encouraged to make choices that are in the best interest of their children. And guess what? They usually do.

So far this month, about 3,300 doses of the HPV vaccine have been made available to the girls in New Hampshire. State health officials say they are receiving feedback and determining where demand is greatest and how soon to order more vaccine. “We are at the beginning of the process, but from the anecdotal evidence, there appears to be a great demand from parents,” Moore said.

And, while one can argue that the state shouldn’t be involved in the health education process at all, at least you can say that, in New Hampshire, when a parent chooses to have their daughter vaccinated against HPV, it is a voluntary choice made on the basis of informed opinion rather than a choice made because the government told you that you had to do it. There is something to be said in favor of that approach.

Of course, some will argue that New Hampshire’s lessons don’t apply to urban areas like D.C., but Milloy points out how wrong they are:

So are New Hampshire residents somehow smarter and better able to develop effective public health programs? Are they more concerned about their children than the rest of us? Hardly. What they have that we do not is the right attitude. They take their state motto seriously: “Live Free or Die,” while too many of us are content to live and die as slaves.

You’ve gotta love New Hampshire.

Related Posts:

Should The Government Force You To Vaccinate Your Children ?
More Thoughts On Forced Vaccination

State Of The Union: A Reaction

It’s been a few years since I’ve actually taken anything any President says in a State of the Union address seriously. Nonetheless, there are a few things that President Bush said tonight that I have to question:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Faced with a widely unpopular war in Iraq and a Democratic Congress, President Bush in his State of the Union address urged lawmakers to work with him to “achieve big things for the American people.”

(…)

The U.S. should reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years, Bush said. His plan includes tightening fuel economy standards on automakers and producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuel such as ethanol by 2017.

One official has said that would equal taking 26 million vehicles off U.S. roads.

“For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments…raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy,” Bush said.

Bush repeated his call for Congress to give him the power to set average fuel-economy standards for passenger cars.

Not one word, of course, about ending Federal regulation of the energy industry. Or allowing power companies to actually build a nuclear power plant for the first time in nearly 40 years. Instead, we get empty rhetoric about reducing dependence on “foreign oil” that fails to recognize the fact that the reason that American demand for oil and gasoline continues to grow is because the economy continues to grow. Even higher fuel prices create unseen benefits because they make the idea of alternative fuels that were unrealistic in the days of cheap oil and gas seem much more realistic.

On the whole, these are not bad things. The problem with the President’s proposals, as is usually the case with so-called energy policy, is that it starts with the assumption that Washington, not the market, is the proper place to decide America’s energy future. If the President truly wanted to end America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy, he’d eliminate government regulation of the entire field of energy production and let the market figure it out.

Another Reason To Homeschool

Why? Because if you miss a parent-teacher conference, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor:

Sec. 26.014. FAILURE TO ATTEND PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE.
(a) A parent of a student commits an offense if:
(1) the parent receives written notice by certified mail of at least three proposed dates from which the parent can choose for scheduling a parent-teacher conference between the parent and the student’s teacher;
(2) the parent:
(A) fails to respond to the notice; or
(B) schedules a parent-teacher conference on one of the dates proposed in the notice or on an alternative date agreed to by the parent and teacher and fails to:
(i) attend the scheduled conference; or
(ii) before the scheduled conference, notify the teacher or an administrator of the campus to which the teacher is assigned that the parent will be unable to attend the conference;

(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

Yep. Skip a parent-teacher conference, and you’re headed to court!

Thankfully, there’s an exception for a “reasonable excuse”, although it’s not clear what’s “reasonable” or who decides. But hey, if Texas still had blue laws, maybe these parents would have better time management

Ridiculous. If we had a free market in education, this would be simple. If you don’t make it to parent-teacher conferences, the private school your child is attending can threaten to expel, or threaten to issue its own fine, etc. But when the government is involved, you’re headed in front of a judge, buddy!

Hat Tip: Cato@Liberty

The Cost Of Regulating Financial Markets

According to a new report, securities laws and restrictions on the immigration of talented professionals are harming American equity markets:

Cumbersome securities regulation and immigration restrictions are diminishing the importance of the nation’s financial markets, according to a report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. released yesterday.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who commissioned the report, warned that the country’s financial markets would be reduced to a mere regional financial center within a decade if certain government rules are not relaxed.

The report said there is “an urgent need for concerted but balanced action” at the national, state and local levels to enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. financial markets and “defend New York’s role as a global financial center.”

The report, “Sustaining New York’s and the U.S.’s Global Financial Services Leadership,” is one of several studies conducted as concern grows that the nation is losing its standing as global leader in finance. The report is based on interviews with more than 50 chief executives in the financial services industry and online surveys of hundreds of senior executives. The consulting firm also spoke with investor, labor and consumer groups.

(…)
According to the report, Europe is gaining on the United States in revenue from the lucrative investment banking and trading businesses. The U.S. exchanges’ share of initial public offerings has dwindled while those of its European and Asian counterparts have jumped. Europe’s revenue from derivatives already trumps that of the United States

And it’s not just regulation of financial markets that is having a negative impact:

The 145-page, $600,000 report emphasized immigration policy as a potential threat to New York City’s high-quality workforce. U.S. immigration laws, such as caps on H-1B visas for skilled workers, are making it harder for foreigners to move to the country, the report said. While London’s financial services sector grew by 4.3 percent from 2002 to 2005, New York City’s fell by 0.7 percent, a loss of more than 2,000 jobs.

Perhaps when people realize that there is a cost to be paid for all those regulations, they’ll think twice about them.

100,000

According to Sitemeter, The Liberty Papers crossed the 100,000 mark as far as unique visits today. It’s quite a milestone, especially considering that over 40,000 of those visits occurred in the last two months.

I’d like to thank the contributors here, who have turned a blog that was fairly inactive a few months ago into a very vibrant site. I’d also like to thank all those who come here to read and comment, as some of the discussions generated have been quite interesting.

2007 should mean big things here, so stick around!

The Death Of The Surge

Less than two weeks after it was announced, President Bush’s so-called surge plan for Iraq is in serious trouble. Yesterday, Virginia Senator John Warner, a Republican who has long been pro-defense, came out against the plan:

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, yesterday endorsed a new resolution opposing President Bush’s buildup of troops in Baghdad, as even some of the most loyal Republicans scrambled to register their concerns and distance themselves from an unpopular policy.

The resolution, unveiled the day before the president’s State of the Union address, is expected to garner the support of many Senate Republicans — especially those facing reelection next year. The measure appeals to many rank-and-file Republicans because it allows them to voice their differences with the administration without embracing the highly critical language of another bipartisan resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), one of the sharpest critics of the administration’s Iraq policy.

By last night, Warner had already met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the two camps were negotiating a single resolution likely to be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday

The impact of the loss of Warner’s support cannot be understated. Not only has Warner long been strong on defense, he is a Korean War veteran and former Secretary of the Navy under President Nixon. Losing his support is a bigger deal than, say, losing the support of a liberal Republican like Olympia Snowe. It’s a sign that the Bush plan is in big trouble.

2008 President candidates and the Second Amendment

Dave Kopel is giving a run down of 2008 Presidential contenders from both parties and their stance on the Second Amendment. Most of the results aren’t surprising:

Top tier. Nearly perfect pro-Second Amendment records: Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-Vir.). Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.).

Very good. Not a perfect record, but still a very positive one overall. Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.). Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wisc.). Former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

Mixed: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)(mostly positive record, except for lead sponsorship of two terrible bills: McCain-Lieberman, a terribly-written bill which would have given the BATFE the authority to administratively eliminate any or all gun shows, and McCain-Feingold, the campaign speech restriction law which significantly affects right-to-arms groups).

Poor: Former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.). Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). As noted by, inter alia, the Boston Globe, Romney’s flip-flops on guns are part of a larger record of inconsistency.

Almost perfect anti-Second Amendment record: Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Former Vice-President Al Gore (in Congress, a nearly perfect pro-gun record until 1989, when he switched sides). Al Sharpton (D-N.Y.).

Record of anti-Second Amendment leadership: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.). Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.)(very effective in pushing gun control during his tenure as Judiciary Committee chairman). Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa). Former Mayor Rudy Guliani (R-N.Y.)(even worse than his predecessor, Democrat David Dinkins; indeed, based on his record, arguably worse than Sen. Clinton).

Romney seems to be inconsistent on almost every issue. I’m a little surprised to see Huckabee’s name so far at the top. Not surprised to see Guiliani at the bottom. I would have though McCain would be given a worse rating, especially given his “F” from Gun Owners of America.

Florida Repeals The Laws Of Economics

The Florida legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill today that supposedlyaddresses Florida’s insurance crisis. The solutions these Solons came up with are:

The biggest savings are expected to come from expanding insurers’ access to the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which pays claims when insurers can’t. Insurance companies pay into the fund, but the coverage is cheaper than the private backup insurance most companies carry.

Why should the state be in the reinsurance business? The reason why insurance companies do not have enough money to pay out claims for hurricane damages along the coast is because too many damn people are living on the coast. Instead, the Florida legislature should pass a law telling insurance companies there are not forced to write homeowners policies in coastal areas. Hopefully, the insurance companies will drastically raise rates along coastal areas to cover the extra risk or mortage companies will stop writing mortgages for homes along the coast since they won’t get insurance.

The bill requires insurers to determine if they could save by purchasing more coverage from the fund – and if they do, to pass the savings on to consumers.

Not content with merely subsidizing the bad decisions of Floridians, the Florida legislature has enough hubris to make the financial decisions of insurance companies. The insurance companies have the right to set whatever rates the public is willing to pay.

The measure also has a mandatory rate rollback for customers of the state-created Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s largest insurer.

Again, Citizens Property Insurance serves to subsidize the bad decisions of Floridians. When Citizens cannot payout its claims, Floridian and American taxpayers will be on the hook to make up the difference.

It also requires regulators to deny rate increases if they would lead to “excess profits,”

Who’s going to determine the defiinition of “excess profits”, a committee made up of Keith Olbermann, Alcee Hastings, Barney Frank, Ted Kennedy, and John Edwards? Maybe Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il, and Fidel Castro are available as advisors. Government has no business determining “excess profits” for any business in a capitalist system.

and allows consumers to choose much higher deductibles, or to go without wind coverage, as a way to reduce their premiums.

Wow, instead of repealing the price controls on deductibles that Florida has apparently imposed, the Florida Politburo is going to graciously allow you to choose to carry higher deductibles. How nice of them. How about making the determination of deductibles the sole concern of the insurance company, the policyholder, and the mortgage company or is that too much to ask?

Another section aims at trying to prevent insurance companies from dropping policies or leaving the state. It requires auto insurers to sell homeowners coverage in Florida if they cover property in any other state.

My guess is, many auto insurance companies are going to say adios.

If the Florida Politburo wanted to really lower homeowners insurance rates, they should have done the following:

1) Make it clear that insurance companies are not required to write homeowners policies along the coast. This, hopefully, will price out from living along the coast.

2) Abolish the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and the Citizens Property Insurance company. These two entities also seek to subsidize the bad decision of living along the coast in a hurricane prone state.

3) Abolish all rate caps and government approval for rate increases. This will allow insurance companies to price policies according to the risk.

4) Tighten all statewide hurricane building codes to the Miami-Dade county standard. This will actually serve to decrease risk and again, make it more expensive to live along the coast.

Florida’s insurance crisis is the result of government subsidizing living along the coast in hurricane prone areas. Similiar crisises are developing in every East Coast and Gulf Coast state for the same reasons. Maybe we should try something like using the free market to limit coastal development in hurricane prone areas and using science and engineering to reduce the risk of hurricane and flood damage in areas already developed, instead of using the American taxpayer as a never ending ATM card for bailing out the bad decisions of others.

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.

The Absurd Pagentry Of The State Of The Union

Tomorrow evening, the nations broadcast and cable networks will interrupt their regular programming for the annual spectacle that is the State of the Union Address. While it’s not quite as ridiculous as Great Britain’s absurdly monarchical State Opening Of Parliament, it nonetheless has it’s moments.

Which is why, I think, Gene Healy’s column on how the State of The Union has become little more than an exercise in statist theatrics is completely right.

As Healy, points out, the modern State of the Union speech owes almost nothing to history. With the exception of Presidents Washington and Adams, no President until Woodrow Wilson actually delivered the annual message to Congress required by the Constitution in person. The man who broke the mold, and set a precedent that should have never been broken was Woodrow Wilson:

For 112 years, presidents conformed to Jefferson’s example, until populist pedagogue Woodrow Wilson delivered his first annual message in person. “I am sorry to see revived the old Federalistic custom of speeches from the throne,” one senator lamented. “I regret this cheap and tawdry imitation of English royalty.”

Yet Wilson’s habit caught on. Most presidents in the 20th century delivered the message in person. And in 1966, Lyndon Johnson moved the speech to prime-time viewing hours, the better to reach a national audience.

Thus the State of the Union has settled into its familiar, modern incarnation: a laundry list of policy demands packaged in pomp and circumstance. And as our presidents have grown more imperial, the tone of the annual message has grown more imperious.

Not to mention the incessant interruptions for applause, partisan and otherwise, and, in an innovation introduced by President Reagan, the use of audience members to make political points of one sort or another.

It’s hard not to analogize the modern State of the Union Address to the ancient British practice of the Monarch addressing Parliament and telling it what the Crown wished to accomplish. The difference in modern times, of course, is that the British Monarch is merely reading a speech prepared by aides to the Prime Ministers, whereas, American Presidents actually think they have the power to accomplish their goals.

Update: Healy has further thoughts on the SOTU at Cato@Liberty.
H/T: The LP Blog

Poor Rush…

Rush Limbaugh took a jab at the current field of GOP Presidential candidates today on his radio show:

CALLER: What do you think about Brownback’s chances?

RUSH: (Laughs.)

CALLER: My son seems to think that he is too much “church and state,” and people are tired of it, and I love your song because my son’s telling me McCain’s our only chance for a Republican president in 2008, and I second your song. Your cowboy song is perfect.

RUSH: I don’t know what I think of any of it. (sigh) This is tough. You know, I don’t get involved in primaries. I generally don’t endorse in primaries. It’s so early. There is so much yet to happen and fallout.

CALLER: Yeah.

RUSH: To be honest with you, there’s nobody out there that revs me up, so why should I pretend that there is?

That’s hilarious…he’ll be “carrying the water” for them soon enough, which is the sad part of all of this.

Hat tip to the The Corner @ National Review.

Why Hillary May Have Done All Of Us A Favor

Like me, you many not like Hillary Clinton’s message very much, but her campaign may signal the end of public financing of Presidential campaigns, and that’s a very good thing:

The public financing system designed to clean up presidential campaigns in the wake of the Watergate scandal may have died on Saturday when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) announced her bid for the White House.

Little noticed amid the announcement rollout was a page on her Web site in which she asked potential contributors to give her campaign checks of up to $4,200. That figure signaled not only that she plans to forgo public funds for primary season but also that, if she becomes the nominee, she will not take public money for the general election.

By opting out of the system, Clinton will be able spend as much money as she can raise, both for the primaries and for the general election, rather that being forced to abide by strict spending limits imposed by the Federal Election Commission on candidates who accept public financing.

Others have opted out of public financing for the nomination campaigns, but Clinton is the first since the current structure was created in 1974 to declare she will forgo public financing in the general election as well.

Clinton’s decision will put pressure on other candidates in both parties to follow suit, and if they do, the 2008 campaign will complete what has been the rapid disintegration of a system designed to rein in unlimited spending in presidential campaigns.

The entire concept of taxpayer dollars being used to finance the Presidential campaigns should have been offensive to everyone from the beginning. Why should my money be used to support a candidate I completely disagree with ? Why should yours be used to support a candidate who opposes everything you believe in ? It is completely anathema to the First Amendment and completely offensive to the idea that individuals should not be forced to support political goals they disagree with.

So if the Hillary Clinton for President campaign means the death of a system that never should have existed to begin with, I say…….thank you Hillary.

The Ron Paul Interview

Reason Magazine’s Brian Doherty interviewed Texas Congressman, and possible Presidential candidate, Ron Paul and, as is usually the case with Congressman Paul, the results were interesting:

First, Paul clarified the status of his Presidential campaign:

Reason: Does launching an official exploratory committee necessarily mean you will end up launching an official campaign?

Ron Paul: Last week it leaked that we were getting ready to organize an exploratory committee. I haven’t even officially announced that yet. If I find with the exploratory committee that there is some support out there, that we can raise the money you need, then [I’d] declare that [I’m] running.

Reason: Now that it has leaked, what have you thought of the response so far?

Paul: I think it’s been impressive. I’ve been pleased and surprised.

In other words, Paul not only hasn’t announced he’s running for President, he hasn’t even officially announced that he’s thinking about running for President. Yes, there’s a fair degree of political gamesmanship in his response to these questions, but it should reveal an underlying truth — much of the talk we’ve seen in the libertarian-oriented blogosphere about the Ron Paul for President campaign is just that, talk.

Congressman Paul also addresses the criticism he’s received from some libertarians, including my fellow contributor Kevin, over his vote in favor of allowing the Federal Government to negotiate prescription drug prices paid by Medicare:

Reason: Some of your libertarian fans were also upset about your vote on government price negotiations for Medicare drugs.

Paul: The government is already involved in giving out prescription drugs, in a program that the drug companies love and spend hundreds of millions lobbying for, this interventionist program. The drug corporations love it. Should government say something about controlling prices since it’s a government program? I want to cut down spending, so why not say that government has a responsibility to get a better bargain? Both choices were horrible, but the person who complained on the Internet did not understand the vote. I don’t vote for price controls, obviously, but if government has to buy something, even if they shouldn’t be buying it!–they have a responsibility to get the best price. But most importantly, we shouldn’t be in that business [of buying drugs].

Sorry, but this sounds a lot like some of the same justification and obsfucation I’d expect to hear from any other Republican or Democratic politician. Except Ron Paul has always differentiated himself from the rest of Washington. I just can’t see how he can reconcile this vote with his principles.

Paul also addresses the objection some libertarians have noted to his stance on immigration:

Reason: What do you have to say to libertarians who disagree with your immigration position, such as on amnesty, birthright citizenship, and a concentration of federal money on border security?

Paul: If they don’t agree, they’d have to be anarchists, and I’m not. I believe in national borders and national security. My position is, take away incentives–why are states compelled to give free education and medical care? I don’t endorse easy automatic citizenship for people who break the law. They shouldn’t be able to come reap the benefits of welfare state. I don’t think libertarians can endorse that. I think removing the incentives is very important, but I don’t think you can solve the immigration problem until you deal with the welfare state and the need for labor created by a government that interferes with the market economy. We’re short of labor at the same time lots of people are paid not to work. Take away [illegal immigrants’] incentives. I do believe in a responsibility to protect our borders, rather than worrying about the border between North and South Korea or Iraq and Syria, and I think that’s a reasonable position.

I think Paul is confusing two, or perhaps more, completely different issues here.

I agree that border security is a top priority issue, especially given the way the world is today. The concern I have, though, is not keeping Mexicans who want to come here and hang drywall out of the country; it’s keeping people who want to kill us out of the country. Similarly, while I oppose the welfare state, I think it’s absurd to say that immigration should be controlled, or, as some have suggested, eliminated until the welfare state is abolished. Immigrants have contributed greatly to making America the nation it is today; cutting off those masses yearning to breath free would be a repudiation of everything this country stands for.

Notwithstanding my disagreements with him, though, Congressman Paul remains, as always, an interesting man.

Related Posts:

Ron Paul For President !
Ron Paul’s Presidential Chances
Ron Paul Votes For Price Fixing Prescription Drugs
A Moment of Hubris On the Ron Paul For President Campaign
Further Thoughts On The Ron Paul For President Campaign

Thus Always to Tyrants

The entire population in the village of Fago, Spain is a suspect in the mayor’s murder. And understandably so:

“There is no shortage of contenders. During his 12 years in office, the mayor, a member of the conservative Popular Party and the owner of the village’s only guest house, had been involved in almost four dozen individual court cases with homeowners in Fago.

He had taken out injunctions to prevent people making home improvements and closed down a bed and breakfast because it competed for business with his own establishment.

Mr Grima had even incurred the wrath of the parents of the only two children living in the village by banning basketballs and shooting hoops in the village’s only flat area – the central plaza.

The most public battle in recent times came about after the mayor imposed taxes of almost 400 euros a month on outdoor tables at Fago’s only drinking establishment – the Casa Moriega bar – an amount locals consider high for an isolated village which attracts only a modest number of visitors in summer.” (h/t: Irish Trojan)

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Moving Servers (UPDATED)

All,

Due to a technical glitch which has been causing periodic downtime, our hosting company will be moving the blog to a new server this afternoon (about 4 PM EST). If the site is down during the transition, we apologize, but hopefully this will improve the uptime in general.

UPDATE — We lost a few comments during the move. It looks like there were a few comments made (one from Jan, one from Adam, at least that’s what I noticed) during the time the move was taking place, and they disappeared.

What Your Officials Think Of The Public

Here in Georgia, we’ve finally gotten enough representatives with the cojones to take on the Blue Laws (thanks Sen Harp!), the repeal of which is overwhelmingly supported by the people of Georgia. It’s still a baby step, as it only opens up beer and wine, and simply moves the decision to individual counties, rather than the state level. But hey, more freedom is more freedom.

The problem is, it’s still an uphill battle. Made even more uphill by the resident in the Governor’s mansion, a Republican who doesn’t seem to believe in limited government power or individual freedom, Sonny Perdue.

“Some things rise to the level of referendums — such as, I felt, the symbol, the flag that represented Georgia, which I felt rose to that level. But you can’t do government really by referendum. And so, I don’t support that, and I don’t know whether it will pass the Legislature or not, but it’ll have a pretty tough time getting the last vote.

“You have to always be attuned to where public opinion is, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to follow that. A good leader always leads in a way they think is the right direction for Georgia on significant issues.

Okay, so that’s Sonny’s way of saying that sometimes representative government doesn’t lead the right way. I can see that. After all, it’s been long said that democracies can only exist until the voters find out they can vote themselves largesse from the treasury. Unconstrained representative government doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean that freedom will result. In fact, the reason we have Blue Laws in the first place is due to the result of representative government running roughshod over freedom.

But as I’ve pointed out before, it’s rare that you get a justification for Blue Laws that are anything other than the desire of religious conservatives to tell each other that they can’t engage in voluntary transactions between them. It’s even stranger, because they don’t outlaw the transaction in general, they outlaw it on only one day of the week. It gets absurd, then, when they try to couch their desire to enforce morality in any terms other than religion. Sonny is no different.

“Think of it this way…It really helps you plan ahead for the rest of your life — buying on Saturday, rather than Sunday. Time management.”

I listened to the audio, and it sounds like he was joking. At the very least, the radio hosts took it as a joke. But the argument is not uncommon, from elected officials and supporters of blue laws. The idea is that it’s not really a problem for us, because if you’re not smart enough to think ahead until Sunday, you probably don’t need booze anyway.

That’s how much they respect your freedom. If you’re willing to jump through the hoops they place before you, if you’re willing to press on the bar in your cage, they’ll let you buy 6 days a week. How benevolent are our rulers!

And that’s the problem. I haven’t conceded that they have the right to tell me what day I can and cannot buy liquor. They’ve already assumed that they legitimately have that power. Sonny Perdue doesn’t for a second think it’s wrong to decide based on his religious beliefs to outlaw Sunday sales. And if you think differently? Well, how much of an imposition is it, REALLY, to just make your purchases on Saturday instead? Shouldn’t you be willing to do that to let Sonny and his constituents bask in their moral superiority?

Hat Tip: Jason Pye

The Case For Abolishing The FCC

Over at Slate, Jack Shaffer makes a persuasive case for eliminated the Federal Communications Commission:

Suppose Congress had established in the early 19th century a Federal Publications Commission to regulate the newspaper, magazine, and newsletter businesses. The supporters of the FPC would have argued that such regulation was necessary because paper-pulp-grade timber is a scarce resource, and this scarcity made it incumbent upon the government to determine not only who could enter the publications business but where. Hence, the FPC would issue publication licenses to the “best” applicants and deny the rest.

Whenever an aspiring publisher pointed out that timber wasn’t scarce, that huge groves of trees in Canada and the western territories made it plentiful, and that he wanted to start a new publication based on this abundance, an FPC commissioner would talk him down. He’d explain that just because somebody had discovered additional timber didn’t mean that the scarcity problem was over, it only meant that timber was relatively less scarce than before. He’d go on to say that the FPC needed to study how best to exploit this new timber before issuing new licenses.

Based on the notion of scarcity, the FPC would have evolved a power to prohibit licensees from using their paper for anything but publishing the kind of print product the FPC had authorized—no using that licensed paper to print party invitations or menus or handbills or facial tissue, the FPC would mandate.

Sounds absurd, doesn’t it ? Well, it is, but it’s a pretty close analogy to what the FCC has been doing for the past seventy years. The question is why such an absurd regulatory system is permitted to continue.

Of all the arguments that have been advanced in favor the FCC and government regulation of the electromagnetic spectrum, the on that continues to resonate is the idea that the radio spectrum is a “public good” and that access to it must be regulated by an entity such as the FCC to prevent the so-called “tragedy of the commons” that would result from allowing unregulated access.

As Shaffer points out, though, this argument doesn’t make sense given the ways in which technology has changed the ways in which we use the spectrum:

Almost everywhere you look, spectrum does more work (or is capable of doing more work) than ever before. For instance, digital TV compresses more programming in less spectrum than its analog cousin. As the processing chips behind digital broadcasting grow more powerful, spectrum efficiency will rise. Ever-more efficient fiber-optic cables have poached long-distance telephone traffic from microwave towers, and this has freed up spectrum in the microwave spectrum for new use by cell phone companies.

Other examples of spectrum efficiency: Low-power broadcasts of all sorts allow the reuse of spectrum, as everyone who uses a Wi-Fi router at work or home or listens to a low-power FM radio station knows. New technologies that share spectrum without interfering with existing licensed users exist (see this short piece about Northpoint Technology). In this bit of advocacy, an industry group gee-whizzes about the spectrum efficiencies promised by cognitive radios, smart antennas, ultrawide-band devices, mesh networks, WiMax, software-defined radios, and other real-world technology. The spectrum-bounty possibilities are so colossal that some members of the “media reform” movement even subscribe to them. The Prometheus Radio Project, best known for promoting low-power FM radio, accepts one estimate that spectrum capacity may increase 100,000-fold in coming years.

If the spectrum cow can give that much milk, why do we need regulators to ration the airwaves as parsimoniously as they do?

The answer, of course, is that we don’t. Instead of regulating the spectrum based on ideas from the 1930s that no longer hold any water, we should allow broadcasters to have private property rights in the radio frequencies that they use. Rather than leaving it up to bureaucrats in Washington, let contracts and legal precedent determine issues like boundary lines and what happens when one parties’ use of their piece of the spectrum interferes with another parties’ right to use their spectrum, which is exactly what Shaffer proposes:

Technology alone can’t bring the spectrum feast to entrepreneurs and consumers. More capitalism—not less—charts the path to abundance. Hazlett and others, going back to economist Ronald H. Coase in 1959, have advocated the establishment of spectrum property rights and would leave it to the market to reallocate the airwaves to the highest bidders. Such a price system would tend to encourage the further expansion of spectrum capacity.

Owners would be allowed to repurpose the spectrum they owned—using, say, AM radio frequencies to carry pictures—as long as they didn’t interfere with the spectrum of others. Companies in control of spectrum would even be free to subdivide their frequencies and rent it out to customers by the minute for the broadcast and reception of data.

Sounds good to me.

H/T: The Volokh Conspiracy

The Right Direction On Health Insurance Reform

The Bush Administration has been leaking selective portions of the policy proposals that will be contained in President Bush’s State of the Union speech including a proposal to reform health insurance that actually makes sense:

President Bush will propose a deep tax break for Americans who purchase their own medical insurance and would finance it with an unprecedented tax on a portion of high-priced health-care plans that workers receive from their employers, according to the White House.

The initiative, which the president briefly previewed in his radio address yesterday, has a dual purpose: It would create a financial incentive for the estimated 46 million to 48 million Americans who lack health insurance to buy it. And it would rein in the soaring cost of health insurance by encouraging workers in high-priced plans to seek more modest coverage.

“Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job,” Bush said. “It unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is that insurance premiums rise and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they need.”

The proposal, which Bush plans to fully unveil in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, marks a sharp departure for a president who has been criticized for advocating tax cuts that disproportionately benefit higher-income Americans.

Administration officials familiar with the plan say it reflects the new political order in Washington, where Democrats now control both chambers of Congress. They refuse to characterize the plan as a tax increase because it raises no new money for the federal government. Instead, it would add a new tax on employer-provided health-care plans worth more than $15,000 to subsidize those who buy modestly priced plans out of their pockets.

In addition, they say, the plan is consistent with the president’s idea of increasing access to health insurance through the private market while encouraging people to be more cost-conscious as they purchase medical-care coverage.

Quite honestly, the ideal situation would be to get rid of any tax breaks for health insurance or medical expenses, because that’s how you can really ensure that people will become more cost-conscious not only when purchasing health care coverage, but also when utilizing medical services to begin with.

However, as Michael Cannon points out over at Cato@Liberty, the proposal to eliminate the tax deduction for high-priced employer-provided health care coverage is an idea that has been a long time coming:

That tax break is behind much of the inefficiency and inequity in America’s health care sector. It encourages almost 200 million Americans to behave irresponsibly, which increases the cost of health care for themselves and everyone else. Economists on the left and right have argued for limiting or eliminating it for decades. The last president to propose such a limit was named Reagan.

Reagan wasn’t able to get a limit passed, of course, and he had a lot more political capital than Bush has at the moment, so the political prospects for this plan don’t exactly look good. It’s an interesting proposal, though, and, at least in part a step in the right direction. And I suppose that counts for something.

Uncle Milt Speaks To Us One Last Time

The Wall Street Journal conducted an email interview with Milton Friedman in July, 2006. The interview was never published, presumably because Friedman was ailing, although they don’t actually say why. It’s available on Opinion Journal, no subscription needed: Milton Friedman @ Rest.

I pulled out a few quotes I found interesting. Friedman was a critical thinker well worth listening to, even when he didn’t have all of the answers. He trusted people and the marketplace to come up with the answers, and he proved right so many times that most modern economics now focuses on improving his answers in the area of monetary policy and deregulation.

What is the biggest risk to the world economy: America’s deficits? Energy insecurity? Environment? Terrorism? None of the above?

Friedman: Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon.

If we are truly free market advocates, we need to look at how to deal with this issue. Simply wishing it away while playing the isolationist is not going to do the trick.

What are your thoughts on the low U.S. savings rate?

Friedman: The right saving rate is whatever satisfies the tastes and preferences of the public in a free and unbiased capital market. Market can adjust to any rate. This is a very complicated question. Present estimates probably understate actual savings because of treatment of capital gains. In any event, the present situation does not raise any problems for the economy.

Great answer. I highlighted the portion in bold that matters. Big government meddlers, go away.

India — how do you assess its prospects?

Friedman: Fifty years ago, as a consultant to the Indian minister of finance, I wrote a memo in which I said that India had a great potential but was stagnating because of collectivist economic policies. India has finally started to disband those collectivist policies and is reaping its reward. If they can continue dismantling the collectivist policies, their prospects are very bright.

India is yet another example of the gains to be had from liberalizing and adopting free market and personal liberty as the modus operandi.

Any thoughts on a China versus India comparison?

Friedman: Yes. Note the contrast. China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.

Every once in a while I feel compelled to pipe up and say China is not the threat everyone claims it is. The clash between political and economic systems is going to make China ineffectual for years. And it’s coming soon. Either that, or they liberalize politically, become a true powerhouse, but without the collectivist system that is so threatening to Rule of Law in their own countries and others.

Thanks for this last taste of you!

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