Monthly Archives: January 2010

Is The PAYGO Rule Fiscally Responsible?

On Thursday, the US Senate voted to restore pay go rules on a party line vote. President Obama praised the restoration of the PAYGO rule. Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan used the vote as a club to attack Republicans. Republicans opposed the restoration of pay go calling it a backdoor attempt to raise taxes. However, the PAYGO rule is at best a dual edged sword. While PAYGO is an excellent for controlling and limiting deficit spending, it does very little to limit the size and growth of the Federal government.

The PAYGO or “pay as you go” rule simply calls for any increase of mandatory spending or reduction in revenue (ie. taxes) must be offset by decreases in discretionary spending or increases in revenue (taxes). Mandatory spending is things like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, pay for Federal employees, paying debt, and other welfare programs such as Food Stamps and Veterans benefits. Mandatory spending is nearly 60% of the Federal budget. Discretionary spending is everything that Congress has to pass legislation to authorize.

How PAYGO Is Fiscally Responsible:

The PAYGO rule requires spending to be budget neutral and budgets to be balanced. This is generally a good thing since it does not require increasing debt which has to be paid back by taxpayers. It requires that if government cannot pay for programs it appropriates, either taxes must be raised or programs and spending be cut. It also forces Congress to prioritize which programs are important them and can lead to much needed reforms in the Federal government which reduces its cost to taxpayers and ultimately the power it wields. In a Congress where the majority of members put limited government and the interests of taxpayers first, PAYGO can be a very important tool in the rollback of the Federal government.

However, PAYGO Also Promotes Big Government:

The PAYGO rule also promotes the welfare state and big government. The PAYGO rule only calls for cuts in so-called discretionary spending while leaving untouched the welfare programs that are so-called mandatory spending. This in affect leaves nearly 60% of the Federal budget (and growing every year) untouched. In order to ultimate reduce the size and scope of the Federal government, reforms must be enacted to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the other welfare programs which are “mandatory”. The cost of not doing anything to reign in mandatory spending will mean ultimately higher taxes and more poverty as jobs and opportunities are lost by a revenue hungry Federal government.

In addition, Republicans are right when they suspect that PAYGO in the hands of the current Congress and President is nothing more than a tool to raise taxes. Other than various gimmicks that do nothing to address the fiscal problems this nation will have, the Democrats (and Republicans alike for that matter) have shown no serious interest in reducing the size of government.

Finally, PAYGO has a loophole. It can be suspended for “emergency appropriations”. For example, if Congress and the President want to have another round of bailouts and nationalizations, all they have to do is declare an emergency.

Ultimately, PAYGO can be an excellent tool for fighting waste, fraud, and corruption; however it is useless in the hands of this Congress and President because they have neither the will nor the ability to cut the Federal budget where it really matters.

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.

“Are these Republicans Walter”? “No Donny, these men are just nihilists”

“I mean, say what you like about the tenets of the Republican party, Dude, at least it’s an ethos…”

Apologies to Joel and Ethan Coen…

There has been a recent meme circulated by the leftosphere, that the Republicans… in fact any opponent of the Obama agenda… are nihilists.

Now, I have to say, I don’t think most of the people promoting this idea even know what a nihilist is (and if they did, many of them would realize THEY are the ones that come close to fitting that bill), never mind that current republican ideology is nihilist. Current republican ideology is empty, obstructionist, and reactionary; but that’s not actually nihilism… or even close to it.

A few days ago, a person whose intellect I generally respect, John Scalzi, randomly tossed off a comment calling Republicans (and Obama oppositionists) Nihilists.

Well.. at least John knows what a nihilist is… which is why I was disappointed in his statement… because as far as I’m concerned that analysis is just lazy.

Then a few days later, as part of his commentary on the state of the union speech, he wrote this:

“As for the Republicans, a recent reader was distressed when I said they were “hopped-up ignorant nihilists,” but you know what, when your Senate operating strategy is “filibuster everything and let Fox News do the rest,” and the party as a whole gives it a thumbs up, guess what, you’re goddamned nihilists. There’s no actual political strategy in GOP anymore other than taking joy in defeating the Democrats. I don’t have a problem with them enjoying such a thing, but it’s not a real political philosophy, or at least shouldn’t be.”

Ok… not much of the core of the analysis there I can disagree with… but again, it isn’t nihilism.

Today however he posted a link to further explain the position he was trying to express in shorthand by calling the Republicans nihilist.

Again, there’s nothing I can really disagree with in this analysis:

[N]othing could be worse for the GOP than the illusion of success under present circumstances. Worse than learning nothing from the last two elections, the GOP has learned the wrong things… Not recognizing their past errors, the GOP will make them again and again in the future, and they will attempt to cover these mistakes with temporary, tactical solutions that simply put off the consequences of their terrible decisions until someone else is in office. They will then exploit the situation as much as they possibly can, pinning the blame for their errors on their hapless inheritors and hoping that the latter are so pitiful that they retreat into yet another defensive crouch.

Is the GOP in a worse position than a year ago? On the surface, no, it isn’t. Once we get past the surface, however, the same stagnant, intellectually bankrupt, unimaginative party that brought our country to its current predicament is still there and has not changed in any meaningful way in the last three years.

The best thing though, is the source of that quote: The American Conservative

Thus showing, once again, for those who don’t already know; that Republican does not necessarily mean conservative or libertarian, nor does conservative necessarily mean Republican.

Oh and continuing in that vein, conservative doesn’t necessarily mean religious either; nor does religious always mean conservative (especially if you’re Catholic).

I am neither a Republican, nor a conservative; but I DO register as a Republican because my state has closed primaries, and I like to vote against John McCain and Joe Arpaio.

I am a minarchist, which is a school of libertarianism that pretty much says “hey, leave me alone as much as is practical, and I’ll do the same for you, thanks”.

I’m well educated (perhaps overeducated), high earning, catholic, married with two kids, and a veteran. I was raised in the northeast but choose to live in the Rocky Mountain west, because I prefer the greater degree of freedom and lower levels of government (and other busybodies) interference.

I don’t care who you have sex with or what you shove up your nose, down your throat, or into your lungs so long as I don’t have to pay for it, or the eventual medical bills you rack up.

I KNOW from direct personal experience we need a strong national defense, but that freedom and liberty (which are two different things) are rather a LOT more important than internal security.

I have no faith in the government not to do with… really anything other than defense… exactly what they did with Social Security, or AFDC, or any number of other programs that they have horribly screwed up, wasting trillions of dollars in the process.

Yes, there is great benefit to some of those programs at some times (and I was on welfare and foodstamps as a child, I know directly this is true); but the government couldn’t make a profit running a whorehouse, how can they be expected to run healthcare, or education, or anything else for that matter.

Oh and for those of you who believe that government really can do good, without a corresponding and greater bad… I’m sorry, you’re wrong.

It’s a sweet ideal, but it just isn’t true. Good intentions don’t mean good results, unless combined with competence, efficiency, passion, compassion… HUMANITY in general; and the government is not a humanitarian organization.

Governments are good at exactly two thing: Stealing and Killing. Yes, they are capable of doing other things, but everything they do proceeds from theft, coercion, force… stealing and killing.

That doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it; but everything the government does has an associated harm that goes with it. Sometimes that’s worth it, sometimes it isn’t and it’s DAMN hard to figure that out. Who gets to decide? You? Your friends?

Do you have the right to tell me what to do, how to live my life? Do I have the right to tell YOU how to live YOUR life?

So why is it ok if you get a few million of your friends, and I get a few million of my friends, and just because you have more friends than I do you get to tell all of us how to live and what to do?

Sorry but, HELL NO.

I want the same things you want. I want people to be happy, and healthy, and have great opportunities… But the government doesn’t have the right to steal from me to help you do it; anymore than you would have the right to hold a gun to my head and take the money from me personally.

Actually, the government doesn’t have any rights whatsoever. The PEOPLE have rights, the exercise of which we can delegate to the government.

It absolutely amazes me that both liberals and conservatives understand that the government isn’t to be trusted; they just believe it’s not to be trusted over different things:

Liberals trust the government with your money, education, and healthcare; but don’t want them to interfere with your sex life, or chemical recreation.

Conservatives on the other hand are just fine with the government making moral, sexual, ethical, and pharmaceutical choices for you; but don’t trust it with your education, healthcare etc…

Well, I don’t trust them with ANYTHING except defense (which they also screw up mightily, but which is at least appropriate to the coercive and destructive nature of government).

It’s axiomatic that the intelligence of any committee is equal to that of the least intelligent member, divided by the total number of members.

There are 435 members of the house of representatives, 100 senators, 21 members of the cabinet, 9 supreme court justices, a vice president, and a president; for a total committee size of 567.

Now, if we’re charitable and say they’re all geniuses with IQs above 140 (don’t hurt yourself laughing), that’s an overall government IQ of .25

Why on earth would you want THAT spending your money, or making any decisions for you whatsoever?

Now… Given that thumbnail philosophy, who am I supposed to vote for?

I certainly can’t vote Democratic; they want to take all my money and either give it to other people, or use it to force me (and everyone else) to behave as THEY decide.

On the other hand, I can’t much vote for Republicans, because they still want to give my money to other people (just mostly different other people than democrats), and use my money to force me (and everyone else) to behave as they decide…. They just want to take a little less of it.

And I really can’t vote for Libertarians, because they are profoundly unserious and incapable of effecting any real political change. I want to vote for someone who will PREVENT the worst abuses of government, and sadly, voting libertarian has no hope of accomplishing that goal.

I end up voting for whoever, or whatever, I hope or believe will reduce those undesirable characteristics of theft and coercion inherent to government.

Often that means voting Republican, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of my support for Republicans.

So tell me, is that nihilism? I don’t think so. I think it’s playing defense, which isn’t a winning strategy; but it’s not nihilism.

Nihilism would be standing by the sidelines say “there’s no point in playing, you’re all going to lose anyway”… which coincidentally is the position of a lot of Libertarians.

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

A Bit of Unexpected Wisdom from a Friend

You might have heard the old saying “The best measure of a mans intelligence and wisdom, is how closely he agrees with you on any given subject”…

Well, by that measure, Kommander is a damn genius (from a thread discussing Obamas abandonment of manned space flight):

The problem with exploring and colonizing space, as opposed to exploring and colonizing the “New World”; is that there is, right now, little commercial benefit for doing so.

Remember that the first colonists to the Americas were not doing it “For Science!” but “For Money!” Until there is money to be made in space it will continue to be dominated by various governmental agencies.

Spaceship One and the space tourism are a good start, be we need more. The future of the space program does not lie with governments, but with commercial interests who will be willing to take risks where governments are not.

Indeed. I’ll take Branson and Rutan over Bolden and Garver in a split second.

Just let me know when I can sign up for the trip to freehold… or anywhere… or nowhere and back for that matter (when it costs less than a nice used car anyway).

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

Is America Ungovernable?

Arnold Kling relays the case that many of you who follow the lefty blogs have probably seen:

It’s the latest meme. The U.S. is ungovernable, because of
a) Senate procedures
b) Republican obstructionism
c) polarization
d) special interests
etc.

I’ve seen it from Marc Ambinder, Steven Pearlstein, and others. I’m too lazy to copy links, but my guess is that you have seen it, too.

Well, there are two different questions here that liberals conflate inappropriately:

1) America is ungovernable.
2) Structural government issues prevent the government from getting anything done.

Yes, all the points above explain why #2 is true. But even if all that were “fixed”, #1 would be true, for the very reason Hayek states:

To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.
-Friedrich August von Hayek

To put it simply, it is impossible for a bunch of lawyers and bureaucrats in Washington DC to adequately govern — aka rule — the activities of 300 million Americans. The system — “system” meaning free actions of individuals, not meaning directed and ruled action — is so complex that the best any government can hope to do is to set very general rules making force or fraud illegal*, and set up a fair and just court system to arbitrate. Washington simply cannot integrate the information needed to make decisions at that level effectively.

To be fair, Arnold Kling reaches the same point, but he expands more fully on the idea of decentralization and the idea of federalism or competitive government as an answer. I suspect he does so because he believes competitive government will result in libertarian government — as those who earn refuse to “join” the governments of those who rely on handouts, and thus the non-libertarian governments cannot sustain their goals. This is partly true for territory-based governments (becoming more true as the territory shrinks), and undoubtedly true for non-territory-based governments.

But I find that argument** to have one major weakness. The idea of federalism and local control is largely predicated on the idea that the people in Washington aren’t very good at making decisions for me, and that by moving those decisions closer to me it’s a lot more likely that the decisions my government makes for me are effective ones. But should government make my decisions at all?

Personally, regardless of whether they make good or bad choices, I do not outsource my decision-making to the government. Even if they will make good choices, I do not want them choosing for me. This is a moral statement, and it is just as true of the government of Washington DC as of Sacramento as of Laguna Niguel, CA. It is true that I have more control over the government of Laguna Niguel than of DC, but fundamentally that doesn’t change the fact that my one vote is not determining my decision — it is weighed against the votes of others who do not have the right to decide for me.

If the US is ungovernable, so is the state of California, and so is the city of Laguna Niguel. No matter how small of a government you draw, it cannot have all the information it needs to make decisions for me. Fundamentally, decisions are the marriage of facts and values, and although any government may have access to the facts, it does not have access to my values. Therefore they do not have the information necessary to make decisions for me.

Liberals are upset that the government is structurally biased towards inaction. But action doesn’t equal governance. For something to be governable, the governing authority must have access to both the facts and the values of those it governs. Unfortunately since the latter is never possible, it substitutes its own values (dictatorship) or the average/majority values (democracy). Either is insufficient, and thus America is ungovernable.
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Opening the floodgates…

From tonight’s State of the Union address:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

In the video, Justice Samuel Alito can be seen visibly disagreeing with this sentiment. First, I’m glad someone can stand up against a President who respects the independence of the judiciary so little that he calls them out in the State of the Union. Such moves reek of political hackery that should be far beneath the President. Second, Obama’s assertion is flatly wrong.

Obama contends that the floodgates have been suddenly opened for corporations to have undue influence over candidates and politicians simply because campaign spending limits have been lifted. How, in a country where a single mother can be ordered to pay $1.92 million for sharing music because of a law bought and paid for by the recording industry, can it be claimed that the influence of corporate interests is at all inhibited?

In the recent health care debates, WalMart was on the front lines of the cheering, hoping that they could dupe Democrats into using the law to skewer their smaller competitors. In the same debate, the SEIU managed to secure a sweetheart deal for unions where the “Cadillac” tax would not be borne if the gold-plated health care plan was a result of collective bargaining (read: union strong-arming).

The history of the last half-century in Washington is one where incumbents and party-anointed successors enter into perpetual quid pro quo relationships with special interests. Legislators get things from special interests in return for political and legislative favors. We all know that this is the way things work. We all hope that when we send “our guy” to Washington that he’ll be the one to change it.

In real life, there is no Mr. Smith. Even when someone like Jeff Flake comes to Washington and tries to fight for the people he is rebuffed. The self-styled ruling class in Washington depends on having a monopoly on the influence of big business and special interests.

It is not the thought of special interests influencing politics that scares the ruling class. It is the thought of special interests influencing politics without them that does.

Influence peddling and vote buying are expected in the halls of power. Interests are allowed nearly unlimited access as long as they come in as supplicants to the ruling class. Once the same interests attempt to take their message from K Street to Main Street, the law is brought down upon them as they are accused of trying to corrupt the political process.

With that in mind, let’s look at what the President really meant behind the doublespeak:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to speak directly to the people,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think that the course of American politics should be interfered with by the American people. It should be decided by the ruling class in cooperation with America’s most powerful interests, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The Supreme Court had the temerity to undercut the system of influence carefully constructed by the Republicratic ruling class over the last century. Obama is leading the charge to restore the power that the Supreme Court, and the Constitution, has denied them.

May more Americans have the courage to challenge Obama and the ruling class on this.

A libertarian live-blog of the State of the Union address

United Liberty’s live-blog of the State of the Union address will begin around 8:30pm. President Barack Obama will begin his speech to the joint session of Congress around 9pm.  Liberty Papers contributors Jason Pye, Kevin Boyd and Stephen Gordon will be among the live bloggers for the event.  Trying to insert the embed code now.  Here goes…

Tuesday Open Thread

In this country, it has become socially acceptable to use internet or over-the-phone consults with a fraudulent “ailment” for prescriptions of a recreational drug (Viagra/Cialis).

In this country, it is still socially unacceptable (in the areas where it is legal) to go see a doctor in-person with a moderately fraudulent ailment for prescriptions of a recreational drug (marijuana).

Discuss.

A Must Watch on “Climate Change” from Climate Skeptic

Warren is local to me (he lives about three miles away actually), and runs both the excellent libertarian small business and economics blog CoyoteBlog, and the absolutely essential climate blog Climate Skeptic.

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

Obama Infuriates Middle-School Public Speaking Teachers Nationwide

Wherein, he uses a teleprompter to address 6th-graders:

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I took public speaking classes in middle school and high school, there was one rule — don’t sit there and read straight from your notes.

What’s next, he’s going to go into their algebra classes with a TI-89 graphing calculator to solve math problems?

Hat Tip: Reason

Quote Of The Day

Smoking bans to get extended — Los Angeles wants to ban smoking on outdoor patios. Here’s the justification:

“We have an opportunity, folks, to extend and continue the great fight to get people out of the habit of smoking, to continue to protect the public health, which is really one of our main focuses and our responsibilities,”

One wonders… In the state of California, why don’t they just make cigarettes illegal? Why beat around the bush?

Supreme Court Strikes A Blow For Free Speech

By driving a stake through the heart of McCain-Feingold:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

(…)

The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.

As I’ve said many times before, the only campaign finance regulation that we need is full and complete disclosure.

Every candidate for Federal office should be required to disclose all contributions and disbursements and a regular basis (possibly even more frequently than the quarterly reports that are now the law), and that information should be easily available to the public so that people can know where a candidate’s money comes from and where it goes. After all, isn’t that what the First Amendment is really all about — let the information out and let the public decide what to think about it ?

Here’s the full opinion and dissent:

Citizens Opinion

Gay Marriage — Far LESS Harmful Than Democracy

I’d like to claim that I’m not one to pick nits — but I’d be lying. So here is exhibit 10,483 in the “Brad takes part of a post he agrees with and spins it way out of context.”

The base post is about marriage and in support of gay marriage. But I found this analogy somewhat off:

What opponents of same-sex marriage cannot explain is how exactly same-sex marriage undermines the institution of marriage. It broadens the definition, to be sure; but that definition still includes opposite-sex marriage. We broadened the definition of voting when we allowed non-landowners, women, minorities, and 18-year-olds to vote. Democracy is a process of broadening; it’s an evolutionary thing.

You see, there’s a difference. Allowing gays to marry does not make my marriage to my wife any less meaningful. Allowing gays to marry does not infringe upon any of my natural rights. In fact, while I have no problem with gays (and have several gay friends), it doesn’t change the way anyone might think about gays. Gay marriage doesn’t stop homophobes from being homophobes just like Loving v. Virginia didn’t stop racists from hating blacks.

Democracy, though, is far less tolerant. The masses of the nation can democratically infringe upon my rights. They can forcibly seize more of my earnings as “taxes”. They can impose regulations on every aspect of my life, including how much water my toilet can flush. And worst of all, they hold in their power the ability to determine who I may or may not choose to marry. I’m lucky enough to be in the “politically favored” rather than the “minority” status on that one, but that doesn’t in any way change the nature of democracy. While I don’t oppose the expansion of voting on fairness grounds (it should be clear that I’m against democracy on its own merits), every expansion of voting only widens the pool of people who think they can tell me what I can and cannot do.

I don’t like the idea of comparing gay marriage to democracy. After all, one of the two should be opposed. Just not the one most people think.

A Referendum on Secrecy and Entitlement

Virgina Senator Jim Webb offers up one of the best perspectives on Scott Brown’s win tonight:

Calling the race “a referendum not only on health care reform but also on the openness and integrity of our government process” Webb said Democrats need to hold off on further action until Brown is formally sworn in to the chamber.

“It is vital that we restore the respect of the American people in our system of government and in our leaders. To that end, I believe it would only be fair and prudent that we suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated,” he said.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe health care has much to do with Scott Brown’s win. It may be the issue of the day, but Brown put out a message that resonates much more deeply in the American soul:

GERGEN: If this bill fails, it could well be another 15 years before we see another health care reform in Washington. Are you willing under those circumstances to say ‘I’m going to be the person. I’m I’m going to sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat, and I’m going to be the person who’s going to block it for another fifteen years.

BROWN: Well, with all due respect it’s not the Kennedy seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat — it’s the people’s seat. And they have a chance to send someone down there who’s going to be an independent voter and an independent thinker and to look out for the best interests of the people of Massachusetts.

A month ago, this election was not even on the political radar. Martha Coakley was bound to win because the Democrats were entitled to Ted Kennedy’s seat. It was obvious that the seat would be passed from the Lion of the Senate to a political heir apparent, carrying forth his will for the next two years. How could it be any other way?

The Democrats made the mistake of making public their sense of entitlement. They pounded the idea that it was Ted Kennedy’s seat into the ground. They won in 2008 and they would keep winning. They believed they had the modern equivalent of the Chinese “Mandate of Heaven“.

The people of Massachusetts were ready to begrudgingly accept the inevitability of a Coakley win as little as two weeks ago. Then they heard a message that was as old as the American Republic: Heed no royalty. Scott Brown started campaigning for “the people’s seat” while the king-makers in the Democratic political machine were still crowing about their entitlement to “Ted Kennedy’s seat”.

But the message resonated even more deeply than that. The last decade has been one of secrecy and back-room deals designed to enrich and empower politicians at the expense of the ordinary citizen. Fourteen months ago, Barack Obama won an election on his promise to change that. So far, he has failed to live up to that promise. The people see a government united under a single political party that believes it is entitled to plow through an agenda without scrutiny from the average citizen.

Scott Brown, by running for “the people’s seat” and promising to be “the 41st vote against Obamacare”, provided the people of Massachusetts a chance to send Washington a message on secrecy and entitlement. The message was clear: enough is enough. What are the odds that the triumvirate at the top of the Federal government will heed it?

…And a Revolution Happens

Scott Brown is the senator elect from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

-30 to +5 in three weeks…

I cannot describe the kind of a change this is… Ted Kennedy held this seat from November 7th 1962, until his death in 2009… Almost 47 years…

The democrats have been calling this “Ted Kennedys seat” since his death… This is NOT Ted Kennedys seat, it is the seat of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

I have a personal connection here. I am a native of Boston, born and raised until I went to college (with some diversions into New Hampshire). Even deeper though, I come from a Massahusetts political family. My grandfather was politician in Boston, as was my great grandfather (a state rep, and delegate to the 1924 democratic election).

In 1976 my grandfather ran against Kennedy, as a conservative democrat, and of course lost. Soon after, he switched his allegiance to the Republican party.

My grandfather recognized then, that the politics of Kennedy and Carter were harmful to this country; and he made a principled stand, that essentially ended his political career (and many of his personal friendships; because he grew up in the streets, an Irish, democrat, union kid).

Today, 33 someodd years later, a man who believes… essentially as my grandfather believed in 1976 (excepting his pro-choice stance; my grandfather was a pro-life catholic ’til his death), is to be the junior senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I can honestly say, I did not believe I would live to see this day.

I think this calls for a nice bottle of Taittinger.

Mr. Brown, I raise my glass to you…

May you have the wisdom, the intelligence, the courage, and the strength of will; to go to Washington, and do right by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the people of Massachusetts, and the American people.

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

A Portent Of Things To Come?

Apparently, Ben Nelson can’t go for pizza any more:

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and his wife were leaving dinner at a new pizza joint near their home in Omaha one night last week when a patron began complaining about Nelson’s decisive vote in favor of the Senate’s health care bill.

Other customers started booing. A woman yelled, “Get him the hell out of here!” And the Nelsons and their dining companions beat a hasty retreat.

“It was definitely a scene in there,” said Tom Lewis, a 41-year-old dentist and registered Republican who witnessed the incident. A second witness confirmed the incident to POLITICO.

Now it’s time for me to go back to work on reminding Americans why there are 99 other Senators deserving this treatment.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye @ United Liberty

A doctor calls for a kinder gentler war

I regularly read the Science Based Medicine Blog since it is an interesting combination of intelligent, rational examination of medicine and the naive monstrous morals of a toddler.

This week’s column by Dr Steven Novella does not disappoint. The good doctor reviews the medical impact of modern sodium consumption and states:

As usual, the medical and regulatory communities are tasked with making sense out of chaos – with implementing bottom-line recommendations in the face of inconclusive evidence. While there remains legitimate dissent on the role of salt in vascular health, the current consensus is something like this:

  • Most of the world, including Americans and those in industrialized nations, consume more salt than appears to be necessary.
  • In the US most of that salt comes from processed or restaurant food (while in other countries, like Japan, most salt intake is added while cooking).
  • There is a plausible connection between excess salt intake, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks.
  • There is evidence to suggest that reducing overall salt intake will reduce the incidence of these health problems, but the evidence is not yet conclusive and longer term and sub-population data is needed.

Given all this it seems reasonable (from a scientific point of view – and ignoring the role of political ideology) to take steps to reduce the amount of salt in processed and restaurant food, while continuing to study the impact of such measures. But we also have to consider unintended consequences. Part of the reason salt is added to processed food is because it helps preserve it – give it a longer shelf life. People also develop a taste for salty food, and a sudden decrease in salt content may be unsatisfying, leading people to seek out higher salt foods. But these are technical problems that can be addressed.
It should also be noted that salt requirements and tolerance may vary considerably from individual to individual – based upon genetics, and certainly underlying diseases. Therefore recommendations from one’s doctor should supercede any general recommendations for the population.
In any case it seems that the War on Salt has begun. I only hope this is a war we choose to fight with science.

The last sentence left me gobsmacked. A war fought with science? Does he understand what exactly it means when a government wages war?

The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

Let’s take, for example, the war on (some) drugs. 150 years ago, if I had described the government proscribing the growth of hemp, sowing poison on illicit fields in an attempt to kill marijuana smokers, sending paramilitary forces into homes with orders to shoot first and ask questions later, and setting up checkpoints where people with large amounts of cash would have it confiscated on the grounds it must be involved in this illicit trade, it would have beggared belief. Those who lobbied for its outlawing would have denied wanting to do those things, they merely wanted to protect white women from being seduced by black jazz musicians and to preserve the social order against uppity darkies.

And once the stuff was outlawed, once the law enforcement apparatus started to wage its low level guerrilla campaign, and faced resistance the government naturally escalated, flooding the media with propaganda to buttress its position, until the war became an end to itself, with otherwise sensible people saying things like “I am a fan of freedom but we must protect the citizenry against the scourge of drugs”

I am curious why the good Dr Novella thinks that a war on salt will turn out any better than the War on Gold, the War on Sucrose, the War on Opiates, the War on Miscegenation or any of the other social crusades little petit tyrants enlist the government to engage in?

Moreover, is he blind to the fact that these wars on inanimate substances and ideas are actually wars on people? It’s not the marijuana that’s getting its child’s hand shot off in a police raid, it’s a person. It’s not the marijuana who is having their life savings confiscated, it’s the retired couple who don’t trust banks. It’s not the marijuana who has his dogs shot in his home, its the hardworking mayor of a small town.

If I were to propose a War on the North Korean Government, I would imagine that Dr Novella might be a little reluctant to support it, given the large number of innocent people who would inevitably die having been propagandized into fanatically defending the state that looted and brutalized them so thoroughly.

But here, we get nary a peep of condemnation, only a pious desire to have “science” inform the strategy of the war on a common cooking ingredient, which will really be a war on people who use to much salt (according to the government) in their food preparation.

And, I should note, this war would have savage monsters like Mary Beth Buchanan deciding what was an appropriate amount of salt, just as she decided her judgment on how much pain medicine was appropriate for patients in chronic agony was better than that of the MD’s treating them, and used that rationale as justification on her war on doctors.

Dr Novella’s blindness it encoded in an assumption in the first sentence I quoted:

As usual, the medical and regulatory communities are tasked with making sense out of chaos – with implementing bottom-line recommendations in the face of inconclusive evidence.

Why are they tasked with this? Sure, doctors are asked to give advice on questions where there is no clear answer, much like any other profession. They have the power to say “I don’t know”, however. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with doctor’s giving advice. The act of making a suggestion does not actually harm anybody.

The regulatory apparatus, on the other hand, is dangerous. When it acts, people get hurt, they go to jail, they have their finances ruined. If we assume such an apparatus should exist, then we should use it only when the harm it does is worth the benefit. Otherwise, the regulatory apparatus need do nothing! Especially where there is no overwhelming evidence to justify regulation. It’s not as if salt causes an epidemic like cholera! The notion that people with vascular disease drives up health care costs requiring such regulation is laughable. Dr Novella has never, in all the essays he has authored that I am familiar with, shown much concern with the major reasons why health care costs are so high. If anything he supports the measures that are the primary drives of the high costs.

It is a shame that otherwise rational people fail to learn the lessons of history. Their blindness would not be so bothersome, if it weren’t for the fact that their hands are helping aim the guns pointed at us.

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.

Alabama — We Have Nothing Better To Do

Warren, the blogger and small businessman behind Coyote Blog, does business in a number of states. Alabama, which is a relatively new state for him (6 months), just sent him a notice that he was being audited for his business over the last three years in Alabama. He called to clear this up, and was told:

But here is the part that really pissed me off. When I asked him why I was being audited after just 6 months, he said he knew the audit was senseless but his office is desperately trying to keep everyone employed during recent budget cuts so that no one would lose their job. Also he said is was good training for him. Great. I have to do 6 hours of extra work so that later I can pay higher state taxes to support more government workers. What a deal.

Foes of government “stimulus” scoff at the idea that government should employ people counter-cyclically doing things like digging holes and then filling them up…

…but I think Coyote would have preferred that to wasting his time.

Reporting On Stimulus Jobs Becomes Even Less Useful

I suspect we’ll see a corresponding shift in the rhetoric. Instead of Obama saying the stimulus “created or saved X million jobs”, he’ll say the stimulus “put X million Americans to work.”

Either way, it’s still a joke:

When the White House unveiled its nearly $800 billion stimulus package last year, it promised not only to create and save 3.5 million jobs but also to open the books and prove it. But counting jobs turned out to be a lot harder than lining up a work crew and tapping hardhats.

Now, the White House says it will no longer keep a cumulative tally of jobs created and saved by the stimulus. Instead, it will post only a count of jobs for each quarter.

And instead of counting only created and saved jobs, it will count any person who works on a project funded with stimulus money—even if that person was never in danger of losing his or her job.

The new rules came out last month in a little-noticed memo (PDF) sent to federal agencies by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. OMB said it changed the guidelines to prevent the kinds of errors and confusion that occurred when the first job counts came out in October.

I’m sure the administration knew all along that they’d get skewered for whatever number they put out, especially when recovery.gov started showing money going to non-existent Congressional districts*. But I think this change shows that they just don’t care about justifying the funding any more.

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein
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