Category Archives: Freedom of Association

The Late David Nolan’s Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens Fears One Step Closer to Being Realized

Back in the 2010 mid-term election, Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan ran as a Libertarian against Sen. John McCain for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Sadly, McCain easily won the election and Nolan died several weeks after the election and just two days before his 67th birthday.

During his debate with Sen. McCain, Nolan warned voters of what he called a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill which McCain co-sponsored called S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” This bill would authorize indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Nolan was so outraged by this bill he said that this was one reason he decided to run against Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain brushed off Nolan’s comments saying that Nolan “may be a little bit biased.”

Fast forward just over a year later, Sen. McCain has sponsored another piece of legislation hidden in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 that is very similar. One of the more concerning aspects of the bill is Section 1031:

SEC. 1031. AFFIRMATION OF AUTHORITY OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES TO DETAIN COVERED PERSONS PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE.

(a) In General- Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
(c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
(d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
(e) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be `covered persons’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

The next section, Section 1032 adds some confusing language as to whether American citizens can truly be held indefinitely:

SEC. 1032. REQUIREMENT FOR MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Custody Pending Disposition Under Law of War-
(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (4), the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.
(2) COVERED PERSONS- The requirement in paragraph (1) shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under section 1031 who is determined–
(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.
(3) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR- For purposes of this subsection, the disposition of a person under the law of war has the meaning given in section 1031(c), except that no transfer otherwise described in paragraph (4) of that section shall be made unless consistent with the requirements of section 1033.
(4) WAIVER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY- The Secretary of Defense may, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, waive the requirement of paragraph (1) if the Secretary submits to Congress a certification in writing that such a waiver is in the national security interests of the United States.
(b) Applicability to United States Citizens and Lawful Resident Aliens-
(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.
(2) LAWFUL RESIDENT ALIENS- The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.

Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel of the ACLU points out that the language contained in Section 1032 only applies to Section 1032. To put it another way, according to Section 1031 U.S. citizens can be detained indefinitely and even sent to another country without the normal civil liberties protections guaranteed in the Fifth, Sixth, and possibly Eighth Amendments.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced Amendment No. 1107 to the bill that would have mitigated much of the civil liberties concerns found in 1031 but it was soundly defeated by a 61-37 vote. Only two Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky voted in favor of the Udall amendment.

Now the vote for the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 is set for today, December 1, 2011. There isn’t much time left to stop this horribly unconstitutional bill from being passed.

This being said, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if these sections are still in place when it hits his desk. I’m not quite sure how the president can say on one hand he can send drones to kill American citizens while on the other say he opposes indefinite detention of American citizens but a veto would be the correct response regardless.

President Obama might well veto this bill but I have no confidence that any of the Republican challengers would veto similar legislation in the future save Gary Johnson (who is sadly very much a long shot at this point), Ron Paul, or perhaps Jon Huntsman.

We can now see that David Nolan’s concerns he expressed in the 2010 debate were well founded after all.

The Johnson Campaign Perpetuates the “Public Airways” Myth in Response to Latest Debate Exclusion

There’s very little doubt in my mind that the MSM and the G.O.P establishment have been doing all they can to keep certain candidates from challenging the establishment and ultimately win the nomination. Early in the campaign I wrote a response to Hugh Hewitt’s post where he suggested that the RNC should exile Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and Ron Paul from the remaining debates. His argument was that these were all “marginal” “1%er’s”* who “don’t have a prayer” of winning the nomination.

Isn’t it interesting that “1%er” Ron Paul has won several straw polls and has even cracked the top 3 or 4 at various points during the campaign and is almost always polling in the double digits? Ron Paul is hardly a 1%er despite efforts on the part of the sponsors to limit his exposure (in the most recent debate, Paul had a whopping 89 seconds to make his case on national television).

Then there’s Herman Cain the other “marginal” candidate who until the most recent couple of weeks following accusations (whether legitimate or not) of sexual harassment along with some other missteps on foreign policy was neck and neck with the establishment favorite Mitt Romney. Cain may have fallen from grace but he isn’t a 1%er without a prayer of winning neither.

The only one of the three who is truly a 1%er unfortunately is Gov. Gary Johnson. Of the three Johnson is the only one who has been successfully excluded from all but two of the nationally televised debates. Up to this point, the Johnson campaign has encouraged supporters to write and call the debate sponsors to encourage them to reconsider but to no avail. In true libertarian freedom of association fashion, Johnson, though disappointed with his exclusion, respected the right of the debate sponsors to exclude him.

Now it seems the Johnson campaign has had enough with The Gary Johnson Rule and it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. The Johnson campaign has now filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to Johnson’s most recent exclusion from the South Carolina CBS debate.

Here are some excerpts from the complaint filed with the FEC:

On Saturday, November 12, 2011 Respondent CBS televised on its national network another debate, but instead of including all leading candidates has elected to arbitrarily and capriciously exclude some candidates and include others. In so doing, CBS is, without any other explanation, choosing to support certain candidates. By excluding viable candidates like Complainant, who has been included by cable networks in their debates CBS is directly and significantly supporting those candidates it favors, and advocating the nomination of one of their favorites and opposing the nomination of Complainant, whom CBS evidently disfavors. In so doing, CBS is making an illegal corporate in-kind contribution to those favored candidates. The value of this contribution vastly exceeds the contribution limit that applies to any category of lawful donor.

2 U.S.C. §431 (8) (A) (i) defines a “contribution” as “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office.” No rational person could possibly argue that exposure during an hour-long debate televised in prime time on the CBS network is NOT something of value. Indeed, CBS sells advertising spots during prime time for huge sums, and makes and reaps significant revenues in doing so. By any standard, this airtime is a thing of value within the ambit of that phrase in this statute. If all viable candidates were being included in the debate that might lead to a different conclusion, but by excluding candidates CBS disfavors –opposes—and including those it favors –supports—Respondent is violating the Act.

I believe the Johnson campaign has a very valid point in this complaint to the FEC. Whether we like the campaign finance laws or not, Johnson is bound by them and must abide by them; it only seems fair that CBS must be legally obligated to follow them as well.

Gov. Johnson’s complaint to the FCC, however; is much more bothersome IMHO.

Here are some excerpts (from the same link as above) from the FCC complaint [Much of the language in the FCC complaint is identical to that of the FEC so I’ve omitted those parts]:

The Federal Communications Commission has the authority to regulate fair access to the airwaves of broadcast by network television networks.

[…]

The public owns the airways over which CBS broadcasts, and the public deserves to be free from bias- favoring some candidates over others- as well as illegal support of certain presidential candidates on national network television. Unfair access to the airwaves of broadcast by network television is clearly an issue within the FCC’s mandate. The illegal corporate contribution CBS is making in including some candidates and not others is addressed in a separate formal complaint to the Federal Elections Commission. The FCC should take appropriate action against CBS.

The public owns the airwaves? Yes, I understand that this is the accepted conventional wisdom but this is not something I would have expected from perhaps** the most libertarian leaning candidate to ever seek the nomination for the Republican Party!

I fully and completely understand the frustration because as a Gary Johnson supporter, I too am frustrated with how the Johnson campaign has been treated by the establishment. I take it damn personally that the candidate who best advocates and represents my views has been excluded from these debates while big government, freedom hating, torture supporting, war mongering fools like Rick Perry and Rick Santorum make idiotic assertion after idiotic assertion on national television often unchallenged . I often wonder if Johnson might have had similar success as Ron Paul or Herman Cain had his (and by extension, my) voice been heard in these debates.

We will probably never know.

But to write the FCC and make the argument that Gov. Johnson has some sort of right to participate in the debate because the public “owns” the airwaves just makes me cringe. This comes far too close to the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” for my comfort. The public doesn’t own the airwaves, the broadcasters do. CBS buys the licenses and is supported by advertisers – not the public.

If the debate was sponsored and aired on PBS and/or NPR the Johnson campaign would have a legitimate point because those stations are supported by the public (i.e. taxpayers and viewers like you) but this is not what we are talking about here.

Maybe the Johnson campaign believes the ends justify the means but I would rather Gary Johnson lose following his small government principles than win by compromising them.

» Read more

A Ban Worth Drinking To

For the first time ever, reason.tv is cheering their “Nanny of the Month.”

That’s right, starting September 1 , more than 500 Michigan restaurant and bar owners will begin turning state lawmakers away from their establishments. State Senator So-and-so wants a brew? Too bad. Politicians won’t be served until they revisit the state’s 2010 smoking ban, which, owners say, has devastated business, and left bars like Sporty O’Tooles on the verge of collapse.

Okay, “nanny” is a bit of a misnomer in this case as these bar owners are reserving their freedom of/from association rights in their own establishments but good for them for standing up to these busybodies in the legislature. These are the kinds of bans I would love to see more of.

Kevin Drum’s Guest Bloggers Upholding The [ahem] Fine Standards He Has Created There

Kevin Drum is on vacation this week. While I thought that might leave me without boneheaded material to criticize, I’m afraid he’s found guest bloggers as credible and clueless as himself. Today we have Andy Kroll, who wants to delve into meta-debates about rights and entitlements with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

But the statement that really jumped out from Walker’s interview is his own perception of the bargaining fight:

“They defined it as a rights issue. It’s not a rights issue. It’s an expensive entitlement.”

What’s his first step to show how wrong Walker is? Well, he skips right to the United Nations, a body whose Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that you can use your rights as long as you don’t do so in a way “contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations” (Art. 29, Sec 3). He starts there and follows on with a lot of other legally-created privileges that he calls rights:

Hmm. I’m pretty sure the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the UN after World War II (and drafted and adopted by the US), says that collective bargaining is in fact a human right. Oh, yes, there it is, in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration:

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Then there’s the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) here in the US, which “explicitly grants employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions,” according to the scholars at Cornell University Law School. Or as the National Labor Relations Board’s website puts it, the NLRA “protects employees’ rights to act together, with or without a union, to improve working terms and conditions, including wages and benefits.”

All of this analysis has one critical flaw: it doesn’t properly recognize that there are multiple kinds of rights, and that a right which the government shall not deny is, well, slightly different than one that it grants. I left the below in a comment to that Kroll’s post at the original site:

Are you even familiar with the distinction between “negative rights” and “positive rights”?

Negative rights are rights that you have unless someone else infringes upon them. You have a right to life, but not to force others to produce the food and shelter you need to live. You have the right to freedom of speech, but not the right to force anyone to listen (or, in the case of blogging, to force a blog to print your comments to a post). A right to healthcare or education — if you define it as me not being stopped by government or highway robbers from freely purchasing health or education services on an open market from a willing seller — is a negative right.

Positive rights are rights that require someone else to procure them to you. A right to healthcare — if you assume that those who can’t afford care should be covered by “society” — is a positive right. A right to an education — if you assume it should be paid for by government taxes — is a positive right. A right to food — if you define it as foodstamps for the indigent — is a positive right. *ALL* positive rights can be described as “entitlements”, as they’re what we as a society might define all people are entitled to be provided to them if they cannot do it themselves.

A “right” to organizing a union is a positive right (inasmuch as it restricts and employer’s ability to fire people for trying to exercise it). If we so choose, in our democratic society, that people should be allowed to unionize to counterbalance what may be perceived as in unfair labor advantage to the employer, we can call it a “right” all we want, but it’s a positive right, not a negative right. As such, calling it an “expensive entitlement” doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary. I don’t see any real disconnect in what Walker said.

Now, I was a bit unclear in that final paragraph. What I intended to say was this: The right to form a union is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of association. The right to collective bargaining is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of speech. As you point out (and as I intended to), it becomes a positive right when we write laws or regulations forcing businesses to the other side of the table. Forcing an employer to actually deal with them on those collective terms is the “entitlement” of that positive right.

Andy Kroll waded into deep water here, and it’s clear he didn’t want to recognize that. It’s also potentially true that Gov. Walker did the same — the original linked article doesn’t make clear whether Walker’s statement about entitlement had deeper context. Kroll is trying to use one line from an already snipped interview to make Gov. Walker sound like a simpleton who doesn’t understand the nature of rights. In doing so, Kroll only proves that to be the case about himself.

Controversial Organization Admonishes Soldiers and Peace Officers to Defend the Constitution

Every soldier and every police officer swears an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” but as a practical matter, what does this mean? What happens if the CO issues an order that violates the Constitution; is soldier or peace officer still required to carry the order out? What if the order in question comes from the President of the United States?

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of an organization established in 2009 called Oath Keepers, says that not only do soldiers and peace officers have a right to refuse to carry out an order that violates the U.S. Constitution but a sworn duty to disobey the order. Rhodes, graduate of Yale Law School, veteran, former firearms instructor, and former staffer for Congressman Ron Paul’s D.C. office, started Oath Keepers in response to what he perceived as an erosion of civil liberties that has escalated since 9/11.

Oath Keepers’ critics (particularly on the Left) believe the organization to be a Right wing “extremist” organization full of Birthers, Truthers, militia members, hate groups, and various other conspiracy theorists. In this article in Reason, Rhodes clears the air. Also, found in the organization’s bylaws:

Section 8.02
(a) No person who advocates, or has been or is a member, or associated with, any organization, formal or informal, that advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States or the violation of the Constitution thereof, shall be entitled to be a member or associate member.

(b) No person who advocates, or has been or is a member, or associated with, any organization, formal or informal, that advocates discrimination, violence, or hatred toward any person based upon their race, nationality, creed, or color, shall be entitled to be a member or associate member.

So what specifically makes Oath Keepers so controversial? My guess would be their list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey”:

1. We will NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.

2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people

3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.

4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.

5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.

6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.

7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.

8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control.”

9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.

10.We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.

Imagine how much freer our country would become if everyone in law enforcement and in the military adopted this creed and took their oaths seriously?

Back to First Principles: An Excellent Primer on the Rights of Life, Liberty, and Property

In beginning the 112th Congress, House members took turns reading the Constitution aloud to a nearly empty chamber. While I in some ways appreciate members at least uttering the words, I believe that the members would have been better served not by merely reciting the words but by studying the philosophical roots of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. This two part video does an excellent job explaining the meaning of the Bill of Rights as the document related to the times it was written as well as how it continues to aid us in the difficult times we currently live.

Part 1 deals with the philosophical foundations that came out of the Age of Enlightenment.

Part 2 explains the reasoning behind each of the ten amendments we call the Bill of Rights

As the narrator went through each of the amendments, I couldn’t help but think of the many instances where these very rights have been violated and continue to be violated by federal, state, and local governments throughout the country. For those of you who want to really know what we are about and the larger liberty/small government movement is all about, these are the very principles we are trying to restore. These are our guiding principles.

If ever you are perplexed by a position that we write about be it our opposition to the war on (some) drugs, opposition to conscription, support for sound money, support for the right to bear arms, opposition to ObamaCare, opposition to the so-called Patriot Act, etc. , you might find it helpful to refer back to these first principles.

I would like to encourage others to share these videos because I would like to see these videos go viral to remind our friends on the Left, the Right, and the middle about why these rights are so important and worth fighting for.

Related: The Philosophy of Life, Liberty, and Property Explained

Christopher Hitchens On The Campaign Against The “Ground Zero” Mosque

Christopher Hitchens may be battling cancer, but he hasn’t lost his talent for saying exactly the right thing in exactly the right way. Take, for example, his new Slate column regarding the ongoing and seemingly endless controversy over the “Ground Zero” mosque:

Take, for example, the widely publicized opinion of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Supporting those relatives of the 9/11 victims who have opposed Cordoba House, he drew a crass analogy with the Final Solution and said that, like Holocaust survivors, “their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.” This cracked tune has been taken up by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who additionally claim to be ventriloquizing the emotions of millions of Americans who did not suffer bereavement. It has also infected the editorial pages of the normally tougher-minded Weekly Standard, which called on President Obama to denounce the Cordoba House on the grounds that a 3-to-1 majority of Americans allegedly find it “offensive.”

Where to start with this part-pathetic and part-sinister appeal to demagogy? To begin with, it borrows straight from the playbook of Muslim cultural blackmail. Claim that something is “offensive,” and it is as if the assertion itself has automatically become an argument. You are even allowed to admit, as does Foxman, that the ground for taking offense is “irrational and bigoted.” But, hey—why think when you can just feel? The supposed “feelings” of the 9/11 relatives have already deprived us all of the opportunity to see the real-time footage of the attacks—a huge concession to the general dulling of what ought to be a sober and continuous memory of genuine outrage. Now extra privileges have to be awarded to an instant opinion-poll majority. Not only that, the president is urged to use his high office to decide questions of religious architecture!

Nothing could be more foreign to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment or the principle of the “wall of separation.

Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, Hitchens hints that he’s not at all happy about the idea of this mosque being located so close to the site of the September 11th attacks. Unlike Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all the others who have taken up the anti-mosque banner in this matter, though, Hitchens recognizes demagoguery when he sees it and, for an Englishman, has more respect for our First Amendment than many Americans do.

Hitchens ends up in about the same position that I am in this fight. I don’t necessarily favor the project, but these people own the building, they’ve complied with all applicable laws, and there doesn’t appear to be any legal means remaining to stop them. Those who want to use government force to stop them are nothing more than thieves motivated by religious bigotry rather than financial gain. The rest ? Well, they seem to think that having “feelings” and are “offended” means they have some special right to be heard. It’s really all rather sad and pathetic.

Point: The ACLU Is A Friend of Liberty

It takes considerable skill to be able to write from both ends of a political issue, and I’m happy to say that that is the task I am going about with the ACLU. For my critique of the ACLU, click here.

The Left and Right political labels are pretty useless at a certain point, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the Left wing label in order to defend the ACLU.

The political Left has at its core both a democratic and an authoritarian side. George Orwell, Lionel Trilling and Christopher Hitchens are among some of the most prominent intellectuals to have split with the Left on occasion in order to speak out against tyranny. This dichotomy is one I like to call the “Napoleon-Snowball dichotomy,” after the characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Napoleons don’t simply show up in third world countries like North Korea or Venezuela – they also have their place in the United States. Despite his coming to the mainstream fore speaking of the need to defend civil liberties, Barack Obama has accelerated the authority of the government to new heights. Obama has grabbed the authority to kill American citizens anywhere in the world. He has put closing Guantanamo on the back burner. Obama’s civil liberties problem was made clear as well by his firing of Shirley Sherrod on the grounds of a sloppy hit job by Andrew Breitbart. Any administration that would fire a public servant so quickly on such shaky grounds must have some sort of anxiety about its power.

For Obama’s Napoleonism, the ACLU has acted as a modern day Snowball, defending against the frightening precedent of a president being able to eliminate Americans by executive order.  In a suit filed against the government, the ACLU argued that the Obama administration had “asserted authority to use lethal force against US citizens located far from any battlefield without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”

The ACLU is also victim to a lot of misinformation, including the urban legend that they had filed suit to have crosses removed from graveyards. In fact, in 1999, they did precisely the opposite:

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — In the first case to be filed under Florida’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida goes to trial today on behalf of seven families seeking to prevent the removal and destruction of religious symbols placed at the gravesites of their loved ones.

At issue is the City of Boca Raton’s threat to remove various vertical memorials, including Christian crosses, Stars of David and other religious symbols, from cemetery plots at the Boca Raton Community Cemetery. The ACLU will argue that under the new law, passed in 1998, removal of religious items from grave sites would constitute a substantial burden on religion.

The brilliance of the American constitution is not anarcho-libertarianism – it’s a balance of power through checks and balances. The ACLU is a great bulwart against granted authority becoming too powerful.

On Islam, A Fine Line Between Criticism and Xenophobia

There are serious concerns about radical Islam and political Islam as a movement. It’s something we should be seriously conscious of. I’ve written about this extensively here at TLP.

Given that, there is a very, very fine line between critiquing the retrograde nature of radical Islam and outright xenophobia. I honestly find it hard to discern this line myself, since I am fully ready to call out efforts by Christians, Muslims or any other group to insert religious dogma into politics. Wherever that line is, it is more than readily apparent that many who are protesting the building of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York have crossed it.

There’s a part of the constitution that I’m especially fond of. It’s called the First Amendment:

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

The “free exercise thereof” doesn’t just mean free exercise of Roman Catholicism, the faith of mosque critic Newt Gingrich, or Lutheranism, the denomination of Michelle Bachmann, another critic. It counts for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Hindus.

Point: “State’s Rights” A Misnomer

This is a post in our continuing “Point/Counterpoint” series, where TLP contributors and/or guest posters debate a topic. In this installment, Michael Powell argues against the existence of “states’ rights”. Tomorrow, Brad Warbiany will defend states’ rights, and his post can now be found here.

During the twentieth century, there were several confrontations between federal authorities and those proclaiming “state’s rights.” The most notable were those of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in 1967, who called on his state’s National Guard to block several African American youths from attending high school and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who literally stood in the way of troops sent by the Kennedy Administration to escort students Vivian Malone and James Hood (both instances being unforgivable offenses in the Deep South) in 1963. The state was blatantly violating not only individual rights of its citizens but also the legal authority of the U.S. Supreme Court and the executive branch.

The “right” for the state to discriminate against the individual in defiance of federal law (and human decency, which is another matter and not a concept that is very popular in Alabama or other deep southern states) was precisely what George Wallace cited explicitly in his speech at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963:

The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the Central Government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this State by officers of the Federal Government. This intrusion results solely from force, or threat of force, undignified by any reasonable application of the principle of law, reason and justice. It is important that the people of this State and nation understand that this action is in violation of rights reserved to the State by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alabama. While some few may applaud these acts, millions of Americans will gaze in sorrow upon the situation existing at this great institution of learning.

Personally, I would not cry crocodile tears if the South had been let go during the Civil War. My ancestors fought in the Confederate Army but my personal life has been filled with people of color. The South has not simply been racist; it has been the closest region in the Western World to pre-industrial feudalism. Its ugly history of public executions, terrorism, exclusion from employment and education of massive portions of the population (including not just people of color but poor whites, women and those who stood against the Southern Christian traditionalist grain), intellectual rejection, ethno-nationalism, proud ignorance and aggressive religiosity is more reflective of the worst regimes in the Middle East than the enlightened industrial democracies of Western Europe, North America and Asia. Just as is the case with the Middle East, the rich natural resources of the South have been the primary reason for keeping the impoverished backwater area in the sphere of the United States.

If it hadn’t been for slavery, racism and the South, the “state’s rights” argument may have more standing validity. Unfortunately, for those who bring back its spectre it brings to mind Jim Crow laws, lynchings, segregation and war. Just as the swastika, which actually has a relevance to Buddhist philosophy, has been defiled by the actions of German National Socialism, “state’s rights” has been defiled by the actions of Southern political actors.

For issues in which “state’s rights” would be a logical defense, especially regarding marijuana, where states like California seek to protect the individual rights of drug users in defiance of prohibitionist federal intervention, I have to beg the question: Why is it an issue of state governance and not simply the right of the individual to do as he wishes?

This isn’t simply a historical, theoretical argument either. States are still today violating individual rights, with the federal government acting as an intervening force of justice. Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, which effectively legislated racial profiling and declared war on undocumented workers who are critical to the American economy, is being set upon by the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

I have worked in Latin American foreign policy, so I would like to add that, while I stand in firm opposition to SB 1070, I understand completely why it was implemented. We are in really bad economic shape, as I surely don’t have to inform anyone here. That is exacerbated by the perception by people that don’t understand economics that Hispanic immigrants are “stealing” their jobs and the horrendous mob violence that has been implemented on the border by drug cartels. I reject Kantian ethics that proclaim motivations to paramount to results, however, and a mob of fearful people hardly ever makes the right decision. In American history, “state’s rights” has been a flag that has often been waved by populist demagogues while “individual rights” has been waved by judges and executives with a better grasp of the law. “State’s rights” is a misnomer which is usually used to defend defiance of settled law. It doesn’t deserve or necessitate revival in our political discourse.

Comment of the Day: The ‘Why Politics Sucks’ Edition

Re: Rand Paul Under Attack from the Left for his ‘Lunch Counter Libertarianism’

This is why politics sucks. When you actually consider what the significance of Paul’s very nuanced view on this is and then juxtapose over what his potential duties as Senator would be, you quickly come to the correct conclusion that this matter means absolutely nothing.

He will be voting on budgets, taxes, appropriations and so on. And yet, while we can debate whether or not it is good or wise or prudent to have so much money and influence voted on in DC (I am opposed), the fact that such a decision about who should be qualified to do all this voting on behalf of the citizens of KY would be seriously and deliberately dumbed down to this irrelevant gotcha argument about civil rights and federal power is just frightening and simply further proof to how bad this process is.

Comment by John V — May 20, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

I think John V did a better job of making this point than I did. What Rachel Maddow was trying to do was use this gotcha play straight out of the Left’s playbook. Anyone who has libertarian leanings who wishes to run for office should be advised that because you have these leanings, you will be asked about your thoughts on the Civil Rights Act, particularly the title that deals with private businesses.

When I watched this interview, at first I was frustrated that Dr. Paul didn’t go into a more detailed explanation of this position that I admit is out of the mainstream* of modern political thought. Why did he keep going back to the gun argument** and why did he focus so much on the other nine titles that he, Maddow, and probably most who have libertarian leanings agree upon?

While I still believe Dr. Paul could have made a more persuasive argument or explained his position better, it has since occurred to me why he chose to respond as he did: he didn’t want to give his opponents too many sound bytes that could be used for attack ads.

Paul’s opponents, if they haven’t already, are busy producing negative campaign ads showing segregated lunch counters and juxtaposing his worst picture they can find next to Bull Connor’s. They will no doubt make the claim that Rand Paul wants to ‘turn back the clock’ on civil rights even though he has repeatedly said that the matter has been settled and that he would do no such thing***.

Rather than have an honest debate about this particular point, this kind of manipulation is what the debate is going to be reduced to.

John V is quite correct: This is why politics suck.

» Read more

Rand Paul Under Attack from the Left for his ‘Lunch Counter Libertarianism’

Now that Dr. Rand Paul easily dispatched the big government establishment Republican candidate Trey Grayson in the Kentucky senate primary, the Left is already on the attack. Rachel Maddow had Dr. Paul on her show regarding some comments he made concerning the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The issue: the notion that the federal government should not force private businesses to adopt anti-discriminatory practices.

In response to The Rachel Maddow Show interview, Jake Berliner for The Huffington Post writes:

Pretty much everyone is rightfully offended by this sentiment. The question of whether or not it is an overreach of government to desegregate lunch counters is long settled. What still exists is the sort of economic libertarianism that drives one to Paul’s conclusion.

Paul’s beliefs about constrained government – one so limited that it can’t enforce basic rules that serve the good of society – translate on the economic front into a free market responsible for virtually everything. In this case – theoretically – if the market was not amenable to segregated lunch-counters, people would stop buying food at segregated diners, and the hidden hand would have cured racism.

Whether or not the market ‘cures racism’ is not the point, Mr. Berliner. Yes, I believe that most Americans in 2010 would not patronize a business that would refuse service to someone based on race but this is really a freedom of choice and freedom of association issue.

Berliner continues:

But the fact is that, as America enjoys its place as the one true global superpower, we no longer have the luxury of a government that sits idly by and allows the free market to solve every problem, whether of civil rights or economic prosperity.

How the hell would you know? When was the last time we truly had a ‘government that sits idly by’? Government screws up civil rights progress and the economy but non-existent lassie faire policies receive all the blame. This is hardly a ‘fact’ sir.

While competition and markets have been key to allowing the innovation that has driven American prosperity, so too have crucial pieces of government investments. From decisions over two centuries to build a world-class Navy capable of allowing the U.S. to be a titan of global commerce, to Eisenhower’s National Highways, to the creation the Internet, to preventing a second Great Depression, key, responsible government actions have not only not impinged on our economic freedoms, they have enabled the prosperity that has made us not just free, but truly great.

There is just so much wrong with that paragraph I don’t know where to begin but the basic point I think Mr. Berliner is trying to make is that its government rather than entrepreneurs that makes America great.

As Dr. Paul rightly pointed out in the Rachel Maddow interview, most of the Civil Rights Act dealt with racist policies of the government – the very government that Mr. Berliner, Rachel Maddow, and others from the Left thinks is so wonderful. It was government which was responsible for allowing slavery to exist, the ethnic cleansing and removal of the Native Americans, the internment of American citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry, and racial segregation of government schools, buses, and other public spaces, just to name a few examples.

If government is supposed to be our moral compass, why then are we surprised when private actors do such things as segregate lunch counters when government has already said such a practice is acceptable?

Attacks from the Left towards libertarian philosophy and those who champion it should not come as any surprise and is nothing new; ask those who supported Barry Goldwater. Rand Paul presents a threat the Left isn’t used to: principle.

The Left can easily defeat the logic of the typical Neo-Conservative or Social Conservative because of the inconsistency of his or her principles (i.e. in favor of some liberties but not others). But when people are introduced to the rights of Life, Liberty, and Property, these are quite simple, consistent concepts to grasp.

If the people of this country ever wake up and realize there are more choices besides the Left and the Right, individuals such as Dr. Rand Paul are quite dangerous indeed.

» Read more

Gay Marriage, Religious Liberty, And The Case Of One 8 Year-Old Boy

The latest battleground in the ongoing debate over gay marriage and religious liberty is taking place in Massachusetts:

BOSTON (AP) — A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents, saying their relationship was “in discord” with church teachings, according to one of the boys’ mothers.

It’s at least the second time in recent months that students have not been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents’ sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.

The Massachusetts woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she said she learned her son’s acceptance was rescinded during a conference call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty.

“I’m accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman,” the mother said. “But I didn’t expect it against my child.”

Rafferty said her relationship “was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church,” which holds marriage is only between a man and woman, the woman said.

She said Duggan told her teachers wouldn’t be prepared to answer questions her son might have because the school’s teachings about marriage conflict with what he sees in his family.

Rafferty and Duggan did not respond to requests for comment.

It’s unfortunately that the Church is choosing to deprive this young boy of the benefits of a Catholic education because of the lifestyle of his parents, but this strikes me as one area where the rights of the Church should trump the rights of the parents, or the child.

In an ideal libertarian world, of course, there would be no laws barring discrimination in private institutions at all. If a business owner wished to refuse service to anyone for any reason. We don’t live in that world, of course, thanks largely to the a history where the power of the state was used to enforce strict racial segregation that was designed to prevent any entire group of people from succeeding economically. That’s no reason, however, to involve the government even more in private decisions like this.

If the Church feels that it would be in appropriate to admit a student with Lesbian parents, it should be free to make that decision.

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.

The real right to health care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave Us the HELL ALONE

Crossposting something my wife wrote, from here:

I’ve been in an incredibly foul mood the last couple of days, and until this morning I did not understand why.

We’re planning on moving to where we actually want to be. We’re constantly being asked why we want to move to the middle of nowhere. I tell everyone, “because I feel hemmed in and trapped.” Almost no one understands what I mean. Until this morning I could not explain the feeling of being a rat in a cage. Now I can.

This morning I woke up on my “don’t remove the tag” mattress, walked through my building code compliant house, used the federally compliant toilet, dressed the kids and drove them to their “state certified” charter school where they’ll eat a state approved lunch.

I got back in my state registered, emissions compliant, insured (by state requirement) car and drove the legal speed limit back to the house. I then walked through my Scottsdale code compliant yard (no weeds in our “desert” landscaping”)into the house, drank pasteurized (USDA required) juice, and ate cereal processed in an inspected facility with milk from an USDA compliant dairy. I then took my FDA approved prescription pills (from a licensed pharmacy of course) and played with the state-licensed dogs.

I took a call on my federally taxed cell phone (instead of the federally taxed land line), stopped by our FDIC insured bank (which received TARP money that it didn’t want and is not allowed to pay back), and drove along city streets (paid for by sales and property taxes) to the closest Costco (which has a business license of course and pays mandated worker’s comp). I bought beef franks made from inspected beef in an inspected facility, buns made in an OSHA compliant factory, and a gallon of Frank’s in an approved plastic bottle.

All of this before 10:15 am.

This is not restricted to me of course. This is normal daily life for the vast majority of Americans. Almost everything we do is touched by one agency or another.

In preparation for moving I’ve been researching what I want to do with the land. We want to build our own house and outbuildings and drink our own water and make our own electricity.

In order for this to work we have to:

* Buy land with the proper zoning.
* Wait for the required escrow to be completed.
* Apply for building permits and well permits.
* Possibly apply for a zoning variance in order to raise a wind turbine.
* Build code-compliant buildings.
* Wire the electricity according to code.
* Pay sales tax on all materials used.

My biggest dream is to grow an orchard, plant some vegetables and grains, and raise our own milk and meat. In order for this to happen we have to

* Buy only trees that can be delivered to the correct state (as decided by each state’s government).
* Use only approved pesticides (like we could buy anything else).
* Buy a tractor (with applicable state tax).

If we find ourselves with an excess of food and would like to sell it we have to

* Apply for a license.
* Obtain a tax i.d. number.
* Collect sales tax.
* Label the goods according to code.
* Submit to random inspections of the dairy operation.
* Submit to random inspections of the meat process.
* In order to sell prepared foods (like jams) submit to inspections of the “commercial” kitchen (which cannot be used to prepare the family’s food).
* Pay sales tax on all goods and materials used.

In order to set up the business properly, we have to

* Apply for a business license.
* Obtain a tax i.d. number.
* Obtain permission from the state to use the name.
* Collect sales tax.

God forbid we deal with the local fauna. We plan on moving in an area thick with moose and wolves, but in order to hunt we have to obtain

* A hunting license.
* A controlled-hunt tag for the moose (if we’re lucky enough to get one).
* Forget about the wolves, they’re “protected”.

Should we need to protect our livestock from the moose or wolves we are allowed to dispose of the threat, but we must

* Inform game and fish.
* Turn the carcass over to the state.

If we use firearms to dispose of the threat, we must

* Use a “legal” firearm (as determined by the NFA and ATF).
* If we choose to use a suppressor (because of dogs, horses, and our own hearing) we must pay the stamp.

This doesn’t even account for all of the hoops the realtor and the vendors have to go through.

All of this instead of

* Pay for property. Make contract with owner.
* Build.
* Dig well.
* Wire.
* Buy tractor.
* Plant.
* Sell food.
* Sell services.
* Protect livestock.

No wonder I feel trapped. I can’t do a single thing with my own property that doesn’t involve one government agency or another (or several). I feel like a rat being funneled through a maze, and I am cognizant of the danger that someone will block off the exit. It’s my claustrophobia writ large.

This is just wrong. I’m a grown woman. Why does the government have to meddle in all of my affairs? Why do I have to jump through hoops just to accomplish the most simple things in life?

It’s all about power and control. Always has been always will be.

I’m sure in the beginning the encroachment began with simple things. After all, isn’t the government supposed to protect our rights? Isn’t having a dedicated police force, justice system, military, etc. worth a little in taxes?

Then a little more encroachment. Who can disagree with a little tax to pay for state roads? That’s entirely reasonable, right?

Then enforcement of standards. Who can disagree with licensing teachers? Making sure underage kids can’t marry?

Then the panics set in. Contaminated meat? The government should “do something” so it won’t happen again! E coli? Pasteurize EVERYTHING!

Of course, the NIMBY’S added their own input. Nuclear power plant? Not in my backyard! Enforce zoning so I won’t have to worry about it! Require my neighbor to clean up their yard so my house values don’t go down!

Then the lobbyists. Require farm inspections and multiple hoops so small farmers give up and “our big backers don’t have competition”. Give into the “green” lobby so they don’t pull their campaign contributions.

Of course there’s always the pure tax whores. “It’s just a little reasonable fee. On everything. You want to pay your share, right?”

Of course all of this gets codified into law, and the ultimate persuasive tactic is put into play.

“You don’t want to be a criminal, do you? You don’t want to go to prison, do you?”

This is exactly how we went from a system in which the government’s job of protecting our rights to a system where government determines WHO is ALLOWED to trample on our rights.

Well I have a message for all you busybodies, bureaucrats, rent-seekers, and whored-out legislators.

LEAVE US THE HELL ALONE.

Get out of my contracts.

Get off of my land.

Leave my property alone.

Stay the hell out of my bedroom.

Most of all, KEEP YOUR NOSES OUT OF MY BUSINESS.

And everyone else’s for that matter.

Mel

I haven’t mentioned my wife here very much, because she generally doesn’t write about libertarian issues; but I have to say, for this (and so many other reasons. For one thing, she’d rather buy guns, boats, motorcycles, and airplanes than shoes or jewelery), I am the luckiest man in the world. I happen to think this piece is the best thing she’s ever written.

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

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

The Battle Between the Right to Medical Care vs. Government ‘Medicine’

For decades the cost of medical care has risen relative to prices in general and relative to people’s incomes. Today [1994] a semi-private hospital room typically costs $1,000 to $1,500 per day, exclusive of all medical procedures, such as X-rays, surgery, or even a visit by one’s physician. Basic room charges of $500 per day or more are routinely tripled just by the inclusion of normal hospital pharmacy and supplies charges (the cost of a Tylenol tablet can be as much as $20). And typically the cost of the various medical procedures is commensurate. In such conditions, people who are not exceptionally wealthy, who lack extensive medical insurance, or who fear losing the insurance they do have if they become unemployed, must dread the financial consequences of any serious illness almost as much as the illness itself. At the same time, no end to the rise in medical costs is in sight. Thus it is no wonder that a great clamor has arisen in favor of reform – radical reform – that will put an end to a situation that bears the earmarks of financial lunacy.

Thus begins an essay that noted Objectivist economist George Reissman penned during Clinton’s efforts to ‘reform’ health care.

Given the current debate, it’s a good essay to reread, and the folks at the Mises Institute have obliged by posting it on their fine website.

Reisman argues against many of propositions that are assumed to be true by proponents of govenrment medicine, economic ideas that are based on primitive emotions and have no basis in actual economics: » Read more

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.

Why Do We Need Expensive College Degrees to Get A Simple Job?

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Until 1960 or so, the percentage of people getting college degrees was relatively low. There was plenty of work for people who had ‘merely’ graduated from high school, and a high school graduate could support a family.

Then came the Vietnam War, where the United States government would happily enslave high-school graduates, but not students in college. The number of students entering college zoomed upward, and the number of colleges proliferated.

But the war ended in the early 1970’s, and the U.S. government stopped enslaving young men, although it does reserve the capability to start doing so at any time.

Yet, despite this pressure, the number of people entering college continued to increase. Why? Quite simply because it started to become difficult for a high school graduate to find a job. An increasing number of companies started demanding a college degree for jobs that clearly don’t require anything more than the education that could be acquired at a half-way decent high school.

Why would employers do this? What could prompt such a strange change? As usual, dig down into the matter, and the answer becomes clear.  In a paper posted at the John William Pope Canter for Higher Education, Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder argue that the reduced employment opportunities for high-school graduates and the resulting rise of the higher education bubble is an unintended consequence of the 1964 Civil Right Act, namely this part of Section VII:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

At the time this law was passed employers routinely classified prospective employees via pre-employment testing.  This testing was used to determine things like knowledge, technical aptitude, personality compatibility and, yes, the race of applicants.  At the time the law was being debated, its opponents raised the objection that this law could outlaw non-racist testing alongside racist testing.  To which the proponents of the bill replied:

There is no requirement in Title VII that employers abandon bona fide qualification tests where, because of differences in background and educations, members of some groups are able to perform better on these tests than members of other groups.  An employer may set his qualification as high as he likes, he may test to determine which applicants have these qualifications, and he may hire, assign, and promote on the basis of test performance.

Of course, like Madison’s claims that the Federal Government would obviously be limited to the powers described in Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, these legislators claims did not survive actual contact with the courts.  In the case Griggs v. Duke Power, the U.S. Supreme Court described what criteria can be used for pre-employment testing:

  • A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race – demonstrating a “disparate” performance – was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.
  • Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.

Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned.  The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination.  Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster.  Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job,  now could get them sued.

Companies began casting about for a way to screen out the-incompetent or unfit in a way that would not result in them being sued.  The simplest solution is to demand a college degree.  Any racial discrimination demonstrated in the pool of degreed people would be the colleges’ liability, and the business could get on with the business of hiring new employees without being worried about lawsuits.

It has taken thirty years for this unfortunate unintended consequence to play out;

  • People entering the workforce have been kept idle for four years unnecessarily.
  • People entering the workforce are saddled with debts that are difficult to pay off.
  • Colleges have gotten away with lowering educational standards because their graduates are in such high demand.

When summed across the millions of people who have entered the workforce in the last two decades, the economic costs imposed by this well-intended but horrendously misguided effort are staggering.  They include

  • Almost 100 million man-years’ lost productivity.
  • An additional 10 million man-years spent paying off college loans
  • Increased pressure on children to engage in organized activities designed to win the child a scholarship at the expense of their personal development.

Had the proponents of the Civil Rights Act limited their aim at racial discrimination by the government, they would have been crafting a very socially beneficial law.  But by seeking to use the law to force people not to racially discriminate, they wreaked massive damage on the economy.  Ironically, this damage disproportionately affects minorities who are far more likely to be at the mercy of awful government schools than other ethnic/racial groups.

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.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

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.

Common Ground for the Left and the Right on the Bill of Rights

1 2 3