Monthly Archives: February 2009

In Defense Of The “Filibuster”

Ezra Klein, who is a majoritarian:

Rather, I’d argue that the central question is “legitimacy.” We have a party-based electoral system that, particularly in the Senate, pushes towards a relatively even division of power. The question then becomes whether we’re more comfortable with the consequences of a system where the minority can block good policy or the majority can pass bad policy. I’d prefer the latter: The policies of politicians we voted for have more democratic legitimacy than the system’s structural preference for inaction. Elections should be about the bills passed by the majority rather than the obstructions erected by the minority.

Samuel Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Democracy, as a fellow collectivist rather than individualist ideology, is similar. Democracy is the refuge of prom queens and the “in” crowd.

I’ve contrasted the difference between libertarianism and democracy before:

Libertarianism isn’t anti-Democracy. In fact, the statement itself is nonsensical. Libertarianism is a moral system, valuing individual liberty as it’s highest ideal. Democracy is a form of government, consisting of majority rule. Or, to make it more plain, liberty is an end, democracy is a means to an end.

But unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You hear many quotes from Libertarians deriding democracy. Doug said it yesterday. Thomas Jefferson was the one who said “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” Libertarians are fearful of democracy. If a statement that libertarianism is anti-democratic is nonsense, why do so many libertarians make these types of statements about democracy?

But the points still stand. Having liberty as a goal is not inconsistent with using democratic processes in your government. In fact, you can clearly see that our system of government has some democratic processes, created by the Founding Fathers who feared democracy just as much as modern libertarians. As I said earlier, though, democracy is a means, not an end. Democracy can— and has— been used to improve liberty. But it has also been used to take liberty away. Nothing exhibits this more clearly than the 18th and 21st Amendments. Democracy infringed people’s liberty, but it was democracy that restored that liberty.

So Ezra Klein wonders whether it’s better that a minority can block good policy or a majority can enact bad policy? Given the “stickiness” of bad policy (Ezra, in another post, suggests that corn and beef subsidies aren’t so wonderful but that there are structural incentives to retain them) one would think that inhibiting bad policy would be a good goal for either side of the aisle.

So let’s stipulate a few general principles:

  1. Government, by definition, is coercive.
  2. Most government “programs” (here defined as positive government acts rather than simple regulatory prohibitions or laws) expand the state and curtail personal liberty — at least to the extent that they must be paid for by non-voluntary means.
  3. Therefore, government action is more likely to reduce individual liberty than increase it.
  4. Finally, to a libertarian (one whose first principles are towards individual liberty), it is best to inhibit government action.

Ezra Klein believes government is a critical enabler of individuals, and thus he believes that government should be encouraged to act. Libertarians believe government is an inhibitor of individual liberty, and thus government should be proscribed from acting except where absolutely necessary.

The American Constitution is largely designed to proscribe government action except where it is provably justified. Libertarians, at least in the spirit of this sense (though often for our own reasons) suggest that inhibition of new government action unless it can be justified beyond purely majoritarian means is beneficial to our end (liberty). These are different first principles, of course, from someone who believes in majority rule. However, I highly doubt he’s highly enthused by California’s Prop 8 result from last November. As any libertarian will tell you, that’s what you get when you value majority rule over freedom.

What does it mean for the filibuster? The filibuster is a way to temper the actions of a legislature — to ensure they don’t simply run roughshod over their opponents every time they get an inkling of power. In essence, it’s a way to help minimize the ability of a small majority to enact bad legislation. And good legislation, of course, should be good enough to overcome a filibuster — after all, the stimulus he wanted still got passed, did it not?

Another Looming Bubble: Higher Education

College enrollment has been booming. Schools have not only been adding new seats to existing programs but also adding new programs. And, unlike the free-market process where the supply of a good is expanding dramatically, the price of these seats has been increasing dramatically – much faster than the CPI. The increased attendance at increased prices is only possible through the dramatic expansion of loans to students.

The U.S. government and the banking sector are promiscuously loaning money to prospective students, and are fueling a bubble. Students are taking on huge loans, expecting to be able to pay them back thanks to the great job that lies in their future, thanks to their degree. However, as the number college graduates entering the market dramatically grows, the market clearing wage they can charge drops. An increasing number of graduates will find themselves trapped in the horrible circumstance of trying to repay huge loans from their low take-home pay.

This phenomenon will lead to huge unrest; at any given time 8 million U.S. citizens are attending college. Something like 90% of them have loans. We can expect that as their situation deteriorates, graduates will demand political action that will provide them with debt relief. And the politicians are almost guaranteed to react poorly.

The solution to this problem is for the government to stop providing subsidized loans. Better yet, the government might try to dismantle the disaster called public education, which has gone from spending $275 per student to $7,000 per student (figures in 2000 dollars) to achieve worse results. A free market educational regime would consist less of warehousing and more of useful education that prepares young people for professions that best suit their natures.

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.

The Brady Bill Was Only Step 1

Remember the “good old days” of the Brady Bill and the instant background check? It turns out that the gun grabbers in the 111th Congress no longer believe these gun control measures go far enough. Introducing perhaps the gravest threat to date against the Second Amendment: H.R. 45 Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.

The primary goals of H.R. 45 are to license every firearm for every firearm a gun owner owns and regulate the buying and selling of firearms through licensed dealers. To apply for a firearms license, the applicant would have to provide the following:

SEC. 102. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS.
(a) In General- In order to be issued a firearm license under this title, an individual shall submit to the Attorney General (in accordance with the regulations promulgated under subsection (b)) an application, which shall include–
(1) a current, passport-sized photograph of the applicant that provides a clear, accurate likeness of the applicant;
(2) the name, address, and date and place of birth of the applicant;
(3) any other name that the applicant has ever used or by which the applicant has ever been known;
(4) a clear thumb print of the applicant, which shall be made when, and in the presence of the entity to whom, the application is submitted;
(5) with respect to each category of person prohibited by Federal law, or by the law of the State of residence of the applicant, from obtaining a firearm, a statement that the individual is not a person prohibited from obtaining a firearm;
(6) a certification by the applicant that the applicant will keep any firearm owned by the applicant safely stored and out of the possession of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(7) a certificate attesting to the completion at the time of application of a written firearms examination, which shall test the knowledge and ability of the applicant regarding–
(A) the safe storage of firearms, particularly in the vicinity of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(B) the safe handling of firearms;
(C) the use of firearms in the home and the risks associated with such use;
(D) the legal responsibilities of firearms owners, including Federal, State, and local laws relating to requirements for the possession and storage of firearms, and relating to reporting requirements with respect to firearms; and
(E) any other subjects, as the Attorney General determines to be appropriate;
(8) an authorization by the applicant to release to the Attorney General or an authorized representative of the Attorney General any mental health records pertaining to the applicant;
(9) the date on which the application was submitted; and
(10) the signature of the applicant.
(b) Regulations Governing Submission- The Attorney General shall promulgate regulations specifying procedures for the submission of applications to the Attorney General under this section, which regulations shall–
(1) provide for submission of the application through a licensed dealer or an office or agency of the Federal Government designated by the Attorney General;
(2) require the applicant to provide a valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d)(2) of title 18, United States Code) of the applicant, containing a photograph of the applicant, to the licensed dealer or to the office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable, at the time of submission of the application to that dealer, office, or agency; and
(3) require that a completed application be forwarded to the Attorney General not later than 48 hours after the application is submitted to the licensed dealer or office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable.
(c) Fees-
(1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General shall charge and collect from each applicant for a license under this title a fee in an amount determined in accordance with paragraph (2).
(2) FEE AMOUNT- The amount of the fee collected under this subsection shall be not less than the amount determined by the Attorney General to be necessary to ensure that the total amount of all fees collected under this subsection during a fiscal year is sufficient to cover the costs of carrying out this title during that fiscal year, except that such amount shall not exceed $25.

I haven’t had time to read the rest of the bill, but from this and the titles of the remaining subsections (i.e. Sec. 302 Failure to Maintain or Permit Inspection of Records, Sec. 304 Failure to Provide Notice of Change of Address, Sec. 405 Inspections, etc.) it’s probably much worse than I think. This is like a bad marriage between the Real I.D. Act and the Brady Bill.

If the Brady Bill was step 1 and H.R. 45 is step 2 what are we then left with for step 3 but the outright repeal of the Second Amendment and complete prohibition for individuals to own firearms?

“How bad is it going to get?

Yesterday, a reader wrote me and asked:

“I have been wondering how bad the current economic “crisis” will get. Depending on who I talk to I have been told everything from “this is simply part of the normal cycle of economics” to being told to invest heavily in ammo”

Ok, here’s my take on it.

Short term? Not too bad. Unemployment and the credit crunch are going to creep up a bit more; but for the most part the recovery has actually already started.

Though, if the government (Democrat and Republican) continue their spending spree, they could double hump this recession…. actually, I think there’s a very good chance of it at this point.

The “stimulus” and “bailout” won’t be doing any real stimulating (except maybe in the auto industry); and could very well end up pushing us into the doublehump recession by preventing the efficient allocation and reallocation of capital and labor resources.

I have said from the beginning, this was a manufactured crisis. The banking shock and housing crash would have been serious, but relatively minor bumps; if they weren’t blown up all out of proportion by the media and government.

Through this deliberate manipulation (and yes, it was deliberate), the sectoral recession became a self fulfilling prophecy of general recession.

This was done intentionally, to create political opportunity for a plain and naked power grab (Rahm Emmanuel publicly admitted that much); and an explosion of graft, “legitimate” bribery, and vote buying not seen since Tammany.

In the long term, there could be some serious repercussions to our economy as a whole. Partly, it depends on how successful the democrats are at pushing us into socialism; or at the least, their manipulation of markets, and incentive structure.

Mostly however, it really depends on what the Chinese do.

Yes, we’re going to see an inflation hit from all this (should be a big one actually, though not 1979 big); but our RELATIVE inflation is actually far less than most other currencies around the world (and considerably less than the euro). Because of this, even with our mess right now, we’re actually gaining in value against most major currencies (excepting of course the Yuan).

The Chinese are holding the line on relative currency valuation by buying up as much of our debt as possible, because their trade and current accounts depend on the value of the dollar; but they can’t do it forever, or THEIR economy will tank from the other side of things (especially if we keep inflating, and accumulating debt; which is the current Democratic “plan”).

A debt sell off (unlikely, because it would destroy their economy as well), or a recession in China (much more likely) would stop them, and us, flat; and then the entire world will go into a true depression.

We need to avoid that at all costs; but it’s not something we have much control over; and the current government in this country seem hell bent on pushing us over that cliffs edge.

What needs to happen here to allow us to rebalance and make a true long term recovery, is a massive deleveraging, and moderate deflation for a year or two.

If we allowed that to happen naturally (and it’s too late to do so really, given the stimulus and bailout, but we could still salvage something); it would mean perhaps two years of negative growth, and a spike in unemployment, with a lot of bankruptcies, mergers, consolidations and writedowns. However, it would be followed by a period of rapid growth and expansion as capital gets more efficiently reallocated.

It’s called the business cycle, and it works, and it’s historically proven.

Unfortunately the government is actively and aggressively preventing that natural rebalancing from happening. We should be trying for a short sharp shock, and instead they are trying to move us into the European/Japanese style social protectionist stagnation.

If China holds strong, we will slowly recover, and Europe will slowly sink. If China falters, everything goes into freefall for a while, but we come out on top because of our structural strengths (again, presuming the government doesn’t try to destroy those strengths through more socialism and market distortion).

…That may take 20 years though; and what happened in the mean time would be unpleasant.

Oh and that’s not even taking into account the coming “retirement bomb” for Social Security and Medicare… that one makes this one look like a minor hiccup.

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

The Moral Hazard Problem Of Socialized Healthcare

Ezra Klein quotes approvingly a section of Michael Pollans In Defense Of Food on the high level of diabetes in those eating a Western-style diet. In response, he almost seems to be suggesting that there’s a moral hazard problem of socialized healthcare:

A diagnosis of diabetes subtract roughly twelve years from one’s life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes).

This is a global pandemic in the making, but a most unusual one, because it involves no virus or bacteria, no microbe of any kind — just a way of eating. It remains to be seen whether we’ll respond by changing our diet or our culture and economy. Although an estimated 80 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by a change of diet and exercise, it looks like the smart money is instead on the creation of a vast new diabetes industry.

I’d just add a question: How many discrete interest groups would save money from a sweeping policy initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease through nutrition, exercise, and other low-cost lifestyle changes? How many discrete interest groups would make money from a sweeping policy initiative aimed at increasing the number of insured Americans able to purchase cutting edge medical care in response to the onset of chronic disease?

The questions asked are quite instructive, and thus I wonder if he is being facetious here.

Undoubtedly Americans would be best served by changing our diets and behavioral patterns to more “sustainable” options. As a libertarian, of course, I favor doing this through the freedom rather than bans of bad foods or mandates of exercise — and certainly support anyone wealthy enough to pay for the medical treatment being willing to abuse their body as much as their bank account can pay for the damage. I’m sure Ezra’s “policy initiative” is probably a mix of advertisement, tax policy, and the other sort of “libertarian paternalism” ideas championed by Cass Sunstein.

But what will happen if we do go for a “sweeping policy initiative” aimed at increasing the number of insured Americans able to purchase cutting-edge diabetes treatments? When we offer such “health bailouts”, does this not result in a moral hazard where individuals can make bad, risky decisions knowing that they won’t feel the full effect? This is no different from the corporate world, where CEO’s can embark upon ultra-risky business strategies knowing that the cost of failure will be blunted by federal bailout. Note also that this is a feature of all third-party payment system where the individual care-user is not even charged premiums based upon their risk-profile — it doesn’t matter if it’s an individual mandate plus a huge push towards company-paid insurance (the Massachusetts model) or a fully socialized system (the British model). The end result will be skyrocketing costs as the individual is not strongly incentivized to avoid poor health.

America, when it comes to “healthcare systems”, would be far better off breaking the employer-payment link and moving to a more free system. In this sort of a system, premiums would be somewhat tied to a risk profile (as makes sense for an insurance product), paid individually (so the individual has an incentive to adopt healthy practices), and [probably] would be more tailored to protection from high-cost services rather than pay for day-to-day health care needs. This is post-1930 America, so undoubtedly there’d be a safety net, but I’d rather see the government pay for healthcare for the indigent than for everyone — especially since the system will work better.

In fact, a free market would help bring about Ezra’s goal (healthier people who eat better and exercise) while avoiding his worry (a giveaway to the big healthcare corporations subsidizing bad decisions). Maybe someone should tell him that there’s an answer outside of government on this one.

Geithner: You Can’t Handle The Truth

I’ve said before, when it comes to government, that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Perhaps I was being generous, following Napoleon’s quote: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.”

Perhaps they know exactly what they’re doing, and they just don’t want to tell us:

Geithner’s message was well received at the talks, known as the G-7, which gather the United States, Canada, Japan, and four major nations from Europe. Russia and world financial organizations also attended.

Going into the meeting, Canadian Finance Minister James M. Flaherty called the U.S. financial rescue “less than clear,” echoing comments made by financial chiefs in France and Germany. Afterward, many of the officials appeared reassured, saying that Geithner provided clear answers to their questions.

Several officials said Geithner was particularly helpful in explaining how the various elements of the administration’s initiatives tie together as well as how he plans to combine public funds with private resources to get more bang out of every rescue dollar the governments spends.

Later in the article, Geithner claims that he just didn’t want to be too specific announcing his plans before they were firm. I guess a lot of decisions must have been made between Tuesday and Saturday, huh? I don’t see why he couldn’t have held off his press conference a few days — rather than try to hide it behind the stimulus debate — if he was that close to a plan.

So what’s the over/under on when the most transparent administration in history will tell the rest of us what they told the G7? Will it be before or after they’ve spent the money?

Hat Tip: Kevin Drum

Quote Of The Day

Not political, but I know how he feels. An email received by another blogger:

“writing this in restaurant bathroom. wife will murder me with a soup spoon if she finds out I took the crackberry to valentines dinner.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I want to throw that thing out the f’ing window” in reference to my own Crackberry… I guess that’s the downside of the always-connected lifestyle.

Maybe The Republicans Really Are The Stupid Party

Did you ever think you’d see the day when Republicans argued in favor of nationalizing the banking industry.

Well, you made it:

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina of the Senate Budget Committee said today on “This Week” that he is open to “nationalizing the banks.”

“I think if you put most of our major banks under a ‘stress test,’ they’re going to fail,” Graham told me.

“This idea of nationalizing bank is not comfortable but I think we have got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community throughout the world that we’re going to have to do something that no one ever envisioned a year ago, no one likes,” he said.

“To me banking and housing are the root cause of this program,” Graham said. “I would not take off [the table] the idea of nationalizing the banks.”

However Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York argued against nationalizing the nation’s banks.

“You can have a big, bold plan without nationalization,” Schumer said.

Let’s think about this we’ve got a Republican Senator and a Democratic Senator, and a very liberal Democratic Senator at that, both talking about the same issue.

And it’s the Republican who argues in favor of nationalization.

Remember that the next time the GOP accuses the Democrats of being socialist. Maybe they need to look in the mirror.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

Oh, It Was All About Raising Awareness?

Well, New Yorkers can rest a little easier. The proposed soda tax has been shot down. It’s main proponent, Gov. David Paterson, is taking the defeat in stride:

New York Gov. David Paterson admitted Thursday one of his most talked-about tax proposals, an obesity tax on sugary drinks, is fizzling.

But he said it popped the right question.

In meeting with college students over his budget, Paterson told the young New Yorkers not worry about his soda tax because the Legislature won’t go for it. But he said it has served its purpose of raising awareness of childhood obesity.

I’m glad to hear that the purpose was just to raise awareness… So I guess that means that if it had been enacted by the legislature, he would have vetoed the tax, since his point had already been made?

Hat Tip: QandO

Quote of the Day: Mistakes in the Market vs. Mistakes in the Government Edition

Human beings are going to make mistakes, whether in the market or in the government. The difference is that survival in the market requires recognizing mistakes and changing course before you go bankrupt. But survival in politics requires denying mistakes and sticking with the policies you advocated, while blaming others for the bad results. -Thomas Sowell

Paul Krugman — A Failure To Rise To The Challenge

Paul Krugman, who doesn’t believe the spending is big enough, on the politicians:

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach — a feeling that America just isn’t rising to the greatest economic challenge in 70 years. The best may not lack all conviction, but they seem alarmingly willing to settle for half-measures. And the worst are, as ever, full of passionate intensity, oblivious to the grotesque failure of their doctrine in practice.

So who are the best, and who are the worst? In Krugman world, the best are those advocating spending, and the worst are those vociferously opposed to it on ideological grounds.

But I’d disagree. The best* are those opposed to it, but tremendously lacking conviction because they were grotesque in trying wasteful spending while they were in power. The worst are those advocating spending, dreadfully unaware that the previous administration spent us into this mess.

As Krugman states:

In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the Democrats rally behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s easy credit and deficit spending is for the Obama administration to push more easy credit and bigger deficit spending.

Face it, folks. The easy-credit deficit-spending team, pleading for us to follow them into the abyss, are rather sure of themselves. The Republicans, in the knowledge that they got their tax cuts but proceeded to push for easy-credit deficit spending anyway, are getting the comeuppance that we libertarians predicted during the entire Bush administration.

The Democrats are blind to the fact that their plans have been tried and have failed for the last eight years. The Republicans may have suddenly returned to their stated ideology, but after eight years of waste and incompetence are not trusted.

Like Krugman, I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because while his pains may be allayed by vast spending which he may get, my personal Pepto-Bismol — the contraction of government — isn’t on the menu.

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein
» Read more

Thanks, America! I’m Going To Vegas!

Now I know where to spend my stimulus!

In late-stage talks, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pressed for $8 billion to construct high-speed rail lines, quadrupling the amount in the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Reid’s office issued a statement noting that a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas rail might get a big chunk of the money.

I wonder how much the gaming industry paid lobbied for this one?

Reagan v. Obama: The quote-tacular showdown

Over at Pajamas Media, Roger Kimball offers up a nice compare and contrast of quotes between a great president and our current bumbler in chief.  Here’s an example:

Reagan: “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.”

The current President of the United States: “As President, I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office.”

The full piece is worth a read.

A Few Thoughts About the Ryan Fredrick Case

The long and short of the case is that three days after his home was broken into, Fredrick fatally shot an intruder who turned out to be a police officer. Fredrick promptly surrendered to the police once he realized the intruders were in-fact a SWAT team serving a warrant (a very small amount of marijuana was found in Fredrick’s home). The jury considered several charges including capital murder but ultimately decided Fredrick’s actions amounted to voluntary manslaughter and recommended a 10 year sentence.

Rather than rehashing the Ryan Fredrick case here, I would encourage readers to read the coverage by Hamptonroads.com , Tidewater Liberty and Radley Balko .

The police department did not believe the sentence to be harsh enough:

For the Shivers family and the Police Department, the verdict did not provide closure.

“Closure?” said Jack Crimmins, president of the Chesapeake Coalition of Police. “There’s no closure.”

“Their verdict today has jeopardized the lives of police officers,” Crimmins said. “I think the jury failed. They failed the community. You’ve got a man involved in an illegal enterprise, the police come to his house, and he takes the matter into his own hands.”

Funny that Crimmins chose the term “illegal enterprise.” This description is more appropriate for the way this police department chose to circumvent the Fourth Amendment by allowing a known criminal to break into Fredrick’s home to obtain probable cause to search the home in the first place! Most of the case made against Fredrick was from testimony of jailhouse snitches and informants of very questionable character.

And this notion about a homeowner who “takes the matter into his own hands” when someone breaks into his home is especially infuriating. Mr. Crimmins, it’s called the castle doctrine , perhaps you’ve heard of this concept? It’s not exactly new.

When a civilian makes a mistake and kills a police officer, it’s almost always assumed that s/he must “pay the price” but what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? When a police officer makes a mistake and kills a civilian, the badge worshipers and law enforcement boot lickers come up with a statement like this:

A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

[…]

During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

So when a civilian believes his or her life is in danger, he or she must be certain of who s/he is targeting but when a police officer believes s/he is in danger, s/he can “shoot now and ask questions later”? What’s particularly galling about this is that in statements in both cases, the lives of law enforcement are of paramount concern as the lives of civilians is of little or no concern.

This is but another illustration of how the government has the one power the rest of us don’t: the monopoly of the use of force to accomplish its goals. The War on (Some) Drugs is a means to an (impossible) end (eradication of banned drugs). If non-violent individuals are killed in the process, its considered collateral damage. The War on (Some) Drugs must be won at all costs!

With respect to Ryan Fredrick, his fate is in the hands of a judge (the judge will decide whether or not to impose the jury’s recommended sentence), but what now? How can we prevent these tragedies from happening? Tide Water Libertarian Party has offered some excellent suggestions:

In the months since the tragic death of Det. Jarrod Shivers in the course of serving a search warrant at the home of Ryan Frederick, many questions have arisen regarding procedures of the Chesapeake Police Department. These questions have gone unanswered by the department. The Tidewater Libertarian Party asserts that because all powers granted government to use force on the behalf of the people reside ultimately with the people, it is unacceptable for the agents of government force, the police, to deny the people explanations for their actions when there are legitimate questions as to whether that force has been used with due caution and within the powers granted by the people through our Constitution and law.

• The tragic and avoidable death of a law enforcement officer.

• The use of Confidential Informants is an unfortunate necessity in criminal investigations, and particularly so in drug cases, but we question whether it is good public policy to request or issue search warrants based on the unsupported and unsworn allegations of Confidential Informants without some corroboration through independent investigation.

• Forcible entries in serving search warrants are acceptable police practice only when there is evidence subject to rapid destruction, hostages are in peril, or known, armed, and dangerous criminals are judged to be most safely taken by surprise. The recent trial of Chesapeake resident Ryan Frederick has revealed such forced entries to be the standard practice in serving all drug search warrants in Chesapeake. The Chesapeake Police Department has provided no acceptable explanation for choosing an exceptionally dangerous method of serving a warrant on a citizen with no criminal record over numerous safer and more Constitutionally acceptable methods.

• We are further concerned by the lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the Chesapeake Police leadership regarding what policy changes might be made to avoid future tragedy. Because we believe the police have taken the position that they need not explain their actions to the public, we hold this that is unacceptable in a free society.

This is the City of Chesapeake, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. The police are answerable to the people, not only to themselves. Our military and our police are subject to civilian control and review. Citizens are owed the truth. The proper first level of that oversight is through our local elected representatives on city council.

We understand that it may be necessary to withhold some tactical policy from the public at large for the protection of police officers, but what information can and cannot be made public is properly the choice of civilian authority, with expert guidance, and not that of those being overseen.

The Tidewater Libertarian Party therefore requests the City of Chesapeake establish a citizen review board consisting of trustworthy citizens chosen by council, but with no connection to the Police Department or city government, to investigate this matter. This citizen review board should have full access to all evidence, record, reviews, and testimony, and report to the City Council, and ultimately, with council approval of sensitive content, to the public, in order to restore the lost trust of the citizens in our police department and to ensure that our police officers and citizens are no longer placed in unnecessary danger.

I would also like to offer at least one other suggestion: cameras. Each SWAT team member should have a camera attached to his/her helmet. This would provide invaluable insight to a sequence of events and would help ensure that the police follow procedures properly. Police vehicles have cameras installed on dashboards, there is no good reason why cameras should not be used for knock and no knock raids.

Unfortunately, I fully expect to learn of many more of these tragedies before any such reforms are made.

Quote Of The Day

Reason’s Matt Welch ponders how libertarians should feel about GOP’s allegedly re-discovered belief in fiscal restraint and small government:

I have a vested interest in national politicians embracing limited-government principles, and so tend to be more happy than not on the rare occasions when I hear these ideas cited, but I hold out zero hope that either of the major parties would ever take them seriously once in power. In my blinkered view, libertarianism as an outlook is all at once oppositional, constructive, and optimistic. Oppositional to whatever 19th century political party is in power, because chances are near 100 percent that their overriding M.O. will be anathema to limited-government principles. Constructive because, hey, libertarians actually have some pretty helpful ideas about how to make tax dollars more effectively accomplish such tasks as building roads, educating poor people, and (to cite an Obama favorite) creating jobs. When the politicians run out of money (and they always do), we’ll have some plausible suggestions. Optimistic because a large subset of l-worders don’t take their mood cues from government, but rather the very tangible and even thrilling progress that humanity and liberalism are making across any number of fronts, even if domestic inter-bank lending is down 11 percent this quarter.

The focus on political teams blurs one central, overriding truth: When it comes to bailout/stimulus/econ, there is no significant break in policy between George W. Bush and Barack Obama, no matter how much it benefits enthusiasts and detractors from pretending there’s a sharp break between the two.

The problem with libertarians trusting the GOP because “this time they really mean it” is that, inevitably there will be disappointment when they actually get back in power.

Leave Michael Phelps Alone

It looks like prosecutors in South Carolina are looking to charge Michael Phelps in connection with the bong-smoking photograph:

phelps_516_0102_25518aCOLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Even if a South Carolina sheriff is successful in building a marijuana case against swimming superstar Michael Phelps, it might be hard to make the charges stick, defense attorneys say.

The case took a turn Thursday when lawyers for two people said their clients were among eight arrested last week and questioned at length about the November party near the University of South Carolina where Phelps was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe. At the time, the men were renters at the house.

The effort to prosecute Phelps on what would be at most a minor drug charge seem extreme compared to similar cases, lawyers said, and have led some to question whether the sheriff is being overzealous because he’s dealing with a celebrity.

”The efforts that are being made here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” said Jack Swerling, a defense attorney in South Carolina. ”I know Leon Lott, I know him to be an honorable guy. I’ve known him for 30 something years. But the efforts here are extraordinary on simple possession cases.”

Given that, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that the prosecutor in question here has made a career out of being flamboyantly aggressive in pursing the War on (some) Drugs:

Lott has made fighting drug crimes a central plank of his career. He rose from patrol officer to captain of the narcotics division in the early 1990s and was well-known in the county for wearing stylish suits like the drug agents on ”Miami Vice” and driving a Porsche seized from a drug dealer. He was elected sheriff in 1996.

The attention that Lott is giving to this case seems disproportionate considering the relatively light sentence that Phelps would receive if he were charged and convicted of possession of marijuana:

A person who violates this subsection with respect to twenty- eight grams or one ounce or less of marijuana or ten grams or less of hashish is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than thirty days or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars.

In other words, this is a relatively low-level misdemeanor.

So, why the attention from law enforcement ?

The answer, I think, is obvious. Arresting and convicting Phelps, even on this relatively minor charge, would be a big “get” for a prosecutor, particularly a politically ambitious prosecutor who has built his career on being some modern-day version of Don Johnson with a law degree. If Michael Phelps were just some guy from Baltimore who smoked marijuana while visiting the Palmetto State, this wouldn’t be happening.

That’s what’s wrong with the War on Drugs and proprietorial discretion.

Ezra Klein Assumes Big-Governmentism Is A Partisan Thing

Ezra Klein, discussing the left’s worry about adding AMT reform to the stimulus bill:

But this also got to one of the other problems with the bill: So many of the provisions were politically vulnerable in isolation that you couldn’t pick through them one by one. It would have meant passing the legislation late next year. The imperative of speed forestalled a thorough analysis.

Many on the right thought this was something the left liked about the stimulus bill: It was a way to ram through a lot of spending very quickly. But it was actually the opposite: It meant there was little ability to affect the overall mix of spending.

He’s missing the point. This wasn’t something the left or the right in particular liked about the bill. Contrary to his political calculation, it wasn’t an effort by the right to hoodwink the left, nor vice versa.

It was an effort by those in government to hoodwink the rest of us.

If you look at the bill, the left has a lot of tax cuts to complain about — but they’re still in there. The right has a lot of social programs to complain about — but they’re still in there. Everyone in Congress got something here or there out of this bill. In the process, though, they ensured that we’ll be at least $800B (and likely over $1T) in debt due to their pet programs.

Klein is correct about one thing, though — the Republicans got the better end of the deal. They got their tax cuts into the bill, but at the same time almost unanimously voted against it, so the Democrats will get the blame for wasting taxpayer money when the bailout doesn’t work. But in the end, the ones getting the truly raw deal are those of us poor schlubs in the private sector who will end up paying for it.

This is an us vs. them deal, but not the left vs. right situation that Klein is assuming. It’s the rulers vs. the ruled, and the rulers won.

Rush Limbaugh: A Big-Government Conservative

If there was any question that Rush Limbaugh was the voice of the future of the Republican Party, this should make that idea laughable:

They will not control government forever, and when our turn comes, we are going to turn the power of government against the left. We are going to investigate them. We are going to hold public hearings. We are going to humiliate them. We’re going to nationalize their unions. We’re going to fund our groups for a change.

If they can give ACORN $4.1 billion then we can start paying our groups with federal money. We’re going to do exactly to them what they have done to us. We’re going to build and use the Big Government that they have built and turn it right against them. We are gonna turn the power of government against the left, and against Democrats in ways they cannot imagine. They will not know what hit them. They are using the law. They are using government to advance a cause that is un-American. We are going to use the power that the left is centralizing in the federal government to punish them, to break ‘em up, and to make them pay for this. It’s time for tit-for-tat. Nice guy playing by the rules when they don’t, is over. It’s time they got a taste of their own medicine, and it’s going to happen, folks, because they’re not going to hold power forever.

(…)

We’re gonna come after the left’s favorite corporations. We’re going to come after your favorite political constituents. We’re going to come after your favorite media outlets. You want to try the Fairness Doctrine? Fine. We’ll impose it on network television. We’ll impose it on newspapers. You want to try censorship? Fine! We will censor you when we get the control of the government back. We will reapportion districts using the Census to help conservatives. We’re going to turn the power of government against the Democrats and the left and weaken and you break you into little pieces. Because, my friends, the day has passed when we can become passive and be passive about what they are doing. We will use the political and the legal system as they have and are, and we will use it to promote our party and to diminish theirs. We will use the power of government and legal system to promote our movement and our agenda, just as they are.

(…)

It’s going to be a bigger, more powerful, stronger government — and we’re going to turn it against the left in ways they could have never imagined.

This, I think, puts the lie to any idea that Limbaugh is a small-government conservative.

If anything, he’s a two-bit thug who wants to use the power of the state to attack his enemies. That’s wrong no matter which political party you belong to.

In the past, Limbaugh has talked about his admiration for thinkers such as Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. If he truly understood their ideas, he wouldn’t look at the state as a weapon to be used against your enemies.

But there is an alternative:

The answer is not to use tyrannical power as “payback” for what the “liberals” are doing to consolidate their own powers. The answer lies in something which brings all of us together, regardless of our political party affiliations, religious backgrounds, racial identity or ethnic origin: freedom. Freedom brings people together. This is the beauty of the new movement that has grown out of the Ron Paul presidential campaign, which continues through various groups and organizations such as the Campaign For Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty, the Future of Freedom Foundation, the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and United Liberty.

Forget Rush Limbaugh. Let him be angry and rant and rave all he wants. He does not stand for liberty. He stands for power and vengeance. If this is what the “conservative” movement has come to, then let it die. There’s a new movement bringing people together to promote the things the “conservative” movement once claimed to stand for: freedom, limited constitutional government, and the rule of law.

It’s up to Republicans to decide which course they’ll take.

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

Quote Of The Day — Lincoln-esque Edition

As Barack Obama tries to claim the legacy of our 16th President, perhaps he should think about this quote from Honest Abe:

16_lincoln_1“You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot lift the wage earner up by pulling the wage payer down.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men’s
initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could,
and should, do for themselves.

Something tells me he won’t listen.

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