Monthly Archives: November 2007

CBS/NY Times Poll Puts Ron Paul At 8% In New Hampshire, 4th Place In Iowa

The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll has some good news for the Paul supporters out there.

Meanwhile, John Zogby thinks Paul could pull as much as 18% in New Hampshire in January:

On the Sean Hannity radio program, pollster John Zogby said that Texas Congressman Ron Paul could end up surprising the field – and “embarass a lot of the frontrunners” by wildly exceeding expectations taking 15 to 18 percent in the New Hampshire primary.

An incredulous Hannity asked, “You don’t see any chance he wins this thing, do you?” Zogby said no.

But, you see, when it comes to the early primaries, there are different ways of defining a win. If Ron Paul got as much as 18-20% of the vote in New Hampshire, it would be an even bigger deal than the November 5th money bomb.

H/T: Marc Ambinder

Dick Armey: Hillary Is Inevitable And It’s The GOP’s Fault

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey says that Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency is nearly inevitable and the fault lies with a Republican Party that has completely abandoned it’s principles:

First and foremost, the Republican brand as effective stewards of the taxpayer dollar is in tatters, and the shredding doesn’t look to stop any time soon. Just yesterday, 138 House Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to override the president’s veto of a wasteful and pork-ridden Water Resources bill. That vote was a shameful display of personal politics over the national interest, and it contains the seeds of destruction of whatever conservative principles remain in the Republican party.

The callow accommodation to big-spending Democrats in Congress is one of the ways the Republican party will return itself to the days of serving as a compliant, permanent minority. Happy for table scraps, elected Republicans will simply abandon the ideas of their party in order to “get along”.

No wonder Americans prefer Democrats on the economy, taxes, and spending issues, according to recent polling data. When the choice is between Democrats, and the Democrat-lite ideas the GOP has become so comfortable offering, the Democrats will win every time.

The only way the Republican party will beat Hillary Clinton is to return to its limited-government roots. That’s the only way to rebuild a majority coalition.

To be honest, of course, it’s the been a long time since Republican Party really was the party of limited government. As Stephen Green notes, even the heady days of the 1994 takeover of Congress, the Contract with America was really more talk than action, but at least they were talking about limiting government back then. Today, the GOP is close to returning to the days when it was a “me too” version of the Democratic Party’s social welfare-ism. And it never won elections when it did that.

Armey lays out quite clearly what’s needed:

To counter Hillary Clinton’s perfectly oiled political machine, Republicans need to return to their Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan roots. They need to present an alternative vision for America—a positive vision that limits government and trusts individuals and leaves families, churches, and businesses free to make their own decisions, and not have bureaucrats and politicians calling the shots.

And that’s not something we’re hearing from any of the Republican candidates for President, except for a guy who’s still in single digits in the polls.

Car Registration Woes

With the move to California, the time came that I had to register my car as well as my wife’s car. I’m a procrastinator by nature, and don’t really give a damn what California thinks, so I was far beyond the “20-day” limit between the time that the car enters California and the date it must be registered. But some interesting things happened, and I think they go a long way to the State of California’s understanding of their role in society.

The first was my truck. I had hoped to get the smog check completed and then get the registration done within 20 days of that date (conveniently putting the “first day the vehicle entered California” as the date of the smog check). However, various things got in the way, and I couldn’t get to it in 20 days. Because the registration occurred before that time, I knew the State was aware that the car had been there more than 20 days. So I did the stupid thing, and told the truth*. As such, I got slapped with penalties equal to one year’s registration fees (on top of the fees already paid). Unfortunately, they used the date of registration as the date of reporting the first date the vehicle entered the state, so I paid two years registration and will only receive about 6 months of time before my registration expires.

So that sucked. Next, of course, my wife’s car was due. I learned my lesson, and went for registration within 14 days of getting the smog check done. So I put the date of entry as the date the smog check was done. Of course, I wasn’t charged penalties on this, but it still wasn’t cheap**. But again, the registration is only valid until 1 year from that date the vehicle was reported as entering California.

Think about that for a second. To the State of California, it does not matter whether a vehicle is legally registered in another state. It does not matter if you go weeks or months without any necessity of having the bureaucrats in Sacramento know about the existence of your car. Once your car is in their state, it becomes their property, and you must pay tribute to keep it.

Ask yourself: is there any benefit to the registration of your car that could not be achieved privately? After all, the primary goal of car registration, as far as I can tell, is to ensure that if your car is stolen or damaged, that it is properly recovered/compensated. The agency with the most incentive to ensure that is done is not the State of California, with their compulsory fees and their “we’ll find it if we find it” attitude towards stolen cars. The agency with incentive is the insurance company who is on the financial hook for your car. If anyone has an incentive to license and track your vehicle, it is them.

What does the State do? They demand your fees as a tribute to an army of useless bureaucrats, an army which exists purely for its own continued existence. If you don’t pay the piper, they’ll impound your car. Is there any other way to state this than that they believe they own your car, and all you do is pay for the privilege to rent it from them, covering all maintenance costs by yourself?
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Farmers Fighting To Force Government To Legalize Hemp

A group of Midwestern farmers is taking the Drug Enforcement Administration to Court to try to force it change its drug classification system to allow them to grow hemp:

Wayne Hauge grows grains, chickpeas and some lentils on 2,000 acres in northern North Dakota. Business is up and down, as the farming trade tends to be, and he is always on the lookout for a new crop. He tried sunflowers and safflowers and black beans. Now he has set his sights on hemp.

Hemp, a strait-laced cousin of marijuana, is an ingredient in products from fabric and food to carpet backing and car door panels. Farmers in 30 countries grow it. But it is illegal to cultivate the plant in the United States without federal approval, to the frustration of Hauge and many boosters of North Dakota agriculture.

On Wednesday, Hauge and David C. Monson, a fellow aspiring hemp farmer, will ask a federal judge in Bismarck to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to yield to a state law that would license them to become hemp growers.

“I’m looking forward to the court battle,” said Hauge, a 49-year-old father of three. “I don’t know why the DEA is so afraid of this.”

Because, in the War On (Some) Drugs, hemp is treated the same as marijuana even though the two are distinct plant variety:

The law is the law and it treats all varieties of Cannabis sativa L. the same, Bush administration lawyers argue in asking U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland to throw out the case. The DEA says a review of the farmers’ applications is underway.

To clear up the popular confusion about the properties of what is sometimes called industrial hemp, the crop’s prospective purveyors explain that hemp and smokable marijuana share a genus and a species but are about as similar as rope and dope.

The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. While hemp typically contains 0.3 percent THC, the leaves and flowers coveted by pot smokers have 5 percent or more, sometimes up to 30 percent.

“You could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole,” Hague said of hemp, “and it’s not going to provide you with a high.”

Nonetheless, the government treats both plants the same, and treats farmers who would try to make a living selling a product with many uses as if they were Colombian drug lords.

Massachusetts: Gambling Is Okay For Me, But Not For Thee

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is pushing a bill that would open three resort casinos in the state at the same time that it imposes some of the toughest penalties in the nation for online gambling:

Even as Governor Deval Patrick seeks to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts, he hopes to clamp down on the explosion in Internet gambling by making it illegal for state residents to place a bet on line. He has proposed jail terms of up to two years and $25,000 fines for violators.

The provision, buried deep in Patrick’s bill to allow three casinos to the state, puts the governor at odds with a fellow Democrat: US Representative Barney Frank, the sponsor of federal legislation to license and regulate online gambling nationally. Yesterday Frank strongly criticized the governor’s plan to punish online gamers while inviting casino operators to set up shop.

“Why is gambling in a casino OK and gambling on the Internet is not?” Frank said. “He’s making a big mistake. He’s giving opponents an argument against him.”

Yea, but you know what they say — the government doesn’t like competition.

Is Dick Cheney Unconstitutional ?: The Case Against An Activist Vice-Presidency

In a provocatively titled law review article, Glenn Reynolds, who spends his time at the University of Tennessee College of Law when he isn’t blogging raises some very interesting questions about the Office of Vice-President and what it has become in modern times.

The article itself arises out of the controversy that erupted earlier this year when Vice-President Cheney’s office was refusing to comply with a request for documents from Congressman Henry Waxman and claimed that Cheney was, under the Constitution, not a part of the Executive Branch but rather a legislative official and thus not subject to Executive Branch disclosure laws. Cheney’s office later withdrew this argument, but as Reynolds argues, if Cheney’s inital argument is right, and even if it’s not, there are serious Constitutional and policy problems with the extent to which modern Vice-President’s have assumed powers once exclusively exercised by the President himself or his appointees.

As Reynolds notes, the idea that the Vice-President is a member of the Legislative Branch rather than the Executive Branch is not as insane as it sounds:

[T]he argument that the Vice President is a legislative official is not inherently absurd. The Constitution gives the Vice President no executive powers; the Vice President’s only duties are to preside over the Senate and to become President if the serving President dies or leaves office. Traditionally, what staff, office, and perquisites the Vice President enjoyed came via the Senate; it was not until Spiro Agnew mounted a legislative push that the Vice President got his own budget line. The Vice President really is not an executive official. He or she executes no laws—and is not part of the President’s administration the way that other officials are. The Vice President can’t be fired by the President; as an independently elected officeholder, he can be removed only by Congress via impeachment.

That last item — the question of who can remove the Vice-President from office and how he can be removed — is important because it goes to the question of whether the delegation of Presidential powers to the Vice-President is Constitutional to begin with.

Back in 1986, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the Constitutionality of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, one of the many 1980s era attempts to control deficit spending. Under Gramm-Rudman, the Comptroller General, the head of the Government Accountability Office, which is a part of the Legislative Branch, was given the authority to make across the board spending cuts in the event that Congress and the President were unable to agree on a budget that came within certain spending guidelines. The Supreme Court struck down the law, relying principally on the fact that the law granted Executive Branch authority to someone who is clearly under the control of Congress:

The critical factor lies in the provisions of the statute defining the Comptroller General’s office relating to removability. Although the Comptroller General is nominated by the President from a list of three individuals recommended by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate, and confirmed by the Senate, he is removable only at the initiative of Congress

Thus, the argument goes, just as it was unconstitutional for Gramm-Rudman to devise Executive Branch authority in an official who is solely under the control of Congress, granting Executive Branch authority to the Vice-President, who cannot be removed from office by any means other than impeachment, is similarly unconstitutional.

But, of course, the Supreme Court is unlikely to ever rule on this issue, as Reynolds points out. For one thing, it’s hard to conceive of a case that would be able to make it’s way through the Federal Courts without being tossed out for lack of standing. For another, the Court is likely to defer ruling on such a direct confrontation between the other two branches of government on the ground that it constitutes a “political question.”

That doesn’t mean that it’s a moot point, though, or that Vice-President Cheney’s unprecedented involvement in Executive Branch decision making should not be questioned. As Reynolds points out, it’s a pretty bad idea from a policy perspective:

[T]he Vice President is the only person nationally elected to serve if the President is unable to govern, and the Vice President’s involvement, a la Cheney, in day-to-day policy activities sacrifices the distance that earlier Vice Presidents possessed; those unhappy with President Bush’s Iraq policies, for example, can criticize Cheney in a way that critics of Carter’s Iran policies could not criticize Mondale. In the event that policies in which the Vice President is implicated go sufficiently awry to end a Presidency, the Vice President will not be able to appear as a fresh start and may be liable to impeachment or forced resignation as well. In such cases, this risks a move to someone not nationally elected—the Speaker of the House or the president pro tempore of the Senate—and very serious consequences for a nation that would be, in those circumstances, already divided and vulnerable.

Which is exactly what we don’t need. It’s time to bring back the days of the Do-Nothing Vice-President.

Supreme Court Punts On D.C. Gun Ban Case, For Now

It was widely expected that the Supreme Court would announce today whether it would accept the appeal filed by the District of Columbia in the lawsuit challenging it’s handgun ban. As Lyle Denniston reports at ScotusBlog, that wasn’t the case:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced no action on a new case testing the meaning of the Second Amendment — an issue the Court has not considered in 68 years. The Orders List contained no mention of either the District of Columbia’s appeal (07-290) or a cross-petition by challengers to the city’s flat ban on private possession of handguns (07-335). The next date for possible action on these cases is likely to come after the Court’s pre-Thanksgiving Conference — either on the day of the Conference, Nov. 20, or the following Monday, Nov. 26.

Figuring out what might be going on with this case at the Supreme Court is a bit like reading tea leaves, but Denniston offers several possible explanations:

[A]mong the possible reasons for delaying the case are these: one or more Justices simply asked for more time to consider the two cases; the Court may be rewriting the question or questions it will be willing to review — especially in view of the disagreement between the two sides on what should be at issue; the Court may have voted initially to deny review of one or both cases and one or more Justices are writing a dissent from the denial. The appeal in 07-290 (District of Columbia v. Heller) raises the key issue about the Second Amendment’s meaning — that is, whether it guarantees an individual right to have a handgun for private use, at least in one’s home — and the appeal in 07-335 (Parker v. District of Columbia) poses a question about who may bring lawsuits to challenge laws before they are actively enforced. Together, the cases thus present a somewhat complex mix for the Court, and it perhaps was not much of a surprise that no order issued on Tuesday. At no point is there likely to be an answer as to what happened to bring about the delay. Both cases are expected to be re-listed for the Nov. 20 Conference.

There is, of course, the possibility that the Court could decide not to accept either appeal. However, given the fact that both cases present issues that haven’t been ruled on at the Supreme Court level in quite some time and the fact that there is presently a split among the Circuit Courts of Appeal on the meaning and proper interpretation of the Second Amendment, that outcome seems highly unlikely

So, stay tuned.

New Report Debunks Populist Propaganda

“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer;” a refrain touted by populist propagandists perhaps as old as civilization itself. Lou Dobbs tells us on a daily basis about the so-called “war on the middle class.” Ralph Nader, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and many others with the help of the MSM continue to use class warfare rhetoric as an argument for government to do something about what they see as unjust income inequality. It just seems unfair to some that some achieve a little while others achieve more.

Setting aside my objection to the notion that it’s the government’s job to steal from achievers and give the plunder to others distribute wealth for a moment, maybe its time to debunk this idea that the rich stay rich while the poor stay poor. Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial explores a recent study by the Treasury Department which found that this in fact is not the case (my emphasis):

The Treasury study examined a huge sample of 96,700 income tax returns from 1996 and 2005 for Americans over the age of 25. The study tracks what happened to these tax filers over this 10-year period. One of the notable, and reassuring, findings is that nearly 58% of filers who were in the poorest income group in 1996 had moved into a higher income category by 2005. Nearly 25% jumped into the middle or upper-middle income groups, and 5.3% made it all the way to the highest quintile.

Of those in the second lowest income quintile, nearly 50% moved into the middle quintile or higher, and only 17% moved down. This is a stunning show of upward mobility, meaning that more than half of all lower-income Americans in 1996 had moved up the income scale in only 10 years.

Also encouraging is the fact that the after-inflation median income of all tax filers increased by an impressive 24% over the same period. Two of every three workers had a real income gain–which contradicts the Huckabee-Edwards-Lou Dobbs spin about stagnant incomes. This is even more impressive when you consider that “median” income and wage numbers are often skewed downward because the U.S. has had a huge influx of young workers and immigrants in the last 20 years. They start their work years with low wages, dragging down the averages.

Those who start at the bottom but hold full-time jobs nonetheless enjoyed steady income gains. The Treasury study found that those tax filers who were in the poorest income quintile in 1996 saw a near doubling of their incomes (90.5%) over the subsequent decade. Those in the highest quintile, on the other hand, saw only modest income gains (10%). The nearby table tells the story, which is that the poorer an individual or household was in 1996 the greater the percentage income gain after 10 years.

Okay, so the poor aren’t getting poorer. Surely, those rich bastards in the top 1% are also getting richer!

Only one income group experienced an absolute decline in real income–the richest 1% in 1996. Those households lost 25.8% of their income. Moreover, more than half (57.4%) of the richest 1% in 1996 had dropped to a lower income group by 2005. Some of these people might have been “rich” merely for one year, or perhaps for several, as they hit their peak earning years or had some capital gains windfall. Others may simply have not been able to keep up with new entrepreneurs and wealth creators.

Alright fine! The richest 1% aren’t getting richer and the poor aren’t getting poorer. So what’s the point?

The key point is that the study shows that income mobility in the U.S. works down as well as up–another sign that opportunity and merit continue to drive American success, not accidents of birth. The “rich” are not the same people over time.

Why do I have this sneaking suspicion that these findings will not be reported on Lou Dobbs or elsewhere in the MSM?

Hat Tip:Nealz Nuze

The Libertarian Hard Cases, Part II: Mental Incapacity

About a week ago, I began a discussion of what I call the “hard cases” for libertarian ideas with some open questions about the status of children under a libertarian theory of natural rights. The comments to that post, as well as the follow-up Monday Open Thread, yielded some interesting ideas that I intend to respond to in the near future.

Before that, though, the second part of the discussion I wanted to start involves a similar subject — how would a libertarian society protect the rights of adults who are mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to provide for themselves and protect their rights ?

Judging Mental Incapacity

What determines when an individual has become mentally incapacitated to such a degree that they are incapable of making the decisions that people are usually assumed to be able to make on their own ?

In some cases, the determination would seem to be rather easy. An elderly person with full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease or some other form of dementia, or suffering from severe brain damage after a stroke, would clearly seem to fall into this category. Persons in that category are clearly suffering from some form of brain damage as a result of illness or injury that has left them without the ability to think rationally.

But what about some of the other forms of mental illness that we’ve become familiar with, such as schizophrenia ?

There are those, such as Thomas Szasz, who would argue that these “lesser” forms of mental illness don’t exist at all and that forced hospitalization of people that psychiatrists and psychologists refer to as “mentally ill” is a form of state-supported imprisonment of someone who hasn’t committed any offense other than behaving strangely.

On the other hand, there is the argument that someone who is a danger to themselves or, potentially, others should not be permitted to simply roam the streets without being treated.

Leaving Szasz to the side, is there a libertarian argument in favor of forced treatment of the mentally ill, and, if so, under what circumstances should such forced treatment be permitted to occur ?

The Role Of The State

There are issues that come into play here that are similar to those that arise with children. Who is responsible for the care and safety of a mentally incompetent adult ? The first choice is always the family, obviously, but, just was with children (and perhaps even more so here) the potential for abuse and neglect exists — not to mention the fact that many families may not be able, financially or otherwise, to do everything that needs to be done to provide for a person in this condition.

At what point, if ever, should the state step into a family situation such as this and say that the family is not acting in the best interests of the incompetent adult ?

There are several other issues that could fit into this topic — most notably the issue of insanity and criminal responsibility, which is worthy of a post all it’s own — but this should be enough to get things started.

Treatise on Property Tax Through Fiat Currencies

Below, please enjoy a guest article by Clayton Slade. Clayton is in the information technology field by trade, but has been an economics/finance buff for most of his life, as well as a believer in liberty and the free market.

Clayton’s article succinctly explains a rather complex concept rarely discussed, the effect of inflation as a tax on all those who hold dollars, both domestically and abroad.

As always, feel free to discuss in the comments. Clayton can be reached at clayton.slade@gmail.com.

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Treatise on Property Tax Through Fiat Currencies
By Clayton Slade

Property Tax
The United States has a property tax that applies to the entire world. In fact, all countries with fiat currencies do, but the extent to which they can tax is directly related to the distribution of currencies in circulation. This tax is called a fiat property tax. The tax rate varies between different currencies.

First, it must be understood that at any given moment, there is a finite total value of resources and services. Second, there is a total amount of currencies in the world, which can be manipulated. These two values form a ratio of Currency:Stuff. If more of a currency is created, such as new federal reserve notes, the total economic value of everything is not increased; this merely increases the currency side of the ratio, meaning that in the long run, it takes more currency to get the same amount of stuff. This amount of time is the response time or lag time of the market to realize the increased currency.

When more federal reserve notes (FRN) are created, the ratio of FRN:Stuff shifts accordingly, making it take more FRNs to get stuff. This means that each individual FRN is worth less than it was originally. The value of the “new” FRNs is derived from taking value away from the original FRNs. This is true for all fiat currencies when the quantity of a given currency in circulation increases.

The devaluing of each FRN is more than mere inflation. This is a property tax. It takes value away from assets, in this case currency owned by the holder, and redistributes it to the entity that creates the new notes (e.g., the Federal Reserve). Whomever has the power to create new currency inherently has the power to tax anyone and everyone who is holding that currency.

History
When the United States used the gold standard, people saw the US dollar as a sanctuary. The dollar was no more than a receipt (certificate) for a certain weight of gold, and the gold was protected in a safe location, which allowed the dollar to permeate throughout the world. When we moved off the gold standard domestically, we still met our obligations for foreigners who had gold certificates, and we also used relatively responsible monetary policies. This kept foreigners comfortable with using the US dollar.

At the same time, a very real economic boom after WW2 made the United States rich and a marketplace that other nations want to sell to. When the United States imports, it also exports federal reserve notes, which further serves to spread FRNs to all parts of the world. Some other consequences of WW1 and WW2 were that the borders in the Middle East were redrawn, and other political changes ensued that, for better or worse, involved making the US dollar the currency used in all major petroleum transactions. If anyone wanted to buy oil from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc, they first had to buy US dollars (now FRNs) on the foreign exchange market.

As a consequence. the world has been saturated with dollars, and then federal reserve notes, during the past century.

Real World
When the federal reserve creates new notes, it steals value from all existing notes. Since many existing notes reside outside of the United States, the property tax effect applies to anyone holding a FRN. This is a property tax on all notes that exist, and thus, the world.

When this newly taxed money is spent domestically, there is a net benefit to the United States. This has worked well for 30-50 years and is one reason why the trade deficit is not so bad. Money flows out of the country, but the value of it is then just taxed right back when new money is created. One must also consider that this is a tax on holdings, and not just cash flows. A country such as China that possesses a large quantity of federal reserve notes and treasury securities is taxed not only on the trade deficit, but also the notes from all previous trade deficits that are still held by the country.

Downfall
That sounds great, right? The United States gets to tax the whole world and spend it in ways that benefit itself! All moral issues aside, it would be wonderful if this could be done forever. However, other countries are not stupid and are wising up to this.

This most recent round of bail outs (paid for by fiat property tax) in the financial markets (sub prime, etc) is really waking people up. Take a look at the dollar against other competing currencies or even gold and silver. On it’s present course, the FRN will not be able to maintain reserve currency status much longer.

It seems like every year or two, another oil producing country moves away from the FRN in favor of other currencies that are destroying themselves slower. Most notably, Iran has been switching to Euro and Yen for oil transactions.

Effectively, all fiat money has a property tax rate associated with it. This system of fiat property tax only works when people are willing to accept a given currency. They have to either be naive to what is going on (general public), accepting it because it is the best option available (central banks, foreign governments, investors), or coerced (OPEC?). The Europeans are destroying (taxing) their currencies in order to help their exports, but they are doing it slower than the United States, making the Euro and £ the current better choice for maintaining value. This is why treasuries, central banks, regular banks, etc are shifting away from the federal reserve note to currencies such as the £, Euro, and gold – the fiat property tax rate is lower with those currencies.

It is a fragile system. Once the international community stops accepting federal reserve notes, the decline will be rapid. The decline may have already started. Depending on how widespread this rejection and decline is, the United States could experience massive inflation (WW2 Germany style).

Solutions
There are a only few ways to stave off a total rejection of the federal reserve note. One way is more conservative fiscal policies in congress that involve balanced budgets.

The other is to float some sort of commodity based currency that forces the value of individual currency units to be finite and relatively unchanging true value over time. If an option like this were adopted, it would be key for the new currency to be issued in a “natural” and non-obligatory manner in order to not shock financial markets. One such way would be to simply allow such currencies to float freely on the foreign exchange markets. If consumers of currencies wish to use that currency as a sanctuary, such as the dollars of old, they should be free to do so in a liquid manner.

The United States and some other super powers have had the luxury of a lifestyle that is subsidized through the taxation of the world with the practice of fiat property tax. One way or the other, those who currently are accustomed to the benefits of this system should begin to wean themselves off of it on their own terms as more and more people and organizations realize how this system works and refuse to participate.

Seigniorage is alive and well. Why should someone choose to hold federal reserve notes if there is an alternative that has a lower tax rate?

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Aside: There is probably only one candidate running for president who is concerned about this or even understands the situation. That person is Ron Paul. If someone does not understand how taxation through inflation works, they should not be president.

All conservatives, especially rich ones and those who would like to become rich, should be opposed to this system. It is a progressive tax that directly attacks savings, affecting those with more cash more than those with less. Such a property tax is contrary to conservative or libertarian principles. Anyone who wants to save money should be opposed to this.

This is a tax just like any other. The only difference is that congress does not have to pass a bill to raise or lower the tax rate and the general public does not even know what the rate is. It is meaningless to focus on marginal income tax rates, capital gains, dividend tax, etc while at the same time the government can tax all the money it needs regardless. And they do not even have to ask you for a dime. They simply confiscate it from your bank account.

“Thanks” for a tax increase

This is where the nickname “Tax Hike Mike” comes from:

Governor Mike Huckabee addressed the Arkansas General Assembly, pleading with them to pass a tax, any tax. He ticked off a list of various taxes that he would find acceptable, a tax on tobacco, a surcharge on the income tax, a sales tax… “I will very happily sign that,” he proclaimed.

Jump forward to the present day, Mike Huckabee running for the Republican presidential nomination has signed a no-tax pledge and jumped on the Fair Tax bandwagon.

You’d never know that as governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee’s solution to every government spending “need” was higher taxes. He never suggested using funds we had from the tobacco settlement. He never suggested cutting wasteful spending. To him, most of the time, there was no such thing as wasteful spending. In fact, there wasn’t enough spending. He pushed hard to make sure that the state would keep giving taxpayer funded benefits to illegal aliens and even advocated giving illegal aliens college scholarships. The list is goes on and on.


I refuse to vote for a Presidential ticket that this guy is on.

Monday Open Thread: Well, Isn’t This Interesting

Why, I’ve got to ask myself, are the left-wing bloggers starting to go after Ron Paul ? After all, he’s still barely registering in the polls, and he’s clearly not within the mainstream of the present-day Republican Party (although I consider that a positive). He probably isn’t going to win the nomination.

So why are we starting to see posts like this and this ?

And it’s not just one blogger either,the meme is being picked up by Crooks and Liars, Liberal Values, MoJoBlog, The American Street, The Impolitic, Making Light, Campaign for America’s Future and The Mahablog.

What is it about this campaign that has the left so nervous ? I have my own ideas, but speculate away.

Do We Need A New Constitution?

Larry J. Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, seems to think so, and he’s even written a book about it. However, some of his complaints indicate that he simply doesn’t understand that the document was designed for different purposes than he wishes it to be:

The Senate is horribly undemocratic. Because each state elects exactly two senators, thinly-peopled rural states wield disproportionate influence. If the 26 smallest ones stick together, they have a majority of votes despite representing only 17% of Americans. Mr Sabato wants to restore some fairness by giving extra senators to big states.

Actually, Larry, the Senate was designed for the system of federalism, where the goal was for States to keep Washington from running roughshod over their jurisdiction just because more populous states wanted something. Granted, the 17th Amendment and most of the New Deal and beyond have turned the States into little more than lines on a map, since everything now IS run from Washington. But the point of the Senate was not to be “democratic”, it was to offer a place where more cool-headed people beholden to State interests rather than directly to the public could temper the fluctuating flame of shifting public demands.

Not content with rejigging the building blocks of government, Mr Sabato also wants to lay constitutional obligations on individual citizens. All able-bodied young Americans should have to do two years of national service, he argues, either in the army or pursuing some other public good.

Ahh, I see, because his desire is to ensure that, beyond all the conditioning that our students receive in the [unconstitutional] public schooling they endure until age 18, the needs to brainwash them further into the “social contract” by imposing unnecessary obligations onto them. After all, if you start them young enough, you can teach them that freedom means only what Larry Sabato believes it means. If he really wanted to solve this one, he could do so quite easily be repealing the 13th Amendment. Not that I think Larry would get a lot of love if he put that on a bumper sticker, though!

But all this dances around the second problem. A few of Sabato’s suggestions were good, such as finding a way to reduce gerrymandering of districts, which turn House seats into fiefdoms. And his call is not for some halfway approach to the problem.

But Mr Sabato does not want us to pick one or two of his suggestions. He wants to call a second constitutional convention to rethink the entire document bar the Bill of Rights. The current approach of piecemeal amendments is not working, he says. Very few pass, and many that are proposed are foolish: think of the amendment to ban flag-burning. No, what America needs is a grand meeting of clever and high-minded people to draw up a new, improved constitution better suited to the 21st century.

A “grand meeting of clever and high-minded people”? I’m sure a lot of “politics professors” will be invited to such a thing.

I thought, a year or two ago, that perhaps the answer is another Constitutional Convention. I thought that we’ve misinterpreted the document so horribly that it might be time to spell out the limits on government that our Constitution enshrines explicitly, to take these decisions out of the hands of Supreme Court justices that constantly stretch the meaning of the document to fit ever-wider government. But there’s a problem with that approach. The type of people I would want to write the new Constitution probably wouldn’t be allowed in the room, and we’d end up with a document that enshrines “positive liberty” and obligations on individuals that make our current Leviathan seem like the Ritz Carlton.

We don’t need a new Constitution, and the call to create one is an invitation to velvet-gloved tyranny.

The Dollar Is Dying

Earlier this year, I sketched out a fairly nasty potential scenario where the falling dollar (and stable Euro) might cause the world to drop the dollar as its reserve currency, followed by all hell breaking loose. The rhetoric is heating up:

You know that nerves are taut when a couple of stray comments set off a flurry of selling. The dollar fell sharply on November 7th after mid-ranking Chinese officials, not actually responsible for foreign-exchange policy, made remarks that were seized upon by already jittery markets. A Chinese parliamentarian called for his country to diversify its reserves out of “weak” currencies like the dollar and another official suggested that the dollar’s status as a reserve currency was “shaky”. The greenback reached $2.10 against the pound and a new record of $1.47 against the euro, before recovering slightly (see chart). A widely traded index, which tracks the dollar’s value against six major currencies, also fell to a new low.

A true dollar crisis has long been one of the more frightening possibilities for the world economy. If foreign investors suddenly abandon America’s currency and the dollar collapses, financial markets could crash while the plunging currency constrains the Federal Reserve’s ability to cut interest rates. That fear is exacerbated by rising concerns about higher crude oil and food prices.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the dollar’s status as a reserve currency has largely allowed America to inflate with very little visible burden on our own citizens. We create worthless money, use it to buy durable goods from other countries, and watch as they hold that money or reinvest it in the sinkhole that are Treasury bonds. It’s a credit card on the world, and we can print whatever we need to pay it off…

…as long as they don’t wise up. If they do, suddenly that money might come back to us, and we’ll feel the results of the inflation we’ve engaged upon.

Thankfully, The Economist doesn’t think the nightmare scenario is quite upon us yet:

For now, the dollar nightmare is still unlikely. The currency’s decline is neither surprising nor, at least until this week, alarmingly rapid. The gaping current-account deficit and interest-rate differentials between America and other big economies point to a weaker currency.

If cyclical considerations point to a weaker dollar, the most recent nervousness seems to be driven more by structural worries. Judging by the dollar’s slump in the wake of the Chinese officials’ comments, investors are fretting that central banks in emerging economies will abandon the ailing greenback. In the short term at least, that fear is easily exaggerated. The share of global foreign-exchange reserves held in dollars has fallen in recent years, but only gradually. Central banks are unlikely to accelerate a dollar rout by making dramatic changes in their reserve portfolios.

They’re right, that destabilizing the world economy through rash actions is likely to hurt the country dropping the dollar as much or more than it would hurt us. But with the emergence of the Euro, I think other nations are currently eyeing an exit strategy from the dollar. The writing’s on the wall, and unless our politicians grow a spine, I really don’t think we’re going to see the situation change.

How does that old adage go? “May you live in interesting times, and buy some gold while you’re at it.”

Intelligence Official: Time To Redefine Privacy

The chief Deputy Director of National Intelligence says that Americans need to redefine privacy and must learn to trust the government with their private information:

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States change their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

In justifying this new definition of privacy, Kerr cites the growth of the Internet, and especially of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace:

Kerr said at an October intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, that he finds it odd that some would be concerned that the government may be listening in when people are “perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an [Internet service provider] who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.”

He noted that government employees face up to five years in prison and $100,000 in fines if convicted of misusing private information.

Millions of people in this country — particularly young people — already have surrendered anonymity to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and to Internet commerce. These sites reveal to the public, government and corporations what was once closely guarded information, like personal statistics and credit card numbers.

“Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all,” said Kerr, 68. “Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that.”

Kerr’s analogy is flawed, of course, because of the fundamental difference between government monitoring and most private transactions on the Internet. For the most part, the information that’s available about individuals online is there for one of two reasons; either it’s something that’s publicly available (like a newspaper article), or it’s information that people have voluntarily given up in exchange for a service. If I setup a Facebook page that others can access it’s not the same as the government being able to monitor my private conversations and transactions.

And that, it seems, may be exactly what’s going on:

The central witness in a California lawsuit against AT&T says the government is vacuuming up billions of e-mails and phone calls as they pass through an AT&T switching station in San Francisco, California.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and Internet site access on AT&T lines.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the class-action suit, claims there are as many as 20 such sites in the U.S.

That’s fundamentally different from what Kerr is talking about. And, as a lawyer for the EFF notes, his arguments against anonymity ignore the importance that it has played in American history:

“Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms,” Opsahl said. “The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together.”

Publius would not have survived under the regime that that Kerr is proposing and that alone should be reasons to second-guess him.

Ron Paul Hits 7% In Two New New Hampshire Polls

The New Hampshire primary is less than two months away, so we’re at the point where the rubber hits the road. Which is why Ron Paul supporters should be encouraged by the fact that both the Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire and Marist Polls both show him tied with Mike Huckabee at 7%.

As I’ve noted before, New Hampshire seems to be the state best suited to be one where Paul could make a statement. Even if he doesn’t actually win, a primary that results in him getting more support than people expect could lead to some very interesting media coverage and some interesting possibilities.

Realistically, the shortened primary schedule means that even a better-than-expected finish in New Hampshire might not translate into enough support to make a difference in the end, but it could be more than enough to send a message to a Republican leadership that seems to think that ideology is an afterthought, and that victory is an end in itself.

Thoughts On November 11th

As we mark Veterans Day here in the United States, it is worth remembering that, for the rest of the Western world, today marks the end of what may very well be the most pointless war in human history

The war in which millions of educated and working class men sacrificed their lives to fight over the remnants of a Europe that was still ruled by Hohenzollern’s, Hapsburg’s and Romanov’s —Middle Age Europe’s inbred contribution to insanity.

And what were they fighting over ? The same stupid battles that Europeans were fighting 100 years previously when Napoleon raged across the Russian frontier. Only this time, they were doing it with tanks, planes, and mustard gas.

It was massacre writ large and insanity on display for four long years — and it all started when some guy got shot in Sarajevo.

And yet, somehow, the boys of America ended up in the middle of this mess that the Royalists and Europeans has created. Rationally, there was no reason we should’ve been there and yet we were led by a man convinced that he could remake the world in America’s democratic image.

Sound familiar ?

That didn’t work out so well back then, as people unlucky enough to live in Europe in the 1930s and 40s can attest. Not to mention the men who the United States sent back to Europe in 1941.

So as we remember Veterans today, and thank them for their service, perhaps it’s time to think about how we can stop creating so many gardens of stone in so many corners of the world in the name of misplaced idealism.

What Does a Veteran Want Today?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. My work has kept me very busy, to say the least. Still, I’ve been here reading and enjoying what my fellow contributors are posting.

But today seemed like a good time to contribute a post of my own. It’s Veteran’s Day (originally Armistice Day). It’s the one and only day set aside to remember the veterans of the wars that America has fought. For most of us this is a weekend of department store sales, war movies on A&E and a 3 day weekend if our employers observe the national holiday tomorrow. But for some of us, it is a day that brings back memories, some as recent as yesterday and some from decades long gone. And this post is for those men and women.

Why do we care about Veteran’s Day? Most of time we end up marching in the parades that celebrate our day, which seems somewhat backwards to us. I’ll try to tell you a bit about who we think we are and what we want. Bear in mind this isn’t some collective that I’m speaking for, just my thoughts, based on my experiences and the hundreds of other veterans I know.

We think that today should be a day that we set aside politics and remember the men and women that have served in the military in wartime. We are men and women who have gone in harm’s way, been at risk of death and injury, and lived in extreme, austere conditions. Most Americans will never understand what it means, in this day and age of an all volunteer military, to serve in the military, let alone in combat. And that’s good.

Today, we want you to set aside your politics. Stop using us as tools in your political battles, just for today.

Sadly, the extremes of the political landscape in our country have gotten worse, not better. On the one side we have a resurgence of soldier = baby killer and soldier = victim rhetoric. On the other, we have soldiers as martyrs to a glorious cause. I’m a former soldier and a veteran of both the Cold War and the first Gulf War, and we are none of those things. We are not victims, brutalized by war and turned into unthinking, callous killers. Nor are we martyrs in the holy war against whomever the current enemy is.

We veterans of America’s wars are men and women who have, for reasons we know, but often cannot clearly convey to anyone else, chosen to serve in the military during time of war. We put our lives on the line, dealt with sacrifices nearly incomprehensible to the average American living today, and managed to do so with honor intact. We are Americans, just like the rest of you. I am neither hero nor villain, nor are my comrades. We are humans, with all the complexities and frailties of any other person.

I don’t think what I did was special or somehow made me a hero, and so it embarrasses me when you say thank you for my military service. But it also touches me deeply when someone goes out of their way to do so. Regardless of what you think of the rightness or wrongness of the conflicts, it is good to know that my personal experiences and service are viewed with value and respect. I have had people from every political landscape in this country talk to me about Veterans on this day over the years without putting their political views on the line as well.

And that is all that we ask.

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