Monthly Archives: April 2011

Birthers Got Punk’d, Yo!

When I woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that Obama had released his birth certificate, I’ll admit that I was a bit confused.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
-Napoleon Bonaparte

It seemed to me at the time that the birther distraction was helping Obama greatly, siphoning away reasoned political opposition to his policies and making the fringe of the Republican and Tea Parties the primary focus of the public eye. Even moreso that Donald Trump had picked up the charge. The face of the right became Orly Taitz and Donald Trump, much as the face of the left had become Cindy Sheehan and Dennis Kucinich towards the end of the Bush years. It’s never a bad idea to paint your ideological opponents as crazy; it’s especially effective when they cooperate. The birthers are no different than the truthers or the “selected, not elected” morons. They accomplish exactly nothing but tarnish the reputation of people who have legitimate beefs with an administration.

Obama releasing the certificate seemed to me to be likely to take the wind out of the sails of the birther movement — it seemed to take the “crazy” off the political table. I thought that the crazy wouldn’t simply double-down, but as Obama has proven over the last few days, I was wrong.

The birthers have taken a non-issue and allowed it to paint Obama as the victim of racism. Then, just when they were gaining steam, Obama “gave in to their demands” in a political move intended to look like he’s taking the high road. The proper move from the birthers would be to walk away. Instead, they’ve pressed on even harder [and crazier] and it makes Obama look like even more of a victim than before.

So here’s my message to the birthers: You got played like a fiddle. You were, and you continue, to work for Obama’s ends rather than against them by distracting the nation from legitimate criticism of his policies. And as much as you think you’ve got ironclad evidence that Obama isn’t qualified to hold office, you — like the 9/11 truthers before you — are never going to win.

Let it go.

The Inflation Won’t Come From The Fed

Everyone knows the Fed is pushing Quantitative Easing. By that, it means that when America is having trouble selling T-bills at advantageous interest rates, the Fed prints up some money to keep demand. It buys the bonds with newly-printed money. The recent run was $600B or so, and the Fed’s current balance sheet holds about $2.7T in assets (that they can choose to hold as long as they find prudent — since they print the money to keep them and/or roll them over).

But what if I told you that there was another $11T of outstanding US dollars* out there in the world, and that everyone except the US has a say in whether they are circulated. In fact, that those dollars are sitting on foreign soil is a very good thing for the US and has been for decades, but it’s not assured it will last forever. As I said WAAAY back in 2007:

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

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

Inflation benefits those who see the money first — in this case, Americans who used that money to buy durable goods from overseas. It has the least benefit for those who see the money last. To date, that has been forex reserves, sovereign wealth funds, etc. But should those foreign nations decide they no longer want to hold US dollars, they’ll spend them right back into circulation — and they’ll eventually want us to sell them goods in exchange for those dollars.

If that happens, the inflation comes full circle and we feel it right here at home — without the Fed ever releasing the $2.7T they have on their balance sheet.

We’ve spent the last four decades, ever since Nixon “closed the gold window”, sending dollars abroad to other nations who stick them under their mattresses. This has been the persistent trade deficit we’ve held. Sure, some of those dollars came back to be lent to our own government to finance even MORE spending that didn’t come from the American people, but much of them quite literally got shoved under the mattress.

What happens if they want to spend those dollars? Well, dollar-denominated assets and goods produced in the US will rise in price. Oil, gold, silver, food (produced in the US), etc. Look at gold, for example: In the last year, gold has increased in dollar terms by over 32%, but by less than 8% in Swiss francs. USD vs other currencies show similar (but smaller) gaps. What can explain this? Well, if nothing else, that big buyers like China and India are using their dollar surplus, rather than their reserves in other currencies, to buy gold.

Where’s the endgame if this dollar-spending widens? Well, eventually those dollars are sold to people who don’t want to buy goods from China or US T-Bills: they want to buy US exports or US assets. That sounds good, of course; everyone likes exports! But is it good? Restate it this way: a durable good (i.e. product of American workers’ output) needs to be produced to leave our shores, and it increases the circulating money supply in the USA. The good we produce here is enjoyed elsewhere, while the increased money supply makes our own goods at home more expensive.

We change from trading our paper for other nations’ hard work to trading our hard work for our own paper back.

The endgame is the end of trade deficits, where we work harder as a nation to supply the rest of the world with goods in exchange for a lower standard of living here. That doesn’t sound good to me at all.

America has enjoyed a very privileged position in the world, and that position has only been possible from two things: other nations have trusted us and they’ve had no other options. The first is eroding to the point where they’re looking for the second. If we want to continue enjoying our position in the world, we need to convince the rest of the world that holding the US Dollar as a reserve currency benefits them — and neither trillion Dollar deficits as far as the eye can see or quantitative easing accomplish that.

When the inflation comes, it’s not going to be the Fed printing money — it’s going to be other nations sending us the money printed over four decades and expecting to buy something with it.
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Donald Trump: Corporatist Bully

I do not like Donald Trump. I don’t dislike him because of his wealth; he probably earned most of his wealth honestly. Some dislike Trump because he is a self promoter. I don’t dislike Trump for this reason either. Many successful individuals are great at self promotion and developing a successful brand (a very good attribute to have to have a successful political campaign).

No, the reason I really dislike Donald Trump – even putting aside his becoming the new face of the Birther movement in recent weeks, his support of the auto bailouts, raising taxes, his anti-free trade proposal that would place a 25% tariff on all Chinese products, and his support for single payer universal healthcare – is quite simply that he is a corporatist bully.

For those who don’t quite understand the difference between a capitalist and a corporatist, I highly encourage you to read Brad’s post “Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism.” This distinction is an important one. Donald Trump is the poster child for what many on the Left as a greedy capitalist; a caricature of everything that is wrong with capitalism as preached by the Ralph Naders and Michael Moores of the world.

But those of us who know better know that Donald Trump isn’t a capitalist at all but a corporatist. Trump doesn’t try to work within a framework of a free market as a true capitalist would, but like far too many businessmen, he uses his wealth and influence to encourage the government to work on his behalf to his advantage (and at the expense of anyone else who would dare get in his way).

In the early 1990’s, an elderly widow by the name of Vera Coking was in the way. Coking’s home that she had lived in for 30 years was on a plot of land that the Donald coveted. The Donald wanted the property so he could add a limousine parking area to one of his Atlantic City casinos. When Coking turned down his $1 million offer to buy the property, the Donald decided to enlist the help of his goons on the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Authority. In 1994, these government thugs filed a lawsuit to take Coking’s property for $251,000 and gave her 90 days to leave her property (if she were to stay beyond the 90 days, men in uniforms with guns would forcibly remove her from her home).

Fortunately, Coking’s case gained enough media publicity to gain the attention and help of The Institute for Justice (think a more libertarian ACLU with a focus on property rights). With the IJ’s help, Coking was able to keep her property. In 1998, a judge made a decision that turned out to be final finding that the Donald’s limousine parking area was not a “public use.”

John Stossel confronted the Donald about his failed attempts to take the widow’s home away; he reprinted this exchange in his book Give Me A Break on pages 152 and 153:

Donald Trump: Do you want to live in a city where you can’t build roads or highways or have access to hospitals? Condemnation is a necessary evil.

John Stossel: But we’re not talking about a hospital. This is a building a rich guy finds ugly.

Donald Trump: You’re talking about at the tip of this city, lies a little group of terrible, terrible tenements – just terrible stuff, tenement housing.

John Stossel: So what!

Donald Trump: So what?…Atlantic City does a lot less business, and senior citizens get a lot less money and a lot less taxes and a lot less this and that.

Earlier in the book (page 25) Stossel gives his impressions of this confrontational interview:

Donald Trump was offended when I called him a bully for trying to force an old lady out of her house to make more room for his Atlantic City casino. After the interview, the producer stayed behind to pack up our equipment. Trump came back into the room, puffed himself up, and started blustering, “Nobody talks to me that way!”

Well, someone should.

Had this case taken place after Kelo, the Donald may well have prevailed. In the wake of the Kelo decision, Neil Cavuto interviewed the Donald on Fox News (7/19/05) to get his reaction.

Trump:

I happen to agree with [the Kelo decision] 100 percent, not that I would want to use it. But the fact is, if you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it’s local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make area that’s not good into a good area, and move the person that’s living there into a better place — now, I know it might not be their choice — but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.

Donald Trump is not one who respects property rights (other than his own). “Tremendous economic development” and “jobs” are great reasons to employ the full police power of government to take away someone’s property in the Donald’s world view.

I shudder to think of what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. Imagine the Donald with control of our CIA and our military. The Donald doesn’t have any problem using force to get what the Donald wants.

Now consider President Trump with a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. What sort of Justice would he appoint? Most likely one who would view Kelo quite favorably.

This bully, Donald Trump is the guy who is polling second place in some early Republican primary polls? Wake the hell up Republicans!

Ron Paul To Announce Presidential Bid

National Journal is reporting that Ron Paul will announce the formation of a Presidential Exploratory Committee tomorrow in Iowa:

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, whose outspoken libertarian views and folksy style made him a cult hero during two previous presidential campaigns, will announce on Tuesday that he’s going to try a third time.

Sources close to Paul, who is in his 12th term in the House, said he will unveil an exploratory presidential committee, a key step in gearing up for a White House race. He will also unveil the campaign’s leadership team in Iowa, where the first votes of the presidential election will be cast in caucuses next year.

Paul, 75, ran as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, finishing with less than one half a percent of the vote. After more than a decade as a Republican congressman, Paul gave it another shot in the 2008 presidential election, gaining attention for being the only Republican candidate calling for the end to the war in Iraq and for his “money bomb” fundraising strategy, which brought in millions of dollars from online donors in single-day pushes.

Paul took 10 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and 8 percent in New Hampshire’s primary. He finished second, with 14 percent of the vote, in the Nevada caucuses, and eventually finished fourth in the Republican nominating process with 5.6 percent of the total vote. Paul’s campaign book, The Revolution: A Manifesto also reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list in 2008.

An exploratory committee is one step below an actual campaign, but it seems likely that Paul is running, at least for now. Personally, for the reasons I mentioned last week, I am inclined to support Gary Johnson rather than Congressman Paul, but the more the merrier.

Quote Of The Day

Why we should go after the online poker vendors:

There are plenty of victims of (allegedly) illegal online poker, starting with the desperately-short-of-cash federal and state governments which are deprived of all the taxable revenue ($3 billion, say the feds) from the now-suspected operations. And just ask casino and horse racing executives what they think of the way online poker operators have taken advantage of Congressional fecklessness on the topic.

I can just imagine the response: “It cost a lot of good goddamn lobbying money to to set up these legal gambling monopolies, and now these poker sites want to get in on the action without ponying up the green? F’ em.”

Oh, that’s actually the response from Congress. My bad.

Former Governor Gary Johnson Announces Candidacy For President

The field of candidates for the GOP nomination for President got a little more palatable to libertarians today when former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for President at an event in New Hampshire:

Gary Johnson is running for president.

The former New Mexico governor — who favors legalizing marijuana — on Thursday skipped the step of an exploratory committee, saying bluntly on Twitter: “I am running for president.”

That coincided with a speech in front of the New Hampshire statehouse, which made Johnson the first Republican to launch an official presidential campaign. On his new campaign website, Johnson positions himself as “The People’s President,” laying out libertarian-leaning stances on deficit reduction, education, taxes and drug policy.

The campaign went live with a website almost immediately after Johnson began speaking this morning, and his Issues page will give you an idea of just how different Johnson is from most of the other likely candidates on the GOP side:

Gary’s track record speaks volumes.

He has been an outspoken advocate for efficient government, lower taxes, winning the war on drug abuse, protection of civil liberties, revitalization of the economy and promoting entrepreneurship and privatization.

As Governor of New Mexico, Johnson was known for his common-sense business approach to governing. He eliminated New Mexico’s budget deficit, cut the rate of growth in state government in half and privatized half of the state prisons.

Johnson isn’t likely to be the only libertarian-leaning Republican throwing his hat in the ring. It’s becoming rather apparent that Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who became an unlikely superstar during the 2008 campaign will throw his hat in the ring once again. If that happens, then Paul and Johnson would be essentially competing for the same voters and, as Slate’s David Weigel notes, Johnson would need to find a way to differentiate himself from Paul, who is not viewed very favorably by Republicans outside of his own followers.

Personally, I think Johnson is a better standard bearer for libertarian-leaning Republicans than Ron Paul for a whole host of  reasons. For one thing, he’s younger, which is no small thing when you’re talking about a Presidential campaign. While he was able to hold large rallies on college campuses across the country, Ron Paul didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm in 2008 for the kind of retail politics that you have to engage in when you’re running for President.

The other thing that differentiates Johnson from Paul is that Johnson doesn’t come with any baggage. The topic of Ron Paul’s support from extremist, racist, groups and the long history of the newsletter that he published in between his two stints in Congress were frequently discussed here during the 2008 campaign and they were, I think, one of the reasons that Paul wasn’t taken seriously outside of his energetic circle of supporters, many of whom behaved in a way that quite frankly was an embarrassment to the guy they were supporting. Johnson has none of that. Instead he has a successful business career and eight years as a Republican Governor in a state that, at the time, still leaned Democratic. He vetoed more bills than any other Governor. He came out in favor of marijuana legalization while he was in office. Heck, the guy climbed Mount Everest. That all makes for a compelling media story, all without the weird Ron Paul like baggage.

There’s no doubt that Johnson has an uphill fight ahead of him. His name recognition among likely Republican voters is in the teens, and his name hasn’t been included in most recent polls, although that’s likely to change now. However, he’s got a unique message and a solid record. Keep an eye on this guy.

Here’s the video of today’s announcement:

Tu Quoque

A glib question has made the rounds of right-wing blogs over the last two years, asking “Where has the anti-war movement gone?” Megan McArdle uses the question today to introduce a potential answer.

As for me, I rarely bring up such trivialities, because the response you usually get from a leftist is “yeah, well why didn’t you guys on the right care about deficits and spending when Bush was in office?”

Despite the fact that I did care, the question stands.

Is the left hypocritical to care about ending the war until one of their own is in the White House? Yes. Is the right hypocritical to stay silent about the Bush/Republican spending and now throw a fit when a Democrat is in the White House? Yes. Is it doubly hypocritical to call out your opponents for behavior that you’ve just spent 8 years emulating? Yes. It’s a logical fallacy known as a tu quoque, but the question still stands; pointing out your opponents hypocrisy doesn’t excuse your own.

McArdle quotes a post from an antiwar activist who interviewed an academic researcher who has published on this topic. And I think the point is highly instructive:

“As long as voters remain highly polarized along party lines,” he responded by e-mail, “self-identified Democrats are unlikely to protest against Obama’s policies, even if they disagree with some of them strongly. A sudden end to the era of partisan polarization seems highly unlikely. So I would say that it is a very good bet that Obama will not confront large left-wing demonstrations. Of course, LBJ faced large left-wing demonstrations, but the party system was not polarized back then in the way that it is today.”

The same dynamics apply to the Tea Party: “Our analysis implies that the Tea Party will have a lower degree of organization and success in 2012 than it did in 2010. Because the Republicans won the House and made gains in the Senate, Tea Party activists feel much less threatened today than they did a year ago. So, while the Tea Party will obviously be around in 2012 — and it will likely factor into the Republican presidential contest — our analysis suggests that the Tea Party will not generate the same level of enthusiasm next year as it did last year.”

I disagree with his point about the Tea Party, though, as the “public face” of the government is invariably the Presidency, and that will continue through 2012 — including very contentious negotiations over budget matters and a Senate still in Democratic hands. However, should Obama be voted out of office and Republicans take over government, I believe no level of spending or debt will keep the Tea Party’s activism fully fueled.

I don’t play this “gotcha” game because I understand that it’s all deeply rooted in human tribal tendencies. We divide the world into “us vs. them”, and rationalize away the bad things “our guy” does because there must have been a good reason for it, while impugning the motives of what “their guy” does because he’s obviously got ulterior motives. Libertarians, IMHO, are a bit more naturally attuned to see this behavior for what it is, because almost everyone in the world is a “them” politically to us. However, try criticizing Ron Paul, or the Liberty Dollar, or suggesting that Atlas Shrugged might not be a great and insightful movie*, and watch the knives come out as you become a “them”.

Rather we should accept that this tendency exists, so that we can try to guard against it in our own hearts. The answer to being called out for hypocrisy shouldn’t be to point out that your opponents are also hypocritical as if it’s an excuse — it should be to evaluate your own hypocrisy and stamp it out — even if the means you’ll need to go against “your party” to do so.

What’s The Problem, Revenue Or Spending?

I got into it a bit over at Drum’s place, where commenters are arguing that the S&P is a bunch of GOP plants because of the negative outlook report. Given that I spent some time analyzing historical revenue & spending tables with a calculator to generate one of my comments, I wanted to expand on it here.

The CBO expects GDP to grow from $14.9T in 2011 to $22.5T in 2020, an annual growth rate of over 4%, and expects deficits as a percentage of GDP to return to more sustainable levels slightly north 3%. This, of course, assumes the Medicare “Doc Fix” actually goes into effect, and all the temporary stimulus and the extension of Bush tax rates expire at the end of 2011 and 2012, respectively. I suspect it’s unlikely all three events occur. In addition, they assume that rates of growth in discretionary spending programs track inflation, while discretionary spending growth has averaged well above this (7.5%) over the last decade. (Note — it’s unclear in this data set whether the overall spending numbers, i.e. overall GDP, are inflation-adjusted. I assume so if they are calculating a 4% growth rate, unless they are projecting inflation less than 1.5% per year over the course of the decade.)

The S&P says the US debt outlook is ugly and not expected to improve. The S&P considers 4% growth to be their optimistic scenario, and doesn’t see long-term deficits even optimistically to drop below 4%:

In our baseline macroeconomic scenario of near 3% annual real growth, we expect the general government deficit to decline gradually but remain slightly higher than 6% of GDP in 2013. As a result, net general government debt would reach 84% of GDP by 2013. In our macroeconomic forecast’s optimistic scenario (assuming near 4% annual real growth), the fiscal deficit would fall to 4.6% of GDP by 2013, but the U.S.’s net general government debt would still rise to almost 80% of GDP by 2013. In our pessimistic scenario (a mild, one-year double-dip recession in 2012), the deficit would be 9.1%, while net debt would surpass 90% by 2013. Even in our optimistic scenario, we believe the U.S.’s fiscal profile would be less robust than those of other ‘AAA’ rated sovereigns by 2013.

As an example, I ran some numbers on Real US GDP values from 1969->2010, and calculated a compound annual growth rate for the general economy of around 2.79% (Note — I’m not 100% sure of the validity of my data set there, so if someone in the comments wants to check my work, feel free). I think a baseline of 4% GDP growth is wildly optimistic at this point, unless we experience a technology-based productivity shift on par with that we experienced in the 1990’s. I can’t say I see where that change would come from, but then again if I could see where that change may happen, I’d be spending my time investing in it rather than blogging!

Even with those assumptions, where does spending fall historically? Even at these rosy projections, it never falls under 22% of GDP (on par with the highest spending the country has seen since WWII), and those rosy projections came in January 2010. A year later, in January 2011, the CBO outlook got worse. It now shows spending never falling under 23% of GDP during the decade 2011-2020. Historically, spending has not exceeded 23% of GDP for a single year between 1946 and 2008.

For comparison, the stretch of 1996 to 2007 — a subset in those years being the only period of my lifetime where the US gov’t had run a surplus — government spending never exceeded 20% of GDP. We certainly had a negative GDP shock in 2009, and some stimulus programs to go with it, but that doesn’t explain why government should jump by more than 3% of GDP for the decade following.

Where has revenue been over the last few decades? Well, for the years 1991-2000, during which time we suffered one mild recession followed by the tech bubble, total government revenue averaged 18.75% of GDP. For the years 2001-2010, where we dealt with the tech bubble collapse followed by the subprime bubble and then crash, total government revenue averaged 17.07% of GDP. A sizeable drop, to be sure (the worst spots being 2009 & 2010, where the financial crash slammed revenue below 15% of GDP). But fundamentally not that far out of line with historical precedent.

The CBO projections for revenue — assuming the expiration of all the temporary tax stimulus programs at the end of 2011 and the expiration of Bush tax rates at the end of 2012, have revenue exceeding 20% of GDP for the latter half of the decade — which has only occurred since WWII in the years 1952 and 2000. Their projections show tax revenues sustaining well above historical norms as a percentage of GDP, and assuming Real GDP even somewhat approximates their projections, revenues that will be at inflation-adjusted levels well higher than the nation has ever seen.

So where is the problem, on the revenue side or on the spending side? Well, revenue in both percentage of GDP and in inflation-adjusted dollar amounts will be well above historical norms, assuming “optimistic” revenue numbers for the government (expiration of Bush tax rates). Yet spending will still outclass revenue by over 3% of GDP per year with no end in sight. Even if we rescind the Bush tax cuts, pushing revenue to a level this nation has NEVER seen outside of WWII, we’re still unable to pay for the government our Congress demands, because those demands reach sustained levels never seen in the nation’s history with the exception of WWII.

The S&P is right. We have no plan to get our fiscal house in order, and given that we’re adding onto debt levels (public debt held as a percent of GDP) that are well beyond those of other sovereign AAA-rated bonds, one wonders how they can continue to justify our rating. This is a nightmare scenario unlike this country has probably ever seen, and if it doesn’t get addressed, we may be seeing the end of America as we know it.

Revenue is NOT the problem. We need to fix the spending.

Quote Of The Day

In my post on alternate voting systems, I called the Republicans and Democrats the “beast with two asses”, making an allusion to the old “making the beast with two backs” euphemism for sex. However, I think I’ve got an, ahem, more colorful example that works better:

American democracy is a threesome where the Republicans and Democrats are fingercuffing the American People.

YMMV — Insert “eiffel towering” if it’s your preferred innuendo.

TLP Contributor Stephen Gordon Injured In Car Accident

Via Jason Pye, I’m passing along news that many of you may already be aware of:

Stephen Gordon, a very good friend of mine and fellow libertarian, was involved in a serious car accident on Tuesday evening in his hometown of Hartselle, Alabama. From what I’ve been told, a truck crossed over into his lane and hit him head on, causing his car to flip. In addition to Steve’s lungs collapsing, he suffered broken ribs and a broken ankle. He was airlifted to a hospital in Huntsville and is in critical, but stable condition. The good news is his prognosis is positive.

I know I speak for everyone at The Liberty Papers when I say that we pass along our thoughts and prayers for Steve’s recovery.

Preference Voting — Darling Of The LP, But Does It Work?

Anyone who’s read my work here over the years will have realized that I’m not very interested in political horse races. It’s not to say that I don’t think there is some importance to them (as several contributors here do pay close attention), but that others can cover that stuff far better than I can, and at the end of the day it interests me not at all.

What does interest me is structures and incentives. I don’t think we’ll be able to make a meaningful change in the direction of this country unless we find a way to get the Republican/Democrat “Beast with Two Asses” to relinquish control and have actual diversity in Congress.

The structure of our government is such that it naturally trends towards a two-party system. The centrism of the American populace aligns those two parties into a nominal one-party system, standing a few steps for and a few steps aft of the mast of the Big Government yacht, but all riding in the exact same direction. Anyone who would dare rock the boat is purged.

So how do we fix this? Well, one option is replacing “first past the post” voting with ranked balloting. The sad truth of standard plurality elections in a dominant two-party system is that voting for a third party is a vote against your preferred of the two candidates. If you want the LP to win but could live with the Republican, voting Libertarian makes it more, not less, likely a Democrat will be elected instead. In ranked voting, you rank your acceptable candidates by preference, so ranking your LP candidate first and the Republican candidate second allows your second vote to stand should the Libertarian lose.

The question is — would it make a difference? The answer, unfortunately, is likely no:

But instead, the version being offered in Britain will allow voters to write in a first preference, and leave all others blank: the professor calls this practice “plumping.”

This is very significant, Mr Bogdanor argues, and he has the data to back this up. He notes that the stated purpose of AV is to avoid the anomaly by which a candidate can win a constituency on a minority of the vote.

However, he explains, it is not correct to say that AV ensures every MP is elected by a majority. In the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, “plumping” is allowed in elections to state legislatures. And where it is allowed, it is very common. He records:

The greater the degree of plumping, the more an alternative vote election turns into a first past the post election…In Queensland, in 2009, where the Labor Party advised its supporters to “Just Vote 1″, to give Labor their first preference and not to give a preference to any other candidate, around 63% of voters plumped. Even where a party does offer advice, that advice may be ignored. In Queensland, the Greens advised that second preferences be given to Labor, but 46% of Green voters decided to plump

There are many arguments for and against AV. Many will be rehearsed here over the next few weeks (you lucky people). But for now, consider this possibility: by avoiding a dreadful form of AV (one which would make the use of all preferences obligatory), British backers of AV may have chosen a system that amounts to a gussied-up form of FPTP with added complexity and aggravation.

In a system built to be dominated by two parties at the Congressional level (not at the district level), we don’t have a system requiring multiple minority parties to work together to “create a government”. That’s more of a parliamentary system with proportional representation. Nor do we, as Americans enamored with representative democracy, seem to want that — we want to elect AN individual to represent OUR OWN interests in Washington [not that this actually happens, of course].

So it’s quite likely that Republicans and Democrats will each put their own party and zero other candidates on a ranked ballot. Those of us outside the two main parties will put our third-party preference and our second choice on a ranked ballot. And at the end of the day, you’ll end up with a Congress filled with the same Republicans and Democrats we started with. In the few cases where a minority party candidate is elected (say, for example, where a popular main-party candidate is skewered in the primary and goes third-party), it may make it easier to end up in office, but still isn’t a major change to the system.

I’m a fan of changing structure, and I see the allure of preference voting. In fact, I think preference voting is a worthy change. But I think that preference voting, in and of itself, would have effectively zero impact on the American political landscape. For it to be important, it would have to be paired with other structural changes that would improve the likelihood that minority parties would end up with a seat at the table. Like most things with the $3.5T Leviathan, it’ll take more than preference voting to make a real difference.

Thank You!

To all who participated in our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I’d like to give a warm and hearty Thank You!

We were able to surpass our goal and bring in $520 for the organization, and I believe the entire fundraiser successfully exceeded their organizational goal of $20K.

We here at TLP are honored to have readers who were willing to do more than talk about liberty and justice, but who are willing to actually put their hard-earned dollars on the line to help it be achieved.

UPDATE: Crystal Mangum’s Boyfriend Reginald Daye Has Died

Just last week I wrote about the false Duke lacrosse accuser, Crystal Mangum being charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.” Durham police are now “more than likely” going to charge Mangum with murder since her alleged victim and boyfriend Reginald Daye has died.

Maria White writing for CNN reports:

(CNN) — A man who police say was recently stabbed by the accuser in the 2006 Duke University lacrosse scandal has died, the Durham County, North Carolina, medical examiner’s office confirmed Thursday.

Reginald Daye, 46, died Wednesday at Duke University Hospital as a result of the stabbing earlier this month, Durham police said.

[…]

Mangum, 32, was placed in the Durham County Jail without bond. As of Thursday morning, no additional warrant had been served against Mangum. Her next court date is April 25, officials said.

“The case remains under investigation and we do anticipate upgrading the charges,” police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said. “No new charges have been filed at this time and there is no court hearing scheduled for today.”

Not surprisingly, Nancy Grace hasn’t written a word about this latest chapter of this ongoing saga, neither on blog nor on her Twitter account (though the above story was linked from her blog so I guess I can grudgingly give her some credit for that).

Hat Tip: Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway

A modest proposal

Following along the lines of Glenn Reynolds’ proposal of a 50% surtax on the earnings of former government officials, here’s my modest proposal for our elected officials:

For 10 years after leaving office, each elected official shall pay the highest income tax rate for which he cast a “yes” vote. Same goes for a president signing a tax rate into law.

If Nancy Pelosi cast a vote to raise the top income tax bracket to 75%, *she* would pay 75%. If Harry Reid voted for a top tax bracket of 55%, *he* would pay 55%.

Why should we allow our legislators to demand sacrifices of innocent citizens that they are not willing to make themselves?

Last Call to Meet Our $500 Goal/Life After Exoneration

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I had tried to dedicate at least one post per week over the last four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. With today being the last day of this fundraising campaign, 228 “Innocence Partners” combined efforts has raised nearly $15,000 of the $20,000 target. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $375 – 75% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

Believe it or not, in the time we joined this campaign nearly a month ago to help The Innocence Project, 2 individuals have been exonerated as a direct result of The Innocence Project’s help!

In case you are wondering what $20,000 can accomplish (the overall campaign’s goal), this is how far The Innocence Project says the money can go:

• Pay for post-conviction DNA testing that may prove innocence for 4 clients.

• Provide 16 exonerees with basic needs including food, rent, and transportation for the first month after release.

• Cover the costs to send 20 exonerees to testify before state legislatures to reform the criminal justice system.

• Send 25 local advocates to an Innocence Project training to learn how to advance wrongful conviction reforms in their state.

• Allow a staff attorney to represent 5 clients.

• Enable staff to advocate for wrongful conviction reforms in 6 states.

In this series of posts, I covered some of the reforms and issues The Innocence Project has been trying to bring to light such as compensation for the wrongfully convicted, eyewitness misidentification, and false confessions. Rather than doing a rush job writing a final piece for the series, I encourage everyone to follow this link for the Frontline episode entitled “Burden of Innocence” (I couldn’t find a nifty player to embed the episode into this post but you can watch the episode in its entirety there). This episode deals with life after these individuals have been exonerated and their struggles to reenter and rejoin free society. It seems that there is much work that needs to be done here as well.

Duke Accuser Crystal Mangum Charged with Stabbing Boyfriend


To this very day, there are individuals* who try to hold the Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum up as a “victim” despite the fact that her gang rape accusations against the players were completely untrue. Crystal Mangum is NOT a victim but a menace to society. Not only did she falsely accuse these young men and do her best to ruin their reputations but she has since been convicted of child abuse and injury to personal property. She was also charged with arson but the charge was dropped because the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict.

Now the sainted** Crystal Mangum has been charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.”

WUSA 9 Reports:

DURHAM, NC (WRAL/CBS) – For the second time in 14 months, the Durham woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape has been charged with assaulting a man with whom she was living.

Crystal Mangum, 32, was charged Sunday with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. A judge set a $300,000 bond for her on Monday.

Police said Mangum stabbed Reginald Daye, 46, in the torso with a kitchen knife during a dispute at 3507 Century Oaks Drive early Sunday.

Daye was taken to Duke University Hospital to be treated for serious injuries, and Mangum was arrested in a nearby apartment.

His condition was unknown Monday.

A man who said he was Daye’s nephew called 911 to report the stabbing, saying it occurred while Daye and his girlfriend were arguing about rent money. The caller said police were called earlier while the couple argued, but the stabbing occurred after the officers left.

Notice that the alleged victim in this story was named? Mangum’s identity was not revealed when she was the alleged victim thanks to these absurd “rape shield” policies many media outlets follow. Another thing I have noticed in some of the coverage is that some of Mangum’s supporters are cautioning the media not to rush to judgment; she is innocent until proven guilty. These supporters are right of course, but where was this concern when the Duke athletes were made pariahs?

And where is Nancy Grace? Before writing this post, I took a look at her website, blog, and Twitter feed and didn’t find one mention of Crystal Mangum anywhere. It could be that she hasn’t had the opportunity to get into this case, perhaps she will be leading the charge to convict Crystal Mangum in the court of public opinion tonight on her television show?

I have my doubts.

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