Category Archives: Blog Discussions

Open Thread Question of the Day: To Whom or What Do You Pledge Your Allegiance?

I was listening to the local talk show host on my way to work this morning and the topic was the ongoing saga surrounding the auto makers. This particular talk show host is a very pro-union “buy American” (and therefore anti-free trade) kind of guy in the mold of Lou Dobbs. As I pulled into my parking space, he posed 2 questions 1.) To whom or what do YOU pledge your allegiance and 2.) To whom or what do these multi-national corporations pledge their allegiance?

My response was an immediate “to myself and to my family, but certainly not the federal government of the US!” (for many of the same reasons that tarran so eloquently explained). I’m quite certain that this is not a response this talk show host would appreciate. I’m also quite certain that in his view, these corporations are supposed to “provide American jobs” no matter how costly and no matter how much the federal government punishes them with taxes and regulations. To suggest that a business should make its first loyalty to pursuing profits for shareholders would be heretical! These populist propagandists ask such questions of these businesses but fail to ask the question of government “to whom or what does Washington pledge its allegiance?” (Hint: it certainly isn’t to free market principles or liberty).

After thinking about the question a little longer, I concluded that my allegiances are as follows: myself*, my family, and the defense of the principles of life, liberty, property and justice for all**.

Now I pose this question to you, the reader: To whom or what do you pledge your allegiance?

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Open Thread Question of the Day: How Can We Fix Our Prisons?

Our prison system, holding nearly 25% of the worlds reported prisoners, may seem like an April fool’s joke but certainly is not a laughing matter. I’m in the early stages of writing a post in response to Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) recent article in Parade entitled: Why We Must Fix Our Prisons.

Sen. Webb is looking for some recommendations on how to reform the prison system so I thought it would be interesting to solicit some ideas from readers and fellow Liberty Papers contributors. The following is the specific questions Sen. Webb wants to answer:

I am now introducing legislation that will create a national commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make specific recommendations about how we can reform the process. This commission will be tasked with giving us clear answers to hard questions, including:

Why are so many Americans currently in prison compared with other countries and our own history?

What is this policy costing our nation, both in tax dollars and in lost opportunities?

How can we reshape our nation’s drug policies?

How can we better diagnose and treat mental illness?

How can we end violence within prisons and increase the quality of prison administrators?

How can we build workable re-entry programs so that our communities can assimilate former offenders and encourage them to become productive citizens?

How can we defend ourselves against the growing scourge of violent, internationally based gang activity?

The more specific your answers, the better. I’ll refrain from posting here as I will answer these questions and more in my upcoming post.

Great Idea from the Left: Have Candidates Sign Pledges to Increase Taxes and Spending

pledgeWhile trashing a positive review of a Republican candidate I just wrote over at The Next Right, the good folks over at The American Prospect inadvertently came up with a good idea.  I was describing a recent conversation with Tim James, who is running for governor in Alabama:

When I had the opportunity, I asked James if I could ask him a quick question.  “Sure,” he replied.  The question I lobbed at him was whether or not he would absolutely commit to not increasing taxes if elected governor.

“No problem,” he responded.  “Got a tougher one?”

I pitched the second question a bit harder, but his response came as quickly as the first one.  I asked if he’d commit to not increasing state spending.  “That’s easy,” he said. “You got a tough one for me, now?”

“Okay,” I responded, and threw him a bit of a curveball.  “Would you mind signing a pledge to this effect?”

“I’d love to…,” he stated. Later on, we set up a telephone call to deal with speaking arrangements for an upcoming event and the pledge issue.

It all seems so flippant. Even given the conservative predilection for smaller governments and the ubiquity of Grover Norquist'[s] conservative loyalty oaths, is it wise for any potential chief executive to completely tie their hands, especially in a time of recession? It speaks to a rigid ideological prism rather than the attitude of addressing problems on their own merits.

Now here’s where the awesome idea comes from (emphasis added):

Most of America’s successful conservative executives would have violated both of those pledges; it’s as foolish a set of strictures as if Democrats demanded that their candidates sign pledges to raise taxes and increase spending.

The idea isn’t as foolish as Fernholz suggests.  According to the Americans for Tax Reform website, “The idea of the Pledge is simple enough: Make them put their no-new-taxes rhetoric in writing.”  For the sake of simple honesty, I’d love to see candidates running on tax-and-spending-increase rhetoric.

If today’s Democrats (along with Republicans such as Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter) wish to outspend even the Republicans on corporate bailouts and stimulate the economy with trillions of dollars we don’t have, why not at least be honest about it?  Here’s an applicable rewrite of Grover Norquist’s gubernatorial pledge for candidates running on a big-government platform:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the State of ________, that I will support and sign any and all efforts to increase taxes.

I also like the Republican Liberty Caucus pledge.  Here’s the new Slavery Compact:

Decrease liberty, not promote it; expand government, not shrink it; increase taxes, don’t cut them; create programs, not abolish them; despoil the freedom and independence of citizens, increasing the interference of government in their lives; and absolutely disregard the limited, enumerated powers of our Constitution, not promote them.

If politicians are going to legislate and govern expansive and ever expanding government programs, it sure would be nice to see some honesty in advertising as they run for public office.

Patches, Security, and Blog Contests

A few weeks ago, I wrote on my personal blog, about an author who had, essentially by accident, trained himself to become an intelligence analyst:

Trevor Paglen is an author, and Dr. of Geography, who developed a fascination for the “black” side of the military some years ago; and started snooping.

His first book on the subject “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me“, was basically a recounting of his experiences in trying to figure out what mission patches for classified projects meant.

…snipped a video…

His new book is “Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World.“; in which he extends and develops on the methods and means from the first book, into an expanded view of the black world, focused on geography (and specifically logistics, and how they are related).

…snipped another video…

If you haven’t watched them yet, go back to the original post and watch the videos; and be prepared to be amazed at just how much can be inferred about black projects, by simple things like unit patches, and public records.

Amazed, and/or horrified (or perhaps simply resigned and amused), if your job is (or used to be) to keep such things secure…

Which brings me to the fun part of this post.

Dr. Paglens publishers saw my original post, and have graciously sent me a review copy of the book; which I plan to read and review this weekend.

In addition, they’ve offered a signed copy of the book to one of my readers, to be decided by blog contest (smart publicists these ones).

So, here’s the rules and parameters of the contest:

  1. Submissions accepted as comments to the contest post on my blog, from now through Monday morning 12:01 AM

  2. At 12:01 I will pick what I think are the top five posts if we get ten or more, or top ten if we get 20 or more. I will them put them up for a vote to the readers of the anarchangel blog, (and copy the stories here, but it would be a little complicated to have two polls) open from the time I post the stories, until 5pm Monday evening (at which time I will also be posting a review of Dr. Paglens book).
  3. Entries will consist of one each of the following:

    a. Your best, funniest, most interesting, or scariest (from a security perspective) patch, flash, sign, symbol, or insignia story; preferably with a pic, but at least with a very clear description and detailed story.

    b. Your best, funniest, most interesting, stupidest, or scariest (from a security perspective) security story. It can be infosec, comsec, psec, prosec, opsec, doesn’t matter.

  4. Stories do not have to be military or governmental in nature; though I suspect most of the best and funniest will be (governments are even better at absurdity than big corporations), so make it good
  5. Multiple entries from a single individual will be accepted; and if the stories are good, are in fact encouraged.
  6. All entries must be true and correct to the best of your knowledge (notice the out I gave you there).
  7. First hand stories are preferred, and will be given more credit; but a sufficiently good second or third hand story will certainly be considered.
  8. All entries should be either declassified, or sanitized sufficiently to avoid compromise; or in the case of non-military security stories to avoid compromise or disclosure of private or confidential (or higher) information.

Also, although I’m generally not a linker or memer, I would ask that if you find this interesting, please link it up, and forward it around. I’d really love to see what we get.

If there are enough entries, or if people post some REALLY GREAT after the deadline, I might even throw in a consolation prize myself afterwards.

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

Live Chat With Mayor Cheye Calvo Tonight @ 8 p.m. EST (5 p.m. PST) @ The Agitator

Check in this Thursday night at 8pm ET with your questions for Cheye Calvo, the Berwyn Heights, Maryland mayor who was subject to a violent, botched drug raid last year.

Calvo’s pushing legislation that would bring transparency to how Maryland’s police departments use their SWAT teams.

I’m hoping to be home in time to participate in this chat because I am very interested in what Mayor Calvo has to say. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the mayor spoke at a Cato Policy Forum on September 12, 2008. The full 90 minute podcast can be downloaded here; the podcast below is a much shorter (just under 9 minutes) interview with the mayor following the Cato event.

Post Chat Report:
The chat with Mayor Calvo ended just a few minutes ago. The mayor stayed about a half hour over the scheduled chat to answer more questions from participants. I managed to have a couple of questions answered and the other questions which were asked were also very good. The chat was very informative and worthwhile. Readers who would like to read the full chat can click here.

The mayor answered questions about his ordeal with the SWAT team raiding his home as well as some legislation he is pushing in the State of Maryland. The proposed legislation would require all police departments with SWAT teams to provide monthly reports to the Attorney General, local officials and the general public. These reports would provide the number of raids, general locations, purpose, authorization, and results of raids. The overall goal is to provide additional oversight.

For more information about this legislation and how you can help, go to MakeMarylandGreat.com.

New Freedom Website

There’s a new freedom-oriented website out there: Freedom Politics. From their initial blog posting:

Lovers of liberty, rejoice. Today, we’re launching FreedomPolitics.com, a site dedicated to the pursuit and protection of freedom.

We’re not the only ones who think freedom needs a hand, but as a Freedom Communications site, we follow the model of an exceptional defender of liberty, R.C. Hoiles. [snip]

With the support of more than 25 newspapers across the country, including that flagship, FreedomPolitics.com will be a hub of news and commentary dedicated to spreading R.C. Hoiles’ vision and the ideas of liberty of liberty he loved.

Right now we’re just getting started (consider this our soft launch), so don’t hesitate to let us know if something goes awry. The site will go fully operational on Inauguration Day with a slate of commentary from the top minds in the freedom movement.

The first set of articles are great. My fave is from former co-worker Doug Bandow, who writes about our “Return to Liberal Interventionism.”

Barack Obama is nothing if not a unique politician.  Despite his liberal background, he rushed to the center after the election.

Indeed, his foreign policy is starting to look like a slightly more reasonable version of Bush-McCain neoconservatism.  The result may be promiscuous military intervention, but only after Washington takes the usual diplomatic steps and rounds up the usual allies.

The most disconcerting sign of the future is the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.  True, when testifying before the U.S. Senate she sounded like the model of responsibility:  “We must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries.  Foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology.”

I’m bookmarking the site and will be checking it out from time to time.

Open Thread Question: Is Naming a Child “Adolf Hitler” Child Abuse?

Heath and Deborah Campbell have three young children. Their names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, and Adolph Hitler Campbell. Unsurprisingly to everyone (with the exception of Heath and Deborah Campbell), having such names for their children can have very negative effects on their children. When it came time to request a birthday cake from ShopRite complete with the words “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler,”* ShopRite refused. ShopRite offered to leave room for the Campbells to write the inscription themselves but the Campbells refused.

In the comments section of this news story, some suggest that the very act of naming a child Adolf Hitler constitutes child abuse. There’s no question that in the course of Adolf’s life his name will cause him a great deal of hardships; not having a cake with his name on it will probably be the least of them. But child abuse?

I am hesitant to say that naming a child after a despicable person is child abuse for the same reason I oppose so-called hate crimes legislation: criminalizing thought. Are those who would argue that naming a child Adolf Hitler is child abuse suggesting that CPS should take the children away from the Campbells? If so, what other names should be considered child abuse worthy of the state taking action? David Duke? Joseph Stalin? If the Campbells would have chosen “Che Guevera Campbell” or “Mao Zedong Campbell” (Mao who killed many times that of Adolf Hitler), ShopRite probably would have had no problem inscribing those names and the child would likely have far fewer problems associated with those names in his lifetime.

Perhaps when Adolf reaches adulthood he can choose to change his name** and serve his loving parents with a lawsuit for a lifetime of otherwise avoidable emotional and psychological damages?

But until that day, how should the public respond to the Campbells? They should be shunned.

And goods and/or services businesses would otherwise provide the Campbells? ShopRite did the right thing by refusing to grant their request. Businesses should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.

If enough people refuse to associate themselves with the Campbells, perhaps they will be shamed into learning that naming a child Adolf Hitler isn’t the best idea. But to say that giving their children such terrible names is child abuse may be a bridge too far.

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An apology concerning a falsehood I have been promoting

For years now, I have been under the impression that in an election, undervotes (ballots where there aren’t votes for all the races) aren’t counted.  I read this years ago in a source that I considered reliable at the times.  Truth be told, I can’t even remember where I read it, only that I considered the source reliable at the time.

I have asserted this impression as truth on numerous occasions over the past few years.  Recently I sat down to analyze the recent election and discovered that I was wrong.  To my horror, I discovered that undervotes are routinely counted in nearly every precinct in the U.S.  In fact, I can’t find a single precinct where they are not counted!  Nor can I find any article online (other than one containing my comments) that makes that assertion.  Somehow, I got it wrong.  Very wrong.

I want to apologize to our readers for making this false claim.  In my defense, I sincerely believed it to be true when I made it.  Nevertheless, you all deserve better than this, and I will endevour never to make such a mistake again.

Thank you for your patience.

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.

Open Thread Question of the Day: Will the Barr/Root Ticket Help or Hurt the Libertarian Party?

I think it’s too early to tell. There are some very legitimate concerns that many Libertarians have about Barr’s commitment to Libertarian principles. Barr defeated Ruwart 54% to 46% and I can tell you from being there that many of the delegates who supported Ruwart were very dissatisfied with the outcome. It’s very unclear to me whether Barr can win their support.

The main concerns Libertarians have (large L and small l) concern his congressional career, namely his support for the USA PATRIOT Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and his work as a notable drug warrior. Barr has since denounced and apologized for these policies and is working toward their repeal.

The question Libertarians have to ask is whether or not this conversion is authentic or opportunistic. Personally, my approach is “trust but verify.” I am willing to take Barr at his word.

Why? He is a politician after all!

I truly think his conversion is authentic because people CAN and DO change. I have a great deal of respect for both Bob Barr and his running mate Wayne Allyn Root because they both admitted their mistakes and say they want to correct them rather than pretend that they were always staunch Libertarians all along. I’m sympathetic to this because I too have evolved a great deal in my thinking over the last year or so and have made a near 180 degree turn on certain critical issues (I’ll write a complete treatise on this someday soon).

If you believe that this conversion is opportunistic rather than authentic, then by all means I would urge you to not support Bob Barr. If, however; you do think this conversion is real and if you believe he does support the goals of less taxation, less government, and more freedom then I urge you to support Bob Barr in the general election.

Sure, many of Barr’s policies have been very destructive toward these ends but what do we gain by beating someone over the head for making mistakes one has apologized for and promises to make right. Isn’t the whole point of debate to persuade your opponents to your side? And who makes a better argument for a position than the converted?

The Liberty Papers to Cover the National Convention in Denver

The Libertarian Convention of course! Which convention did you think I was talking about? The Libertarian National Convention will run this Memorial Day weekend beginning on Thursday, May 22nd and ending on Monday, May 26th. I plan on attending the convention representing The Liberty Papers as a citizen journalist on Saturday, Sunday, and possibly Monday.

My press pass will give me the same access as the MSM outlets (though some events will be reserved for “invited media only”). The events which I believe I will be able to get into include the platform debate, the presidential debate, national chairs debate, presidential nominating speeches, presidential election roll call with acceptance speech, the first press conference with the LP Presidential Nominee, and much, much more.

Fellow Liberty Papers contributor Jason Pye will also be attending the convention as a delegate.

Usually, The Liberty Papers does not have a great deal of activity on the weekends as far as posts are concerned but this weekend will be much different. Expect periodic reporting from the convention beginning Saturday. I’m going to try to score some high profile interviews, will post lots of photos, and possibly post some video for your consumption.

It’s my goal to bring the convention to The Liberty Papers’ reader. Any suggestions for what you would like me to cover, who I interview, and what questions you would like me to ask would be greatly appreciated!

**UPDATE** Jason Pye will also be adding content to The Liberty Papers throughout the weekend:

I am taking a video camera and a laptop and will be updating daily both here and The Liberty Papers. You may even see a post or two over at Red State.

There will be a few battles between moderates and anarchists, mainly over the platform and Bob Barr. Over a beer not too long ago, I told Daniel Adams, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, that I expected a walkout of different factions at some point during the convention.

Pye has much more insight to the inner workings of the Libertarian Party than I do, so I think his take on the event will be very interesting. Between the two of us, I think we will have the convention covered quite well.

Federalism vs. Individual Freedom

The Constitutionalism of Ron Paul has ignited a debate that’s sorely needed in this country. The Founding Fathers envisioned a nation of individual States, each with its own quirks and ideas, and each with wide latitudes to set its own internal laws and policies as it saw fit. The central government was tasked only with foreign affairs and acting as arbiter of inter-state matters. The individual States had nearly full sovereignty with most other affairs. In many ways, the United States was set up with a roughly similar mix between central authority and State sovereignty as the current EU.

Ron Paul and many libertarians reflexively yearn for a return to such an idea. The central government we have now is a behemoth, trampling our freedoms under its oppressive taxes and mountains of regulation. Even worse, the system is largely out of control, and citizens have almost no power over its workings. Devolving power to the States and local governments would counter the dilution of power that naturally occurs when one is a single voice out of 300 million. Petitioning your city or state representative is much more effective than some Senator who may represent several million people.

Inherent in the assumption by these libertarians, though, is that moving power to smaller levels of government will improve individual freedom. I’m not sure that assumption is accurate. There are pros and cons of both systems.

Federalism:

On the positive side, federalism allows for experiments in freedom. States and localities compete on a whole host of aspects, such as taxation, regulation, and social policies. In many instances, it allows those states to do things that would not be allowed in a true top-down structure. In some cases, that may be liberalized policies such as California allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, the city of Galveston, Texas to opt out of social security for their retirement plans, or states like Massachusetts recognizing gay marriages. These are all things that individual states or localities are doing to increase personal freedoms.

But there’s a big negative. Many policies undertaken by individual states inimical to individual freedom. For example, the trend to outlaw smoking in private businesses would be a simple example. Another fairly innocuous example would be the crazy alcohol “blue laws” dotting the nation, many of which have absolutely no justification and are simply a way to appease special interests at the expense of freedom. On a more serious note would be the “Jim Crow” laws, or if you’re looking for a modern incarnation, Massachusetts’ new health-care plan. States are laboratories for new policies, but those policies are not always pro-freedom.

Central Government:

The benefit of central government mandates are simple: if the central government does something right, it can immediately apply that across the country. Many of our Constitutional amendments have followed this path, such as the 24th, eliminating a poll tax. It was a way to end an immoral form of discrimination in a place which sorely needed it. Similarly, while the 14th amendment may have opened the door to some very strange unintended consequences, the idea is purely in favor of liberty: to make sure that individual states and localities cannot engage in unfair discriminates against individuals based on things such as race or gender.

But again, there’s a big negative. As co-contributor tarran quoted Barry Goldwater to me in a discussion on this topic, “The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.” Look no further than the government’s failed attempt at Prohibition, a distinctly anti-freedom policy that might have been proven to be damaging if done in individual states that was instead foisted on the entire nation. Even worse, our central government has the potential to cut down individual states’ pro-freedom policies at the knees, as we saw in Raich.

So what’s best?

Well, the ideal government would be a single world government that was only powerful enough to protect freedom but disciplined enough not to infringe on individual freedom for the “common good”. However, such a government has never existed, will never exist, and with the incentives inherent in government, can never exist. So looking at the ideal government is not a useful way to answer this question.

The best way to answer this question is to ask how federalism relates to individual freedom. I used “vs.” in the title of this post for a reason. Of course, I don’t believe that federalism works contrary to individual freedom. However, I don’t think it necessarily works FOR individual freedom either. Federalism is only a tool for individual freedom if the people in a region believe in individual freedom, likewise a strong central government is only as damaging to individual freedom as the populace allows it to become.

Where federalism does shine, however, is in giving individuals choice over what mix of freedom and of taxation/regulation they prefer. However, as the differences in politics between the “liberal” and “conservative” states show, federalism does not automatically equal liberty. In states like California, there are large degrees of personal freedom, but not much economic freedom. In states such as Georgia, there is a large degree of economic freedom, but the level of social conservatism circumscribes personal freedoms. All this occurs in the spheres of control outside those of the central government, and I see no reason to believe this would not be the case if the central government were weakened.

The problem, whether you look at the central government or individual states, is that the government will only be as pro-liberty as the populace it represents. If you’re in Massachusetts, you just might get a weak version of socialized medicine through “mandatory coverage”. If you’re in Alaska, you may find nearly non-existent government that actually pays you out of oil revenues to live there.

But as I mentioned, if you then have a choice between Massachusetts and Alaska, you have a lot more choice than between America and Australia. The closer in proximity those choices become, for example between Taxachusetts and the Free State, and the better it will be for lovers of liberty. And the weaker the central government is, the more differentiation there will be between more-free and less-free states.

Federalism is not a panacea that will solve our nation’s problems. It’s a step in the right direction, but it must always be remembered that the message must be about freedom, not about federalism. Federalism is a potential means to the end, but it is not the end in itself.

The Efficacy Of Prediction Markets

As I’ve pointed out, I’m a believer in prediction markets. For me, though, it’s more of an intuitive expectation that markets (i.e. revealed preference) are likely to be more accurate than stated preference. The question has come up with Doug, who isn’t yet a believer in prediction markets, as to whether there is any empirical evidence on how reliable prediction markets are.

So I went looking, and found a nice paper titled Interpreting Prediction Market Prices as Probabilities (PDF). I recommend following the link and reading the whole thing, but if you’re not interested, the first paragraph of the conclusion tells you what was discovered (emphasis added):

An old joke about academics suggests that we are often led to ask: “We know it works in practice, but does it work in theory?” This paper arguably follows that model. As discussed above, a variety of field evidence across several domains suggests that prediction market prices appear to be quite accurate predictors of probabilities. This paper suggests that this evidence is easily reconcilable with a theory in which traders have heterogeneous beliefs that are correct on average.

There are several concrete examples given, but as a football fan and occasional gambler, I know how difficult it is to predict football games. Last year, I tracked college games as if I were betting on the games, and against the spread I had a surprisingly good 62.5% record. That’s enough to beat Vegas, but the odd thing is that it was still only about an 80% record straight up picking winners and losers. So to read the below made me a believer in prediction markets:

For this reason we turn to two rather unique datasets. The first was provided to us by Probability Football, an advertising-supported free contest that requires players to estimate the probability of victory in every NFL game in a season.17 Including the pre-season and playoffs, this yields 259 games in the 2000 and 2001 seasons and 267 in 2002 and 2003. On average we observe the probability assessments of 1320 players in each game, for a total sample size of 1.4 million observations. Contestants are scored using a quadratic scoring rule; they receive 100 – 400(w – q)2, points where w is an indicator variable for whether the team wins and q is the stated probability assessment. Truthfully reporting probabilities yields the greatest expected points, a fact that is explicitly explained to contestants.
The top three players receive cash prizes. While these rank-order incentives potentially provide an incentive to add variance to one’s true beliefs, it turns out that given the number of games in a season, this incentive is small. For instance, in 2003, two mock entrants to this contest that simply used prices from TradeSports and the Sports Exchange (a sports-oriented play-money prediction market run by NewsFutures.com) as their probabilities placed seventh and ninth out of almost 2,000 entrants.

Such ideas are fairly simple. As a personal test, if any readers are in offices where you participate in weekly football pools, try a “system” of picking instead of your own intuition, and see how you do. For example, I’ve seen college pick’em pools where you assign a “confidence” rating to your picks for winners. A simple system would be to take the favorite in every game, and assign the confidence ratings to the teams in order of the largest spread to the smallest spread. You may not always have the best weeks, but I would postulate that over the season, you’re going to be in very good shape.

But the key here is that when you’re looking at various ways of determining probability, no method is 100% accurate. Prediction markets, though, have certain features that make them more likely to be accurate than many other “conventional” methods of evaluating probability, like polls. For that reason, and especially now that I have found empirical evidence to support my earlier intuition, I am more and more comfortable in my use of Intrade’s numbers over those of Gallup or Pew Research.

Monday Open Thread — Hard Cases Edition

Doug recently posted a “Libertarian Hard Cases” thread about how to deal with issues related to children. Libertarianism is one of the few political systems that treats adults like adults and holds them responsible for their actions; it assumes that people are rational actors who are capable of making decisions in their own life and deserve rights commensurate with that ability. But it has difficulty answering questions regarding people who are not capable of making those decisions and cannot be trusted with the rights to do so, such as children and the mentally disabled.

Undoubtedly, there are many other libertarian hard cases. So this thread is a call to the readers here to give us ideas. What libertarian “hard cases” would you like to see addressed?

For example, I’ll be writing a post soon regarding the rights of parents to choose to vaccinate or not vaccinate children. There are two clear questions that arise:

1) As a parent, do I have the right to not vaccinate, which is a choice that some would consider tantamount to abuse or neglect of a child, if I believe that the potential harm of a vaccine is worse than the disease it is preventing against (such as chicken pox)?
2) Does society as a whole have a legitimate claim to supersede my right to choose not to vaccinate, as it creates an externality that increases the likelihood that we see an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases?

These are difficult questions, and ones that I think may result in disagreements within the contributors here, so it could lead to some interesting fireworks. If you have any suggested topics, let us know.

OSHA Contemplates Regulating Ammunition as Explosives

OSHA is now considering regulating ammunition as explosives. If OSHA has its way, ammunition will become very difficult to purchase, store, or transport and would seriously curtail the individual’s constitutional right to bear arms without specifically banning firearms. One can only wonder how the courts would rule if OSHA’s proposed regulation were challenged. I for one hope we never have to find out.

Predictably, the DemocraticUnderground.com crowd believes that those of us who actually believe in the individual’s right to bear arms are overreacting:

Apparently OSHA’s new regulations will BAN ALL AMMUNITION FOREVER OMGZ. This is WORSE THAN NAZI GERMANY.

I’m not necessarily caring one way or the other, and think this is much ado over a proposed regulation that will likely never make it out of the comment phase. It’s just amusing listening to all the good Republicans bitching and whining all day.

Vladimir Lenin once said “One man with a gun can control 100 without one.” Other despots made similar statements concerning gun control. What I fail to understand is that if Bush is the tyrant the Left would have us believe; shouldn’t they also be concerned about disarming American citizens or otherwise restricting access to ammunition?

Every Man for Himself?

Nick, who responded to Doug’s recent post made some great points and some which I disagreed with. I was going to respond to the original post’s thread, but as my response became longer and longer, I thought it should be a stand alone post.

Here’s what Nick had to say:

Ron Paul is dead wrong on the islamofascism matter, but I simply don’t care.

Right now I see us at a crossroads…do we go further down the Euro-style nanny state road? Or do we turn back and recognize liberty for what it is?

Ron Paul manages to piss me off everytime he starts saying there’s no threat in the middle east. A lot.

Islam was founded by a violent intolerant man, and anytime an islamic government (instead of a secular government of islamic people) is allowed to flourish, these same traits will rise again. Until the middle east takes a page from Ataturk, it will always be a hotbed of intolerant violence. Always. It can be argued that we’ve given them *excuses* to act the way they want to, but that’s something entirely different.

Anyone with any understanding of history knows that ‘Palestine’ was created purely as an anti-Israel propaganda tool.

But Ron Paul is still the only candidate I’d vote for. What I want to know is why they didn’t ask the DOCTOR about healthcare reform (Giuliani gave a great answer by the way). Why didn’t they ask him about anything else?

I figure a lot of us find his Iraq War answers distasteful, but he can win a LOT of friends with his talk of domestic problems. And the domestic thing is the ONLY thing i’m looking at right now.

I agree with Nick: if Ron Paul is going to be in the race, I wish he would focus on domestic issues. I’m not saying that he should go against his principled anti-war beliefs (which is more than what I can say about the unprincipled and opportunistic anti-war candidates on the left) but he really isn’t saying anything all that much different than anyone else who opposes the war.

I think his assessment of Islam is spot on as well. There’s a danger with all religions becoming extreme and militant; right now Islam is the religion which has the most extreme elements and a significant threat to our liberty.

I wish I could focus on Ron Paul’s domestic agenda and ignore his naiveté about external threats to our way of life. I think it’s this issue which is keeping him from having more wide spread support because I think many rank and file Republicans are libertarian at heart on the domestic side. If there was such a candidate who would advocate Paul’s domestic policies and a more effective foreign policy than the current administration, I would support that candidate in a heartbeat.

I’m beginning to contemplate more of a “survivalist” attitude as it relates to Islamic terrorism. Maybe its time to adopt an “every man for himself” policy? We know the government cannot or will not defend us from every threat, whether foreign or domestic. Hell, far too often the threat comes from the government itself! Truthfully, the first and last responsibility of self defense belongs to the individual. This is why the right to bear arms is so critically important and why every effort to limit the individual’s access to firearms should be resisted at every turn.

What are the chances of my family, friends, or me being a victim of terrorism anyway? Perhaps I should adopt the “it doesn’t affect me” attitude of one of my readers (Josh) who couldn’t care less about what would happen to the Iraqis if coalition forces suddenly left Iraq in its current state. Some believe that al Qaeda and other Islamic terror groups will bring their fight back to American soil if such a withdrawal from Iraq were to take place. I happen to think there is some validity to that theory. But so what? If the next attack happens in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, or anywhere but my back yard…it’s not my problem right?

I’m not quite to that point yet. I still care too much about my fellow man. But if I ever do decide to embrace this “every man for himself” approach, Ron Paul will have my full support.

Despots Say the Darndest Things

While most of us learn from the words of those who we admire, it is also possible to learn from those we detest. Here is a collection of quotes from some of the vilest despots in human history. From these quotes, perhaps we can gain some insights from their thought processes. You may also find the words of some of these despots eerily similar to those of some who are running for president or seeking other high office. Others seem to expose the motives behind those who seek to regulate the media, guns, education, and etc. I encourage anyone who reads this post to respond with a quote from an American politician whose quote has a similar meaning of those here (or exposes their motives).

Education/Indoctrination

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
Vladimir Lenin

“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
Joseph Stalin

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”
Adolf Hitler

“The universities are available only to those who share my revolutionary beliefs.”
Fidel Castro

Censorship

“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t allow our enemies to have guns, why should we allow them to have ideas?”
Joseph Stalin

“When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward – or go back. He who now talks about the “freedom of the press” goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism.”
Vladimir Lenin

Propaganda

“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
Adolf Hitler

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Vladimir Lenin

Political Strategy

“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”
Vladimir Lenin

“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”
Adolf Hitler

“Democracy is the road to socialism.”
Karl Marx

“Democracy is indispensable to socialism.”
Vladimir Lenin

Individualism vs. Collectivism

“The day of individual happiness has passed.”
Adolf Hitler

“All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all. I am just like everybody else.”
Vladimir Lenin

Guns

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Mao Tse-Tung

“We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?”
Joseph Stalin

“One man with a gun can control 100 without one.”
Vladimir Lenin

“The only real power comes out of a long rifle.”
Joseph Stalin

Life, Liberty, and Property

“I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.”
Fidel Castro

“It is true that liberty is precious – so precious that it must be rationed.”
Vladimir Lenin

“We must confront the privileged elite who have destroyed a large part of the world.”
Hugo Chavez

If Taxation Was More Transparent

This YouTube video humorously illustrates some of the hidden ways we are taxed. The ad was created by David Zucker (one of the brilliant minds behind the Naked Gun movies) for the 2006 campaign to warn viewers of the Democrats plans to raise taxes higher than any point in American history. Unfortunately, it seems that Zucker’s predictions will come true, particularly if the Democrats can hold both houses and gain the presidency in 2008 (but the Dems won’t call it “raising taxes” but “rolling back the Bush tax cuts”).

I am not sure where Zucker stands on the Fair Tax but his video raises some issues that might be alleviated if the Fair Tax became law. Sure, the Fair Tax would not require the taxpayer to put coins in a meter or anything like that but we would have a much clearer idea of the taxes we pay than we do now. As it stands now, we pay all kinds of hidden taxes. When taxes are raised on businesses, the businesses raise prices to maintain their profit margins. These increased prices are ultimately paid by the consumer. Also think about what you are really paying in Social Security payroll taxes. The number on your pay stub is only half of what you are actually paying. On paper, your employer pays the other half but in reality, this is money your employer could be paying YOU instead of the mythical Social Security fund.

When you consider these hidden taxes, you are paying your normal withholding from your paycheck (which most people barley notice), your Social Security, your employer’s Social Security, and Medicare while on the other end; you are paying a hidden sales tax. If the Fair Tax does nothing else, it at least gives us the honest amount of taxes we are paying. We can quibble about the 23% and wish it was more on the order of 10%, but we at least know how much the government is taking.

Of course our representatives do not want us to know what we are actually paying. In this way, they are much cleverer than the British who taxed the colonies to pay for the French and Indian War. As we learned in history class, the items the colonists bought required a stamp which informed them of the amount they were expected to pay the Crown. This begs the question: how would history have changed had the British disguised the taxes the way our government does with our current tax code? Would there have even been an American Revolution if the taxes the colonists were paying were not so transparent?

Related posts:
Dare to be Fair

Tarran, has a different opinion on the Fair Tax here, and here.

To learn more about the Fair Tax and how you can help, visit www.fairtax.org

Should A Mayor Be In Control Of The Schools?

Council Prepares for Vote to Give Fenty Control

In the three months since he proposed a dramatic restructuring of the District’s public school system, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has outmaneuvered the Board of Education, using his political capital to shore up support and turning the contest over his plan into a rout.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council will consider the first step toward transferring direct control of the 55,000-student system to Fenty (D). Although council members will offer amendments, the primary tenets appear set for approval: The mayor will gain authority over the school superintendent, the council will assume line-item control over the budget and the school board will become a mostly advisory panel.

The schools in Washington, DC are woefully inadequate. This is a known problem, and while I’ve got my own skepticism as to whether this Mayor can actually make any improvement. But it brings up an interesting question from a political standpoint:

Should we support policies which take largely take power out of the hands of voters, if those policies will result in better governance?

From a political standpoint, some people place a lot of faith in process, and some people place more faith in results. Would a benevolent dictator at the helm of a minimalist and libertarian government be better than an elected socialist democratic government?

Is it democracy that we want, or is it an ideal government that we seek, and we believe democracy will get us there? Would we be willing to scrap democracy if it lead to better results?

I’ve got my own answer, but I’d love to hear some comments on this before I throw it out there.

Point/Counterpoint

As Doug mentioned Monday night, we here at The Liberty Papers have been brainstorming some interesting new features here. One, that we will roll out shortly (likely before the end of the week) is called Point/Counterpoint.

While our contributors generally agree on most issues, there are always issues where we don’t. We all share a love of liberty, but the contributors run the gamut from those who are nearly anarchists to those who would feel at home amongst small-government conservatives. Thus, Point/Counterpoint will be an opportunity for one contributor to offer a topic for debate, and be rebutted by another contributor a day or two later.

If nothing else, I think we contributors will enjoy this. In addition, I hope that it will be entertaining for you. In the future, we will make sure that every post in this series is tagged as part of the category “Point/Counterpoint”, and will try to keep titles on-topic so that readers scrolling through the category itself can keep up with who is responding to who.

We’ve got a couple other things in the works as well, so stay tuned!

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