Monthly Archives: December 2009

I’m Going To Turn My Grandmother Into A Radical Libertarian

Okay, maybe not. But I sure have a great way to do so (and maybe to turn a few readers).

I’m in Chicago visiting family, sadly with little internet access (sitting outside Panera Bread Co in the car with my napping son in the back). Today we celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. This is a woman who lived through the Great Depression, raised three sons during WWII, lived on the south side of Chicago up until a year or so ago after her sister died, and is generally one of the tougher old ladies I’ve ever known. My other grandmother spoiled me rotten when I grew up; Grandma Ann — as the father of three boys — didn’t let me get away with squat!

My grandmother doesn’t have a driver’s license. My grandfather was the only one who drove up until he passed about 15 years ago, and then she was still tough enough to walk or take transit pretty much wherever she needed to go (when she couldn’t get a ride from a neighbor).

So why am I throwing out all this backstory?

Because a few weeks ago, she got a ticket.

No, before you ask, she wasn’t joyriding out in my dad’s minivan. She was sitting in the passenger seat, with the audacity to ride without a seat belt.

Surely, you’d think that a cop would understand that a 90 year old woman was competent enough to make her own decisions. That at most, if he has to pull my dad over, that perhaps he could give her a warning. After all, it wasn’t illegal for most of her adult life. Maybe, you’d just think that a cop would have the common decency not to give a 90 year old woman a $75 dollar ticket for a completely victimless crime in the middle of the holiday season. In fact, my father tried to argue these points — and yet the ticket still came.

Most non-libertarians view the state as helpful and friendly, and believe that it only hassles the type of people who deserve it*. To those non-libertarians I ask one question: does your grandmother deserve it? Because mine sure as hell doesn’t.

So I might not have enough time to change my grandmother’s views. I’m only in town for another 25 hours or so, and she’s spent a lifetime building those views. But I am going to try to convince her not to pay the ticket, and not to go to court. If they want to come after a 90 year old woman, I’d like to think I know enough people in the greater libertosphere to rain down hell (in the form of letters, emails, and phone calls) on the local police force.
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Just because people make bad choices…

…Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any choice at all. The first freedom is the freedom to fail…

And when it comes to choosing our leaders in this country… whoooo boy have we failed big time, for a long time.

So fellow gunblogger Tam, being an Ovarian American, got a bit tweaked at a comment over at Travis Corcorans site (for those who don’t know, Travis is a somewhat radical libertarian… and for that matter so is Tam) t’other day:

“I think that female suffrage has been an unremitted disaster – all of the socialism that we’ve experienced in the US has happened since, and because women have been allowed to vote.”

Excluding snark, Tams comment boiled down to “correlation does not equal causation”; which normally I am one of the first to trumpet… but in this case there is a causative link… Or at least most major studies of voting demographics seem to show one.

The other part of her comment was that she (nor anyone) shouldn’t be denied the right to vote (which is not, in fact, a right; but a privilege as a member of society. It can be granted by society, taken away by society, and does not exist in any context without society, therefore is not a right.) because of the choices some might make.

And in that, I’m entirely with her.

But we really do need to look at why women, in the significant majority, vote for the nanny state; and on the larger scale in general, why people who vote for nannyism do so.

The three major events or major societal changes in 20th century that did more to advance the nanny government than all other events combined were:

1. World War 1
2. Womens suffrage
3. Massive expansion of university education

I note “directly” above, because indirectly the 16th and 17th amendments (income tax, and direct election of senators) may have had an even greater effect; and enabled and encouraged such nannyism… in fact the current nannystate would be impossible without them… but were not direct contributors to voting for nannyism.. In fact income taxes tend to push voting away from nannyism… at least for those who actually pay those taxes.

I’ve talked about point 1 before (along with about a hundred scholarly books, phd. dissertations etc…). By depriving most of Europe of a full generation of its healthiest, most aggressive, and most ambitious men; an environment was created that was dominated by the risk averse, and those who were hurting and suffering… and the entirety of Europe has never really recovered. Basically, the ’14-’18 war took the guts out of the continent, and they haven’t come back, (bar a minor resurgence for the second great war… and it sadly was a minor resurgence. Just look at England).

Everyone and their uncle has looked at point 3.

Point two though… it’s one of those third rail topics. You can’t talk about it publicly or you risk being eviscerated by… well by Tam for example, never mind the lefties.

So first things first. Point two is true, by all available statistics. Historically speaking, women vote for more nannyism at about 2/3 to 1/3.

HOWEVER, just because item two is true (and some rather exhaustive demographic studies have been done showing that it is) doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

American blacks and hispanics are more likely to vote for leftists idiocy too (over 80% to 20% for blacks, hispanics are highly variable), that doesn’t mean they should be barred from voting either.

The first freedom is the freedom to fail. That includes the freedom to make bad choices; even if those bad choices effect other members of society (this is where the anarchists, Spoonerists, and Rothbardites usually jump up and down and start yelling).

The thing is this: It’s not that women, blacks, or hispanics are inherently more socialist than white males; or are less capable of making good political judgments. It’s that they perceive (I think, in general, wrongly) that their interest is better served with leftist policies.

In general, over the long term, and free of interference or distortion; people will vote their perceived interests.

The “more vulnerable” of society (which up until recently included the majority of women, blacks, and hispanics) will almost always vote for more “safety” than more freedom; because as I said above, the first freedom is freedom to fail, and they have historically been more likely to suffer under the negative consequences of failure, and therefore perceive the risk/reward metric differently than white males have historically.

Also, both the most wealthy, and most educated members of society (who believe either that the negatives impacts of leftism wont effect them greatly; or that they can benefit more from the “system” if more government control is in place, at the expense of the slightly less educated risk taking capitalists that would otherwise dominate), and the poorest and least educated members of society (who generally believe that they will not be able to succeed to a greater degree than the government would provide largess), generally, vote for more protectionism, socialism, leftism etc…

This is true even in rural “white” “bible belt” America, where protectionism, unions, government works projects and the like are seen as good business economically; even while voting for socially conservative policies and politicians.

Also, this split is by no means stable. As I said, people will tend to vote their perceived interests. Men will vote left and women will vote right, if the positions floated match their perceived interest. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by landslide four times. Reagan was elected by landslide twice.

The problem then is not that women, minorities, and the poor vote left, or vote for socialism necessarily.

The problem is that they perceive (generally incorrectly) that their interests, and at least to some extent the interests of society, are better served by leftism.

So the task for us, is making the large majority of the people understand that leftism, even in the soft and limited forms of it like public works projects, job protection policies, tarrifs etc… is not in their interest, or the interest of society as a whole.

That’s a rather difficult task; because for someone who is naturally risk averse, capitalism (and specifically libertarian free market based capitalism) seems very risky… Heck, it IS very risky, that’s the point. You take risks, you fail, and you have the freedom to get back up and take more risks and succeed (or fail again).

Many people out there would happily vote for a “guaranteed” living, even if it was less than half what they could be making without a “guarantee”, and even if you could prove to them the “guarantee” was really false. It’s just the way they’re wired, and no amount of facts or logical arguments are going to convince them.

Many others are willing to accept a bit of risk, but they want a great big “safety net” underneath them for when they fall.

These people, even if they are shown it isn’t really true… they WANT it to be true bad enough, that they are willing to try and force that vision on the rest of us.

Those people (and by conventional estimate they make up about 40% of the population) are ALWAYS going to vote for the “safety and security” lie. They are going to vote for the nanny no matter what.

On the other hand, there are about 40% of the population who are always going to vote for the riskier path, that they can reap more reward from.

Even in Reagans 49 state landslide vs. Mondale, he only got 58.8% of the popular vote.

Nixon crushed Mcgovern 49 to 1 as well, and it was still a 60%/40% split.

Even in Roosevelts “New Deal” landslide against Hoover, he only got 57.4% of the popular vote (in ’36 against Alf Landon, 60.8%, the biggest landslide since the civil war. In ’40 against Wendell Wilkie, 54.7%. In ’44 against Thomas Dewey, 53.4%).

The 40% on either side is a pretty stable number; barring major events in society that temporarily distort it, like wars and disasters…. And even then, in the last 110 years, in every national election, the left has never had less than 35%, and neither has the right… And neither have had more than 60.8% either.

The fact is, some people will believe what they want to believe, or what they’re afraid to believe, over the truth; no matter how clear the truth is made to them.

It’s the remaining 20% that we need to get to, and teach them that it is ALWAYS a lie.

In a society where the government does not artificially force the private economy into failure, the government cannot possibly do better for you than you can do for yourself. Giving the government more power, and more control, is NEVER in your best interest, or in the interest of society.

Saying that “womens suffrage caused socialism” (which isn’t what Travis said exactly, but it’s certainly what a lot of people would hear from what he said) isn’t exactly helpful in that.

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

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

The real right to health care

Democrats are addicted to saying that there is a right to health care, and subsequently hammering anyone who opposes their disastrous reform bill as opposing that right. The truth is, there is a right to health care, and it is consistently opposed by the left, not the right.

Put simply, each person has the right to seek the health care he deems appropriate for him and his family within the limits of his budget or insurance. A corollary to this is that each person has the right to seek the health insurance that he deems appropriate. This same right applies when buying TVs, cars, dinner, books, etc., and is fundamental to a free existence.

First, an example from Britain of a grievous violation of this right:

If health care is a fundamental right, equality under the law would seem to require that everyone have the same level of care, regardless of their resources. That principle was illustrated by the case of Debbie Hirst, a British woman with metastasized breast cancer who in 2007 was denied access to a commonly used drug on the grounds that it was too expensive.

When Hirst decided to raise money to pay for the drug on her own, she was told that doing so would make her ineligible for further treatment by the National Health Service. According to The New York Times, “Officials said that allowing Mrs. Hirst and others like her to pay for extra drugs to supplement government care would violate the philosophy of the health service by giving richer patients an unfair advantage over poorer ones.” The right to health care is so important, it seems, that it can nullify itself.

Mrs. Hirst was forced into a system where the right to seek appropriate care was appropriated by the government. When the National Health Service exercised a right that did not belong to it, Mrs. Hirst tried to use the resources available to her to reassert her right to seek health care. She was told if she were to do so, she would be forced out of the program that provides the only affordable health care for the lower and middle classes in the UK.

Take that example and apply it to the Reid bill. Centralized authority regulating what health insurance can and can’t cover, can and can’t cost, how much doctors will get paid by the public option… From Richard Epstein in the Wall Street Journal:

Normally, insurers have the power to underwrite—to choose their line of business, to select and to price risks, and to decline unattractive risks. Not under the Reid bill. In its frantic effort to expand coverage to the uninsured, the bill will create state health-care exchanges supported by generous federal subsidies to unspecified millions of needy and low-income individuals. Any health insurance carrier that steers clear of these exchanges cannot keep its customers. Any insurance carrier that enters Mr. Reid’s inferno will lose its financial shirt.

Here are some reasons why. Initially, all insurers have to take all comers and to renew all policies except for nonpayment of premiums. Insurers are not allowed to take into account differential risks based on pre-existing conditions. And the premium differentials based on such matters as age and tobacco use are smaller than the market spreads. If too many customers demand coverage from a given insurer to insure efficiently, it’s the government that will decide how many they have to keep and who they are.

Next, it’s the government that requires extensive coverage including “ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative [sic!] services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, pediatric services, including oral and vision care.” The price squeeze gets even tighter because in every required area of care a collection of government standards will help set the minimum level of required services.

Ostensibly, the Reid bill does not impose any direct price controls on what health insurers can charge for this veritable cornucopia of services. But the bill’s complex, cooperative federalism scheme authorizes state regulators, after recommendations from the federal government, to exclude insurers from the exchanges if their prices are too high, which would again be a competitive death knell. Exile from the exchange does not, however, restore traditional underwriting controls, as the Reid bill and other federal and state regulation continue to apply to these firms.

The bill is designed to turn the health industry from servants of payers (primarily employers, insurers, and the government) into a servants of Congress and the President.

We are headed towards a day where our fundamental right to seek health care is non-existent, replaced by a state of submission where our betters in Washington decide what health care we should get. Anyone who equates a right to health care with taxpayer subsidized health care is mounting an assault on the real right to health care. Call them out, prove them wrong, and shout them down.

UPDATE 12/23: Added the section from Richard Epstein.

Why Cash For Caulkers Is Good [If Not Libertarian] Public Policy

As a libertarian, I spend a lot of time railing against idiotic government giveaways. The TARP, the Porkulus Stimulus, and Cash For Clunkers all took copious levels of heat. I derided them for various reasons:

TARP: Notwithstanding the wide-ranging areas this money was targeted to (i.e. auto bailouts) and the fact that when it was determined it would lose less than planned the difference would be spent elsewhere, this was nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to shore up balance sheets to forestall economic reality. I said at the time that much of this activity was designed to slow down the contraction and hope that the economy could grow out of the doldrums in the meantime, but that it risks causing rampant inflation when money velocity actually picks up. Worst, it had the potential for the government to buy the worst garbage paper the banks had on offer, essentially being an economic sinkhole of major proportions. Luckily it has not been as bad as anticipated, largely because government meddling in the internal affairs of banks has caused them to try like hell to pay it back quickly and get themselves out from under its terms.

Stimulus: The stimulus was billed as a way to jumpstart shovel-ready infrastructure projects, but it was quickly apparent that the only thing shoveled was a load of BS. Stimulus was little more than a giveaway to state and local governments to continue spending beyond the ability of their states to support and reward them for overspending the proceeds of economic expansion as if the bubble would never pop. While employment has plummeted in the private sector, government is growing — never a good sign to a libertarian. Here in high-tax California, we need to slash our state public sector, not bail it out.

Cash for clunkers: Billed as a stimulus and environmental program, cash for clunkers was pure destruction of economic value. Cars with an average market value of roughly $1500 — productive, useful assets — were rendered completely inoperable. In a perverse unintended consequence, it dried up the supply of older used cars (and thus increased the price of said cars), hurting some of the poor who might not be able to afford better vehicles. Paying people to dig and then fill up holes would have been economically stupid, but cash for clunkers is the equivalent of asking them to put uranium in those holes so that hole could never be safely dug again. Pure economic insanity.

But Cash for Caulkers is somewhat different. For those unfamiliar with the proposed program, it gives tax subsidies to people who work to make their homes more energy-efficient. The draft would provide a 50% rebate on materials and labor up to $12K per household. As a libertarian, I don’t much believe that the government should have the responsibility to fix economic burst bubbles. But this particular policy has several features that make it much more effective and efficient economic stimulus than much of what the federal government has done.

  • This policy primarily targets those in the building/construction trade, arguably the hardest hit of the economic downturn. Since the housing bubble was partially created by bad government policy, it is at least preferable to help these folks find a more orderly transition than the welfare line.
  • Home weatherization and energy efficiency is often a large initial expense with a long time horizon to pay back. Due to increased social and geographic mobility, it is often ignored by homeowners who don’t know if they’ll be in their homes long enough to make the efficiency gains worth it. Thus, improvements in home energy efficiency are underproduced by the market.
  • Because this will reduce energy consumption in some homes, it may have the positive externality of reducing demand on energy for all users (thus hopefully lowering price). Again, this positive externality suggests that energy efficiency improvements are underproduced by the market.
  • Finally, unlike Cash-for-clunkers, which destroyed and replaced useful economic assets, Cash for Caulkers actually improves existing economic assets. There is a lasting economic benefit to reduced energy usage for the present and future owners of these homes.

Of course, I cannot claim that I’m in favor of this program. The positive aspects I list above are ascribed to my ideal cash-for-caulkers policy, which I am certain will not closely resemble what comes out of the sausage-factory on Capitol Hill. Waste, fraud, and abuse are certain to be rampant. In a cost-benefit analysis of the size of the program, one can’t assume Congress will determine either cost or benefit rationally. It is picking economic winners and losers, which is partly responsible for getting us into the Great Recession in the first place. And finally, while it might have been an interesting idea BEFORE the TARP, stimulus, and cash for clunkers, I think we’ve already gone so far into deficit spending that it’s a good idea to stop while we’re only a few trillion behind. It appears that the country has hired Barack Obama to dig a deficit hole and [hopefully] fill it back up, but he simply refuses to stop digging.

So if I’m not in favor of the program, why am I writing this post? Frankly, it’s because I saw the level of derision that the policy got on several fronts (including from Jon Stewart). Done properly (which I don’t expect Congress to be capable of delivering), it would have been a timely program that helps those who are most affected by the housing crash while improving existing assets that might not be otherwise improved. Done properly, it could actually be seen as an investment in our future — and by that I mean an actual investment, not simply “spending”, which is politicospeak for that word.

It might sound silly, but home weatherization actually has potential at being smart policy. After a year of horrible, bad, not-very-good-at-all government spending and giveaway programs, to see one that actually has promise shouldn’t cause scorn and derision as its primary reactions.

Gary Johnson – Who Is He And Why Should I Care?

It’s a good question. He’s the former governor of New Mexico, but given that I can count the number of times I’ve visited that fine state (and their excellent green chiles) on one hand, that means little to me. So why would I care about Gary Johnson?

Well, the sad answer is that we live in a never-ending campaign where the groundwork for a presidential run begins to be laid days after the election of the last guy. As much as I hate politics and categorically distrust politicians — I believe that no single elected official can stop the US train from barreling off the cliffs in the [relatively near] future — I do think that the right politician might at least delay that inevitable outcome.

Is Gary Johnson that politician? I’m not sure. I know very little about him. What I do know is that many people who I’ve long respected in the pro-liberty movement are excited about him. An even cursory reading of his history suggests that he’s about as libertarian-leaning as one can expect from a major-party politician, and he’s been described as a “Ron Paul Republican”. He may be running for President in 2012, and given some of the prominent alternatives (Palin, Tax Hike Mike, Romney) might be the best hope for liberty.

So that’s all well and good, but like me, you’re probably wondering “How can I learn more about Gary Johnson?” Well, our good friends over at United Liberty just interviewed Gary for their podcast on many prominent political issues of the day. Head over for a listen. After all, 2012 is only three years away!

Quote(s) Of The Day

Both relate to Ben Nelson being bought off to provide the Democrats’ 60th vote. Oh, and what a bribe it was!

First, David Kotok over at The Big Picture:

Senator Nelson of Nebraska sold his vote in return for special treatment for the Mutual of Omaha insurance company and for perpetual Medicaid funding for his state. He has just set a record for pork. I have not seen the present discounted value of an open-ended perpetual funding for Medicaid for all Nebraskans. Believe me, the other 49 states would like to have it. And if you are a taxpayer in the other 49 states you are going to pay for it.

Now if the good Senator had bargained the abortion issue out of his pure conviction, I would not have agreed with him but I would have respected him for having the courage and honesty to practice politics because of policy. He argued he was maintaining his position out of conviction for an ideal and a belief. But the reality is, he sold his 60th vote for money. He practiced political prostitution.

Infinite future full federal Medicaid funding for Nebraskans? Well, I’ll say one thing for Ben Nelson — he doesn’t come as cheap as Mary Landrieu.

Of course, Ezra Klein (or in this case @ezraklein) thinks this is just tit-for-tat:

Every Republican whining about the deals made to pass health-care reform should demand repeal of Medicare Part D immediately.

Okay. I’m in. Let’s repeal it immediately. Granted, I’m a libertarian, but I think I can speak for many Republicans who were pissed off that their party in Washington ever passed Medicare Part D.

Grassroots Republicans were upset that politicians were being bought off to pass Medicare Part D, a bill we didn’t want in the first place. Did it ever occur to Klein that perhaps we voted Republicans out of office because they were acting too much like Democrats? Grassroots Democrats, however, are pissed off that Ben Nelson was paid so dearly for a bill that didn’t go far enough. I don’t think any Democrat is upset at buying off Ben Nelson, but they’d probably have preferred that Reid at least got a public option or Medicare buy-in if they had to pay him off.

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

Congressional Thug Tries To Silence Free Speech

Meet Congressman Alan Grayson, a punk ass bitch and wannabe thoughtpoliceman

Not everyone thinks imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando took such offense at a parody Web site aimed at unseating him that the freshman Democrat asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the Lake County activist who started it.

In his four-page complaint, Grayson accuses Republican Angie Langley of lying to federal elections officials. In particular, he writes, the Clermont resident lives outside his district but still uses the term “my” in her Web site, mycongressmanisnuts.com. The name mocks a Web site started by Grayson, congressmanwithguts.com.

“Ms. Langley has deliberately masqueraded as a constituent of mine, in order to try to create the false appearance that she speaks for constituents who don’t support me,” writes Grayson. “[She] has chosen a name for her committee that is utterly tasteless and juvenile.”

Grayson’s office confirmed he wrote the letter — including the request that Langley be fined and “imprisoned for five years” — and released a statement from Grayson saying, “Everyone has to obey the law, even rude, right-wing cranks.”

Langley, a former top Republican official in Lake County, said the letter initially “scared the heck out” of her but that she got angry after an attorney friend — who is acting as legal adviser — told her that the accusations were “groundless.”

“This man is nothing but a bully and an intimidator,” she said.

For those of you who don’t know Alan Grayson, he’s also the little punk who has described the GOP health care plan as dying quickly among other things. He’s basically the Sarah Palin or the Joe the Plumber of the left. Now this wannabe commissar is trying to jail a woman for expressing her opinion. Here’s a little obstacle to that:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There are no gulags in this country for those who speak against members of Congress, Representative Grayson. Hopefully his constituents will send this thug into retirement next year.

Related Link: Alan Grayson is Nuts

Edited on 12/20/2009 at 8:06PM to insert related before link

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

Obama Has Failed in Copenhagen, Minorities and Women Will Benefit the Most

Fortunately for humanity and the civilization that sustains it, Barack Obama stayed true to his record of incompetence and failure, messing up the talks at Copenhagen.  The talks have ended with nothing more than yet another agreement to meet again in a few years’ time. His last ditch instructions to Hillary Clinton, which led to her offering $100,000,000,000 of taxpayer dollars each year to nations hard hit by climate change could not band-aid the gaping gash that is the rift between developing and developed nations.

The root of the conflict is very simple: curbing emissions produced in the territory of poverty-stricken nations would require them to regress to a poorer state of being.  The politicians ruling over these nations recognize that such attempts would probably inspire revolts that would topple them and earn them an appointment with a noose and a lampost.  In the meantime, the politicians ruling developed nations also recognize that if they allow people living in the developing nations to produce CO2, that global economic production will simply be moved to those territories.  And the newly unemployed will come after the politicians who screwed them over with pitchforks.

By the time Obama landed in Denmark with his entrourage of bodyguards, the conference was doomed.  The failure lay in the groundwork;  having failed to prioritize effectively between his desire to take over the medical industry, the financial industry, the automotive industry and the manufacturing industries, and having spent money like a drunken sailor with a fist-full of Continentals, the Obama administration was in no position to offer a credible deal of any sort.

Most politicians outside the U.S. recognize that the days of U.S. hegemony are almost over.  The vast welfare state and creeping state takeover of industry have emptied the U.S. treasury, and the U.S. government is having an increasingly difficult time borrowing the money it needs to meet its current obligations.  Had Obama eschewed the “spend-your-way-into-prosperity” approach of George Bush, the U.S. government might have been in a position to make credible offers both to curb CO2 production.  Instead, he showed up at the conference with a track record of leading a government that had no backbone, a reputation for rhetoric over substance, and a fiscal state that is laughably shaky.  Moreover, he also has been consistently lying through his teeth throughout his time in office. For these reasons, no promise or offer he could make would carry serious weight.

If the AGW alarmists are correct, the situation involving the production of CO2is an externality; Those who produce CO2 through economic activity gain the benefit of the wealth produced while the costs of warming are suffered by everyone.  Thus, those who decide not to produce CO2 suffer, while those who engage in production gain  the benefit of of the wealth they create.

The proper way to handle an externality is to internalize it: to establish a regime where the people who cause ‘harm’ suffer a loss commensurate with the harm the do.  This is not simple with the atmosphere.  The plan favored by most alarmists, which essentially amount to requiring nearly every source of CO2 to require government permission to operate, permission that in essence controls how much CO2 is produced, are functionally equivalent to the centrally planned economies of the now defunct Soviet block.  In essence they recreate the crippling economic coordination problems that Ludwig von Mises identified in Socialism.

Obama seems to be oblivious to the economic collapse he is dicing with in his attempts to build a more fair world. For this reason, I am grateful for his incompetence.  The socialism that he and many of the delegates in Copenhagen were advancing has a demonstrated track record of creating incredible misery particularly for the masses that are not politically connected.  As a result, we are fortunate that Obama’s incompetence has postponed the AGW alarmist juggernaut.  By the time the next meeting is held, the temperature trend will likely give lie to the dire alarmist predictions that gave the alarmists much of their political momentum.

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.

This Is Who We’re Gonna Wreck Our Economy For?

So, it appears the Tuvaluans are angry about climate change, and they’re going to make sure Copenhagen knows about it:

Tuvalu demanded – and got – a suspension of negotiations until the issue could be resolved.

The split within the developing country bloc is highly unusual, as it tends to speak with a united voice.

After talks resumed in the afternoon, the Tuvalu delegation walked out when it appeared that the issue might be sidelined.

Private discussions will now continue behind the scenes among a small group of concerned countries.

Tuvalu’s negotiator Ian Fry made clear that his country could accept nothing less than full discussion of its proposal for a new legal protocol, which was submitted to the UN climate convention six months ago.

“My prime minister and many other heads of state have the clear intention of coming to Copenhagen to sign on to a legally binding deal,” Mr Fry said.

“Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and our future rests on the outcome of this meeting.”

They demand that draft restrictions supposedly targeted at holding temperature rises below 2C be cut to 1.5C, and that greenhouse gas emissions restricted at about 20% lower than the draft.

So I asked myself: just who ARE these Tuvaluans, anyway? Well, there’s only a little under 12,000 of them. I suspect, actually, that they’re just trying to return the rest of humanity to the sort of “sustainable” economy they’ve developed:

Tuvalu has almost no natural resources, and its main form of income consists of foreign aid. Virtually the only jobs in the islands that pay a steady wage or salary are with the government. Subsistence farming and fishing remain the primary economic activities, particularly off the capital island of Funafuti. Government revenues largely come from the sale of stamps and coins, fishing licences and worker remittances.

Substantial income is received annually from the Tuvalu Trust Fund, which was established in 1987 by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and supported also by Japan and South Korea. This fund grew from an initial $17 million to over $35 million in 1999. The US government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu, with 1999 payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries at about $9 million, a total which is expected to rise annually.

In 1998, Tuvalu began deriving revenue from use of its area code for “900” lines and from the sale of its “.tv” Internet domain name. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties.

Got it? The only way to live in the entire country is subsistence farming, fishing, or working for the government (which survives on foreign aid).

And this is who we’re listening to on climate change?

This is your government on no-bid contracts

Alabama’s premium political blog reports the following: “The Department of Finance, Executive Budget Office has released a power point presentation on the same subject.”

The topic of the report may be interesting, but that’s not why I’m posting these links.  If you open up the Power Point presentation, here’s what you’ll see on page 5:

clicktoaddtitle.

The rest of the pages aren’t any better.

Currently, Governor Riley is under fire for a $13 million contract awarded to the same finance department which released this slide show.  The contract was for computer work, even.

For $13 million, one might think that they would be able to figure out how to use a Microsoft template. And this is the same state government which is in charge of our public education system?

Free Market Capitalism: Good for the Environment?

Anyone who is really paying attention to the global warming debate will notice that reducing carbon emissions and wealth distribution go hand-in-hand.

Or do they?

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann wrote a very interesting article which makes very much the opposite point.

The goals of the climate change crowd are not reduction in global warming but the enactment of a world-wide system of regulation which puts business under government control and transfers wealth from rich nations to poor ones under the guise of fighting climate change. Should the emissions come down on their own, as they are doing, the excuse for draconian legislation goes, well, up in smoke.

The facts are startling. In 1990, the year chosen as the global benchmark for carbon emissions, the United States emitted 5,007 millions of metric tons of carbon (mmts). Kyoto specified that emissions must be reduced to a level 6% lower than in 1990. For the U.S., that means 4,700 million metric tons.

American carbon emissions rose year after year until they peaked in 2007 at 5,967 mmts. But, in 2008, they dropped to 5,801 and, in 2009, the best estimate is for a reduction to 5,476. So, in two years, U.S. carbon emissions will have gone down by more than 500 mmts – a cut of over 8%.

President Obama has pledged to bring the U.S. carbon emissions down by 17%. He’s halfway there.

All this without government regulation, taxation, or phony “carbon credits”.

In all honesty, I really don’t know what to make of the science behind the man made global warming debate* but I have been a skeptic since the issue has been part of the public debate (and long before the whole ClimateGate scandal broke). I don’t doubt the phenomenon of global warming at all; the earth has warmed and cooled many times over billions of years without the intervention of man. Why wouldn’t the earth warm up again regardless of man’s intervention?

My skepticism aside, the fact that carbon emissions are being reduced on the part of private actors without government force isn’t all that surprising. Over the last several years, global warming “awareness” has been broadcast on an almost daily basis and the market has responded.

As a general rule, I believe that reducing waste and increasing efficiency is not only good for the environment but also cost effective. Being environmentally conscious should not mean sacrificing quality or increasing costs.

A good Capitalist wants to have the car with the best mpg rating without sacrificing safety. It’s not because the Capitalist is necessarily concerned about man made global warming nor that s/he wants to “stick it to the BIG oil companies” but simply s/he wants more bang for his/her buck (greedy Capitalist!).

On a personal level, I use the reusable shopping bags not because I am overly concerned about too many plastic bags filling up the public landfill but simply because the reusable bags are stronger. I am quite willing to pay the $2 it costs to buy the stronger, reusable bag because it means fewer trips between my vehicle and my home without fear of the bag tearing in the process.

Many of these “green” innovations have benefits beyond combating pollution.

But even if everything Morris and McGann writes is true and even if the Kyoto targets are met (or even exceeded), this will not be enough for the global warming extremists**. If carbon emissions are reduced by 17%, they will move the goal posts and demand 20 and 25% reductions. When these goals are not met, the extremists will demand more government regulation despite what the free market has achieved on its own.

» Read more

Earmark And Healthcare Wars: Ron Paul vs Jeff Flake

A recent article in the Washington Examiner by John Labeaume details the differing approaches to earmarks that two of most libertarian members of Congress have. This difference came out in a vote on an amendment that Flake wrote to H.R. 3791 which was the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009. The Flake amendment would ban earmarks as defined by Congressional rules. All in all, a modest amendment.

From the Examiner article:

Here’s a gross understatement: Friends of Freedom in the Halls of Congress are few and far between. Asked for a “Real Life” practicing politician that they can actually get behind, it’s not uncommon for libertarians of many stripes to limit their response to two: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Dr. Paul has been known to put his own sometimes idiosyncratic principle before practicality, leading his legions of fevered ‘money bombing’ fans along his particular path to ideological purity. His rabid opposition to barrier-busting trade agreements like NAFTA, quibbling with a new panel it might spawn, is a prime example. And this trait can pit his voting record against those of his erstwhile liberty-loving allies, and align himself with curious company.

……………………………

Last month, in an obscure House vote, this stubborn streak reared its head again. It’s a minor, but instructive instance, as Paul was one of only two “nay” votes on his side of the aisle against an amendment to HR 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, offered by his fellow Constitutional conservator, Flake.

The only Republican lined up with Paul – and against Flake – was that egregious earmarker, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the Ranking Member on Appropriations. Like his Showbiz namesake, the collegial Lewis’ look could pass for that of a 70’s “Nite Club” act and he certainly knows how to work a room, but he’s dead serious about defending Appropriators’ perks and the practice of earmarking.

Flake’s amendment was modest.

It merely seeks to ensure a competitive, need-based process for parceling out the firefighting grants authorized by the bill. The mechanism was aptly judicious: it enforces the bill’s ban on earmarking. If opened to earmarks, Flake fears that influential Members – like Lewis – could divert dollars to their districts, away from regions with less congressional clout, but in more dire need of an occasional emergency blaze dousing, admittedly not unlike the maverick Flake’s sometimes-parched Southwestern home base. Of course, and more significantly, once Members start horse trading in earmarks, the price tag tends to swell even beyond the bloated figure originally authorized.

Again, Paul stuck to his guns and stood by his controversial defense of earmarking, and let the red light glow next to his name on the big board above the Speaker’s Chair. His office told me, via an email statement, that Paul maintains that “that all spending should be earmarked as this provides the greatest transparency [and]…gives constituents an opportunity for input regarding how their tax dollars are spent.” The statement paid obligatory lip service to “drastically” reducing spending.

But this last line begs the question: what if that “input regarding how” just means “more,” and “for me”?

Before I go into the crux of the debate, my position on earmarking is this:

  • I don’t have a problem with earmarking in general because yes Congressmen should know the needs of their districts better than Federal bureaucrats.
  • However, earmarks lately have been a vehicle for corruption as Congresscritters reward supporters and campaign contributors with things that would be considered bribery under most circumstances (see John Murtha and the aforementioned Jerry Lewis, et al).
  • In addition, the earmarking process has been used as a way to short circuit the competitive bidding process and award contracts to politically connected companies.
  • Earmarks generally reward politically connected members of Congress and promote wasteful spending, however this is no different than other actions of Congress and the Federal government.
  • Therefore, I am a supporter of earmark reform, but I also realize that earmarks are only a portion of the overall problem with wasteful government spending and political corruption.

I believe that Jeff Flake is correct on this issue and I generally support his fight for earmark reform, Ron Paul’s opposition not withstanding. Earmark reform won’t eliminate wasteful spending and political corruption, but it will make a sizable reduction in both. It will also make it easier to defeat incumbent members of Congress as it will give incumbent members of Congress who bribe their constituents less ability to do so and therefore will increase turnover in Congress.

The Examiner article also attacked Ron Paul for not paying attention to the current healthcare fight:

With a scheme that threatens to regulate one-sixth of the U.S. economy wending its way through the legislative sausage-maker, Flake is focused. Glance at his home page; note the repeated references to health care from his multimedia page. Here’s a flurry of press releases issued in the heat of the House debate.

Meanwhile, Paul’s immediate obsession is trained on legalizing Liberty Dollars. Even though this health care overhaul threatens his livelihood – Dr. Paul is a physician by vocation, remember – from his homepage, you wouldn’t know that this issue looms over Washington one bit. Health care merits only a few addresses in Paul’s posted floor statements and press releases from the entire 111th Congress.

And though his official U.S. House site’s blog offers a few posts on this matter, his political arm, Campaign for Liberty, touts a recent interview with a right wing satellite shock jock, a self-styled “King Dude” whose trademark is liberal-lampooning novelty tunes. (Premium content, only for “King Dude” backstage pass holders, sorry.) During the interview, C4L’s homepage boasts, Dr. Paul discusses his pet “issues including Audit the Fed, Social Security, foreign policy, and nullification.” Number of mentions of healthcare? Zero. He didn’t even warble through a single “Death Panel” ditty.

………………………………………

Paul’s Campaign for Liberty sent out an action item, with orders to his loyal legions to contact Congress and demand a floor vote on his “Audit the Fed” bill, one that House leadership has no intention of unbottling.

As ‘Armageddon Day’ for health care regulation approaches, instead of taking up his scalpel to trim a behemoth, Dr. Paul is fiddling with the Fed.

Unfortunately for Labeaume, this is simply not true. Ron Paul has actually been focused, somewhat, on the healthcare debate. For example, the Campaign for Liberty, on its front page has a link to a project called Operation Health Freedom. Some of the proposed legislation in the project even made its wayhttp://www.thelibertypapers.org/wp-admin/post-new.php into the GOP’s alternative bill. Also, the Campaign for Liberty has been featuring articles almost daily on healthcare. Also if you look at Ron Paul’s House site as compared to Jeff Flake’s House site, you’ll see more writings about healthcare from Ron Paul and his office than from Jeff Flake and his office. I don’t begrudge Jeff Flake on the healthcare issue at all, but to say Ron Paul is disengaged from the healthcare fight is either the result of shoddy research at best or outright dishonesty at worst.

As for Ron Paul’s obsessions with the Federal Reserve, nullification, and foreign policy; that can be traced to Ron Paul’s political style more than anything. Paul is a populist oriented libertarian where as Jeff Flake is more a policy wonk libertarian. Flake’s big issues are earmark reform, immigration reform, and free trade which are more keeping of a former head of a think tank (which Flake was before his election to Congress). Paul’s issues are more geared toward a broad, populist appeal where as Flake’s issues are more appealing to political junkies and wonkish types.

As Nick Gillespie from Reason’s Hit and Run wrote:

To paraphrase Todd (“Godd”) Rundgren, sometimes I don’t know what to feel. Can’t we all just get along, and denounce the Fed and health care reform and earmarks and out-of-control spending? I’m sure we can.

Indeed.

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

Automakers Steal $30B From Obama’s Jobs Program

Now it’s the automakers. Too bad nobody predicted that throwing money into these fine well-run American corporations could have been a bad deal!

The Obama administration will tell Congress Wednesday that it expects to lose about $30 billion of the $82 billion government bailout of the auto industry.

Gene Sperling, senior counsel to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, confirmed in an interview late today that the administration’s forecast is that it will lose $30 billion on its auto investments

Or, as I like to say, that’s $30B that the automakers stole from Obama’s jobs program.

But there’s good news!

“The real news is the projected loss came down to $30 billion from $44 billion,” Sperling said, noting that auto sales have improved ahead of what many analysts had forecast. The administration still holds out hope that if things improve, the administration could still recover more.

Well, at least that’s $14B more for Obama to put into his jobs program! He’s just finding money everywhere!

Gov’t Not Going To Lose As Much Money As Expected; Reveals Plans To Spend Difference

Normally this might be considered good news:

The Obama administration plans to announce this week that it is slashing its estimate of the losses from the government’s financial bailout package by about $200 billion, Treasury officials said.

The White House had projected in August that the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, would lose about $341 billion over the next 10 years. But officials scaled back the estimate after once-shaky Wall Street firms began recovering much more quickly than expected. In addition, several TARP initiatives have been funded at a smaller amount than originally planned.

Since the TARP became law in October 2008, banks have paid dividends and interest of about $15 billion and returned aid worth a total of about $71 billion, a Treasury official said Monday. Last week, Bank of America said it would soon repay an additional $45 billion. Another $139 billion of TARP funds was never allocated to any programs.

Phew! That’s $200 billion that we won’t have to factor into the deficit over the next decade! Way to go, team!

Or not:

The new, more optimistic estimates of TARP losses could pave the way for Democrats to tap some of the program’s unspent funds for a jobs bill currently being crafted in the House. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that President Obama is likely to discuss such a plan during a speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution.

It’s like when my wife comes home after spending money on unnecessary items “because they’re on sale”, then decides she’s going to take something back because she doesn’t like the way it looks, but instead of putting the difference back into our bank account spends the refund on a new hat — at full price. She’s so thrifty!

Wow, Barack. You got such a great deal on that TARP you put on the credit card that you can use the same credit card for your jobs program! And don’t worry, because it’s the taxpayers and not you who’ll gonna have to pay interest!

Monday Morning Question

All, if you’ve followed the ClimateGate scandal, you’ll note that most coverage on both the left and the right centers around the emails. There is discussion in the emails of trying to influence access to peer-reviewed journals to stop critics (unethical), and even some suggestions that data requested under FOIA be deleted (potentially illegal).

So we’re stuck with two basic sides:

Skeptics: “This shows that we’ve been right about you trying to stonewall us, and thus we won’t accept your conclusions unless you show us the source data and methodology, which you’ve tried to avoid for years. Your behavior suggests you have something to hide, and these emails show that you’re hiding it. Now put up or shut up.”
AGW Crowd: “This is regrettable and we all think there should be more transparency in the process. But it hardly invalidates the claims, which are from source data available elsewhere and which correspond with the claims of other climate researchers working independently of us.”

The debate largely stays at this level, because like most political debates, few in the media or in the public are comfortable looking at the deep dark bowels of all of this — numbers.

As an engineer, though, I am not stricken with such numerophobia, and thus wading through data sets and statistical methods. As such, I’ve seen a particular critique which bothers me greatly (as described here by Eric S. Raymond (via QandO)):

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/briffa_sep98_d.pro , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.

;
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
;
yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’
;
yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)

This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.

All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it’s a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.

Correction

(Note: Raymond points out later that he missed the 0.75 modifier, so what is shown here (at the maximum) as a 2.6 deg correction in the graph is likely a 1.95 deg correction. This appears to be an older version of the graph.)

One caveat — this is the only “smoking gun” I’ve seen thus far, and I personally haven’t scoured these files at all to determine exactly how important this particular file is to the whole picture. I’m likewise a bit concerned that we haven’t seen more of these “corrections”; if this is purported to account for the northern hemisphere, what about the southern?

But at this time, that’s beside the point. Absolutely NO voice on the pro-AGW side that I’ve come across has even attempted to answer this critique. They may think it’s not serious, or know that it’s being misinterpreted, or they may simply believe that if they don’t give it an answer, it’s obscure nature to most innumerate people will let a true critique be ignored. I’m not sure.

So here’s my question to readers: Have you seen any credible answer to the charge by Eric Raymond that this is blatant data-cooking? Barring that, have you seen any non-credible answer or off-handed dismissal of this charge? What I’m trying to find out is if there are actually voices trying to answer this, or if it is being ignored.

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