Monthly Archives: June 2008

Quote of the Day: “Our Collectivist Candidates” Edition

This quote comes from an article written on May 28, 2008 entitled “Our Collectivist Candidates” by David Boaz, the Executive VP of the Cato Institute.

Obama and McCain are telling us Americans that our normal lives are not good enough, that pursuing our own happiness is “self-indulgence,” that building a business is “chasing after our money culture,” that working to provide a better life for our families is a “narrow concern.”

They’re wrong. Every human life counts. Your life counts. You have a right to live it as you choose, to follow your bliss. You have a right to seek satisfaction in accomplishment. And if you chase after the almighty dollar, you just might find that you are led, as if by an invisible hand, to do things that improve the lives of others.

If you value the concept of the individual or value individual liberty, you simply cannot support Barack Obama or John McCain in this election.

Monday Open Thread: Defining Terms

I am sometimes a stickler for nomenclature. People bandy about terms like “marxist”, “fascist”, “right-wing”, “left-wing”, and the like, often with very little understanding of what they mean.

I was reading one of the posts by Eric, the original founder of The Liberty Papers, and decided to lift an image from that post regarding a two-axis political spectrum:

Notice that on the capitalism/socialism, Marx is over in the same area as Lenin and Stalin. Yet on the totalitarianism/individualism spectrum, he’s in the same area as Patrick Henry. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the works of someone like Marx; he’s far closer to anarcho-socialism than he is to totalitarianism in a Stalinist sense.

Perhaps something to remember the next time you call someone like Hillary a Marxist. She’s probably more of a Leninist, or perhaps a Rooseveltist. Obama would probably be closer to a Nader or a true Marxist. And McCain would likely fit on the same vertical axis equal to or north of FDR, but horizontally probably in the same area as Clinton.

Just some thoughts for your Monday morning… Discuss.

Pie Vegetation In The Sky?

Seen on Colbert:

Sounds like a very cool concept… But his use of terms like what “the plan we would like to see implemented” worries me. I’m a much bigger fan of letting the market decide, not relying on some collective implementation of a plan* (i.e. government).

So I went and checked out the group’s website. I’ll let you graze there yourself to learn more, but a few things I found here only confirm my fears:

Providing all urban populations with a varied and plentiful harvest, tailored to the local cuisine eliminates food and water as resources that need to be won by conflict between competing populations. Starvation becomes a thing of the past, and the health of millions improves dramatically, largely due to proper nutrition and the lack of parasitic infections formerly acquired at the agricultural interface. Given the strength of resolve and insight at the political and social level, this concept has the potential to accomplish what has been viewed in the past as nearly impossible and highly impractical.

Will vertical farming walk my dog too? After all, they’re promising a whole lot of other ridiculous benefits along with it…

Oh, and this one really takes the cake:

It is further anticipated that large-scale urban agriculture will be more labor-intensive than is currently practiced on the traditional farm scene, since the deployment of large farm machinery will not be an option. Hence, employment opportunities abound at many levels.

And this is a good thing? Really, in a nation where we’re already importing agricultural workers, he’s saying that less efficiency in our agricultural sector is a good thing?

Maybe I should go to his house and break some windows; imagine how many more glaziers he’ll need to employ!
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An Open Letter To Anyone Supporting John McCain

Please tell me why anyone who believes in free markets should vote for that man after reading crap like this:

Speaking on Wall Street last night, Senator McCain of Arizona sounded more like an economic populist than a proponent of the kind of unbridled free-market capitalism promoted by many who work on the trading floors nearby.

(…)

“I believe there needs to be a thorough and complete investigation of speculators to find out whether speculation has been going on and, if so, how much it has affected the price of a barrel of oil,” Mr. McCain said in response to an audience member’s complaint about investors driving up the price of fuel and other commodities. “There’s a lot of things out there that need a lot more transparency and, consequently, oversight.”

(…)

“I am very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they’ve made but at their failure to invest in alternate energy to help us eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” the senator said. “They’re making huge profits and that happens, but not to say, ‘We’re in this so we can over time eliminate America’s dependence on foreign oil,’ I think is an abrogation of their responsibilities as citizens.”

I think I finally figured out the only way the 2008 Election can make sense.

A unity ticket between Barack Obama and John McCain. Because, quite frankly, they agree a heck of a lot more than they disagree.

H/T: QandO

The Real Reason Why Barack Obama is so Dangerous

I’m sure that like me, many of you have received e-mail forwards that Barack Obama is really a radical Muslim with the express intention of destroying America from the inside*. Snopes, truthorfiction.com, and others have done some fact checking about these e-mails and have found that most of these claims are completely false.

Barack Obama is not dangerous for these reasons. Barack Obama is dangerous because the way so many of the sheeple have fallen under his spell (including many in the MSM). Mark Morford’s article in The San Francisco Chronicle Is Obama an Enlightened Being? Is one frightening example of this:

Barack Obama isn’t really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.

[…]

No, it’s not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn’t have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.

Dismiss it all you like, but I’ve heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who’ve been intuitively blown away by Obama’s presence – not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence – to say it’s just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

Here’s where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

Sounds like a bunch of hippy dippy horse crap to me. I didn’t know we were electing a spiritual leader but to many people, apparently we are.

Let me be completely clear: I’m not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. I’m not saying the man’s going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren.

You could have fooled me! Which is it Mr. Morford? Is St. Obama going to raise our spiritual awareness and help us evolve or not?

Don’t buy any of it? Think that’s all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls– and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you’re talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.

Not this time.

This is truly frightening. Mr. Morford has drunk the Kool-Aide and joined the throngs of others who faint in his very presence. It sure is going to be entertaining when Morford and his ilk wake up four years from now only to discover that Barack Obama was really “one of us” all along.

No, Barack Obama is not dangerous because he intends to make America an Islamic theocracy; he would do nothing of the sort. Obama has good intentions for America and he believes that his socialistic vision for America will change America for the better. But as we should all be aware, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

After Thought
This post reminds me of a song by Megadeth called “Symphony of Destruction” which was released during the 1992 campaign. Here are the lyrics:

You take a mortal man,
And put him in control
Watch him become a god,
Watch peoples heads aroll
Aroll…

/chorus/
Just like the pied piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes,
Swaying to the symphony…
Of destruction

Acting like a robot,
Its metal brain corrodes.
You try to take its pulse,
Before the head explodes.
Explodes…

/chorus/

The earth starts to rumble
World powers fall
Awarring for the heavens,
A peaceful man stands tall
Tall…

/chorus/

I don’t know what Dave Mustaine (lead singer/backup guitarist and founder of Megadeth) thinks about Barack Obama, but the description of a “pied piper” is a perfect description of Obama in my mind. The sheeple love him. If the Republicans think they can win this campaign by frightening the American people into believing that Obama is a radical Muslim, they are very sadly mistaken. These idiotic “fist bump” and the “baby mama” comments are only going to make Obama seem like an even more sympathetic figure.

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Happy Loving Day

A victory for personal freedom, 41 years ago today:

On this date in 1967, the US Supreme Court decided the case of Loving v. Virginia, striking down Virginia’s anti-misegenation statute. Mildred Loving passed away on May 2 of this year, promting a flurry of moving obituaries. As John Ridley noted on NPR’s morning edition, Barak Obama was born of a mixed race marriage in 1961 — during a time when several states would send cops to break into the bedrooms of and arrest people like his parents.

Times certainly have changed.

For the better.

H/T: Freedom Democrats

Barr: “I Was Wrong About the War on Drugs”

For those of you who are concerned about Bob Barr’s position on the war on (some) drugs, maybe this article Barr posted at The Huffington Post will help allay some of your concerns. I am among those who would like the congressman to speak out more forcefully on this subject as I have seen him miss opportunities to explain why libertarians oppose the war on (some) drugs.

Barr writes:

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I’ll even argue that America’s drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, “War on Drugs,” in 1972.

America’s drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer’s dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

Call me naive, but I think Mr. Barr gets it. The fact that Mr. Barr understands that so many tax dollars are being wasted on incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is evidence of this. According to the Bureau of Prisons, drug offenses account for 52.8% of all criminal offenses. How many of these are non-violent offenders and how many of the violent crimes would be dramatically reduced if drugs were legalized or decriminalized? With 1 in every 100 adults behind bars in the “land of the free,” America incarcerates more people than any country in the world. This needs to change.

However, because our government is divided into three separate branches, there is only so much a president could do in ending the war on (some) drugs. I can think of only three ways a Barr Administration could impact the war on (some) drugs at the federal level*:

1. Pardon all non-violent drug offenders en masse. This would have the effect of limiting law enforcement to going after violent drug offenders as any new offenders would be affected by the mass pardon. This is a question I asked Mr. Barr at the post debate press conference; you can listen to his answer here.

2. Veto any bill which funds the war on (some) drugs.

3. Direct the Justice Department, the DEA, and all other federal agencies not to enforce the existing federal drug laws. Not every law can be enforced; it’s the executive branch’s role to enforce the law. Rather than enforce unconstitutional, draconian drug laws the executive can direct all agencies to focus on keeping the American people safe from anyone who violates the individual’s rights of life, liberty, and property through force or fraud.

As Brad pointed out with some concern, Barr mentioned something about the “current” war on (some) drugs was a failure when he was a guest on the Colbert Report. Did Mr. Barr really mean the war on (some) drugs needs to be fought “smarter” rather than ended?

Barr continues using the tragedy of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit as an example of how a private organization can combat drug abuse without the help of government:

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

[…]

In the wake of the tragedy, the head of the WWE, Vince McMahon, and its other leaders looked internally to recognize these problems and address them. Although in the two years before Benoit’s death, dozens of wrestlers had been suspended, gone to rehab, or been dismissed under the WWE’s recently adopted “Wellness Program,” the WWE strengthened its drug policy further, re-emphasizing that its policy wasn’t merely a document, but the internal laws of the company that would be enforced.

[…]

McMahon didn’t wait for Congress to pass a law or parade his wrestlers in front of congressional committee hearings; he took the lead and assumed responsibility over the health and welfare of the individuals who work for the WWE.

As part of the WWE Wellness Program, wrestlers go through regular drug testing and even cardiovascular testing. The latter identified a previously unknown heart condition for the wrestler “MVP” and he was treated for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The government’s War on Drugs wouldn’t have done that.

This is one area where the government can and should combat drug abuse; not by locking people up but by allowing businesses and organizations to set their own policies. This means that an employer should have the ability to discriminate against anyone who they believe would harm his or her business (be it drug abuse, alcohol abuse, smoking, obesity, or whatever). Once again freedom is the answer to the drug problem (in this case, freedom of association).

I have only one major complaint with the Barr campaign remaining regarding the war on (some) drugs. I suspect that someone inside the Barr campaign is reading this. If so, please tell Mr. Barr to express these thoughts to the likes of Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, or anyone else on the Right that brings up the war on (some) drugs question.

» Read more

Stormfront, Ron Paul, and Bob Barr — aka Why I Hate Politics

Yes, I hate politics. That may surprise some of you. After all, I administer The Liberty Papers, and you’d be likely to wonder why someone who administers a political blog can hate politics so much. But politics is a dirty, nasty business, and nothing makes that more clear than the Stormfront fiasco.

Back in the thick of the Republican nomination process, Don Black of a racist group called Stormfront donated $500 to Ron Paul’s campaign, and the campaign kept the money. At the time, they were widely criticized for this decision, largely by other libertarians (including a few who contribute to this blog). I myself tried to stay out of the fray, but eventually penned a post discussing why I thought Ron Paul was morally correct but politically inept. I specifically stated that the money in Ron Paul’s hands is a lot more of a force for good than the money in Don Black’s hands. Ron Paul would be likely to put it to a more liberty-friendly use than Don Black, and thus he was morally correct to keep the money and not return it to Black. But from a political standpoint, keeping the money raises a lot of questions about whether or not it means Ron Paul actually agrees with Don Black, even though his history shows that he doesn’t. And it was Ron Paul’s attempt to play by moral rules rather than political rules that scuttled his campaign. That’s why I hate politics.

You see, in politics the rules don’t follow logic, nor ethics, and certainly don’t reward honesty. Ron Paul made a cardinal sin, not only in this instance, but in his entire campaign– he actually stated what he believes! You see, Ron Paul is a principled and honest person, and was more than willing to treat potential voters like adults. He’s willing to explain what he believes and then explain why. And that just doesn’t fly in the political arena.

Ron Paul would tell you what he thought on most issues. On half of his issues, it annoyed conservatives and made them think he wasn’t “one of them”. On the other half, it annoyed libertarians and made them think he wasn’t “one of them”. For law-and-order conservatives, the idea that we should scrap the PATRIOT act and RealID, end the war on drugs, and no longer act as the world’s policeman made them think Ron Paul was “soft”. For libertarians (a movement known for cannibalizing their own), his positions on immigration and abortion were a major sticking point, making many believe that he was libertarian on many issues but not quite libertarian “enough”. Each time he opened his mouth, he alienated another voting bloc, simply by being honest about his principles.

Contrast this with Bob Barr. I suggested when I saw Barr’s appearance on The Colbert Report that I thought his response to the question about the war on drugs was duplicitous. He could clearly have stated that he was against the war on drugs as an infringement of personal liberty. But that might have scared away the conservatives. He could have claimed that the war on drugs should be fought on the state and local level, where it would be more effective than at the federal level, but that would have caused us more doctrinaire libertarians to believe his conversion wasn’t genuine. So he tried to play the middle ground and claim the “current” war on drugs isn’t working, but without really stating any belief.

And it worked! In the comments to my post, I saw different readers interpret his response through their own ideological spectrum. He was able to play the middle ground with his answer, and everyone came off thinking that he agreed with their own preconceived notions. In fact, this is what makes Barack Obama such a masterful politician. In the early months of the Democratic nomination process, he was very bland about wanting “change” but without really getting into definite principles. I heard libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats who all interpreted his comments as if he would pursue policies similar to what they desired.

Which brings me back to Bob Barr and Stormfront. Stormfront attempted to donate to Barr’s campaign, to see what would occur (and likely, to try to gain publicity for themselves). Bob Barr played the political side of this to the book. In fact, he overplayed it. Listen to the tone of his campaign’s response to Stormfront (which drew praise from my fellow contributor Doug):

The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.

Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!

Particularly in that last sentence, you see the “Look at how politically smart we are! We hate racists as much as fellow libertarians do!” tone. Which is fine, and which is how I’d hope a campaign to feel about giving the donation back. But the self-congratulatory nature of the statement was purely for political effect.

Bob Barr understand the rules of politics much better than Ron Paul. He follows the rules, and those people who accept the “game” applaud him for playing it well. Ron Paul rejects the rules of the game, and acts accordingly. This caused his supporters to respect him, but they never quite realized that his refusal to play by the rules wouldn’t inspire quite the same response in non-politicos.

The political game is pure farce from start to finish. To win, you need to be a megalomaniacal sociopath. You need to care more about winning than about principle. You need to be a chameleon, telling every group you’re in front of that you’re going to do exactly what they expect you to do. And above all, you need to hide your true beliefs, because every expression of opinion turns off some voters.

So where do I stand this political cycle? I don’t care which unprincipled chameleon gets elected. I simply don’t believe either of them are the lesser of evils. They’re just taking us down a different lane on the highway to ruin.

My personal goal here at The Liberty Papers is to point out that the system itself is flawed. I do my best to try not to blog about elections; rather I point out that elections aren’t actually going to solve the problem the candidates promise to solve. We’ll never get out of this hole by trying to elect a savior. Rather, we need to understand that the government can’t save us, and get off our asses and do it ourselves.

Three Words

Well, three words, and three thoughts associated with them…

I’ve not spoken much about politics this year, specifically because when I WAS talking about it I found that it was absolutely impossible to have any kind of civil discourse with the Paulistinans, and Obamaddeans; and that the Mitt and Huck types were all heavily into self delusion.

Let’s not even talk about Bob Barr (libertarian he certainly is not… publicity stunt, he certainly is), or Dennis Kucinich (really… my life would be so much better if I never heard his name again).

What was the point? The aggravation wasn’t worth it.

Now that the parties have settled on their respective choices (finally), I’m going to say what will hopefully be my last GENERAL words on the subject (obviously I may end up commenting more as particular issues come up).

I’m going to be voting for John McCain (or more particularly not for McCain, but against the Democratic Party) and here’s why (three words, three thoughts):

* Barack
* Hussein
* Obama

* Supreme Court Justices
* Executive appointments
* Cooperative congress

So, let me just close with the sentiments of my good friend Kim DuToit:

McCain2008
I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

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

Do Government Regulators Protect Investors?

In a thread at Reason’s hit and Run, during a discussion where Enron was cited as an example of what happens when governments fail to regulate private behavior, frequent commenter fluffy wrote an insightful comment which is well worth reading in full. The second half of her comment read:

It is customary in the US for the Wall Street markets to be seen as the embodiment of unbridled capitalism, and they really aren’t. What they are is a complex system of federal regulation designed to foster “confidence” in publicly-traded companies, to facilitate the growth of those companies via debt and capital aggregation and intermediation. Their existence is a deliberate policy choice of the state, to attempt to use regulation to make it possible for small investors to trust people they have never met and of whom they have no knowledge – in order to allow corporations to grow larger, or to grow more quickly, than they would have in the days when trust was based on the personal or family qualities of the entrepreneur behind the corporation or the bank doing the underwriting for the corporation’s stock. The complex rules regarding accounting, corporate reporting, transparency, etc., are designed to allow corporations and investors to trust each other without actually having to do anything to establish trust beyond participating in the regulated system.

This has two unintended consequences. First, it allows corporations to be much larger and more powerful than they would otherwise be. The social and economic effects of this are open to debate. Second, it creates a situation where the “incentive problem” MNG talks about looms pretty large. As long as a corporation can do the bare minimum necessary to keep the SEC from shutting them down, they are in a position to command broad respect from investors that they may not deserve. The highly technical nature of the regulations in question also creates a milieu where a company like Arthur Andersen can begin to see its task as ensuring technical compliance and nothing else; the exotic techniques their consultants were using to build earnings or smooth earnings in that context begin to look not like “frauds” but simply “innovation”. By trying to facilitate the operation of the market, the state has in a sense corrupted it, or at least created an environment where corruption can hide behind the wall of paper the SEC requires.

But why has this corruption occurred? Why wouldn’t it happen in a private stock market? Well, a thought experiment will explain why the government intervention is corrupting. Imagine two stock markets. One, the Boston Stock Exchange is interested in attracting investors with assurances that their money will be safe. The other, the new York Stock Exchange does not care. The owners of the Boston Stock Exchange publish a set of accounting standards and demand that any company that trades on their stock exchange must follow those rules and publish those reports. The New York Stock exchange does not have that requirement.

Some investors choose only to invest money in companies trading on the Boston Stock exchange. They eschew the New York exchange. In the meantime investors who are less choosy (or more foolish) continue to invest in companies on the NY exchange. As a result, the companies that invest in meeting the requirements of the Boston exchange have access to additional capital that they couldn’t get if they were limited only to getting it from the NY Stock exchange. If the additional capital is worth the expenses involved in meeting the Boston standards, a company will rationally choose to adopt the Boston standards. Companies that find the additional cost not to provide sufficient benefit will not adopt the standards. Those companies will forego being traded on the Boston exchange and will make do with the capital available in New York.

In this scenario, the cost of adopting accounting rules is an investment in the business, much like the cost of marketing or the cost of insurance. Companies that choose to spend the money will attempt to ensure that it is well spent, that they are necessary for investor protection. There will be a negotiation between investors, the Boston Stock exchange, accountants and the companies being audited to arrive at meaningful standards that satisfy everybody. In the commercial insurance industry there instances of fraud tend to be aberrations rather than systematic because this very process is in place.

Now let us assume that for a variety of reasons the U.S. government passes a law mandating that all companies meet the Boston standards. Immediately all the companies trading exclusively on the New York exchange are slapped with an additional cost that they don’t want. The benefit of compliance will be reduced since the capital funds available in Boston will now be spread over many more companies. These companies, having been saddled with an unwanted cost will attempt to reduce the cost. They will seek out corrupt auditors who will rubber stamp their records. In the meantime the auditors who specialized in Boston accounting rules, now assured of a captive market, have to expend less effort pleasing their customers, the stock exchanges. In fact, they merely have to satisfy government regulators to keep their licenses, so they will pay less attention to the officers of the stock exchange. Since the government regulators, unlike the Boston Stock exchange, face no losses should they certify a corrupt regulator, they have a much lower incentive to ensure that the auditors are doing a good job.

At this point the accounting industry will not only become corrupt, it will also stagnate. The process that causes the stagnation is quite straightforward:

Let us assume that a couple of investors think that the Boston system is flawed. So they come up with a new system, and establish a stock exchange in Chicago which insists upon these alternate standards. Let us further assume that they convince a number of investors to agree with them, to the point where a few companies are interested in adopting the new standards. Whereas before the companies would merely have to switch to the Chicago system and to abandon the Boston system, they are not allowed to do this. They must continue to spending the money required to comply with the Boston system. If they want to meet the Chicago rules, they must purchase this as an additional cost. And, if the Chicago sytem contradicts the Boston system they cannot adopt the system at all.

This sets up a nearly insurmountable hurdle for anyone to adopt the Chicago system. And there is little chance of the Chicago system being mandated, because there will be many people with a vested interest in keeping the Boston system in place. Only in a time of crisis will the adoption of the Chicago system be considered by the legislature. And, if they should mandate it, they will be mandating an untested system. Should the system not work out as advertised, they could set back the industry dramatically as is happening as a result of the Sarbanes Oxley law.

If people truly wish to protect investors, they would lobby for the immediate dissolution of the SEC and allow stock markets to compete again on the quality of auditing. We would see a dramatic improvement in investor satisfaction as Stock Exchanges were not limited to competing for customers using price.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

232 Years Ago Today

It was 232 years ago today, June 7, 1776, that the Second Continental Congress began debating a resolution submitted by Virginia’s own Richard Henry Lee:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

Debate began that day and the rest, as they say is history. On July 2nd, 1776, the resolution was approved by the twelve of the thirteen colonies, and, two days later, the Congress approved the text of the Declaration of Independence.

H/T: Jason Pye

Bob Barr On The Colbert Report

Overall, a good interview. I think he adequately explained his change of heart on the Patriot Act. However, one bit on the war on drugs got me. He seemed to say that the “current” war on drugs wasn’t working, rather than expressing that the war on drugs was illiberal and wrong. It appeared to be a disagreement with ineffective tactics rather than improper goals. I’m not sure why the rhetoric is being played so softly– whether it be due to his beliefs or trying to craft a message that most Americans will agree with– but it raises some concern for this libertarian.

Massachusetts Health Care Woes – Someone Tell Obama!

As anyone with a shred of economic sense would predict, Massachusetts is not experiencing quite what they promised. From Cato:

* Slightly less than half of Massachusetts’ uninsured population actually complied with the mandate. True, the number of people without health insurance was reduced from 13% of the state’s population to 7%, but when the bill was passed, advocates promised that “all Massachusetts citizens will have health insurance.” Perhaps it depends on your definition of “all.”
* Most of those who are signing up are low-income individuals, whose coverage is fully or partially subsidized, proving once again that if you give something away for free people will take it. It certainly appears that it is the expensive and generous Massachusetts subsidies (up to 300% of the poverty level), not the unprecedented individual mandate that is responsible for much of the increased coverage.
* Adverse selection remains a big problem, with the young and healthy failing to comply with the mandate. The state refused to change its community rating laws which drive up the cost of insurance for young, healthy individuals. Not surprisingly, they don’t find this a good deal.
* The program is far exceeding its projected costs, with at least a 33% budget overrun in its first year.
* The program has increased demand for health care services without increasing the supply of providers. As a result, patients are having trouble finding providers and waiting lists (Canada here we come) are beginning to develop.

Sadly, this is unlikely to stop other states or the fed from following their path.

Hat Tip: Coyote Blog

You can’t own property in California

Property rights took a hit in California yesterday:

Voters in California yesterday overwhelmingly supported Proposition 99, a ballot measure that will significantly empower state and local officials to seize private property via eminent domain, and rejected Proposition 98, which would have protected property rights and ended rent control. As legal scholar Ilya Somin noted in the Los Angeles Times, Proposition 99, though masquerading as a defense of private property, was actually sponsored by groups representing counties, cities, and other redevelopment interests who drafted it specifically to counter Proposition 98. Among other crimes, Proposition 99 will protect only owner-occupied residences from condemnation, leaving apartment buildings and other rental properties wide open for abuse.
[…]
Proposition 98, on the other hand, would have placed significant limits on such abuse. But while that might have gone over with the voters, ending rent control was far less popular, even though the law would only affect rent controlled apartments once they became vacant, thus leaving current tenants unaffected. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came out against Prop. 98, however, claiming it “would undermine California’s ability to improve our infrastructure.”

For someone who claims to have been influenced by Milton Friedman and witnessed the evils of socialism in Europe, he certainly has take a sharp turn to the left since becoming Governor of California.

Quote Of The Day: Those Were The Days Edition

Ronald Reagan, circa 1975:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals-if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Mike Huckabee, circa 2008:

The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it’s this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it’s a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says “look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don’t get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it.” Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it’s not an American message. It doesn’t fly.

My how times have changed.

Bob Barr Does What Ron Paul Should Have

Back in August, Ron Paul received an endorsement and donation from Stormfront, a virulently racist, anti-Semitic white supremacist organization.

At the time, there were many, including yours truly, who said that the Paul campaign needed to do was renounce the endorsement and return the donation. They did neither, of course, and seemed as times to encourage the impression that they were open to support from anyone regardless of how far out on the wacko fringe they happened to be.

Not the best way to run a political campaign to say the least.

Well, Reason’s David Weigel reports that Bob Barr’s campaign has handled the situation far, far differently:

Yesterday, James Buchanan posted a racist Barr endorsement at WhiteCivilRights:

A vote for Bob Barr would at least send a message to the Republican Party that conservatives and Whites won’t sit still as they are stuck with a liberal presidential candidate like McCain. Supporting Bob Barr might even pave the way for a Third Party to replace the increasingly repugnant Republican Party… If voting for McCain is a waste of time, since he’s never going to win (because conservatives hate him), then the best course of action may be a protest vote for the Libertarian candidate Bob Barr. If Barr gets millions of votes, it will be a very strong sign that the neocons and their warmonger policies have failed and the Republican Party should change course and stop supporting wars for Israel.

Stormfront member “WhiteRights” posted the column in the site’s message boards, which is where the Barr campaign found it. Barr campaign manager Russ Verney released this statement:

The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.

Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!

Barr consultant Steve Gordon sent me the statement and added: “We denounce anybody who doesn’t want to treat everybody equally under the law.”

Well done, and appropriately so.

The Value Of The First Amendment

The British don’t have a Bill of Rights per se, they don’t even really have a written Constitution, which is why it’s possible for nonsense like this to take place:\

This past week, apparently, two ministers found out first-hand that what the Bishop claimed was true:

The preachers, both ministers in Birmingham, were handing out leaflets on Alum Rock Road in February when they started talking to four Asian youths.

A police community support officer (PCSO) interrupted the conversation and began questioning the ministers about their beliefs.

They said when the officer realised they were American, although both have lived in Britain for many years, he launched a tirade against President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Cunningham said: “I told him that this had nothing to do with the gospel we were preaching but he became very aggressive.

“He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message. He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station.”

The preacher refused to give the PCSO his address because he felt the officer’s manner was “threatening and intimidating”.

The ministers claim he also advised them not to return to the area. As he walked away, the PCSO said: “You have been warned. If you come back here and get beaten up, well you have been warned”.

Left unanswered, of course, is why the police wouldn’t go their job to protect the preachers if they were, by chance, beaten up by thugs for committing the apparently unpardonable crime of proselytizing in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood. Instead, it’s just easier to stop the speech and let the thugs have there way.

Of course, having a written Constitution and an explicit protection of freedom of speech doesn’t always help either. Just ask our neighbors to the North:

Representatives of B.C. Muslims are seeking a ruling from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal over a 2006 Maclean’s magazine article they say discriminated against them and exposed the community to hatred and contempt.

The complaint was filed jointly by Canadian Islamic Congress president Mohamed Elmasry of Ottawa and Abbotsford cardiologist Dr. Naiyer Habib, a B.C. director of the congress.

At issue is an Oct. 23, 2006, article that suggested Muslim demographics will soon enable them to overrun countries in Europe and North America.

Apparently, in Canada, as in Britain, the “right” not to be offended, even by the truth, trumps free speech every time.

Elect, Disapprove, Elect — Rinse And Repeat

I was reading the Economist on a plane today, reading a story about McCain’s and the Republican Party’s chances in November. I picked up on something that hit me like a brick.

It is rare for a party to win a third presidential term. The only time it has happened since Harry Truman’s time was in 1988. Back then the retiring president, Ronald Reagan, had a job-approval rating in the high 50s. George Bush’s job-approval rating is stuck in the low 30s. Nearly three in four Americans tell pollsters that the country is on the “wrong track”.

Now, people may have many suggestions for the underlying meaning here. But I thought about it, and I began to wonder exactly how presidential approval ratings and the “right track/wrong track” polling data trends during most presidential administrations. Luckily, Charles from Political Arithmetik has done some of this research, and provides the below graph:

He goes on (in another post) to point out that Presidential Approval rating closely correlates Right Direction / Wrong Track poll data.

So what does this tell us? Well, you can interpret it several ways. Most presidents who achieved a second term had approval ratings roughly similar to when they took office, or at least above 50%. The single example of a party holding power for more than 8 years was Reagan->Bush, where Reagan was as popular after 8 years as he was after 0 or 4. The singular counterexample was Clinton, who was more popular after 8 years than he was during most of his presidency. Of course, the following election was very close, and to some nutcases on the left, is still in dispute. A partial counterexample would be the transition from Eisenhower to JFK as well; I say partial because Ike had a lull of lower approval during his second term, though he still was above 50% in November 1960. But I’d point out that the election following his term was also very closely fought, similar to 2000, with Nixon only barely being defeated by Kennedy.

But I think there’s something more that this data tells us. It seems that we elect a President, with high hopes as to what he’ll accomplish. He fails and we hate him, so we elect the other party. The other party is elected with high hopes, fails, and we hate him. The cycle continues. Americans have an overwhelming tendency to elect politicians who then prove to disappoint. I think with the impending election of Obama in November, the cycle will only continue, because Obama cannot live up to the savior-like expectations he has been given.

What does this say about the collective American voting public?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-Albert Einstein

We simply don’t have much luck electing politicians that satisfy us. Perhaps that is an indictment of American voters, perhaps that is an indictment of anyone megalomaniacal enough to seek the office. Either way, I think I’ll have a new chant for November, when we finally get rid of George Bush and replace him with a “national greatness conservative” or a “hope-creating socialist”.

The bum is gone! Long live the bum!

Paul Jacob Tells his Story at the Libertarian National Convention

Back in November of last year, I shared the story of Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter. Together, they are sometimes referred to as “the Oklahoma 3.” Their crime, “conspiracy against the state” (what we know as petitioning the government for a redress of grievances) could cost them 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

The allegation against Jacob, Johnson, and Carpenter is that they illegally participated in petition drives as they had not established residency in Oklahoma. Jacob insists that they made a good faith attempt to abide by the law. Jacob pointed to a Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling regarding a petition challenge to the state’s ban on cock fighting as a basis for establishing residency:

I also asked the folks at National Voter Outreach whether there had been any challenges of petition drives on the basis of residency, and whether any ruling on same had been issued by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. I received a copy of the court’s decision in a challenge to an initiative to ban cock-fighting. In that decision, circulators were challenged for being “out-of-state” circulators because they had moved to Oklahoma during the petition drive and because many lived in hotels during their residence in the state. According to the information I received, every circulator in the cock-fighting ban petition who declared him or herself a resident was ruled to be qualified to circulate the petition, regardless of how long he resided in the state or whether he lived in a hotel. The only circulator disqualified had listed an out-of-state address on the petition form.

This is a short video I took from Paul Jacob’s speech at the Libertarian National Convention.

Paul Jacob Tells his Story at the Libertarian Convention

I spoke briefly with Jacob before he left for the airport. He seems confident that he and his co-defendants will not be convicted for exercising their First Amendment rights but he mostly wants his story to be told.

***Clarification***

David writing for Free Paul Jacob linked this post (thank you David) and wrote the following about my statement “He seems confident that he and his co-defendants will not be convicted for exercising their First Amendment rights but he mostly wants his story to be told” at the end of his post:

Doubtless not intended, but this almost makes it sound as if Paul would be okay with being tossed in the hoosegow so long as he can get his story out there. Paul wants to tell his story, defend the right of citizen initiative and the Constitution, and not be unjustly imprisoned for the “crime” of participating in an Oklahoma citizen initiative drive in which he and others involved in the drive acted in good faith to comply with Oklahoma law governing citizen initiative drives. He’s standing up for his own rights and those of all of us simultaneously. But most important here are his own freedom and the well-being of his family, which are being unjustly jeopardized.

David is right. I did not intend to make the impression that Jacob would be okay with being a political prisoner; I could have phrased this better. As is evident from Jacob said he told his daughter, clearly he understands that he could do time for his political activism. What he told me was in response to my question asking if he thought he would prevail in court. When I say “he seems confident,” I mean that he seems confident that the system will ultimately work the way it’s supposed to. I am similarly confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule the right way in D.C. v. Heller (ruling that the right to bear arms is an individual right rather than a collective right) but I also understand that there is a real possibility that the court will rule the wrong way.

I think Jacob wants his story told for at least 3 reasons:

1. By exposing this injustice for what it is to the nation and the world, the courts will know the eyes of the world are upon them. This exposure can only help his case (if this case was not publicized, there’s a much greater chance that the AG and the courts would get away with prosecuting and convicting Jacob under this grossly unconstitutional law).

2. Jacob does not want others to be intimidated by the government, especially when others decide to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

3. His case could bring about change in Oklahoma for the better as many citizens would be outraged at the prospect of “the Oklahoma 3″ being put in prison for rights we generally take for granted.

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